Artisanal cutlery in the Basque Country: heritage of ancestral know-how

Bidart
Artisanal cutlery in  ...

As precious as a jewel, some knives are true works of art that are passed down from generation to generation. Inspired by the tradition of shepherds who shaped their own knives by hand, Les Couteliers Basques have been making exceptional knives for more than 30 years in their workshop/shop located in Bidart. Witnesses to the excellence of French know-how, these unique pieces are made from raw natural materials and are transformed before our eyes into real little gems. Let's meet these passionate craftsmen to witness the production of remarkable "signature" knives. An invitation to share the Basque terroir and its values...

The Cutlers Basques workshop: an essential stopover in Bidart

No doubt, you are in a land of ancestral know-how. Made in the Basque Country deploys its talents in countless sectors including… cutlery! At the crossroads of several disciplines and craft techniques including metallurgy, ironwork and wood carving, this art translates into a different look at an object that has long been part of our daily lives.


The Basque Cutlers
The Basque Cutlers
Exceptional knives!


Here, they are called Artzaina, Bixia, Urkulua, or even Mizpira. These art knives, baptized with first names that are original (and typically Basque) to say the least, are the pure product of the imagination of two brothers and sisters: Pascal and Rachel Exposito, the founders of the family business Les Couteliers Basques. An identity, a tradition, a theme, an idea, a memory, a story... Nothing is done by chance.


The Basque Cutlers
The Basque Cutlers

The Etxettoa farm and the workshop of the Basque Cutlers

The Basque Cutlers
The Basque Cutlers

Meeting with Pascal Exposito in the workshop


Meet at the Etxettoa farm, an 18th century building converted into a cutlery and accessible to the public! The shop opens directly onto the fully glazed workshop of Pascal and his collaborators. This workspace reveals to visitors the cutlers in full action, through the different phases of knife manufacturing (between 50 and 60 steps depending on the model!), from cutting, the very first operation which consists in forming the pieces until the sharpening which gives its definitive edge to the blade.

A zoom on the unique know-how of artisan cutlers

The Basque Cutlers
The Basque Cutlers
The Basque Cutlers
The Basque Cutlers
The Basque Cutlers


Between cutting, marking, straightening, grinding, polishing, forging the bolster, welding the bolster to the plate, shaping the handle, guillochage of the spring, assembly, polishing and sharpening, it is a real work of precision that the visitor discovers over the course of the manufacturing process.


The Basque Cutlers
The Basque Cutlers
The Basque Cutlers
The Basque Cutlers
The Basque Cutlers
The Basque Cutlers


Various natural materials are used to make the handle of the knives. Originally, it was the medlar that fascinated Pascal, this rare and particular type of wood, present in the forests of the Basque Country. He then extended his expertise to the shaping of other woods, such as oak, olive, eucalyptus or rosewood as well as other materials, always natural...


The Basque Cutlers
Mizpira


Inspired by the shepherds' walking stick, he created the "Mizpira" knife in scarified medlar with a hand-carved Basque cross. Then “Bixia” was born, colorful and unusual, marrying the shapes of the emblematic Espelette pepper. Always faithful to the Basque Country and to medlar, the house's signature wood, the "Artzaina" table knife is the third model, followed by "Urkulua", modeled on a blade dating back more than 350 years, found in the Basque mountains. by an archaeologist. These models are available in various precious, original and sometimes surprising materials! From horn to mother-of-pearl, from coral to leather, or even from mammoth or warthog ivory to ram or buffalo bone, they are worked meticulously to create unique, refined pieces. Noble materials selected with the greatest care to meet the requirements of an ancestral profession in constant evolution!


The Basque Cutlers
Bixia
The Basque Cutlers
Artzaina
The Basque Cutlers
The Basque Cutlers

Urkulua


In Yakutia (Siberia), 30 to 50 tons of mammoth ivory are extracted per year. Enough to give ideas to the creative minds of the Basque Cutlers who offer original models using ivory, bone or the molar of woolly mammoths!


In total, nearly 6,000 exceptional knives come out of the workshops of Les Couteliers Basques each year, sold in the brand's three boutiques in Bidart, Bayonne and Arcachon. During your next stay in the Basque Country, push the door of the workshop and you will enjoy discovering these pocket and table knives whose reputation is second to none. Other creations are also available, such as salad servers, carving sets, butter, dessert, cheese or bread knives! Something to have fun or bring back a truly original gift from the Basque Country.


The Basque Cutlers
A fascinating shop to discover!

Practical info:

Shops

  • SHOP WORKSHOP, 283 rue Oyhara, 64210 BIDART / +33 (5) 59 50 12 47
  • SHOP Les Couteliers Basques BAYONNE, 79 rue d'Espagne, 64100 BAYONNE
  • CUTLERY AROUND THE KNIFE, 15 cours Lamarque de Plaisance, 33120 ARCACHON


Text and photos prepared by Lesley Williamson for the Basque Country Guide


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