Part 1: The story.
Probably over a year ago, I was checking stuff out at the old KF and spotted a thread titled something like Cermax Wa-Reinterpretation started by a German dude going by the handle: Rottman. Along with everybody else, I thought it looked great and I was interested in trying something out in ZDP-189 but I didn’t want to break the bank or get something clunky either. So I posted something half-joking like, “When are you taking orders?” Sometime later, he contacted me and a few weeks/months later, a second wa-reinterpretation was born in the 200mm length. The profile is the same but the geometry was completely changed, as was the handle, of course. Just for fun, I asked him to put his initials on it. As time went by, I began to understand a lot more about how knives are made and through the generosity of a number of individuals on this board, as well as my own purchases, I was able to put my hands (and eyes) on quite a number of high-end knives. More and more, I came to appreciate the IMPRESSIVE quality of his convex grinding. Sometime thereafter, he informed me that he was pondering making a few knives completely, start to finish and thought me picky enough to invite me to participate in a test group.
Part 2: The first knife.
We chose a stainless niobium alloy (Niolox/SB1/1.4153.03) for the first one. It was supposed to be a 270 mm gyuto with a large flat area near the heel and a pointy tip. One side was to be ground dead flat and the other was to be convex, almost like an extremely thin single sided knife. Well, the thing broke during straightening after HT BUT he was able to salvage the blade by repurposing into a 230 suji. After dozens of e-mails and some back and forth shipping, I now have a very nifty 210 suji. It is super thin at the tip and thin at the handle as well, although it actually feels quite sturdy. The asymmetry makes cutting thin slices and peeling things like mangos, citrus and small melons an absolute joy. It is also thin enough where I can dice fairly large onions, etc. without the “steering” bothering me. The tip is nice and pointy and it is easily my favorite meat-cleaning knife. It’s really like a super thin, faux yanagi in terms of performance. The steel is very nice as well. It is obviously very wear resistant (I did some hand thinning along the way. NOT fun, and I actually enjoyed thinning my A-type.), hard and holds a very keen edge admirably. The grind is perfect except for a n insignificant overgrind right at the heel, which is ubiquitous in the industry (Both of the DTITK’s I’ve owned had worse ones, for example.) and under a mm at the tip that will come out the next time I sharpen it. The handle is superb, as well. The two small and inconsequential overgrinds are, in fact, the only attributes that can be called imperfections that I didn’t specifically ask to be built into the knife.
Part 3: Overall experience.
I should preface this by saying that I am not an easy customer to work with. I am extremely picky and demanding. I feel that if I pay good money for something, I should expect the product to reflect that in every way. I want to know all the details about how a knife is made and I like to be involved in all of the important decision-making aspects. As a science professional, I am skeptical and critical by training, if not by nature as well. To top it all off, I have a bit of a mental block when it comes to being “friendly” with people that are selling me something. This man bore the measure of my hard-to-tolerate attitude and maybe he hides his hatred well but I think we might be friends at this point. It’s been a lot of fun in spite of me and for once, I’m just as happy to have the knife as I am to have “met” the maker. He has a great sense of humor and if he has an ego, he hides it well. He listens perfectly and stays true to specs whenever they are offered. He is a knife knut’s dream and I’d get in line before he gets too busy. Actually, I have no idea if he wants to make tons of knives but if he did, I would not hesitate recommend any of them.
Here are some pics. The extra knife is a nicely tapered 240 mm Blazen gyuto for reference. These knives are THIN. I say that not because he can only make thin knives but the thinner they are the more difficult they are to grind consistently. This man has skills.