'Picnic' Knives Get Another Once-Over

photo: laguiole knife 1112
Besides pocket knives, Laguiole also has
cutlery and kitchen knives.

The 'Okapi' Is A Favorite In Jamaica

eMail from John McCulloch, via the Internet:
Dear Ric,

Monday, 8. June 1998:- In the early '70's I was given the opportunity to be the sound recordist for a feature film being made entirely 'on location' in Jamaica and Grenada. Seeing the story of the 'picnic knife' brought back memories as one of our Jamaican helpers had gotten me a similar knife.

This style was in use by many of the Jamaican workers as it was easy to use and quite versatile. The Jamaicans could openphoto: mcCulloch's jamacia special okapi it with one hand by hooking a finger in the ring attached to the hinging area of the knife as the ring was part of the locking rachet. I never mastered that particular trick but I used it for everything from cutting light rope to slicing tarps and plastic.

I may have noticed when I first received the knife, but it wasn't until I was cleaning it up for the photos to send, that I 'discovered' its brand name "Okapi" and that it was from Germany. Why a German product, named for a relative of the African Giraffe, was popular in Jamaica - I'll leave for someone else to explain. At that time in Jamaica, if there was a locally manufactured product, then all similar imports were banned.

Everyone on the 'crew' was also called upon to be part of the film. My boom man was also one of the villains - or was a villain my boom man? My little 'role' was to bring the bad news to the stars that the villain was stealing their truck - and the chase was on! Chuck Woolery and Cheryl (Ladd) Stoppelmoor weren't too happy with the 'news.'

Jamaica was a wonderful host for the two-plus months we spent shooting along the north shore. Locations used were primarily in Negril, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and Port Antonio, with many runs from there to beaches and inland sites.


Photo and text: John McCulloch©1998

'Terrorist' Knife Returned To Owner

eMail from KimMurray, via the Internet:
Dear Ric,

Tuesday, 9. June:- It's been ages since I visited your site - something drew me there - I think perhaps the knives' debate. My prized possession - a simple person! - is a Laguiole knife I bought inphoto: murray's laguiole Paris in 1995 for the express purpose of facilitating picnics.

You say they are not considered weapons, but I can tell you this one was taken off me at the airport and was to blame for me being treated like a terrorist for half an hour.

It eventually - after some interrogation - travelled alone to the US. I was sure it would never arrive. After I collected my bags I looked around for the knife. Everything had gone from the conveyor and I thought it was gone forever. Then I spied a sizeable cardboard box in one corner and it had my name on it.

Sure enough, my lovely knife was taped inside. it is a constant reminder of those southern picnics. Presently it is being used to pick mushrooms that are popping up in the forests of Margaret River, where I live in the southwest of Western Australia - you know the place, the one that makes incredible red wine.

Cheers, Kim

Photo and text: Kim Murray©1998

After French Blades, the Next Subject
For 'Picnics' Will Be Compasses

Bonjour John and Kim,

Paris:- Friday, 12. June 1998:- One simple observation that the only 'picnic tool' you need is a knife has brought a reader response all out of proportion to the subject. It's a good thing I didn't write anything about survival training for picnickers.

I don't know why 'Okapi' knives are - or were - a favorite in Jamaica. A Web-search on knives turned up dealers, including some in Germany and Austria who deal in special tools for the police, armed forces and firemen. But I found no 'Okapi' knives.

Not content with sitting here and conducting an arm-chair search - my chair has no arms - I went looking for the rumored 'Laguiole' shop "near the rue Sainte-Opportune." I think Walter Conway mentioned it.

When you are at the intersection of rue de Rivoli and the rue Sainte-Opportune there is a arrondissement map with a 'you are here' blue circle on it, which effectively hides the details of right there. After looking at this, I crossed Rivoli and asked in a café for the shop and was told it was where I came from.

Back on the north side of Rivoli, I wandered towards Les Halles and I saw a lot of interesting sights and about a thousand cafés, but no Laiguiole shop. Since I was on the way - to where? - I stopped to shoot this week's Morris column.

To do this I had to back up to the open doorway of a shop, where a young lady was standing. I had to wait to get a clear shot and then shoot fast because there was a lot of foot traffic. When I had it, I looked some more. I went all around every building and block there is there, right up to the Forum. And I did it again.

By the métro exit, I asked a shop-lady and she said it was two doors further along. I didn't see it but I saw my Morris column again. This was getting ridiculous.

After about three-quarters of an hour, I was seriously looking in shop windows when I found it. This shop has an outside sign right over the doorway, about 10 cm high. In it's large show-windows there are exactly two items: a Guide-Routard placard and a placard for Sonia Rykiel.

Except for the knife part of the small Laguiole logo over the doorway, there is no indication there isphoto: laguiole shop by starck a very spare showroom full of very fancy knives. The doorway of this shop is the one I stood in to take the photo of the Morris column.

Philippe Starck designed the showroom like one of the knives he's done for Laguiole - it has an excessive lack of excess. One knife in particular, the aluminum-handled model S9A, is a jewel of a non-excess tool.

The shops' interior is no more jolly than its exterior.

This experience has so rattled me - motto: 'There's no place I can't find in Paris!' - that I'll finish this off simply by saying the shop is worth a visit and the young lady is quite friendly and informative; and is fully aware that many customers get their knives 'disappeared' by airport security people. I told her 'Bombayed' was the word for it, but she didn't seem to know this is where all the 'missing' luggage goes.

After seeing these knives, I doubt they get as far as Bombay. Their prices run from a reasonable 200 francs up to about 4000.

If you can't afford either, be sure to get a catalogue; the one I got looks like it is worth about 75 francs. It is one of the few catalogues I've ever seen that has the credits for its designer, copywriter, photographers and printer in it.

It was printed in Rodez, not far from where the knives are made in Laguiole. I can go through both places on the way to Spain this year without going far off my route. I really need a picnic knife too.

I almost forgot. There is a Sonia Rykiel-designed knife and another for 'Les Routards.' The 'Routard' has a globe design on the metal part that locks the blade in the open position.

Regards, Ric

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