I recently had some questions asked about this knife so, rather than just leave all the info in a PM, I thought that I'd post it here as I've been pretty lax with the reviews for awhile.
First, I thought that it might be interesting to just run through the design and ordering process.
So, like many purchases, it all started when I was browsing JKI and looking at pretty things. I had been kinda looking for a multi-purpose suji-gyuto hybrid type thing that would be more nimble than a full sized gyuto, but more serious than a large petty. I'd been admiring the Ginga designs for awhile and then I saw one with a sweet custom order black linen micarta coke bottle handle.
It was sold out, but enough cause (doesn't take much) for me to justify harassing Jon via phone.
I was wondering how large the handle was (I have really big hands) and I wanted to know bit more about Ginga and the special order process. Well, as they often do, things escalated quickly and I realized that the knife that had been rattling around my head didn't actually exist anywhere other than in my head so full custom was the only reasonable approach, and because Ginga are wizards of white #2 and I didn't have a custom honyaki, the decision to go that route was also clearly the most responsible.
So, then came the time to put quantitative specifics around a lot of qualitative qualities that I had blathered on to Jon about. So, I did a bunch of drawings based on a modified tracing of the special order knive that had started all the trouble and emailed them to Jon. He replied with suggestions and feedback as to which he thought would work best and we talked a finalized the design and dimensions. Jon talked to Ginga, and they confirmed that they where able and willing to make the knife and gave an estimated wait time of a few months. It turned out to be much more than that, close to a year or so actually. I didn't mind as I have come to expect multi year wait-list for any world-class custom maker, so this still felt like a pretty quick turn-around.
Then the knife showed up and my jaw dropped clean off. I've had the incredible good fortune of owning and fondling some really out standing knives, and admit to becoming somewhat desensitized / jaded, but the awe that comes with holding a knife this special for the first time has not gotten old in the least. Having it be a custom of your own design just adds to the initial brain melting: there's a really weird feeling to holding something tangible that just been a figment of your imagination for so long. The juxtaposition of it being new but also personal and familiar... it's like having your imaginary friend ring your doorbell one day.
F&F is fantastic and "special" in the way that only an expertly crafted hand-made thing can be: flawless in a way that is still clearly human. Precise, but without any of the coldness that often comes form a production line of robots.
Materials and Construction:
The blade is one of the thinnest that I've seen done in honyaki, but it's not so thin that the expert grinding/compound convexing is not still apparent. It may be the most beautifully ground knife that I've ever used; right up there with shig. It's 3mm over the heel, but because of the distal taper and the thinness bte, it feels like a much thinner knife. The hamon is also incredible. Pictures don't really do it justice as it looks much more dimensional than just a wavy line. It looks like it's actually IN the steel: like a wisp of smoke in the air or a line of cream in black coffee. One of my curiosities with honyaki was if the forging and ht actually did anything for the performance and feel of the steel. Honestly, it looks good enough that I wouldn't have been disappointed had the steel just performed like any other white#2, but that's not the case. Maximum sharpness is at a level beyond my ability to discern, sharpening is as easy or easier than any other white steel I've used, edge retention is surprisingly fantastic: better than any other simple carbon that I've used and even approaching the level of some carbon tool steels. It's also surprisingly tough. I've sharpened it with a very aggressive angle cut just about everything that a kitchen knife may cut with it and I've never seen a chip. But the FEEL is what really gets me. It's a steel that just really likes to be sharp and aggressive. It holds onto the fine edge and teeth very well and the feedback both when cutting and sharpening is just really, really enjoyable.
I like the "ball-gown" beauty of fancy burled and /or dyed and stabilized wood and mosaic pins, but I also really like the "little back dress" aesthetic the linen micarta and delicate silver pins. the coke bottle contouring on the handle is comfortable but not restrictive like some overly "ergonomic" handles can be. the bolster is really sweet and perhaps the best non-integral one I've seen. Jon mentioned that the guys at Ginga where among the best at the pinned bolster construction and I have to agree. Everything is just beautifully and gapless in fit and finished to the same fantastic level of polish as the blade.
Being that the design is my own, I can't really praise it too much without patting myself on the back. So, I'll just try to explain my thinking behind some of the key features and to which of my preferences the design is catered. The as I mentioned in the back-story, I was looking to fit as much performance and utility as possible in a small, nimble, sub-gyuto package.
A steady incline from heel to tip was important to me as I feel that the handle should always be slightly higher than the spine when making board contact. As many folks around here do, I also like a fairly flat profile. However, it should never be "dead" flat anywhere as actually flat spots created the dreaded "clunk" effect and I find are actually worse for board contact and slows down the speed when using a variety of cutting motions other than a very limited strait chop or thrust. Low tips are also very popular in these parts, but in this case I actually wanted a higher tip. The reason being that a higher tip gives you a lot more cutting edge in the same overall length of blade as opposed to a low-tipped design. This was especially important to me being that this is a slicing knife with relatively short blade (compared to most slicers). Scimitars and bull-nose knives are exaggerated examples of the added slicing power that comes with high tip. However, I can't claim credit for this realization as it was Chef Niloc who I first read mention years ago the virtues of a higher tip in finishing a slicing cut.
A benefit of the reduced length is that it's not at all uncomfortable to raise my elbow the required amount to make good board contact with the tip. Draw slicing is actually a very natural motion where the elbow raised slightly as the arm moves back towards you. Also, while the tip / nose of the knife may look rounded, there's actually a very substantial sweet spot there: plenty of room for hot peppers, garlic, shallots.
As for dimensions, I wanted spine thick enough that there would be no significant flex, by I also wanted it to be partial convex ground and still very thin behind the edge. That's very difficult to do with a super low blade, so I spec'd the heel at at least 40mm and it actually showed up at 43mm. The spine over the heel is 3.0mm, but tapers evenly to become very thin by 3/4 from the tip.
Better than I could have expected. The combination of thinness BTE and convexing seem to be right at the sweet spot where food release is very good, but cutting performance and resistance to wedging is also excellent. As I mentioned in the first f&f section, the grind is really pretty magical.
It also excels at both chopping veg and slicing protein -another 2 virtues that I seldom see in the same knife.
As I mentioned, the steel is also really shocking in terms of performance. It's a perfect example of the name of the steel not being nearly as important as the maker's mastery of it. Yeah, I've used a $50 knife that was technically made from the same steel, but it sure as heck didn't feel like it. Aside from the insane sharpness, ease of sharpening / maintenance, and very good edge retention, there's a certain "X" factor to this steel. Devin's AEB-L is the other steel that made the same impression on me as being "special" in a way that can't be fully describe just by it's long list of measurable virtues. Oh, and it takes a really outstanding patina. Electric blue/ purple and red (see pic / gallery below).
There are many excellent knives available for around half the price of this knife. Many of which could probably be considered almost as good or possibly better than this one depending on preferences and application. However, a custom is all about the customer's preferences and application. The difference in price between custom and ready-made is not about getting something that's "good" or "the best", is about getting exactly what you want: a specific collection of features all bundled together just so. Some may disagree, but I also think that it should show the maker's strengths and expertise. Thus, I think that the measure of a custom is not to compare it against any other knife, but to compare it against the customer's desires and expectations. Measured by that standard, this is a perfect knife. I got exactly what I wanted / asked for and then some. It's also an amazing showcase of Jon's expertise and connection with Ginga, and Ginga's mastery of white #2, honyaki, bolster and handle construction and sexy, sexy blades.
I hope that this was helpful to others considering a custom and wondering about the process and outcome, or at least entertaining.