Stuart Mitchell has been making knives for over 30 years, having learnt the trade from his father. His bespoke blades are made using many of the same tools his father used in the same red-brick workshop his family procured in 1980.
Stuart wanted to find out whether the advanced 3D printing technology could be combined with his knife making skills to create something unique. This led to a project with the Design and Prototyping Group at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) to produce a titanium chef’s knife to allow Stuart to compare the end product with his own knives.
Design strategy manager for the DPG, Andy Bell, said: “The project has been about understanding what the opportunity is. We provided Stuart with an AM blank which he would normally make himself from sheet metal, grind it and sharpen it up. The difference with what we’ve done is integrating the blade and the handle, which was moulded and customised to a chef’s hand. We then delivered the printed knives to Stuart for finishing.”
Stuart - whose knives are used across the world in Michelin star restaurants and by members of the Royal family - was struck by the quality of the piece.
“I was impressed by the profile of the blade – it replicated very well what I would do by hand, particularly the taper from the spine to the edge,” said Stuart. “It did need a degree of grinding to apply an actual cutting edge but the tolerances of the edge were good to start with, very fine. I didn’t realise it would print that fine.
I love the AM knife, it’s different and hasn’t been done before. Working in that very traditional way and to have something brand spanking new in the workshop is great - what’s not to like? What it perhaps also shows, particularly with all the advances in AM, is that there is still a place for what I do as well.”