Ripoff of Don Nguyen's designs?

Discussion in 'The Off Topic Room' started by Zwiefel, Jan 12, 2016.

Help Support Kitchen Knife Forums by donating:

Corona Virus
  1. Jan 13, 2016 #31

    CrisAnderson27

    CrisAnderson27

    CrisAnderson27

    Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2013
    Messages:
    467
    No problem my friend :).

    Also, to clarify...I'm not saying you all should throw Stephen under the bus. I've known him a good while now and he's never been anything but decent to me. That said, if you feel strongly about what he did here you should let him know. Some people don't have the same understanding of boundaries as others, which is not to say they are 'rude' or 'disrespectful' etc...they just don't realize they've overstepped on occasion. A reminder of that can do wonders for a situation...and will often fix things before outright contention is required.
     
  2. Jan 13, 2016 #32

    WildBoar

    WildBoar

    WildBoar

    Home cook, knife accumulator Founding Member Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2011
    Messages:
    4,266
    Location:
    NoVa (US)
    hey, there are a lot of sharp knives around here, so one would be wise to learn about boundaries sooner rather then later :bat:
     
  3. Jan 13, 2016 #33

    mikedtran

    mikedtran

    mikedtran

    Senior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2015
    Messages:
    1,368
    Great points Cris and thanks for adding clarity to the situation.

    I have to say I have been on fan of Don's work for quite sometime and all this talk about his work really makes me want one of his blades and want it NOW!!!!
     
  4. Jan 13, 2016 #34

    Zwiefel

    Zwiefel

    Zwiefel

    Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2012
    Messages:
    3,266
    Heh, sage advice Dave.

    They are certainly worth seeking out. I'm extremely fond of mine, although he's changed a number of things since.
     
  5. Jan 13, 2016 #35
    Don's work has certainly evolved since I passed around his prototype back in 2012:

    [​IMG]
     
  6. Jan 13, 2016 #36

    Lefty

    Lefty

    Lefty

    Canada's Sharpest Lefty Founding Member

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2011
    Messages:
    5,504
    That was a great knife.
     
  7. Jan 13, 2016 #37

    CrisAnderson27

    CrisAnderson27

    CrisAnderson27

    Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2013
    Messages:
    467
    6 months my friend. Don's got big plans coming up here very shortly :D
     
  8. Jan 13, 2016 #38

    mikedtran

    mikedtran

    mikedtran

    Senior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2015
    Messages:
    1,368
    I'm definitely on his mailing list and been looking for something that fits my needs/wants. Just haven't seen anything just yet.

    The tease of teases!

    As silly as it is the fact that he is Vietnamese (I am also) makes me want one of his knives more hahahhaah
     
  9. Jan 13, 2016 #39

    Chuckles

    Chuckles

    Chuckles

    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2012
    Messages:
    1,856
    Don is a great guy. I bet he would really appreciate being credited by makers incorporating his unique design elements.


    Worst pic ever.

    image.jpg
     
  10. Jan 13, 2016 #40

    Dave Martell

    Dave Martell

    Dave Martell

    Forum Founder Professional Craftsman

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2011
    Messages:
    13,836
    Location:
    Airville, PA
    1. Give credit where credit is due.

    2. Clean up your damn tangs before mounting your scales!
     
  11. Jan 13, 2016 #41

    mikedtran

    mikedtran

    mikedtran

    Senior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2015
    Messages:
    1,368
    That Saya!!!
     
  12. Jan 13, 2016 #42

    chefcomesback

    chefcomesback

    chefcomesback

    Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2013
    Messages:
    1,801
    Don ?
     
  13. Jan 13, 2016 #43

    malexthekid

    malexthekid

    malexthekid

    Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2014
    Messages:
    1,896
    I assume Dave was talking to the original post.

    And disappointed to see i was wrong after giving benefit of the doubt. But as i said, not a fan if his knives anyway
     
  14. Jan 13, 2016 #44

    Zwiefel

    Zwiefel

    Zwiefel

    Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2012
    Messages:
    3,266
    I remember that...sorta.

    Black linen micarta, made by Don himself.
     
  15. Jan 14, 2016 #45

    Dave Martell

    Dave Martell

    Dave Martell

    Forum Founder Professional Craftsman

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2011
    Messages:
    13,836
    Location:
    Airville, PA

    Definitely not Don.
     
  16. Jan 14, 2016 #46

    Chuckles

    Chuckles

    Chuckles

    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2012
    Messages:
    1,856
    I keep thinking about this. How Don's knives are novel in a number of ways. These other knives may look like Don's work on Instagram but if you were able to hold them and cut with them there is no way there could be any confusion about who is leading and who is following.
     
  17. Jan 14, 2016 #47

    Zwiefel

    Zwiefel

    Zwiefel

    Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2012
    Messages:
    3,266
    I would be shocked to discover otherwise.
     
  18. Jan 14, 2016 #48

    CrisAnderson27

    CrisAnderson27

    CrisAnderson27

    Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2013
    Messages:
    467
    This is something that all makers who are being copied face. Their work is usually above average in most if not all aspects...grind, heat treat, profile, fit and finish...etc. EVERY quality maker of ANY kind of knives (kitchen knives in particular though...as they have become very popular as a source of income for knife makers...and Forged in Fire just made it worse for some reason) has other knife makers for at least 60% of his followers in places like Instagram and Facebook. Soon his feed is full of copycat lookalikes with only a nod to anything original in the design. Choil shape, profile, general handle shape...etc. The idea for these guys is to make a quick buck by copying the 'look'...without having to put the effort into the product. People fall for it because their knives are 40% or more less expensive...and they have NO WAY of knowing what they didn't get, because they never got their hands on an original to compare it to. Thus the guy doing all the work lost out, and the customer got screwed by someone who probably thinks himself that he's making equal quality knives and simply undercutting the pricing.

    There was a semi-well known smith here locally that was asked by another less well known smith to teach him to make kitchen knives. The better known maker had put a lot of work into his product with a number of rather unique aspects that were learned through years of making and studying. He declined to teach the newer guy specifics, but allowed him over to his shop a cou, as he was making his living with his work and had a number of unrelated reasons not to trust the other maker. Next thing you know, the other guy is making kitchen knives and claiming to have been 'apprenticed' by the better known gentleman. The experienced smith was a little irritated, but when he was invited to a meet that he knew the less experienced gentleman would be at, he brought a few of his finished knives to set side by side with the ones he supposedly 'taught' the newer maker to build. He also brought a cutting board and some produce.

    Needless to say, after one cut side by side, no one even looked twice at the new guys product. The performance, fit, finish, aesthetics, and general presence of the better known maker's knives stole the show. Even the newer maker was shocked at the difference...thinking that a kitchen knife was simply a flat ground piece of thin steel.

    However, at the end of the afternoon...the established guy found out that the younger maker had sold 26 knives in the preceding month and a half...for $450 each (60-75% less than a knife from the known guy)...all using the reputation of his supposed 'mentor'. To me...this is directly comparable to your comment Chuckles...and it's a complete shame.
     
  19. Jan 14, 2016 #49

    Asteger

    Asteger

    Asteger

    Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2013
    Messages:
    2,048
    The discussion above obviously relates a lot to the emerging markets and practises specifically in the US, and no surprise that lots of this stuff would go on.

    One reaction I have is how so-so knives sold by new makers can have an adverse negative impact on how quality knives by 'established' makers are. For eg, disappointed buyers of the $450 knives by the so-called apprentice could then wonder if the mentor's knives are equally crap. His reputation slides due to an unwanted link to a wannabe or apprenctice maker.

    Sorry, but another thought I have is that the discussion so far reassures me again that I'm still best aiming my purchases toward the safer shores of Japan and Japanese makers, rather than chance things on stuff from elsewhere.
     
  20. Jan 14, 2016 #50

    MAS4T0

    MAS4T0

    MAS4T0

    Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2013
    Messages:
    923
    I think this is the issue faced by a lot of western makers trying to transition from hobbyists to full-time professionals and the reason why so few of them actually make the transition. While $450 is quite a significant amount of money to spend for a Japanese knife, and for that ballpark figure you can choose from some great knives (Mizuno, Shigefusa, Kato, etc.),it is in most cases insufficient for a western custom.

    There are very few (good) western knife makers who can produce a gyuto for that price unless they're only charging $5 per hour for their labour. I think that there is also a false sense of how much this kind of work actually costs and that many people would find a price point of $450 to be 'reassuringly expensive'. I know that some people assume think that good ft and finish (for instance) is purely about skill, and not recognising the need to take your time. Of course it does take great skill, but I'm meaning that they would think that all handles are thrown together and shaped within a few minutes and the difference in F&F is attributable to the skill of the maker rather than also being heavily dependant on the time invested.

    I guess the point I'm making is that people assume that all makers take a similar amount of time to make a knife and that the pricing is therefore determined primarily by how much the maker is charging as his hourly rate (rather than the number of hours taken).

    I remember on a Sword forging video by Walter Sorrells there were a number of comments asking why his work is so expensive and it was only after a lot of back and forth (with Walter) that any of them seemed to understand that there's a lot more too it and it takes a lot longer than the 12 minute directors cut shown in the video. Walter also explained about how he makes the lowest hourly rate when making his most expensive blades, which I'd imagine is not at all uncommon for other knife makers.

    Edit: Walter made a video about it as it must have been asked very often:

     
  21. Jan 14, 2016 #51

    CrisAnderson27

    CrisAnderson27

    CrisAnderson27

    Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2013
    Messages:
    467
    This has been hashed over...pretty much to death. You're honestly not a ton safer with a 'Japanese' knife than with a Western knife. I've seen a $1200 Misono with a huge overgrind. Misono's response to the problem when approached?

    "The edge of a blade is steel.

    It isn’t go back to be as good as new.

    But it is natural condition.

    I think you don’t worry about it.

    Sincerely yours,
    Mizunotanrenjo"

    I think the main perceived value of Japanese knives is 'Well, I only paid $2xx for it and it cuts food better than Western production knives, so I can overlook overgrinds and fit and finish issues'. I know this isn't an issue across the board of course...and certainly doesn't apply to the above (rather expensive) Misono, but it's the perception I have from the growing number of Japanese knives I've handled, which includes price points starting from a JKI Ikazuchi to said Misono.

    Understand also, I'm not defending Western makers nor am I attacking Japanese makers. I'm just saying that the assumption of 'Japanese is a safe bet' has been proven false many times...other than it's sometimes less expensive, making for a less expensive 'gamble'. There are plenty of Japanese makers who've put out junk, and plenty of Western makers with a reputation for solid high performance and quality. The onus is on you as the consumer to do your research on either before dropping your money.

    And as for the story in my previous post, the moral is that if you buy from some podunk maker with no established reputation who is obviously trying to hustle you with name dropping or glaring similarities to an established guy's knives...be prepared for the results of your gamble to come out as something other than in your favor. Go into it with eyes open and understand that the purchase is what it is, a gamble...and don't be scared to ask for your money back if you have issues that the maker won't fix or even acknowledge (another hallmark of a rip-off artist). You may not get it, but at least the stink caused might warn others away. You might also consider asking the guy who's being used as a selling point.

    Anyhow, just a few thoughts from the other side of that fence :).
     
  22. Jan 14, 2016 #52

    CrisAnderson27

    CrisAnderson27

    CrisAnderson27

    Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2013
    Messages:
    467
    Sorry, that's 'Mizuno' obviously. I have a hell of a time keeping all of the names straight lol.
     
  23. Jan 14, 2016 #53

    MAS4T0

    MAS4T0

    MAS4T0

    Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2013
    Messages:
    923
    That's sad to learn, do you have any images of the blade? I'd be interested to see that whole conversation.

    I have one (with no such issues) and I'm currently in the process of commissioning another custom Mizuno through Koki. I couldn't be more pleased with the one I have.

    Was it a deep over-grind or a long one (which would be worked out with thinning)?
     
  24. Jan 14, 2016 #54

    Asteger

    Asteger

    Asteger

    Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2013
    Messages:
    2,048
    But I think any knifemaker should have a proficient command of kanji and Japanese language, no? :cool2:

    No wish to steer the thread in that J vs Others direction again, but was just a reaction to the story of the $450 'apprentice'. Having lived in Japan I can't imagine that sort of thing there, the 'instant knifemaker' although who knows. Anyway, most of us here should know better, but people can be duped and sounds like in this case they were.
     
  25. Jan 14, 2016 #55

    chiffonodd

    chiffonodd

    chiffonodd

    Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2015
    Messages:
    1,110
    Cris I wanted to thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts in this thread. It's been very informative to get your perspective on these issues - a rare window into a world that I've been admiring as a consumer, but have had really no opportunity to understand from the maker's side of things. You've been fair, balanced, and quite thoughtful throughout. Very cool to get a sense of the artist/thinker/craftsman behind the blade.
     
  26. Jan 14, 2016 #56

    Dave Martell

    Dave Martell

    Dave Martell

    Forum Founder Professional Craftsman

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2011
    Messages:
    13,836
    Location:
    Airville, PA
    I'm in a somewhat unique position being a professional sharpener (turned knifemaker) as I've seen, handled, and fixed many knives from all over the world. I can say confidently that non-Japanese knifemakers don't do a great job when first starting out. *Note - I'd bet that this would be true in Japan as well but since they apprentice for years (before selling under their own name) we don't see those results like we do in the western knife world.

    Unfortunately in the kitchen knifemaking world, I'm sad to say, many US knifemakers never do a truly great job regardless of experience but can do nice enough work. Some seem to do really fancy work (like those everything but the kitchen sink handles and beautiful hand rubbed finishes) yet lack on performance aspects such as profile and/or geometry yet others get the performance down but lack on basic fit & finish issues.

    New western makers usually excel at sales though.....so why is that? Well, they're priced to sell.

    The pricing is low enough that people feel that they're getting a deal. It's simple - they look at the lesser priced knife compared to the higher priced knife and can't see the difference - they buy the cheaper one.

    Also consider that in today's easily skewed techno driven world that the social networks are often used to the new maker's advantage. Social networking is used to bolster their image, they post a bunch of videos and tons of pictures (especially hipster/new age-esque in design) and the flies are drawn to the light as if someone's giving away something for free.

    Then there's the fact that people always want to try the new in thing and this couldn't be more true than in today's superficial-have to beat out my neighbor-world.

    Lots of new makers use these things to their advantage and they can't be blamed for it.



    Now for Japanese knives....my opinion is that you get more for your money with a Japanese knife especially true in the low-mid price point than you will from a western knifemaker. What I mean is that there isn't going to be a western knifemaker offering the level of performance of a Japanese knife at the $200-300 price point - it'll never happen. I could argue that this will hold true even up to the $400 mark and well beyond as well.

    Japanese knives, however, are truly poor in regards to fit 'n finish (f&f). Sharp tangs/choils and cheap handles are readily found at the low-mid price point but the profiles and grinds are almost always superb. I think it's a safer bet going with a Japanese knife if you can't extend towards the higher price point in the western custom world, you're more likely to get the best performance even if the f&F is poor.

    Now when you cruise on up into the $500+ price range this starts to change a bit and considerations should be given to the western knifemaker. At this price point the main difference may simply be better f&f and better quality materials in the handle. The profile and geometry may or may not be on par with the Japanese equivalent.

    Going above that price point the western knifemaker begins to offer some variations in the level of f&f plus premium components get used but the greatest thing should be the overall package and how it all fits together for a better user experience. The feel of the handle, balance, quickness of the blade on the board, food release, etc are the key things in this price point. Unfortunately these are the things that aren't easy to know unless you use the knife compared to others. A top priced western made knife can look the part but be a dead ass clunker on the board. It could be true that a $1000 western knife with the nicest fanciest handle could under perform compared to a Tojiro priced at <$100.

    The $1000 Japanese knife is not always so great either. It will be true that the grind and profile will likely always be great but the f&f (and handle) can remain sub-par even at this price point. You won't get a dead ass clunker from Japan but just because the knife is "mirror polished" doesn't mean it's worth an extra $500 either.

    Then there's honyaki, the best of the best from Japan. Great edge retention and often finished beautifully as well but damn they are a pain in the ass to maintain. Super hard, somewhat brittle, and tough to raise a burr and then get rid of it. I've never seen a reason to pay for displeasure.

    Speaking of edge retention and sharpenablity, this is where I think the western maker has a (potential) advantage. Western makers use controlled environments (many going beyond temp controlled ovens to employ salt baths, cryo, etc) for heat treating to ensure top performance. Now this isn't to say that all western knifemakers do a better job than the Japanese just because they use more controlled environments for heat treating but they do have the ability to. I've seen some Japanese knives that are super sweet to sharpen and the same is true for western knives but I've seen far more Japanese knives that have overheated edges that are brittle and troublesome to work with than I have from western makers. The western makers who screw up in this regard are often found to be doing the eyeball in the flame method of heat treat similar to the way the Japanese (for the most part) do it.

    I don't mean to offend or upset anyone with this post, just giving out my thoughts on the subjects of new knifemakers and the value of Western (custom) vs Japanese kitchen knives.....take it for what it's worth.

    Dave
     
  27. Jan 14, 2016 #57

    WildBoar

    WildBoar

    WildBoar

    Home cook, knife accumulator Founding Member Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2011
    Messages:
    4,266
    Location:
    NoVa (US)
    It's a funny thing where a J-knive for $150 is a great cutter then you dump in many hours to ease spine/ choil, thin behind edge, replace handle, etc. With western makers your money seems to go more for the fit 'n' finish, and only once you clear a certain price point ($400?) does the blade geometry get the attention it needs to have. Many buy the inexpensive J-knife and then put in the hours, but if your add in the value of your time it really is no where near a $150 knife once it is all done. The nice thing is both routes are available, and for pros going with a good cutter that then needs hours of refinement is much easier to swing financially than a western knife brought to the same cutting standards.

    (sorry, following along the line of Dave M's post, and straying form the original topic quite a bit)
     
  28. Jan 14, 2016 #58

    malexthekid

    malexthekid

    malexthekid

    Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2014
    Messages:
    1,896
    I think the old topic is a bit finished but would love for this to continue.

    My personal purchasing habits has me tending towards highet end western makers, and a few of the higher end japanese ones.
    I would personally prefer to pay more for a knife that needs no extra work for me apart from maintenance
     
  29. Jan 14, 2016 #59

    MAS4T0

    MAS4T0

    MAS4T0

    Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2013
    Messages:
    923
    All great info Dave! Thank you for sharing your observations.

    I quoted this section as I would like to ask your view on something related.

    I've been tending towards the damascus offerings of Japanese smiths, which are often at a similar price point to the Honyaki (if not higher). I've been doing so because I want the smith's best work but I don't want the hassle of a Honyaki. Is it a reasonable expectation that a damascus blade will be given additional care and attention (on par with a Honyaki) or does it seem to you that the extra cost gets you a prettier blade which performs on par with the standard clad blade?
     
  30. Jan 14, 2016 #60

    Dave Martell

    Dave Martell

    Dave Martell

    Forum Founder Professional Craftsman

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2011
    Messages:
    13,836
    Location:
    Airville, PA
    IMO the Japanese damascus clad knives are no different from their standard clad knives as far as performance is concerned. I personally think they look nice though and sometimes they can be finished really nicely like Shigefusa for example. Speaking of Shigefusa damascus, it stinks, as in it smells forever because it never patinas fully, it isn't something I care for beyond it's looks. That's common with mild steel and iron cladding. There's many pretty looking Japanese clad knives that don't stink. Keep in mind that clad knives are usually thicker than non-clad.

    For performance damascus I'd look towards western makers. You can get a honyaki performance level (without the downside of honyaki - difficult maintenance) mono-steel knife made completely from damascus and even get it in stainless if you desire.
     

Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page

Group Builder