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Old 5th April 2005, 11:01 AM   #18
Chris Evans
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Australia
Posts: 581

Hi Frank

The Spanish cutlery industry was on its back foot by 1850 due to the harassment by the authorities and its overpriced and poorly made navajas. As I already said in an earlier post, the largely French
imports nearly eliminated the local product - We know this from importation figures.

After the civil war of 1868 and due to the threat of anarchy that followed, an extreme form of political conservatism set in and there was a clamp down on law and order issues; Gradually the use of the navaja, as a weapon, was removed from Spanish life by 1900 and nothing has changed since then. At that stage a few cutlers remained who made a utilitarian type `navaja' but the demand was small.

According to Spanish cutlery industry sources, in the principal manufacturing centre of Albacete, between 1955 and 1959, only three workshops employed more than ten workers and only one had more than fifteen. Most of the navajas that this cottage industry made were mostly low grade utility and souvenir `navajas'. To a significant degree, this was attributable to adverse legislation regarding knives under the right wing dictator Franco, who ruled Spain from the end of the civil war in 1939 to 1975 with an iron fist and which resulted, amongst other things, in the shunning of Spain by other nations.

After Franco's demise, Spain resumed normal relations with the rest of the world and their cutlery industry made a very strong comeback, but this wasn't achieved with navajas. They became export oriented modern manufacturers with the latest technology producing domestic and industrial cutlery.

The traditionally hand-made utilitarian navaja by this time was a complete anachronism and too expensive to make; Other and better pocket folder designs made their appearance in the interim, designs that could be mass produced more cheaply and to a higher quality.

All the same, the industry, for promotional reasons, chose to identify itself with the old navajas and for this reason alone they continue manufacturing a small number, albeit in the form of an updated design that eliminated much of the labour - The economic contribution by these navajas in negligible. Its is all about image and nothing else.

These modern `navajas' are aimed at the souvenir market as nobody in Spain buys them for actual use, given that there are much better alternatives available. A few of these are exported and these are what you probably saw on the internet.

As well as the cheaper navajas, there is a small but thriving custom knife industry specializing in making high class replicas or modern interpretations of the theme; These cutlers cater for collectionists and traditionalists. Prices start around $US500 and the sky's the limit. A good replica of a 19th century navaja will cost around $US2000.

In answer to your question whether these new type navajas could be used for fighting, the answer is yes, just like one can choose to fight with an antique flintlock pistol. But why bother? They are very slow to open, do not carry well, and excepting the custom jobs their quality leaves a lot to be desired. A modern folder like your Voyager, or similar, is infinitely better suited for the task. In any event, discounting the odd criminal altercation, nobody fights in Spain with knives (least of all with obsolete navajas), at least no more than in any other developed nation. As I already said, that sort of thing came to an end by the beginning of the 20th century.

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