Quick review of Fowler Gen 1 vs Gen 2
A while ago i put in an order for a Stephan Fowler gyuto. It arrived with a bend in the blade and i used it for a while and then sent it back for Stephan to fix it. At the time when he did the blade work, he also slimmed the handle per my request. The blade arrived back two days after i got the "original" passaround 270 gyuto with a western handle. I felt a comparison might be in order.
As always, i am a lowly home cook so do not expect me to have pro level use (or opinions) on the knives.
Knife Passaround Mine
Construction San Mai W2 differential hardening
Handle Western Wa
LOA 416mm 423 mm
Edge length 269mm 262mm
Weight 318g 243g
Balance point 5mm front of heel 10mm in front of heel
Height at heel 62mm 56mm
Heel 3mm 2.25mm
Mid 2.3mm 2.15mm
10mm behind tip 0.7mm 0.4mm
Most has been said before, but here is what i think.
The san mai seems less good than what i would expect from a custom maker. I count upwards of 15 places it appears cracked or delaminated. There is also so much of the core exposed that i don't really see the point in the softer cladding. I have no preference on using san mai or not, but in this case i think the knife would have been better off without it.
The handle is western and i normally only use wa, so my experience is limited in this field. It is perfectly fine in use although i think the throat where the blade becomes the handle could be lower in height. The pins are not flush with the wood and in a pro kitchen i would be concerned about not being able to clean this area.
The knife cuts well although it is a bit heavy for my taste. It is thinnish behind the edge and slides well through whatever i tried. No doubt the weight has something to do with this. Edge profile is good but in my opinion it could have dropped the tip a tad more.
It arrived somewhat dull and i put it to the stones starting at 1k and taking it up to JKS10k. It takes a wicked edge with very little effort and made easy work of getting rid of the burr.
Bottom line, the knife has a lot of character but the execution is somewhat lacking. F&F is not what i'd expect of a custom knife. The knife's best point is the steel. It takes a scary sharp edge and it holds it well.
When i started the discussions with Stephan i submitted a picture of a katana hamon that i wanted Stephan to mimic. I also expressed wishes on height, edge profile, thickness etc. Normal stuff for a custom blade.
A while later Stephan came back and had made 3 blades with slightly different hamon profiles and told me i could pick the one i liked the best. They were all a little bit longer than my original order, but he offered to grind them down if i wanted. My gut tells me he did a few more trying to reach my goal that i never got to see...
I picked one out and Stephan finished and sent it. When it arrived (as described above) it had a bend in the blade that i did not feel comfortable straightening, especially since the tip is very thin and it needed work. After Stephan straightend it and adjusted the profile of the handle the knife was shipped back to me in prestine shape.
So, lets start from the back, the handle is a burl with horn ferrule and end cap. They both come from the same piece and match. Stephan ordered it as "honey" but it is rather black with honey streaks. Stephan sent me pictures of it before and it looks very nice. The Burl is good looking and the single void has been filled. Shape is octagonal with a slight taper and rounded edges. It is very comfy and polished to a satin finish.
Spine and choil is nicely polished and rounded to a nice finish.
Blade sides have a hand rubbed finish. It is slightly grey from the etching to bring out the hamon giving it a "battleship" colour. I would have liked the hamon to show a bit more, but i have a feeling the handrubbing came after the etch and thus removed some of the contrast. When you look at the blade in person the hamon looks like blood has been running from the spins and patinad' the blade....
The profile appears to be slightly convexed from about mid height and down. It is very thin behind the edge in the front of the blade and with a bit more meat in the back half. I makes the front half very nimble and light with a clear laser feeling while the back feels sturdy enough to take on the most thick skinned veggies in a stride. It's the first knife i have that gives this feeling and i must say it adds greatly to the span of work the knife will excel at.
Overall the grind is very good and i absolutely love the thin tip.
Edge profile is very good and spot on what i wished for.
In use the knife is awesome. The thinness behind the edge and the think grind makes it cut like a dream.
The steel is at least as good as the passaround, it takes an wicked edge very easily and keeps it well. No issues with burr clinging.
I feel Stephan has come a long way since he made the passaround knife, both in terms of grind and finish. His knives still has a rustic charm that may or may not appeal to everyone, but i like it. I can feel the handmade qualities in the knife.
I can understand that there is a lot more work gone in the passaround knife with spacers on the handle, hand hammered san mai etc, but from my point of view the customer benefits of all this work is small.
My knife is to me a much better knife; better shape, weight, grind and F&F. For Stephans very reasonable price i think it is a bargain.