Well Albi

Sunrise on Sainte Cécile Cathedral

Linda and I just returned from two weeks in Europe. She was invited by the mayor of the town of Themar, Germany, where her father, Manfred Rosengarten, grew up, to join other descendants of Jewish families that lived there before the war for Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Themar is a farming town of about 3,000 people in Thuringia, in what was East Germany. Manfred was 17 in 1939 when he and his family fled to Shanghai to escape the Nazis. There are no Jews left in Themar but in the early eighties Manfred started corresponding with some of his old friends there. His longing and outreach opened a channel of communication that made it possible, these years later, for the town to start its efforts at reconciliation.

Linda in front of the ice cream parlor that was the house where her father was born

Twenty-four of us traveled from all over the world to accept Burgermeister Bose’s invitation for a weekend of gatherings, speeches, dinners and a walking tour of the town to show us who had lived where. We saw the house where Linda’s father was born, found the graves of her great-grandparents and met two cousins that she never knew she had. A memorable event in a beautiful part of the world. Emotional and intense but gratifying and rewarding. It’s a long detailed story that doesn’t really belong in this blog so if you’d like to know more, feel free to contact me directly.

From Themar we headed down the autobahn to France. Among other fun things we’d planned a visit to the beautiful city of Albi  to touch base with our friend Michel Auriou of Auriou Toolworks. You probably know Auriou for their highly acclaimed rasps and riflers, but they are  renowned for their stone-carving tools as well.

Michel was a generous and entertaining host as we got the full tour and traditional French meals with good food, wine and camaraderie. He is the fourth generation of Auriou tool makers, still making most of his tools the old-fashioned way with forge and hammer. They manage all aspects of their tool making in-house — from bar stock forged to shape, to stitching the teeth by hand (yes, each rasp tooth is raised by hand-held punch and hammer), to heat treatment and final finishing and assembly. Sometimes the old ways are still the best.

Here, Bernard makes it look easy:

The teeth of the rasps and riflers are upset by hand, one at a time. This is how it’s done on a rasp with fine teeth:

It takes more muscle to cut large teeth into a rotary rasp:

Our visit to the forge at St. Juery was fascinating. Our host and guide, Michel, was informative and interesting. He’s doing some excellent work on excellent tools that deserve the acclaim they receive. I wish him success in the future and look forward to our next visit. Linda and I hope it will be soon.

Michel Auriou in front of some of his tools

About Ron Hock

Owner of HOCK TOOLS (.com) and author of "The Perfect Edge, the Ultimate Guide to Sharpening for Woodworkers"
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4 Responses to Well Albi

  1. Julio Alonso says:

    Great post Ron, I am grateful to be able to see this, loveable

  2. Patrick Neal says:

    Thanks Ron, this is a very interesting post. And I don’t think any of us object to learning more about your trip to Europe. The emotions must have been intense. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Jim MacMahon says:

    A couple of years ago my wife and I spent several days at a hotel across the river from the cathedral at Albi. We were on a historical trip concerning the medieval Cathars (who were also called Albigensians). Had we known about Auriou at the time, we would have made a welcome detour to visit the factory. Thanks for sharing this interesting tour.

    • Ron Hock says:

      We stayed at the Mercure Albi-Bastide. It’s an old mill sitting right on/over the river with the view, above, that I photographed from our window. We loved Albi and look forward to visiting again, for a longer stay, I hope. Nice place!
      –Ron

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