Harner Nakiri Steel Comparison: Carpenter XHP vs. CPM154
There was some discussion in a previous thread speculating as to which of two steels, Carpenter XHP or CPM154, possessed superior edge holding properties. Rick (Pensacola Tiger) graciously offered to loan me his Butch Harner nakiri in CPM154 so that I might compare it to my Harner XHP nakiri. The agreement was that I use them both in the kitchen for a few weeks and then report my findings and impressions to you good people.
As the photo shows, the two knives differ in more ways than in the steel used in their construction. Rick’s nakiri is narrower (58 mm @ the heel vs. 70 mm for mine) and lighter (244 g. vs. 277 g.) Blade length was approximately the same (205 mm vs. 202 mm) although the actual cutting edge on Rick’s is slightly longer (182 mm vs. 177 mm). The handle on my Harner is a bit longer and noticeably thicker than the handle on Rick’s. Presumably Butch did this to help compensate for the heavier blade on mine.
These dimensional differences make Rick’s knife feel more gyuto like and a bit livelier in the hand, while mine feels more like a cleaver. Having said that, I had no trouble switching from one to the other during the course of the test and found them equally pleasant to use.
Rick’s knife arrived freshly sharpened, but In order to establish a baseline I stropped both knives on my old chromium oxide charged Hand American strop, finished them on smooth leather, and then tested them for sharpness with the following results:
1) Both knives would push cut receipt paper effortlessly.
2) Both would "treetop" hair from my forearm.
3) Both would shave arm hair with ease.
4) Both would sever a hanging hair plucked from my beard.
5) My Harner would penetrate the skin of a tomato using only the weight of the blade. Rick's would not. I don't consider this a fair test, however, because my knife is heavier by 44 g. and is balanced slightly more toward the tip.
As near as I could determine, both knives were equally sharp at this point. The plan was to repeat the tests periodically and use them to monitor edge holding.
And so to work. I generally cook only for my wife, my grandson, and myself, so I enlisted outside help to supplement my supply of choppable material. My daughter and the other cooks she works with were kind enough to provide me with bags and boxes of various rinds, cores, leaves, ends, tops and bottoms of whatever product was left at the end of a shift. Without their help, this test would have stretched on for months. All of this was cut up to the point of absurdity; cantaloupe rinds reduced to fine dice, handfuls of cabbage leaves cut into angel hair chiffonade, etc.
Every effort was made to do an equal amount of cutting with each of the two knives. Same number of carrots, celery ribs, potatoes, etc. (Full disclosure: Rick's knife did slice one more item than mine. His blade took a nice divot out of the fingernail on my left index finger. I decided not to try duplicating the cut with mine.
The edge holding ability of both knives is really quite remarkable. I used them on a daily basis for three weeks and did far more cutting than I would normally have done and yet, at the end of the test period neither was what I would describe as dull; only less sharp than before. Although both knives eventually failed all of the original five tests, both were still perfectly serviceable in the kitchen. Since all of the tests I used to measure sharpness rely on technique to a certain extent and are therefore somewhat subjective, each test was repeated multiple times with both knives. I tried my best to be scrupulously fair and objective in evaluating the deterioration of the edges because:
1) I wanted the test to be meaningful.
2) I wanted to avoid getting a PM from Rick, saying “You’re a big fat dope who wouldn’t know a knife from a nectarine and I’m never going to loan you anything ever again!”
Bottom line? The Carpenter XHP showed a very, very slight but measurable superiority in edge holding ability over the CPM 154. That’s my conclusion after three weeks of cutting up quite a substantial quantity of vegetable matter and evaluating edge keenness periodically along the way. I hasten to point out that the difference in sharpness was not noticeable when the knives were being used for their intended purpose. It became evident only when doing silly things like trying to cut a hanging beard hair in two.
I realize that having a sample size of only one for each of the two steels makes my test statistically meaningless, but if nothing else it gives us something to talk about. And that’s why we’re here, n'est-ce pas ? I had a lot of fun doing it and once again offer my thanks to Rick for making it possible.
Note: After performing the final tests I decided to see to what extent the edges could be restored by stropping. After a dozen passes on the chromium oxide, both knives approached their initial level of sharpness and passed the first four tests with flying colors. Pretty damn impressive, if you ask me. I wouldn’t hesitate to order a knife in either of these two fine steels.
The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of KKF, it’s owner, or moderators.
Thanks for testing the two steels out and posting this great writeup. I'm curious to how they compare on the stones.
I just got back from driving through the most hellacious rain storm I've been in since the Florida Keys. Could barely see the narrow country road ahead but no shoulder to pull over and wait it out, emergency vehicles coming at us from the opposite direction...a real white knuckler. When I finally got home your post was waiting for me. Thanks for the laugh, Rick. I needed it!
Originally Posted by Pensacola Tiger
Great post!!! When this was being debated I was kinda curious as to what the differences was. I looked up both on zknives (I'm sure I wasn't the only one). This made for a great read, and something educational for down the road.
Great review, very well written.
Thanks for this. I think it's great that you got both of them in the same style and maker.
Great review! Thanks to both Rick and Chif for this.
I have used CPM154 before, but not from Butch. Based on my experience with the HT on a carbon blade of his, I imagined that his stainless would be very good as well. Sounds like he really know how to strike a balance between hardness for edge retention, toughness to withstand real use and still keep the steel very user-friendly for sharpening and maintenance.
Why it sounds like the new XHP is a "better" steel, what this review really reinforces for me is that if you have a top maker working with his choice of quality material, you're gonna get fantastic results that will require a very demanding environment and close attention to detail to measure an advantage of one awesome steel over another awesome steel.
Still, I know that there are a lot of geeks out there (myself included) that still enjoy academic pursuits, investigating the details, and splitting hairs (literally and figuratively).
Thanks again for putting the time into this for all of us!
Thanks for all the kind words. It really was fun to do, but I'm afraid all the seemingly pointless chopping just reinforced my wife's contention that I'm slipping rapidly into senile dementia.
Ha, then I've probably got early onset. As I read your review I was actually a bit jealous that you have just a good connection to get an endless supply of meaningless stuff to chop...
Originally Posted by Chifunda