By Lorrie Baumann
Step aside, Sheriff, there’s a new knife in town. VMatter Cutlery has announced the launch of a crowdfunding campaign to bring to market a knife made of a new material that the company claims has the potential to change food preparation forever. The knife is among the first commercial applications of a metal alloy developed at the California Institute of Technology through research funded in part by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
This alloy is a metal that has the amorphous structure of a glass rather than the crystalline structure of a normal metal. You can imagine the difference by thinking about the difference between the sharp edge of a piece of broken glass and the sharp edges that you feel on the grains of sand as you walk barefoot along the beach. This metal alloy is more like that piece of broken glass than it’s like those crystalline grains of sand, and the folks at VMatter are claiming that’s how it cuts too.
Although the material was first discovered 20 years ago, it has taken its inventors a long time to come up with the right application for it. Even though it’s light, strong, elastic, extremely durable and corrosion-resistant, it’s also hard to work with and requires specialized equipment to fabricate it into a shape, according to Blair Dahl, President of VMatter. After 15 years of working with the metal to develop manufacturing methods, one of the engineering working on the project made a prototype knife for his own use. He took that knife home with him, and the partners didn’t think very much more of it until an “aha moment” six years later, when he came into the office one day to announce, “Remember that knife I made? I’ve used it every day, and it’s still sharp.” Cutlery development mode was launched then and there, Dahl said with a chuckle.
The knife that’s ready to be launched in the marketplace is made by injection-molding the molten alloy, much as if it were a plastic being shaped in a mold. Then when it comes out of the mold, it has a mirror-like finish and a very accurate shape. Already sharp, the cutting edge receives final finishing and the blade surface is polished to a softer sheen that looks less like a mirror and more like a conventional steel knife. The top edge and the area where it joins the grip are left with that reflective surface, so it still has a distinctive appearance without being too obviously different from an ordinary knife.
The 8-inch chef’s knife weighs in 200 grams, while a conventional steel chef’s knife of German manufacture comes in at about 240 to 250 grams, Dahl said. “Because it can be made so sharp, it’s effortless to cut with, so you don’t need the weight,” he added.
The angle on the cutting edge is similar to a European blade, but it’s easily as sharp as one of the thin-profile Japanese knives, according to Dahl. Balance is so superb that it’ll rest on a fingertip, he added.
Stronger than titanium, it’s also corrosion-resistant. It transfers no metal residue to food, so it doesn’t leave behind a metallic taste, and the glass-smooth surface of the blade is so dense that bacterial growth is inhibited. “The real magic of the knife is that it’s much more elastic than steel,” Dahl said. “It can take abuse in the kitchen.”
The crowdfunding campaign, which is taking place on Indiegogo through October 18, has a financial goal, but the real goal of that effort is to arouse the interest of early-adopters and the real cutlery enthusiasts as well as to capture the attention of potential retailers, Dahl said. The company is hoping to build enough momentum through the campaign to encourage a large specialty retailer to offer the knives for sale in a pilot test in a percentage of its stores for the holiday season. If that goes well, the retailer would likely place a larger order and offer the knives for sale chainwide. “The idea would be to be in store at the beginning of December, and those tests typically run for 60 days,” Dahl said. It’s expected that a retail test will introduce a VMatter Cutlery Collection that includes a chef’s knife, a paring knife, a Santoku knife and a slicing knife.
Two models of the knives are currently for sale on VMatter’s website. Both are 8-inch chef’s knives. The Professional model comes with a G10 handle in either green or black. “G10 is a material used extensively by custom knife makers,” Dahl said. “Its appearance has a bit of a carbon weave. It’s very durable, a great material for a grip.” The green handle is a pale jade that’s attracting a lot of excitement from the folks who’ve seen it, so much so that it’s essentially becoming a signature color for the product, he added. That model has a projected retail price of $247.
The other model, the Executive, is projected to retail for $397 and comes with a stabilized rare hardwood handle and custom laser engraving. You can see the knife on Indiegogo by visiting the site at Indiegogo.com and typing VMatter into the search box in the upper right of the home screen. Or you can visit the company’s website at www.vmatter.com and link from there