When I first got into Japanese kitchen knives, I was not only impressed by the hardness and the edge retention of their blades and the ease with which they could be sharpened, but also by their thinness. Only later I discovered thicker knives like the Masakage ones, a Terayasu Fujiwara and a Kochi. And when I discovered a Kato (Yoshiaka Fujiwara), I got a smile on my face.
Then Cris Anderson announced he was going to make a real workhorse knife in AEB-L. This is my favorite stainless steel, since it can take a wicked edge and sharpens up very easily. And I had heard many positive things about Cris’ knives before, so I did not know how quickly I should order one.
Cris is a great guy to deal with. He kept me up to date with the progression he was making, continually asked me about my preferences, and we were even making jokes about the knife. In the end our conversation about the knife was 9 pages long and this included many photographs. And fortunately I could bypass Cris’ waiting queue (which is over a year long, I think), so just a few months later I had the knife in my house.
The knife looks gorgeous. It is very well finished with a faultless transition from the handle to the blade. It is needless to say that the spine and the handle are well rounded. The handle itself deserves special attention. It is Cris’ dual tapered handle made out of ironwood. Cris told me that he sometimes got questions from customers asking whether it isn't too short. This is probably based on a comparison with other wa handles, which are usually longer, but I can say I have never had a handle in my hand that felt more comfortable. The rounding of the choil towards the cutting edge also helps in this. And the handle is beautiful: it is made out of ironwood with a nice drawing and three brass spacers.
The profile of the knife is geared towards push cutting and slicing. The balance point of the knife is about two centimeters in front of the choil (so where the edge starts, not where the blade starts). So it is quite a bit blade heavy, but that is exactly what I wanted for a 24 cm workhorse knife. The blade is 510 mm high at the heel, which is in line with its 24 cm length.
The grinds on Cris’ knife are proprietary and he has asked me not to say too much about them. But his grinds bear some similarities to those of Kato knives (even though they are different). See this discussion on Kitchen Knife Forums for more explanation. Pay particular attention to post #16 and the following discussion. A special feature of the grind is that it is not uniform along the length of the blade. This causes food not only to be pushed away to the sides but up and down as well.
This is one of the things that makes their cutting performance so great. The blade is also pretty thick near the handle (4.4 mm), but then has a gradual and wicked distal taper: at one centimeter before the tip the blade is only 0.8 mm thick, which makes it one of the thinnest tips on all of my knives. And the blade is very thin above the edge as well. At half a centimeter above the edge it measures just 0.5 mm, which again makes it one of the thinnest knives I know just above the edge.
When the knife arrived it was very sharp, so there was no need to sharpen it first.
The cutting performance of this knife is absolutely phenomenal. In spite of its thickness at the spine, it cut through everything with ease. It also went through harder foods like carrots and white winter radish almost like butter and without any wedging. And its grind makes it have great food release, too. Even potato slices only occasionally remained stuck to the blade.
Here are some pictures Cris made during the manufacturing of the knife.
And then... a new knife
I told Chris I liked his knife very much and it worked great in almost every respect. The only thing I was not so happy about was its profile: it has a very straight cutting edge. And I do like to rock chop from time to time. Even without me asking, Chris offered to make me a new knife for free. He wants every customer of this knife to be happy about every aspect of his knife. It was a very generous offer and I hesitated whether I could accept it. But I did. And now, a few months later, I have a new knife. Here it is...
It is very similar to the other knife, only it has a different profile. As you can see the profile is more rounded with a bit more belly.
This is one of the best knives, if not the best knife, I’ve ever used. It is a workhorse knife, but one with a great distal taper and very thin above the edge. And it has great food release. It is a great looker as well. In many ways it reminds me of a Kato knife, but where the Kato put a smile on my face, this knife put a big grin on my face. And if you also do rock chopping, the new profile is perfect. But to really everyone I can say: get this knife! You'll wonder how you could ever live without one.
Unlike my other factsheets this one does not give any details of the blade grind.