Handmade Steel Kitchen Knives
I recently saw a snippet in a magazine (can't recall which) about a small knife maker, possibly on the west coast. He had great pounded steel kitchen knives for around $100-$200. I can't seem to recall the name of the shop. Can anyone help? Thanks!
Someone brought me a very rustic yet well made deba/santoku/cleaver hybrid that they bought at a vendor in the Oxbow Market in Napa CA.
The more I held it the more I wanted one.
Hi, wabi: '...go with an established maker."
Maybe, or kinda, I say.
There are lots of unknown makers out there turning out pieces that are better than most mass-produced knives. The hard part is finding them and educating yourself to recognize quality and ask the right questions.
But if you find a quality maker with 0% celebrity status, you can have excellent knives for not much money. AND, you can have them made to your own specs, matching, etc.
I have a bladesmith acquaintance here in Seattle who is well-known for his swords, but has next to zero following in kitchen cutlery. To him, chef's knives are boring. But he can make a full-on custom chef for about $400 that rivals my friend Bob Kramer's blades.
Custom blades don't make for good CH knife banter (you can't debate the same Iwannagetanambetsu Blue Paper #8), but they can make for hella knives and a lot of easy pleasurable, satisfying use.
Kaleo...Howzit! I always enjoy your posts.
You are right...there are a lot of relatively unknown knife makers out there making GREAT knives for reasonable prices. I just want to emphasize that there are a lot of guys who are facile with a grinder who will take a long piece of medal, sharpen it and call themself a knife maker. It takes an experienced knife maker to know the choices of steel, the hardening and the edge geometry to make a knife that is going to both perform daily, stay sharp and be able to be resharpened.
I am honored to call among my friends some of those celebrity knife makers, and have learned a lot from them over the years. Guys like Ken Onion, Stan Fujisaka and Tom Mayo have forgotten more than most knife makers will learn in a life time. It's finding a guy (or woman in deference to my friend Audra Draper one of the few women Mastersmiths) who knows what makes a good knife, and then getting them to make you one. And quality work doesnt come cheap. Your friend's $400 custom chef's knife is a pretty good deal in a custom knife. If you look at the time that it takes to build a custom kitchen knife from scratch, whether it be forged or from stock removal...knife makers need to charge enough to make a living. My recommendation would be to buy a knife from some of the smaller custom makers with a reputation for great knives like Murray Carter, Joel Buckiewicz or Shosui Takeda. They all make knives that are razor sharp right out of the box, with great balance and ergonomics.
I know it's just my personal preference, but I would rather spend $300 on a Takeda knife from a great knife maker, than to pay $200-250 from a some novice with a grinder and a load of fresh belts.
While not an absolute, you do get what you pay for.
E wabi, maika'i au, a 'oe?
Really well said. We have no disagreement.
Usually, when I hear the maxim "You get what you pay for" applied to blades, I kinda cringe imagining someone thinking they're following it by dropping a mortgage payment on a licensed Kramer. When in all likelihood the $400 custom from a skilled lesser-known would be mo'bettahs.
The trick, as you ably point out, is discerning the "skilled" part...