Behind Closed Doors: Savernake Knives

Bespoke Chefs’ knives, handcrafted from the highest quality materials, ensure this firm remains a cut above

sharpening-knives

Blades are honed to a razor sharpness by hand

Words Miriam Methuen-Jones

Not everyone would feel comfortable working all day every day with sharp objects. Danger, though, is something Laurie Timpson has never shied away from. Before he set up Savernake Knives he was an officer in the Scots Guards, and had tackled everything from searching for gold in Liberia, clearing landmines for the HALO Trust, and establishing emergency relief programmes all over the African continent.

Back in Britain in 2014 and stuck in a desk job, Timpson needed an outlet for his energy and his creativity. Deciding to learn the art of making knives, he got himself a ramshackle old workshop.

It was a cramped, unheated space equipped with little more than a DIY heat-treatment furnace made from fire-proof cement and a battered oil drum, but Timpson persevered, and, through trial and error, taught himself new techniques and styles.

savernake-knife-and-wrap

The Classic Chef knife with suede pouch: “The essential all-rounder and a must-have for every cook or chef.” This one has a pink-and-grey laminated handle, but the customisation options are pretty much unlimited

Before long, he was spending more time in the workshop than at his day job and coming to the conclusion that he could turn his hobby into a business. There was a gap in the market, he believed, for “a company that could make chefs’ knives to the highest standards that technology allows for, while still making every knife by hand, for an individual, not just for a shop shelf.”

Fast-forward to 2020 and Timpson’s prediction has come true. Savernake Knives (now based in a restored former sawmill on the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest in Wiltshire) is thriving. Downstairs is a purpose-designed workshop, while the upper floor is dedicated to creative space and to displaying some of the bespoke knife collection.

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Timpson mainly focuses on design and collaborations nowadays but he says he is “just about the only one” among his small team of experts who can do every job in the workshop – whether that is CNC milling (a computerised process to cut the shape of the blade from metal and other materials), thinning (to alter the shape of the blade so that it encounters less resistance), shaping (refining the rough metal into a precise form), and everything else all the way up to custom engraving and final inspections.

the-exterior-of-savernake-workshop

The workshop, on the edge of Savernake Forest in the West Country, is in a renovated sawmill that dates from 1854

“We’re the only truly progressive knife brand out there,” says Timpson. “We want to shake up the image of knives being solely for tattooed chefs and blade nerds. We want every cook to experience what it’s like to use something made particularly for them. All of our knives are made to order, and so we make for people; from the first step of the process the customer’s name is etched onto the blade and the knife is known by their name, not a serial number.”

All this attention to detail is clearly paying off, as Savernake is rated in the top 2.5% globally for blade quality. It also has various chef endorsements under its belt, including collaborations with Michelin-starred Mark Sargeant and with Mark Heirs (one of Scotland’s leading private chefs), who recently commissioned his second knife from the company.

The combination of incredibly strong Swedish steel, precision manufacturing and the perfect balance of form and function ensures these knives really are at the cutting edge.

knives-on-display-in-the-workshop

The old method for keeping track of knives in the workshop

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