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Design of a chef's knife, part III - Doug Ayen's Blacksmithing Blog [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Doug Ayen

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Design of a chef's knife, part III [May. 6th, 2002|10:44 am]
Doug Ayen
Well, that's enough about steel. After the steel, and just as important, comes the design of the knife.

When I decided to try to make a great chef's knife, I asked the first person on the list of beta testers what they wanted in a knife design. He replied "make it like a Wustof".

At first I was offended -- this was a custom knife, probably the only time he'd get something this good for free, and he wants something that he can buy at any decent kitchen store. Still, I have to admit, if there's one knife used by just about every famous Western chef, it's a Wustof. Still, I'm not about to go out and just copy one and call it my own make -- that would be both unethical and probably illegal. Nonetheless, I can take that basic design and work within those limitations to make a kickass knife.

The basic features of this knife are heavy bolsters and a ridge at the ricasso that goes from bolster to edge. The profile is a very generic "chef knife," no surprises there, and the edge geometry is a simple flattish convex grind from back to edge, with a nice distal taper. Grips are black composite of some sort, smooth.

Ok, the bolsters, which are integral on the original, are going to be soldered or brazed on on mine. That ridge will be forged in, probably not as pronounced. Grip material will be either a composite or I may just use stabilized wood of some sort depending on what I'm feeling like at the time. I'll probably keep to the original outline, maybe a bit slimmer. I'll certainly be making a heftier knife -- I'll be starting with quarter inch stock, so the thick part near the handle of the blade will be that thick. Since the user wants the balance in the bolsters, I'll probably leave a hefty tang in place, and taper it only to get the balance right. I'll try to avoid using handle weights unless necessary.

With the thicker metal, the whole thing will have more heft, but if the balance is where the user wants it the extra weight will not be too noticeable. This will also make the distal taper much more evident, and I'll flat grind the blade to ensure that the final angle isn't too steep. I'll probably use the 50% ratio on tapering -- IE, the blade will be 1/4" at the base, at the halfway point it'll be 1/8", and will taper to nothing along the rest of the blade, less a bit so that the very tip isn't like foil.

All that said, if this works I'll probably never do another like it. I don't want to be known as a wustof rip-off, and I have some ideas on what to put into a knife to make it a bit more interesting both as a maker and to my clients. Cut-outs, minimalist designs, and some fooling around with other handle shapes. I'll probably also fiddle with japanese style chef's knives, I think they look neat, and the way they laminate them has some interesting possibilities.

I think this will be my last entry on the chef knife design until I get started on one. Next up, I've agreed to write an article for the Compleat Anachronist, so I'll get started on that.

--doug
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