Knife forgers and heirs of age-old knowledge
The modern era’s first knife forgers
A century ago, a twelve-year-old girl by the name of Marie Bonjean born in 1908, began dedicating herself to the creation and manufacturing of blades in the multiple storied watermill facility which specialized in knife forging. This little girl devoted herself to creating knives daily in this watermill named the Moulin Neuf which was located in Thiers a city situated in the French region of Auvergne.
These watermills which served as knife forgeries during this period where established along the banks of the Durolle river, one of the Loire river’s tributaries which crosses the French department Puy-de-Dôme. This river’s hydraulic force put these blade mill’s mechanics into motion.
During the summer and winter seasons dozens of knife forgers created blades with fervour alongside each other in these blade mills. Upstream from Thiers approximately 80 blade mills were nestled along the slopes of a gorge which spans 500 meters (approx. 1,640 feet).
These knife forgers’ sense of community and high morals helped lighten the atmosphere of the difficult and gruelling working conditions characteristic of the early 20th century.
Hard work done with a smile
The knife forger’s working conditions were uncomfortable and the winter cold did not help. The workers, the youngest of whom were only fourteen-years-old, worked lying down with their dogs covering their legs for warmth. Despite these hard working conditions they were willing to get the job done. The workers sharpened the blades by clamping them to a stick-like tool and stretching their arms out straight in order to reach the grindstone turning in the pit below. This uncommon working posture put more force behind their gestures thus creating a more efficient blade sharpening method.
The first floor of the blade mill was reserved for women and children.
The “women’s room” was a room dedicated to polishing the knives that were made by the men. The aim of this job was to remove the marks that the grinding mill had left on the blades.
This room was also a rather convivial work place. It was not uncommon for a workman from the ground floor to set his heart on that of a woman polishing on the first floor! Thus a love affair between workers was forged; craftsmen who complemented one another both at work and outside of the grinding mill. There is no doubt that their little one will continue in the same line of work!
Handing down TB Groupe’s values
TB Groupe’s birth certificate: Tarrerias-Bonjean union
In this universe seeping with sweat and hard labour, Marie Bonjean would one day meet her future husband along the riverbank. Lucien Tarrerias had been a knife forger in Thiers since a very early age. The Tarrerias-Bonjean family was born and the knife manufacturers from Thiers could begin their saga.
Marie Bonjean and Lucien Tarrerias were driven by the same regional values and supported a job well done. Over years dedicated to knife manufacturing they eventually mastered both the traditional and family knowledge which had been passed down from generation to generation. This knowledge, among other things, incorporated technical expertise and a taste for innovation. This mastery allowed them, with the help of their son Alexis-Georges Tarrerias, to create the Tarrerias-Bonjean (TB) company in 1962.
Gracefully taking the torch which had been lit by his ancestors, Alexis-Georges Tarrerias quickly helped make the family enterprise prosper. Georges, with the help of his wife Andrée Tarrerias, proved his sense of initiative through developing new techniques which he grafted onto the beautiful heritage left by his ancestors making it blossom.
By creating and designing his own finished products, that is to say knives with handles and not just blades, Georges Tarrerias launched the company TB in a new era which commercialized knife manufacturing and industrialized their fabrication.
A skill passed down from generation to generation
Today this family’s sixth generation is still sitting on school benches nonetheless they are ready to continue the Tarrerias-Bonjean family legacy.
In 1989, Georges and Andrée’s son Eric Tarrerias was chosen to preside over TB Groupe’s destiny. His sister Carole Tarrerias, also a member of the fifth generation of this Thiernoise family, joined him in this mission five years later.
Today their pursuit is to preserve the company’s interests with an affirmed desire to perpetuate this magnificent family heritage. Due to their leadership they were able to kick-start TB Groupe’s activity despite globalization and the ruthless competition from emerging countries. By promoting superior product design, research, innovation and the industrialization of the knife manufacturing process, they were able to preserve the company’s historic knowledge and its manufacturing secrets.