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NO ChoP!
05-29-2012, 12:56 AM
Another thread got me thinking......

What makes certain imperfections acceptable?

It's rustic? (Moritaka)
It has a low price point? (Tojiro)
It's hand made? (Carter)
It's so prevalent it's become expected? (Masamoto)

Why are misplaced name stamps, errant hammer marks, grind marks, uneven finish, overgrinds, gaps, etc... accepted for some knives, but not for others?

Eamon Burke
05-29-2012, 01:14 AM
I accept imPERFECTIONS in anything except exhibition grade crafts.

Tojiros are factory blades, and should be cookie cutter perfect, or else an engineer needs a new job. That said, it appears that machines cannot make knives without a significant amount of help from a human. The best factory knives I've ever used are from Suisin.

For handmade items, the KIND of imperfections are what is key here--you've got three categories:
1. Accidents/Oversights
These are things that the maker either had no idea happened, or just didn't get to. If they affect performance, it's back to the maker it goes. If not, then the severity and/or quantity of these imperfections are inversely proportional to how much it should cost. I accept these because it's a knife, not a Soul, you gotta stop at some point.
2. Wabi-Sabi/Character
A brilliant solution to the fact that things are not going to be perfect every time, and you can't make a living selling perfected items. You pick things that are critical, master them, and then glorify the flaws--this is what Murray Carter does. If you find beauty in hammer marks because they are signs of the hand of maker, then you can save your smith a step in making your knife. Sometimes people pay a little more for these imperfections because they are enjoying the humanity of the item, like a Takeda.
3. Unfinished parts
You sell a knife with belt marks on it, or a rough-fitted handle, or a sharp spine, you are just outsourcing work to the customer to save some time. Sometimes this doesn't affect price because it is often things that don't matter, like cleaning up that little armpit in the Machi, or removing a tiny burr from the spine near the tip.

chinacats
05-29-2012, 01:16 AM
$ certainly contributes...case in point being tojiro...though I did return one of their bread knives because the handle was finished so poorly.

Crothcipt
05-29-2012, 01:21 AM
In the case of the Tanaka's on ebay. They are not finished on the choil, or even the spine. The handle is something not to write home about either. But the price is right. Now if the bevel had problems then its a no-go for me. I have seen Tanaka's finished for a very high price.

NO ChoP!
05-29-2012, 01:28 AM
"It's supposed to be rustic", "it's hand made, if you want perfection buy the higher grade", "you only payed $xxx", "yah the f&f suck, buts its profile is awesome", "I can always upgrade the handle"....

NO ChoP!
05-29-2012, 01:31 AM
I've been delving into some of Tanakas higher ended stuff as of late; good example.... the custom R2's, and blue traditional J's are going for a pretty penny, but you can get a relatively decent knife, with a few finish flaws for a great deal.

Eamon Burke
05-29-2012, 01:32 AM
What makes certain imperfections acceptable?


I've got a new answer.

Because without them, I would have to find something else to do with my time and thoughts.
:knife:

tk59
05-29-2012, 01:34 AM
If I know what to expect, I can make an educated decision. I only get pissed when I am led to believe I am going to get one thing and end up with something else.

mattrud
05-29-2012, 01:37 AM
If I know what to expect, I can make an educated decision. I only get pissed when I am led to believe I am going to get one thing and end up with something else.

+1 great way of putting it

mhlee
05-29-2012, 01:48 AM
If I know what to expect, I can make an educated decision. I only get pissed when I am led to believe I am going to get one thing and end up with something else.

+2 (with price included as a factor)

Andrew H
05-29-2012, 01:53 AM
If I know what to expect, I can make an educated decision. I only get pissed when I am led to believe I am going to get one thing and end up with something else.

Agreed. As long as you know what you're getting into pretty much anything is fine.

tk59
05-29-2012, 01:54 AM
...with price included as a factor...I disagree. If I know a $5k knife has certain imperfections and I buy it anyway I don't think I have any right to whine about it.

DwarvenChef
05-29-2012, 02:36 AM
I guess I'm the weird one out :p , because I look for the most rustic I can find. Short of a blaitent (sp) F up I find the "flaws" most attractive. I want nothing even remotely like a cookie cutter I find them boring and no longer consider buying one. As stated earlier as long as it doesn't negatively affect performance, I'm ok with it...

Eamon Burke
05-29-2012, 02:40 AM
I guess I'm the weird one out :p , because I look for the most rustic I can find. Short of a blaitent (sp) F up I find the "flaws" most attractive. I want nothing even remotely like a cookie cutter I find them boring and no longer consider buying one. As stated earlier as long as it doesn't negatively affect performance, I'm ok with it...

I don't think that makes you the odd man out. The question is, do you expect to pay less money to get the "flaws" that you love? Or would you pay as much or more for a knife with "character" that maybe took less steps or effort to make?

EdipisReks
05-29-2012, 03:26 AM
If I know what to expect, I can make an educated decision. I only get pissed when I am led to believe I am going to get one thing and end up with something else.

+1

DwarvenChef
05-29-2012, 05:08 AM
I don't think that makes you the odd man out. The question is, do you expect to pay less money to get the "flaws" that you love? Or would you pay as much or more for a knife with "character" that maybe took less steps or effort to make?

If I like the knife and the price I pay it and I get what I get, flaws are just part of the deal when dealing with handmade items, no mater how much the makers try to perfect it. Expecting perfection will always let you down and I don't buy anything wanting to be disapointed in it, so I buy what I like and accept it.

stevenStefano
05-29-2012, 07:32 AM
I think it depends a lot on price, and also what the imperfections are. I don't expect a rounded choil and spine on a $200 knife, but things like Western handle tang not being even with the handle, that is unforgivable at any price point

TB_London
05-29-2012, 08:43 AM
If I can't fix it easily it annoys me and I'd contact the maker/seller e.g, handle not in line with the blade, warped/twisted blade, large overgrinds

Then it depends on the price and maker, e.g gaps around the tang, less crisp glue lines, errant scratches etc. if I expected them or the knife was cheap enough that I could expect them I'll keep it

The Carter aesthetic I accept as that is what I am paying for KU, SFGZ, HG, IP each have expectations and price points.

Rounded spines and choirs are nice, but I would only expect if specifically mentioned. It's more important for dammy blades as doing it before the etch makes for a better finish, but still if i can save the maker time by doing it myself it usually means I'll get a better blade for my money.
I also don't mind what the OOTB edge is like, for my first few knives it was good to have a benchmark sharpness, but now so long as the geometry is set I don't mind how sharp it comes.

Expectation is a big part, i wonder how much Shigs would sell for if he gave the option to supply them without the polish? If it's expected a value is placed on it by the purchaser, but each customer will weight the values of their expectation differently.
It would be very interesting to hear from a maker the cost in terms of time or money how much each part of a knife spec adds to the total cost

Candlejack
05-29-2012, 08:44 AM
I've got a new answer.

Because without them, I would have to find something else to do with my time and thoughts.
:knife:

You could spend your time removing stickers by breathing on them, full time

DaveRossy
05-29-2012, 09:33 AM
This is very interesting, I am one of those people who love the "new" look, shiny, clean, as perfect as I can get it. I have always wondered about the reference of "character" on a product. I know people who buy furniture that is pre-stressed and they pay a pretty penny for it but to me, I don’t get it (pre-ripped jeans also :scratchhead:). As a photographer, I am always looking for the subjective "perfect" shot so I like it clean. I guess as some other people state, if it doesn’t affect the performance, then it’s down to the individuals taste but for me.......I like clean and shiny :bliss:

oivind_dahle
05-29-2012, 10:00 AM
If I know what to expect, I can make an educated decision. I only get pissed when I am led to believe I am going to get one thing and end up with something else.

+2

mhlee
05-29-2012, 10:04 AM
I disagree. If I know a $5k knife has certain imperfections and I buy it anyway I don't think I have any right to whine about it.

My point was that I consider price as part of "what to expect." I agree with you - if I know that a $5k knife has certain imperfections and I buy it, I have no right to complain.

Lefty
05-29-2012, 10:29 AM
Price
Handmade imperfections are cool as long as it doesn't mess with performance
In the case of Carter, it makes me less inclined to baby a knife that has no business being babied
We're obsessive and most people don't know a choil from a choda

DaveRossy
05-29-2012, 10:31 AM
Price
Handmade imperfections are cool as long as it doesn't mess with performance
In the case of Carter, it makes me less inclined to baby a knife that has no business being babied
We're obsessive and most people don't know a choil from a choda

Ha! thats me.....but I am learning

Mike Davis
05-29-2012, 11:04 AM
I have learned that no matter how perfect we strive for, there will always be something, a small scratch, a tiny void in a handle, etc...I think that minor imperfections are what distinguishes a hand made item. Now as far as blatant imperfections, i have a hard time dealing with those...I think some imperfections/oversights should be compensated for in the price point.

dav
05-29-2012, 02:49 PM
I'm new to the whole kitchen knife thing allthough not at all new to "functional tools" and fe me i like to have a tool whether a knife or plane which first and foremost does what it was designed to do. I also have a specific taste when it comes to feel and "personality" for example my Lie Neilsen planes are oiled but alloweed to develop a natural patina, handles are treated but the wear for me shows the functionality of the tool, they are loved well cared for but used. I hate tools that look like new and this it seems applies to my choice of knives I like the patina that is forming on the blades and also like to see the "mark" of the maker. I don't really go for bling and find "perfect" quite boring although totally understand the work that goes into striving to acheive this when it comes to a hand made knife.

bprescot
05-29-2012, 03:00 PM
I have learned that no matter how perfect we strive for, there will always be something, a small scratch, a tiny void in a handle, etc...I think that minor imperfections are what distinguishes a hand made item. Now as far as blatant imperfections, i have a hard time dealing with those...I think some imperfections/oversights should be compensated for in the price point.

So for you, do you differentiate between major and minor imperfections? By which, I mean is the difference between a flaw and "character" whether it effects performance, or something else? Or as a self-confessed perfectionist, IS there a difference for you?

clayton
05-29-2012, 03:14 PM
For me

Major = affects performance and is painful or impossible for me to fix. (overgrinds, cladding extending into edge, poor heat treat, delamanition) or affects look and/or feel to an unexpected degree. (crooked handle, cracked handle)

Minor = things that I don't impact performance and are easy for me to fix or impact performance and are easy for me to fix. (non-rounded choil/spine, superficial hammer marks, small gaps in handle, minor ding in handle)

Of course there is quite a bit of grey area between the two, but so far it has always been easy for me to determine whether it is a major or minor problem for me.

In the end, as another poster said very well, it all comes down to expectations vs. reality. The bigger the difference the bigger the (perceived or not) problem.

heldentenor
05-29-2012, 04:44 PM
For me it comes down to intentionality and disclosure. I have two knives that were hand made by craftsmen in some or all of their parts: a Hiromoto AS rehandled with eased spine and choil by Dave Martell and a Marko Tsourkan suji. I respect both of these makers because their idea of what is important and the consequent price point of their services coheres nearly perfectly with mine.

Both knives came with "imperfections" that the makers acknowledged, and both makers offered to improve the product or suggest easy ways for me to do so. Dave's rehandle initially featured a little bit of shrinkage that left the spine of the handle protruding as well as some natural voids in the wood that had only partially been filled. Neither of these flaws were perceptible to me when I received the knife. Nonetheless, Dave contacted me--without me saying a word--and asked if he could have the knife back at his expense to fix it.

Marko's suji came with a miniscule gap in the handle where the tang enters, which he instructed me how to fix. It took five minutes, four of which were me searching for a box of toothpicks. He also sent the knife without a final edge, which I gather he did for two reasons: it allowed him to get me the knife quicker (something both of us valued), and it let me make the knife "mine." Again, five minutes on the stones and a quick deburring had the knife ready to go.

These "imperfections" and how each maker handled them told me a great deal about both of them as craftsmen. In Dave's case, mine was an early rehandle (the first of the AS group buys he finished, I believe), and as he got better and his standards became higher, he wanted to make sure that his earlier work did not suffer by comparison and that I did not receive an "inferior" product due to being first in line. With Marko, the blade finish, geometry, and handle construction were incredible, and the small amount of work he left undone enabled me to receive the knife more quickly and to bring it to precisely the condition I wanted it with less than 10 minutes total work on my part. This on a knife he was selling as a "practice knife" for half price.

Bottom line: if this is what wabi-sabi translated into situational context looks like, I'm completely on board.

NO ChoP!
05-29-2012, 04:53 PM
Hey heldentenor, I just bought a house in Clayton NC, will be moving down early July....

Looked at a few in the Chapel Hill area.

tk59
05-29-2012, 05:21 PM
My point was that I consider price as part of "what to expect."...Yeah. That's tough to really nail down. Even at $300 a knife, a knifemaker has to sacrifice something in favor of cutting cost. Not every maker is going to cut costs the same way. It's up to the consumer to determine which maker offers the trade-offs they are most willing to stomach.

chazmtb
05-29-2012, 05:21 PM
For me

Major = affects performance and is painful or impossible for me to fix. (overgrinds, cladding extending into edge, poor heat treat, delamanition) or affects look and/or feel to an unexpected degree. (crooked handle, cracked handle)

Minor = things that I don't impact performance and are easy for me to fix or impact performance and are easy for me to fix. (non-rounded choil/spine, superficial hammer marks, small gaps in handle, minor ding in handle)

Of course there is quite a bit of grey area between the two, but so far it has always been easy for me to determine whether it is a major or minor problem for me.

In the end, as another poster said very well, it all comes down to expectations vs. reality. The bigger the difference the bigger the (perceived or not) problem.

Very well said.

DwarvenChef
05-30-2012, 02:40 AM
I'm new to the whole kitchen knife thing allthough not at all new to "functional tools" and fe me i like to have a tool whether a knife or plane which first and foremost does what it was designed to do. I also have a specific taste when it comes to feel and "personality" for example my Lie Neilsen planes are oiled but alloweed to develop a natural patina, handles are treated but the wear for me shows the functionality of the tool, they are loved well cared for but used. I hate tools that look like new and this it seems applies to my choice of knives I like the patina that is forming on the blades and also like to see the "mark" of the maker. I don't really go for bling and find "perfect" quite boring although totally understand the work that goes into striving to acheive this when it comes to a hand made knife.

Ah a kindered spirit :)

Crothcipt
05-30-2012, 10:47 AM
I have bought 3 damascus (not counting ss) knives 2 I can't cut with and they were sold as kitchen knives. Both being beauty's but can only cut sliced cheese to me was a extreme let down. I paid 20$ for 1, and 50$ ish ( I think) for the other. They were beauty's but drawer queens.
http://www.kitchenknifeforums.com/showthread.php/5250-Bowie-vs-Chef?highlight=zombie
http://www.kitchenknifeforums.com/showthread.php/5852-converting-a-hollow-ground-to-a-beveled-blade?highlight=

My point for me is they can be right on and look like a Kramer, but for me if it doesn't do what I bought it for I'm not gonna accept it any more.

heldentenor
05-30-2012, 11:58 AM
Hey heldentenor, I just bought a house in Clayton NC, will be moving down early July....

Looked at a few in the Chapel Hill area.


Welcome to central NC in advance! It's a great area for food and several knife people live not too far away (bprescot and some others I'm forgetting at the moment, and the Boardsmith is only an hour and a half away). I'll actually be moving closer to your current home in August--heading to the Twin Cities. I'll miss the Triangle.

apicius9
05-30-2012, 04:15 PM
Interesting thread. I don't have many knives in the 'upper' price category where I would hope for less imperfections. In the segment I buy, there is always something you could complain about, but that's why they are not > $500 IMHO. I guess the balance between price point and quality plays a role, but also the point mentioned above - if I am clearly told what to expect and can make an informed decision, that's perfectly o.k. for me.

The reason why I think about this often is that when working with wood, there is hardly ever a 'perfect' piece. So, the question is always, what level of 'imperfection' is acceptable. Some burl woods have micro voids or cracks that do not in any way affect performance or pose a risk, so should I smear them closed with epoxy or leave them more natural and maintain the character of the woos (as much as possible after stabilizing it). Some pieces have color variations - is that imperfect? Do they have to be perfectly symmetrical as if they were made by a machine? After having made a few hundred handles, I still have to make a 'perfect' one, there is always something to find if you spend a few hours looking at them.

Stefan

RiffRaff
05-30-2012, 05:37 PM
Let's take the extreme version: a great work of art, the Mona Lisa, winged Venus, Chartres Cathedral, '57 Chevy custom hemis, Cindy Crawford (guess that dates me). One of a kind, clearly "imperfect," no one give a sh*t if they're asymmetrical, chipped, jagged, less than they once were. Knives have some of these qualities too. They're objects of art even if they're meant to be used and their performance is king. So you might ask, is the imperfection a stab at creativity?