INGE VRANCKEN HANDS ON DESIGN DMG 2016
Knife maker Antoine Van Loocke exudes passion as he talks about his ultimate dream of crafting a knife that is completely made from local garbage and yet kitchen-proof. A follower of the slow movement, he is many a star chef's dream creative partner. In the past he was approached by well-known chefs with a distinct terroir signature, chefs serving local dishes made with regional products. Following their same philosophy, he designed knives and sets for them that surpassed their wildest dreams. He is a self-taught man – something he likes to emphasise – who has always dared to think outside the box.
No less than fifteen years of material research and experiments precede his dream, which has culminated in the Antoku knife collection composed of seven unique all-round kitchen knives in Damast steel and two in recycled stainless steel. The handles are made of what he in Flemish calls "vurt ijt", a high-tech composite he himself developed from plexi (PMMA) and maple burl.
Professor Ignace Verpoest from Leuven taught him how to make strong everyday utensils from a composite whose fibres are impregnated with epoxy. Antoine Van Loocke wanted to do the same with wood. He knew very well that the wood had to be sufficiently porous to absorb the synthetic material. This proved possible only with rotting wood. Antoine invested at least ten years in developing his own process. After eight years of uncontrolled rotting, the wood had to dry for two more years. Then it was subjected to a high-tech stabilisation process, rendering it kitchen-proof. For this he turned to the German company puq Gmbh. A harmless monomer is pressed right through the rotten wood, saturating it, and then hardening into plexi. This results in a hybrid material that retains the wood's properties and imperfections while acquiring considerably better properties: it becomes hard, retains its shape, and does not absorb water. The end product has an extremely low amount of residual monomer and is, therefore, odourless.