Back in 2020 I had an idea that I couldn’t get out of my head. My fiancé and I just finished a project to produce medical facemasks for healthcare personnel. This was the first lockdown and there were huge supply shortages which our ”project” wanted to solve by 3dprinting parts. We coordinated 180 different people that were printing parts and we even had a central assembly hub. It went really quick and it was really intense and we were very happy when it was over and regular industry could take over.

But this project left me with the feeling that we had been really capable and that we could achieve much more than we thought. I had just celebrated the 6th anniversary of my company Emergo Designs and I was wondering what my real ambitions were. And then came that idea: a Titanium oyster knife that was partially made on a CNC machine and finished by hand. It would require buying a very expensive CNC milling machine and taking many risks to develop such a product. For instance, I wasn’t a machinist(person who operates and programs the machine). But with the medical facemask experience under my belt, I decided to go for it.

This was when I came into contact with Impuls Zeeland, our local government innovation incentive fund. They had an amazing program to stimulate circular product development. My new oyster knife concept fit in quite well and after my pitch Emergo Designs was granted a government grant. It still took all my life savings to buy and ship the machine. I ended up buying a Syil X7 machine and it arrived at the end of 2020.

2021

2021 was a strange year and for me and it was all about testing the titanium oyster shucker concept. I started out with aluminum and then moved over to titanium. But in February I ”crashed” the machine. A small error caused the machine to accelerate to maximum speed and plunge into the workpiece. The machine was miraculously fine afterwards, but my confidence was gone. Therefore the transition to titanium was really slow and deadline after deadline passed. Eventually I hardened a blade and send it to Andre Linting of Oesterkrakers. He is a professional shucker and he would test if the knife would hold.

This titanium knife, where I had put in all my life savings and over a year of development, snapped after 300 oysters… Once again it was a huge setback. I then did a bunch of tests on both steel and titanium blades. Hardened, unhardened, different geometries and different recipes. The blade was once again sent to Oesterkrakers and this time all was well. It was time to get ready for launch!

It was during this 1,5 year long development cycle that I met Virginia AKA @lady_Oyster. She is a most lovely person and she writes really intelligent pieces about oyster culture. Not just about eating them, but also about growing them sustainably and the people who grow these lovely shellfish. And when she stabbed herself in the hand while shucking, I offered her the very first Hugo knife

Testing the oyster shuckers that I make to the breaking point.

Sending a knife out always makes me nervous as a maker, but sending it out for review makes it even more tense. Fortunately Virginia loves the knife and she wrote a beautiful piece. She describes really nicely the enhancing effect a special knife has for a product as special as an oyster. Be sure to read her blog post here!

The past week has been amazing for me: We called it ”Launch week” and it was filled with memories. Both highs(receiving the grant, ordering the machine and reading Virginia’s review) and lows(having only 63 euro’s left because you’ve spend everything on the machine and you have a customer that won’t pay, crashing the machine, breaking the first titanium knife. But also looking through childhood photographs to find a picture from me and my dad and realizing why I make oyster knives in the first place. This week and this new product combines my past, my journey and my ambitions and I will work my butt of to make it a success.

Therefore I’m so happy to announce that my Hugo full titanium oyster knife is now available for order.