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Q&A with Steve Rogers


A sourdough knife with personal history

The Sourdough Bread Knife, Two Years On.

Yesterday, an Instagram ‘memory’ popped up on my screen saying that it had been two years since I’d began prototyping the sourdough bread knife.

Two years!

It felt like I’d been making them for much longer than two years, but then with everything that’s happened to all of us over the past year, you can lose some sense of time. As I thought back to all the wonderful people who’d commissioned me to forge one, I started to realise this algorithm can probably add up more reliable than I can.

Sourdough knife, hand forged from reclaimed antique Sheffield steel, with a spalted beech handle and hammered brass bolster. Featuring a distinctive “k-tip”.

The first prototypes that actually went out into the wild were tested by Jack Sturgess of Bake with Jack and Vanessa Kimbell of The Sourdough School and Sourdough Club. So much has changed with how I make these, it’s almost an entirely different knife now.

If you follow me, you’ll see that each knife I forge has it’s own personality. I’m not trying to pump out knives that all look the same and fall into that grey of nothingness.

Design Principles

From the beginning, the principles of the sourdough knife were always going to be important. I have been baking bread from my early teenage years, much longer than I’ve been forging hot iron. So as with all of my work, it’s my intent for it to come from the place of the cook, not the knife maker.

I always have in my mind: “What could this be to the baker? How would they use it? Why would they use it?“. Obviously I think about the technical solutions to everything in mind-numbingly extensive detail but I don’t believe that should be the driving force behind what I create.

Sourdough knife hand forged from reclaimed antique Sheffield steel, with a antique wrought iron bolster and 4000 year old ancient bog oak handle.

A Slower Process

We put so much energy into our sourdough baking. We capture the this wild yeast that exists all around us and create the starter that becomes the lifeline of all our sourdough creations for years to come. It’s such a slow, deliberate process, that I feel connects us with the natural world through the grains we use to make this artisanal nutritious bread.

Flour, water, salt.

Is anything as humble and beautiful as this?

The past few months I’ve been using the MockMill that our kind friends Joe & Laura gifted me for my birthday. It’s opened up a whole new world of choice and flavours, but also a whole new world of fermentation. This is a 50% fresh ground hard red wheat sourdough.

The first several sourdough knives I made were a real challenge. The truth is, even through extensive prototyping, I still felt very much outside of my comfort zone. A long, skinny blade with bitingly sharp teeth… it may sound easy, but forging anything long and skinny is just a world of problems unless you know how to work with them.

The best way I can describe it is if you have a ten step process and step 1 is less than perfect, you will find yourself chasing that minor imperfection through step 2, 3, 4 etc. And there is an accumulative effect where any minor imperfection can just become worse, where you eventually need to scrap it and start again.

My method for forging, heat treatment, grinding, assembly, sharpening… everything has changed. Some of them dramatically. Now, thankfully (!), each step feels like it flows beautifully into the next.

So two years on, my creative process and outlook is more like this:

  1. Always think about my client. What this tool is intended to do, how it will live in their life now and in the future. Always work on improving this.
  2. Have clear design principles that allow everything to work. Always work on improving this.
  3. Use 1 & 2 to inform what I do but not lock me rigidly in one place.

I think this allows me to create a positive experience and a happy client, whilst giving me creative freedom. I believe this idea of clear design principles is essential… as it can’t ever mean “cut a blank of steel out into this shape”.

As then it’s just like any other knife stamped out in a factory.

Thank you

Above all, as time has passed, more than the fun of making these tools that I hope will be passed down the generations, I am filled with love and gratitude for those who have supported me throughout this journey. It’s been a real joy, but even when things have been tough, some of you kind people have supported me as well… It’s been staggering at times. I’m just a guy whacking away at some hot iron. I’ve been very touched by all of the support I’ve had from you all… some of which goes way beyond anything I’d ever come to expect or image. So, thank you! Without knowing I’m making these for you… it would be purposeless.

Something New…

Soon will be the time to announce a new concept that I’ve been working on for a long time. I’ve been really excited to share it with you, it’s just not been the right time yet. Both for personal reasons and also because I’ve been working on refining the process for over a year. We’re pretty much there now…

Stay tuned!

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