American Knives

Discussion in 'The Kitchen Knife' started by Paul6001, Nov 15, 2019.

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  1. Nov 15, 2019 #1

    Paul6001

    Paul6001

    Paul6001

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    I’m a newbie to the knife world. As of two months ago, I’d never heard of an American knife maker. As of a month ago, I’d heard of Bob Kramer, mostly because of the wild prices he got for some of his knives. As of now, I’m no expert, but I know a few names, including the esteemed Dave Martell, of course.

    Just now, I’m paging through the Home Butcher site, home to a large selection of American knives. Lot of great looking knives, most of whom are made to the highest standards, I’m sure. But, generally speaking, they are crazy expensive. The average prices easily exceed those charged by even the most respected Japanese makers. I’m reticent to name a specific American, but a non-scientific survey shows that virtually every American on the Home Butcher site charges more—a lot more—than Fujiwara Teruyasu, a maker known for charging more than pretty much every one else in Japan.

    My second reaction: these American makers are laboring in obscurity. Outside of this forum, no one has ever heard of them. I’m guessing that people like Delbert Ealy, Gilbert McCann, and Salem Straub—to pick some names at random—are making terrific knives. But I’ve never seen one of their products. I don’t know if he wants to be more popular, but maybe if Straub wasn’t charging $1,375 for a 240mm chefs knife . . .
     
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  2. Nov 15, 2019 #2

    RDalman

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    It's a bad idea to generalize, but I think many makers do not want to be compared to the japanese knife production and measured by this forums standards, so they stay away from here.

    I believe if you talk around to people in private you might get more info on specific makers and what is what. Some probably do stay at "art" mostly and don't put too much effort in functionality.
     
  3. Nov 15, 2019 #3

    valgard

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    A lot of western makers get much more exposure from instagram than the forum actually.
     
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  4. Nov 15, 2019 #4

    Dendrobatez

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    Valgard is pretty spot on, instagram seems to be a good spot for american makers to show their work. There's plenty of makers in america with decent prices too. The artful expensive knifes are what brings the views in but like I said there's plenty of good Smith's with affordable prices out there.
     
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  5. Nov 15, 2019 #5

    daddy yo yo

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    I guess most „Western“ makers (I don’t want to limit this statement to only Americans) use Instagram nowadays much more than any other platform...
     
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  6. Nov 15, 2019 #6

    madelinez

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    I find most full-time western makers tend to focus on higher quality knives with more attention to small cosmetic details. There are a lot of really good Japanese knifemakers that make great knives (functionally) for $300-450. Typically though they don't go the final mile (that honestly probably takes more time than the rest of the process) so what you get is functionally a good knife with a number of small defects. They also generally produce a very small range of knives and push these out in volume. The only functional thing that you miss out on in my opinion is the more time consuming grinds like convex to help with food release. Or occasionally with some makers a less than ideal profile where you'll get accordion vegetables. These are all broad generalizations and of course there are a few Japanese makers that focus in the higher quality region.

    Western makers seem to offer a way greater range of steels, profiles, grinds and generally offer some quirky stuff. They also tend to start at the medium end of the price bracket going all the way up to the insane end and the quality generally mirrors this. The customer service and flexibility also tends to be excellent. I love my relatively cheaper Japanese knives but it can be a nice experience dealing with a western maker. The price might seem obscene but the amount of labor (and throw-away failures) that goes into creating unique knives is significant, additionally things like making their own Damascus, san mai or integrals all take a lot of time compared to the pre-made stuff a lot of Japanese smiths use.

    I suspect the reason they don't get more attention is simply because most people don't want to spend that kind of money.
     
  7. Nov 15, 2019 #7

    madelinez

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    Oh and of course the most well known Japanese makers are actually small teams. If you've ever seen photos/videos of Takeda's workshop it operates more like a factory production line than what most people probably realise. They'll create 30 210mm gyutos at the same time, one guy will do the forging, another will grind, another will sharpen, another will attach the handles. When you can create 20x as many knives, you're selling to 20x as many people and you're going to be far more widely known.
     
  8. Nov 15, 2019 #8

    Xenif

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    Here are two examples of American Knives (actually both New York) 100 years apart. Don't think America ever stop making knives, just how we perceives knives, theirs ergo/economics have changed. DSC_4496.jpeg

    Bonus points if you can name the plane
     
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  9. Nov 15, 2019 #9

    Interapid101

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    Looks like a P-51A.

    +1 on the Instagram presence for knifemakers. Prices can be all over the place. Do not use the retail prices of Homebutcher.com as representative of prices you could find from other retailers or especially from the makers directly.
     
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  10. Nov 15, 2019 #10

    Jaszer13

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    American Makers are all (for the most part) handmade and small batch forged. The attention to detail is much greater than most run of the mill Japanese knives IE; Masamoto, Tanaka, Shigefusa ...etc where you would pay $300-$500 for a mass produced knife.

    Most American makers are making unique knives with unique profiles every time. Very rarely do I see American makers make the same knife over and over again. For the 1K mark, most of the time you will be able to customize your knife and pick the handle material, geometry and even metal blend.

    I do although agree with you that sometimes American Makers demand a much higher premium when they build more notoriety. IE: Hazenberg used to sell his knives for $300-$500, try to get one from his auction and you are looking at $2K, same goes for Fell Knives and a few others.

    If you are looking for a good custom american knife, my recommendation would be HSC///or Gambler Customs. You can get a great knife for under the $500 mark.
     
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  11. Nov 16, 2019 #11

    bahamaroot

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    A very good American maker in right your neck of the woods --> Marko Tsourkan. Excellent prices for the quality of knife he produces too.
     
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  12. Nov 16, 2019 #12

    Corradobrit1

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    Yes, looking forward to putting one of his 230WH against my Kato's when it arrives in a few days.
     
  13. Nov 16, 2019 #13

    Paul6001

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    One difference that's immediately obvious is the handles. Western makers clearly put more thought, time and effort into handles than the Japanese do. Most top of the line Japanese makers put relatively straightforward ho-wood handles on even their top models. Americans, on the other hand, see the handle as a chance to create art or to show off a bit.

    (It hardly needs saying at this point, and so far this thread has been surprisingly free of P.C. hawks, but there are obviously exceptions to the generalities being used.)
     
  14. Nov 16, 2019 #14

    Corradobrit1

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    Things are changing. Several makers, in order to make a viable living, are switching from unique limited edition or custom design knives to more standardized offerings eg Tsourkan, Catcheside, Dalman, Kamen, Xerxes to name a few. Other's have decided to leave the game altogether figuring the economics no longer make sense for them.
     
  15. Nov 16, 2019 #15

    Paul6001

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    There may be trouble ahead on the Instagram front. The same 14-year old daughter who mocked me for using Facebook—"only old people use that"—tells me that the action has moved from Instagram to TikTok. I have no idea what's on TikTok but you need to get up pretty early to keep up with social media.
     
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  16. Nov 16, 2019 #16

    Paul6001

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    I
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2019
  17. Nov 16, 2019 #17

    Paul6001

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    Those Marko Tsourkan knives are gorgeous albeit a little thick for my tastes. His site lists everything as sold out. Is he taking custom orders?

    The question of buying another knife brings me to the precipice. I'm facing a crisis. I have all the knives I need. But I want more Do I become a collector?

    A little background: My entry into the knife world was brought about by two things that coincidentally happened about the same time. First, I took a bad knee injury in a car accident in Mexico. (Fractured tibial plateau. Don't let this happen to you.) No weight bearing on my left leg for three months. I've got crutches, but it's essentially three months on my ass. Plenty of spare time to spend pointlessly on the internet.

    Second, a chunk of the handle broke off my trusty Wusthof classic chef's knife, a faithful companion for almost two decades. After a period of mourning, I was ready to replace it with the same thing. After all, this is the best knife in the world, right? Isn't it what all the pros use? But before I could click buy, I remembered something Anthony Bourdain once said about Global knives.

    Just on a whim, I did a little looking around for Global. The rest is history. And so Japanese knives became the latest material good in which my taste far exceeds my budget. First, I bought a used Shun gyuto off eBay for $80 to replace the Wusthof. So far so good. The damascus steel, something I'd never seen before, was gorgeous. So gorgeous, in fact, that soon a Shun santuko entered the picture. Both knives were terrific. (I assume their new owners are enjoying them now.)

    You see, the gyotu was dull and I had a very hard time sharpening it. (My first attempt to sharpen a knife. Obviously my fault, not the knife.) And while it's a perfectly fine knife, it clearly wasn't going to win me any points in the KKF world. (Although KKF members quickly told me how to patch up the gyuto that I had destroyed on the whetstones so I couod recover something on resale.) Plus the santuko seemed to be pointless, pretty much the same thing as the gyotu. I stepped back and reevaluated.

    By this point, Jon Broida was becoming something of a celebrity of sorts in my house. He faithfully and thoughtfully replied to all of my ridiculous emails. Korin and Yanagi are near me but they might as well have been on Mars for all the chance I had of getting to them. But with the internet supplying infinite information, I was ready to operate from home.

    I started with a gyotu, my most basic need. A 210mm Waiku to be exact. Orgasmic. Enthralling. My sharpening skills were improving and I was no longer just cutting regular paper but magazine paper specifically.

    I got a neat damascus paring knife—with a stainless handle, very cool—for $3 on eBay. I though about getting a petty but I always liked the Wusthof boning knife that I had used in that utility role. Same with the bread knife. Picked up a Tojiro nashiki from CKTG and a vintage deba from eBay with a great patina. (After a couple of weeks, I shined up the deba and began my hardest sharpening job to date.) A 1,000/6,000 sharpening stone and a leather strop.
     
  18. Nov 16, 2019 #18

    Paul6001

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    And that's it. That's all I need. That's all any home cook could possibly need. More. I could probably get by with just a gyotu. From here on out, it's hard—maybe impossible—to justify any purchase. A $1,200 Masamoto yanagi is not exactly a necessity. I've never cut a piece of sashimi in my life and I'd probably be too scared to use it, anyway. There's an infinite number of stones, but to be honest, I really don't feel the need to get a 3,000 to fit between my 1,000 and my 6,000. There's nothing that I have that falls short in terms of performance. I'm stuck.

    Should I learn to make my own knives? I should check with the neighbors downstairs but my Brooklyn brownstone isn't the ideal location. I've tried raising the subject with a few friends but they either patronize me or tell me that I'm crazy. I'm going to take a sharpening class at Korin but that's lasts only a couple of hours.

    I'm nearing the end of my period of solitary confinement and, once I'm released, I'll have a life again and my compulsion to do something knife-related might get lost in the traffic. For the moment, though, I'm jonesing. I'm jonesing something bad. I need a fix, man, I need to score.
     
  19. Nov 16, 2019 #19
    You have much to learn grasshopper.

    Hoss
     
  20. Nov 16, 2019 #20

    labor of love

    labor of love

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    If I were you I’d do a lot of looking around on Instagram. There’s so many styles, levels of quality, different handle types, different steel types, levels of experience from different makers...just start following bladesmiths whose work looks appealing to you.
     
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  21. Nov 16, 2019 #21

    HSC /// Knives

    HSC /// Knives

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    thank you very much :)

    in short, the USA is not a cheap country to live in...and it takes many hours to make a one off knife even in small batches
     
  22. Nov 16, 2019 #22

    Chuckles

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    It’s easy. Just buy a bunch of knives from BST on this site. Use them some and then sell them for a minimal loss. Repeat. It’s fun. And you can liquidate quickly when you have to.
     
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  23. Nov 16, 2019 #23

    Tim Rowland

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    There are many "Western" custom makers that can be had for sub $500 with excellent FF.
    off the top of my head:
    Dan Eastland of Dogwood Customs
    Nicholas Nichols
    Joey Berry of J.B. Knifeworks
    Kyle Daily of K.H. Daily Knives
    Nafzger Forge
    Jody Hale from Pie Cutlery
    Ryan Pepper from 310 Knife Co.

    If you delve into hobbyist western makers you can get a nice knife lower than that but will most likely have a longer wait time.
     
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  24. Nov 16, 2019 #24

    captaincaed

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    Chuckles has a point. But if you start collecting, take my advice and don’t make a spreadsheet. You won’t want to know later.
     
  25. Nov 16, 2019 #25

    Dendrobatez

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    Lots for under $500
    -Lewgriffin makes some beautiful s grinds
    -Greg cimms has amazing fit and finish
    -Federknives
    -Orchard forge
    -Knife science is making some decent knives especially for the price

    It's already been mentioned but there's a lot of western makers who are starting production lines of knives too that are competing with pricing on more commonly available knives

    Chuckles point is good too, I keep a knife fund in PayPal, when I run out of cash I sell knives so I can buy more
     
  26. Nov 16, 2019 #26

    valgard

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    Knife science? For real or are you being sarcastic?
    That dude is a joke and can't even take constructive criticism without blocking whoever tried to help or critique his work (even on DM). And he doesn't understand basic geometry, let alone metallurgy, and he has the cheek to call himself 'science'.
     
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  27. Nov 16, 2019 #27

    Dendrobatez

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    I have a 180 or 90 k-tip from him in W2 and its a great line knife, takes a lot of abuse and for the price I paid I dont mind abusing it. Grind wasnt bad, took 15 minutes on a 500grit to take it where I wanted. I dont disagree with you on your other points though
     
  28. Nov 16, 2019 #28

    crockerculinary

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    What are you talking about dude!? He is literally the greatest smith of our time, and the most expert knife expert ever ever. The whole of Japan’s knife community will run screaming like little girls when confronted by his greatness and the weight of his accomplishments. His work is completely flawless and I have a sneaking suspicion he may in fact be a god.
     
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  29. Nov 16, 2019 #29

    captaincaed

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    Damn, apparently I missed the boat. Where can I go to find tales of his epic exploits?
     
  30. Nov 16, 2019 #30

    valgard

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