Will do, tomorrow. Sorry, guys.
I'm traveling a lot for work right now, and during my week off the post office decided to play ping-pong with it rather than deliver it, so I only really had 48hrs to play with it before I was heading back out of town again and needed to ship it on to the next person as to not hold up the line any longer. Still, this knife made quite an impression on me in that brief time and I spent as much time as I could using it or just holding and staring at it.
Let me start off by saying that I really, really liked this knife and that while I do have some (hopefully) constructive criticism, I am in awe of just how good this knife is considering that it is a prototype from a maker who is still very new in comparison to the master knife-makers to who's work his will inevitably be compared. The down-side of this knife being so good in so many ways, is that it invites judgement and evaluation on a much higher and more minute level than one might typically impose on a knife in this price range.
Perhaps what struck me most was that there where many design elements that where unusual or unique and they where technically very demanding. Normally the combination of those elements with a new maker results in some pretty big fails. But that was definitely NOT the case here.
My favorite, and IMO, most impressive part of the knife was the handle. The handle was even more striking in person. The extreme angles and geometry really added to the knife's over-all stealth-fighter or f1 car aesthetic: even sitting still, it just LOOKS fast and dangerous. This is a seriously bad-ass looking handle, but often non-traditional, cool-looking handles don't feel as good as they look, or, very good at all. Again, that was not the case here. The handle feels like a combination of maybe a tapered octagonal wa and angular western handle, but really it feels like nothing else that I've ever held before... and in a good way. There are dozens of little details: like the slight tear-drop cross section and the extra flat spot on the underside right behind the coil that shows that Don has a really sophisticated understanding of ergonomics as they pertain to holding onto a kitchen knife in a variety of grips and techniques. Seriously, his design work on this handle puts him right up there with Adam Marr, and Michael Rader (two of my favorite and, IMO, most innovative handle makers). However, there where a few, very minor technical issue with the execution of the handle design: the 2 sides where not perfectly symmetrical. I took some pictures, but Son's show it just as well. If you look at the shot of the end, and near the top and bottom, you can see that the flat spot is wider on one side than the other. There where a few other areas around the handle where you can see, if you really look carefully, that the bevels don't line up the same way on both sides. I admit that this is totally inconsequential in terms of feel or function and fully understand that making a handle like this without any visible flaws / asymmetries is orders of magnitude more difficult than your traditional wa or western shapes. One last note / bit of personal preference was that they handle was just a bit skinny for my xxl paws. The length was fantastic, perfect even, but girth-wise it was clearly designed with small-to-average hand sizes in mind. I admit that
The blade design is less revolutionary, but still pretty extreme and ambitious in terms of technical difficulty. It's a gyuto for someone that likes suji's and flat, pointy, sleek, low-tip profiles. There's enough belly to rock, but that clearly is not what it was made to do. The profile is set up well for push, draw, and diagonal cutting motions, but I did notice the the back 1/3 or so of the edge was dead flat. This means that when rocking, or using any stroke where the heel is coming into even / full contact with the board, it results in the "clunk" feeling where a big enough portion of the edge is all hitting at the same time that all of the momentum ends at once. I think Dave had a thread about true flat edges and the problem with the "clunk" but I'm having a hard time finding it.
The grind seems to be a compound blended-bevel design with a transition to almost full-flat near the front. As far as I could could see the grind was flawless and even and any hint of grind or scratch mark was polished away with a very high-grit finish.
However, when it came to function and cutting performance, I think that the the grind really fell short. This is a pretty thin blade, so I really expected wedging to be a non-issue and effort to be very low. However, I found that rear 1/2 or so of the blade was pretty difficult to push or slice through taller product. I did some testing with a cucumber-sized zucchini and found that when cutting 1/4" thing circles, the final 5-10% of the vegetable actually snapped and broke off before the cut was complete. Potatoes and carrots didn't feel very good either. This high-drag, wedge-inducing geometry combined with a blade that is fairly thin and light meant that I had a very difficult time building any kind of speed or momentum though my cuts and the perceived cutting effort as much higher that I would expect for any knife, much less one with dimensions like this one. The front 1/3 to 1/2 of the blade is much thinner and the grind seems to be different as well and I did not experience any of the same issue as I did with the rear of the blade, but this forward section of the knife is not very rigid and an some flex is noticeable. I understand that making a long, low, sleek blade cut well, release well, minimize drag, and also still be rigid and have a blade-forward balance point is a very very difficult thing to achieve. So, the fact that Don didn't manage is crack the holly grail of grinds on this blade is no surprise, and I really commend him on attempting such a difficult design. The blade did work amazingly well slicking both cooked and raw chicken, pork, and beef.
Lastly I mentioned that the steel was really a joy to use. It came very sharp from Son, which is impressive considering how little he did to it. I'd say that it was a very "functional" level of sharp, but not hair-popping or "silly sharp." So, I took it to my highest grit j-nat finisher for a few stropping passes just to see what would happen. It felt great on the stone, and 30 seconds and a quick cork-de-burr later hair was flying off my arm and newprint was running away when the edge so much as looked at it. I was weary that all I had done was sharpen a burr or re-align fatigued steel, but the edge held up just fine though all of my hard testing with no rolling or sudden drop in performance. The edge managed to get very fine while still holding onto it's teeth.
I'd say that Don has the HT figured out for this steel...
The patina was not particuarly heavy when I got this knife, and I did notice some reactivity to/ browning of onion, but nothing terrible. I'd say that the steel is more reactive than 01 but not bad or noticeably worse than W2 or white #1.
Bottom line: really impressive work that means I will be watching out (with very high expectations) for more from Mr. Nguyen.
Thanks to Lefty for another awesome pass-around!!!
"I gotta tell ya, this is pretty terrific. Ha hahaha, YEAH!" - Moe (w/ 2 knives). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVt4U...layer_embedded
Awesome review, can't wait to try it!
Thanks for the review, Justin. Sorry you didn't get more time with it.
Thanks for the criticism Justin, I really appreciate it! Tons of things to ponder and revise for me - I get excited just thinking about it.
Does anyone have any gripes/concerns about the natural, un-stabilized handle wood?
Going in the mail today to vertigo. Will post more later tonight.
Chewie's the man.
Just took delivery of the DTN. Won't have time to sharpen it up and really drive it until Monday, though my initial impressions taking it out of the package are exceedingly positive.
Smells kinda like Wyoming though. Gross.