How do you decide on a custom knife?
Coming up on a major birthday soon, and thinking about telling the spouse that I need a custom knife for a present. But how do you decide which one? I'm working on a short list of knife makers--one uses steel that I know I like and makes outrageously gorgeous knives. Another uses steel that I'm not familiar with, but sounds like F&F are outstanding. I'm a home cook and will use the knife regularly, but cooking for 2 doesn't subject it to that much abuse. I've been trying to rank what it important:
1) Cutting--if it doesn't work as well as my production knives (ZK, Epicurean Ryusen) it would really hack me off
2) Comfort--it needs to fit my hand. And I want all the comfort features--rounded spine, choil, etc.
3) Bling--hey, it's kitchen jewelry or diamonds. It's a BIG birthday!
4) Steel--I adore my 52100. But damascus is sooo pretty! (see #3) And I don't want something that's going to be too fussy.
So how do you decide on a custom knife? And how do you know it will "fit" once you get it?
1) Go with a maker who has a proven track record. There are many makers on this site, but some are fairly new to kitchen knives and are still on the steep part of the learning curve. As a result, their prices are usually lower, but if you absolutely cannot tolerate a knife that may not do as well as what you have consider going you may not want to help with their learning.
2) Rounded spine, choil, etc. are pretty standard with most of the makers around here, and as long as you make it clear that is what you want you should be able to get it. As far as fitting your hand, you may want to give them examples of knives that do fit you well so they can at least look at pics.
3) Can get a bit of bling with the handles, such as damascus or mokume bolsters/ ferrules, end caps, etc. Some offer etching on the spine (Randy Haas, maybe some others).
4) Lots of makers here use carbon steels, typically either 52100 or O1. And the damascus guys usually all offer carbon damascus (stainless steel damascus is a bit harder to make, from what I have been told). Also, some makers who cannot make damascus themselves will buy from DT, Del, etc.
To a certain extent, it's up to you to do your homework ahead of time in order to help ensure the knife will 'fit' you. But most experienced makers will be able to provide recommendations based on criteria you give them. I had 3 customs made by Pierre Rodrigue early on in my knife learning, and they turned out pretty well even though I was not able to provide him with a lot of criteria other then handle types, basic profiles and steel.
The best thing you can do is call or email one or two of the knife makers who consistantly catch your attention. I have spoken with several of them, and found them to be quite willing to spend some time getting to know what you like and look for in a knife.
Your biggest hurdle may be the timeframe -- it can be 4-6 months for some of the makers, and over a year for others.
Here is my take:
I have bought, sold and used many J knives in the past three years, most of them have been great knives. I have sold most to get custom knives, but... in regards to your question #1, you probably will not be able to detect a hugh difference. If you are expecting the knife to perform X times better because it cost X more, you will be hacked off.
They more than likely will be more comfortable, and can be as "blingy" as you want.
Many makers here work with a variety of steel from 1095, W2, 52100, to CPM 154 and AEB-L and damascus patterns from infinity and beyond. I am confident you can find one who will work with the steel you prefer.
Here is my real reason for getting customs:
For me it means more! Nothing else.
It means more to me to support the local craftsman and members of this community.
It means more to me to have a one of a kind hand crafted piece.
It means more to me to have "heirloom" quality pieces.
As crazy as it seems I like thinking to myself as I am cutting, slicing and chopping that the knife I am holding has been meticulously hand forged, crafted, treated and sharpened by a real person for countless hours. Instead of cranked out by a factory.
I am willing to pay more for that pleasure.
Hope you find what you are looking for, Happy future birthday!
Steel is overrated. Any respectable knife maker is using quality steel to make a quality knife. I think you can remove that criteria from your decision tree.
Hell, most DISREPUTABLE kniemakers use quality steel these days. I should know.
Originally Posted by ajhuff
The alleles created by mutation may be beneficial
It depends how particular you are. Seeing as we are a forum of very particular people, I would say steel choice is important to many people on this board. Just because a knife maker works with a quality steel doesn't necessarily mean you like how it feels on the stones or the level of edge refinement you can get from it.
Originally Posted by ajhuff
Go for a Bill Burke custom
He is the master of 52100
I see you are writing "soon". Then I have to say: A custom knife from a top maker is at least a year waiting.
Devin and Bill Burke are the best you will find on this site, and I guess their waiting list is at least a year. But I can tell you: its worth it .)
Canada's Sharpest Lefty
I only have my one custom knife, made by Pierre. To be honest, I went with him based on the pictures and praise on these forums (all of the guys here get and deserve it), and I also wentwith my gut. We sketched out a tentative design and chit chatted back and forth (over coffee, for me) about what to go with, steel types and the Leafs and Habs. I knew I had the right guy making my knife, right off the hop, and it is a thing of beauty!
My advice is to discuss what you want with one of the makers here. If it doesn't feel right, try another maker until you get the right vibe. It is important that the maker sees your vision, and has the technical and artistic ability to create a knife that is everything you pictured, and more.
Good luck, and let the good times roll!
IMO, a custom knife is functional art--with emphasis on "functional". I don't expect it to go in the kitchen and prep by itself, but it would be disappointing to get a knife and end up not using it because it's not as good a cutter as something off the shelf. If it's just jewelry, I want to wear it--and for some reason folks get excited when you walk around with a 10" blade hanging around your neck....
The "soon" would entail getting a spot in the queue. I don't mind waiting a year. It builds the antici....................pation.
Originally Posted by oivind_dahle