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pkb
01-19-2012, 11:18 PM
I'd love your input: which kitchen knives, specifically if possible, stand as classic designs? For example, a "classic" hunting knife would be a Bob Loveless Drop Point Hunter (http://www.lovelessknife.com/classic-drop-point/index.html). I'm trying to figure out which knives have established the trends that other knife designs have followed.

Since western knives have followed in the gigantic shadow of Japanese bladesmithing, I'm wondering if there are specific japanese makers that are regarded as producing (or having produced) timeless designs that have defined the Japanese scene.

I hope this is a controversial subject and I'm really looking forward to hearing a lot of different opinions (or a lot of agreement).

-Patrick

JohnnyChance
01-19-2012, 11:47 PM
Everyone has different opinions on this, but some "gold standards" would be Shigefusa, Masamoto, Devin Thomas, Murray Carter. Konosuke is a very popular knife and often is a good reference point simply because most people here have owned or used one. Others like Watanabe, Heiji, Suisin, etc could also be used. All depends on your frame of reference.

ajhuff
01-19-2012, 11:55 PM
It seems to me that you are trying to create something like a family tree?

One of the earliest influences for both Western and Japanese knives would have to be some form of Sabatier, I would think.

-AJ

El Pescador
01-20-2012, 12:03 AM
+1 sab.

ecchef
01-20-2012, 12:06 AM
Masamoto KS maybe?

Eamon Burke
01-20-2012, 12:34 AM
Iconic knives from Japan surely have a long history. Factory knives of historical note in America is documented(Beatty Cleavers, Dexter knives, etc). But the greats? Right now, it's 100% personal preference.

The Japanese knife tradition was changed when they were adapting to a more internationally influenced diet and food culture. The Gyuto is basically a French Chef's knife filtered through Japanese sensibilties. The Santoku was a friendly, unintimidating variant of the pointier, more task-specific, high maintenance knives dominating Japan at the time. There are GREAT reasons to get those traditional knives, but there are plenty of reasons why not to--my wife has a sharp Yanagiba stuck on the wall daily for years, and never ever ever uses it.

So basically, America is looking at Japan right now because their culture respects their knives and cooking on a personal level to a greater extent than Americans do anymore. What Japan went through, America is going through.

That's the exciting thing! If you want to find the iconic knives in the American tradition, I've got one better--you can meet their makers! They are alive today. Several of them(notably not Murray Carter) are on this site. That's why I'm here.

tk59
01-20-2012, 12:53 AM
...But the greats? Right now, it's 100% personal preference...Yeah. People have been copying each others knives for a very long time. It's hard to say that a guy that has been making knives in the last 100 yrs is defining anything "classic" I'm sure Loveless essentially copied his knives from somewhere, like everyone else. When I first started, in kitchen knives, I was referred to Suisin and Ikkanishi Tadatsuna. I like to use those (and similar knives) along with the TKC as references since so many people have them or have used them. And, yes, western-styled Japanese knives are based on the French still chef's knives.

sachem allison
01-20-2012, 01:50 AM
+1 sabatier

Johnny.B.Good
01-20-2012, 02:09 AM
For example, a "classic" hunting knife would be a Bob Loveless Drop Point Hunter (http://www.lovelessknife.com/classic-drop-point/index.html).

Only $12,000? Seems reasonable for a quality hunting knife. ;)

Welcome to KKF Patrick. Nice first post. Interesting discussion.

JohnnyChance
01-20-2012, 02:14 AM
Only $12,000? Seems reasonable for a quality hunting knife. ;)

Yeah, in that case, Bob Loveless = Bob Kramer. But even so Kramer isn't considered the be-all end-all in terms of performance and design. His craftsmanship may be unparalleled, and the prices his knives go for certainly are.

tkern
01-20-2012, 02:29 AM
Doi

Johnny.B.Good
01-20-2012, 02:42 AM
Yeah, in that case, Bob Loveless = Bob Kramer. But even so Kramer isn't considered the be-all end-all in terms of performance and design. His craftsmanship may be unparalleled, and the prices his knives go for certainly are.

Wow. Look around that site. Prices are unbelievable. I'm sure they're nice knives, but...they just don't look that special to me. Devin's feather pattern (for example) strikes me as art. That hunting knife? I don't know. Looks like it could be found in any sporting goods store. Obviously I know nothing about hunting knives or I would know who Mr. Loveless is and why he has such a strong following. I would never pay $10k+ for any knife (Devin or otherwise), but good for him.

Edit: Sorry for getting off topic. Just shocked by those prices!

tkern
01-20-2012, 02:48 AM
I took this question as those who made knives that were "classic" and inspirational to others to make knives in their way, inspired people to get into what knives they were using, or to seriously consider how a cook can make their work more efficient.

Johnny.B.Good
01-20-2012, 03:18 AM
I have heard many people talk about how special Sabatier chef's knives are. And one hears an awful lot about the Masamoto KS profile... Shigefusa and Doi were names I learned early on. Mizuno. And then there are the contemporary American masters: Kramer, Carter, Burke, and Devin (for example, among others). It would be interesting to see a "family tree" and try to decide who influenced who, or what resembles what, but that would be a lot of conjecture.

Lefty
01-20-2012, 08:18 AM
Why not "conjecture this place up?" ;)

Classic-the one responsible for the knives we love today? Definitely Sab. I have two, and they are much better knives than they "should be". They have beautiful profiles and wonderful handles. I wish they'd just get rid of the finger guard...I bet they'd sell like mad, if they did.

The standard against which others are measured? I think it's safe to say, Kramer, Carter, Shigefusa, Doi and Thomas.

For me, personally? Carter and Rodrigue, because of my familiarity with their work and the fact that I haven't touched a knife that cuts as well as those two. Admittedly, I need to try more custom Japanese makers' work, however.

Eamon Burke
01-20-2012, 09:25 AM
FWIW I think that Bob Loveless hunter is drop-dead sexy and while his prices reflect his fame, I can see why people pay it. It'd be like having a Les Paul made by Ted McCarty.

pkb
01-20-2012, 10:54 AM
Great info so far!

On the Loveless phenomenon, what's special about his case is that he stepped off a Navy boat having made his first knife onboard. From there, he started making them to sell to sell at the local Patagonia outdoors store (for not much more than the factory-made knives they were selling). His design and workmanship were such that his influence can probably be seen in every moder knifemaker's work, whether they know it or not.

But back to kitchen knives: A family tree would be very interesting. Where would the Gyuto and Santoku appear (if they were actually Japanese versions of western chef knives), and who would their parents be? Which makers carried the "royal blood" through the Western and Japanese lines and which were lesser nobility?

I'm really interested in getting as much input as possible as I attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff and really understand which designs endured, why, and what about those classics really made the difference.

Thanks for your expertise and opinions!

jmforge
01-20-2012, 12:07 PM
That is a very good analogy, Eamom. Yes, elements of other knives may have influence Bob Loveless, but he has influenced a LOT more makers. The story goes that Bob wanted to buy a Randall from Abercrombie and Fitch (back when they were a REAL manly store that sold custom guns and knives, not some rag shop from binge drinking college kids) and they told him there was a waiting list. So, he went back to his ship and made his own knife and the rest, as they say is history. One of his early big knives is alleged to have changed hands for $200,000 and then $250,000 a coulel of years ago..........at the same knife show!!! :bigeek: If you go back another generation to find out who inspired Bo Randall, it was William Scagel. As far as kitchen knives go, I would also vote for the Sabatier as being the major source for most current Western style knives.
FWIW I think that Bob Loveless hunter is drop-dead sexy and while his prices reflect his fame, I can see why people pay it. It'd be like having a Les Paul made by Ted McCarty.

pkb
01-20-2012, 12:12 PM
Abercrombie, yeah; it was one of those "was manly but now ragshop" brands.

bikehunter
01-20-2012, 01:08 PM
That hunting knife? I don't know. Looks like it could be found in any sporting goods store.

Could it have something to do with the fact that his hollow ground, drop point designs have been copied, by anyone who can make a knife.... for decades? ;-)

pkb
01-20-2012, 01:14 PM
Could it have something to do with the fact that his hollow ground, drop point designs have been copied, by anyone who can make a knife.... for decades? ;-)

AHA! Thus, the purpose for this thread: to find out why knives work and look the way they do by identifying their origins.

Johnny.B.Good
01-20-2012, 01:20 PM
Could it have something to do with the fact that his hollow ground, drop point designs have been copied, by anyone who can make a knife.... for decades? ;-)

Like I said, I know nothing of hunting knives! If you handed me one, I'm sure I would conclude it's well made, but would never suspect it is a classic worth as much as a new car (or ten new cars). Wild.

bikehunter
01-20-2012, 01:34 PM
You can bet that none of those sporting goods store knives have a tapered tang. $10K for a knife? (some Loveless knives have sold for a 1/4 million). Priced a Tiffany lamp lately? The madness of collectors. ;-)

http://knifelegends.com/images/Loveless_LawndaleBB-w.jpg

http://www.fototime.com/A3EEE2EFD1F2494/orig.jpg

NO ChoP!
01-20-2012, 01:47 PM
Mac= iconic bread knife
Suien or Sugimoto iconic cleaver
Konosuke HD = iconic laser
Masamoto KS = iconic profile
Shig or Mizuno = iconic geometry
Takeda or Watanabe = iconic Japanese customs
Doi= iconic craftsmanship
Hattori KD= iconic steel
Carter or DT = iconic American customs

JohnnyChance
01-20-2012, 01:48 PM
You can bet that none of those sporting goods store knives have a tapered tang. $10K for a knife? (some Loveless knives have sold for a 1/4 million). Priced a Tiffany lamp lately? The madness of collectors. ;-)

And both will be used to cut the exact same number of things in their lifetimes. We might as well be talking about lamp design, and the influences of their history, they have about the same relativity to kitchen cutlery as field knives do.

NO ChoP!
01-20-2012, 01:51 PM
My Holy Grail = Salty's 390 Mizuno..... (minus any Kramer ridiculousness)....

bikehunter
01-20-2012, 04:11 PM
And both will be used to cut the exact same number of things in their lifetimes. We might as well be talking about lamp design, and the influences of their history, they have about the same relativity to kitchen cutlery as field knives do.

Umm..I'm pretty sure I didn't open the topic to $10K Loveless knives, I was just making a comment about collectors. I apologize...since I know that no one here ever gets off the topic of discussion. ;-)

Justin0505
01-20-2012, 04:44 PM
Is the goal here to get to the anthropological roots of each style of knife or to identify the most recognizable iteration or the sake of comparison? In some cases they will end in the same place, but probably not for most.

As for the OT thread, I'll just say that if I ever start making knives, my first move will be to change my name to Bob.

pkb
01-20-2012, 05:31 PM
I think that anthropology is outside of the scope of this discussion unless there are certain cultural phenomena (like everyone from a certain region of Japan uses knives with their feet) that would have strongly effected the design of a knife, either functionally or aesthetically (if a certain region was at some point banned from using certain types of curves in knife manufacturing).

Maybe something more like a family tree or evolutionary ladder--though non-biological evolution doesn't limit itself to influence from two immediate parent predecessors and can take influence from distant unrelated products as well as things from the past. It's way less clear-cut.

Mostly, I'm interested in which knives shaped the world of kitchen knives and how their forms and function continue to influence modern designs. Getting a sense of which modern designs are exemplary would also help clarify the discussion.

Or... which knives do you think are sweet?

olpappy
01-20-2012, 06:58 PM
If you look at in terms of classic blade shapes or designs then yes anthropology and evolution and culture all have a lot to do with the shapes of blades. Some examples of iconic blades shapes and the cultures they came form would be the French chef knife, vs. the German blade shape which has more belly.

Chinese cleaver has a completely different shape yet is used for everything.

Classic Japanese patterns are yanagi, deba, usuba (nakiri). And the comment about using knives with feet, well in Japan left handed people are forced to learn to use their right hands, so yeh it's almost like making them use their feet...

Thai kitchen knives have a typical shape which is like a santoku with a clipped tip.

Alaskan ulu -- iconic knife. Can you say A-N-T-H-R-O-P-O-L-O_G-Y ?

The modern American axe head has evolved specific characteristics in this country as settlers adapted to building structures and logging the forests of North America. The end result is a unique combinatons of characteristics very different from what was brought by European settlers.

“Axes.” 2012. The History Channel website. Jan 20 2012, 5:52 http://www.history.com/shows/modern-marvels/episodes/episode-guide.

pkb
01-20-2012, 07:33 PM
Great point. Can you offer some specific knife design details, like the clipped santoku, that are directly related to an anthropological point? What about the German culture makes the more pronounced belly of their traditional knives useful? Why has that trait developed or survived there where it hasn't in other cultures?

My comment about feet was only to provide an impossible example that would obviously influence that region's knife design. It seems like your example is one where the culture and the knife are so entangled that both parties need to make concessions. Very interesting.

To the point of the thread, there are iconic knives and they obviously come from somewhere, at some time, for some reason. How have they--the knives--"interbred", and which have had the strongest impacts? Why? How? The anthropology is interesting and it definitely supports be the point (yes, pun) of this thread.

SpikeC
01-20-2012, 08:28 PM
And where did the Sabatier configuration come from?

olpappy
01-20-2012, 08:56 PM
Great point. Can you offer some specific knife design details, like the clipped santoku, that are directly related to an anthropological point? What about the German culture makes the more pronounced belly of their traditional knives useful? Why has that trait developed or survived there where it hasn't in other cultures?

My comment about feet was only to provide an impossible example that would obviously influence that region's knife design. It seems like your example is one where the culture and the knife are so entangled that both parties need to make concessions. Very interesting.

To the point of the thread, there are iconic knives and they obviously come from somewhere, at some time, for some reason. How have they--the knives--"interbred", and which have had the strongest impacts? Why? How? The anthropology is interesting and it definitely supports be the point (yes, pun) of this thread.

The evolution of an iconic design takes place over a long period of time, such that people wouldn't necessarily take notice of it, and in times past no one has been interested in kitchen knives enough to keep a written history. Chad Ward's book may be possibly the first ever book in human history devoted solely to kitchen knives? The closest thing one can find on the internet is the history of how the different lines of Sabatier came about, the history of the families and the companies is well documented.

To my way of thinking the primary factor which dictates is ability to do the task and hand. Form follows function. eg. ulu knife for cutting blubber and skinning, one can use the curve of the knife to "roll" the blade, easier to cut with one hand, frozen conditions etc I wouldn't know all the detailed points but an eskimo probably could.

But besides that are the idiosyncratic human factors "whatever is your favorite currently" in other words you can prep foods using a Chinese cleaver or a French chef, both work well. The tools and its manner of use is closely tied to the culture and people. Just like knowing the language, the tools tell you something about the people that made them.

Henckels knives emphasize certain values - durability, near indestructability which 50 years ago people placed value on. Japanese knives are the opposite - carbon steel, ho wood, relatively fragile, if left uncared for would self destruct rapidly.

The single beveled Japanese knife has very specific features which make it unique - shinogi, asymmetry, back side ura. There must surely been a fascinating evolution of this complicated design.

olpappy
01-20-2012, 09:11 PM
One of the best examples of interbreeding is the modern gyuto with a 70/30 asymmetric edge which is a Japanese concept which has been applied to western double bevel. The end result is neither the classic Japanese single bevel nor a typical double bevel but something completely new.

jmforge
01-21-2012, 04:30 AM
I too have scratched my head over the years thinking about the prices of some custom knives like those by Loveless. I finally asked a couple of guys who know a lot more about his knives than I do (which wouldn't take much mind you) and they said the things that make Loveless knives so special AS A TOOL, is the "feel" and the way they are ground. They have VERY deep hollow grinds, to the point that Bob admitted that he ad ground through to the other side more than once.:D Apparently, very few people have ever been able to duplicate his designs faithfully. I say his designs because for much of his later career, he had other makers working in his shop, most of whom are now famous in their own right. His last "partner" Jim Merritt, has been running the shop since Bob passed away as far as I know.
Bill Moran's knives were the same way. I have owned a couple of his knives and knives from four of his VERY talented and famous proteges and only one of those guys, Robbie Hudson, seemed to have come very close to fully mastering Bill's unique freehand full height convex grind. The others were either thicker or pretty much flat grinds with a convex edge like what the Arkansas makers use. Bill's later knives had a grind that to the eye appeared to have no edge bevel at all. Just a very shallow convex drop from the spine to the edge. Moran knives, by Bill's own admission late in life. would never pass the ABS MS test today and probably not the JS test. But if you ask people inthe know about them, they will tell you that you cannot fully appreciate a Moran knife with actually holding on in your hand. As you guys know quite well, the grind is often the difference no matter how pretty a knife may look.