Introduction: Bread Series 1: Home Brewed Lame

About: Voracious reader, incessant tinkerer. Had many careers - culinary, manual labor, computer tech, programmer/analyst, engineer, manager... A mind forever voyaging!

For those of us who are self-appointed galley-slaves, we've long realized that the right tools can be critical to producing results that prevent a good keel-hauling! (Have you ever been keel-hauled? In the suburbs? It's easier on you if there's a crawl space, but my house has a basement. Keel hauling is best to be avoided. Good tools are critical to my efforts in this regard...)

Bread is an essential component of the munchable supply in any well-appointed, land-faring galley.Good tasting bread, with good crust and crumb will keep your crew salivating - and will keep you off the haul lines - but a good LOOKING, good tasting bread will have them eyeing you as a viable replacement for the Cap'n.

Without slashing, a dough CAN have a nice smooth crust, but usually at the sacrifice of volume - "oven spring". Many simple, small loaves - like pepperoni rolls, for instance - get away with this. More often than not, though, the bread will have its way - it will spring (rise) in the oven, both due to the results of the dying food-orgy of the yeast, and, after their demise, the steam generated by the water trapped inside the forming crust. Once that crust loses its elasticity (usually pretty early within the bake), but before it becomes hard and crusty, all that pressure will likely cause an ugly blow-out in some random place. The crew's hunger may be sated by the bread, but they might not find it very aesthetically pleasing. Aaarrrrr.

Though most home galley-slaves find a good, sharp knife equal to this purpose, there's nary a knife-wielding dough slasher that doesn't spend some time pining dreamily away over the concept of the razor sharp lame (no, no, no: not LAIM; it's pronounce lahm) that every boulanger worth his or her salt employs in their boulangerie! But - What ho! And avast! - the scurvy dogs want a hook and a peg for even the cheapest one! So le's go off to the toolroom to save a buck or thirty...

Step 1: So, What Does It Mean Be a Lame

Typically, lames are nothing more than a razor on a stick. You can use a simple razor in its place but, like the corn dog, putting it on a stick makes it easier to wield. (More about wielding corn dogs in another 'ible).

Commercial examples can be curved or straight; platinum-blade thin, or utility-blade thick. Some have very simple plastic handles and common razor blades; others have elaborate handles and custom blades. Some have replaceable blades, some do not.

And not one that I could find was much less that $7USD. The Home Brewed Lame is about $0.76 in materials, plus a few moments of your time.

Step 2: The Stuff of Lames

So what, then, does a self respecting, doubloon-pinching galley-slave need to make their own lame? Well, THIS galley slave used 1/4" common dowel, and a single edged "cutter blade"-style razor. The tools I needed were a serrated knife (because it was closer at hand than a saw), a drill, and a 1/16" drill bit (1.6 mm is close enough). 

Step 3: Chop, Chop! (Or Saw, Saw?)

Cut about a 7" long piece of the dowel. If you want a longer or shorter handle, feel free to improvise - dowel is cheap! Since I didn't feel like getting any of my saws, I simply cut it with a serrated knife - more than equal to the task. The cost of laziness? Well, an actual wood saw blade would have been quite a bit more aggressive, and would have pared down the time it took to cut the rod, but, hey - sometimes you just need the extra exercise without knowing you're in for it!

Sand the ends, if you like - makes it easier to keep it clean, but I rarely see any dough on the ends of my lame.

Step 4: Make a Good Impression

Take the cardboard overwrap off of your cutter blade, and set it aside (don't discard it, though). With one end of the cutter blade about 1/4" or so from the end of the rod and the rest aligned with the length of the rod, press the blade into the wood just enough to leave a line - this will become your drilling template.

Step 5: Now Here's the Drill...

With the impression from the blade facing upward, clamp the dowel to something you don't mind putting a few holes in. Using a 1/16" drill bit, position the tip of the drill at one end of the blade impression, and drill through the rod. Repeat at the other end of the blade impression. These holes will relieve the stress in the dowel when we push the blade through, preventing it from splitting. 

Step 6: Break on Through to the Other Side...

With the dowel still clamped, position the cutter blade over the impression between the two holes and press it in. Using the handle of the serrated knife, a short piece of dimensional lumber, or a dead-blow hammer, tap the blade until it is through to the other side of the dowel. Once through, remove the blade from the dowel.

Step 7: Nothing Beats a Good Shave

Again, with the dowel clamped to something stable and expendable, use the razor to notch the dowel lengthwise between the two holes. This notch helps secure the blade in the dowel, as well as exposes more of the blade for deeper cuts- and making it a bit more difficult to screw up by dragging the handle through the dough when making your cuts. Use the safety edge of the razor as your template and notch out about a third of the dowel's depth, contouring the ends to fit the safety tang of the blade.

Step 8: Private Lame, Reporting for Duty!

Reinsert the blade into its slot in your lame and brush off any sawdust or splinters - it's now ready for use! Aaaaarrr! T'is a foin implement fer slashin' at me bread dough! Aye! T'is...

Step 9: For Your Protection and Continued Happiness:

Remember that cardboard wrap I told you to keep? Put it back over the exposed blade for storage. A strip of cellophane tape can put it back together if you had to open it to get it off. But do cover it - nothing ruins my attitude more than slitting a digit or two when rummaging through the stowage. And replace the blade with every few hundred loaves...