Full Review: Shi.Han 52100 Gyuto

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Shi.Han – Mono KU 52100 Gyuto 210mm
363 / 229 / 211 ... 50 / 42 / 27 ... 3.2 / 2.9 / 2.3 / 1.3 ... +40 ... 195g


A Shi.Han I wanted for a long time, but it was simply out of my reasonable price league. Or, to put it like it really is, I wanted a knife in 52100, and Shi.Han would have been my first choice, wasn’t it for price, hence I was more aiming at a ZKramer at one point.

Still, a couple weeks ago I decided to ask Ai & Om about specs for their particular 210mm 52100 Gyuto. Since I pay only GST when ordering there, that’s a 10% off right out the bat, so I thought I would arm myself with the opportunity, should I eventually stumble on a shop wide event that would add a nice rebate to this knife.

The answer came swiftly, with detailed measurements. Another email followed the first even more swiftly: in measuring the unit, they realized that there was some slight pitting at the heel on the left side, and I was offered a 30% rebate on the knife would I still consider to purchase knowing that.

pitting.jpg


The pics of said problem revealed it to be next to nothing. From the other pics they sent I could also see that there was some faint longitudinal scratching on the bevels, but they weren’t willing to grant a bigger rebate. So I grinded at another angle: would they consent me another rebate should I order a couple other knives at the same time? Those knives I had spotted for practice knives and was pretty down to buy anyway. They decided to oblige, and with the final offer they made I could consider, adding the 10% PST saved from the onset and counting the additional rebate towards the Shi.Han instead, that I was getting the latter with a 40% discount and all taxes payed. It wouldn’t get much better than that.

When I asked they admitted this particular Shi.Han they had since early 2018, so it was likely made somewhere in the end of 2017. Likely they were very happy to get rid of it by now. I myself kind of liked the idea that this knife was forlorn this way. Like it’s been waiting for me, easy project knife: in person, pitting looked like some lint got stuck there. I spent but 10 minutes to remove it: it could have waited first bevel maintenance, but I had to see if it was hiding something more ugly.

So… somewhat ironically I ended up not buying the knife based on that American maker’s western-ish design as made by a German brand in Japan… I ended up buying that other American maker’s entirely Japanese design as made by himself in the United States – in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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FIT & FINISH: 5/6

Handle: 1/2

Aesthetics, Ergonomics

HFerruleBuff.jpg


As far as the slight pitting and scratching goes, I won’t account for it in this review because it’s certainly not the maker’s fault, nor a weakness of its product (well perhaps on the long run a cloth packaging and tight cork edge guard aren’t ideal to prevent moisture and oxidation, or scratches). However, another part of the “project” knife here was to entirely sand off and repolish the ferrule, which had quite a few spots of some non-washable residue of glue or whatever. What you’ll see in the pics wasn’t so neat when I got it. Another 10 minutes was thus spent there – no big deal, but still unwelcomed.

Handle1.jpg
HandleSculpt.jpg


The magnolia handle itself is perfectly sculpted, well lacquered and non-plushy after a good deal of washing, which is a first in my experience after three of these. Ferrule is perfectly sculpted too, the fitting of the blade and hole of the tang are straight and neat, as is the fit between handle and ferrule despite the long forlorn years. Without those residues on the ferrule, this was heading for a full point concerning aesthetics, but I remove half a point for having to clean up after some slightly messy job.

As always I find ergonomics to be perfect with most Wa handles, plentiful of space at the neck and choil; however in this specific case, while I like a good forward balance, 40mm forward the heel on a 210mm Gyuto is going a tad too far. I personally wouldn’t fit these knives with so light a handle, or if I had to, would find a way to counterweight the blade a bit. It’s nothing so bad, and somewhat suits the profile of the knife, but it’s still just too much to give full marks: the knife would feel better with a balance 25-30mm forward the heel at most.

Blade: 2/2
Choil, Spine

RSpine.jpg


Perfectly forged and cut to shape, the Shi.Han comes with meticulously rounded spine and choil, adding to the comfort of a spine also thick enough to provide ample consistent grip.

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Finish: 2/2
Aesthetics, Maintenance

Finish3.jpg

Here you can see the faint “mirror-ish” spotting my work to remove the pitting left behind. Up close under cold light and with the right angle, you’d also see some faint scratching. You’d be more likely to spot the longitudinal scratches left behind by the cork guard, but even these are hiding pretty well.

Being a monosteel carbon with a Kurouchi finish, there could typically be some concern towards cleaning and drying the KU perfectly to avoid pitting in a spot where it will be relatively concealed, but however no more concerning that your typical iron-cladded carbon KU. The carbon steel in this case being 52100 with the low reactivity it’s known for, I’d say this knife goes into an even easier maintenance middle ground, more forgiving than iron cladding and most carbon steel cores but still a tad more demanding than SS clad carbon. If almost three years of storage and some humidity infiltration that went unnoticed and got trap into the cork guard could only do so little pitting… In fact, the slight stain you can see on the left side about mid-blade is the only trace of patina I got from a prep involving onions, garlic, and some down time before washing the blade. Similar behavior to Yoshikane’s SKD-12 (A2).

Finish1.jpg


As for aesthetics this knife also scores in full, there’s such a high level of focus paid to the consistency of the finish, as much as there is a careful balance of elements towards a finished product of sheer, sober beauty. I’ll just shut up and let some pictures speak – and those aren’t so good pictures, yet they cannot betray the quality of the finish.

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EXPERIENCE: 3.5/4

Box: 0.5/1

Aesthetics vs. Safeguarding

Pouch.jpg


It’s a really nice and somewhat special way to present a new knife. I’m guessing the idea behind is reproducing some traditional way to giftwrap a Japanese sword or something. There’s definitely some “custom maker vibe” to this, in the present case – instead of the typical box.

I’ve read on Shehan website that this series of knives, and most others, don’t come like that anymore. It didn’t say what was used instead, nor since when it’s this way, but perhaps it has to do with the downside of such a package, which indeed only yields the Shi.Han the average score here: it’s not much to protect the knife, and in this case it seems there can be some issues with corrosion on the long run. I think I also read on the forums about some members warning about the Shi.Han edge guard – which pretty much stands, in the case of this silk bag packaging, as the only defense the knife truly has against… well anything that could happen in transit.

PouchLaceConcept.jpg

It’s no coincidence the way that cordon lies on the countertop…


Performance: 3/3
Profile, Geometry, Grind

I expected the Shi.Han to shine but for one thing: the profile. A lot of complaints around here about the “older” Shi.Han, or original Shi.Han profile being too curvy, tip too upwards, not enough flat spot… all more or less of the same thing, finally. I also could see from the vendor’s pics, and doing my initial assessment firsthand, that there wasn’t indeed much of a flat spot with this knife. Or more to the point, that the flat spot isn’t exactly located where you typically find it.

Profile.jpg


Indeed, if I’d taken that profile picture with the knife standing true on the heel – let aside the steeper recurve at the very heel – it would looked like no flat spot and all continuous belly curve. As we can see here however, there is a flat spot, and it combines from there to a still pretty flat first third of belly curve; seen this way it also means there is about 30mm of recurve to this knife, steeper at the very heel like your regular recurve for sure, but 25mm forward of that is still recurve. There, would it be in push cutting or rock chopping making use mainly of the flat spot, is the part that ensures to finish the cut in such motions where momentum/forward direction will have the knife rock back on its recurve a bit, also letting both motions flow seamlessly.

In this aspect I do see a motive behind such a forward balance, even though I maintain the point I’ve made in the Handle section that 25-30mm forward would be more natural and still keep in line with that flat spot. But who knows, while the point about balance does stand, perhaps I’m dead wrong and it wouldn’t fit the flat spot or the whole profile as well as how the maker intended this knife to be – and surely tested it to work. However, it seems clear to me that all of this may not cut it at all for those whose main cutting technique is with a pull motion – but I sure still can’t see a fault to this.

Anyhow, once I started to cut with the Shi.Han, and got accustomed with the forward heft, which really comes pretty naturally in this case and my cutting techniques, any apprehension I might have had about profile and balance, or even the fact that the geometry wasn’t of the thinnest behind the edge, melted away at once. This knife is a stunning performer, combining a workhorse feeling and grind with a pretty impressive ability for some finesse, especially at the tip despite the spine still being quite thick there. The OOTB edge was probably great out of the maker’s shop, but time passed and now some spots here and there of the whole length will also catch and tear in paper. Yet, despite this and not being so thin behind the edge, this thing cut crazy well in my tests.

Choil.JPG


Geometry here is king of food release, and hell does that knife holds a commanding but uncomplicated presence in use, the sober somewhat rugged aesthetics of it well suited to the feeling of welcoming familiarity, like a plain, solid tool you always had and will always rely on, yet providing a very distinctive and refined response in cutting. Dare I say I would have appreciated a bit more thinness behind the edge? But really I can’t see no reason to fault the original geometry: simply in the awesome category where a knife is just delighting to use.

Grind1.jpg
Grind2.jpg


The grind is beautiful work, in all aspects of visual and tactile assessment perfect, showing once again the maker’s dedication towards completeness, that he seems to mind every single element of the knife, every single step of the crafting process, and carry them to term uncompromisingly. I’m still baffled to have found the ferrule in such a dire state, because it truly just doesn’t fit with the mindfulness carried all through the blade, nor with the maker’s obvious commitment to his craft.

Grind3.jpg
Grind4.jpg



Overall Score: 8.5/10

Personal take:
I think I carried through a lot of that in this review, so I’ll leave it there.

FullR.jpg


Be well everyone!
 
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Your review mirrors my impressions of my first Shi-Han (a 240 in A2, circa late 2017).

Mine, too, was too forward-balanced. My thought, like yours, was to swap out the stock magnolia handle with something heavier, which I did.

While the new handle definitely improved the balance, it added more weight to the knife, which I didn't like.

My next thought was to send it back to Shehan and have him re-grind the front half and thin it out. He did an excellent job (I think he took off about 20 grams). This work substantially improved the cutting ability of the knife. (Shi-Han's 52100 knives now follow this same geometry - thicker in the back, thinning out towards the tip, which I consider a nice improvement).

However, now the heavy handle felt aweful in relation to the lighter blade. Impulsively, I hacked off about 2cm from the back end of the handle to correct the balance.

Anyway, the moral of the story is: if you think the knife is too blade-heavy, opt for thinning the blade rather than correcting the problem with a heavy handle.

Nice write-up, by the way!
 
Your review mirrors my impressions of my first Shi-Han (a 240 in A2, circa late 2017).

Mine, too, was too forward-balanced. My thought, like yours, was to swap out the stock magnolia handle with something heavier, which I did.

While the new handle definitely improved the balance, it added more weight to the knife, which I didn't like.

My next thought was to send it back to Shehan and have him re-grind the front half and thin it out. He did an excellent job (I think he took off about 20 grams). This work substantially improved the cutting ability of the knife. (Shi-Han's 52100 knives now follow this same geometry - thicker in the back, thinning out towards the tip, which I consider a nice improvement).

However, now the heavy handle felt aweful in relation to the lighter blade. Impulsively, I hacked off about 2cm from the back end of the handle to correct the balance.

Anyway, the moral of the story is: if you think the knife is too blade-heavy, opt for thinning the blade rather than correcting the problem with a heavy handle.

Nice write-up, by the way!

Nice of you to share this experience. Now let's say it took like 5 sandings and a couple of in-depth thinning to remove 10g out of my Moritaka... I'm not sure I want to go there with the Shi.Han, and being in Canada, I also won't send the knife back to him.

I'd be interested to know what handle you went to install that corrected that balance enough to your likings. I won't mind if the knife is heavier. I'd say that 25-30 grams over the actual weight I wouldn't mind, was that the kind of ballpark added to yours?
 
Nice of you to share this experience. Now let's say it took like 5 sandings and a couple of in-depth thinning to remove 10g out of my Moritaka... I'm not sure I want to go there with the Shi.Han, and being in Canada, I also won't send the knife back to him.

I'd be interested to know what handle you went to install that corrected that balance enough to your likings. I won't mind if the knife is heavier. I'd say that 25-30 grams over the actual weight I wouldn't mind, was that the kind of ballpark added to yours?

The handle was made by Cody Paul and was ringed gidgee with African blackwood. I think it added something like 50 grams or more, but that's just from memory.

I would not want to try to take 20 grams off a knife without power tools, that's for sure!
 
Thoes early Shi.Han knives are nice.
Mine was chunky, but the F&F and steel are excellent.
He doesn't push the hardness on his 52100 so it is durable and nice on the stones.
The handles are the best he could source from Sakai.
The cloth covers are made from vintage kimonos. Maybe he ran out of cloth...
The old stamps were way cool....
 
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Thoes early Shi.Han knives are nice.
Mine was chunky, but the F&F and steel are excellent.
He push the hardness on his 52100 so it is durable and nice on the stones.
The handles are the best he could source from Sakai.
The cloth covers are made from vintage kimonos. Maybe he ran out of cloth...
The old stamps were way cool....

Thanks for the extra info!
 
Now why couldn't they have offered me that deal when I asked about the dimensions on that knife earlier this year?

Perhaps it didn’t have it then. And as I said, in person it really didn’t look like much, nor was so apparent as in the pic.
 
Perhaps it didn’t have it then. And as I said, in person it really didn’t look like much, nor was so apparent as in the pic.

Quite possible, but it was only July when I emailed them. I'm only a little sad, as at 30% off I would've bought it. But because I didn't use budget on that I've bought a Kono YS-M, MM and I just bought a Dalman, so I can't really complain too much.

And it went to a KKF'er so there bonuses in the situation.
 
Thank you for sharing, very helpful. You are an asset here.

The best part of my reviews is when more informed folks leave details on maker, process, steel... like @parbaked did here and if I’m not wrong, also did on a couple other occasions.

But thanks I do aim to augment the wealth of knowledge here with little contributions.
 
The best part of my reviews is when more informed folks leave details on maker, process, steel... like @parbaked did here and if I’m not wrong, also did on a couple other occasions.

But thanks I do aim to augment the wealth of knowledge here with little contributions.
Maybe sometime I'll send you a knife to review if you'll be up for it. A month or so of use; and I have quite the assortment in case you've done a lot.
 
Well I’d be happy to, really, if you ever feel inclined to just hit me on PM. Keep in mind I’m in Canada though, no hard feelings if the prospect deters you. 😉
 
I've been away from this forum for a long time and this maker is brand new to me. That's one absolute stunner of a knife, congrats and great review!
 
Thank you so much for the review! got much information, the F&F, choil looks great!
 

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