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How can the form of a knife influence the behavior of its user?

The Porter’s Knife explores this by changing the relationship between the blade and the handle of a traditional chef’s knife to make even a total kitchen novice comfortable preparing food.

Knife work as it stands is based heavily in technique and while it falls on a wide spectrum, for my purposes, I have broken that proficiency into 5 distinct levels pertaining to the placement of the hand.

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The Novice: the hand is far away from the heel of the blade, with the index finger on the spine for support. This affords very little control over the blade itself, and greatly increases the risk of injury from the blade slipping, as well as strain on the tendons.

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The Rookie: the hand is far away from the heel of the blade but firmly wrapped around the handle.

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The Bachelor: Most of the hand gripping around the handle close to the heel with the index finger on the spine for support.

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The Home Chef: Hand gripped around the handle, close to the heel.

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The Professional: Index and thumb pinching the blade at the heel with the rest of the hand loosely gipping the handle for balance.

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With that in mind, Meet Jack

Jack is in his early 20’s and properly on his own for the first time. At this point he is cooking more out of obligation than as a creative outlet. Money is tight, and raw ingredients are more cost effective. When his band isn’t touring, he can usually be found at home with his cat.

Jack is definitely in a novice

And we can actually see just how he goes about prepping some produce, along with some of his follies.

User Research that led to the Porter’s Knife.

This lead to the development of my four design principles.

For the novice who is on their own, I figured that a good knife should: ease the mind of its user around its grip; encourage them to slice rather than force a cut; feel balanced in the hand to improve control; and have only enough resistance to keep the user in control.

These criteria lead to a long process of permutation and iteration

Could a handle trick the user into holding the knife right.

Could a handle trick the user into holding the knife right.

What if the handle floated above the blade. This permutation proved to be the most interesting and ended up being the one I iterated on the most.

What if the handle floated above the blade. This permutation proved to be the most interesting and ended up being the one I iterated on the most.

What if there was a finger guard coming off the handle.

What if there was a finger guard coming off the handle.

Experimentation into different shapes for handles and blades. These designs were close, but ended up choking up too much and reducing the universality of the classic chef’s knife.

Experimentation into different shapes for handles and blades. These designs were close, but ended up choking up too much and reducing the universality of the classic chef’s knife.

This prototype pulls the handle back and explores the nuances of directing the force so that the user makes cuts properly.

This prototype pulls the handle back and explores the nuances of directing the force so that the user makes cuts properly.

The Physical Prototype

The Physical Prototype

3D Render of the Final Knife in Fusion 360

3D Render of the Final Knife in Fusion 360

A detail of my 3D model, highlighting the handle.

A detail of my 3D model, highlighting the handle.

In this iteration for the Porter’s Knife, nuanced changes were made to improve the ergonomics and allow for different grips of the knife, primarily a steadfast grip around the handle and a pinch right at the center of gravity for improved versatility.