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Mac pro - REALLY unhappy with fit / finish

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
After reading and posting a few threads on here with some excellent advice, and a few months of tracking them down at the right price, I recently purchased a couple of MAC Pro knives (petty and chefs)

I live in Denmark, so tracked them down at a well known catering supplier in London

I've just received them and the finish / fit on the Chefs knife is really really poor.

The wooden handles, riveted to the tang, sit around a mm down on the tang - i.e. the tang sits proud of the handle

It's only clear of the handle by a small amount, but the edges of the tang are pretty sharp and after less than an hours work with the new knife my hand was very sore from the chaffing against the tang

I've written to the supplier explaining the problem, but let me just check here: I thought it was Tojiro DP which were well known for poor finish?

Surely there is something wrong when a MAC Pro (praised all over for their ergonomic handles, no?) has such a poor finish?

I assume I should be asking for - and getting - a replacement ? or is this a common issue with MAC Pro that noone mentions when recommending them?
post #2 of 16
Thread Starter 
Well, got a mail from Mr Arimoto advising me to soak the knife (handle) overnight as the wood has probably just dried out a bit
post #3 of 16
Sorry to hear that. That is really too bad since I really love my Mac. My Mac (BK-100) is a 10" Chef series. I haven't had any trouble with it and no problems chaffing my finger or even causing a callous.

But looking at the pictures on the Mac website, it does look as if the Pro series' blades do sit just a little high above the handle (MAC Knife Inc. USA) .

Compare that pic to the Chef series Mac knife, where the handle sits up against the back edge of the blade (MAC Knife Inc. USA). That is something that I don't know I would have caught before ordering either.

Hopefully, having the wooden handle sitting along the back edge of the blade would alleviate your problem. Would exchanging your Pro for the Chef series fix the problem? I'm not sure, but I would hope so.

And, on a side note, I just ordered a Tojiro DP Gyotu a couple of days ago. I am still waiting for it. But it too has that little gap between the back of the blade and the end of the handle like your Pro series. So, I will post my experience with it as soon as it arrives and let you know if I get the same problems that you are experiencing.
post #4 of 16
Well, for what it's worth, my opinion is that a premier knife-maker ought to be able to produce a knife that does not have to be "conditioned" by soaking once it arrives in the hands of the purchaser. Advising that the knife be "soaked overnight"? I wouldn't do that even with a cheap knife. We know what prolonged water exposure does to wooden handles. And then, how often does this soaking procedure have to be repeated? Surely if the wood has dried out once, it will dry out again, and again. Then, this brings up another question: wouldn't this soaking void the warrantee?
"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
post #5 of 16
You know...that is kind of a weird response from Arimoto (the supplier?). Maybe he didn't quite understand what your concern was. If I understand you correctly, you are saying that there is a gap between the back edge of the blade and the front edge of the wooden handle, correct? If that is the case, then no amount of soaking will alleviate the problem.

Besides, the wooden handles on the Mac are basically impregnated with plastic. So any soaking that you attempt really would not do anything to the wood. Well, actually, I can only say that definitively for the Chef series Mac. I can't tell you much about the Pro series handle. But even if the Pro series handle is penetrable by water, I don't think it would fix the problem you have.

In my own research for my recent tojiro knife purchase (a late birthday gift ;)) I found a number of Japanese knives that have that same gap you describe. I don't know if this gap between the back edge of the blade and the front edge of the handle is a performance decision, or if maybe the manufacturers expect a grip other than the pinch grip when using such knives. I guess we will soon find out.
post #6 of 16
The diagnosis that the handle has shrunk, is most probably correct. This isn't uncommon in wood handled in Japanese knives, especially around the time of year when the air is really, really dry. Common or uncommon, the retailer SHOULD accept the knife as a return and replace. My advice is to contact the retailer again and insist that he either replace immediately upon return or that he provide assurance that he will replace after you try his advice.

If you're going to "soak" your knives, the best way to do it is with the very light petroleum oil we call "mineral oil" in the United States. I understand it's not common outside of the U.S., at least not labeled as "mineral oil." You can, however, use baby oil which is the same thing except that baby oil tends to be a little lighter and is often scented. Don't use "tung" or linseed oil, except as a last resort. And if you're going to use either make sure they're pure and without plasticizers, and are appropriately thinned. Really, baby oil is much easier.

You can try soaking the handle overnight in a glass of oil, and see if that solves the problem entirely -- or goes a long way towards solving it. I expect that it will. The best way to treat oiling any dry wood is the same way as you oil newly sanded, never-oiled wood. That is, according to a schedule in which the intervals roughly double:

Oil well, allow to sit a few minutes, then thoroughly wipe off any excess, on the ...

1st month, 1st week, 1st day;
1st month, 1st week, 2d day;
1st month, 1st week, 4th day;

1st month, 3d week, 1s day;

2d month, 1st week, 1st day;
2d month 3d week, 1st day;

4th month, 1st week, 1st day; and ...

Every 90 days (or so) thereafter.

In the case of a MAC Pro and a home cook that should coincide with how often you fully sharpen the knife. While you're at it, oil your cutting boards and wooden serving bowls and platters according to the same schedule.

If you follow the above schedule, I'd expect your handles to have returned to their full size by the end of the first week -- especially if you soak the handle for a few hours on the first application.

Oiling wooden handles, even stabilized wood, is ordinary maintenance in climates as dry as yours. However, that's no excuse. The knives shouldn't have been shipped unless and until the handles were fully stabilized -- which they clearly were not. You paid for a knife in good condition and never received it, through no fault of yours. Again, I'd request immediate replacement with the retailer to bear shipping costs since the knife did not arrive in the appropriate condition -- but I'd be willing to negotiate that down to trying to fix the problem according to his instructions as long as he guaranteed replacement, plus shipping both ways. Make sure you get written confirmation of his willingness to bear shipping costs. If you conduct the transaction by telephone, that means e-mailing or faxing a "memorialization" of your understanding of the agreement very shortly after you have the conversation.

If he's not willing to pay shipping after you try to resolve the problem, he doesn't have much faith in his own solution. That said, if the handles fit when they left the factory -- unless they were cut from very green wood -- oiling will make them fit again.

Held og lykke,
post #7 of 16
I guess I must be the one misunderstanding the problem. Re-reading everyone's responses, I am realizing that Tillster is probably not referring to the designed gap between the back edge of the blade and the forward end of the bolster. Rather, it now sounds to me like there is a tiny gap between the front edge of the wooden handle, and the back edge of the bolster/shoulder where the two parts should be sitting flush.

If that is the case...again...really sorry to hear that (and for misreading previously) especially on such a pricey item. Hopefully an exchange is possible. Good luck with that!!!
post #8 of 16
What he's saying is that the handle bolsters have shrunk (in all 3 dimensions), presumably since being fitted. They're (now) too short, too thin and too narrow. The purpose of the "fix" is to get the bolsters to swell to their original, finished size.

We all of us wait with bated breath (or perhaps we wate with baited breath) to here how this comes out. Well, we hope; especially so in that MAC has a reputation for superb handles and are frequently recommended on that basis.

post #9 of 16
I keep comparing the original post and the MAC images.

Here's my question: are you saying that the bolster is separated from the handle, i.e. there is a little gap between the wood and the metal where the handle meets the bolster? Otherwise I cannot see where the problem could lie, because the Pro series has this metal bolster.

Presumably you don't mean that there is a gap between the bolster and the blade, because in that case it has nothing whatever to do with wood: it's metal and metal.

If the wooden handle has indeed shrunk, then it should have shrunk in all directions. Do the rivets stand up from the handle? I don't know if the tang shows along the length of the handle -- not clear from the photos -- but if so, does it too stand up a little from the wood?

I'd say follow BDL's advice about communications, replacements, shipping, and whatnot. From your description, in which you only mention what I read as a gap between the handle and the bolster, this does not sound to me like a pure shrinkage problem: if that were all, I'd expect the handle to be small all over, not just at that one spot.

Incidentally, even if it is a fit-and-finish problem, I wouldn't give MAC a negative mark about it unless they should fail to deal with the problem appropriately. Anybody can make a mistake, and MAC generally does a good job. It's another matter if the problem is very common or they refuse to make good.
post #10 of 16
The expression "sits proud of," means the boslter's above the scale. This occurred because as the scale shank, it became thinner. When Tillset grips the knife, the back of the bolster (that is the part that's against the wood, rubs against his hand. Although Tillset didn't say anything, the sensation is further exacerbated because the scale also became shorter. Not by as much because the grain direction.

post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 
Hi fellas.

Thanks for the info and advice.

BDL - yours is the correct interpretation of the problem, insofar as the way I described (though see end of my post for more info)

BDL - it was also your posts on the MAC handles which swung it for me, so you should feel rather responsible for this whole mess :lol: Just kidding.

I received the following reply from MAC

"We see this problem maybe 12 times a year and in almost every case, soaking the handle resolves the problem.

As further explanation, in manufacturing, the wooden scales are cut slightly larger than the finished size. The scales are riveted on to both sides of the tang.
A sanding belt is applied to the top, bottom, and butt of the handle around the perimeter. The flat surface of the sanding belt creates a perfectly flat and exact fit. It is easier to sand the softer wooden scales versus the harder steel of the tang and that is why initially the scales extend beyond the tang. The perimeter is then buffed to a smooth finish.

There are many quality control steps that ensure each knife is "perfect" when it is finally boxed. The shrinkage occurs after the knife as passed the final human inspection--this shrinkage occurs sitting on the shelf, in transit, at the distributor/retailer, or even once the knife has been purchased. Remember, Pakkawood is wood and phenolic resin, but does shrink and expand as a result of the natural moisture. The only solution is to use an inert material such as plastic that is extremely stable, but does not have the look, feel, and warmth of wood. As noted, your problem is rare or we would have years ago changed our materials, manufacturing, or quality control.

If you look carefully at your knife, you will notice that the wooden scales are less than a millimeter below the level of the tang and this "gap" is almost the same thickness the entire length of the handle. This minute space would be impossible to create during manufacturing as all this finish work is done by hand. The overall wooden scale has shrunk after production, causing this very small, but uniform change.

We use the same Pakkawood material for all of our knives including the PKF60 and SA80. Each handle is also sanded and finished exactly the same regardless of model."


On further inspection this morning, after another night's soaking (I'm following the manufacturer's recommendations at this point) there is no change to the top edge of the handle.

However, for once I looked underneath and the handle sits 1mm proud on the base of the handle. And 1mm shy on the top of the handle.

A shame it took me so long to realise; this isn't an issue of the handle having contracted, it's a misalignment of the mounting.

I have written to the retailer asking them to provide details of how they will pay for the return shipping and immediate replacement of the knife. UK consumer law is pretty clear on the sellers rights and responsibilities, so I'm sure all will be fine.
post #12 of 16
Ha! BDL and I diagnosed completely differently, and we're both right -- how cool is that?

Seriously, do keep us posted. I'm betting you'll be happy with the knife you eventually receive.

And, yes, it is all BDL's fault. No question on that one! ;)
post #13 of 16
It's always my fault.

post #14 of 16
Good to know you can admit it.

I have to say I've never heard of a mac knife with a defective handle. (I know someone who bought one with a broken scale, but that was UPS's and the seller's fault.)
post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 
Only just noticed this on the second read

There's normally only one reasona male knows that, or any, Danish phrase

What was her name?? ;)

Anyway, thanks for your help
post #16 of 16
This is the downside of Japanese knife ownership - crappy handles. There's a huge amount of this found on many different models from many different makers. It's so common that many of us Japanese knife users have just come to accept it as part of the deal of having these great blades to use.

As the manufacturer stated above the alternative to wood (which can shrink and swell) is plastic or something like it. Pretty much all of the rest of the knifemaking world has already switched to not using wood anymore for this reason. It's probably cheaper to use plastic to.

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