This year I will be focusing on one industrial design project - my graduation thesis project.
At the beginning of the semester I started thinking of possibilities for a thesis focus and ended up with two possible ideas:
1. Piano keyboard portability and learning process
2. Kitchen safety - cuts and burns
After some initial research and consideration of both topics, I decided to go forward with the kitchen safety idea. The next step was to attempt to find an area with a lot of opportunities for improving the safety of food preparation. I focused on cuts and burns as common injuries in the kitchen, and after doing a lot of research through product safety reports and studies as well as conducting my own survey, I decided to narrow down to kitchen knives as my focus.
My research and surveys showed that cuts from kitchen knives were an ongoing problem that hadn't really been tackled in the current product market. Existing solutions were somewhat limited, including Kevlar cut resistant gloves and some radical "ergonomic" solutions.
After researching kitchen knife safety tips, I decided to target the three largest common causes of accidental cuts:
One of the biggest causes of accidental cuts is a dull blade, because it can slip off of the food instead of cutting it:
Here are some of my first ideas for tackling the problem of inadequate sharpening and honing:
I decided that a knife sheath the both protected and automatically honed the blade between uses would help solve the problem of dull blades.
Another of the most cited tips for avoiding knife injuries was using the correct grip. Most users intuitively hold a knife in either "handlebar grip" or a modified version with the thumb or index finger on top for more power:
However, most professional chefs use and recommend a grip called "pinch grip," which gives you more control and therefore less chances of slipping and accidentally cutting yourself.
I used air dry clay to take impressions of people's hands using pinch grip to hold a wooden kitchen knife mock-up. By making a composite image of the various handle shapes, I can start to see what recesses and core shape they all have in common. This will serve as a starting point for prototyping an ergonomic handle that encourages or even induces pinch grip for better control, and therefore less accidental cuts in the kitchen.
I used this image as the basis for my own intial design. I created a simple foam model, which I then tested with potential users to get their feedback on the design.
Below, you can see the evolution of the knife form as I kept testing and getting feedback on each prototype.
Here is the final form "white model," which I made by hand out of high density modeling foam using the bandsaw, spindle sander, and sandpaper.
Here are some Photoshop renderings showing the intended materials for the final product.