The first handle that started to resemble the Brigade was an evolution of that first proof-of-concept French handle shown above, but integrating some of the lessons we learned from our 3D printed test designs.
This early Brigade had some of the same design features of the original French-style prototype, but we introduced the slanted bolster, a more prominent beak, and a smoother belly. The set below is the first we made based on that design, consisting of three chef’s knives, including one with a heavy blade, and two petties.
If you look closely there’s actually a few passing similarities between this early prototype and what eventually evolved into our Brigade collection.
We were not originally going to pursue the French design right away because, from our understanding of the market, consumers seemed to favor Japanese knives and knives made in the traditional Japanese style.
The main feature of a hidden tang is that the non-blade part of the knife is fully encased in the handle.
This reduces weight toward the tail end, improving balance, and protects these parts from corrosion, contamination, and bacteria.
To make our mixture we’d combine epoxy, various fillers, and carbon fiber strands we’d clip to size. Vacuum molding seemed like the obvious solution, but our mix was so thick that our pump struggled to pull it through the mold and we could never quite get a perfect seal with our prototype molds. Compression molding worked but the result always needed too much trimming and finishing to get the right result.
If you’ve never had the experience of trimming carbon fiber by hand, it’s horrible. As much as we loved the look, we just couldn’t justify the labor these handles required.
The hidden tang is traditionally the back end of a knife blade that’s driven into a wood handle either by burning it in or slotting the handle and then mechanically affixing the other end.
What made us focus on the western design was a chance discussion with my friend Steve, an avid knife collector.
In general, he told us he really liked the design of our blades but was less-than-inspired by the handles, which he thought looked too similar to what was already on the market. Most everyone making Japanese-style uses a version of the wa handle, and differentiating yourself in an ever growing crowd is difficult without doing something very different.
We’ve discovered that our customers want a knife that stays sharp, can be relied upon all day, every day, and is beautiful and distinct. The technical details are necessary for us to get right, but on their own, they’re not sufficient to achieve our customers’ desires.
We wanted to make a high quality product that was priced to make it reasonably accessible to line cooks and home cooks, as well as chefs and prosumers.
Our most recent Brigade design comes from a long, iterative, R&D process.