Cooking For Engineers Forum Index Cooking For Engineers
Analytical cooking discussed.
 
 FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   MemberlistMemberlist   UsergroupsUsergroups   RegisterRegister 
 ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 

Designing a new line of knives , Need your input .
Goto page 1, 2  Next
 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Cooking For Engineers Forum Index -> Tools, Equipment, and Gadgets
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
Ken Onion



Joined: 04 Jul 2012
Posts: 7
Location: Kaneohe Hawaii

PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2012 4:15 am    Post subject: Designing a new line of knives , Need your input . Reply with quote

I'm am in the process of designing a brand new line of knives and am looking for advice and help from you all .
I realize there are a zillion choices out there but I am hoping to start with a clean slate and design this line from the perspective of a cook , chef or just a user that uses there knives for long periods at a time .
We have all said " I wish someone would design a knife like _____" . Well I am all ears and ready to listen .

Also , Do you prefer large or smaller handles ?
Do you prefer heavy or light handles ?
Do you prefer heavy or light blades ?
Wide or Narrow Blades for your Chef knife ?
What is your favorite blade steel and why?
What is your favorite knife and why ?
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Dilbert



Joined: 19 Oct 2007
Posts: 1018
Location: central PA

PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2012 10:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

when I first read this my initial reaction was "and you're kidding, right?"

seems you've made a few knives - mostly folders / pocket / special purpose / artform types.

so here's my take:

handle size:
forget about it. little hands like smaller handles; bigger hands like bigger handles.
what's the question? you'll need to accommodate a wide range of human anatomy to make this work as a "one size is perfect for all" - which in the last couple thousand years no one has figured out how to do . . . .
note that the "celebrity knife lines" with "revolutionary" handles and "perfected belly geometry" aren't fairing all that well either.

heavy handles / blades:
your initial questions states "a user that uses there (sic) knives for long periods at a time."
so that limits the entire deal to professionals with 230 cases of carrots and cabbages to chop up comma this morning. not all too many home cooks have tasks that required hours and hours of continuous knife usage - so the "too heavy" / "fatigue" thing is totally moot outside the mega-prep kitchen, which would be a commercial establishment and wouldn't think about paying those kinds of prices for a knife comma anyway. and the entremetier du jour is unlikely to be bringing their own knife.

>>Wide or Narrow Blades for your Chef knife ?
the length to width geometry of things generally called "a chef's knife" is reasonably well established.
is the question about blade thickness?

>>What is your favorite blade steel and why?
I'd suggest surveying one thousand owners of kitchen knives and determine how many can name the steel/alloy used in their knife. in my online experience only the knife nuts who push sharp to past razor blades get excited about 'the latest alloy' and the benefits of being able to slice more than three apples before it needs resharpening.
- or the many thousand dollars the natural/synthetic/brands of waterstone(s) required to create / maintain that edge cost
- or the "one cut, two hours sharpening" that goes with it.

my favorite knife:
I have more than one knife in the block. my favorite depends on the task.

hopefully not too much of a downer - but I get the impression you're setting out to design a knife line that only a few people will need / appreciate - and then only if they all are equal height and hand size.

meanwhile the mainstream makers are still trying to get people to stop putting their knives in the dishwasher.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Jim Cooley



Joined: 09 Oct 2008
Posts: 338
Location: Seattle

PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2012 11:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just finished slicing a chicken breast with my chef's knife and thought about this question.

One thing you might TRY; and I do mean experiment -- is a design a handle that somehow mimics the "finger on top" method for precision slicing. I don't see many non-chefs using that technique.

Might want to have a look at the handle of the classic Radius Toothbrush just as a starting point. Better to buy one; the pic isn't very demonstrative.

http://www.radiustoothbrush.com/originaltoothbrush.aspx

PS -- Excellent toothbrush, BTW.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Ken Onion



Joined: 04 Jul 2012
Posts: 7
Location: Kaneohe Hawaii

PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2012 4:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dilbert wrote:
when I first read this my initial reaction was "and you're kidding, right?"

seems you've made a few knives - mostly folders / pocket / special purpose / artform types.

so here's my take:

handle size:
forget about it. little hands like smaller handles; bigger hands like bigger handles.
what's the question? you'll need to accommodate a wide range of human anatomy to make this work as a "one size is perfect for all" - which in the last couple thousand years no one has figured out how to do . . . .
note that the "celebrity knife lines" with "revolutionary" handles and "perfected belly geometry" aren't fairing all that well either.

heavy handles / blades:
your initial questions states "a user that uses there (sic) knives for long periods at a time."
so that limits the entire deal to professionals with 230 cases of carrots and cabbages to chop up comma this morning. not all too many home cooks have tasks that required hours and hours of continuous knife usage - so the "too heavy" / "fatigue" thing is totally moot outside the mega-prep kitchen, which would be a commercial establishment and wouldn't think about paying those kinds of prices for a knife comma anyway. and the entremetier du jour is unlikely to be bringing their own knife.

>>Wide or Narrow Blades for your Chef knife ?
the length to width geometry of things generally called "a chef's knife" is reasonably well established.
is the question about blade thickness?

>>What is your favorite blade steel and why?
I'd suggest surveying one thousand owners of kitchen knives and determine how many can name the steel/alloy used in their knife. in my online experience only the knife nuts who push sharp to past razor blades get excited about 'the latest alloy' and the benefits of being able to slice more than three apples before it needs resharpening.
- or the many thousand dollars the natural/synthetic/brands of waterstone(s) required to create / maintain that edge cost
- or the "one cut, two hours sharpening" that goes with it.

my favorite knife:
I have more than one knife in the block. my favorite depends on the task.

hopefully not too much of a downer - but I get the impression you're setting out to design a knife line that only a few people will need / appreciate - and then only if they all are equal height and hand size.

meanwhile the mainstream makers are still trying to get people to stop putting their knives in the dishwasher.


Dilbert, I agree with you on many levels and appreciate your insight. I also agree with your Celebrity knife lines comment. I feel personally that although they are not designers, I understand that their signature style is used to endorse and sell the products; however, a designer would be helpful to study how they use their knives and make that product better. Collaborative efforts here would make a far more superior product.

Hope I didn't piss to many folks off with that .

I also feel that the cook has never really been studied enough to establish what is and isn't the optimum for their uses . Case in point are the narrow flat and totally non ergonomic offerings that have been used by the majority of manufacturers for generations . Am I the only one that sees this or am I completely insane and somehow don't get it . Most chef knives are designed with handles which would better lend themselves to a saber grip than the grip most of us are likely to use in the kitchen .
I have taken molds over the years of cooks hands and how they hold /use there knives , general offerings are no where close to how our hands are naturally shaped. Large or small there are many similarities that have never been explored .
I kinda feel we have just become use to the standard fare and have used it for so long we have never really questioned it .

I'm wanting to explore and question this concept a bit and see what unfolds. Maybe at the end of the day we might just find that there is room for improvement , Or not .
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Dilbert



Joined: 19 Oct 2007
Posts: 1018
Location: central PA

PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2012 2:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ken -

not sure we're on the same page with some of the terminology....

where the blade is relatively wide compared to length is what most people call a chef's knife.
a knife of the same length but less wide blade goes by many names - each manuf has their own "term" - but I call them "slicers"

my 25cm/10 in chef's knife is 45 mm wide
my 20cm/8 in slicer is 30 mm wide

using a wide knife for some tasks is ungainly - example deboning a chicken
using a narrow knife for some tasks is tricky - example dicing celery
I doubt you use a pocket knife to carve your turkey - but yes, it _can_ be done.

I've seen "experts" advise newbies to buy a 10 inch chefs knife and a petty/paring knife as a starting point. well, I disagree with that.

DW is not particularly tall; she can't use a 10" chef knife to rock&chop at a "standard height" counter - she'd have to stand on the step stool to raise up her arm/wrist high enough.

I've found people with short(er) fingers prefer round handles - because their knuckle joint lengths are too short to comfortably fit "around" the more typical rectangular handle. is a smaller rectangle the answer? perhaps not - that creates a knife twist issue . . .

it's call ergonomics - and since the knife maker is unlikely to include magic pills to make people taller/shorter - the device has to change - hence "one size" / "one design" is doomed from the start.

consider: if the ergonomics are "off" - could that explain the fascination of
"my knife is too heavy and it gets tiresome"
perhaps it's not the weight of the knife at all . . .

Jim pointed out the finger point slicing thing
then there's the pinch grip thing

btw, even some top names leave the spine edges so sharp it'll raise a blister in short order - deters the pinch grip - and not everyone has 2-3 grits of emery cloth in the garage - or even knows it "exists" or how to "fix" the problem - so there's one design factor that should be included.

another huge factor in "mis-gripping" the knife is sharpness.
9x.y% of home cooks do not keep their knives sharp - so yeah - they grip 'em like a sword or a hatchet because that's pretty much what they got in their hands. it's not sharp, it does not cut with ease, put me on a bigger handle so I can apply more force to my butter knife to cut this here cucumber,,,,,

if you go into the street and ask 1000 home cooks "Have you had your knives sharpened in the last five years?" - what's your guess . . .

if you can solve that problem, you'd have a really good product (g)


Last edited by Dilbert on Thu Oct 10, 2013 12:40 pm; edited 1 time in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Ken Onion



Joined: 04 Jul 2012
Posts: 7
Location: Kaneohe Hawaii

PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2012 9:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Remember I said I am designing a new line of knives . I know the difference between a chef knife and a slicer . I believe we are talking apples and oranges here . My new line will more than likely include over 25 knives for various purposes and specialty items .

I realize I have no control over peoples counter height or there height for that matter .
I have no control over who sharpens there knife and how often .
The things I have no control over , I will not worry about .

But I can design a more ergonomic and more comfortable line of knives .

This is definitely not a one design /one size product .
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
QualityEngineer



Joined: 11 Sep 2011
Posts: 1
Location: United States

PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 2:12 pm    Post subject: The blunt side of the blade Reply with quote

I find that when I hold my knives high up in the handle with my thumb and forefinger on either side of the blade that the blunt side of the blade is often pretty sharp and I end up getting small cuts on my forefinger if I have to cut much. So, if you would design a better grip there that would be nice.

Also, how about a knife that is supposed to be used to split open melons, and winter squashes. I still don't know how to do that well.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Jim Cooley



Joined: 09 Oct 2008
Posts: 338
Location: Seattle

PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For squashes I used a cleaver. Chop into it well enough to hold the blade securely, then just lift the whole thing up and bring it down with a smack.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1631
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Ken,

Welcome to CFE! I actually have tested a couple of Shuns with your name on it and my wife carries one of your pocket knives (she shows it off whenever possible because it's beautiful and the ball bearings make opening the knife a pleasure). Anyway, you've got a lot of questions about kitchen knives and how we use them and hopefully you'll get some more responses as each of us use our knives differently.

I've never used a saber grip with a chef's knife and have never found the desire to. I do keep my knives sharp, so I don't need the extra force from the thumb on top position, but I do use the pinch grip almost all the time for extra control. I agree with statements that the back (dull side) of the knife should be rounded so it doesn't cut into the fingers over time.

I find a wider blade (not thickness but distance from edge to back) is more preferable to me for my chef's knife. When I need to go around curves or turn while cutting, reach for a thin filet or flexible boning knife. I do not use the pinch grip on the thin knives but will occasionally use a saber grip with a boning knife.

I have small hands, so, on the whole, I prefer small handles. But, I cannot abide narrow handles as they cause my hand to cramp over time (Globals). Round or close to round handles are also no good because they can rotate when wet or greasy (Shun - even with a semi-flat side).

I agree that it is surprising that more handles aren't ergonomically shaped and are essentially a straight stick. But, what's weird is that ergo handle that I've tried has never been comfortable in my hand after a few minutes. Somehow, filling my hand fatigues it. My go to chef's knife for the last six years has been the MAC MTH-80 and the handle just agrees with me. It's a standard rounded rectangular cross-section handle that more or less juts straight out, but somehow it is more comfortable than any of the dozen or so 8-in chef's knives that I own.

I do prefer regular wood handles as they do feel as if they give a little. I have petrified wood, stone, granite, poly, fibrox, textured plastic, metal, and other handles and regular wood just seems to feel the best over longer periods of time.

The shape of the blade makes a big difference to me as well. Talking about a chef's knife - there shouldn't be a region which is completely flat (sometimes a chef's knife will have the last few inches nearest to the handle perfectly flat). When using a rocking motion, this flat area results in a hard "thump" with each stroke and really wears on the arm. Also, the knife edge should not flare back to the handle past 90 degrees (if even that far). An example of this type of design is the Global G-2 which provides a little "pocket" for you fingers to rest but in reality is just a sharp point facing the user waiting for a finger to slip down and get poked.

There should be no finger guard. Finger guards impede proper sharpening.

Heavy or light - I personally prefer a lighter knife. It gives me a little more quickness and the extra heft isn't needed if the knife is kept sharp (or at least sold/shipped sharp to start with). The only time I prefer a heavier blade is on a cleaver and (oddly) my bread knife. (Some weight on the bread knife helps the teeth to make those initial incisions that allow it to cut well - I light bread knife on a hard crusted bread can lead to a surprise as the teeth just slide off if the user isn't paying attention.)

That's all I can think of at the moment, but I'm sure I'll remember something else later.

As an aside, I'll be in Hawaii (Maui) on vacation for a few days during the first week of September. I'm not sure if you'd like to meet, but if you're interested, please send me an email at michael@cookingforengineers.com
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Ken Onion



Joined: 04 Jul 2012
Posts: 7
Location: Kaneohe Hawaii

PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 7:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice ! I appreciate the insight guys. Michael , Your insight and explanation s are exactly what I am looking for . It is my intention to at some stage include French style ,German style and a more Hybrid type cooks knife in this line .

The first thing I am starting with is the handle designs . I will need approx 3-4 handle variations to start with . I am hoping to utilize some of the recommendations ,experience and knowledge of the folks on this forum and some of my own experience to hopefully design a more user friendly product.

Michael brought up a great point with regard to handle design. Why would your hand fatigue using a ergonomic handle chef as opposed to a straight handle ? Do you find that the ergo handle is so specific as to where and how to hold it that it limits your ability to shift your hand around the handle when you start to fatigue and therefore you burn out the few hand muscles required to hold the knife ? Where a less specific knife handle will allow for more grip options though they might not be so ergonomic ?
This is a curious concept And one worthy of exploring further .

I also like Mac knives and especially there grind geometry and distal taper. I feel the blades are very well thought out with subtle differences from the competition but very effective. Which brings us to the handle design. I also like the Mac handle better than most but still feel it suffers from a lack of comfort, ergo's and stability when wet.

So , How important are ergonomic handles ? Am I over thinking this ?

How about Wood handles ? Are they preferred ? I love the look of a beautiful grained wood knife handle but most are not stable enough to withstand the conditions of moisture , Hot , Cold and will in time shrink and pull away from the tang leaving a gap for bacteria and garbage .Especially on full tang knives .

I do understand that most people feel full tang knives are superior to rabbet tang or hidden tang type kitchen knives, I totally disagree and this is my reasoning .
Expansion and retraction coefficients of the blade steel and the handle material differ , some more than others . So in time almost all full tang kitchen knives will separate from the handles and all the epoxy in the world will not eliminate this key problem. Rabbet tangs will help control this for the most part as will selecting a handle material with the least amount of creep and keeping it out of the dishwater and dishwasher .Anyone disagree ?

Lastly , Where should the balance point be on a 8 -10" chef knife ? How important is it ? I realize there will be differing opinions .
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
DrBiggles



Joined: 12 May 2005
Posts: 355
Location: Richmond, CA

PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 11:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Ken,

I'm not even remotely close to an engineer, but some of your words/thoughts caught my attention. Thought I would stop by.

Ken Onion wrote:


So , How important are ergonomic handles ? Am I over thinking this ?


Probably, but over thinking can be fun. Ergonomic for whom? I have in my possession an absolutely worthless right-handed All-Clad tomato slicer. It's "ergonomic", but only for right-handed people. I believe Michael said his hands were on the smaller side, mine have been described as Meat Hooks. Is what works for Michael going to be the same for me? Probably not. Small, large, right or left handed, strong or not so much, we're all a little different and I believe attempting to make a worth while "ergonomic" handle for all could be a little on the difficult side.

Ken Onion wrote:
How about Wood handles ? Are they preferred ? I love the look of a beautiful grained wood knife handle but most are not stable enough to withstand the conditions of moisture , Hot , Cold and will in time shrink and pull away from the tang leaving a gap for bacteria and garbage .Especially on full tang knives .


I dunno, I have wood handled knives that are 70+ years old and show NO signs of shrinkage, or any issues with the wood pulling away from the steel. Full tang or no, I'm not seeing it. Of course, as far as I know, they don't go through the dishwasher either. It matters to me, I love the wood. But for someone who just wants to get the job done and toss the knife in to the kitchen sink to be taken care of later, probably not so much.

Ken Onion wrote:
I do understand that most people feel full tang knives are superior to rabbet tang or hidden tang type kitchen knives, I totally disagree and this is my reasoning .
Expansion and retraction coefficients of the blade steel and the handle material differ , some more than others . So in time almost all full tang kitchen knives will separate from the handles and all the epoxy in the world will not eliminate this key problem. Rabbet tangs will help control this for the most part as will selecting a handle material with the least amount of creep and keeping it out of the dishwater and dishwasher .Anyone disagree ?


I don't disagree with you, but you don't mention why we think full tang knives superior. I find them superior in the kitchen because of balance. Not having the blade go all the way back make the knife blade heavy. I have some very old rabbit tang knives that are actually well balanced, but they were made back when virgin steel ore was widely available and used. I believe it was around 1987 when recycled steel flooded the market and those razor thin kitchen knives disappeared.

Here's a shot of my daily users.

xo, Biggles

Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Ken Onion



Joined: 04 Jul 2012
Posts: 7
Location: Kaneohe Hawaii

PostPosted: Thu Jul 19, 2012 8:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dr Biggles

I appreciate your response . As for ergonomic , I believe the human hand regardless of size has the same basic contours . I realize designing a line of knives that is everything to everyone would be an amazing challenge . But to get a little closer to the basic ergos we all share .... not so much .

As for wood handles . My statement is broad . To say you have some wood handled knives that show no shrinkage is pretty great but if I were to gather up the majority of the same model knives from that era . I would venture a guess that the overwhelming majority would have shrinkage and separation .Not everyone takes care of there knives . And some of these knives have traveled from moist humid areas to dry areas over there life span and as a result the knives will be altered. I am attempting to eliminate that factor .

Balance is a great topic . where should the balance point be in an 8" chef knife ? I have asked this question many times and have gotten many differing opinions . I would like to say right in front of the bolster of the knife where the user would hold the knife in a pinch grip . But I may be wrong .
I painstakingly balanced all of my Shun large Chef and slicing knives at this point and have had a few complain that the knife was unbalanced . Heavy maybe , Unbalanced ..... no way .

As for blade steel ..... The choices are broader and better than they have ever been . The science is amazing and the control and precision is better than it has ever been .
I agree that there are some very shoddy alloys being used in lower end cutlery but I am s happy to live in this era of science and technology . Knife steel has improved by leaps and bounds in the past 20 years and especially the last 10. These new Nitrogen steels and powdered metals are amazing to say the least . I am fortunate in that I usually get to test and use the newest and coolest steels as they present themselves . Due in part because I work with the factories and have developed a great relationship with the steel companies over the years . My favorite right now (for kitchen knives ) is Super Gold 2 by Takefu. It is a bit tricky to heat treat properly but performs beautifully when treated right .

I appreciate seeing those oldies but goodies and have a pretty good collection of old knives myself . Mostly hunting and folding knives but I do have a few nice old kitchen knives too . I am especially drawn to that big one propped up in the photo . Is that an old Dexter ?

Aloha! Ken
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1631
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Thu Jul 19, 2012 7:47 pm    Post subject: re balance and customer complaints Reply with quote

One problem with balance is that a lot of people hold their knives incorrectly. I've seen many people hold it by the handle with all finger quite far from where the blade starts (with a few sticking their pointer finger on top because they saw a TV chef do it - but from that distance it seems like it's more hindrance than help). Sometimes (depending on the person), I'll ask why and show them how I hold my knife (pinch grip with almost the whole hand up and around the bolster with a lot of handle sticking out). The responses I get range from "afraid of the blade" to "that's not right - you're supposed to hold it by the handle, that's why it's there". A few people adjust and find the pinch grip gives them a much better feel and the knife isn't trying to twist out of their hands ("unbalanced").

The Shun and Mac representatives I've seen have all advocated the pinch grip - but most people don't get to buy their knives from these people. They buy them at their local Bed Bath & Beyond where the sales rep may or may not show them anything (to many people it's just a knife, why does anyone need to be shown how to use a knife?) and the rep might not even use the knife. Maybe one way to combat this is to provide color photographs or illustrations demonstrating knife grips and that way you can keep the balance of the blade while educating more customers.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Jim Cooley



Joined: 09 Oct 2008
Posts: 338
Location: Seattle

PostPosted: Thu Jul 19, 2012 8:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

>>One problem with balance is that a lot of people hold their knives incorrectly.<

Michael, yours is an engineer's POV, not a businessman's.

You can't expect to train people to use knives correctly, but you CAN, (maybe?) design a better handle(s) to use them more effectively.

If the design works well, across a large number of CONSUMERS, you don't need reps showing pinch grip, or full-color manuals -- the design will speak for itself.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1631
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Fri Jul 20, 2012 12:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jim Cooley wrote:
>>One problem with balance is that a lot of people hold their knives incorrectly.<

Michael, yours is an engineer's POV, not a businessman's.

You can't expect to train people to use knives correctly, but you CAN, (maybe?) design a better handle(s) to use them more effectively.

If the design works well, across a large number of CONSUMERS, you don't need reps showing pinch grip, or full-color manuals -- the design will speak for itself.

Excellent point. I'll have to consider this and figure out if such a design is possible. (Things that are self-evident to me aren't necessarily so to others - so my "obvious" designs can be confusing to other people... like the recipe summaries.)
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Cooking For Engineers Forum Index -> Tools, Equipment, and Gadgets All times are GMT
Goto page 1, 2  Next
Page 1 of 2

 
Jump to:  
You can post new topics in this forum
You can reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum


Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group