View Full Version : Marko Tsourkan Knives - A Preview Review

01-12-2012, 02:56 PM
I know many of you out there will soon be getting some of Marko's knives, or getting in line for the next batch he starts. Since the passaround got delayed, I figured I would post my experience with Marko's knives instead.

In July of 2011, Marko was getting ready to deliver a 270mm Shigefusa Kasumi Gyuto to me with redwood handle and saya. At that time he also asked me if I could try out one of his first gyutos and give him some feedback. If I remember correctly, it was a 240mm gyuto, made out of 52100 and had a horn, spacer and either cocobolo or ironwood handle. I don't have it anymore, and didn't take many pictures of it, but I have a few.

You can see it between the Shigefusa and the Del Ealy knife.

And here are some of the handle and the patina:

The knife cut fairly well, but felt funny a bit funny on the stones, more like some stainless knives do than carbon. After getting some feedback from myself and others, Marko tweaked his heat treat, profile and most importantly the geometry/grind. The next set of knives he sent me were much much thinner and full convex ground. They are again prototypes, so the finish was not taken as far as Marko normally does. In fact the handles are just stock japanese handles (Shigefusa maybe?) that he attached with wax. I was shocked at how light they were the first time I picked them up. The gyuto with a 250mm cutting edge weighs 175g and the suji with a 280mm cutting edge weighs a shocking 140g. The handles of course weigh less than Marko's standard horn and stabilized or dense wood handles do.


Cutting performance had drastically improved, getting thinner and improving the grind has that kind of effect! Haha. The steel felt better on the stones, reactivity was not bad at all, probably the most well behaved carbon I have used. Will still rust if you let it however, it isn't semi-stainless. Edge retention is quite good, again some of the best compared to other carbon knives I have used. The only other 52100 I have used is the Zwilling Kramer, and that one feels much softer and loses it's edge much, much quicker than Marko's. At first the lightness of the gyuto felt funny to me, it felt dainty in my hand and that I would have to baby it, but soon I got used to it and was using it for everything: butternut squash, root vegetables, can opening, etc. (Kidding).

The only problem I ran into was breaking tips. The first tip I broke was on the suji, I put it in my ultimate edge bag without a guard, which is usually okay, and when I got to work, I was missing a couple mm from the tip. Next was the gyuto. I think I broke each tip twice in total, never more than a mm or two each time. The knives were just so thin at the tip, and the Masamoto-esque profile so pointy, that there was no strength to support the tip. Since losing a few mm from each (and thus getting slightly thicker) and from re profiling each very slightly, I have not had a tip break in the past few months. Marko has since adjusted his profile and thickness to alleviate this exact problem. I have not used any of the new knives extensively, but from playing with them at his shop, the improved profile and thickness seem to be winners.

I didn't include any measurements or a real in depth review here because all three knives I have used have been prototypes, and basically every aspect of them (heat treat, profile, grind, thickness, finish, etc) has changed and been improved upon in the final version. So if your knife got delayed in this whole process and it didn't end up under your Christmas tree, don't worry, in the long run you will end up with a better knife. I have visited Marko's shop several times in the past 6 months, each time his pile of practice knives has grown bigger and bigger. I really feel like he has done research and practice the right way, and has come up with a knife that many of you will enjoy.

I have to go to work now, but I will add some more to this later tonight or tomorrow, as I would like to talk about the suji some as well. There are also a few other members on here that have tested Marko's prototypes, you guys feel free to add your thoughts to this thread. Thanks for reading, any questions you have that I might be able to answer don't hesitate to post or PM me.

Andrew H
01-12-2012, 03:00 PM
Thanks for the preview review, nice to finally get one :lol2:

01-12-2012, 03:23 PM
You broke the tips that many times?!! You're scary, dude.

01-12-2012, 04:21 PM
I know that M is working hard to get it right. He is a perfectionist.

01-12-2012, 05:16 PM
I know that M is working hard to get it right. He is a perfectionist.

And that's precisely why I don't think any delays have been issues at all. Marko will keep going until he is personally happy with the results, and he has high standards :)

01-12-2012, 06:01 PM
Marko is a perfectionist. Im sure his knives will be really high end:)
Im so certain that I ordered 7 when he announced to start making knives.
Im a homechef so that was the last buy for a loooong time.

01-12-2012, 09:56 PM
I really like that flatter Masamoto-esque profile.

01-13-2012, 04:26 AM
I have to go with OD on this. With little empirical evidence upon which to rely (one handle and a cutting board) I reached the same conclusion. Many months, now more than a year, later, I remain convinced.

I have in my possession a 180 mm W2 knife with a modified-D handle which Marko sent me for comment. I am in the process of sending back periodic, though sketchy, reports. Not being a professional chef, I can only cut up so much stuff . .

Nevertheless, Marko will never see the knife again. I don't know what the bail will be, but I have become very attached to the knife, favoring it over the various Carters and Tadetsunas at hand. I expect his 52100's will be even better.

01-13-2012, 07:28 AM
I wanted to talk more about the suji, so here it goes.

When Marko gave me version 2 of his gyuto and asked for version 1 back, he also had a suji and asked if I wanted that one as well. I said sure, my Martell 300mm suji being one of my most used knives. The suji was not only a prototype, but a mistake. It was intended to be a 285mm edge length suji, but I believe the tip got overground a bit so it was shortened about 5mm. The profile became quite a bit different than Marko originally intended. It still works pretty well, but it does have a bit of a funky birds peak look to it. As I mentioned before, it is very light, 140g, and I had trouble with the tip breaking a couple times.

When I first got it home and brought it to work, I didn't really use it at first. I don't do a lot of traditional slicing and being only ~35mm tall at the heel, it isn't as versatile for gyuto tasks like other "mighty" sujis. My Martell is about 45mm tall at the heel and I can basically use it like a gyuto. Then I started using it like you would a petty, or a 210 petty/suji. Yes, it is 70mm longer than those, but since it is only 35mm tall at the heel, I can still use it in hand to peel things or whatever (as long as you dont require tip work). When cutting on the board, I would have my hand/handle over empty space and just leave the blade on the board, like you would with a 210 petty. Except you still have 270mm worth of edge to work with. Since then I have basically been using it as a line knife and it has become one of my most used and versatile knives. I don't find the length to be too much, it doesn't get in the way even on the line during service. I often loan it out to some of my coworkers, like our butcher who fillets whole fish (mostly salmon) with it, including lopping off their heads. Like I said before, it is now one of my most used knives, I couldn't imagine not having it in my kit, and I will be ordering one of my own from Marko (or getting him to put a permanent handle on this one, and a saya too).

Marko Tsourkan
01-13-2012, 01:19 PM
Sorry guys, I have been out of the forum for a few days, missed this thread. I read all comments and respond if there are any questions.


01-13-2012, 04:12 PM
I tested two knives for Marko (If I misstate any of the details please correct me Marko). Both were made from 52100. It is also important to note that both were prototypes. The first one did not have the normal handle it would be finished with and the second also came with some slight imperfections that did not affect performance but would not have been sold as 1st quality knives.

The first was around 250mm in blade length. The profile was closer in construction to a Masamoto except it had a bit more curve but still had the flat tip area a la KS model. Using the description of a laser for this knife would be pretty accurate. The knife was very thin and nimble. It cut very well. The steel took a great edge and held it extremely well but I did not find it to out perform some of my other higher quality carbon knives. I very much enjoyed using the knife and most of my nit picking was personal preferences. I like the balance being slightly blade heavy but found that the knife was so light it did not really make much of a difference. I am not a huge laser fan and find that when doing a prolonged amount of cutting or working with more dense products that having a bit of weight will help get through a product or keep your hand/wrist from getting overly fatigued from needing to exert more force to cut through products. As Johnny mentioned the tips were super thin and I did end up ever so slightly chipping the edge on the first knife. But in a professional setting this can happen easily and I have done it on several knives. My other issue was how the blade was finished and that with raw fish and meats there was a bit too much sticking, especially with raw fish. Overall I was very happy with the knife and it would have been a knife I would reach for quite often among my other chef’s knives.

The second knife was 240mm and a bit heavier. The handle was also more of what a finished knife from Marko would be. The blade profile was similar except it did not have as flat of an area near the tip, a little bit more of a curve. This knife was very close in striking the balance I prefer with the weight of the knife and how it is distributed. Despite it being thicker I did not feel like there was a loss in cutting performance. One thing I would of liked is if the handle was a bit lighter so that the balance point would be a bit further up the knife. On this one it was right at the choil, I prefer it to be slightly forward of that. Again I feel it helps fight against discomfort in the wrist when you are cutting for a long period of time that the balance point be a bit more forward. Plus I usually pinch in front of the choil. The finish on the knife was also much better when dealing with proteins. I think it could still be slightly more improved, but it was not much of an issue. I did not feel that the added curve in the tipped was that much of an improvement for rocking the knife, but did find the flat section in the first knife to be more efficient when doing tip work. I also thought this steel performed better then the first. Initial sharpness was similar. But the edge retention was really quite good in the second knife. I cut several hundred pounds of different products with nothing more then a couple touch ups here and there for it to be running at a high level. With a couple more tweaks a knife like this one would easily jump near the top of knives I would most often reach for at work.

01-13-2012, 07:34 PM
Nice reviews . Thanks for sharing. Sounds like this knife will just get better and better.

01-24-2012, 04:29 PM
I'm in the process of reviewing a gyuto of his now, 240mm in 52100. I will post a full review here once I send it back. So far overall I'm impressed and I think he is a great maker to work with. Hopefully will get another to try out as well, pretty excited about that. Also have some videos to post if I get Markos permission.

01-25-2012, 02:45 AM
Nice review. Thanks Jordan.

01-25-2012, 03:01 AM
Thanks was trying to make some edits after posting i realized the profile description is hard to tell what i mean here is the revised version sorry for posting again.

Review of Marko's practice gyuto 240mm in 52100 carbon steel.

First impressions of the knife were the saya and handle work was amazing compared to my other knives. The weight of the knife was quite nice compared to my Kono HD. The profile had me a little skeptical at first, the heel is quite a bit lower than the rest of the blade, there is a sharp angle to the midsection where it flattens out and then a larger curve towards the tip; therefore the midsection is the lowest point on the knife.( will post pictures as hard to explain correctly) Also it had very small bevels almost not noticeable at all.

After some heavy use of this knife i believe that it is great for pro chefs as well as avid home cooks. The steel is very hard but not brittle by any means, and is not very reactive in the slightest. It has the best edge retention of any knife i have used so far and responds very well to stropping. However it is difficult to sharpen, my J-nats won't cut at all with this knife, and i wasn't able to achieve as fine of an edge as i would have liked. Although i have been informed with diamond spray compound and a strop base I'm sure you could.

I slightly widened the bevel on the knife, and thinned right behind the edge and was able to get a much better edge. I did notice this knife wouldn't hold the super fine edge for a long time of heavy use, i got about 1 long shift out of it. Id say it then stayed at about 85-90% of original edge for another 5 shifts without any touch ups or stropping. That is extremely impressive to me. Also I'm not a pro sharpener by any means. Im sure most of you can produce much finer edges as well as more consistent bevels.

The profile works quite well reminds me of a Masamoto KS that has been tweaked for durabiltiy. i would like to see more subtle transition than the sharpish angle from the heel to midsection and i would like to see the midsection gradually curve into to tip rather than the pronounced curve. I would also like to see more convex grind on the blade. I have had quite a bit of food sticking and had to alter some techniques. Also i think it could be thinner behind the edge overall, horizontal slices can be difficult on foods like onions and peppers. The overall weight is nice, although the balancing point is right by the choil, i personally prefer it to be slightly more foreword. After long use it tends to feel handle heavy and i feel as if i have to force some cuts. I like that thickness of the blade and how it tapers towards the tip. The tip is very sturdy yet not thick. Its not very flexible which i love for a gyuto. This knife doesnt need to be babied at all, which for pro chefs is a good characteristic. I purposely left it wet, with acid, and food on the blade for periods of time to see how reactive it was, and it performed amazingly! It develops a patina relatively fast. It will rust if left for a long time while wet although it is very tolerable to being used in a pro kitchen and even better for a home cook.


Overall i love this knife and use it everyday since i received it. I haven't picked up my Kono HD once, actually today took it out of my bag and noticed some rust spots on it…(whoops!!) The edge retention is amazing i have sharpened it twice since i got it and the second time was only for more practice with this steel it didn't need it at all. I have pushed this knife very hard and it has been up to every task and more. There are things i would change about it however most of those are personal preference.

Keep in mind this is a practice knife made by Marko and one of his first practice knives to be sent around. From talking with him i believe some of the comments i made about this particular knife he has already corrected with his current customs.

I will upload some videos i took yesterday while i was messing around with some stuff while doing inventory. It will show the knife after 5 shifts without being stropped or touched up. Just to show how well the edge retention is on the knife.

Thanks again for sending this out to me Marko! You have been a great maker to work with and i like how you take soo much pride in your work. I look forward to trying more of your knives and working with you for a long time to come.


01-25-2012, 04:00 AM
Great review I can't wait to get my hands on one.

Marko Tsourkan
01-25-2012, 11:22 AM
Thanks Jordan, Rick, Matt, JC, Steve - everybody who chimed in.

Your reviews are spot on and very much appreciated.


01-25-2012, 02:43 PM
Here is the link to my channel to view the videos of marko's knife.


01-25-2012, 04:06 PM
I pretty much agree with the posts in this thread. Marko's most recent knives have been very good cutters and he seems to have zeroed in on a nice HT. The last few knives I've sharpened have come out blazing sharp with a very reasonable amount of effort that I would daresay is approaching Devin-esque. He's definitely on my "to buy" list for the year.