Sunday, May 8, 2011

Shallot Knives designed for Chef Robert Robb

This design is a result of a conversation with my life long friend and fellow chef Robert Robb. He inspired me to forge a 10" chef knife sometime back and I was hoping to send him that knife but it sold before I could get the chance to let him "test-drive" it.

We have been speaking about different types of culinary knives and it seems that we as trained chefs not only appreciate quality knives, but also like the unique. Robb mentioned that he had the chance to test out one of the Ken Onion knives and liked the style of them & remarked that he would love to have a small shallot knife. I finally got down to business and designed the knife a few days ago and forged two of them today.

I am not only grateful for Chef Robert Robb as a friend that I have had all my life, but also that he will be able to provide me with valuable feedback on my knives since he is a full time working chef.

This is the design I came up with and I think it is a good one. I was not sure about the bump that is close to the handle transition to the blade, but as I suspected, it is in jut the right place for transitional hand holds, detail cuts & dicing. I think these will be remarkable little cutters when they are done. Stay tuned for more process images to come.

Below are the blades freshly forged with the profile cleaned up and resting on the original sketch/concept.

 Next is a shot after the first round of stock reduction via draw filing.

Here is a shot of the blades getting ready for heat treatment. The bottom one is finally hand sanded and the top one is waiting to have the final sanding.


Just after the heat treatment and the tempering cycles. Both blades that have now become knives, I say that they are knives now because the heat treatment process is done, which is in my opinion what makes a knife a knife, that it will now hold and edge and function as a tool.

And after more sanding to expose the fresh metal and take off some slight de-carb.>(this is where some carbon can migrate to the surface while heating up for the final quench) then the knives were carefully etched to show the wonderful quench-lines. I think they both came out stunning!

Now for the handles. It took me some time to choose the right materials and to fit them correctly to the tangs on these knives. I ended up choosing some very sweet desert ironwood for Robb and some kingwood for the other one.

And now the shaping and carving of the handle:

Next peening the pins. The pins I use are silicon bronze. I glue them in with just the ends sticking out, file them down but leave enough room for them to then be hand domed using a ball peen hammer backed-up by another hammer face held in a vice. These pins were particularly difficult to peen due to the shaped handle and the fact that I had to file the pis at an angle to permit proper geometry for peening. It took about 2X as long as normal but was totally worth it!

  Then some carving:
AND FINALLY The finished product!
Certainly a labor of Love. These were both forged to shape from .125"-thick 1095 high carbon tool steel. The overall lengths are 10.75" on the top knife in Kingwood and 10.50" on the bottom one in exhibition grade Desert Ironwood. The blades are 5&5/8" and 5.75" respectively. The one in desert ironwood is going to Chef Robert Robb.