View Full Version : Custom Maker - Overview

02-20-2013, 09:24 PM
So you want to consider ordering a custom blade but are new to the world of kitchen knives. You stalk kkf vendor galleries and works in progress. You read BST listings, and read reviews of specific knives that folks take time to offer impressions of. Wondering if we could gather some general information about makers, along with specific user feedback on items of note.

I'd like to ask anyone with a custom knife made by a KKF Vendor (or other vendors) to consider offering the following:
1. Maker, Steel Type, Knife Style, Handle info, Other Info of Note on Style, Finish, etc.
2. Knife Highlights - e.g. Best profile of any 240 gyuto I have ever seen, or amazing grind that prevents stiction, most comfortable handle I have ever used, most visually stunning damascus pattern of any knife maker, if you want a super thin custom carbon with hard to find extinct animal horn handle, this is the guy to buy from, go to this style if you want to portion fish for weeks, this style of finish has super reactive cladding but worth the effort, etc.
3. Photo, if possible.

And finally - if there are any vendors who want to chime in on what they like to make, or think they are the best at, e.g. my heat treat on white steel is what I am most proud of, or I like nothing more than making custom 210 Damascus gyutos with integrated damascus bolster with funky animal part handles, etc. that would also be great to know.

Thanks KKF - excited to learn more (centrally) about the wild world of customs! Also hoping to become an owner of a custom myself!

02-20-2013, 09:49 PM
I've only been lucky enough to have a couple but Delbert ealy makes the best pairing knife I've ever owned. Also his gyuto has an unconventional handle so it might take some getting used to but the grind is great and so is the profile. While your talking to him you might as well pick up one of his Damascus church keys. My personal favorite is from Mario Ingoglia. The fit and finish, grind and profile are all amazing. It's well hardened stainless and takes a great edge and holds it. I also had a Fowler which I loved the profile and steel but food release was a problem but that's probably not an issue any more. I have a few more coming in and can't wait to try them. In my opinion you couldn't go wrong with any maker on the forum. Good luck.

02-20-2013, 10:39 PM
This is a good idea. Especially having the makers tell prospective customers what they like to do and do best. That should make it easier for someone to know who to ask if they're looking for something very specific.

02-20-2013, 10:50 PM
mattrud wrote this article: http://www.buzzfeed.com/luckypeach/knives-out-the-best-knives-in-america

The hekler
02-20-2013, 11:14 PM
The only customs I have at the moment are a:

L R Harner (butch) paring knife, fairly sure it's in CPM 154, mine has a giraffe bone handle. Fit and finish is perfect the blade is not polished but shows perfectly even grind marks perpendicular to the length of the blade. No smoothing or the spine, little choil there is but because this is a paring knife not something that i notice .Handle hasn't moved a bit, no shrinkage, warping, twisting nothing. As its a stainless paring knife that has never seen a board I have yet to touch it up besides miner stropping and it holds a perfectly aggressive yet smooth edge that it came from Butch with. If I had to do it again I would choose a less curved profile but that was my choice so I can't fault the maker. The grind is wickedly thin and is probably the best cutter I own. I really would like to purchase one of his nakiris one day as I imagine it would play to his talents perfectly.

Mario (RRLover) 260mm gyuto biggest regret with this knife is I bought it weeks before he started using a makers mark, I think this may also be CPM 154 but am not at all positive it is stainless with buffalo horn/mammouth tooth/ironwood handle. I think Mario might have the best profile of any maker I've seen its fairly short in comparison to all my others which makes it almost a gyuto/suji hybrid in my mind. 260-270mm is probably the perfect length for one of these, with its light weight/ short high/ and beautiful profile it could easily take the place of 2-3 knives (gyuto/suji/yangi/bread) without losing much to any of them, only problem is who would want one knife when you can buy three different ones! It is a fairly thin knife though which leads to my one criticism the grind does leave a little something to be desired when it comes to sticktion. Fit and finish are awesome not quite mirror but definitelyhas been polished my guess would be up to around 500 grit spine and choil are perfectly radiused for an excellent look. I have sharpened this one although I am still working on sharpening constantly, and am fairly pleased I have a feeling the steel can go a lot farther then my sharpening skills can at the moment, but it sharpens easily and fairly quickly.

Del Ealy 240mm gyuto, I bought one in carbon from his first batch, steel maybe 1095? Handle is redwood burl with blackwood ferrule single mokume pin. I bought an extra tall one believe it is about 55mm and absolutely adore it. The profile is unique, as is his full tang wa handle but I love both. It may take awhile to get use to but it's certainly worth it. Steel is a pleasure to sharpen, it's so easy this is my go to knife when I want to practice sharpening or try a new stone. I absolutely love the grind on this knife even though its considerably taller then my Mario it has less sticktion because of the grind. The patina is beautiful plenty of blue that really pops if your into that. Fit and finish is good although the edges on the spine and choil are only rounded off not completely radiused, just as comfortable although it doesn't look quite as nice.

There's a reason I bought these three new, both the Ealy and Harner were bought as semi custom group buys through this site, Mario was bought through this site new. I love them each for there particular talents and don't plan on selling. Hope this helps anyone in the market.

02-20-2013, 11:26 PM
That's interesting with the Mario gyuto. Mine is 270 and I just got it new and nothing sticks to it. Maybe he's just gotten better with a little more time.

Salty dog
02-20-2013, 11:43 PM
Surprising, I've never known a Mario guilty of stiction.

The hekler
02-20-2013, 11:50 PM
It's quite possible that Mario has gotten better or that my expectations are unreasonably high, I haven't played with my Shigefusa's in over a year, they were packed away and are now getting rehandled but if memory serves me they were slightly better and as I said the Del is great. I can imagine much worse then my Mario when it comes to stiction just with my current lineup his falls behind Del's. if I was comparing it to the flat ground Harner, Mario would win easily.

PS one thing I forgot, Mario's knife came with hands down the most secure packaging I've ever received with a knife. Cardboard sleeve, piece of scrapewood with knife dimensions written on it, all tucked inside a knife case then peanuts in a shipping box. It may not be a big thing but I appreciate it when a knife maker that has spent countless hours crafting something ensures it gets to me in perfect condition.

02-21-2013, 12:44 AM
Have I agree with everyone about the Mario best knife I've used for non sticking and I have the hybrid suji/gyuto so a full gyuto should be better than mine.

I have used many blades in a pro environment: shigefusa, heiji, kato, Kramer,Mario, Marko T, mike Davis, ealy, fowler, carter list goes on.

The best of the best to date go out to two makers mario and Marko it really comes down to what you like better and steel.

Mario- cpm154 stainless, amazing profile lowest sticking of any knife, gets super sharp and best edge retention to date. Responds well to stropping. He polishes very nice almost mirror and one of my favorites that every part except edge is completely rounded very comfortable. Easy to sharpen. Best packaging job as well for shipping.

Marko- 52100 carbon, takes an edge like white steel but holds it very long about 2+ weeks in pro kitchen with stropping. Great grind, slightly asymmetric very hard but extremely tough steel. The are the beautiful knives you can really push and won't let you down. Steel is not very reactive either. Easy to sharpen. His handles are the best around.

If you want the best performers that's them. Mario stainless or Marko for carbon.

Other makers are good as well in all aspects but these are just above and beyond in my opinion.

- Jordan

02-21-2013, 03:13 AM
Take a look in the individual vendor forums. There is already a wealth of comments and reviews from numerous customers and pass arounds. In fact, start in the pass around threads where you can find multiple reviews, pictures and videos in each thread.

02-21-2013, 04:55 AM
The review forum should have most of this?

02-21-2013, 08:29 AM
Surprising, I've never known a Mario guilty of stiction.

That knife was kind of an "How thin can I take it" experiment.It is much thinner then my normal grind.It's funny that he likes a sturdy knife like me and ends up with the thinnest knife I have ground,or not funny.

02-21-2013, 10:27 AM
Take a look in the individual vendor forums. There is already a wealth of comments and reviews from numerous customers and pass arounds. In fact, start in the pass around threads where you can find multiple reviews, pictures and videos in each thread.

Thank you all for your feedback so far. ThEoRy - agreed - and that is what I have been doing for months. What I am driving at is there is a TON of useful information from real world use spread out hither and tither on this site, and I was hoping to give newbies (including myself) as well as the more experienced users a thread to find relevant information, in one place.

Also, I think it is very helpful to hear comparisons between other custom makers, rather than a flat review of an individual's work. So far, I have learned alot from all prior posts - and very much appreciate the insight from all of the more experienced members.

And thanks for the link don!

02-22-2013, 08:53 AM
I will say that my first and most favored custom is the Damascus 210 gyuto from Del Ealy. It's tall, thin, well rounded everywhere it should be, sharp as hell, and easy to keep that way. Sticktion is non existent, even with dicing, julienne, and batonnet when the cuts like to stack and walk up the side of the knife.
Del was extremely easy to work with, and great at listening/communicating. His knife even came with a wooden case/box (like a jewelry box-hinged and latched) which completely took me by surprise.

My Mario I recently got, a 260, is also a beautiful knife. very sharp,fine edge. I haven't taken it to the stones yet, so no opinion as to how well it takes. The profile is great, but does have some slight sticktion to it, where the cuts want to stick to the opposing side which cause them to walk up and over top to the other side (from right to left). But a little finger flick from time to time helps out without slowing you down. Absolutely stunning performer so far , from tip to heel. Also doesn't hurt that, like the Del, its eye candy factor makes it a joy just to pull it out of its case.

Of all my "customs", these 2 really take the top of the cake.

02-23-2013, 05:24 PM
So I am new to the site and while I think I have been to every custom knife makers website I have not found Mario's? I have read on his page where he has mentioned he is behind, but I was looking for a place where I could get pricing etc.

RRLOVER do you have a website I can't find?


02-23-2013, 08:55 PM
Just PM him for an order. I recently got in line after the very same question.

02-23-2013, 10:06 PM
So I am new to the site and while I think I have been to every custom knife makers website I have not found Mario's? I have read on his page where he has mentioned he is behind, but I was looking for a place where I could get pricing etc.

RRLOVER do you have a website I can't find?


Just shoot me a PM......I do not have a website yet,but I am working on it.

02-24-2013, 01:40 AM
One custom maker that does an incredible job, a mastersmith and bit of a curmudgeon, is PJ Tomes.

He forges primarily 52100, his taper is virtually perfect, and the heat treat is spot-on. I can get this knife as sharp or sharper than any knife in the stable. It holds an edge remarkably.

This knife was made by request to match a smaller knife received from him (both of 52100), and it just might be my favorite go to. Besides, you usually don't see a slab of walrus ivory such as this...



And here is the smaller knife it was made to match...





AND a great guy to work with!


02-24-2013, 04:25 AM
There are alot of handmade knife makers, and fewer "custom" makers. A custom maker, in my definition is someone who can take your specs to the "t" and create your knife, or at least work with you on accommodating most of your wants. Many makers have set profiles and grinds, then like a track home, you can make some modifications to certain aspects for example handle material and length. Some knife makers may not have the tools for full on custom work, some don't yet have the skill, and some just won't for reasons of their own. However, unless you know exactly what you want, stick with the knife makers recommendations. IMO Michael Rader is probably the best at full on custom work...I still marvel at his ability to forge a blade for a vintage leather splitter for Colin and then turn around and make any profile gyuto you ask.

Based only on the knives I have used, Devin Thomas (easily my favorite gyutos, I have yet to be disappointed in any of his steels), Pierre Rodrigue (anything from cleavers to paring knives),Mario Ingoglia (wicked convexity on his gyutos, best mirror polish), David Broadwell (best aesthetics, best laser, most comfortable handle), Michael Rader (anything under the sun), Ryan Weeks (awesome skinners and a pretty dang good suji), ******* (great suji)

On a side note, Jon Broida works with many craftsmen in Japan and can sometimes get custom work done.

02-27-2013, 11:23 PM
while i always agree with chefget, i love my butch harner custom. he made it per a design we agreed on, and it is the sharpest fastest chef's knife i own. it was based on his custom tuna sword.

02-27-2013, 11:34 PM
Welcome Shmoocat! Guessing you work with Chefget?

02-28-2013, 04:28 PM
Any thoughts on which makers currently make the best san mai gyutos? Something about stainless damascus clad on carbon core really does it for me visually. I assume all san mai blades make a sacrifice of thickness? I also assume grind plays a much larger role in san mai blades than with a straight steel? Very helpful feedback on all of the makers listed above - keep them coming!

Pensacola Tiger
02-28-2013, 05:11 PM
Any thoughts on which makers currently make the best san mai gyutos? Something about stainless damascus clad on carbon core really does it for me visually.

Devin Thomas made one not too long ago, stainless herringbone damascus over a 52100 core, sold through The Epicurean Edge:

IIRC, David Broadwell made a Western handled gyuto of stainless damascus over a carbon core. His subforum has been archived, so I can't check to make sure.

Mike Davis made a wa-gyuto from some HHH Knives carbon damascus over an O1 core:

I'm sure that Pierre Rodrigue, Will Catcheside, Del Ealy or Randy Haas would be more than willing to make one, and Mario Ingoglia or Marko Tsourkan have used Devin Thomas damascus in their knives.

I assume all san mai blades make a sacrifice of thickness?

Your assumption would be in error. I have several san mai knives that are as thin, or thinner than some of my monosteel knives. Murray Carter's knives immediately come to mind.

I also assume grind plays a much larger role in san mai blades than with a straight steel?

I'm curious as to why would you make this assumption? Is it based on the false assumption that san mai knives are thicker?


02-28-2013, 06:18 PM
My assumption on san mai knives being thicker is based on my own inexperience and assumption that the sandwiching process of two different materials somehow automatically added girth - and I am glad to know I am wrong.

I made the assumption about grind due to the thickness assumption - and figured that if san mai knife blades were consistently thicker than their monosteel counterparts, the grind would provide better cutting performance on a thicker blade, and non-stiction which would make up for the thickness. In other words, I assumed that getting a really convex grind on a super thin knife would be harder due to lack of material, whereas this heavy convexing would be much more easily accomplished on a thicker knife, leading to strong cutting performance, regardless of ultimate thickness.

I love the look of this style, and am leaning more towards really thin knives, so I was making several incorrect assumptions that would have eliminated this style from consideration - and so I greatly appreciate your insight. The two knives above are just drop dead sexy - and I am convinced that my ultimate gyuto needs to be a really thin damascus clad san mai.

The hekler
02-28-2013, 06:32 PM
If I was looking for a San Mai Damascus I would start and end with Devin, I don't have any personal experience with him but from the reviews I've read and the knives I've seen he's the top in my book. When your talking Damascus though it is hard to leave Randy Haas out of the conversation, he makes some stunning patterns.