Pros: Quality Contruction, Sharp, Tough
Cons: Short, curvy, thick, some finish flaws
New West Knifeworks supplied me with three knives for review: Chopper Chef, Mini Chopper Chef and Mini Paring Knife, each in the Fusionwood line of knives
The Chopper Chef has a 5.5 inch blade of stainless steel. New West doesn't specify which steel but given that it's made in the USA, the .95% Carbon and 15% Chromium with a hardness of 58-69, that's all consistent with 440C. AUS 10 or VG-10 meet those numbers too, but are Japanese steels.
Edited to add: New West tells me the steel is BD-1
Fusionwood is a rainbow multi-ply type of Pakka Wood--a resin impregnated wood. It's tough, water and chemical resistant and dense.
Fresh out of the packaging and inspecting the knife the initial impression is it's heft and shine. For its size, it's a heavy knife with a nice full sized handle. The thickness of the blade stock and the pakka wood combine for some weight, more in the handle, bringing the balance back into the handle at about the first rivet. In a pinch grip, it's handle heavy.
Arguably, a pinch grip isn't the best grip for a knife this size, but as it's a chopping knife, that's the grip I used most.
Sharpness out of the box was pretty good on thumb test. Cutting paper, there's some curling, some slight feathering. Respectable certainly.
Continuing the initial inspection turned up some flaws in the finish. Comparing the two sides of the blade:
You can see the grind in the lower picture swoops up towards the tip. This leads to a mismatch in the blade grind on the two sides as shown by the Sharpie marks below. On a saber ground knife ground by hand, some mismatch is pretty common and very difficult to avoid. Still, this is one of the larger mismatches I've seen.
There was also an attempt to repair some gouging during the shaping or finishing.
And some other minor finish oddities and uneveness.
Talking with New West about these finish defects they explained that this was their first run with all US sub contractors for the various steps. So they're still working out the processes and such. All the same, good QA should catch these things. Nevertheless, these are all cosmetic issues and do not affect performance or use really.
New West wants me to send these back when I'm done and they'll replace them because of these defects, which is good customer service.
On to the cutting and use. Making dinner a dinner of pork cutlets, steamed carrots and a gallete of potatoes.
Slicing with the Chopper Chef is a different experience. As the knife comes into contact with the board, the curve of the blade and weight in the handle and force of the cut makes your wrist drop abnormally. You often need this motion to complete the cut with this shape of blade too, but it's not what I'm used to.
Notice how much the blade of the chopper is not in contact with the board.
After slicing the potatoes I could feel the work in my wrist.
On to the carrots. Because of the thickness of the blade, I knew this would not be to my liking. The carrots fracture rather than cut. The thickness of the blade wedges the carrot apart. This is true to a degree wtih most knives but the the fracture effects are smaller with thinner blades as shown in the pictures below.
An Ikea VG10 Chef's on the left and the Chopper on the right. Look at the fractures on the right compared to the small chips in the carrots on the left.
Here's a tiny chip in the carrot from my 10" Henkels
And a nearly perfect cut from my Forschner Chinese Chefs, with amazing geometry.
Look at the fractured bits that cling to the Chopper as I cut the carrots.
From a different meal when dicing an onion, look at how it wedges the onion apart because of the thickness
Further, because of the small blade I couldn't cut the carrots in a large batch but had to work through a carrot or two at a time. It simply wasn't big enough to be efficient. Coupled with the extra wrist motion, this was starting to be annoying.
On to the pork. I used a pork sirloin tip roast as the primal cut. I like this cut for it's economy, versatility, and low fat while still being tender and flavorful. Once again, the knife is undersized to the task. And while this isn't really a chopping task, It's something I would use a Chef's knife to do normally. It takes holding the handle high and drawing the knife towards myself and some repeated slicing all of which contribute to uneven results in the cutlets.
I made stock using the Chopper. It worked well in the rough cuts required to quarter the onions and bring the carrots and celery down to size. Fairly good at this task that doesn't need much more than sharpness and toughness.
Then I made a soup of brawurst, onions, potoatoes and cabbage. The draw cut technique worked Ok in making thin slices of onion. I found the curvature of the blade annoying in dicing the sausage. With the cabbage, I thought the knife would struggle because of size issues. But with the draw technique and the weaker structure of the cabbage, it worked surprisingly well compared to the pork slicing. Still, some strange angles are needed.
So just how much curvature does the blade have. Enough so it's difficult to mince garlic. At the point you drag the blade across the garlic with salt, it only works for a narrow swath shown by the smear.
Notice the angle of the handle to the ruler and how much curve the blade has
The angles, curve and length just don't combine into a knife with good chopping characteristics. The differences required to use this knife made be blister. My default knife callous wasn't up to the changes.
After all that though, the blade was still sharp, no dings or chips. Sharpening this blade requires extra wrist and elbow work to keep the angle of the blade to the stone the same across the whole stroke. But the steel is well behaved on common sharpening equipment.
In conclusion, New West makes a knife with good quality in the manufacturing processes. This particular knife, however, is not of a design that works well for a serious home cook who is used to standard knife techniques. It's too thick, too short and too curved.