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Old 10-27-2008, 07:08 PM   #1
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ISO Custom knife maker

I am not a really well trained cook by any means, I can make do but that isn't the basis of my question. I am a geologist, and as such I have quite a few rocks just sitting around, that I have collected from around the globe. I have seen some things floating around the interwebs about getting handmade handles for knives.

My fiance is a chef graduating from the culinary school next spring, and I want to give her a hand made knive set with custom handles. It won't be a surprise, because she is giving me the info I need to what she actually needs.

Does anybody know of any place that can do this? I don't even know if it would work, but it would be awesome if it could be done. Money isn't too much of an issue, I have been saving like crazy since I bought the engagment ring, so if anybody knows anything, I would be delighted to know.

Thanks for your help, or whatever, thanks for looking even if you can't help :P

T.F.T.

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Old 10-27-2008, 07:42 PM   #2
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There's a few sites online.

custom made kitchen knives

Welcome to egullet.org
Wildfire Cutlery - Carbon Steel Kitchen Knife Maker
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Old 10-27-2008, 08:17 PM   #3
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New West Knife Works: Quality chef knives and kitchen cutlery sets

recently tested and written about in Cooking Club of America, among many other citations. I own their knives and they are excellent.
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Old 10-27-2008, 08:29 PM   #4
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Would she prefer stainless or non? I can lead you to several custom Japanese bladesmiths and also to some unbelievable custom handles once you receive the knife. Also, the handle itself, Western or traditional Japanese style round or octanganal?

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Old 10-27-2008, 11:19 PM   #5
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I think she uses either octagonal or western style handles, and I think she would prefer stainless steel, but I don't want to give too much away :p What would you suggest?
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Old 10-28-2008, 08:35 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thowing.Fire.Twice View Post
I think she uses either octagonal or western style handles, and I think she would prefer stainless steel, but I don't want to give too much away :p What would you suggest?
Take a look at the Misono UX10 here. The 210mm (8.3") Gyuto (Chef's knife) is $159 and watch for a 10-15% off sale coming up in November as always. Shipping is only $7 per order, worldwide. The fit and finish of the Misonos is very good but the handles are nothing special so why not get a custom? I recommend Butch Harner - some examples of his work here.

For traditional Japanese handles one of the best people doing rehandling is Dave Martell. The picture below is the result of his efforts on my 240mm Yoshikane, another stainless blade you might want to take a look at here. The stainless model is the SKD, SKD-11 tool steel. Great stuff. $120 for the 210mm. You do not want the Aogami model as that is Hitachi Blue steel and it is not only not stainless but single beveled as well.

240mm Yoshikane SKD rehandled by Dave Martell



240mm Tojiro DP rehandled by Butch Harner. Hippy micarta.
Edit: Opps. This knife is actually a Hiromoto AS. My mistake. I gave it to my daughter last year for a present. The Sujihiki (slicer) I gave her was a Tojiro. More on the Hiro AS in the next post......



Come to think of it, the Tojiro might be a good choice for you as well. It's stainless no matter what it says on the Korin site where it is available for only $56.50 (210mm). Watch for a Christmas sale coming up at Korin as well as JapaneseChefsKnife. The Tojiro DP's are thought to be "entry level" Japanese knives by aficionados, but compared to those expensive German knives down at Macy's they are absolute Ferraris.

Another knife worth considering is the Sakai Takayuki Grand Cheff available at Seito Trading in New York. The Grand Cheff is made of a solid piece of Swedish Uddehom AEB-L strip steel. AEB-L is a close cousin to the Sandvik steels found in the above mentioned Tojiro DP and the Misono UX10 except that the AEB-L carbides are much smaller and the knife edge can be sharpened to an insane degree. AEB-L (same as Sandvik 13C26) is what razor blades are made of and I believe it's the perfect kitchen cutlery steel. Seito doesn't have the 210mm Takayuki in stock that I know of. If you want that size you have to special order. A warning on that - I ordered two of the 150mm petty knives with traditional handles on July 11th. Seito's Pam Otomo estimated it would take about a month. I received the knives yesterday. They obviously ordered more than two because they just added them to their site.

Anyhoo, Fire, start exploring those links and let us know what you think.

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Old 10-28-2008, 09:17 AM   #7
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Somehow I missed that you said "set" of knives, Fire. First of all, and I can't stress this enough, those big blocks full of knives found in department stores is overkill to the max. There is so much overlapping it's ridiculous.

A set of knives should be:
Chef's knife (Gyuto) - it will get 90% of all useage.
Paring knife 3 1/2" or 4" petty knife
Slicer (Sujihiki)
Boning knife (Honesuki)
Bread knife - Mac Superior SB-105, for the money there is nothing that can touch it, not even close!

Look at Epicurean Edge as they have a guy there who does high quality custom handles (forgot his name). You can buy the knives there and have them rehandled at the same time. Check out the Ryusen Damascus line, expensive but absolutely drop dead gorgeous.

Other than the blades themselves, your gal will need a place to store them and something to cut on. Go first class.

Hang them on the wall with a MagBlok.

The only good surfaces for cutting are Sani-Tuff rubber boards (too ugly for your fiance) and END GRAIN wood cutting boards. Look here and here.

That ought to keep you busy for awhile. I have a tee time to honor but will be back online later this afternoon to answer questions.

Buzz

Edit: Food for thought. I don't own more than two knives from any one brand. I hate Santokus - they're a Television Chef fad. If you think you need a wide blade get a Chuckabocho (Japanese vegetable cleaver). There are many knives with carbon steel cutting edges but the rest of the blade is stainless. They are much easier to take care of than you might think. A really good example is the Hiromoto AS line.
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Old 10-28-2008, 12:27 PM   #8
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Hello neghbor. It's too bad you're posting this now. Usually at state fair time, they have a knife maker there, at least they have in the past. Probably would have been nice to have somebody close by.

Also, I used to check this http://www.bladeforums.com/ forum out. They have a lot of good info about knives, check it out.
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Old 10-28-2008, 01:07 PM   #9
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First off, holy crap! I didn't think there was this much to know :) I'm working on it, though. Thanks for everybody's help so far, I would be lost without it.

The 210 mm Gyuto is elegant and simple, and I like that quite a bit. The steel it is made with is prime as well. I will definitely be waiting for a sale, and then I will have one :)

When you say retooling or custom handles, does that mean I send a knife and I get a new handle on it, or something else? Just making sure I completely understand what everyone is saying. The handle on your Yoshikane is absolutely gorgeous, to say the least.

It will be for a set, eventually. I'm not made of money, but piece by piece I will get the knives you listed. I did notice that the 'store blocks' were very redundant, and your short list there helped more than you could imagine :)

I was thinking of getting a magnetic wall block, and thanks for that. Didn't know something that useful could look that good for some reason. About the end grain boards, though. What is the upkeep on something like that?

Thanks for everybody's help, I really can't say that enough :)
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Old 10-28-2008, 02:05 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thowing.Fire.Twice View Post
When you say retooling or custom handles, does that mean I send a knife and I get a new handle on it, or something else?
First of all, you are stuck with the handle type as purchased. You can't get a Western handled knife and replace it with a traditional (wa) handle. For traditional handles, email or call Dave Martell and he will send you pictures of what he has in stock. He only installs them as they are actually produced by a college professor in Hawaii. For Western handles, write Butch or Epicurean Edge and request pictures of various types of wood and/or micarta. Once your decision is made you send your knife to them and they rehandle it. The entire process including shipping usually takes less than two weeks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thowing.Fire.Twice View Post
About the end grain boards, though. What is the upkeep on something like that?
This from The Boardsmith site:

"Buy the best board you can afford, take care of it, and it is likely that your grandchildren will be using it. Even as they age, or especially as they age, good wooden cutting boards become more and more attractive.
Your first consideration should be how much counter space you have. The bigger the board, the less you will find yourself fussing. The second question is which shape works best for you. Your main choices are rectangular, square, or round. And be sure that if you buy a cutting board that's several inches thick, its surface doesn't sit so high on your countertop that you can't cut on it comfortably. A good-size cutting board weighs a good deal. You are likely to leave it where it sits. So buy a cutting board that fits your counter space.

Before using a new butcher block, season it to prevent staining and absorption of food odors and bacteria. Before applying oil to butcher block, warm the oil slightly. Apply oil with a soft cloth, in the direction of the grain, allowing the oil to soak in between each of the four or five coats required for the initial seasoning. After each treatment, wait about four to six hours and wipe off oil that did not soak into the wood (oxidation or hardening of the oil will take approximately 6 hours). Re-oil the butcher block monthly or as often as needed."

The oil of which he refers is ordinary mineral oil, inexpensive, and available at any pharmacy or grocery store. That's it for maintenance. If the top gets hacked up it is easily sanded smooth.

There is also a bunch of good info on this page at the Boos site.

Remember, it's important to get an END grain board. Edge grain, glass, plastic, granite, and bamboo are all hard on knife edges. Think of an end grain board as a hair brush turned upside down. The blade nestles into the bristles and emerges undamaged. I do make a couple of exceptions, fish and beets. I place a plastic cutting board, the thin ones from Walmart, on top of the wood to keep it from becoming contaminated or discolored. I am very careful not to press the blade into the plastic though.
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