Thiers Issard

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The Thiers Issard logo

Thiers Issard or Thiers Issard Sabatier (French pronunciation: ​[tjɛʁ isaʁ sabatje]) is a French cutlery manufacturer; they are one of a number of companies using the Sabatier name. It exports a wide range of knives and straight razors to approximately thirty countries.[1][2] They are viewed as one of the top cutlery firms in Europe.[3][4] They are considered, along with DOVO, as one of the leading manufacturers of straight razors in Europe as well as the rest of the world.[5][6][7][8] They are also makers of exclusive and very expensive Damascene steel knives.[6] They are located in Thiers, France, and are one of the better known of many cutlery manufacturers located in that area.[9] They have also been manufacturing razor blades since 1920.[2] Thiers Issard is popular with US retailers.[10]

History[edit]

Fox and Rooster straight razor with a two pin handle

Thiers Issard was established in 1884 by Pierre Thiers, (1860–1929). He was part of a family of master razor makers. The Thiers family owned their own forge.[1] The "Chart of the Jurande" or the Professional Guild Charter of the time lists at least three "Thiers" as master razor makers.[1]

In 1870 Pierre Thiers started as an apprentice to a master razor maker and after twenty four years in the trade he had mastered the art well enough to become famous among the cognoscenti and connoisseurs of fine cutlery.[1]

In 1884 Pierre Thiers established his own forge. He named his factory Thiers-Issard combining his last name and that of his wife as a way to differentiate himself from the rest of the family who owned similar businesses.[1] From 1884 until his death in 1929 Pierre Thiers worked in his forge and died, reportedly, at work.[1]

After his death, his son Pierre Thiers Jr. (1884–1962) assisted by his mother continued the family business.[1] Pierre Thiers Jr. worked as an apprentice under his father and he was a skilled forger in his own right.[1] As the business prospered more family members joined the company starting with Louis Thiers (1910–1985) and later by another Pierre Thiers (1914–1997).[1]

In 1985 the Thiers Issard company was acquired by Gilles Reynewaeter.

Razor construction[edit]

Loup et Bélier (wolf and ram) 6/8” extra hollow carbon steel singing blade. The gold inlaid heads of the wolf and the ram are on a mirror polished (poli glace) Sheffield silver steel blade. The double stabiliser implies full hollow ground blade. The lower side of the shank shows fluting for a more secure grip, while the upper side is smooth. The handle is faux tortoise. The razor comes in a leather pouch. Although the handle does not have a middle plug, the faux tortoise scales are wide apart like an arch and are resistant to deformation

A razor blade starts, at the Thiers Issard factory, as a shape called the blank supplied by the steel manufacturer. Thiers Issard traditionally has used Sheffield silver steel, long considered a superior quality carbon steel.[1][8][11] The first step is to clean the blank using a heavy forge process called the detourage. Following the forging stage a hole is drilled in the tang of the blade. This is a crucial step since after the steel hardening process it would be next to impossible to drill hardened steel without employing specialised methods such as electrical discharge machining, and even then the process would be too arduous to be practical. At this pre-hardening stage the decoration or guiochage of the blade is done, since the blade is malleable enough to be carved.[1]

Lead hardening[edit]

The steel is hardened through a special process using a bath of molten lead where the forged steel blade is immersed at 800 °C (degrees Celsius).[1] The efficient metal-to-metal heat transfer, from the surrounding lead to the steel blade, enables fast and uniform heating of the steel at the optimum temperature for maximum hardness. The steel is tempered following the hardening process, where at 300 °C the steel becomes flexible and brittleness is eliminated according to phase diagrams for steel.[1][7]

Thiers Issard is allowed by special exemption in French law to continue using this lead hardening process, while health concerns prohibit its use by any other manufacturer.[1]

Grinding[edit]

Thiers Issard Fox and Rooster with a three pin horn handle

Following the materials science processes of hardening and tempering, the blanks are hollow ground, according to one of the two fundamental blade profiles. At the highest end of hollow ground, more hollow than even the 1/1 grade, is the so called singing razor, so named because its blade produces a specific resonant tone when plucked, similar to a guitar string.[1][6] The singing razor blade at this excited stage is essentially a vibrating membrane. Its manufacturing process is so demanding that a full 25% of the blades get rejected as not meeting standards.[1] Thiers Issard does not produce flat ground (wedge) type blades.[1]

Finishing[edit]

Subsequently to grinding the blade is polished to various degrees of gloss. The best finish is poli glace or mirror finish. Mirror finish is the only finish used if gold leafing is to be part of the decoration of the blade.[1]

Satin finish requires less polishing time and therefore is not as expensive to produce. This finish is mostly used with black acid etching. Satin finish can sometimes be applied, as a compromise, to the back of the blade while the mirror finish and gold leafing are applied to the more visible front of the blade. This way the blade will not be as expensive as a fully mirror finished one.[1]

Handles[edit]

The rivets are peened by hand to ensure stable movement of the razor blade while folding into the handle. The materials used are horn, exotic woods etc. The wood is impregnated with resins and pressed under high pressure to create a stable and water resistant material.[1]

Blade decoration[edit]

The blade is decorated by engraving or gold leafing depending on the price. Less expensive blades undergo an electrolytic black acid engraving process. For more expensive blades, gold leafing applied by hand is employed, following a traditional process.[1]

Sharpening[edit]

Sharpening is the final stage in the process. At first the blade is sharpened on a special grinding machine using a waterstone wheel. Following that the blade is hand honed on an antique Belgian flat waterstone. Finally the cutting edge is finished on a two-sided leather strop using a special paste on one side and natural oils from the human hand on the other.[1]

Testing[edit]

Finally the blade mechanical properties are tested. Flexibility, sharpness as well as special tone tests for singing razors take place at this stage.[1]

Books[edit]

The Thiers Issard blades are also mentioned in books.[11][12][13][14]

Citations and notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Classic shaving through the Internet Archive: The Thiers-Issard Story. (Blade manufacturing details) quote: ...In 1884 Mr. Thiers undertook to establish his own forge and assume the rightful place of such a highly regarded craftsman - working for himself. In order to differentiate his products from those produced by other members of his family who were still active in the trade themselves, he named his factory Thiers-Issard, adding his wife's family name, Issard, to his own... and: As can be expected, the more grinding required, such as in the case of a Full Hollow Ground "Singing" razor, and the more skill and precision required in accomplishing the grind, the higher the finished razor's resulting cost... and: When the edge of this razor is plucked or strummed much like a guitar string, a clear resonant tone is heard. also: They must flex with the pressure of the fingernail only and of course, "Singing" razors must "Sing."
  2. ^ a b THIERS ISSARD SABATIER:"Cutlers since 1884 " quote: We perpetuate the tradition of our founder Pierre Thiers, razors maker in 1880, time after time, we first add razor blades in 1920, then in 1958 the SABATIER****ELEPHANT range, and in 1995 the PIGEAT prestigious cutler's range.
  3. ^ CNN.com food news:A potpourri of unusual holiday gifts for your favorite chef by Randall H. Harber CNN News Editor December 11, 2000 quote: Two of the top brands of carbon steel knives are French-made Sabatier and Thiers Issard -- both available online, selling for about $70.
  4. ^ bethesdarow.com/redevelopment:"Dine and Shop at Bethesda Row MD" quote: ...The store will also feature their Screwpull wine and bar equipment, Le Creuset Kitchen Tools, exclusive French Thiers Issard Cutlery and Riedel Stemware...
  5. ^ Bagley, Aaron (2010). United States of Americana: backyard chickens, burlesque beauties, and handmade bitters : a field guide to the new American roots movement. HarperCollins. p. 75. ISBN 0-06-194649-4. 
  6. ^ a b c GQ magazine Deutschland (Translation by Google): Gentlemen's Questions Gesundheit und Pflege (Health and Care) - GQ.com-quote: Ich möchte meinem Freund ein klassisches Rasiermesser schenken I wish my friend a classic razor gift. Auf was muss ich beim Kauf achten? On what should I consider when buying? You are probably a woman who belongs behind bars, grrr. Your friend should be sharp and precise shave? Bitte: Pflegeleicht sind rostfreie Klingen. Please: Easy care are stainless steel blades. Normal steel after each use must be rinsed and dried with, these knives are in sound quality from about 70 euros (e.g. from Schildpattimitat, DOVO). Especially elastic is a "Singing Blade" bleigehärtetem Sheffield steel, which at the mere tap-legendary sound of itself, e.g. THIERS-ISSARD (about 99 euros), a company which is also a luxury knife from Damascus steel production (approximately 690 euros). [sic]
    GQ Deutschland (Original article in German) Quote: "Ich möchte meinem Freund ein klassisches Rasiermesser schenken. Auf was muss ich beim Kauf achten? Sie sind wohl eine Frau, die hinter Gitter gehört, grrr. Ihr Freund soll sich scharf und präzise rasieren? Bitte:Pflegeleicht sind rostfreie Klingen. Normalstahl muss nach jedem Gebrauch mit abgespült und abgetrocknet werden, solche Messer gibt es in solider Qualität ab etwa 70 Euro (z.B. aus Schildpattimitat, von DOVO). Besonders elastisch ist eine "Singende Klinge" aus bleigehärtetem Sheffield-Stahl, die beim bloßen Antippen den -legendären Ton von sich gibt, z.B. von THIERS-ISSARD (zirka 99 Euro), einer Firma, die auch ein Luxusmesser aus Damaszener Stahl produziert (zirka 690 Euro!). Ein Muss dazu ist ein Abziehriemen, um den Grat des Messers aufzurichten – entweder als langer Lederriemen oder als platzsparender Spannriemen, z.B. von DOVO, etwa 42 Euro."
  7. ^ a b phillytown.com:The Finer Things quote: Some of the World’s best razors are made in France by Thiers Issard using a lead hardening process during which the steel is plunged in boiling hot lead to heat it to the perfect temperature then it is quenched in water. These razors are the ultimate in straight razor shavers as they take a wickedly sharp velvet edge that would embarrass any modern safety blade. They also hold that edge longer than their high quality counterparts which are made in Solingen Germany by Dovo. However, choosing between a German or a French blade would be like choosing between Mercedes Benz and Rolls Royce; no one should hesitate to buy from either maker as they are both excellent choices, it’s just that one is a notch better than the other. also: Some of the World’s best razors are made in France by Thiers Issard using a lead hardening process during which the steel is plunged in boiling hot lead to heat it to the perfect temperature then it is quenched in water.
  8. ^ a b GIFTS FOR... the stylish man: Style and Fashion Dept. Boston Herald By Michael Marotta and Lauren Beckham Falcone Wednesday, December 5, 2007 quote: ...No self-respecting man-scaper buys razors in the supermarket. The Art of Shaving straight razor is crafted by 123-year-old French company Thiers-Issard, with a carbon steel blade and guide to ensure proper use. ...
  9. ^ History of Thiers
    Catalog of cutlery brands in Thiers
  10. ^ Sur La Table; Sarah Jay (21 October 2008). Knives Cooks Love: Selection. Care. Techniques. Recipes.. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-7407-7002-9. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Montgomery, Selena (2008). Reckless. HarperCollins. p. 159. ISBN 0-06-137603-5. Retrieved 16 October 2011. 
  12. ^ Bradley, Alan (2010). The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag. Random House Digital, Inc. p. 31. ISBN 0-385-34231-4. "You have ruined a perfectly good Thiers-Issard hollowground blade.” I have to admit,..." 
  13. ^ Paul McKellips (2013). Jericho 3: An Armageddon Bio-Warfare Thriller. iUniverse. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-4759-5430-2. Retrieved 10 August 2013. "Camp contorted his face to the proper angles as he pulled and pushed the French Thiers-Issard straight-edge razor along the contours of his reflection in the mirror." 
  14. ^ Robert F. Jones (1 June 2002). The Hunter in My Heart: A Sportsman's Salmagundi. Globe Pequot Press. p. 255. ISBN 978-1-58574-465-7. Retrieved 10 August 2013. "where the rump roasts would have been, tenderloins stripped as neatly as if by a master chef's Thiers-Issard" 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]