I know many of you out there will soon be getting some of Marko's knives, or getting in line for the next batch he starts. Since the passaround got delayed, I figured I would post my experience with Marko's knives instead.
In July of 2011, Marko was getting ready to deliver a 270mm Shigefusa Kasumi Gyuto to me with redwood handle and saya. At that time he also asked me if I could try out one of his first gyutos and give him some feedback. If I remember correctly, it was a 240mm gyuto, made out of 52100 and had a horn, spacer and either cocobolo or ironwood handle. I don't have it anymore, and didn't take many pictures of it, but I have a few.
You can see it between the Shigefusa and the Del Ealy knife.
And here are some of the handle and the patina:
The knife cut fairly well, but felt funny a bit funny on the stones, more like some stainless knives do than carbon. After getting some feedback from myself and others, Marko tweaked his heat treat, profile and most importantly the geometry/grind. The next set of knives he sent me were much much thinner and full convex ground. They are again prototypes, so the finish was not taken as far as Marko normally does. In fact the handles are just stock japanese handles (Shigefusa maybe?) that he attached with wax. I was shocked at how light they were the first time I picked them up. The gyuto with a 250mm cutting edge weighs 175g and the suji with a 280mm cutting edge weighs a shocking 140g. The handles of course weigh less than Marko's standard horn and stabilized or dense wood handles do.
Cutting performance had drastically improved, getting thinner and improving the grind has that kind of effect! Haha. The steel felt better on the stones, reactivity was not bad at all, probably the most well behaved carbon I have used. Will still rust if you let it however, it isn't semi-stainless. Edge retention is quite good, again some of the best compared to other carbon knives I have used. The only other 52100 I have used is the Zwilling Kramer, and that one feels much softer and loses it's edge much, much quicker than Marko's. At first the lightness of the gyuto felt funny to me, it felt dainty in my hand and that I would have to baby it, but soon I got used to it and was using it for everything: butternut squash, root vegetables, can opening, etc. (Kidding).
The only problem I ran into was breaking tips. The first tip I broke was on the suji, I put it in my ultimate edge bag without a guard, which is usually okay, and when I got to work, I was missing a couple mm from the tip. Next was the gyuto. I think I broke each tip twice in total, never more than a mm or two each time. The knives were just so thin at the tip, and the Masamoto-esque profile so pointy, that there was no strength to support the tip. Since losing a few mm from each (and thus getting slightly thicker) and from re profiling each very slightly, I have not had a tip break in the past few months. Marko has since adjusted his profile and thickness to alleviate this exact problem. I have not used any of the new knives extensively, but from playing with them at his shop, the improved profile and thickness seem to be winners.
I didn't include any measurements or a real in depth review here because all three knives I have used have been prototypes, and basically every aspect of them (heat treat, profile, grind, thickness, finish, etc) has changed and been improved upon in the final version. So if your knife got delayed in this whole process and it didn't end up under your Christmas tree, don't worry, in the long run you will end up with a better knife. I have visited Marko's shop several times in the past 6 months, each time his pile of practice knives has grown bigger and bigger. I really feel like he has done research and practice the right way, and has come up with a knife that many of you will enjoy.
I have to go to work now, but I will add some more to this later tonight or tomorrow, as I would like to talk about the suji some as well. There are also a few other members on here that have tested Marko's prototypes, you guys feel free to add your thoughts to this thread. Thanks for reading, any questions you have that I might be able to answer don't hesitate to post or PM me.