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custom made

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Hello to all

For my birthday, my man is having a knife custom made for me. Awwwe - I know, what a doll.

If any of you can or have had a knife made just for you, which type knife would you go? I personally could use them all but the one knife that would just do the trick for almost anything, I can't decide.

I'll let you all know what I end up with when the day comes. This I know, the handle is going to be made out of iron wood. Beauty!!
post #2 of 11
There's no one knife that does it all. There are three which cover most of the bases and don't overlap. A chef's (or santoku), a paring (or "petty"), and a serrated bread knife.

Of these, the knife getting the most use for the most purposes is the chef's/santoku. It does nearly all the chopping and slicing in the kitchen.

A petty is a very useful knife for a lot of little tasks. The French call it the couteau office which means "everyday knife." One of it's most important functions within the set is to handle all the little jobs -- so you don't have to compromise on the length of the chef's. Because of its small size, you can buy really wonderful petties reasonably -- even with exotic handles and "Damascus" look blades.

The serrated bread knife's blade holds up to very difficult tasks -- like cutting very crusty bread, very tender cake, and sawing through the odd piece of frozen food that would destroy the edge on anything else. There are some wonderful bread knives on the market which are very inexpensive -- don't waste your present.

That leaves the chef's/santoku. I lump them together because they're used for the same huge number of purposes. You have to decide which you like better -- and if you choose a chef's knife whether you prefer a French or German profile, and what length you prefer -- 7, 8, 9, or 10 inches. While I can explain the differences between these knives, I can't say which is better for YOU -- it depends on how you use a knife.

To give us a better idea of what to recommend, if you could answer a few questions it would be very helpful. How good are your knife skills? How tall are you? Large hands or small? Do you know what a pinch grip is? Do you use it? How will you keep your new knife sharp? What kind of cutting board do you use (wood, nylon, something else)?

I'd love to help,
BDL
post #3 of 11
it all depends on what you want theres alot of custom knife makers out there but it all depends on what you want and what kind of experence you have.
post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 
Here's my situation. I manage a small one person kitchen in an art gallery/wine bar. I do not have a stove or oven, only a panini machine and a toaster oven. I work with artisinal foods that are mostly locally grown or after doing much research and homework found the cheeses and cold cuts I want. I am not professionally trained. I have though been cooking since I can remember and loving and learning. I am just these days learning about knives as an investment although I have been teaching myself knife skills for awhile. I have many years experience in the industry in all areas of the house including kitchens with all the "stuff" but first time managing. I am 5'2" and I would say my hands are small but strong like bull! The pinch grip is not in my vocabulary but having a great imagination I would say it is the act of pinching the top of the blade at knife/handle to chop instead of gripping the handle alone and yes I do that. I don't know if that is correct way of using the knife but seems to work for me. The surface I work on is the required white nylon cutting boards. At home - wood. On keeping it sharp, I plan to ask the fella that is going to make the knife. Although I don't do any carving or bone breaking right now I'd like to think that in the near future I will. Of course I do at home. At the gallery I do an awful lot of dicing, mincing, julliening and of that sort. I have the proper knives for cheese cutting but I think I would like to have a knife designed with the dimples , just cuz. This man that is going to make the knife , I have not met, is a local guy. This is a forger who seems to do pretty good for himself in the business but I can't say that it is of an extremely great quality. I don't know. One thing is , it will be a one of a kind and I like that.
post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 
Here's my situation. I manage a small one person kitchen in an art gallery/wine bar. I do not have a stove or oven, only a panini machine and a toaster oven. I work with artisinal foods that are mostly locally grown or after doing much research and homework found the cheeses and cold cuts I want. I am not professionally trained. I have though been cooking since I can remember and loving and learning. I am just these days learning about knives as an investment although I have been teaching myself knife skills for awhile. I have many years experience in the industry in all areas of the house including kitchens with all the "stuff" but first time managing. I am 5'2" and I would say my hands are small but strong like bull! The pinch grip is not in my vocabulary but having a great imagination I would say it is the act of pinching the top of the blade at knife/handle to chop instead of gripping the handle alone and yes I do that. I don't know if that is correct way of using the knife but seems to work for me. The surface I work on is the required white nylon cutting boards. At home - wood. On keeping it sharp, I plan to ask the fella that is going to make the knife. Although I don't do any carving or bone breaking right now I'd like to think that in the near future I will. Of course I do at home. At the gallery I do an awful lot of dicing, mincing, julliening and of that sort. I have the proper knives for cheese cutting but I think I would like to have a knife designed with the dimples , just cuz. This man that is going to make the knife , I have not met, is a local guy. This is a forger who seems to do pretty good for himself in the business but I can't say that it is of an extremely great quality. I don't know. One thing is , it will be a one of a kind and I like that.;)
post #6 of 11
Harvest,

Or may I call you Harve? Just kidding. Your answer is very helpful.

Grip/Height/Hand Size:
Regarding what may or may not be a pinch grip -- Whatever works for you is right. The pinch grip was largely developed by men with large hands to keep from smashing their knuckles on the board. It has a few ancillary benefits. One, which works for everyone, is that by moving your hand up you've effectively shortened the top of the knife. In other words the spine LOOKS shorter which lends some confidence. In fact, the point is closer to your hand so the spine IS shorter, when it comes to pointing the tip. This means you can handle a longer knife comfortably than your height and hand size might otherwise imply.

Breaking and other butchering tasks
:
Breaking isn't cutting through bones, it's breaking large cuts down into smaller ones. Sometimes it includes jointing and boning. This means a lot of tip work -- which you don't do right now. So, the heck with it.

Carving:
A carving knife has a medium width blade with a mid-line point for a lot of good reasons. You don't carve, we don't worry.

Kullenschiff:
Kullenschiff is the official name for the dimples. Mostly they keep certain cuts of certain vegetables from sticking to your knife, like coined cucumbers, carrots, medium eggplant, etc. If the thing being cut is too small, too big, too wet, too soft, or too mushy it will stick anyway. Some kullens work better than others. Without seeing a picture of your knife maker's work I won't hazard a guess. Even then, it would be an educated guess at best.

Almost all kullens are put on right side of the blade which makes the knife right handed. In other words, you don't care if the knife separates cleanly from the body of the eggplant, it's the slice you want to fall off. If you're a southpaw like me, talk with the maker about that. .

Santoku or Chef's
?
Good question, if I say so myself. One reason it's such a good question is that the shapes for each aren't exactly defined and there's some overlap.

The chef's knife you're probably most used to seeing is a "German profile." That means it has a deep, rounded belly with a "spear-point" tip. (A spear-point starts at a little more than halfway down the spine, and curves very gently to the center-line of the knife to a pointed tip. It's almost a mirror-image of the curve of the edge.) This is almost certainly the wrong shape for you.

A "French Profile" chef's knife has less belly, the edge arc is much flatter, and it also has a spear point. Most modern Japanese chef's knives, called "Gyuto" have a very similar edge profile -- but gyuto makers get pretty fanciful around the point. Some of them hold the drop on the spine and then curve it precipitously almost to the edge. When combined with a flattish edge profile the point is called a "sheep's foot."

A sheep's foot point is characteristic of Santokus. So is a short blade. "Traditional" santokus typically have little to no belly arc -- which makes them a little awkward for "rock chopping," which is how most people mince (I'm going to assume you're a rock chopper, at least sometimes). Some santoku designs do have more belly, it's important to specify. Santoku are designed to be the all-around Japanese housewife's knife. One of the reasons they're so short is the design came into being to satisfy the needs of an unskilled, undemanding user (don't blame me for the sexism, I didn't design the knife, and it's not my opinion of housewives -- Japanese or otherwise). "Traditional" is in "quotes," because the santoku is actually a "modern" design -- nothing "traditional" about "it." Your needs and skills are greater, you can make use of more length. Length is your friend. You can get more done with one chop, and you have more edge to wear down before it gets dull.

If you hadn't said you wanted kullens, I'd have said get a 10" French profile cook's and learn to love the length. It took my 5' 2" wife about five minutes to start calling my 10" knife "hers." There wasn't even a 30 second transition through 'ours." But, from what you're telling me, your needs fall somewhere in the overlap of gyuto and santoku. Because the sheep's foot point style puts more metal up front, I think a shorter knife will help keep it light and balanced.

The sheep's foot point will help you make straight slices.

Overall the knife should be agile, easy to point, and be equally good at jicama batonet, coining cucumber, and rock chopping through parsley for a mince.

If I were buying the knife for you, this is what I'd tell the knife maker:
1. Gyuto/santoku shape with a slightly rounded belly (like an old carbon Sabatier) going to a sheeps foot point.

2. 8" - 8-1/2"

3. Your first choices in steel are S30V, D2, 13C26, and AEB-L. If he can't do one of these, you'll be guided by his choice. You'd prefer to keep the "Rockwell Hardness" somewhere in the 58-60 range. You don't want something that's too difficult to sharpen and are willing to trade a little hardness for ease of sharpening.

The quality of steel you're most interested in is "balance," by which you mean balancing the qualities of "toughness," "edge holding," edge taking," "strength," and "hardness." I know these words don't sound like they mean anything, but they have very specific meanings to knife people. Be willing to say you got advice from a friend who knows a little about knives, but you consider the knife maker the real authority (and mean it when you say it, too).

Steel as thin as he can get it and still keep the knife stiff. "No more than 3mm thick at the thickest part of the spine, please if you can do it." You want a light knife.

If you're DH already specified some sort of Damascus or "Pattern Welded" steel, forget talking about steel quality, suck it up and accept the beauty.

Not to make the same point four times or anything, but ... at the end of the day he's the knife maker and you trust his skill and knowledge to make you a knife you'll love. You're just being informative. Yep. Informative.

4. You want a handle which really fits your hand. Show him how you grip the knife, if possible. If not, send him a picture. Send him a hand tracing. Better, send him a concrete paver with your hand and footprints from the outside lobby at Grauman's Theater in Hollywood. This will let him know that you are a STAR, and not someone with whom he can trifle. If he doesn't get the point, throw a phone at his head.

5. You want the balance point of the knife to be just in front of the bolster.

6. You do want a bolster. You don't want a finger guard. If he doesn't do bolsters, you can live with that.

7. You want the heel rounded over (so you don't bump your fingers against a sharp edge). You want the first 2" of spine from the bolster, rounded over so the spine doesn't dig into your index finger when it goes over the top whether in a pinch grip, or when it goes straight down the spine for lining up slices.

8. Kullenschiff. Kullens. Dimples. Whatever. If possible. On the appropriate side for your "handedness," if possible. If not possible, it's [sigh] no biggie. It doesn't [sniffle] martyr at all. My recommendation is that if the maker says kullens will make for a signifcantly thicker knife, choose thinner over dimples. Thinner is easy to sharpen, cuts better when sharp, and is lighter.

9. 15 degree single bevels with 50/50 edge symmetry. You're all about easy to sharpen.

10. Have it monogrammed -- it makes it a little less attractive to steal.

Sound good to you?
BDL
post #7 of 11
Two questions:

1) Why limit yourself to this one bladesmith?
2) How much are you willing to spend?
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
post #8 of 11
One answer: It's a gift from her husband.

BDL
post #9 of 11
I understand. Very romantic. Maybe the questions should be asked of her husband.

Husband, have you searched worldwide custom knifemakers or are are you taken with the term "custom' from one local person?

Not trying to make waves - merely offering advice. There are some excellent custom knife makers with impeccable reputations and history, and some of us here know who they are. If you want the knife of a lifetime, just ask for references.

I guess I'm sceptical of a knife maker, presumably local, who you've never met. Web site? References?

Buzz
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 
Indeed, it is romantic. Seeing this is the first knife and he has put a $$$ cap on it. $200.00. Still, I do know the handle is going to be made out of iron wood. Found in the Southeastern States and the next step is petrification, so we know the handle isn't going anywhere. I am trying to get this man on phone, he just got the metal. Apparently a special type, dont know yet, will let you know. I'm going with this because my man really wants to do this for me and why not. In the meantime, I am learning lots and for future custom made , I will do more homework. Im sure too, if I go anywhere else, I will have to pay much more, but it is an investment after all.

My knives consist of a henckles and bergHOFFs and not top of the line either. I will get there. When the knife is completed, I will figure out how to get a picture to you. I bet its going to be beautiful and hopefully purposeful. Besides, it's being done will Love. mush mush
post #11 of 11
a few years ago, I commissioned David Boye to make me a knife :D. The blade is dendritic steel (whatever that is, but I know that it is a high-carbon stainless type). It is 6 inches, and 1 3/4 inches wide at the base, so it sort of resembles a Japanese Deba knife.

This is absolutely the BEST knife in my collection of 50+ thingies. In fact, it is so great, that I purposefully hide it in a crusty, old knife roll so that no one will disturb it or try to use, so that nothing will happen to it. Yeah, I know, what good is a knife if it never gets used, but this one is special.

It cost me about 2 c-notes: I sent him a check, and about 6 months later I got a knife in the mail. Worth every penny .
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