FKK > Local Knife Makersby Itay Blaish | 10.03.14
Nowadays, “bumping” into new designers and companies, mostly happens online. Thanks to a well planned and maintained Instagram page, I “bumped” into Florentine Kitchen Knives and suddenly craved a custom made kitchen knife of my own.
Florentine Kitchen Knives (FKK) is a young design company, founded in 2012 by Tomer Botner in the neighbourhood of Florentine, south-west Tel Aviv. They specialize in designing and manufacturing custom kitchen tools for chefs, restaurants and other establishments. FKK is equipped to complete projects from start to finish, providing support from the first concept and visuals, by graphic designer Ran Shauli, to the object design to the final manufacturing and everything in between.
I had the chance to ask Tomer Botner, the founder of FKK a few questions:
Hello Tomer, can you tell me a bit about yourself and your company?
I am 32, born and bread in Tel Aviv, living above the Levinski market with girlfriend, fashion designer, Noam Blumenthal (AKA Note), along with a bunch of knives and our dying plants (and we keep going farther south as the years go by).
I studied Industrial Design at Shenkar college in Israel, and since my graduation in late 2012 I have been making kitchen tools for a living. It is a good job, but I still complain.
We have established our production plant in Santa Catarina, Portugal, where the production and assembly is done, bringing heat treated steel from the US and most of the handle materials from Israel. This will probably change soon as we want to make manufacturing as local as possible.
You can find our product amongst clients; The Jewish museum in Manhattan, Chef Sergio Herman from Zeeland in Holland and The Jane restaurant in Antwerp and also Taizu restaurant in Tel Aviv. FKK also produces a line of high-end chef knives for the general public, made in small batches of 100-200 pieces, changing steels and fine tuning every year.
Can you tell me how did it all started ?
It all started in design school when I decided to make a kitchen knife as my final project.
Just an arbitrary decision that came from my own desire to make a tool that has something to do with the kitchen.
What really got me going was my decision to start a blog – http://florentinekitchenknives.tumblr.com/ – that follows my progress.
Most of the pictures on this blog were taken through Instagram. As it just so happened, I came across Instagram’s request, on Tumblr, asking for people to submit their creative work in which they document on Instagram, so I did. Instagram ended up selecting my work, and posting it on their account (this was in late 2012). I received a pretty big response and I felt that I had to do something with it. I started a crowd funding campaign to get some money together to start producing more knives. The campaign was a success and here I am, two and a half years later, making kitchen knives for a living.
Tell me about the details, how do you actually make a knife?
It takes a lot of knowledge, practice, and skill to make knife. Not only are there many ways to do it but there are also so many choices and so much diversity of materials, and it is constantly growing. For me, I pick the steel that suites me. Since there is a wide selection of steel, I try to mix it up and change it for every production we make. I like trying new things but probably over time I will develop a preference to one or two and I’ll stick to them (until something new comes along).
Of course the process starts with the design. Each knife has a different purpose and therefore holds a different shape and size. The knife is probably the oldest tool used by mankind and it’s function and form went through a lot of tweaking to get it right. You would think there is not much you can change, but in fact, we change, our kitchens change, and our food changes, so these are all things you take into consideration in the design process. You need to look at the past, the present and predict the future to create the best possible tool that will do the best job, be desired by people and stand the test of time.
In the manufacturing process, there are also many processes and stages that occur. The steel first goes through a Heat treatment process in which hardens the material to maintain a good edge. The process continues with one stage aimed to release tension in the steel, ensuring strength. Then there are stages to grind the bevels, polish the surface, assemble the handles, mark the blades, sharpen the edge and the small details.
Who and what inspires you as a designer?
I don’t watch “design-porn” as much as I used to, I find it disturbing to my process. I really believe that being creative is a byproduct of creating. Once you start designing something, the problems will present themselves and will question you and your creativity to find a solution..or two. Basically it is a game of odds for me, the more you create, the more likely you are to come up with something good. Other then that, what inspires me most are showers, cigarette breaks, trips to the toilet and listening to smart people. Basically every chance I get to think without destruction.
What in the next step for FKK?
I am really into custom creations right now. The most fun I have in this profession is making new things for specific clients with specific needs, working under restrictions and still coming up with something “new”.
I hope this will be my main focus in the next few years. I want to work with chefs and restaurants, creating limited edition kitchen tools and hopefully expanding the product to general kitchenware and tools.
What is special about FKK right now is that even though the knives all have the same design scheme, every client has a one of a kind tool created for them. One day I will break this scheme, I even have a couple of new collaborations coming out this month, but there is something about my products I aim to hold to as long and hard as I can.