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your taste in handles on Japanese knives - a vote?
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Thread: your taste in handles on Japanese knives - a vote?

  1. #1

    your taste in handles on Japanese knives - a vote?

    I'm curious to find out what preferences people have with handles on their Japanese knives. I don't mean to ask if people prefer Japanese or Western shaped handles. Rather, what style of wood and overall appearance do you like?

    Lots of knife knuts seem to have handles re-done if they can. Maybe the knife comes in plain old 'ho' wood with black buffalo ferrule to start ...

    http://bernalcutlery.com/shop/images...20handle-2.jpg

    ... but then people get customised handles put on, often with eye-catching burl and other flashy bits ....

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-TxetSD7hIk...e+close+up.jpg

    Well, it's quite cool and I appreciate the work that goes into it. I'd even like to experiment with my own handles in the future. However, I've developed a dislike for these handles, maybe especially because they're Japanese knives. Isn't it too much? Knives are all about cutting and the blade, and don't handles like these draw attention away from the blade? They just seem a bit too ornate and overwrought.

    I think lots of people who do this kind of work, including pros, are active on this site and I don't mean to criticise them or to take away from their livelihood. As said, I appreciate the work. My feeling is just that less can be more and simplicity can be very cool. If two identical knives had different handles, one simple/plain and the other busy-burl, I'd definitely go for the first.

    As we're talking about J-knives here, it might be worth thinking of things like this description of 'wabi-sabi': 'The primary aesthetic concept at the heart of traditional Japanese culture is the value of harmony in all things. The Japanese world view is nature-based and concerned with the beauty of studied simplicity and harmony with nature. These ideas are still expressed in every aspect of daily life, despite the many changes brought about by the westernization
    of Japanese culture. This Japanese aesthetic of the beauty of simplicity and harmony is called wabi-sabi.'

    ... 'Studied simplicity' - I like that. Anyway, simple or burl? My vote: simple.

  2. #2
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    I prefer single-tone woods as well on wa handles and burls and such for westerns. That said, I have a soft spot for ebony. I think that I developed a bias toward ho handles by seeing a bunch of poorly finished ones glued on to cheap knives before seeing the quality work that guys like Hide and others can do with ho. I guess whether I would go ho or not depends on the knife.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by heldentenor View Post
    I prefer single-tone woods as well on wa handles and burls and such for westerns. That said, I have a soft spot for ebony.
    'Single-tone woods' is a good way of putting it. Of course ebony is another example, not just ho.

    I don't have a knife with ichii, but really like the look/colour of it.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Deckhand's Avatar
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    I have been exposed to top bonsai, seen rock gardens in Kyoto, etc. I am not interested in woods dyed 20 colors like a tie dye. However, I appreciate the natural beauty of certain pieces of wood. I have burled redwood and striped koa pieces that are natural and I appreciate their asthetics. I even have a quite large burled redwood coffee table from an artist named Stohan that I met in Monterey. Like this but with a curved glass top specially cut.

    http://www.zhibit.org/stohans/sculpt...cessory-tables

    It is very zen to me. I bought it because it was one of a kind.
    Same with the wood blocks I have bought for handles, and a few recent pairs of chopsticks.

    They used to keep people in a isolated dark room for a week with no stimulus and give them a bowl of rice porridge under the door once a day. At the end of the week they would open the door with a bonsai tree there. It would blow the persons mind. Even with the simplicity there is much complexity and beauty. For me just like an unusual piece of wood created by nature, and never replicated.

  5. #5
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    I agree that a lot of things people here rave about are grossly overdone. At one point, I thought even using a piece of burl was over the top. I've since warmed to the idea of using something other than stainless/ebony/horn on handles but I still feel that in many cases, less is more.

  6. #6
    Das HandleMeister apicius9's Avatar
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    I am fascnated by the characteristics of different woods and the endless possibilities of combining different woods or even other materials with woods and horn. However, after having worked with dozens of woods and hundreds of combinations in the past, I have more and more learned to appreciate the beauty of a single piece of wood rather than complex combinations. I still think that combined materials can look good, and I would not be working such designs out with customers otherwise, but I also admit that I occasionally have made handles that were clearly not my own taste but followed the ideas of customers. My personal preference is for handles with 3 elements, i.e. ferrule-spacer-handle or ferrule-handle-end piece and medium strong contrasts in colors and patterns. I really like the beauty of burl pieces, but in most cases I find the combination of two burls too much unless one of them is on the subtle side.

    Stefan

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by heldentenor View Post
    I prefer single-tone woods as well on wa handles and burls and such for westerns.
    Yeah, I can kind of agree. Wa handles are much more about the wood. Westerns are much more a steel/wood construction, and fussy wood is more acceptable because there's more more plain steel visible balance things out.

    Quote Originally Posted by Deckhand View Post
    I appreciate the natural beauty of certain pieces of wood. I have burled redwood and striped koa pieces that are natural and I appreciate their asthetics. I even have a quite large burled redwood coffee table from an artist named Stohan that I met in Monterey. Like this but with a curved glass top specially cut. http://www.zhibit.org/stohans/sculpt...cessory-tables
    I get what you're saying. Wood can be so nice. I think I could go with Koa on a handle, but not burled ... But had a look at the table photos. Mmm... yuck. Kind of interesting, but with all due respect - damn ugly tables! In the small photos, the wood tends to look like someone's shrivelled up roast left too long in the oven - to me at least. ... Wood can be beautiful and interesting, but doesn't mean it's always improved by making it into handles or furniture.

    Quote Originally Posted by tk59 View Post
    I agree that a lot of things people here rave about are grossly overdone. At one point, I thought even using a piece of burl was over the top. I've since warmed to the idea of using something other than stainless/ebony/horn on handles but I still feel that in many cases, less is more.
    Agreed!

    So... vote now appears to be: Simple 2 - Burls 0 - Kinda depends 2

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by apicius9 View Post
    My personal preference is for handles with 3 elements, i.e. ferrule-spacer-handle or ferrule-handle-end piece and medium strong contrasts in colors and patterns. I really like the beauty of burl pieces, but in most cases I find the combination of two burls too much unless one of them is on the subtle side.
    Hi Stefan. Can you show us a photo or two of examples that demo your tastes?

  9. #9
    Senior Member Birnando's Avatar
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    I'm definitely more fond of the simpler designs and woods.
    Ho wood or similar for me.
    Many of the custom made handles I've seen out there are way to noisy, the wood would be better spent on making a coffee-cup to keep at the hunting lodge deep in the forrest or something.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Deckhand's Avatar
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    Lol looking at his new work I have to agree tables don't look as good as ones he did 20 years ago. Mine would be over $5000 by todays prices. Hopefully my wife can help me get a picture up of mine in the next week or so. I agree with Apicius I prefer things like burl or koa, spacer, ebony ferrule. I like the three elements.

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