- Feb 28, 2011
- Reaction score
First, the specs and nitty-gritty:
Steel - 15n20/1085
Pattern Feather Pattern, Hand rubbed and lightly buffed.
HT - Oil quench, Double tempered for 58-60hrc.
Blade length 239mm
Blade depth over choil 40mm
Choil - 2.5mm
Middle point 1.7mm
1 from tip - 1mm
Thickness behind the bevel back to tip 0.3mm 0.2mm 0.15mm
Grind Ground on 2 planes then blended- Partially convex.
Edge bevel Set at 11/12 degrees per side. Highly polished.
Handle length 160 mm
Handle Materials Natural Madronne Burl/Boycote with a brass spacer. Slotted aluminium Dowel inside.
Knife weight 200 grams
Balance point Between front of handle and choil.
Specs where taken from Will Catchesides original post. To read the whole post, and see some pics and video of the knife when it was new (sans patina) click to:
This a long-coming review of a knife that I picked up last year. However, it takes a few months of living with a knife for me to really feel like its mine and that I know and understand it. So, I took my time with the review to make sure that I could really do it justice. I broke the review up into sections and gave each a score out of 10, but I didnt total them up, because I feel like its very difficult to properly weight each section in importance and it would be more math than I feel like doing just to end up with a number than wouldnt necessarily translate to anyone else.
1) Over-all Fit & Finish and Build Quality. 10/10
As you can see in the above specs, there is no question that premium materials where used in both the blade and handle. However, what isnt full represented in the specs are the breathtaking precession, care, and craftsmanship that where used to turn the materials into a knife. The finish and build quality of this knife goes beyond a simple lack of defects, and reaches into that next level that instantly tells you this is something special when its in your hands.
Wills out-of-the-box edge was as sharp as any edge that Ive ever felt. It was a highly polished edge that was not totally toothless, but was obviously done to show ultimate sharpness, not bite. Its clear that he really enjoys sharpening and wanted to show what his steel was capable of. It sure got my attention.
2) Blade: 10/10
Feather is one of my favorite damascus patterns and Wills 6000 layer version is the featheryest of the the feather patterns that Ive seen. Often times forge-welded, folded patterns are kept to just a few hundred layers because more layers would be too fine to show good contrast and variety in the design. However, the effect created by the high layer count and Wills pattern is really unique and beautiful and very appropriate in its application. He lined the center or spine of the pattern up vey well with the center of the blade so it really looks like a metallic feather from some type of mythical raptor. The pattern also has a very liquid kinetic quality so it also kind of reminds me of the rippled surface of very shallow flowing water.
According to Will, his design philosophy for the function of this blade was to make something that capable of getting very sharp, but would have excellent resistance to chipping as well as be very easy to maintain. This is shown in his choice of steels and heat treating. Both 1085 and 15n20 are simple carbon steels, and fairly similar aside from 15n20s nickle content (which adds contrast to the pattern). 1085 is described by zknives as a high carbon spring steel and 15n20 is a bandsaw blade steel, that, if Im correct, is very similar to the L6 steel that is also often favored by sword makers for its toughness and ability to take some serious abuse. In a culture where high hardness seems to be king, I really respect and appreciate Wills decision to temper to just 58-60hrc and trade a couple points of rockwell for extreme damage resistance and easy touch-up /sharpenability. This is far and away the easiest edge to maintain that I own. Maintenance-free edge retention is decent, but noting extraordinary like some of the fancy PM steels or ultra-high tempered Japanese steel that Ive used, but it is amazing how long an edge that seems dead can be brought back to life with just a kiss of a smooth steel hone or quick strop on leather. The result is that I end up putting this blade to the stones less often than I do some much harder steels with which some might consider to have better edge retention.
When the edge finally does wear to the point that it needs a visit with the stones, I seldom have to go below one of my high-grit J-nat finishers. The steel cuts quickly and easily, but It doesnt have the mushy, sticky, stale gum feel on the stones the some soft German steels seem to have. I also have not had a major problem de-burring and the stropping on diamond charged leather is very rewarding because of how quickly the steel gets insanely sharp, but it have found that I need to use some restraint on the strops because the steel is fairly easy to over-polish.
Folks with smaller hands or more traditional tastes would probably rate the handle much differently because its a BIGun. Its the largest knife handle that Ive ever held and putting it on a 242mm Suji was another bold and gutsy move, but Im really glad that Will did it. The handle is actually shockingly light weight and does not make the knife handle heavy at all. Im guessing that the weight was actually carefully calculated based on the fact that there is a solid aluminum dowel in its core. I find that it actually balances the blade very well both in fell and appearance. It tapers very well and I find it to be very comfortable and to offer great control. The finish on the wood is neither high-gloss or matte and it has a really cool kinda stealth figuring to it that is only fully seen from certain angles / light which I think matches with the aesthetic of the blade well.
Will maintained the same design philosophy of strength and durability in how he shaped and profiled the blade and ground the bevels. The convex grind, delayed distal taper, and delayed drop to the point all result in a blade that feels very light in the hand and looks very thin, but is incredibly rigid for its stature. It really is like a steel feather. I have never been a laser fetishist or cheered that heroin-chic blade ascetic, but after a few months with this knife, I did find myself wishing that it cut with just a tad less resistance. If you look that the original thread on this knife (link at top) you will see that will actually crafted this knife with a much more bulbous nose and then later gave it a nose job which resulted in a schnoz that might have sacrificed a little in the invincibility department, but gained a lot when it comes to performance. I eventually decided to do the same thing with the relatively thick and steep convex section behind the edge. So far I have only lowered the primary edge bevel just a couple degrees and thinned the area behind the edge by just a few microns, but there has been a noticeable improvement / reduction of cutting effort. The blade is still very robust and the combination of gind and narrow width means that sticking is a non-issue.
As for the profile, I have mixed feelings: Over-all the angle from heel to tip is adequate and provides enough knuckle clearance at the handle. I also appreciate the long, mostly dead-flat section of the blade, but I would be willing to sacrifice some of it in exchange for a more gradual, sweeping belly and transition to the tip. I also prefer a longer, flatter angled sweet spot out near the tip.
This knife is a stunning and masterful piece of art and craft when judged on any scale, but its absolutely mind-blowing to think that this was one of Wills early works and done while he was still a hobbyist maker. Its a very proficient protein-slicer, the tip sails though onion and the flat profile chops and dices well. The thin, narrow, yet robust blade makes it a natural for the though jobs that you might not normally think a suji could handle (it destroys butternut squash). Its without a double the best bargain I have ever found and probably will ever find in the knife world. I actually felt guilty paying less than $400 for this knife, but I understand that at the time Will was still getting started in the kitchen knife world and building his
reputation. This knife paints an interesting picture of its maker: it shows someone with a clear mastery of forging and shaping steel and wood and a very advanced understanding of the subtle details that make or break a kitchen knife, but who is also brave enough to make some pretty bold and unconventional design decisions. Wills passion for this work shows loud and clear. He was great to correspond with and he included 1.5 pages of typed details about this knife, his finishing and sharpening process, and its maintenance and care. There was also an additional hand-written thank-you. The note reminded me of a parent dropping their baby off for the first day of pre-school and reinforced the care that he puts into his work. I am honored to have this knife in my collection and plan to add a sibling (sooner rather than later, so I get the order in before his prices and wait list start to reflect the quality of his work
I hope that this review was informative or at least interesting. Organizing and writing a review on something a deceptively complex as a high-end kitchen knife is not easy and Im still kinda figuring it out. Thanks for reading and Id really appreciate any comments or feedback.
Full photo gallery here:
Old video that I shot while experimenting with/ learning technique here: