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View Full Version : Need Western Handles Input - Please Chime In



Marko Tsourkan
02-03-2013, 10:05 AM
Time to give a Western handle a try. I want to do two versions, one with a full tang and one with a hidden tang. Full tang will feature a pinned bolster and 3 pins or bolts, and hidden tang will have a mokume tip, maybe a spacer.

The handle will be a good size, but not overly fat.

Now my question is how narrow should I shape the tip? In a wa handle, the consensus has been that a little width at the ferrule seems to be more beneficial than a ferrule shaped flush with the blade (we are talking about thickness of ferrule right at the blade), as it severs as a stop when you move from handle to a pinch grip, especially on narrow knives like sujis.

Every western handle knife I look at, the ferrule at the blade is pretty narrow. What are your preferences?

Thank you,

M

cookinstuff
02-03-2013, 12:53 PM
I think narrower is fine as long as they still have a wee bit of height to them.

kalaeb
02-03-2013, 02:58 PM
I am giddy with excitement to see pics of these. My personal preference is for a more narrow bolster, not shigefusa narrow...for a 240 about 15mm in width and specifically I like it less tall in height. I prefer my western handles to only be about 20-22 mm high where the bolster/cap etc meet the blade.

Marko Tsourkan
02-03-2013, 08:03 PM
Well, both these will be prototypes, so I don't have high expectations. Bolster will be probably around 1" tall.
Full tang knife will feature a tapered tang.

M

knyfeknerd
02-03-2013, 08:15 PM
I say the smaller the better. A big bolster gets in the way.

Von blewitt
02-03-2013, 08:19 PM
I say the smaller the better. A big bolster gets in the way.

+1 my favourites are shig western $ DT ITK western, both are narrow where they meet the blade

Marko Tsourkan
02-04-2013, 12:46 PM
As I am not very familiar with Western handles, so can anybody explain to me from a user perspective, why on a Wa hanlde, a ferrule that it not tapered down (similarly to how a bolster is tapered down - think Kramer, or knives with radius bolsters like Shige on Western handle) is preferred, but on Western a tapered down bolster is preferred? It would be good to hear from somebody who has an extensive experience with both.

Let's say both knives will be blade heavy and both will be used with a pinch grip.

Thank you,

M

Mike9
02-04-2013, 12:59 PM
I taper my wa handles too much like "D" handles. When I made the handle for my Hiro I made it fatter and tapered it to meet the bolster. It feels much better than it did with the straight slab sides. I also cut the top of the tang so the handle wraps around the top.

The bolsters aren't big enough to shape so if you are adding bolsters I recommend making them bigger so you have something to work with. Had the one on my Hiro been bigger I would have approached it differently. After I replaced the pakka slabs with desert ironwood the balance point moved to 1" in front of the bolster - a big improvement IMO as the 2" + in stock form really made the 270mm knife feel tip heavy.

JohnnyChance
02-04-2013, 01:37 PM
Since a wa handle is not contoured at all, the larger ferrule gives you something pinch to prevent the knife from wanting to slide out of your hand on pull cuts. It is a longer handle you control from the front.

On a proper yo handle with coke bottle shape, the swell at the end of the handle is where you lock in on a pull cut. It is a shorter handle that you don't choke up as much on, therefore you want the bolster and first third of the handle to "disappear" in you hand. You use your ring and pinkie fingers more than a wa handle to help control the knife.

You can obviously pinch the blade with your thumb and forefinger to lock it in when doing pull cuts. But if you have to do a lot of them, especially through tough product, it is much nicer to have the handle design be able to relieve some of that strain.

Marko Tsourkan
02-04-2013, 01:56 PM
John,
thanks for an excellent explanation. I recall you told me this once, but it didn't sink in then.

M

mpukas
02-04-2013, 08:09 PM
Johnny has provided a good description - I don't actually hold a wa handle differently from a yo handle, tho, his explanation makes sense and I don't disagree with it.

I started using yo handles on German knives, and migrated my technique - I use what I call a hybrid pinch grip - I wrap my index finger around the front of the ferrule, and use the shoulder of the ferrule to lock in my grip. I use a variety of grips depending on the cutting task, but this is the most frequent. I don't use a typical pinch grip on the blade as I don't find it as confortable or gives me as much control.

While I love the look of your wa handles w/ the tapered ferrule, my only concern for my own use is how it would affect how I hold the knife. If there's too much taper and not much shoulder, I may find it uncomfortable.

I owned (and sold) a Hattori FH 270 gyuto - has what I considered to be one of the nicest yo handles, but it was on the small side. And the ferrule was taperd too small, and it was too difficult for me to wrap my finger around the ferrule and get a secure grip.

I hope there's something in there that useful for you. Cheers! mpp

NO ChoP!
02-05-2013, 10:06 AM
Although, the entire hand is wrapped around the handle for both wa and yo, the pointer and thumb supply the pressure for the wa, coincidentallly around the balance point. For a yo, the weight is held in the palm. Since the pointer and thumb are only resting on the bolster, comfort is a factor.

For me a well designed western is bulbous just behind the balance point, for good grip and weight distribution. The balance should just slightly tip to the bolster giving your pointer/ thumb controlled finesse.

And as I'm sure your westerns will have sexy curves like a Shig or Kramer, there'll be plenty to grip, so I say make the bolster as sleek as you can.

Lucretia
02-05-2013, 06:51 PM
You don't REALLY expect us to agree on this, do you? :lol2:

Anyway, in the "worth 1000 words" vein. Using a pinch grip on all of these:

My very favorite western handle (Rader):
This bolster is absolutely, completely, wonderfully comfortable. You can rest your fingers against the curve of the bolster, and there's enough surface to press back against the bolster when you pull. The grip is very, very secure.

13110




Also excellent, but different (Shigefusa):
As narrow as the bolster is, there's not much to give you any push back towards the handle with your pinching fingers. The way this knife floats through anything, you aren't going to get much drag when you pull anyway. I really like this one too, but I find myself reaching for the Rader more and more because it's so dang comfortable.


13111





Not as good (ZK Kramer):
This is a utility knife and more handle heavy, but I don't think I'd like this on a gyuto. If you were pulling, you don't have much of a stop--you just slide up that brass ramp.

13112



Wouldn't want one like this (Tanaka):
Again, not a gyuto, but this one isn't terribly comfy for a pinch grip. Yes, you have a flat surface for a pull cut, but that hard edge doesn't feel too good.

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Johnny gave a great description. I'm another one that doesn't vary between grip on a wa and yo. And with a blade-heavy knife, my hands aren't big enough to use the end of the handle for pull cuts and still have the knife feel balanced.

Marko Tsourkan
02-05-2013, 07:52 PM
Excellent information, thank you!

daddy yo yo
02-07-2013, 08:08 AM
i absolutely love the shape of my hattori kd handle:

http://japanesechefsknife.com/images/Img151.jpg

look at the reflection in the mirror...

http://i2.guns.ru/forums/icons/forum_pictures/1/001594/1594293.jpg

the coke bottle shape is perfekt, and i like the bolster too!

Marko Tsourkan
02-07-2013, 11:59 AM
Actually, the handle I have in mind will be similar except it will be hidden tang handle and it will be curvier (I think heftier handle is better, as long as it has an appropriate shape). The reason I am taking a hidden-tang route is that natural or stabilized wood will move over time, while metal tang won't, so sooner or later there will be some separation for food particles or bacteria to get in. This applies particularly to natural woods. The movement is particularly evident in the winter months.

There will be no rivets, as the handle will be one piece. I might do a decorative spacer between the guard and the handle.

The bolster, or more appropriate to call it the guard will be in stainless steel, bronze and mokume (the most expensive option, standard on damascus knives) .

I am going to start with scimitar and bread knife prototypes with this type of handle - JohnyChance is going to help to design these, so by right, he will have the first pick.

Hopefully by the end of month, I will get them done.

In the future I will probably go integrals route, but right now I don't have equipment or am allowed do to this kind of work at the place I am. I will start looking for a new place this spring-summer, so this might change.

Just heads up.

Thanks.
M

Marko Tsourkan
02-09-2013, 01:14 PM
...

My very favorite western handle (Rader):
This bolster is absolutely, completely, wonderfully comfortable. You can rest your fingers against the curve of the bolster, and there's enough surface to press back against the bolster when you pull. The grip is very, very secure.

13110




What's the thickness at the bolster on Rader handle? From the picture is looks about 5/8 or even slightly larger.

Twistington
02-09-2013, 01:41 PM
This is how I like to make them(sorry for cellphone pics).

http://imageshack.us/a/img14/1025/photofeb09183726.jpg

http://imageshack.us/a/img255/1363/photofeb09183700.jpg

Marko Tsourkan
02-09-2013, 02:05 PM
It's a Coca-Cola shaped handle. The consensus seems to be that a front should be slightly tapered, the middle at full thickness, and the back can have cavities (that make the handle look like a Coca-Cola bottle). Some makers grind the cavities from top to bottom like in the picture above, some only at the bottom like M. Rader does.

I would like to know what is that you guys like about this shape (Coca-Cola) as it tends to work very well for a handle grip, but most folks use a pinch grip.

I spoke to people who handled Zwilling Kramer and even though the handle on that knife is not a Coca-Cola shape, people liked it with a pinch grip, namely because of the thick middle that fits neatly in the palm. Carter Western handles are same thickness throwout and I don't think I have ever heard a complain that those are not comfortable.

I don't want to beat this subject to death, but it would be helpful to understand why things are done in a certain way before attempting designing something. I try to break construction into steps and come up with an efficient way of doing each, so it is something I need to factor in.

Thanks,

M

eshua
02-09-2013, 03:14 PM
I prefer even thckness .. its less hit or miss as far as curve placement matching with thr size of my hand. Also though this may be off topic ... ive found westerns to feel great on 210s and less comfortable the longer the blade.

JohnnyChance
02-09-2013, 05:41 PM
I still use a pinch grip on coke bottle westerns. I just don't choke up as much on the blade as I would with a wa handle.

The contours on the sides of the handle are way more functional than those on the top or bottom. Just a flare downwards at the butt is all you really need.

The Kramer, while large, feels okay when pinch gripping. But since there is no flare at the butt like a coke bottle, not as comfy or functional when pull cutting.

stevenStefano
02-09-2013, 08:18 PM
I like the downward flare at the butt, I think functionally it works a little like the contours. Do many makers use the coke bottle style handle? I can't recall too many apart from Hattori. Maybe I sound a little cynical but is it not true that these types of handles are partly popular because they look sweet? I might use my Hattori tomorrow to investigate

Marko Tsourkan
02-09-2013, 10:33 PM
I... Maybe I sound a little cynical but is it not true that these types of handles are partly popular because they look sweet?...

They are harder to make and they have to be shaped by hand, so you won't see this type of handle on production knives too often. Hattori is an exception.

Marko Tsourkan
02-12-2013, 10:25 AM
Also, want to add that hidden tang handles are harder to make than full tang handles.

Today is a day to give one a try and there will be some more coming in the next week or so, namely
a bread knife and a scimitar with design help from JohnyChance. Stay tuned.

stevenStefano
02-23-2013, 10:48 AM
I tried comparing my Hattori FH to my Western Kono HD and to be honest I didn't notice much difference with the contoured handle. The way it swells out just back from the bolster feels quite nice for you pinky and ring finger, but I didn't notice a huge difference between the 2

Marko Tsourkan
02-23-2013, 11:05 AM
Cool, thank you for chiming in.

Chefdog
02-23-2013, 08:11 PM
I tried comparing my Hattori FH to my Western Kono HD and to be honest I didn't notice much difference with the contoured handle. The way it swells out just back from the bolster feels quite nice for you pinky and ring finger, but I didn't notice a huge difference between the 2

I also have a Hattori FH gyuto, and while I love the texture of the linen micarta (especially with greasy or wet hands), I dont find the handle to be noticeably better in use. If you use a hammer grip, then you notice the nicely contoured handle. But I think people shopping for blades in this price range are more likely using a pinch grip, and in a pinch grip, there's no significant difference between the FH and the standard pakkawood handle on my Suien gyuto, other than the fit and finish.

FWIW: I think for western handled knives, especially knives for butchery tasks, that linen micarta is an awesome choice for scale material. I have no idea how easy it is to work compared to wood, but I'd love to have micarta slabs on all my working knives. No worries, and outstanding grip.

cclin
02-23-2013, 09:41 PM
Marko, this is western handle made by Matt. it's very comfortable! the front end feel like wa-handle and the contoured handle fit my hand very well! use your D-handle's metal tip & Ferrule with western contoured handle on back sounds good ideal to you??
http://i1054.photobucket.com/albums/s482/54cclin/20130223_170423_zps0b230959.jpg
http://i1054.photobucket.com/albums/s482/54cclin/20130223_170246_zps5a7a1052.jpg