Savernake Knives: the future of knifemaking

Savernake Knives: the future of knifemaking

by Great British Chefs 26 November 2019

Deep in rural Wiltshire, Savernake Knives combines aerospace-grade design and manufacturing with traditional techniques and meticulous hand-finishing to create knives for a new age.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

Where does one start when looking for a new chef’s knife? Which compromises will you accept, and which are you unwilling to put up with? At one end of the spectrum you have Japanese knives – beautiful, precise, but generally brittle and hard to sharpen. The more popular European marques are more durable and forgiving, but the trade-off is softer steel and a little too much heft. You might have your heart set on something made by a bladesmith in his forge, but the quality is variable and these blades are often made with carbon steel, which rusts easily and requires plenty of maintenance.

When we think of world-class knives, it would be fair to say we don’t immediately think of them coming from Wiltshire, but that’s where Savernake Knives are hard at working creating exceptional blades for enthusiastic amateurs and Michelin-starred chefs alike. Every knife is made to order using a combination of aerospace tech and artisanal craftsmanship, as they continue their pursuit of ’the perfect knife’. The Wiltshire operation – based in an old sawmill on the fringes of the Savernake Forest – launched in 2017, but already has a string of top chefs on its books, including Tom Aikens, Mark Sargeant, Pip Lacey, Daniel Galmiche, Kuba Winkowski, Emily Scott, Matt Worswick and Margot Henderson.

Though founder Laurie Timpson and his small team employ some traditional hand-making techniques to create their knives, they have also dragged knifemaking into the future, using aerospace-grade materials and state-of-the-art computer-assisted design to create a best in class knife for the modern chef.

Laurie is well-travelled, previously being an officer in the Scots Guards before working across Africa and Southeast Asia in mine clearance, emergency relief, gold exploration and power generation. His team’s background ranges from the Royal Marines to Formula 1 engineering and a great deal in between. As a result, Savernake has a unique approach to the craft. ‘Almost counter-intuitively, our strength lies in not having ties to old techniques or manufacturing baggage,’ says Laurie. ‘At the outset we spent a huge amount of time figuring out what makes the perfect knife, and then spent the next three years getting here.’

Savernake Knives launched in 2017 after three years of testing, research and development
The company has since made knives for a number of top UK chefs, including this particularly colourful set

Savernake holds a very small stock of pre-made blades for those moments of gift-giving panic, but almost all of its knives are made to order to a client’s specifications. From light customisation direct through the website through to an almost infinite variety of designs, shapes and colours for those who get in touch directly, you truly can make a knife your own. ‘If I could do one thing every day,’ says Laurie, ‘it would be for someone to describe their perfect knife, and for us to then make it so that it still exceeds expectations.’

For those who want to blaze their own path, Savernake offers a unique bespoke service. Starting with a blank piece of paper, Laurie and his team guide their clients through concept boards, mock-ups and prototypes before producing a knife that is the living definition of fit-for-purpose and utterly unique.

Whilst many traditional knifemakers still forge their blades using hammer and tongs, Savernake does things very differently. Once you have decided what your perfect knife looks like, Savernake crafts it using CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) machining. CNC machines are used by Formula One engineers to create precision parts for their cars; this technology is the peak of precision engineering, and it allows Savernake to craft your knife to absolute precision. It also allows Savernake to make knives with its signature concave blade geometry – a design feature that not only allows for incredibly accurate cutting, but results in its knives being far lighter than any others of comparable size, whilst retaining an exceptional strength-to-weight ratio.

The knife then undergoes hand-sanding, heat treatment, corrosion resistance treatment and handle fitting. The knives are designed on a computer, but some things are better in the hands of master craftsmen – Savernake’s handles are constantly refined based on the feedback from over a thousand customers and are shaped by eye and feel, while the blades are also thinned by hand so that the final cutting edge is on top of steel that is only several hundred microns thick. Rather than using hard-but-brittle corrosion-prone regular steel, Savernake makes its knives from a high-carbon stainless made by Sandvik in Sweden – an exceptionally hard material that is also tough, corrosion-resistant and can be sharpened to a razor edge.

Savernake Knives offers total customisation of your knife, from blade profile and size to weight, handle colour and more
CATRA (the Cutlery and Allied Trades Research Association) has recently put Savernake Knives in the top 2.5% of all knives they've tested

It’s the perfect solution for someone who wants quality performance but without the high maintenance of brittle or badly made blades. ‘Our knives require but a light and frequent touch on a honing steel to last for a very long time without needing to be sharpened,’ Laurie explains. ‘When they do finally need a touch-up you can either send them back to us or follow our suggested sharpening options.

In the latest round of tests by CATRA (the Cutlery and Allied Trades Research Association), Savernake scored in the top 2.5% of blades tested, and was rated ‘Excellent’ for both initial sharpness and for durability. It’s a phenomenal achievement for a new bladesmith based out of a barn in rural Wiltshire, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. ‘We want to make knives that transform your idea of the potentials of our craft,’ says Laurie, ‘and to do this we allow you to place your own interpretation of beauty over the metal skeleton of what is now, objectively, one of the very finest knives in the world.’