I designed a sustainable universal knife block for Born to Cook, made out of bamboo. The product features two compartments, one for large and one for smaller knives. The footprint of the product is as small as possible to make it fit on every kitchen counter, without compromising the amount of knives that can be stored. The footprint is only 114 x 114 mm and the block can easily store ten knives; more than enough for the average household.
As an intern at Prospectt (a Dutch trading company) I set out to design a knife block made out of bamboo to fit other kitchen appliances that Prospectt had produced for their own brands, one of which is Born to Cook.
The problem with many knife blocks is that they actually take up a lot of space in the kitchen counter. Most knife blocks aim to present the knives to the customer under the hypothesis that the customer sees what knife he’s picking up. For example, look at the knife block pictured below.
This particular knife block is slanted towards the user, presenting the knife handles. The disadvantage of this is that the footprint of the knife block is rather large; it takes up quite some space on your kitchen counter. The knife block offers different slots for different knives, leaving the user unsure which knife is which and where you can put the knife back after usage.
Designing the solution
I set out to design a solution to these problems. My main design goal was to keep the knife block as small as possible, so that you can just tuck it away in a corner. Most consumers don’t have more than six cutting knives, so it should be able to at least store six knives.
A univeral method for storing knives
I decided to use a block of plastic strings, that looks a bit like a brush to store the knives. The advantage of this method (which isn’t new) is that you can put the knife in the block any way you’d like, so no more searching for the right slot. Also, the knives won’t wear out as they would when you store them in a wooden slot. Less sharpening and more freedom.
The brush that contains the knives has the same disadvantage as traditional knife blocks: you can only recognise the knives by the size of their handle. Most knife sets have handles that are about the same length across the different knives.
To solve this problem, I came up with the idea of layered storage: one high container for large knives and a smaller one for smaller knives, so that the user can easily distinguish the large from the small knives.
I designed the bamboo container to be only 22 centimeters high, which is way smaller than the average knife block, but large enough for some of the largest kitchen knives out there. The footprint of the knife block is only 11 x 11 centimeters, making it one of the most compact knife blocks out there. I designed the second storage layer to be 18 cm high and started building a prototype to test the design.
I cut a cardboard container and printed a bamboo pattern that I photoshopped from one of Prospectt’s other bamboo products. After glueing the texture on the product, I immediately noticed that the second layer was still too high. The visual difference in the height of the handles in the top and low layer wasn’t big enough to be easily distinguished. Also, it gave the knife block a closed and ‘turtleneck-like’ look.
I had the prototype in my kitchen for a couple of days, just to see how it would fit. The dimensions however were perfect for my small kitchen.
I optimised the smaller container to a height of 13 centimeters, which is still large enough for small knives. This gives the knife block a more open design. The small compartment can store up to 4 small knives comfortably. The large compartment stores up to 6 knives comfortably.
The knife block went into production and when the first sample arrived, I realized that I textured the bamboo horizontally in the renders where the texture in the actual product runs vertically due to the production method.
The plastic brushes inside the sample were still a little dense. When the product went into production, special moulds would be made to ensure the proper density. A detail of the plastic brushes with knives inside can be seen below.
The knife block went into production and was first sold around Christmas 2013.