The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

I'm lame with my new lame - Help!

MommaT's picture

I'm lame with my new lame - Help!


I received a wonderful new lame this December and just can't figure out how to use it.  

I have tried to follow the directions in Hamelmann's "Bread", but even with this guidance, it seems I can't get a nice cut - more like a drag through the dough.

Is this a problem with my dough?  Or my technique?  (possibly both)

ANy help is greatly appreciated!  I'm about to go back to my serrated knife for slashing and I know that's not for the best.  :-)



Barkalounger's picture


I'm envious of the bakers who can make perfect cuts with three quick slashes of their lame.  I lack those skills, but I have figured out a way to avoid the raggedy drag that I think you're talking about.

First, I spray my lame with a bit of PAM, which helps it slip into the dough.  I make shallow cuts first, doing little more than scoring the tight surface of the dough.  Once I've made my shallow cuts, I go back and make them deeper.

This works for me, though I'm sure the pros are snickering.  :-)

davidm's picture

Dipping the blade in water between cuts can be effective too. In my experience though, the biggest enemy is hesitation. It's a paradox really, a big part of the answer is confidence, but that requires some success. So far I've only managed anything like a comfort level with regular hydration doughs, wet doughs still scare me. And that's why I'm having the trouble with them I think. I use a razor on a popsicle stick, and try to focus the energy of the cut into the lateral movement across the surface of the dough rather than on any real downward pressure. I do pause at the start to try and picture the cut I want in my mind, then just go for it in one swift movement. This works pretty well in standard doughs at least.

A pottery teacher once suggested to me that I compose a quiet smile before initiating any tricky movement about which I am uncertain. It helped me enormously.


nytesong's picture

I have a  similar problem---except I don't seem to make mine deep enough?  I have a hard time judging how deep.  I have a loaf in the oven right now and it seems to have ballooned out sideways from one side of the slash.  =(

Wisecarver's picture
Wisecarver (not verified)

...When your cuts get nasty exaggerate them.
You might be surprised at how most people love the end result.

proth5's picture

From "my teacher" : 

Practice all the time.  Practice now with a fork on your plate!

Mental mise en place

From me:

Is this the Matfer lame? If so, I have found that the blades are not really very sharp and that they dull quickly.  If your blade is dull, you cannot get good results.

The raggedy cut is often the result of the back edge of the lame (a non sharpened edge) cutting into the dough.  Make sure that you blade angle is such the the back edge will not cut into the dough.

Not sure this is helpful, but I hope it is.

nbicomputers's picture

i just go to the hardware and get a box of single edge rasor blades. after a bread or two i just toss them and take a new one out of the box.

if you want to get fancy a 2.00 exacto knive with a 4.00 box of blades will last a few years. and there sharp enough to get a clean cut. 

i also find that going down between 1/4 to 1/2 inch works just fine and the exacto knife is only about 1 inch so you have a good depth gage

diping it in water is what i did when baking a few hundred loafs a day

leucadian's picture

Do these help?

Is the lame curved or straight? If you're trying to replace the serrated tomato knife, you'll want the straight lame, I think. I have had better luck with wet doughs when there was a little flour on the surface to dry it out, some water or oil on the blade, and then finally a swift cut. 

I've thought about sacrificing a loaf or two to be able to practice scoring, but I haven't done it yet. I guess I'm too vain.

MommaT's picture

Hi all,

Thanks for your very helpful comments.  

Here is the lame my DH bought me for my birthday (he's baffled at the presents I request these days!):

I watched the Max Poilane video, but it all happened so quickly and I was so enamored with the fire, the stacking of the baskets, etc. that I don't think I absorbed the slashing info as well as I could have.  

I'm going to go back and try:

  • turning the lame over (I believe I was using it upside down)
  • holding it at a shallower angle
  • being more decisive with it

Will let you know if it all comes right magically!

Thanks again,


xaipete's picture

Me too! I had just about decided to throw it out when I discovered I'd been using it upside down. It works a lot better now that I've figured that out.


Elagins's picture

i just use an old straight razor. i figure if it was good enough for cutting 100 years ago, it's good enough today.

I keep it sharp with a surgical stone ... last forever

LanaL's picture

I too have trouble.  My lame -- stick with bent "gilette" type razor blade -- was quite expensive.  Bread tears instead of cutting.

I have used bread knife with a little more success.

Please advise best technique.