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The classic knives against which all others are measured

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pkb

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I'd love your input: which kitchen knives, specifically if possible, stand as classic designs? For example, a "classic" hunting knife would be a Bob Loveless Drop Point Hunter. I'm trying to figure out which knives have established the trends that other knife designs have followed.

Since western knives have followed in the gigantic shadow of Japanese bladesmithing, I'm wondering if there are specific japanese makers that are regarded as producing (or having produced) timeless designs that have defined the Japanese scene.

I hope this is a controversial subject and I'm really looking forward to hearing a lot of different opinions (or a lot of agreement).

-Patrick
 

JohnnyChance

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Everyone has different opinions on this, but some "gold standards" would be Shigefusa, Masamoto, Devin Thomas, Murray Carter. Konosuke is a very popular knife and often is a good reference point simply because most people here have owned or used one. Others like Watanabe, Heiji, Suisin, etc could also be used. All depends on your frame of reference.
 

ajhuff

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It seems to me that you are trying to create something like a family tree?

One of the earliest influences for both Western and Japanese knives would have to be some form of Sabatier, I would think.

-AJ
 

Eamon Burke

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Iconic knives from Japan surely have a long history. Factory knives of historical note in America is documented(Beatty Cleavers, Dexter knives, etc). But the greats? Right now, it's 100% personal preference.

The Japanese knife tradition was changed when they were adapting to a more internationally influenced diet and food culture. The Gyuto is basically a French Chef's knife filtered through Japanese sensibilties. The Santoku was a friendly, unintimidating variant of the pointier, more task-specific, high maintenance knives dominating Japan at the time. There are GREAT reasons to get those traditional knives, but there are plenty of reasons why not to--my wife has a sharp Yanagiba stuck on the wall daily for years, and never ever ever uses it.

So basically, America is looking at Japan right now because their culture respects their knives and cooking on a personal level to a greater extent than Americans do anymore. What Japan went through, America is going through.

That's the exciting thing! If you want to find the iconic knives in the American tradition, I've got one better--you can meet their makers! They are alive today. Several of them(notably not Murray Carter) are on this site. That's why I'm here.
 

tk59

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...But the greats? Right now, it's 100% personal preference...
Yeah. People have been copying each others knives for a very long time. It's hard to say that a guy that has been making knives in the last 100 yrs is defining anything "classic" I'm sure Loveless essentially copied his knives from somewhere, like everyone else. When I first started, in kitchen knives, I was referred to Suisin and Ikkanishi Tadatsuna. I like to use those (and similar knives) along with the TKC as references since so many people have them or have used them. And, yes, western-styled Japanese knives are based on the French still chef's knives.
 

JohnnyChance

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Only $12,000? Seems reasonable for a quality hunting knife. ;)
Yeah, in that case, Bob Loveless = Bob Kramer. But even so Kramer isn't considered the be-all end-all in terms of performance and design. His craftsmanship may be unparalleled, and the prices his knives go for certainly are.
 

Johnny.B.Good

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Yeah, in that case, Bob Loveless = Bob Kramer. But even so Kramer isn't considered the be-all end-all in terms of performance and design. His craftsmanship may be unparalleled, and the prices his knives go for certainly are.
Wow. Look around that site. Prices are unbelievable. I'm sure they're nice knives, but...they just don't look that special to me. Devin's feather pattern (for example) strikes me as art. That hunting knife? I don't know. Looks like it could be found in any sporting goods store. Obviously I know nothing about hunting knives or I would know who Mr. Loveless is and why he has such a strong following. I would never pay $10k+ for any knife (Devin or otherwise), but good for him.

Edit: Sorry for getting off topic. Just shocked by those prices!
 

tkern

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I took this question as those who made knives that were "classic" and inspirational to others to make knives in their way, inspired people to get into what knives they were using, or to seriously consider how a cook can make their work more efficient.
 

Johnny.B.Good

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I have heard many people talk about how special Sabatier chef's knives are. And one hears an awful lot about the Masamoto KS profile... Shigefusa and Doi were names I learned early on. Mizuno. And then there are the contemporary American masters: Kramer, Carter, Burke, and Devin (for example, among others). It would be interesting to see a "family tree" and try to decide who influenced who, or what resembles what, but that would be a lot of conjecture.
 

Lefty

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Why not "conjecture this place up?" ;)

Classic-the one responsible for the knives we love today? Definitely Sab. I have two, and they are much better knives than they "should be". They have beautiful profiles and wonderful handles. I wish they'd just get rid of the finger guard...I bet they'd sell like mad, if they did.

The standard against which others are measured? I think it's safe to say, Kramer, Carter, Shigefusa, Doi and Thomas.

For me, personally? Carter and Rodrigue, because of my familiarity with their work and the fact that I haven't touched a knife that cuts as well as those two. Admittedly, I need to try more custom Japanese makers' work, however.
 

Eamon Burke

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FWIW I think that Bob Loveless hunter is drop-dead sexy and while his prices reflect his fame, I can see why people pay it. It'd be like having a Les Paul made by Ted McCarty.
 

pkb

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Great info so far!

On the Loveless phenomenon, what's special about his case is that he stepped off a Navy boat having made his first knife onboard. From there, he started making them to sell to sell at the local Patagonia outdoors store (for not much more than the factory-made knives they were selling). His design and workmanship were such that his influence can probably be seen in every moder knifemaker's work, whether they know it or not.

But back to kitchen knives: A family tree would be very interesting. Where would the Gyuto and Santoku appear (if they were actually Japanese versions of western chef knives), and who would their parents be? Which makers carried the "royal blood" through the Western and Japanese lines and which were lesser nobility?

I'm really interested in getting as much input as possible as I attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff and really understand which designs endured, why, and what about those classics really made the difference.

Thanks for your expertise and opinions!
 

jmforge

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That is a very good analogy, Eamom. Yes, elements of other knives may have influence Bob Loveless, but he has influenced a LOT more makers. The story goes that Bob wanted to buy a Randall from Abercrombie and Fitch (back when they were a REAL manly store that sold custom guns and knives, not some rag shop from binge drinking college kids) and they told him there was a waiting list. So, he went back to his ship and made his own knife and the rest, as they say is history. One of his early big knives is alleged to have changed hands for $200,000 and then $250,000 a coulel of years ago..........at the same knife show!!! :bigeek: If you go back another generation to find out who inspired Bo Randall, it was William Scagel. As far as kitchen knives go, I would also vote for the Sabatier as being the major source for most current Western style knives.
FWIW I think that Bob Loveless hunter is drop-dead sexy and while his prices reflect his fame, I can see why people pay it. It'd be like having a Les Paul made by Ted McCarty.
 

pkb

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Abercrombie, yeah; it was one of those "was manly but now ragshop" brands.
 

bikehunter

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That hunting knife? I don't know. Looks like it could be found in any sporting goods store.
Could it have something to do with the fact that his hollow ground, drop point designs have been copied, by anyone who can make a knife.... for decades? ;-)
 

pkb

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Could it have something to do with the fact that his hollow ground, drop point designs have been copied, by anyone who can make a knife.... for decades? ;-)
AHA! Thus, the purpose for this thread: to find out why knives work and look the way they do by identifying their origins.
 

Johnny.B.Good

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Could it have something to do with the fact that his hollow ground, drop point designs have been copied, by anyone who can make a knife.... for decades? ;-)
Like I said, I know nothing of hunting knives! If you handed me one, I'm sure I would conclude it's well made, but would never suspect it is a classic worth as much as a new car (or ten new cars). Wild.
 

NO ChoP!

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Mac= iconic bread knife
Suien or Sugimoto iconic cleaver
Konosuke HD = iconic laser
Masamoto KS = iconic profile
Shig or Mizuno = iconic geometry
Takeda or Watanabe = iconic Japanese customs
Doi= iconic craftsmanship
Hattori KD= iconic steel
Carter or DT = iconic American customs
 

JohnnyChance

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You can bet that none of those sporting goods store knives have a tapered tang. $10K for a knife? (some Loveless knives have sold for a 1/4 million). Priced a Tiffany lamp lately? The madness of collectors. ;-)
And both will be used to cut the exact same number of things in their lifetimes. We might as well be talking about lamp design, and the influences of their history, they have about the same relativity to kitchen cutlery as field knives do.
 

bikehunter

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And both will be used to cut the exact same number of things in their lifetimes. We might as well be talking about lamp design, and the influences of their history, they have about the same relativity to kitchen cutlery as field knives do.
Umm..I'm pretty sure I didn't open the topic to $10K Loveless knives, I was just making a comment about collectors. I apologize...since I know that no one here ever gets off the topic of discussion. ;-)
 

Justin0505

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Is the goal here to get to the anthropological roots of each style of knife or to identify the most recognizable iteration or the sake of comparison? In some cases they will end in the same place, but probably not for most.

As for the OT thread, I'll just say that if I ever start making knives, my first move will be to change my name to Bob.
 

pkb

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I think that anthropology is outside of the scope of this discussion unless there are certain cultural phenomena (like everyone from a certain region of Japan uses knives with their feet) that would have strongly effected the design of a knife, either functionally or aesthetically (if a certain region was at some point banned from using certain types of curves in knife manufacturing).

Maybe something more like a family tree or evolutionary ladder--though non-biological evolution doesn't limit itself to influence from two immediate parent predecessors and can take influence from distant unrelated products as well as things from the past. It's way less clear-cut.

Mostly, I'm interested in which knives shaped the world of kitchen knives and how their forms and function continue to influence modern designs. Getting a sense of which modern designs are exemplary would also help clarify the discussion.

Or... which knives do you think are sweet?
 

olpappy

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If you look at in terms of classic blade shapes or designs then yes anthropology and evolution and culture all have a lot to do with the shapes of blades. Some examples of iconic blades shapes and the cultures they came form would be the French chef knife, vs. the German blade shape which has more belly.

Chinese cleaver has a completely different shape yet is used for everything.

Classic Japanese patterns are yanagi, deba, usuba (nakiri). And the comment about using knives with feet, well in Japan left handed people are forced to learn to use their right hands, so yeh it's almost like making them use their feet...

Thai kitchen knives have a typical shape which is like a santoku with a clipped tip.

Alaskan ulu -- iconic knife. Can you say A-N-T-H-R-O-P-O-L-O_G-Y ?

The modern American axe head has evolved specific characteristics in this country as settlers adapted to building structures and logging the forests of North America. The end result is a unique combinatons of characteristics very different from what was brought by European settlers.

“Axes.” 2012. The History Channel website. Jan 20 2012, 5:52 http://www.history.com/shows/modern-marvels/episodes/episode-guide.
 
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