Marko Tsourkan Designs 240 mm Wa Gyuto 52100
My good friend, Øivind, just got a blade from Marko Designs. A 240 mm Wa gyuto in 52100 steel with a new type of D handle. Marko's own design.
In the package was also a Marko Designs diamond loaded felt strop with a very nice hardwood base with rubber anti-skid feet. He requested me to try it out and do a review on it, and as I had really been looking forward to try out Marko's knives, I jumped at the opportunity. If I kept it long enough, just sitting perfectly still, maybe he would forget all about it....
Marko Tsourkan from NY should be no stranger to any of us knife nuts. He is a well renowned and very skillful maker of handles mainly for kitchen knives. Further he is a perfcectionist to his very fingertips and his impeccable work stands as a reference to many of us in the knife collecting/ using/ sharpening business.
As you know, since last year Marko has expanded his business, toning down the handle making and starting up the design and production of his own line of knives for the professional chef and the discerning home cook. His goal is to equal or surpass the cutting ability of the Shigefusa using modern PM steels that will allow for an unbeatable edge wear resistance and ease of sharpening. Just what you want in a professional kitchen. You want a knife that cuts about anything pretty effortlessly (is that a word?), is easy to sharpen and stays sharp for a full shift in a busy kitchen. You want a knife with these qualities that is versatile, so you can do with fewer knives. (Who would possibly want fewer knives, you ask, but you know what I mean).
All this sounds amazing, and when I learned that Marko would start making knives, I knew that something great was in the making. Marko spares nothing to make things perfect. He designes his very own line of knives based on the best production and semi custom knives out there, choose his steels after extensive testing and discussing with the most renowned makers in the business, and finally experimenting shamelessly like a mad scientist with heat treatment to get the exact results he wants; the perfect blend of edge retention, sharpenability and sharpness. Add all that to Marko's perfectionist mind when it comes to design, fit and finish, and you have the Marko Designs line of knives. Ta-daaa!
Judging by this knife I have been able to review for a while now, Marko is getting very close to attaining his goal in all of the above aspects. Looking at the picture above it is easy to see that one of Marko's main sources of inspiration is the japanese gyuto and in particular the shape of the Shigefusa. However, Marko has refined the design further making the blade a tad thinner and lighter, thus making the knife lighter on the hands and arms during extended use. As you can see the blade takes a beautiful patina pretty quickly but it has very low reactivity to most foods (all I've tried anyway).
The handle design is pretty new for Marko, who is best known for his octagonal Wa handles. They are as perfect and beautiful as they are simple. The new design is no exception in this regard. Perfect but simple, simply perfect.
As mentioned, on this particular knife the octagonal handle is replaced with an experimental (yet traditional) D shaped handle but with a Kramer-ish taper to the ferrule, which aids the pinch grip on the blade. The perfectly rounded choil and spine aids this even further, making the knife an absolute joy to hold and use for extended periods of time, and the perfect tapering from heel to tip gives the blade a very good and balanced feel in the hand. It just falls right into a very comfortable pinch grip while also serving those who prefer to grip the knife just by the handle. Well done!
Regarding the thickness of the blade, it falls nicely inbetween the Shigefusa, which some may find too hefty, and my refurbished 240 mm Shiro #3 laser gyuto, which some might find too light. I believe Marko has found a shape and a thickness that will suit a lot of users perfectly.
After using the knife for several different tasks in my home kitchen for a couple of weeks I decided to put it to a more comprehensive test to get a feel of what this knife was able to do and to uncover its strengths and weaknesses.
I used my professional hard polyethylene cutting board which is pretty heavy on the edge, but which is found in many professional kitchens. This would test the edge wear resistance pretty good. I also chose different vegetables to test different parametres of the blade. Chillies with tough skin, Cabbage and swede cabbage to test wedging, tomatoes to test edge sharpness and some overgrown fibery sugarsnaps to test chopping-ability. Finally I added some pork cutlets to the setup to test the blade on the sticky raw protein.
I started by sharpening the blade on my trusty Aka-pin stone (#6-10000 range somewhere).
This little stone has really become my go-to stone for all kinds of steel. It is exceptionally efficient even on very hard steels and leaves a very refined edge, yet with a nice bite to it.
I finished the edge on the Marko Designs felt strop. This stone-strop combo showed to be a match made in heaven and gave me a scary sharp edge that easily shaved the hairs of the back of my hand. I have never been a fan of strops, always finishing on stones, but this diamond loaded felt strop from Marko really opened my eyes. The initial cherry tomato test went flawlessly. Easily slicing a standing cherry tomato only held by its own weight.
After this confirmation of the edge I went to the real test.
The Marko gyuto cut through the swede effortlessly without any apparent wedging or skewing at all. It slid straight through. The blade seems perfectly neutral left to right.Cutting paper thin slices was also easy and the blade handled very well. A skewing blade would easily have been discovered in this test.
Next up was the white cabbage. This cabbage was exeptionally dense and heavy and would be a real challenge to any knife. The Marko gyuto slid through effortlessly like with the Swede. No wedging nor skewing was apparent. Cutting angel hair cabbage was also an easy task, and the thin strands of cabbage released easily from the blade. Again the knife performed very well.
This was the produce that was really reactive with the Shigefusa kasumi cladding iron. No apparent reactivity on the 52100 steel.
The chillies and the sugarsnaps were no challenge for this powerful gyuto either. The chopping test showed that the flat part of the edge that starts at the very heel and extends almost half the blade to the tip, and with its slight angle relative to the handle, makes for a very balanced and efficient chopping blade. It is easy to find the right chopping motion and as usual it cuts effortlessly through tough chilli skin and old fibrous sugarsnaps.
The raw protein test was to se how the blade was able to cut paper thin slices of meat or fish without ripping the fibers. The knife sliced through the pork meat like butter and no matter how thin I was trying to slice, the knife performed effortlessly.
Pretty impressive how versatile this knife really is. If I would have to manage with only one knife in my kitchen, the Marko gyuto is my #1 candidate to date. It is exceedingly good in anything I have tried.
So, to the final test. Would the edge still cut a cherry tomato standing loose on the cutting board? Yes it would! Well partly anyway. The part of the edge that had been banged into the hard plastic during the chopping session had dulled slightly. For regular tomato cutting it was still very good, but this ultra sharpness test got a bit more difficult than before the cutting and chopping party.
Now to the amazing part. You see, Marko claimed that after some passes on his wonderstrop the "dulled" edge would go back to crazy sharp just like that. I was thinking "Yeah, Right!". So, just to prove him wrong, I took the blade to the strop, passed it over a couple of times on each side. First with a little pressure and then with almost only the weight of the blade.
Was I ever surprised. The edge was almost totally back to scary sharp just after a few light strokes on the strop. If you get a knife from Marko, get a strop with it! If you are not getting a knife from Marko, still get a strop for your other knives.
When Marko first told me he was going all in on the knife making business I new it was going to go one of two ways. Either he would not succeed in his endeavours and give up the whole thing or he would succeed 100% and become one of the very best out there. One thing you can trust when it comes to Marko. If he decides on doing something it is because he thinks he can make it perfect. And he will not rest until he has. The knife in this review proves that. It depends of course what you personally consider to be the perfect knife. Weight, size, steel, heat treatment, handle. All things matter. What I am trying to say, however, is that this knife is perfect in what it is. The size feels perfect to the weight, the balance feels perfect to the length, the handle feels perfectly shaped and sized to the blade and the heat treatment seems to get very, very close to perfect for the steel.
Knowing Marko, I am not one bit surprised by the quality of this knife. I am, however, deeply impressed by how far he has come as a knifemaker in the short while he has been making knives. He tells me he is still making adjustments to the grind to make the blade more non-stick to food, but from what I have been experiencing with the blade in this review a further improvement in this aspect would actually make the knife food repellent.
I'll round this review off with a couple of "Patinart" pictures showing off the beautiful patina on the 52100 blade and Marko's very clean and stylish brand mark.
Review knife or not, hell, I'm keeping it!!
I have recently been given time with one of his as well(with an octagon handle), and agree with all of the above. They are phenomenal. As close to perfect as I'd ever want a handmade knife to be.
It really was surprising how clean and correct everything was. Handle, heat treat, profile, grind, even the MM...Mr. Tsourkan is making some badass knives.
Great review. The only way it could have done better is with video, but not necessary. I have liked what I have seen from him since I have started reading this forum, and am very impressed with his masterful work. Keep up the work. I some day wish to try one out.
What an excellent review, thank you for doing it and sharing it with us here Harold.
And congratulations to you, Marko.
Edit: Since you take such great pictures, I wouldn't mind seeing one of the strop setup he sent you.
I have been thinking about trying video. My camera, however, is not very well suited for that.
Originally Posted by Crothcipt
Like I said not necessary. You conveyed enough in writing and took great pics. I hope that I didn't offend, that wasn't what I was going for. Not everyone can have a great camera for video. Even having one the set up can be very tough. I know I keep trying.
You can see the strop in the top picture. The base is dark hardwood (mahogany, maybe) with anti skid rubber feet. I'll try to take a couple of pics from other angle as well, but no promises.
Originally Posted by Johnny.B.Good