TOG ELITE JAPANESE KITCHEN KNIVES – THE STORY
I’d like to introduce myself and explain how I set about trying to create the best kitchen knives in the world.
In 2004 I got the opportunity to hold a Samurai sword in my hand. A real one. The man who had made it was Mr. Hiromune Takaba and I had the true privilege of meeting him on the day he finished three months work making the blade. I watched him sign it. He showed me a box of nails that he’d collected from a 750 year-old temple in Japan. He told me of his travels to Sweden to collect scrap from a car factory and to Australia in search of interesting steels. These steels all fed into the legendary process of making “Japanese Steel” (Watetsu), the starting point for forging the blade of the katana. The best swords were made in the 13th Century, he explained. Some of the knowledge swordsmiths had back then has been lost along the way. He was experimenting with these steels to try and regain some of that knowledge.
Seki City is the Samurai sword capital of Japan and when I visited, Mr Takaba was one of only 18 swordsmiths there. It is the culture and history of the Samurai sword that elevates kitchen knives from Seki to a league of their own. If I was going to create the best kitchen knives in the world, their blades had to be made in Seki.
TOG Knives are produced in small batches and virtually every stage of the process is carried out by hand by some of the most skilled craftsmen in the world. Each knife has a number and this is burned into the blade with a laser.
Before starting TOG Knives I jointly owned and ran a product design consultancy in London. Design consultancy is about design PROCESS. Change your process and the design of your product changes. It’s your process that shapes everything about your product and the experience the customer has of using it. You have to get it right.
I took this thinking and applied it to kitchen knives. How could my design process help me create the best kitchen knife in the world?
Chefs are the most demanding customers when it comes to knives so I started working with them as soon as I’d made the very first prototype. I asked them to give the samples hell. I asked for their ideas. We put a prototype knife through a commercial dishwasher 700 times. Materials failed, blades chipped, handle shapes weren’t comfortable. So I changed them. I kept making more prototypes and each time went back to the chefs. This was the only way I could know that TOG would perform well enough in a professional environment.
I love kitchen knives. I love using them and I love creating them. The biggest reward, though, is when my customers tell me they love their TOGs which fortunately seems to happen quite a lot.