lol. Could have been worse I forgot to pack the towel that was around the knife.
Chewie's the man.
Okay, after two shifts in the office with this charming little rapscallion, I feel comfortable and familiar enough with its performance to share some thoughts:
The profile is exactly what I look for in a knife: extremely flat, appropriately narrow for its length, with a well defined tip. Even if it wasn't the maker's intention, it will have no trouble serving double duty as both a gyuto and a slicer. In hand, the knife feels light, sporty, and agile. The blade has a high grit finish and a decent patina started, though it has acquired a number of superficial scratches from its adventures. At the heel the geometry looks a little chunky: while the overall blade is thin, the majority of its vertical taper begins a little further towards the edge than I'd like. The distal taper is slight and gradual, bringing the steel to a delicate and highly functional tip. There are no obvious overgrinds or undergrinds--in fact, the grind looks just about impeccable in its execution--though I can see the very slight "curve" that Son mentioned in his review.
The handle itself is refreshingly different, and a little bit funky. Funky in the "Sly and the Family Stone" kinda way, not in the "damn, how long has that been in the fridge" kinda way. Straight off the bat I'm in love with it. As Justin said, this was clearly made by someone with a good understanding of ergonomics. It's stupidly comfortable to hold, especially in a pinch grip. The diamond shape of the scales as they terminate at the blade face seems a revelation, like why haven't people been doing this all along? My pinch wraps around it organically, as if I'd been using the knife for decades. If I could complain about anything in the handle--besides the idiosyncrasies in the scales already mentioned--it would be that the pins, bent around the handle's sharp angles, seem a little forced. Aesthetically, a round pin bent at multiple hard angles just doesn't work for me. Hardly a deal breaker though. The bottom line is that holding it is completely comfortable and natural, and Don gets the highest marks I could give for his vision.
The saya is functional and pretty, though the smell I earlier joked as "Wyoming" actually comes from the saya's natural oils, which cling to the blade after its removal, and remind me of being in a head shop. I could do without that. I promptly hid it on top of my cupboard.
The edge as received was a little run down and had a very dark patina built upon it, though there were no rolls or chips that I could detect with my fingers or naked eye. I gave it a few light passes on a Rika 5k, then stropped on unloaded leather, and within moments it was back to full speed and whipping through arm hair. I haven't used a knife in 1084 before (that I know of), but this knife was as effortless to touch up and deburr as any other basic carbon I've used. I wish I could say more about its performance on the stones, but steel this simple rarely proves challenging or nuanced.
In the Weeds
I brought her in for the two hour frenzy of prep before Sunday brunch, then kept her by my side for the remainder of the shift as my line knife; today, being much slower, I shirked my duties as sous and spent ten hours using her to make sweet, sweet love to every single protein, fruit, and vegetable we stock. The poor girl is tired. I admit our affair was one of both love and strife, though the good times far exceeded the bad and I'll focus on them first.
For starters, this baby is a carnivore. The most fun I had using it over 20 hours was as a slicer, bringing her with gusto through scads of chicken, turkey, ribeye, tri-tip, pork loins and shoulders. Cooked or raw, the knife had little difficulty fabricating any portion I demanded. Shaving tri-tip for sandwiches was as functionally effortless as it was with a Masamoto KS; in breaking down primals it was indistinguishable from a Carter. Her second talent is fruits, especially tomatoes: I go through boxes daily, and together we cut down each and every one. While the edge faltered quick against so much acidity, one or two gentle swipes on a 2k ceramic proved enough to bring it back. I gravitated towards using the tip more than usual (more on that later), but had no difficulties slicing and dicing my way into gallons of salsa fresca. Peeling melons, cubing pineapple, hulling strawberries (just like Son! Yay!), anything that was fairly moist fell to her charms. We even made a few orange supremes in hand for fun, just to remember our time together.
When we hit vegetables and more dense, firm objects, the honeymoon was over. My experience in this department was closer to Justin's than Son's: the knife stalled out on me quite a bit, literally dragging to a stop--especially going through fat, angry onions and potatoes--and I found myself using the tip more to compensate. The grind is quite a bit flatter and thinner there, and simply makes the forward third of the knife more functional than the rest for tall and "sticky" foods. It was by no means a bad cutter in this capacity, just provided (finally) the evidence that I was using a prototype.
Reactivity was worse than nicer carbon and nicer than worse carbon. I got minimal discoloration on onions, had no offensive odors (once I washed off the weird saya-juice), and only saw the "oh snap" warning signs of rust when I was elbows deep in a box of limes. Between all the acidity and protein, she picked up quite a bit of color, and is looking pretty damn sexy these days. I'll post up a few pics tomorrow before shipping it out, if we get a little sun.
All totaled, I'm really impressed with this knife. I think Don graduated straight past a lot of the clumsy intermediate steps of knife making, and produced something fully functional as a "prototype" which could, if we didn't know any better, be completely mistaken as the work of someone with much more experience. While I couldn't use it as my daily driver without some tweaks to the grind, it's an exceptional effort, and I'm excited to see future iterations coming down the pipe.
Thanks to both Don and PT,
The last time I wrote about a makers knife he pretty much said I phoned it in. So this time I am gonna try to be a little more forward about the knife.
First of all fit and finish was very nice. I really didn't see any problems with it. Seemed to hold a edge well. I did have problems with steering. I wasn't paying attention when I looked at the onion I was slicing and noticed the onion was pulling the knife to my right. I didn't do much in trying to see what the problem was at the time. Going on to my second onion my hand started to cramp up. It seems that the handle was too small for my hand. I use a pinch grip at the base of the blade. But there really was no support for my hand until the very back. After playing around with how my hand fit on the handle I finally figured out what I would change the handle.
The handle was too long for the handle to be functional for me. I went to take pic's but ran out of time. I like how the back part of the handle fit in my palm. I would like to think the handle in that fashion would work well with more like a palm swell. I am sure this isn't making any sense, but this is about the only way I can explain it in writing.
I didn't do much cutting at all after I got the cramp, so I won't grade on the steel, ht, and edge.
The saya friction fit was very well done. I didn't need the pin for transport to work.
So as to say did I like the knife no. But I do think the handle has quite a bit of genus boing with it. I did like the workmanship that was involved. I would love to see the next generation of what Don makes, and I do think he will be around for quite a while.
Please ask questions so I can try to be more clear.
Chewie's the man.
Very, very, very insightful comments Jack and Crothcipt. I REALLY appreciate your time for writing that up.
I definitely have my work cut out for me. What part of the grind would you say is causing the wedging? From what I remember the thickness behind the edge was minimal, about 0.005" at completion and initial sharpening. It must be a different aspect of the grind I'm not aware of, perhaps the bevel height, or something I never even considered before.
I also have to consider the handle design for larger hands, because several people have remarked about that already. What changes do you think would make the most substantial difference (increased dimensions, shorter length, less taper, etc), or would I have to look at a complete reworking?
Awesome review Jack! I"m always a bit envious of how much you pros can learn in such a short period of time with all the cutting that you do... I might have to start volunteering at a soup kitchen just for when I do pass around reviews.
Way to be direct Crothcipt; I know exactly what you mean about not feeling a lot of support near the front of the handle.
As to Don's questions:
I think that just increasing the handle diameter near the front, might help this a bit. Maybe a tad less taper and a just a hair less length (so the increased handle mass doesn't throw off the balance) I really liked how dramatic the taper looks and long the handle was. So I really wouldn't want to mess with it too much.
As for the grind, I think that the issue was not that it wasn't thin enough behind the edge, but that it started to thicken too much too quickly / close to the edge. Perhaps try keeping it thinner a bit higher up. I understand that this is very tricky to do with a low, sleek blade. I've noticed that some makers like Shigefuesa actually leave their blades much thicker at the spine, but then the thickness drops much more rapidly / less linearly than your grind did near the heel / back 1/2 of the knife. I think that a thicker spine acts like, well a spine, and allows the rest of the blade to be thinner without losing rigidity.
"I gotta tell ya, this is pretty terrific. Ha hahaha, YEAH!" - Moe (w/ 2 knives). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVt4U...layer_embedded
The handle is perfect. I have big fat Shrek hands, and I wouldn't mess with it. I kept loving it during some tasks and hating it during others, and then it kinda clicked: in applications where the knife is performing admirably, such as slicing proteins or dicing tomatoes, the handle is completely transparent. It's just there, acting as a sexy counterbalance to the blade. When the knife begins to slow down and stall out, though--such as in a larger onion or going through a potato--you kinda need to torque on the handle to finish the cut, and suddenly it seems inadequate. It stands to reason then that you fix the problem with the cut, you fix the problem with the handle.
Just my two cents.
Wow I was thinking I would be the only one with this problem. I would think that what Justin said about shortening the handle and beefing up the scales would def. fix this.
Chewie's the man.
Awesome, thanks everyone. I have a lot of ideas for new grinds to try out. I'll draw some out later and post pictures.
The handle actually, was initially supposed to be slightly larger in diameter with a slightly less dramatic taper anyways - unexpected things happen at the grinder I'll keep at it with the designs and hopefully get one ideal to my vision soon.
I should have posted my thoughts awhile ago, but things have been hectic lately...
Most of what I could add has been touched on already. I had the same problems with wedging, and it was EXTREMELY reactive when I first cut into a tomato. The sulphur smell was more intense than I've ever experienced. But it calmed down after an hour or so of use. I have to agree with Jack, this knife is a carnivore at heart, and afraid of big starchy veg. I experienced a lot of stiction as well. But I chalked that up partially to the patina not being quite settled in(as well as the above mentioned grind issues). I really enjoyed the overall profile of the blade. Nice and flat.
The handle was immediately striking to me, straight out of the box. But after an hour of use I started to experience some of the same fatigue as crothcript. I have bigger hands and I just didn't feel that it had quite enough girth. Which is half the reason I like wa handles, due to the ferrule. I experienced the most discomfort on the lower edge of the angle that faces the middle knuckles of the index and middle fingers. I feel with continued use, my grip and skin would become accustomed to it(yet another knife callous), but it wouldn't be my first choice for a handle in its current state.
All that being said- this is an impressive offering from any class of bladesmith, but doubly impressive from one as 'green' as you Don. I look forward to your future offerings
Oh, btw- it traveled through both Canada and Maine, so I'm not surprised the saya smelled like a head shop