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Looking for a handcrafted knife

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I am looking for suggestions on where to purchase a high quality handcrafted chef's knife. It would be a 10 year anniversary gift for my husband, so I am really looking for something beautiful and of extremely high quality, rather than commercial brands. We currently have Wusthof knives that he likes, but I am thinking a japanese style blade might be the right choice. We both find that the Wusthof's don't slice through as smoothly as we would prefer for items like sushi, even when just sharpened.

I have about 7 months before our anniversary, so I think that should be plenty of time to get most custom made blades or even something from abroad.

Any other suggestions people have for making this a really special gift?

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  1. Ask the same question here:
    http://www.foodieforums.com/vbulletin...

    and here:

    http://www.knifeforums.com/forums/sho...

    you will get no shortage of answers. You'll need to make decisions on handle type, steel type, length, etc. You can also look here:

    http://www.chefknivestogo.com/ and here: http://www.epicureanedge.com/shopdisp... and here:

    http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/Hat...

    good luck have fun.

    1. Good news: You have a lot of options
      Bad news: Most of those options will cost you.
      Here are a few I know of by reputation

      You could go after a Bob Kramer - an American knife maker specializing in kitchen knives who has an enormous reputation. You'd have to be willing to search Ebay and the back rooms of knife forums for someone willing to sell you a used one for several thousand dollars, though.
      http://www.kramerknives.com/

      Cheaper, less pretty, but highly functional are Murray Carter's knives. I've heard some complain about his handle work. Everyone seems to love his blades themselves though.
      http://www.cartercutlery.com/japanese...

      Mr. Itou's kitchen knives are very pretty, a little less functionally minded. Still great though.
      http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/Pag...

      A lot of the well known Japanese makers who semi-mass produce knives have lines that their master/namesake atrisan handcrafts. Good example: the Hattori KD. If you want one of these, you would again have to go Ebaying or making inquiries in knife forums.
      http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/KDS...

      There are makers like Takeda that, to my knowledge, hand craft their knives but also really churn em out. Not as pretty, cheaper, sort of charming, often very fine blades.
      http://www.chefknivestogo.com/takeda-...

      Then there are custom knife and sword makers who aren't known for their kitchen knives, but who can nonetheless make an awesome kitchen knife.
      Take a look at Michael Rader's knives.
      http://www.bladegallery.com/shopexd.a...
      And also Thomas Haslinger's:
      http://www.chef.haslinger-knives.com/...

      There's all sorts of good stuff I'm either forgetting or have never seen. This list is by no means exhaustive. Hope it's a start.

      Also, as Jeffrey said, check out knife forums - they'll have a million recommendations and tips, I'm sure.

      Edit: also keep in mind that many of these knives are made of carbon steel. While there are custom makers who work with stainless, carbon seems to be the preferred medium, by and large, of custom makers. Are you open to carbon? Or should we pare our suggestions down to stainless only?

      1 Reply
      1. re: cowboyardee

        Bob Kramer usually has at least a years waiting list :(

      2. I kinda like the knives from both Mr. Tanaka and Mr. Saji:
        http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/SPE...

         
         
        1. Slowgerky,

          Are you set about this "high quality handcrafted knife" purchase? As cowboy said, this will cost you. There are high quality mass producing knives and there are decent handcraft knives, but real high quality handcraft knives are not cheap. You are looking to pay >$1000 for a used one. For sushi, we are talking about a yanagiba and a mass produced good quality yanagiba is at probably in the range of $300-900 I think and those are the mass produced ones.

          I think it is very sweet of you to try to get your husband a great knife, but you probably want his inputs/preference on this. Also a lot of great knife makers have their things. Bob Kramer, probably the best known American kitchen knife maker, works with carbon steel. Forget about the possible ten of thousand dollar cost, is your husband a stainless steel knife person? Would he work with a carbon steel knife which rusts easily?

          Chance is that it will be difficult to give him a true custom knife without his inputs and therefore it cannot be a surprise. If you have to make it a surprise, chance is that you may get him a knife which will go into a display case and not in the kitchen.

          1. both WS and Sur La Table carry some exclusive knives either by shun or Bob Kramer, while not exactly custom, they are a cut (ouch) above. and are priced accordingly. also there is a michael Bras (sp) at WS that look sensational. William Henry is also well known for folding knives andnow pens etc. but they also make (or possibly made) kitchen knives. i know the swiss army store in westchester does display them

            1. I should also note that there are A LOT of options in between your Wusthofs and, say, the Bob Kramer knives I first linked for you. Some of the semi-handcrafted Japanese knives are more affordable, perform extremely well, and would make a lovely present, even for a bonafied knife nut.

              Sorrry to be uncouth, but I think we could help you out a lot more if you give us a vague price range to suggest from, as well as preferences as per carbon/stainless, his ability to maintain a knife, aesthetic leanings, etc.

              8 Replies
              1. re: cowboyardee

                Cowboy,

                Good point about knife maintaince.

                Slowgerky,

                Does your husband sharpen his knives? All knives get dull eventually. A real great knife can take on a sharper edge and maintain that edge longer than an average knife, but it will get dull nontheless. Maybe you can get him a nice knife and a set of sharpening stones, like diamond stones and water stones. I think that will be very sweet. It is like a fruit basket :) Oh yes, we need a leather strop for him to really get that nice finish on the blade. Maybe a nice cutting board. A good knife on a glass cutting board is worse than an average knife on an end grain cutting board. Yes, a great knife, a set of stones, a leather strop, and an end grain chopping block. Well of course, then we need some oil for the block. What about tung oil? It must be the pure un-altered tung oil.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Going to be hard to beat the range of selection found here for both handcrafted and Japanese hand made kitchen knives:

                  http://www.epicureanedge.com/

                  1. re: roster

                    EE has great selection, but I thought most of these are semi-handcrafted Japanese knives. Don't get me wrong. Some of them are great knives, but they are not the type of knives where the artisan/knifesmith follows from beginning to end.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Sorry CK, off topic a bit, but can I ask what knives you have? Mine is a Global GF-33 and it wasn't "shaving sharp" out of the box, in that it wouldn't cut my arm hair without pressure (as in, without touching my skin).
                      It did good on the paper test, and sliced through most veg like it wasn't even there. But sometimes when I'm cutting say chuck steak, it needs a fair bit of pressure to get through gristle etc.

                      I'm fairly sure it's legit but I'm kind of afraid of sharpening it at the mo (inexperience) and it might well improve a lot if I did.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        CK, you can certainly get a handcrafted knife at EE; I own two. One is a Yoshikane 240mm Gyuto, and a 180mm Takagi Nikiri. Both are 100% handmade, but there are lots of others.

                        1. re: mateo21

                          Hand made probably means the blade is assembled and sharpened by hand, but I don't think it's the same as being individually crafted from scratch.

                          I think that's what CK meant.

                          1. re: Soop

                            Well... Daniel, the man who runs the store has photos of the man who makes Yoshikane knives hammering (albiet with a powered hammer) and tempering the steel... I'd say that counts as handmade to me.

                            1. re: mateo21

                              Mateo,

                              I think it comes down to a difference in definitions. Some people consider Hattori KD knives as handcrafted and some consider them as semi-mass production knives, like cowboyardee stated in his first post. There is a very big grey area between fully mass production knives like Henckels and Wusthof to fully customized handcrafted knives where a fame blademaster follows the process from beginning to end.

                              Like I wrote earlie, "There are high quality mass producing knives and there are decent handcraft knives, but real high quality handcraft knives are not cheap."

                2. Slow, I started into the world of high-quality knives some time ago, and can recommend knife forums, although I found myself caught up in their fervour. Those guys are really knowledgeable, BUT you and I are unlikely to require the kind of high quality they prefer.

                  The first thing to do is set a budget - what's your price range?
                  also, you obviously have some kind of sharpening equipment, but it may be worth looking into this for your current knives and the new one. If you get a high-quality whetstone/sharpener, it may improve the overall quality - especially if you have one of those nasty pull-through sharpeners (they're not good for your knives).

                  Secondly, you've suggested a Japanese style knife. There are several different Japanese blades, and as CK suggested, a yanagiba is what you would traditionally use for slicing sushi. However, I'd suggest that if you're spending a large amount of money, you get a less specialised knife, like a chefs knife or a santoku which you will both use on a regular basis.

                  Lastly is just personal taste. You can have damascus-style marked blades, handles of all shapes and materials - some nicer for one than another - different sizes and weights etc etc. Then you have carbon steel Vs stainless... It's a bit of a mindfield.

                  Unfortunately a knife can be a personal thing, so one way or another, you might need to get some input from him in some way.
                  The most offered advice I've seen is to try the knife before you buy, and that the perfect knife for you may be awful for another. Big decision!

                  1. If you want Kramer's better aim for your 15th Anniversary. I just got mine after nearly three years waiting.... http://www.flickr.com/photos/45376228...

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: krunkinator

                      Nice. How much?

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Bob Kramer just put two of his knives up for sale, and rather than auctioning, which last time fetched $9,100 for one of his 8" chef's (Damascus,) he is offering a lottery style opportunity: http://www.kramerknives.com/n%20jnLot...

                        Good luck!

                        1. re: krunkinator

                          krunkinator,

                          Thanks for the information, though I don't think I can afford it. :)

                          1. re: krunkinator

                            Do you think that a knife is ever worth $9000?

                            There are things that go exponentially up in value towards the top end of the scale - a Ferrari costs about 10 times the cost of a normal car, but isn't 10 times better - but given that a knife will be used to chop vegetables and that, who is willing to pay that much of a premium to chop them say 2% more efficiently?

                            I take it as a given that my best knife will last me probably the rest of my life, and it cost me £120 ish (actually it was a present, but you know). I'd have to get bitten by a vampire to get value from a $9000 knife. And that's assuming it would take 9000 years of sharpening.

                            1. re: Soop

                              If you measure value just in terms of utility, then no. But then your model would have a hard time assessing value of diamond rings too.

                              1. re: krunkinator

                                My mind has a hard time assessing the value of diamond rings...

                                1. re: Soop

                                  Don't worry, she will teach you.

                      2. Murray Carter makes japanese styled knives that are supposed to be phenomenally sharp. It is my undertanding that he makes a line of them in the traditional japanese style and that he is one of a very few non-japanese to have been acknowledged as a master of that particular technique.

                        A lot of people who are "knife" people rather than "foodies" (I'm sure that there is a lot of overlap) speak highly of his blades.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Shann

                          Shann,

                          Agree. I think he is the only North American who is trained in traditional Japanese knife maker and becomes a master.

                        2. To find this website may be a bit challenging but try. Maker is Karl Schroen in Sebastiapol, Ca. The knife l am referring to is his rounded cleaver. He makes in three sizes, l have all sizes. Currently have 250 kitchen knives of all provinance. Use old rosewood Dexter chef's and these cleavers the most. Plus they are beautiful, always and still.When you do a Karl Schroen Knives on google, a 'sonic' listing comes up 3rd or 4th and will show you various permutations of the knife. Write me if l can help anymore, It is the one knife l would take of all my kitchen knives, including a bunch from Tokyo Tsukiji market and my years as a caterer.