Simon Maillet Honbazuke Diary

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I received my first Western custom from Simon Maillet a few weeks back, and whilst the overall knife is great and I’m very happy with it, I did notice a few things that will need resolving in order to get the most from the knife, and facilitate a good future polish.

They include:

- Some warps and bends along the edge of the knife.

- Slightly inconsistent angles on each side of the bevel, and more prominent Shinogi shoulders in some areas than others (this is not as far as I can tell a deliberate asymmetric grind, and just needs to be evened out a bit).

- Slight heel overgrind on one side of the knife.

- A hole in the back third of the edge profile, and a noticeably prominent section of the edge that sits proud right at the heel and has a lesser-to-no microbevel, probably caused by slightly less grinding in this area on the wheel or belt.

The surface of the bevels look pretty uniform to me, without anything to suggest overgrinds other than the one spot on the heel I already noted above.

Unless there are some surprises along the way, that should mean it’s fairly smooth sailing once I get to putting the knife on benchstones, but you’ll have to join me on this fun and educational journey to find out…

IMG_1631.jpeg



Some reference pics for the Before:

Hole in edge:
IMG_1715.jpeg


Heel overgrind and shrinking microbevel towards heel:
IMG_1718.jpeg


Another angle of the protruding heel:
IMG_1721.jpeg
 
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Day One:

The first tasks to tick off (other than the overall appraisal) are to straighten the edge and spine, and fix the gaps in the edge.

If there’s a knack to straightening knives, I’d love to know it, because this **** took me ages to fix.

The main issues were a fairly pronounced curve right at the heel of the knife, which eased off into a more gradual bend along the back third. This then transitioned into a warp taking the edge in the other direction somewhere around the front third of the blade, which became quite pronounced right at the tip.

I don’t own a straightening stick, so I used a combination of pressing the knife against a wooden table and raising the handle, plus light taps with a ball peen hammer to gradually even things out. I haven’t really done this on a knife with imperfections on multiple axis before and was erring on the side of cautious interventions, so it took me about 2 hours in total.

I’m not 100% convinced everything is perfectly straight, but it’s a lot better than the starting point.

I also fixed the profile by sharpening the edge at 45 degrees on either side of my Atoma 140, removing the hole in the edge and raising the very end of the heel up a touch for a more organic motion on the board.

If you have never sharpened a knife directly on one of these, it is a truly unpleasant experience reminiscent of nails on a chalkboard.

At this point I was feeling pretty tired and done with knife stuff for the day, but I’ll double check my work the next time I have time to progress this project before continuing, making small refinements as necessary.
 
For correcting bends I prefer to move from the tip back to the heel. Make everything forward of the bend your correcting straight relative to the exit of the bend you’re examining. Then bring that back in line. Easier to conceptualize in person that explain. Also depending on the bend working at the spine vs edge is a decision to make. You should make a stick, much easier. But yeah, take your time and go slow
 
Straightening time -- yepp

Its taken me that long the first couple times. Even now some tricky knives take me hours on and off. I've straightened a couple dozen knives so far. Yeah go slow, it's possible to crack blades at the edge, or also crease iron. I straighten hmm. . . Well I straighten from heel to tip, sometimes middle to tip, so opposite from @ethompson.

Wide bevel knives are very susceptible to the edge recurve like you have with your knife. Its very easy to follow the wide bevel instead of following the edge profile -- more swarf comes out. There's a lot of tricks to get a recurve out -- sharpen until there's a burr everywhere (so, a functional recurve, if the recurve is still there), or sharpen in an imaginary edge profile you want the knife to have. If there's a twist then that's hard to work with as well -- a hammer or if necessary a carbide hammer can deal with that. You can get sheet metal to experiment to see how hammer blows untwist or unbend things. I've handled a raquin with a recurve like that so, not unusual

Extremely helpful is the control of a bending stick that has slots that fit tight, especially for the tip. The wood table method works fine -- a tighter fit than most bending sticks. You could also use a clamp of some sort.

Its easy to thin the very heel and form a regrind in front of the heel as you've experienced in that knife as well.

Lots of paranoia when I work on knives . . . Frankly, recurve with thin grind is more functional than a no recurve knife that's too thick. It's hard to do all the things that make good knives
 
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For correcting bends I prefer to move from the tip back to the heel. Make everything forward of the bend your correcting straight relative to the exit of the bend you’re examining. Then bring that back in line. Easier to conceptualize in person that explain. Also depending on the bend working at the spine vs edge is a decision to make. You should make a stick, much easier. But yeah, take your time and go slow
Really helpful tip, thanks! I was kind of going up and down the knife from tip to heel and back again working out bends/warps in sequence.

If I need to do more I’ll just do straight repeating passes from tip to heel instead.
 
Straightening time -- yepp

Its taken me that long the first couple times. Even now some tricky knives take me hours on and off. I've straightened a couple dozen knives so far. Yeah go slow, it's possible to crack blades at the edge, or also crease iron. I straighten hmm. . . Well I straighten from heel to tip, sometimes middle to tip, so opposite from @ethompson.

Wide bevel knives are very susceptible to the edge recurve like you have with your knife. Its very easy to follow the wide bevel instead of following the edge profile -- more swarf comes out. There's a lot of tricks to get a recurve out -- sharpen until there's a burr everywhere (so, a functional recurve, if the recurve is still there), or sharpen in an imaginary edge profile you want the knife to have. If there's a twist then that's hard to work with as well -- a hammer or if necessary a carbide hammer can deal with that. You can get sheet metal to experiment to see how hammer blows untwist or unbend things. I've handled a raquin with a recurve like that so, not unusual

Extremely helpful is the control of a bending stick that has slots that fit tight, especially for the tip. The wood table method works fine -- a tighter fit than most bending sticks. You could also use a clamp of some sort.

Its easy to thin the very heel and form a regrind in front of the heel as you've experienced in that knife as well.

Lots of paranoia when I work on knives . . . Frankly, recurve with thin grind is more functional than a no recurve knife that's too thick. It's hard to do all the things that make good knives
Keep the wisdom flowing, this info is great!

I do intend to get a straightening stick, they just don’t seem to be readily available in the UK… @cotedupy what do you guys use at BF?

This thing is 57mm at the heel so I figured I could stand to lose a bit of height by sharpening at a high angle to erase the recurve, and then slightly raise the heel a bit so it doesn’t feel dead on the board.

I’ll probably be feeling pretty paranoid about this whole project until I can get a scratch pattern going on the bevels to see exactly what’s going on there and know whether I did a good job or not.
 
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Thanks for documenting this. I just got a knife from him and it’s great but it came with a sharp choil/spine. The first time I’ve ever been compelled to polish a choil. I did plan on messing with the edge profile and Shinogi/bevels a little bit. But as of now it cuts like a mofo. To be clear I haven’t ever checked if a knife I have is straight or not - I can see how that’s a negligent thing but honestly in this moment it seems like an ignorance is bliss thing. I don’t think I am ready to start now.
 
Day 2:

I’m pleased to say that the previous day’s straightening seems to have not moved overnight, so after a little bit more tweaking this morning, it’s in a place I’m pretty happy with overall.

I haven’t done this before, but I decided to check the straightness of all my other knives to establish a visual benchmark in my head that I could compare the Maillet against.

This was… an eye opening experience, and I almost slightly regret doing it, as I cannot unsee the parade of bends and warps of varying degrees present in almost every knife I own, even ones by some of the most respected makers on KKF.

Just goes to show that this not a production flaw, but a natural process that happens over time on san mai and requires periodic correction.

I have no idea how to capture it on camera well, but the Maillet is now as straight or straighter than the three straightest knives I own - so we will move on to the next step.

At this point I’ve lost about half a mm to the original heel height, but this was intentional and needed to happen to even out the profile.

A bad attempt at demonstrating edge straightness:


Fixed profile:


Next up, I’ll get this guy on the stones to see how the bevels are looking. Because of the reprofiling work I did yesterday, the bevels will need some light thinning anyway, and I can look to even out some of the possible asymmetry I noticed as part of that step.

If there is overgrind present at the heel, I’m not going to specifically try to work that out and shorten the knife’s lifespan for aesthetics.

You can see where there is a coarser scratch pattern and inconsistency on how the light reflects off the bevel angle, with the darker patch denoting the area in question:
IMG_1751.jpeg


I also noticed a possible low spot by the bottom few cladding layers earlier as circled here, but I’m not 100% sure:
IMG_1753.jpeg


Lastly, the handle has quite a light oiling that feels great but probably won’t like getting soaked in water and mixed sharpening gunk, so I’ve clingfilmed it and sealed the end off with duck tape:
IMG_1754.jpeg


Thanks for reading along so far! I’ll post another update once I’ve had the chance to do some stone work 🫡
 
I haven’t done this before, but I decided to check the straightness of all my other knives to establish a visual benchmark in my head that I could compare the Maillet against.

This was… an eye opening experience, and I almost slightly regret doing it, as I cannot unsee the parade of bends and warps of varying degrees present in almost every knife I own, even ones by some of the most respected makers on KKF.

Just goes to show that this not a production flaw, but a natural process that happens over time on san mai and requires periodic correction.
AMEN
 
Pleasantly surprised!

Bevels are pretty much dead flat with no low spots or much in the way of other funkiness, and what I thought was an overgrind by the heel doesn’t seem to be one after all?



I’ve raised the shinogi a bit and will try to even the waviness (especially by the tip) before moving on to the next step.

I’m also thinning the bevel to zero in this step after losing a bit of material fixing the edge. I regularly check my progress by testing whether I can flex the edge with my fingernail at regular intervals across the whole knife.

The edge is currently a bit thicker at the heel (as you would expect) and towards the end of the tip. I’m conscious of not reintroducing a hole in the edge by focusing disproportionately at the heel, but the choil view is looking pretty chonky right now. I guess I’ll continue thinning the back end of the heel until I’ve reached full zero to meet the zeroed sections further up?

Whats your usual metric for deciding whether you’re happy or not with your thinning @ethompson @refcast @cotedupy? And is it wise to try and build in some convexity or is dead flat (per the stock grind) fine for this low level bevel?
 
Whats your usual metric for deciding whether you’re happy or not with your thinning?
Nothing like cutting stuff for testing thinness. Of course, without that you could always follow The Rule.

I don't like to zero the edge out at 200 grit. Typically I shoot to do that at 800 grit, but sometimes it happens at 400 grit too.

And is it wise to try and build in some convexity or is dead flat (per the stock grind) fine for this low level bevel?
I always prefer a little convexity, but that bevel seems low enough that flat would be functionally okay. The reason I like convexity is not only a little extra strength for the apex, but also it lets you control the shinogi and the behind the edge geometry separately. Very handy when running things thin enough that papery edges become a concern.

I'd suggest starting at 400 grit or even 500-800 and creating a little relief convexity above the apex first before really getting after moving the shinogi. Use a scratch pattern in a different direction from the diagonal that's used for rough grinding shinogi so its easy to see you're abrasion areas. I’ve done that here and it makes it easier to see the convexity and how close you are to zero
IMG_9656.jpeg


And make sure not to work one area too long without blending. Easy to create soft facets that way that are difficult to blend later. Shows up as a hazy or burnished line curving from the edge forward towards some spot on the shinogi. Everything should flow smoothly by the time you're "finished" with 400 grit.
 
Criteria for being happy with thinning:

Oof

Well me personally I like monosteel lasers the most so ...

For wide bevels, keep on thinning until it feels good through the produce you want to cut, on a coarse stone finish -- then you can go to the finer finish polish. When you looked at the blade edge to face, you could also see the geometry and symmetry of grind too, which can tell you how it will steer.

How much I like to thin is where there is no distinct step from edge to wide bevel. I convex the wide bevel near the edge to blend the wide bevel to edge angle -- this helps the knife sink into food immediately. The majority of the "flat" or face of the wide bevel controls whether the knife gets stuck or continues to go through. I call it flat because it's usually flatter . . . Than the convexing near the edge, or even a tiny tiny bit near the shinogi, which many people would rather not do, but is a first step in raising the shinogi -- lowering the angle of the wide bevel, which first visually appears as convexing.

Anyhow, a gradual slight convexing throughout the wide bevel surface helps with food release and a gliding motion through food that makes it feel like it's nonstick. I would advise a light convex. It could be as small as spending a couple seconds each at subtle slightly different angles. I feel the knife is less fragile "feeling" overall in geometry, functionally idk, but I much prefer it to more flat bevels.

SO! While redoing the geometry, keep in mind distal taper of grind -- is there no distal taper? -- meaning the wide bevel ane is consistent throughout? Is the wide bevel angle lower and more acute at the tip? (I would recommend this). Is the wide bevel angle thicker at the heel (I prefer this, more comfy and solid feeling) or thin as in front of it (needle thin choil shots).

A big issue is . . . When the grind is thinnest midway through the blade, which can lead to a recurve. So be soooo careful in regrinding in the new geometry -- to avoid burrs in that middle section, which is still the thinnest, and will burr out the fastest still
 
I don't like to zero the edge out at 200 grit. Typically I shoot to do that at 800 grit, but sometimes it happens at 400 grit too.
I’m currently on a JNS 300, but I think I’m going to take your suggestions and stop here on this side given there’s no high/low spots to work out.

I would prefer not to have dead flat bevels, and I still have enough microbevel left to raise the angle a little bit for the section behind the edge on a higher grit to add some convexity. I’ll blend that in as I continue through the progression.

Given this side of the bevel seems in pretty good nick, I might just go straight to 500 grit on the other side for a brief pass before swiftly jumping to 1k (I don’t have an 800).

If anyone sees me ****ing up but is too polite to comment on it here, please feel free to so that others can learn from my mistakes, or DM me and I’ll note the feedback anonymously here 🙂
 
Don’t do just one side at a time - recipe for warping in my experience. Do both sides. Fine to do 70/30 or so if there is a problem area, but never all one side at once IMO
Noted! I’ve only spent about 25 minutes or so on the left side to get the scratch pattern above, so I’ll jump to the other side now at the higher grit.
 
A big issue is . . . When the grind is thinnest midway through the blade, which can lead to a recurve. So be soooo careful in regrinding in the new geometry -- to avoid burrs in that middle section, which is still the thinnest, and will burr out the fastest still
This is my main concern! (Along with having crap cutting performance).

My other hobby is climbing, so my fingertips can’t really handle the abrasion of a lengthy thinning session anyway - I’ll be taking it low and slow 😎
 
Small update:

Found some time yesterday evening to work in two small facets on either side of the bevel - one a few mm above the edge and the other more subtle one between the first facet and the shinogi. I then blended them together pretty roughly and tested on an onion.

Vertical cuts are good, but more thinning needed at the last 1/5th of the knife towards the tip to improve horizontal cuts.

This is a good result, as there is definitely overgrind going on in the section in front of the heel that came with a hole in the edge and I don’t want to mess around there any more than I have to and sacrifice height.

I’ll try to get a picture for reference, but for those who are following along to learn with me, you can tell that overgrind is present because if you hold the knife up to your eye, reflections in this area appear to bend less than the sections either side.

This means that there is less convexity at this point in the bevel, because more material was removed in this spot during grinding and it’s therefore flatter (or in the worst cases, concave) as a result.

Once I’ve thinned the front section to a point where cutting performance is how I want it, I’ll try to even out the Shinogi line as best I can without chasing it excessively, and blend all the different facets in the bevels together across 500-1k grit.

The shinogi is much shallower and the bevels more acute on the right hand side of the knife, so I may need to do a re-etch at some point to mask the odd scuff on the hira from mistakenly dropping the angle a touch too low.

Once that’s done, I’ll be able to move on to 2k+, which means polishing proper and no more substantive removal of material.

As a side note, it’s wild how much quicker you can work with wrought cladding. It really does feel like it melts away.
 
The shinogi is much shallower and the bevels more acute on the right hand side of the knife, so I may need to do a re-etch at some point to mask the odd scuff on the hira from mistakenly dropping the angle a touch too low.
Smaller update:

I just sulked all the way through dinner because I am dreading trying to tidy up the shinogi, and I know I’m never going to get the transition looking half as crisp as @Bico Doce ‘s Joel Black. 😩
 
Smaller update:

I just sulked all the way through dinner because I am dreading trying to tidy up the shinogi, and I know I’m never going to get the transition looking half as crisp as @Bico Doce ‘s Joel Black. 😩
The secret is every time you screw up the shinogi line you just keep pushing it up! All of my low bevels eventually become high bevel knives 😂
 
Bevels are pretty much dead flat with no low spots or much in the way of other funkiness
Well this comment aged like milk!

I need to get some harder coarse stones (or bite the bullet and go diamond plate), because it turns out there is some serious funk going on here.

IMG_1778.jpeg

IMG_1776.jpeg


After conferring with some far more knowledgeable people than me, I’m fairly sure the bevels were ground in without the knife being straight, creating the corresponding high and low spots on each side of the bevel.

We anre now outside of my skill and comfort zone, and I’m taking some time off to work out what to do next.

Sometimes the thing you learn is knowing when you need to stop and get some help…

Stay tuned.
 
I agree with your assessment about the root of the issues and, unfortunately, it tracks with an example from this maker I've handled previously and feedback I've got from other buyers
 
It's unfortunate and certainly uncharacteristic for Simon. I'd hate for his reputation to be tarnished due to a few knives that are 'off the mark'

The maillet that I currently own is perfect and performs far better than some of my more expensive knives. I will certainly purchase more knives from him in the future 🙌

In saying this, I really hope this knife gets the required treatment and I suggest letting him know the issues you are having!
 
I'd hate for his reputation to be tarnished due to a few knives that are 'off the mark'
I don’t know if this is a huge knock on a maker. I think it really depends on the price tag. I’ve had knives from respected makers that had slight warps in the spine or edge. Still performed really well. Wabi sabi is expected to some degree but it really sucks when trying to polish
 
It's unfortunate and certainly uncharacteristic for Simon. I'd hate for his reputation to be tarnished due to a few knives that are 'off the mark'

The maillet that I currently own is perfect and performs far better than some of my more expensive knives. I will certainly purchase more knives from him in the future 🙌

In saying this, I really hope this knife gets the required treatment and I suggest letting him know the issues you are having!
Yeah i'm certainly not aiming to trash anyone's reputation here, we operate in a pretty niche hobby and it's important to support the small makers that are putting work out there.

Wrought cladding is notoriously prone to warps and bending, and twisted wrought must be really tough to work with. Even since I first got the knife straight a few days ago i've had to make further daily tweaks; that's not down to the maker it's because of the material.

You make a fair point that it's only fair to reach out to him if i'm going to write about all this stuff on the internet, and i've now done that. I'll refrain from further commentary until we've had the chance for a conversation. 🙂
 
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