Knife Maker's Mark for Jay Fisher Knives

Jay Fisher - World Class Knifemaker


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"Dagon" fillet, boning, carving, chef's, collector's knife, obverse side view in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Green Orbicular Jasper gemstone handle, frog skin inlaid in hand-carved leather sheath
"Dagon"

Chef's Knives, Kitchen Cutlery

Welcome to the best page on the best fine handmade and custom chef's, kitchen, and culinary knives on the internet!

I am committed to making completely and clearly the best knives in the world.

--Jay Fisher

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Fine Chef's Knife: "Hestia" 440c high chromium stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Amethyst gemstone handle, walnut, Amethyst, black galaxy granite baseClick here to see a special page on this fine chef's knife with many more pictures and information.
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"Chef's Set" obverse side view in CPM154CM stainless steel blades, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Petrified Palm Wood gemstone handles, case of Pecan, Arririba, Padauk, Bloodwood, Bocote, Poplar, stainless steel
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Introduction

This page is about the knives hand and custom made here in Enchanted Spirits Studio for culinary use, and is dedicated to chef's knives and cutlery, kitchen knives, cook's knives, professional food service knives, meal prep knives, tools, and accessories comprising of but not limited to cutting tools, knives, choppers, cleavers, used to and for slicking, slicing, chunking, julienne, butterfly, chopping spices, cubing, dicing, scoring, shredding, brunoise, preparing stir-fry, slicing bread, fining, grinding, carving, and separating foods, ingredients, and components. I've included some topics that I hope you will find worthwhile, and also included thumbnail photographs in captioned boxes with the name of the individual knives. If there is a featured page about the knife, the name is linked to that page. As with all my pages, I'll continually add new projects and knives as they are completed.

While you read this page, you'll probably realize that a lot of what you think, have heard, or read about common chef's and kitchen knives is the result of mass marketing hyperbole created to sell volume knives rather than to fill a critical need for a reliable, well-made tool and adjunct to the cooking or meal prep experience. Manufacturers, boutique shops, factories, and knife makers are all after the same thing, which is making and selling as many knives as possible. Though my personal drive is to make and sell also, my perspective is not selling units in high volume, but making and selling what are completely and clearly the very best fine chef's and kitchen knives available in our modern times. They produce and sell quantity; I create and sell quality. This is the simple difference that sets my knives, my work, and my passion apart. This distinction is also what I instill in the two makers who are now creating their own collaborative pieces in Enchanted Spirits Studio, Rusty Russom and James Beauchamp .

By the time you are finished reading this page and the related and linked pages, I promise that you will know more than most people, more than most chefs, more than most knife collectors, and even more than most manufacturers about what constitutes a finely made chef's knife. While others may offer you baseless generalities, notions of great traditional histories, vague and non-specific ideals about their knives alongside tiny photos and very little useful information or specs, I will offer facts, specific descriptions, very clear and abundant evaluations and comparisons for your consideration. Armed with this concrete knowledge, I believe that you will be better equipped to purchase any chef's knife from any source for the purpose you intend.

You deserve a fine knife for your most important and frequent knife duty, task, and passion.

Thanks for being here!

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"Saussure" master chef's knife, obverse side view in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Argentina Agate gemstone handle, Working, display stand of American Black Walnut Hardwood
More about this Saussure

Great Knife..such balance no hand fatigue and sharp too.
With that knife in my kitchen. . . I am a surgeon--- not a butcher.

-- B. M.


The Custom Approach

Chef and meal prep knives and cutlery are the most common knives seen. Every household has these kind of knives, and they probably see the most duty of any knife. Newer kitchens are equipped with the best appliances, finest counters, floors, and walls, best modern lighting, and newest and most efficient modern cookware as well as modern, well-designed tools, cookware, utensils, and accessories. At the forefront of every meal preparation with fresh, healthy, and delicious food is the knife.

The knife is where the meal starts, and it should be the most reliable, durable, distinctive, and useful tool in the kitchen, because it is the tool that physically creates prepared food from raw meat and produce. How the chef lives through the work of the knife will translate into how the meal experience occurs for others around him. The chef should be eager and excited about the prospect of picking up his knife in his hand, at his board, in his kitchen with his tools and appliances to create his unique meal. The use of the knife should be a flowing, fluid, and comfortable experience, and when it is, the preparation of the meal becomes a creative and wonderful event for not only the chef, but also his friends, clients, patrons, or family.

The tools and utensils of the modern kitchen are the most advanced and wonderful they have ever been in history. We are all lucky to be living in our modern world, and the chefs of the past would be astounded at what we have available in even the most modest kitchen environment. Though there have been a few new inventions in the culinary world, the major change in the world of the chef in historic times has been refinement. Meat and produce have been refined and cultured, cookware has been improved, and appliances have brought the chef out of the smoky fires of antiquity into the clean and efficient creation space of the modern kitchen. The cooking experience itself has been meticulously and accurately refined as art across many mediums and cultures.

Since the knife is the central focus of the cooking experience, it is important to be knowledgeable and well-informed about chef's knives. Thankfully, we also have refined our information technology to a high degree, and more detailed, specific and clear information is available from worthwhile sources to more people than has ever been available before in history! Right now, you are reading this because of refined information technology. The interpretation, direction, specifics, and art of knives is now available from metals artists and craftsmen like myself for anyone to see, at any time, in the privacy and time frame of their own personal choosing. I feel very lucky and thankful that you are reading this now, and understand that I have a great deal to offer based on my own practice, experience, and art in this field. I consider it an obligation and responsibility of the service aspect to may clients, my trade, and my art.

In my field, I have made many, many knives. Every knife I've made has been a refinement of at least one of several attributes. An attribute is simply a logic, quality, characteristic, property, philosophy, or character. On the surface this may seem a heavy group of considerations, but I want you, my reader, to know exactly why handmade custom knives and my knives in particular are worth many times what is commonly available.

Logic: My professional logic is that I want to create and supply the finest knives available in our modern world, with modern materials and techniques, to some of the finest chefs and clients, whether they are cooking at home, as a profession, or are determined to become fine chefs. I strive to create designs that are logical, for uses in the real kitchen, with reasonable and dependable geometries, materials, finishes, and accessories.

Quality: My standard is to create the highest quality knife, tool, and work of art that is possible in modern technology and process. Like my fine Tactical Combat Knives, I am determined to make only the very best. I use the finest modern corrosion resistant tool steels available, with modern and specific processes of heat treating, tempering, and testing with professional apparatus, in house, here at Enchanted Spirits Studio. I use the most modern and refined fittings, designs, and finishes on the most durable handle materials possible for each knife. The fit, finish, and accuracy of each component is of the highest quality, whether it's on one of my sole authorship knives or one of our collaboratives created in the studio. The quality of the knife is matched by any accessory that accompanies it, and my clients and patrons are assured they are acquiring the very best.

Characteristics of the fine modern chef's knife vary widely, perhaps more than any other type of knife known. Since there are many different processes that the chef's knife must complete, there is a great variety of blade styles and shapes, grinds and finishes, handles and forms. Chef's knives may perform delicate tasks requiring thin, hard blades, other chef's knives may need an improved and refined grip to apply great force with extended blade toughness. The characteristics of each individual knife determine which one you reach for in the block, sheath, or roll, depending on the task you have in the kitchen.

Properties of each knife distinguish them from others. For example, making a knife from modern high chromium martensitic tool steel distinguishes the knife from one made of 1095 plain carbon steel by many orders of magnitude. The property of a gemstone handle distinguishes the well-made fine tool from a factory knife that has a polypropylene molded handle. Properties of fine handmade chef's knives instantly set them apart from mass produced knives in every way: materials, finish, design, embellishment, fit, finish, accessories, and service.

My Philosophy of my chef's knives is unique. While every individual maker may say that his works and philosophy about the knives he creates is unique, I actually detail these specific distinctions on this very page, and on the 500 other pages on this very website for all to see. There is no mystery about why I make the knives I do or how I do it, I believe this field should be modern, transparent, evolving, and inviting to all who are interested in fine knives. One could boil down this philosophy quite simply: I am a full time professional knife maker, artist, and writer who does my very best to create the finest modern handmade knife and work of art for each individual client.

The Character of each knife, group of knives, or art project are what sets it apart as distinctive. No other knives look like or have the character of the knives I create, and that specific character appeals to each client, patron, or chef in a very personal way. The character of the fine, modern handmade and custom knife will prohibit it from ever being grouped in the endless clones of production work, replicas, primitive, or manufactured items, and exhibit the personality of the owner who appreciates finely crafted works of art as well as tools.

The only way to experience unique logic, high quality, refined characteristics, specific properties, and share the philosophy of the knife and maker as well as own a chef's knife or set with distinctive character is through a custom knife maker. Even if the knife or set is not made to order, its unique attributes can only be experienced through this very personal and exclusive approach. How is this done? Through conversation. Email me here to discuss your project or idea!

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The Critics

Every successful business and endeavor has critics, and my professional knifemaking career is no exception. Clearly, what you will see on this page is not the average, normal, traditional, typical, or commonly accepted design, concept, and construction of a chef's knife or culinary knife. There are those who publically reject any deviation from their beliefs and practices, and embrace the common, mundane forms of mass marketing, and that is their prerogative, as this is a free country (the USA). Most people's comments are not restricted. I, too, have the right to say what I believe and to present in clear and concise language why I do what I do.

For most people who don't particularly like or accept my type of knife, they simply move on to find a maker or manufacturer who does appeal to them, and I encourage it, because, after all, knives are personal. However, there is a particular type of person who complains, grumbles, and then tries to curry favor with like-minded individuals and post comments anonymously about my (and other's) works, as if they are or have some authority on the matter.

To this I have a clear statement: If you are not in the arena, with skin in the game, professionally, then your comments as critics from the cheap seats are ignored by those of us who are in the arena. If you are this type of person, you may be outraged by this comment, but this is the truth, and it is the truth with all worthwhile endeavors by professionals. We know you're there; sucess means faceless critics and jealous hearts, but it doesn't stop me or people like me from moving forward at a determined and unstoppable pace.

The people who are in the arena are the people who commission my works, design them, pay for them, commission them and frequently ask for more. They are professionals, chefs, restaurant owners, gifted creative individuals, or people who benefit from my designs and see the value of them. They are who I make for, and they clearly let me know what they want, how they want it, how they plan to use it, and the distinctive advantages of the individual works I create. You can read some of their comments on my Letters, Emails and Testimonials page, and get a clear idea of what they think. It's also good to know that every single knife on this page is sold, in the hands of these great people, in use, appreciated, and enjoyed. At the time of this writing I have 4-5 years of backordered knives, so I must be doing something right!

If you are one of these critics, and think that I just dream up knives, patterns, features, and executions of these in a vacuum, you are completely wrong. Like all of my knives, I listen to my clients to create for them the knives they request. If you are not one of them, frankly, you have no standing in the conversation. None. Sitting in the cheap seats where you have no investment of blood, sweat, effort, or money while barking and complaining to others keeps you out of the arena, out of the game, and unimportant to the rest of us. Sorry to be so blunt, but this is reality. The critics will go on and on (anonymously, because that is what cowards do), yammering away way up in the stands, while the rest of us go on creating, living, and enjoying the successes gained by active and valid conversations, between patron and artist, between craftsman and client.

If you are a critic reading this and incensed and outraged, good for you, you have felt something. Now, apply that energy to offering what you think are valid and useful creations to people who are looking for them, and the very best of luck to you! Roll up your sleeves, get in the game, and spill some blood while putting your own future and your family's future on the line. Don't just sit in the anonymous stands barking to other anonymous watchers. If you are too afraid to do that, then you understand how fear can keep you paralyzed. They can put on your gravestone, "Dead, but not used up yet." That last comment thanks to Earl Nightingale. This one too, should help, "You become what you think about."

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Mr. Fisher,
It is just before midnight here in NYC, just walked in the door, home from a long day at the restaurant. To my surprise was a FedEx box waiting for me in the hallway. I am normally a pretty collected individual, however I was like a kid on Christmas as I opened the box.
I am beyond impressed with the knife, it truly is a work of art and great craftsmanship rolled into one. From the sheath, to the balance of the blade, to the beautifully sculpted handle, I really could not ask for more. You have a great talent and I thank you for putting such time, effort and precision into this knife, it will be cherished for a lifetime.
Thank you again Mr. Fisher.

Sincerely,
L. C. G.


"Andrimne" Chef's Master Knife, obverse side view in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel guard ferrule and pommel ferrule, Peach hardwood turned handle, hand-stamped, hand-laced leather sheath
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What are chef's knives and why are they different?

Interest in fine chef's knives is on the rise. This is probably because as factory produced knives increase in cost, the investment to properly outfit and equip a chef approaches that of custom knifemakers. Most professional chefs are covetous of their knives and tools, indeed a fine custom knife set can personalize, identify, and set a chef apart. Ask a professional chef what he most values and he'll probably tell you his knives. What kind of knives equip a custom kitchen or chef identifies his passion for the culinary arts.

You might wonder why few of the top chefs are publicly seen with custom knives. My interpretations of this cover several dimensions.

  • In the public realm, finely made custom chef's knives are rarely seen. This is probably because there are actually so few of them in existence. When you consider how many millions and millions of standard, typical, and manufactured common pattern kitchen knives exist in the world, it is clear that the fine handmade custom chef's knives by top grade knife makers are a very elite, exclusive part of the large picture. They are, quite simply, rare.
  • Though in the very public field of cooking you may see many types of common knives, the finest custom handmade knives are often more protected, coveted, and cherished by their owners. Many of these chefs would not flaunt their extremely fine knives any more than they would flaunt their private art collection in the public realm. Sometimes, modesty is a dish served publicly, but refinement is a feast for the home.
  • Most people relate to the common knife with more familiarity. They are comfortable with known and established common tools, and the top chef may wish to relate to the public and the products of his efforts (his dishes and meals)rather than have them distracted by bold and stunning artwork in the form of a knife. Who can focus on the colors of the presentation of the dish when the knife with a solid, striking, and unique gemstone handle takes all the attention? I've seen this many times; people love beautiful knives, and the knives become the center of attention and focus.
  • Because of the relative rarity of fine custom knife making, most chefs have never even seen a very fine, custom, handmade knife. While they may recognize some factory knives as "top of the line," they can be quite shocked to see just what a really fine knife is.

Extremely fine, well-designed and handmade chef's knives can be works of art. In my own works, every knife is absolutely distinctive, and I strive to bring to solid form the energy of the activity expected of these original works. In the form of the knife, you will see the movement, feel the grip, sense the slice easing through the subject of your dishes. If I can't create that in the form of the knife, it is not worth the dedication.

At the basis of the knife's artistic vision lies its form and function. The very foundation of a fine chef's knife is the most substantial consideration that not only sets it apart in the realm of knives, but also offers the physical basis and traits that will establish its value. If you want to know the exact basis for the fine knife when compared to inferior knives, I've detailed the specifics in the next sections. As promised, by the time you have finished reading this page, you will know more about fine, handmade, and custom chef's knives than most other chefs, factories, or other knife makers!

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"Saussure" chef's knife in satin finished 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, stabilized Box Elder Burl hardwood handle, stand of Cherry and Pecan hardwoods
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Chef's Knives Blades
If you are a fan of the steel, and love to whip a blade across the rod, and think that this is what makes a cook appear to be a chef, the fine handmade custom chef's knife is not for you. Knives that need frequent steeling and honing are soft, inferior knives. Try to steel up some high chromium, high vanadium carbide tool steel knives, and you will be throwing away that rod as it glazes over in failure.

Please read the wisdom box above again. This perception: a chef steeling a knife, is a persistent and cultural icon, often played in the media as a defining activity. When one sees a chef, he's got a white smock on, perhaps an apron, and he is steeling a knife. Why is he steeling his knife? Because it is dull. It starts out dull, and dulls easily, and dulls frequently, so he steels and steels and steels... After a while, he becomes pretty quick at the motions, and may even make it look effortless, like some graceful flourish before the cut. To a maker of fine custom knives, however, this action screams out, "Help! My knife is dull, it's continually dull, and I can't keep it reliably sharp!"

Please consider this. The chef's steel rakes away tiny chips of metal from the knife blade. They settle on the blade, and are carried into the meat and produce that are cut by the knife. How often do you see a chef rinse his blade after steeling but before cutting? Hmmm?

I consider it my duty as a maker of extremely fine chef's knives to help the chef out. But I can not help him if he has a low grade, inferior, and weak blade steel. The foundation for every knife is the blade, and the blade is made of tool steel (or should be). The fine knife blade should not be a low alloy, old world style carbon steel, but the finest engineered, most modern, highest quality, refined, clean, and scientifically made, machined, ground, and finished tool steel we have available. A good piece of professional chef's cutlery simply starts with the foundation of an exceptional blade. This doesn't only mean an ornamental blade, although style, appearance, and artistic value can be well-applied here.

  • Steel Type: Clean, modern, high quality martensitic high alloy stainless tool steels are the best choice for fine, well-made, and durable chef's knives. Carbon steels and non-stainless damascus steels are not a good choice and there are several clear reasons. Plain carbon steels will quickly and easily rust if not meticulously cared for, and that doesn't often happen in the kitchen. What are the bad carbon steels I'm writing about? 1095, 1025, 5160, 1075: these are all low alloy plain carbon steels that are inferior to fine high alloy steels by many orders of magnitude and on many levels. Carbon steels corrode, and the steel that corrodes away goes somewhere, usually into the food. Because the entire blade corrodes, that means that the cutting edge also corrodes, so they dull faster. Carbon steels sometimes have a greater following because they're the cheapest and easiest to make a knife with, they are forgiving of process errors, and they are cheap to replace if any part of the knife making process fails. They are cheaply purchased, commonly available, and easily ground, easily machined, and easily sharpened. A few well-angled whips over the steel is usually all it takes to sharpen them, and this has to be done often, since they dull so quickly. This is why you so often see the chef reaching for the steel. So the misperception is that carbon steel blades are better, because they seem to sharpen easily, and seem sharper. Why do they sharpen easily? Because they are low alloy steels, and are less wear resistant and dull quicker! Standard carbon steels contain few of the alloys that allow the creation of chromium carbides, tungsten carbides, or vanadium carbides that are the extremely hard particles in the structure of stainless tool steels that give these high alloy steels such substantial and profound wear resistance. Note that I refer to stainless tool steels, as not all stainless steels are durable and wear resistant. Stainless steel for chef's knives got a bad reputation in the 1960s and 1970s due to the cheap 420 series and 440A stainless blades that were sold as bargain, universal, forever-sharp knives. They're still sold as such, and they are simply thin, weak, stainless springs, and not tools. I discuss this in great detail in the topic below. Fine, high quality martensitic stainless tool steels when properly hardened and tempered will hold an edge many times longer than carbon steels, will not corrode, rust, pit, or stain, can be made much tougher and more resistant to breakage, and can be made thinner than standard carbon steel knife blades. They are also many times stronger, with markedly greater tensile strength, shear strength, and compression strength. What are these fine high alloy martensitic stainless tool steels I'm referring to? 440C, ATS-34, CPM154CM, CPMS30V, CPMS90V, BG42, and D2. Remember that these modern, isotropic, homogenous, refined and engineered steels are used for extremely wear-resistant, corrosion-resistant ball bearings, valve seats, high speed metal cutting and forming blades, and injection mold dies. They are used in industrial, military, medical, and mechanical field high strength, high wear applications because they out-perform all other steels. If standard carbon steels were better performers, engineers and machinists would be using them for these extreme applications. They don't because they are inferior steels, plain and simple. Please think about that. There are more details about these knife steels on my Blades page.
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  • Grind Geometry: The blade geometry of a well-made chef's knife must allow a thin cutting edge. Very thin. Wafer thin. See-through. Some factory knives and handmade knives used in food prep work are too thick and heavy. This kind of work demands speedy movement, fairly light weight, and a razor keen edge. That's why my chef's knives are popular; I'm known for some of the thinnest hollow grinds in the business. The only exception to this rule is for cleavers or nut and spice choppers, which must be thick and heavy for strength. Some custom master chef's knives are also heavy by design, but the cutting edge must always be very thin. While the cutting edge must be thin, the blade spine may be too thin and that will allow the knife to flex and bend. The thin spine will not allow you to place a hand there to apply pressure or stabilize the cut, and the thinness at the spine can dig into the chef's hand. A spine that is too thin will not allow you to grasp the knife in a pinch position, which is preferred by many chefs when doing fine work with larger blades. When chopping, a large force must be made to bear down on a sharp, thin cutting edge, and this means the knife blade must have the proper balance of heft to apply that force, and sufficient thinness in the blade to execute the cut. This job is best performed by a hollow ground knife blade. A hollow ground blade provides a very thin cutting edge (the thinnest available of any grind) while preserving sufficient blade thickness at the spine. A hollow grind also provides the highest longevity of all knife grinds. After decades of use and sharpening, the blade at the cutting edge can still be significantly thin for a razor-keen edge. Though taper grinds and flat grinds have their place on extremely thin knives (1/16", .0625, or 1.6mm or less), in knives made from thicker blade stock they are simply a cheaper way to make and sell a knife, and clearly inferior. I go into the blade grind geometry in great detail on my Blades page at this bookmark.
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  • Blade Hardness: The chef's knife blade must be hard. In knives, the term hard is a not a generalized description, but a specific number (Rockwell), based on the ability of a diamond or carbide point to penetrate the steel when pressure is applied by a calibrated, scientific instrument called a hardness penetration tester. Details about this process are on my Blades page at this bookmark. When a knife is properly heat treated and hardened, the high hardness translates to increased wear resistance. If the heat treating is performed in-house under the maker's control, he can assure that the proper hardness (and wear resistance) will exist throughout the blade's geometry, and that repeated sharpenings will always yield a hard and wear-resistant cutting edge. This is where factory knives fall flat on their face. Factories do not use steels that can be both hard and tough, so they settle for tough. Like a spring, they will flex, but not break. But they will dull quickly, and are usually left and used dull, or constantly beg steeling to sharpen. While this type of knife is one that requires frequent honing on a steel, a hard knife will be wear-resistant and hold an edge longer, and therefore last many, many years longer, perhaps even for generations!
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  • Blade Temper: The chef's knife blade must be tough. Toughness is resistance to breakage, or literally, the ability of the crystalline structure of the steel to be ripped apart from itself which is a fracture. For a knife to be tough, it has to be tempered back from full hardness, but tempering a knife back can reduce the hardness and wear resistance. This is another reason for a careful steel choice. Only high alloy steels are capable of being both very hard and very tough when properly heat treated and tempered. This is also a reason for the heat treating to be performed in-house at the knife maker's studio, shop, or establishment. That way, the temper of the knife is created by the maker to his standards, for the specific knife requirements, and accurately tested with calibrated instrumentation for certainty. Factories and manufacturers usually temper a blade way back, into the realm of flexibility. They want the blade springy, so that if it is somehow bent severely, it will not snap. What experienced chef would ever bend a knife this way? He would know better, so the reason this is done is for the general public. The price of having a springy knife is loss of hardness and wear resistance. This translates to frequent steeling, a short blade life, and an inferior edge.
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  • Blade Shape and Type: There are a bewildering number of blade shapes for chef's knives, and this is a good thing. Every task in the kitchen is different, and every chef is different, so it makes sense to offer a variety of knives to the chef. In fact, the chef is the one type of client I have that requires many knives of different designs, delivered at once or over time. While a factory and many other makers only offer a small group of similar knives based on their limited manufacturing ability, a true custom knife maker will offer a wide, ever-growing assortment of knife blade shapes. There simply is no singular knife for all tasks and requirements in the modern kitchen and the maker should work with the chef to build a knife to his specific personal needs. This is why I have over 400 different patterns of knife, and add new patterns in every batch. Where will you go to see that many patterns or have custom designed the knife of your choosing and particular needs? This is the realm of an experienced custom knife maker alone.
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  • Blade Finish: The chef's knife must be kept clean, and be able to be kept clean. You understand by now how standard carbon steels can corrode, rust, and pit, eating away the metal on the cutting edge and on the surface of the steel. These same steels can corrode underneath the bolsters, guard, ferrules, fittings, and handle material: unseen, until an absolute failure of the knife blade, tang, or handle. There are also other considerations. In many hand-forged and handmade knives, as well as most of the Asian cutlery from Japan and China, finishing is ill-considered, hasty, cheap, and fast. I cringe when I see so-called chef's knives with a finish that is crusty, hammered, scarred, gouged, dented, dark, beaten, and scoured. Most people think that this is done to show some hand-crafted nature of the piece, giving it a primitive look, linking it in concept to some ancient master toiling away at his bellows and coal forge high in the mountains of east Asia (or Appalachia). The reality is quite different and frankly, sad. This type of primitive finishing is fast, easy, and requires no skill whatsoever to do, and is simply a cost-cutting measure for the maker or factory and of no benefit to the knife owner. The whole idea of making a knife look crude and "handmade" by beating the surface with a hammer is prevalent in mass-manufactured Japanese knives. The huge and looming problem is that these are dirty finishes, they trap and hide moisture, bacteria, foodstuffs, fungus, molds, viruses, and all sorts of nasty things you don't want on your knife blade, and ultimately, in your salad. A chef's knife has to be able to be cleaned and kept clean. Though a mirror finish on the blade is best, a fine satin finish will also provide a smooth, cleanable surface that prevents or inhibits bacterial and other growth. Why do you think that professional counters, pots, pans, implements, tools, and objects in the restaurant and medical field have satiny smooth and cleanly mirror or polished finished surfaces? You've got to be able to clean them, that's why. While a primitive look may go well when hung on a wall as part of a crusty, primal decoration, it does not serve the chef where he preps, cooks, and serves.
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  • Longevity of the chef's or well-made kitchen knife blade is paramount. Please consider this: the chef's knife sees the longest, most active, most continuous and regular use of any knife made for individual use. There are industrial knives that don't see as much use as the common kitchen knife. The type of person who is an established chef whether as a hobby, interest, or vocation will use this type of knife daily, with little exception. Imagine any other sort of tool or instrument that is used daily. Wouldn't it be built to the highest standards that the user can afford? Would not the longevity of the knife be a significant, determinant factor in the knife design, style, and purchase?
    • Blade Grind Longevity: In blades, the most important attribute to the longevity of the fine chef's or kitchen knife is the grind. This is called a bevel in the common trade, but make no mistake; it is a grind. Most manufactured and most handmade chef's knives are flat ground. Flat grinding means that the cross sectional geometry dictates that as the knife is sharpened, it will become markedly thicker. Thicker, broad, and indistinct the cutting edge angles will become as the blade is used and sharpened. You can not ignore this fact: every knife must be sharpened over the course of its life, and, as stated earlier, this type of knife sees the most daily use. In order to be significantly thin after repeated sharpenings, a hollow grind must be used. You can clearly understand the reason for this as you look at the grind geometry profiles on my blades page and note the relief face widths and blade thicknesses after repeated sharpenings. Why don't more makers and manufacturers use a hollow grind in their chef's and kitchen knives? Skill, time, and expense. It takes a very skilled and practiced hand to execute fine, balanced, matching hollow grinds on knife blades, and bringing those grinds to a high level of finish is beyond the skill of most makers (and all manufacturers). The flat grind is simple, can be automated, and the choice of a flat grind is a choice of a cheap manufacturing or mass production cost-cutting measure, not a choice for a superior knife.
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    • Steel Type Longevity: Another important factor for knife blade longevity in the chef's knife is the steel type. Carbon steels are out as they rust and corrode, shortening the life of every chef's knife. I remember in my father's day, he would carefully clean and oil his carbon steel butcher knives after every use, rubbing them down, worrying every little spot or discoloration, storing them in the special drawer in the kitchen where my mother or the kids were not allowed to touch them. He would gently place them in their leather sheaths, bed them in the drawer so their handles would not touch other utensils, and secret them away. I realized later that this was because the blades were so delicate and easily corroded, the knives were simply not fit for daily use. Why would anyone not consider this with today's modern, high tech super alloy stainless tool steels?
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    • The finish longevity is a serious concern for the modern fine chef's knife. As detailed above, rough or coarse finishes are out, as they will hold moisture, debris, foodstuffs, and bacteria. A fine finish will last a very long time, will resist corrosion, repel moisture, release foodstuffs, and facilitate easy cleaning. This will contribute greatly to the longevity of the knife blade.
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Evening Jay,
I wanted to give you a proper testimonial now that I've had time to use Sirona at work for a day. I couldn't wait to bring out Sirona at work, everyone noticed the shining mirror polish immediately while I was getting ready to small dice about 150 tomatoes to keep the restaurant stocked for the day. Sirona was well up to the task. The knife felt like an extension of my hand, and the extra weight also feels good, knowing that I'm not using some flimsy piece of carbon steel that I'm so used to. After seeing in person how good a knife could be, my first thought was that I can't wait to order my next two! It was a pleasure to speak with you on the phone and I look forward to doing business with you in the future.

--A.


"Sirona" chef's knife, obverse side view in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Bronzite Hypersthene gemstone handle, stand of American Black Walnut, Red Oak Padauk hardwood
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Chef's Knives Fittings

The fittings of a fine chef's or kitchen knife consist of the bolsters, pins, ferrules, guards, pommels, and other fastening agents or mechanisms that mount and solidify the handles, strengthen the blade to handle junction, and protect the vulnerable parts of the knife and handle. They can also create or enhance grip areas, aid in corrosion prevention and create easy maintenance and cleaning. Some fittings allow areas for embellishment, personalization, and distinction.

  • Materials: Only the highest corrosion resistant materials should be used for fittings for the fine chef's knives. Some metals, like brass and copper not only can corrode, but also can impart an odor that may end up in the food. Nickel silver is probably a limited choice also, because if you are cooking for the public, you should remember that some people are allergic to nickel. Copper, though traditional in some kitchens for pots or fittings, will tarnish and discolor, and must be continuously maintained. Even though I don't recommend these metals, once in a while a client specifically requests them. As long as they know that it will take daily polishing and meticulous care to keep them maintained, I'll use them by special request. Normally, I use 304 austenitic stainless steel, the same stainless steel that is used to make fine cookware, medical equipment, and high strength nuts, bolts, and fasteners. Other makers usually use 400 series stainless steels, like 410, and their choice to do so is one of ease in machining, and not of real value to the knife owner. Many of these steels have more sulfur than 300 series steels, added to make the steel more machinable which also imparts a bit of a yellowish cast, not the bright bluish chromium, and many of them do not reach the toughness and durability of 304 austenitic stainless steel. 304 is also much more corrosion resistant than the 400 series. 400 series stainless steels do not reach their full corrosion resistance until fully heat treated and hardened, something that is never done. More about these materials is detailed on my Handles, Bolsters, and Guards page.
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  • Shape and Contouring: The best knives have contoured fittings. In manufactured and poorly made knives, the front bolster face is often simply left flat, or sharply angled, or abruptly machined. This shows a lack of care while cheapening the manufacturing process. Chef's knives have to be able to be cleaned and abrupt, coarse, or unfinished surfaces here will make the knife harder to clean and foodstuffs will lodge and cling there. Around the finger placement of the front bolster should be well contoured, rounded, and comfortable. The human hand is rounded and made of soft and sensitive tissues, and any sharp, cornered, abrupt, angled machining in the bolster areas will cause discomfort and possibly chafing. On a knife used only occasionally this might be overlooked, but a chef's knife will see daily, sometimes heavy use, and it needs to be comfortable, particularly where the fingers bear down on the bolster to apply pressure (assuming the knife is bolstered at all!). The heel of the palm will also bear on the butt of the handle, and a sharp, straight, square, cornered, or ill-finished rear bolster or butt will not be comfortable in the hand.
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  • Importance of Bolsters: Bolsters are important! They strengthen the handle to blade junction, offer a surface to bear for the fingers and thumb, support and protect the butt of the handle, bed and solidify the handle scales, and can mean the difference between a knife lasting a few years or for generations. Integral bolsters are inferior, mostly because of corrosion. Even the highest chromium, most corrosion-resistant blade steel can rust, because there is no rust proof, completely corrosion-resistant stainless tool steel. So to make the bolsters out of the same material as the blade means they will have the same reduced corrosion resistance. The only way to increase the corrosion resistance somewhat on the integral bolster is to harden it to its highest hardness, but this is never done because the blade must be tempered back for the proper temper or toughness. Even if it were hardened, the integral bolster can never reach the high corrosion resistance of 304 austenitic high nickel, high chromium stainless steel, which will simply last indefinitely with zero care with zero concern for corrosion. Why are integral bolsters touted? It is an artifact of machining cost. It's cheaper to machine a bolster into the blade stock with a computer numerical control milling machine (CNC Mill) than to hand-cut, shape, pre-finish, drill, mount, contour, shape, and finish the small pieces of metal that will become attached bolsters. Attached bolsters are also tougher, that is, they are more resistant to breakage than the blade. Attached bolsters can also offer an improved area for embellishment, which is not possible after an integral bolstered knife is hardened and tempered.
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  • Importance of Ferrules: On hidden tang knives, ferrules should be used. This is one of my main complaints about the popular Japanese knives. A hidden tang is the handle that has a reduced shaft of metal (tang) that is mounted, pinned, or glued through the handle material which is drilled out. On cheap knives, the ends of the handle material is simply unprotected. When the knife handle is made of wood, this is the end grain, and the end grain is always more absorptive than the sides of the handle. So moisture wicks and infiltrates there and the handle swells. Eventually, the handle splits at the end grain, either at the ricasso and shoulders or at the butt. The handle then comes off. Even if the handle material is sealed, stabilized, or made of material that can not absorb moisture and contaminants, without ferrules the handle ends and tang are unprotected from chipping, abrasion, wear, and damage. Moisture will still be able to infiltrate the union between the tang and the handle material. Why make the knife this way? It's cheap. You'll read that it's traditional, but how good is the tradition that shortens the life of a knife? Metal ferrules (Latin for little bracelet), when well made, surround the end grain of the handle, support and protect the ends of the knife handle not only from moisture and contaminants, but also from abrasion and impact. They also make the hidden tang knife handle much easier to clean, and keep it cleaner by preventing moisture, fluids, or foodstuffs from entering the critical junction of the tang and handle materials. They can also add weight to the pommel end and help to balance a large-bladed knife. They should be sealed and permanent, and soldered to the blade shoulders to absolutely seal the area. They can also serve to create a guard or increased diameter that prevents the hand from sliding forward onto the cutting edge.
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  • Mounting Methods and Sealing: I mount my bolsters with zero clearance pins, securely peened. They will not, can not, ever come off, loosen, or move. They are sealed between the tang and handle scales with jeweler's quality bedding compounds, and ferrule-guards are soldered with corrosion resistant, lead-free solder. The fittings are mechanically and adhesively secure. In over 30 years of making, I've never had a knife fitting fail. Pins and attachment methods vary greatly in this industry, and it is common to see most manufactured full tang handle scales mounted with large, flat, and often soft rivets. This is simply a cheap and fast method of mounting knife handle scales. A large rivet or screw through the handle scale cuts away a significant portion of the scale, which will eventually lead to cracking between the large rivet and the edge of the scale. Most of us have seen old knives handled this way and notice loose, even sloppy handle mounts. The same can be said for large diameter mosaic pins. While once unique and interesting, these pins are now common and cheap. They are large in diameter, and often made of easily corroded and soft materials like brass, copper, and aluminum. Just like the large rivets or screws mentioned above, mounting them requires large portions of the handle scale material to be cut away, weakening the handle scales. On hidden tang knives, I always use full length tangs with threaded pommels. I've seen many knives (and most Japanese knives) that have rabbeted tangs. This is the method of cheap and fast manufacturing construction, not one of any benefit to the knife user. Called a blind tang, the tang is a reduced piece of metal that only runs half (or less) the length of the handle. They drill a short hole and notch the tang so that glue will fill the spaces and then simply glue the handle on. This is very weak, in fact, this is the weakest handle mounting method known. This is no way to make a fine chef's knife, yet is the common practice. The next step up from that is the pinned rabbeted tang, where a single pin is drilled through the tang and handle near the end of the tang. You'll note this mounting method by the single pin. Though better than the glued blind tang, this is still a weak method of handle attachment. My way, and the best way to mount the hidden tang handle is to drill all the way through the handle material, thread the tang itself at the butt, and mount a threaded, solid pommel that pulls the entire handle together. The best hidden tang knife handles have tangs that are made of metals that differ from the blade stock, so they are tougher, less brittle, and even more corrosion resistant than the blade (such as 304 stainless steel). These metals have to be welded to the blade tang in a high purity controlled process, and they have to be fully annealed for maximum toughness. The entire assembly is filled with jeweler's quality bedding compounds for the greatest moisture resistance, impermeability, longevity, and solidity.
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  • Strength of the fittings is important. Metals like aluminum, brass, and carbon steels should be avoided in knife fittings of chef's and culinary knives. The mechanical arrangement of the fittings should increase the solidity of the handle and fittings, not decrease it. On hidden tang knives, significant tangs should be supported by wide shoulder areas at the ricasso. Any welds or reduction of blade thickness, width, or dimension should be accompanied by annealing for maximum toughness, thus maximum fracture resistance. Fittings should be substantial, should add mechanical strength and advantage, and should be adhesively as well as mechanically bonded for permanence. All of my knives are made this way.
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  • Fit of the fittings and handle should be extremely tight. This is probably the most noticeable factor in inferior knives. It is difficult to achieve fine fit: where there are no gaps to be seen in any material unions anywhere on the knife. This seamless construction takes many years to master, and it can be noticed even by an untrained eye. It is critical to have excellent fit for several reasons. A tight fit of components assures that the junction between them is well-sealed and solid. This will prevent moisture and fluids from entering these seams and causing corrosion or even failure of the knife. The tight fit also allows a minimum of bedding compounds filling any void, and this strengthens the handle. If these areas only rely upon epoxides or adhesives for solidity, they will eventually fail. While having great shear strength, all of these compounds have great flexibility. Relying upon them to strengthen a seam will mean that sooner or later, through the normal movements and pressures of daily use, they will fracture or come un-bonded, creating a crack where moisture can enter. If the fit is extremely tight to begin with, no flexing can occur, and the knife handle and fitting area will last indefinitely. The most noticeable reason is quality. Fine fit means care and attention to detail and extremely high quality; poor fit simply means cheap and fast production.
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  • Embellishment and Personalization: Only a custom knife can be embellished, and often this is done on the fittings. Bolsters offer an area for fine embellishment, as do some guards, pommels, and even ferrules. If engraving or etching is done in these areas, it is of high importance that the fittings be made of highly corrosion resistant materials, as cuts in metal hold fluids and can promote corrosion. This is another reason to use 304 high nickel, high chromium austenitic stainless steels for the fittings. If a blade has integral bolsters, embellishment simply can't be done unless the bolsters are annealed, and that will reduce the corrosion resistance of the bolsters at the handle, exactly where you need it most!
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"Chef's Set" obverse side view in CPM154CM stainless steel blades, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Petrified Palm Wood gemstone handles, case of Pecan, Arririba, Padauk, Bloodwood, Bocote, Poplar, stainless steel
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Chef's Knives Handles:

The chef's knife handle can be an individual affair, and I'm often asked to make very distinctive and specifically designed handles. There is a reason for this. The distinctive and well-made knife handle is what often sets the individual knife apart from every other knife in the world.

Here are some emails that illustrate one of the typical and looming issues of poorly made knives. Sadly, these knives are touted as "The Best Chef's Knives" by the factories that sell them.


Jay, I have a Sabatier boning knife with a broken 3-rivet Micarta handle. Would you give me a price for replacing the handle?
Thanks.
B. L.

Three rivets is a very poor way to mount a handle on any knife, yet you will see this over and over in all types of knives. Why are handle scales mounted this way? It's because it is cheap and fast for the manufacturer, maker, or factory. It is not because of any advantage to the owner or user of a knife. They will eventually fail.


Jay,
I saw on your page that you won't re-handle knives. That being said, and understood - I have a 5 original Hoffritz kitchen knives from the late 70's that have migrated through the family and that I absolutely love. The wood has delaminated and I am looking for them to be re-handled with manmade materials. Please advise if you would be interested in this re-handling and cleaning up the blades or if not, can you recommend someone that might be.
Thank you.
-Steve

Okay, he absolutely loves the knives except for the handles coming apart thing... If he took the same interest in a really fine knife or knives, he would be handing them down to his grandchildren with handles intact. By the way, the steel in these knives is the French version of cheap 420 series stainless steels, with a little more carbon. Boy would he be impressed with a good piece of 440C! The website for these knives claims (of course) that it is the "finest grade of cutlery steel available," which could be true if all you have available is the steel you happen to use... see how vague and misleading these claims are? Sigh...

  • Shape and Size: There are many shapes and sizes for knife handles, and the maker should work with the client to outfit the knife with the handle that suits him (or her) individually. Factories and most other makers will not do this for any client; they simply sell what they have. True customization is no better represented than in the handle. For me, it is one of the most exciting artistic and creative endeavors I accomplish, taking into consideration the desires and wishes of the client and the incredible scope of exotic, domestic, manmade, and gemstone materials available.
    • Handle shapes for chef's knives vary greatly depending on the task the knife is suited to or designed for. A large, hefty handle can balance the blade weight of a chopper, hop knife, cabbage knife, or master chef's knife; a leaner and narrower handle can offer smoother movement on a Sabatier. The bread knife handle must allow a sawing motion, a paring knife often has a shape that allows it to rest inside the palm without extending out the back of the hand. This is an individual choice and each knife and person is different. That is why I have over 400 different pattern styles, and create new ones nearly every batch.
    • The comfort factor of a chef's knife means the difference between a pleasurable experience and monotonous labor or even discomfort. A knife handle should be well-contoured, shaped and fitted to the round nature of the human hand. An typical Japanese-style octagon-shaped straight handle with abrupt corners is not comfortable, no matter how much foreign tradition and culture you try to accept. The human hand is rounded, of moveable tissues, muscle, and bone, and the knife handle is the link to the blade. The knife should feel like it belongs in the hand, and the handle not even noticed, that is, blended, bonded, molded, and formed to the shape inside the hand. Have you ever really looked at the interior grip shape of the hand? There are no square edges, no flat surfaces, no machine marks on your hand, so there shouldn't be any on the handle, either. The only way to have that is have a practiced, experienced maker craft the handle. In poorly made knives, the handle is an afterthought because all of the steps to create a finely tuned, balanced, and finished knife handle are labor intensive and take large amounts of time. So the blade is typically hyped so the knife buyer doesn't notice the poor, weak, and machine-made or poorly finished handle.
    • For individual use, the handle must suit. I offer a hand-sizing method to fit the handle to the individual hand, and have even made custom handles for people who have some limitation or disability of the hand for a custom fit. You won't get that from any factories and most other makers, as I'm committed to the individual client.

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  • Materials for knife handles abound, and the chef's knife is no different. There are some important considerations here. Since the chef's knife will encounter moisture and daily use, only materials that are up to that exposure level should be used. This requirement eliminates most of the woods, but not all. Naturally oily and self-sealing hardwoods like rosewoods, ebonies, and ironwoods are durable enough, and even some maples, fruitwoods, olive, and nut woods are up to the task. Open-grained woods like walnuts, oaks, cherry, and tropical hardwoods that have to be sealed should be avoided in the handle of chef's knives. Materials like horn, bone, and ivory are simply not suitable for any chef's knife, and it pains me to see factories and individuals offering these on kitchen, sushi, chef's, cooks, and prep knives, because in the long run, they will fail. The only exception is if they are pressure stabilized (impregnated with tens of thousands of pounds per square inch of pressure with phenolic resins), and factories do not do this. Stabilized densified laminate plywoods are a good choice for durability, and no matter what the individual company or maker calls them, they are created by Rutland Plywood corporation in Vermont and are dyed and layered birch stabilized with polymers, all called Dymondwood. They are waterproof, and great for the chef's knife, though some of the colors are garish and even offensive (read Fuchsia). Manmade handle materials like Micarta® phenolics, G-10 fiberglass-epoxy composite laminates, and even carbon fiber reinforced polymers are up to the long-haul task of permanent, long-lasting knife handles for the chef's knife. What is not suitable and often seen in inferior knives is the manmade handle material for counter tops, named Corian, or the equivalent. This material is relatively soft, is absorptive, weakens in low heat, stains, is flexible, and is not durable. It is a cheap way to handle any knife. What is the ultimate material? Why gemstone, of course; not the polyester and acrylic imposters used by many foreign companies that are supposed to look like gem, but real gemstone. By the way, all of those imitations can melt, smear, abrade, dent, scratch, and even burn. Real gemstone is strikingly and uniquely beautiful, extremely durable, comfortable, solid, and smooth, a delight for the hands and eyes, and will absolutely, positively outlast the blade, fittings, and block. Stone will outlast your kitchen, your home, your life, and your generation. It will, quite frankly, look the same a thousand years from now as the first day you put it on your counter. The very oldest of man's monuments, creations, or tools are made of stone and only stone. What other material can make that claim?
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  • Mounting Methods for full tang chef's, kitchen, sushi, and culinary knives should be carefully considered. If you see a full tang knife from the last century (and even the century before), you may notice two or three large round rivets in the center line of the handle. These are often copper, aluminum, or brass, and this is a poorly crafted handle arrangement and identifies this as a common, cheap knife. Soft metals like copper, aluminum, and brass can and will corrode, deform, oxidize, and much of this takes place where you can't see it, underneath the face of the fastener and against the tang and handle scale. This is because moisture and fluids soak into the spaces there, and are held against the fastener. The fastener will eventually fail. Failure may not be a complete fracture of the fastener allowing the handle scale to fall off the blade, but may present as a loosening of the handle scale. If the handle material moves in any way on a knife, it has failed. Moisture and fluids will continue to accumulate there, and the full, flat tang itself will corrode. That corrosion may end up in your food, will weaken the tang and handle mounting, and will mean the loss of the knife, sooner or later. Wetting and drying of the handle area causes many materials to expand and contract with every wet/dry cycle; some materials will expand and contract with changes in temperature. Unless properly mounted and bedded, these handles will fail. Another issue is that a large portion of the handle scale is drilled away to mount the large, bulky, and voluminous rivet, screw, mosaic pin, or fastener, and this weakens the handle scale considerably. Whether wood, reinforced G10, or Micarta phenolic, removing significant portions of the scale weakens the scale. These are the reasons that on full tang knives, I use multiple zero-clearance small pins for mounting. They are made of highly corrosion resistant materials (304 stainless steel is the predominant material) and of relatively small diameter (3/32", .0938, or 2.4 mm) and multiple pins are used (usually at least six). On gemstone full tang knife handles, multiple hidden rivets, keys, and bonds that extend completely through the metal of the knife tang and into both scales secure the scales permanently in place. Multiple attachment methods help to distribute the forces that will be applied to the handle scales while preserving the scale's strength. My reasons can be thought of this way: which is more stable, a large diameter spot weld, or numerous spot welds all along a car body? The numerous welds are stronger and that is why an automobile frame is made this way. One could liken this to the way a garment is put together (with stitches vs. a few rivets), or the way the ironwork of the skyscraper is assembled (with banks of small bolts instead of a couple large ones).
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  • Mounting methods for hidden tang knife handles, are as detailed above. I always make and recommend full length hidden tangs secured with a threaded pommel. A short tang (rabbeted tang) is only held in place with glue (blind tang) or sometimes one screw or rivet and is simply a weak way to attach a handle. On any hidden tang knife handle for the chef, there has to be a metal guard or ferrule against the shoulders of the blade to physically anchor the handle material at this high-stress point. That junction has to be sealed (soldered) to prevent moisture infiltration and the shoulders at the ricasso must be sizeable enough for strength. Wide, also, must be the tang: left as wide and thick as possible for a stable, strong, and reliable handle mount. If the handle material is wood, no matter what kind, both ends of the hidden tang handle's end grain must be sealed and in my knives are typically mechanically protected with ferrules, rings, or other methods to prevent swelling and splitting at the end grain. I use highly corrosion resistant ferrules, fittings, and guards on the chef's knives to accomplish this critical task. I've seen many of the so-called finest sushi, eastern, and European knives that have no metal on the guard and butt areas of the knife handle at all! Where do you think that the handle will eventually split?
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  • Sealing and stabilization of the handle is critical to the longevity of the knife handle. Any union of dissimilar materials must be accomplished with both mechanical and adhesive methods. This means that a jeweler's quality bedding epoxy (polyepoxide thermoset) created just for these long-term exposures should be used. This is not a hardware store five minute bonder for utility repairs; what I use is an expensive, water-clear, long-term agent that has very high bond strength, attains a high hardness, never yellows, has extremely high shear strength, polishes well, and creates a permanent bond and bedding that will outlast most handle materials (except gemstone, of course, which outlasts everything including the blade). All areas of the inside of any knife handle should be bedded and bonded this way, and mine are. Where two metals meet are either welded, soldered, or physically sealed with these agents so fluids can not infiltrate. Surfaces can be naturally oily and resinous, sealed with agents, and are easy care. My chef's knives, no matter the material, can be washed, dried, and lightly waxed for luster with little other maintenance.
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  • Bedding and bonding for strength and force transfer is the trait that assures well-fitted components can transfer the forces and energy from the hand into the handle, and ultimately into the blade. A knife blade works by pressure applied through the blade and handle by the human hand. If there are voids, pockets, or spaces in any of the fittings, that area of void will not help transfer or distribute forces. When voids exist, this means that areas that are in contact will have to endure more pounds per square inch. This is the reason a rifle action is bedded to a stock, to distribute forces. With a rifle, the forces are simply an aftereffect of the shock of the shot, but in knives the forces are the main action that makes the blade work. To properly bed the handle solidifies these areas, evenly distributes forces, and increases the longevity, durability, and stability of the knife for its entire existence.
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"Dagon" fillet, boning, carving, chef's, collector's knife, obverse side view in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Green Orbicular Jasper gemstone handle, frog skin inlaid in hand-carved leather sheath
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"Chef's Set" Concordia, Conditor, Consus, obverse side view in CPM154CM stainless steel blades, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Petrified Palm Wood gemstone handles
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Accessories for the chef's knives

Accessories and accoutrements for fine chef's knives are a broad, expansive, and exciting subject. Accessories may include sheaths, slip protectors, blocks, stands, bowls, and even cutting boards exclusively made for the kitchen.

  • Sheaths for the chef's knife can be made of leather or manmade materials, just like many other knife types. One might ask why you would need a sheath for a chef's knife. The sheath protects two things: the knife, and the chef. If a knife is carried from one area to another, some means or method is necessary for this protection. While leather is a traditional material, I also use kydex to make slip sheaths for the chef's knife. Kydex is waterproof, durable, and can allow an executive chef to move his knife or knives from one location to another while protecting the cutting edges and even the handles. The cutting edges are most vulnerable to other knives, utensils, or hard objects in the kitchen. It's best to realize that the most damaging item one edge can contact is another cutting edge, because both are hard and can abrade, scour, scratch, or dull each other. While I do not recommend long term storage of knives in sheaths, for short term storage, carry, and transport, a sheath is essential. The sheath should match the knife in style, function, flavor, and be commensurate with the quality of the knife, and should last for at least a generation. Learn more about sheaths on my dedicated page.
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  • Knife blocks or stands are permanent affairs, and the knife is typically stored there. There is no reason a knife block should be a boring square of wood, and some creative and appealing artistry can occur in the stand and block materials, design, construction, and finish. Please look around on this page and on my Knife Stands page for some examples. I create and build original works of display art, as well as durable and functional devices. Each one is an original piece, suited to the specific work of knife art.
  • Cases are a specialized affair, and when the highest quality chef's knives demand a very special home, a case appropriate to their storage can provide not only a storage solution, but offer a work of sculptural art in exotic and domestic woods. Fine cases for the kitchen can be a center of artwork on their own, with the beautiful addition of artistic knives resting within. All woods and fittings should be moisture resistant and fittings highly corrosion resistant for longevity. Also, cases should not rest directly on the counter, but be elevated somewhat to allow air to circulate and dry beneath and around them. See a beautiful and elegant chef's knives case here.
  • Boards are necessary and critical pieces that accompany the knife. While for many years I left the board choices to the client, I have recently reconsidered this in order to offer well-made and sound cutting boards that compliment and are commensurate with the chef's knife experience. Look for more of these to come, particularly in the collaborative program I have with Rusty Russom and our fine chef's knives.
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Jay,
Now that I have had the chance to use the Vega chef's knife for several weeks, I wanted to write to you and let you know how fantastic it is. First, the knife itself is a thing of beauty. The hollow grind is a work of art. The gemstone handle is stunning, the filework adds to the whole package and the finish is flawless. It is almost too pretty to use, but use it I have. The knife is large but it is so well balanced that my wrist does not fatigue even with large cooking tasks. The edge is so sharp that it glides through everything I have used it on. I look forward now even to what were formerly mundane chopping tasks. Dicing onions can become the highlight of my day! I have many knives that I do not use ("collector's pieces"), but it is so much more rewarding to develop a working relationship with a fine blade.; I can't tell you how pleased I am. I am looking forward to getting my Cyele. You are a master craftsman.

Thanks,
D. E.


"Cyele" obverse side view in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, nickel silver bolsters, ivory micarta phenolic handle, kydex, nickel plated steel slip sheath
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Carbon Steel vs. Stainless Steel
Mankind is now producing the finest tool steels ever created in history; why would you want anything less?

Many of us older guys grew up with our fathers boasting about their carbon steel butcher knives and how they were so much better than the stainless steel blades. Unfortunately, this is one of the most prevalent and enduring misconceptions and wives' tales that persists in the modern world of knives.

The problem started when Japanese stainless steels were introduced into the world of cheap kitchen knives in the 1960s and 1970s. If you were alive then, you remember the ridiculous commercials showing the cheap imported junk knives pounded through cinder blocks and then shaving off tomato slices. The common man ate up this drivel, and lots of money was made in the low-end kitchen knife market based on this hype. The truth is, this type of knife was made of cheap, springy, and thin low-carbon series stainless steels, which were tough, but not hard or wear-resistant. So when the edges did wear down, it was not reasonable to sharpen them, and they were left dull in the kitchen, but were still thin enough to be forced through foodstuffs. Most people then made a casual assumption that the stainless steel blades were of low value (the price was a good hint), and saved their most important cutting chores to high carbon, non-stainless steel butcher knives, because they were relatively easy to sharpen and they held a very keen edge a longer time than the imports.

The stainless steel is no good myth continued, and continues today, despite the fact that the majority of knives from cheap imports to fine collectors knives are made of stainless steel. Some people still long for the good old carbon steel knives from the past.

One of the world's most respected knife historians and experts writes:

"I have owned about 10,000 antique kitchen and butcher knives, and examined perhaps 20 times that number. I have found that good quality modern stainless steel knives, when properly sharpened, are superior in use to all older knives, even the very best. Stainless steel knives can be made at least as sharp as carbon steel ones, they stay sharp many times longer, and of course, they do not stain... the president of a major knife company put it very well when he said to me that preferring carbon steel knives over stainless steel ones is like preferring vacuum tube radios over transistor ones."

--Bernard Levine, Levine's Guide to Knives, 1985

Please look at the date of the above excerpt. Since the mid-eighties, there have been many new and improved stainless tool steels become available, so the old wife's tale is even more flawed. One of the problems does continue, however, and that is the infomercial that still claims cheap Asian imported knives are worth your hard-earned money.

This myth of carbon steels extends into the handmade knife field, and bears examination. Carbon steels, properly identified as Plain Carbon Steels by the AISI, SAE, ASME, NSI and ANSI are typically are identified by number. If the four digit number starts with 10, it is a plain carbon steel.

Typically, in the knife trade and industry, 1025, 1075, 1080, and 1095 are often used. 1095 is about the best one can get for a plain carbon steel, as it has up to 1% carbon. It has manganese in it to increase forgeability, reduce brittleness, and improve hardenability, though the manganese does not itself improve hardness. No other notable alloy elements are included. These steels are usually chosen because they are inexpensive (cheap), usually about one fourth of the cost of stainless tool steels, and one tenth the cost of crucible particle metallurgy tool steels. They are easy to work, are ductile and soft when annealed, and are gentle on tools and abrasives. Simply put, it is easy, cheap, and fast to make a knife from any of these steels. They have absolutely no corrosion resistance, and will quickly and easily rust and pit when left in the open air. They are easy to sharpen because they are not wear-resistant, and they frequently dull. In the real world, they are a bad steel for any knife, and in particular for kitchen or chef's knives.

Another commonly seen type of knife steel used by makers and the knife industry is 5160. Though technically classified as a chromium steel, 5160 has very little chromium (.08% - 1.0%) and is not corrosion resistant in any way. The chromium is added to slightly improve the hardenability, but not enough is added to increase corrosion resistance or aid in the creation of chromium carbides which can increase wear resistance. The chromium is limited because if added in significant quantities, the forging and critical temperatures of the steel would be raised enough to prevent hand-forging. Though this steel has better performance characteristics than the 10XX series, it is still not suitable for kitchen or chef's knives, simply because it easily and readily rusts in the open air, and does not have high wear resistance. It is chosen also because it is a cheap steel, one fourth the cost of stainless tool steels, one tenth the cost of crucible particle metallurgy tool steels, and is easier to machine, cheaper to finish, and more forgiving to make a knife with.

Simply put, these are cheap steels, and have no place at the top of the line for extremely fine chef's knives (now you may begin to wonder why they are used in ANY knife blade!).

Damascus: A brief note about damascus here: what we call damascus today is pattern welded layered steel, and not the true damascus (which is ancient crucible-made steel, the actual recipes long ago lost to the ages). Any pattern welded damascus knife is limited by its weakest component's properties and the amount and integrity of the many welds in the billet. While damascus knives are attractive (I make them myself occasionally), they are valuable mainly for their decorative appeal; they will never outperform high alloy professional grade homogenous tool steels and are limited to the properties of their highest alloy metal. For instance, a pattern welded damascus knife made of O1 and A36 structural steel is only as strong as the O1, and overall is less wear resistant than the O1 because part of the blade is A36 which quickly wears away. What you are buying is the appearance of hand-forging, and the decorative appearance of the blade surface. While many of these are offered as kitchen and chef's knives, only the all-stainless steel models should be considered. For instance I use a stainless damascus steel that is made of 19C27 and 302 stainless steels. The 19C27 is the stainless tool steel, and the 302 is the low carbon, highly corrosion resistant stainless steel that forms the remainder of the blade. Both of these steels are stainless, and highly corrosion resistant. Please note that the wear resistance of 19C27 is inferior to 440C, simply because it has less carbon (.60%) than 440C (1.00%). However, the performance is good. The stainless damascus steels are the only types of damascus that should be used for chef's or kitchen knives.

Non-stainless Damascus? NO! don't do it! The carbon steel damascus knives will rust, corrode, stain, pit, and stink. Yet this is the majority of Japanese, and many of the American damascus blade steels touted for chef's knives. These are carbon steels, and they are not corrosion resistant in any way. The will corrode immediately, at the cutting edge, and dull quickly and frequently. Worse, any steel that corrodes ends up in the food. If you don't think this matters, here's a few points to consider:

  • Where is all the non-stainless damascus cutlery? You may see spoons, forks, and other cutlery made of stainless steel damascus, but you don't see non-stainless steels used. Why is that? It's because if you put this carbon steel in your mouth, particularly with any even slightly acidic or alkaline foodstuff, it will taste horrible! Try this: clean and sterilize a piece of steel wool. Put it in your mouth. Yum. Enjoy the taste of low carbon steel, which is half the makeup of all non-stainless damascus steel blades sold for kitchen knives.
  • If you have a non-stainless pattern welded damascus blade, clean it well and run your tongue along the blade (while avoiding the cutting edge!). Taste it. Yum. Yet, these knives are commonly sold for kitchen and chef's use for fine food prep.

While some people don't care if a little carbon steel ends up in their food, why invite the taste at all? That, coupled with the extremely high wear rate, weaker overall structure, and requirement of constant upkeep to keep corrosion at bay is the reason carbon steel damascus (and plain carbon steel) blades should not be sold for chef's knives.

It's incredible today to see guys calling themselves "master knifemakers" who are making hammered and dirty open-furnace carbon steel knives from plain carbon steels that rust, corrode, and are markedly weaker, softer and inferior to high alloy stainless tool steels, and even more incredible that people who use knives are so grossly undereducated about fine knives that they think these are somehow the best! The finest high alloy tool steels are used in the most advanced industries and highest wear applications, and you won't find one hand-forged tool, blade, cutter, or part in any professional industrial application. If hand-forged (open air furnace, hammer on anvil, trip hammer and hydraulic press) steels performed better, wouldn't you see them in industrial, military, or professional operations? Of course you would, and since there are no hand-forged ball bearings, no hand-forged metal stamping dies, no hand-forged sheet metal shear blades, no hand-forged injection molding dies, and no hand-forged high pressure corrosion resistant valve seats, no hand-forged parts whatever in any modern industrial application, that should make you think! Understand that these are inferior metals, formed by primitive and inferior processes. They can never have the value, performance, or longevity of professional high alloy tool steels.

The finest high alloy tool steels are used in the most advanced industries and highest wear applications, and you won't find one hand-forged tool, blade, cutter, or part in any professional industrial application.

What are the advantages of the better steels? There are many, and they are substantial. These modern, engineered, fine isotropic tool steels are created for the distinct application of creating tools and wear-resistant parts and cutting edges. They are simply the finest tool steels humanity has ever produced. In the application of blades for chef's knives and any other type of knife, there are some distinctive advantages, mainly high corrosion resistance, high wear resistance, high toughness, high tensile strength, and high finish value.

  • The first advantage is corrosion resistance. There is no such thing as a tool steel that has infinite corrosion resistance, that is, a tool steel that will not corrode under any exposure. There are, however, great differences in modern tool steels that remarkably inhibit corrosion. Steels like 440C and CPMS30V are highly corrosion resistant, only showing slight discoloration in long and continuous exposure to acids like orange juice and vinegar and heavy salts after immersion for many hours. Since CPMS30V can not be mirror polished, the crown of corrosion resistance belongs to 440C. For the chef, this translates to low to no care, no corrosion, particles, or dissolved metal to stain or flavor his food, and an extremely durable knife that can be used for decades if not generations without pitting, rusting, staining, or dulling due to corrosion of the cutting edge.
  • Wear resistance. The high chromium in these steels also aids in the formation of chromium carbides, extremely hard particles that resist wear. Some of these steels have high carbon and chromium (D2) which also creates extremely high wear resistance via chromium carbides, and some steels (CPMS30V, CPMS90V) have high vanadium, which aids in the formation of even more wear resistant particles (vanadium carbides). So wear-resistant are these tool steels that a typical chef's steel can be abraded by the knife, actually dulling the small grooves on the chef's steel! For the chef, this translates to a very long time between sharpenings, high longevity of the tool (generations), and an extremely sharp knife that is always ready to cut.
  • High toughness means resistance to breakage at a higher hardness. So when these fine steels are properly hardened and tempered, they can be both hard and tough, which makes for a very durable blade. This toughness translates to the very cutting edge, which can be ground extremely thin and still remain tough (resistant to breakage). This, coupled with an overall thin grind geometry makes a very thin and sharp cutting edge that is much more durable and longer-lasting than if made of a lower alloy steel. Since the blade can be created thinly, it is easily sharpened, and with the proper grind geometry, can be sharpened for many decades more than a typical knife.
  • High tensile strength. Specifically, this is the maximum load that a steel can bear without stretching permanently. This is typically the strength factor of steel that is critical to making a steel choice. How different are the stainless tool steels than standard carbon steels? Incredibly different. The tensile strength of 1025 standard carbon steel is 440 MPa (megapascals) or 63,816 pounds per square inch. This seems enormous, but remember that many hundreds or perhaps thousands of PSI of pressure are applied to the microscopic cutting edge. The strength of 440C high chromium martensitic tool steel? How about 2030 MPa (294,426 PSI), over four and a half times stronger!
  • High finish value. This is a term that is specific to fine artistic handmade tools. In no other tool tradecraft does this concept exist. For example, in jewelry, high finish has a value, but jewelry is not a tool, and is not expected to perform tough and continuous daily tasks. With highly durable tool steels, the capability to finish the steel to the highest degree possible and the capability for the steel to maintain that high finish for the longest possible time is of vital importance. All of the finishes possible on these fine, isotropic, high alloy tool steels are far and above superior what is possible on standard carbon or low alloy steels. This adds immensely to the initial and ultimately to the long term value of the knife, its ability to last long and resist corrosion, its ability to hold and maintain a fine cutting edge, and its ability to retain investment value.

The finest high alloy tool steels are used in the most advanced industries and highest wear applications, and you won't find one hand-forged tool, blade, cutter, or part in any professional industrial application.

You might then ask the question of why these higher value, extremely fine steels are less often seen on kitchen or chef's knives. It's really very simple. They are expensive, they are very difficult to machine, cut, and make a knife with, they are unforgiving of error or mistake by the maker, they are hard to work, resistant to abrasives, and a supreme challenge to properly finish. They require special treatment in vacuum-nitrogen furnaces or controlled atmosphere environments when heat treating, they require extremely high critical temperature transformation points, and extremely low temperature quenching points, they are demanding and specific in their treatment to yield a superior cutting blade and knife. This is why they cost more to the chef, and why most makers and manufacturers do not offer these steels on their knives. This is the price for being the very best.

Learn more about the details of these steels on my Blades page at this bookmark.

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There is a price for the very best.
"Chef's Set" in 440C high chromium stainless steel blades, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Crocidolite Quartz gemstone handles, rock maple, American Black walnut block and bowls
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Chromium misconceptions: good or bad

If you're going to pay over $1000.00 for a knife, you owe it to yourself to get educated

I was shocked when I read on a knife maker's website that "Chromium prevents the steel from rusting but significantly degrades edge holding capabilities of the steel. All steels are composed of grains of the various alloying elements, the relatively large size of chromium results in a blade that will quickly dull and be very difficult to re-sharpen."

I was saddened when I read this, because it's completely wrong. It was easy to see why this guy wrote this; he's making damascus chef's knives, knives with blades out of 52100 plain carbon steel, and he's trying to paint a better picture of his plain carbon steel.

If you buy this guy's statements you are, sadly, misinformed. Let's get this very straight and clear. Chromium is an alloy that HELPS hardness, hardenability, and wear resistance, in many instances forming chromium carbides which are extremely hard and wear-resistant, quite the opposite of what this guy claims. It's unfortunate that he hasn't educated himself by reading a book on tool steels and metallurgy before he made such horrid misrepresentations on his web site. From the Machinist's guide and AISI standards: "Chromium improves hardenability, and together with high carbon provides both wear resistance and toughness, a combination valuable in tool applications." What? How could this be unclear? Why would this fellow make such a ridiculous claim?

It's probably very simple. He's making chef's knives from 52100 plain carbon steel, and he's trying to justify why you should purchase a lesser steel blade from him. 52100 is the worst type of steel for chef's knives, it will rust at the first opportunity, and is not even a tool steel. 52100 is listed (in machinist's and AISI standards) as "a straight chromium electric furnace steel, and is of medium hardenability." A couple things stand out here:

  1. 52100 is a chromium steel, which means it has a small amount of chromium (1.3-1.6%). This is in the steel to improve hardenability and wear resistance; yep, the very opposite of what he claims. However, there is not enough chromium or other alloy elements in 52100 to make it a high alloy or tool steel, and not near enough to make it corrosion resistant in any way.
  2. 52100 is actually listed as a "low alloy carbon steel" It is primarily used to make economical (cheap) ball bearing races.
  3. 52100 has low temperatures, and can be hand-forged. This is why it's popular with knife makers, because you can heat it and hammer it into a blade easily.
  4. 52100 is listed as having extremely low corrosion resistance, exactly what you do not want in a chef's knife!
  5. 52100's greatest advantage is that it is listed as economical and affordable. To me, this means cheap.
  6. 52100 is easy to machine, and easy to make a knife with.

From this, the misconceptions are pretty clear; he is either uneducated or he's lying. He drones on about the grain size of the various steels (which has nothing to do with wear resistance), and the "bonding" between the grains (which is just gibberish and nonsense), trying to convince the reader that somehow the cheaper, lesser plain carbon steel is somehow better than chromium tool steels.

Look, it's okay to make a knife from 52100 plain carbon steel; many makers do. It's a decent steel, and can be hammered into a wear-resistant knife blade with limited use. But to claim it's somehow superior to high chromium and high alloy tool steels is just a lie; it is far inferior to high alloy tool steels, that's why they are the premium materials in the finest knives, tools, instruments, and components in wear-resistant industrial applications. In any case, this is not the type of steel for any chef's knife, as it will corrode away at every opportunity, at the cutting edge, on the surface, and in any part of the blade where moisture from any source contacts it. It will stain, rust, pit and stink, as it corrodes into your food. This application for the kitchen is just wrong.

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"Chef's Set" Concordia obverse side view in CPM154CM stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Petrified Palm Wood gemstone handle
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What about flat grinds and hollow grinds in chef's knives?

There is endless discussion among knife people and chefs about knives: their construction, the materials, the design, shapes, and geometry. The argument of flat grind vs. hollow grind invariably comes up. I go into those differences in great detail on my Blades page.

The first main concern of a chef is the cutting edge. Is the edge razor sharp? After repeated sharpenings, will the blade geometry and the cross section be thin enough to allow another razor edge? After more and more sharpenings, and as the blade is used up (in a custom handmade knife, this should be decades), will the grind allow a thin enough steel to allow a low sharpening angle, and a razor edge? The reality is that flat ground blades thicken at a faster rate of use than a hollow grind, unless they are very thin (.0625" or less). This is clearly illustrated and described in detail on the Blades page at this topic. That is why that the hollow-ground straight razor has the keenest, sharpest, most formidable cutting edge. It is very thin at the edge, and therefore can be made very sharp. That is why all cutting edges are even today verbally compared to a razor: specifically, a hollow-ground straight razor.

This does not mean that flat grinds can not also be very thin and sharp; they can. Usually, a flat grind is used on a chef's knife that does not have substantial thickness in the spine, and is very thin anyway (1/16" or less). I use flat grinds, too, and only on extremely thin stock, as my clients greatly prefer and appreciate my thin hollow grinds. A flat grind often has a problem of foodstuffs stick to the flat side of the blade because of surface tension, and the hollow grind can allow air to come between the steel and the material being cut, allowing a cleaner release. Addition of milled holes, slots, and surface texture may help both knives.

Because the cutting edge and the cross-sectional blade geometry just behind the cutting edge must be very thin, flat ground knives used by chefs are usually very thin and lightweight. This often is in opposition to hollow ground knives which are heavier, stronger, and usually have more weight and substance at the spine. This is a design consideration, and if lightweight, super-thin knives are desired the flat or taper grind may be the way to go.

The largest consideration here is usually overlooked by knife buyers, and that is one of manufacturing. It is far easier and cheaper to flat grind a knife with automated equipment than to hollow grind and mirror finish. The same can be said of unskilled labor. A flat grind can be done completely by machines and jigs and untrained hands, but the hollow grind can not be, particularly when both types of grinds are finely finished. Any machine can do an initial rough grind, but not a finished grind. Without going into technical specifics (I'll do so in my book), I'll say simply that machine finishes of flat grinds are simpler and cheaper, and manufacturers know this, and extensively hype flat knives to keep their manufacturing costs low. Consider this: there are several firms that sell blade stock pre-ground into flat beveled shapes to further cheapen the manufacturing process. Also, a very thin piece of steel is cheaper overall, so the investment in materials by the manufactures is lower.

Knife design, finish, and purchase is a matter of informed choices. I'm thankful that my clients have chosen me, and I'll continue to listen to their input, and make the very best possible knife, a knife that will be used and admired for generations. I usually hollow ground knife blades because that offers the thinnest cutting edge for the longest time after repeated sharpenings, and highest value of any knife grind for my clients, patrons, chefs, and knife users. That's what this is all about.

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"Chef's Set" knives and block in 440C high chromium stainless steel blades, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Larvikite (Blue Pearl Granite) gemstone handles, block of Pecan, American Black Walnut, Blue Pearl Granite
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Why do you have those crazy serrations on your bread knives?

If you look long enough at this page, you'll be able to spot my bread knives by the serrations on the blade. This type of serration has evolved in my own work and from use and customer feedback over the decades. The shape of the blade is specifically suited to penetrate hard crusted loaves, yet cut through soft bread with a minimum of tearing. Bread is especially difficult to slice, because of the differing hardness of in the loaf. If a knife edge were super-thin and smooth, it would be perfect for cutting thin slices of the softer parts (like a scalpel), but would merely glide over the hard and sometimes tough crust. Add nuts or other hard or tough material to the loaf, and the task becomes even more difficult. The shape of these arcing theatre curtain serrations creates enough localized pressure to penetrate the crusts, and offer enough angled edges to slice inside the softer parts. The edge is hand cut and extremely thin, sharp and keen all along the serration curves. The feedback from these knives has been great. You won't see this much on factory knives, as the blade shape and grind can only usually be hand-made and must be hand-sharpened. Factories are only interested in serrations that can be milled on automated machinery, thus the frequent appearance of small, machine-cut teeth to create a more aggressive cutting edge. Factory serrations created this way will tear through most breads creating plenty of crumbs. Great for the knife manufacturer, not so great for performance.

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Saussure master chef's knife and Sasserides bread knife, obverse side view in 440C high chromium stainless steel blades, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Australian Tiger Iron gemstone handles
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Why do you have holes in some of these knife blades?

On some of my larger chef's knives: master knives like the Saussure and the Vega, you'll see an arrangement of holes through the blades. These have several purposes. The first is to create a means of breaking the surface tension (some call it vacuum) that happens when cutting wet vegetables, fruits, and some meats. You've no doubt experienced this problem and had to take the time to drag the flat part of the blade over the edge of the cutting board, or bowl or even use your fingers to clear the blade. This is never a good idea, because dragging the blade over the corner of anything can mar, scuff, or scratch the finished surface of the blade or the object, and the cutting edge can slice into the bowl, board, or pan. Obviously, the fingers should keep clear of the razor-keen chef's knife's cutting edge, unless you want some personal flesh in the recipe!

Other makers (mostly factories) grind a series of gouges in the blade surface to do the same thing (clear the blade). They do it with coarse grinders, and the gouges are rough and ugly. The modern factory Santoku is usually made this way.

By drilling and milling (rather than grinding) several advantages are noticed. First, the additional milling has removed unnecessary material and significantly lightened a thicker blade without sacrificing the great strength of this type of blade.  Secondly, the release of clinging foodstuffs is easier, as a hole completely through the blade allows air to break the tension. Thirdly, the decorative and custom aspects of the knife are exhibited.

The reason you seldom see holes through the blades of factory knives and other handmade knives is that the steps of drilling and/or milling these holes is an additional production step requiring layout, tool work, machinery, time, and stress relieving process in the heat treat to make sure that the integrity of the blade is sound. Most factories take the why bother approach, and eliminate this step altogether. They still recognize the clinging problem and choose to assign the task of gouging some repeating grooves in the blade surface as a cheaper and simpler approach. By the way, these gouges do not work very well, because they are not deep enough or abruptly machined at the surface (simply lightly ground) and do not release foods as well. Since the factory gouges are washed over along with the blade by surface conditioning abrasive wheels (like Scotch-Brite), they have soft and non-abrupt edges and do not always release soft foodstuffs well.

The one concern I hear is that with holes through the blades, the chef will have trouble cleaning them. One wonders what the chef might encounter that would be difficult to remove from the blade, as most of these knives only require a simple rinsing to clean. Sticky dried fruits would come to mind. Raisins, dates, figs, dried apricots, peaches, and tamarind might cause a problem here if they are forced into these holes. But what are you doing cutting fruits with a master chef's knife like this anyway, and how are those materials forced into the holes? The knife used for cutting fruits should be a fruit knife, like my very popular La Cocina knife design seen all over this page. Thankfully, I do not mill holes in the La Cocina blade, so this is not a problem. When the master chef's knife has milled holes in the blade, all that is required is a rinsing after use. The mindful chef would be doing that anyway in the typical care regime for his blade.

All chefs are different, and I get plenty of requests for milled blades as well as blades that are not milled, drilled gouged, or textured. This is a custom affair, and I make the knife the way the client wants it.

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"Saussure" master chef's knife, obverse side view in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Argentina Agate gemstone handle, Ostrich leg skin inlaid in hand-carved leather sheath
More about this Saussure

'Saussure' has been in my proud, but somewhat startled hands for over a week now. I really did not expect to own a Jay Fisher knife so soon.

In the brief time that I have owned this knife I have done everything from chopping pork ribs & butterflying a leg of lamb to Julienning carrots & chopping coriander (that's cilantro to you, Jay). Seriously, this knife is excellent. It fits my hand like a well designed tool should and it is always beautifully cool to pick up out of the stand. The control that I have using the standard cutting grip is wonderful and when I move my hand forward into a pinch grip to chop herbs or mince garlic... superb. That extended front bolster should be patented and made compulsory on all chef's knives.

Oh, and did I mention that it is absolutely beautiful to look at? Gorgeous, simply stunning. Sometimes I just pick it up to look at it, to feel it in my hand, even when there's no cooking or food prep involved!

All in all, a piece of functional artistry. No, that's wrong - many artistries - knife work, lapidary, leatherwork, carpentry. They all come together in this wonderful, beautiful, wickedly sharp tool.

Thank you, Jay.
--J.C.


What about longevity, finish, and service in a fine custom knife?

What kind of knife does Jay Fisher use in his kitchen?

From my email response to a client in January 2007, who wondered how his knife might look after use:

I took my favorite chef's knife out of my kitchen, the one I used this weekend to prepare a huge stir fry with chicken, a whole Napa cabbage, garlic, onions, cilantro, Chinese black mushrooms, ginger, broccoli, and spices for my wife and I and one of our children visiting with the grandkids. This very same knife has been used to prepare countless meals for years, no, actually for decades. I built this knife in 1987. My Chef's knife after 20 years of service. 440C high chromium hollow ground stainless steel, nickel silver bolsters, Honduras Rosewood handle

What a main kitchen knife goes through in 20 years is sometimes hard to imagine. I've open packages, chopped frozen meats, hit bone and pounded it through dry galangal root, the knife has been washed a thousand times, been wet for far too long, been scrubbed, even with abrasive cleaners by visiting chefs or the unannointed, used and abused. I sharpen it every year or two, which doesn't take long because it's incredibly thin, and I keep promising myself Ill make another, one with a more sturdy handle, but my cooking hasn't suffered from not doing so. I'll probably continue to use it another 20 years. Scuffed and scratched finish on 20 year old chef's knife

The finish on the 440C was mirror when it was new, but it has attained a scuffed appearance that reminds me just how much I depend on it. Even though it's a bit foggy and scratched, it is incredibly easy to clean after all this time; just a rinse is all that's usually required. I don't oil it, wax it, or care for it in any other way than rinsing after using, and the steel shows not a trace of any discoloration or blemish. This knife blade will literally outlast me, and my heirs.

The wood is Honduran Rosewood burl, it's cracked in several places (wood, not stone), and has shrunk a bit, but is still firmly attached. This is a hard working knife + 20 yrs. I thought you'd like to know just how it has fared.

Cook well, my friend, eat healthy, and live long!

--Jay

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"Vega" Master Chef's Knife obverse side view: 440c high chromium stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Larvikite (Blue Pearl) granite gemstone handle, kydex, nickel plated steel slip sheath
More about this Vega

Mr. Fisher,
It is a honor to have the knife featured on your home page. Brought the knife to the restaurant today for its inauguration, had one of my vendors deliver a case of cabbage just for the occasion.
The knife is truly perfect; the Sabatier's, Tichet's and Henckels I own couldn't hold a candle to Andrimne. I am still amazed I own such a knife.
Thank you again for everything. Best to you and your family, I will be in touch in the future.

Sincerely,
C.G.


"Andrimne" Chef's Master Knife, obverse side view in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel guard ferrule and pommel ferrule, Peach hardwood turned handle, hand-stamped, hand-laced leather sheath

What about gemstone on chef's knives?

Just like most of my other gemstone handled knives, I receive a lot of questions about the use of gemstone for custom knife handles. People have concerns. Are they slippery, are they durable, are they expensive? Why would one use gemstones, when no one else does? I'll will answer all those questions in this section.

Reasons: Probably the main reasons for using gemstone in the construction of a chef's knife handle are beauty, originality, and value. Because the materials, effort, and skill required to mount and finish gemstone on a knife tang are rare and difficult, gemstone is seldom used in any knife handle. Therein also lies the value. Nothing synthetic has the appearance and beauty of gemstone, and each piece is unique. Wood also pales in comparison to gemstone. The investment value of a gemstone handled knife always increases at a greater rate than knives handled with more common materials. So, beauty, originality, and long term value are the major reasons I use gemstone on my finer knives, including chef's knives.

Economy is not a reason to use gemstone on the handmade or custom knife. It is not cheap to acquire, work, construct, and finish gemstone, and this is the reason you don't see more of it used in the larger knife world. Specialized equipment and practiced skill are required to properly fit and finish gem, and few artists and craftsmen have the background or practice of a lapidary and knife maker. If you're looking for an economical or cheap chef's knife, you're in the wrong place at any custom knife maker's web site. Gemstone handled knives may raise the quote for each knife from $300 to $1000, depending on the gemstone used. Some gemstone (like fine Lapis and Pietersite) may add thousands of dollars to the cost of one knife.

Mounting: Though you may see pins used to mount many knife handles, you'll seldom see them used in gemstone handled knives. Pins are necessary to stabilize and support wood, horn, bone, and ivory handles, as they have a large propensity to move, expand and contract, absorb moisture and dry, shrink and swell, work loose from the knife tang, and crack. This may allow moisture to accumulate and remain between the handle material and the tang, further accelerating corrosion, perhaps even allowing the entire tang to crack, snap, and fail. Gemstones are mounted in a different fashion; they use hidden pins or mounts, and are bedded to the handle somewhat like a fine gun action is fitted and mounted to a stock. In an effort to display the gemstone faces completely, pins seldom are brought completely through to the surface of the stone. The bedding allows a sealed joint between the tang, bolsters, and the gem material, and since the gemstone does not expand and contract or react to moisture or contaminants, security and longevity is assured. In the several thousand gemstone handled knives I've made, I've never had one of my standard gem mounts fail. Many of these knives have been in daily use for decades.

Grip security may be an issue on chef's knives, as hands may often be wet. Gemstones are usually smoothly polished, so it would seem that the handle might be slippery when wet. Of course, most other finished handles are also finely and smoothly finished, including plastics, hardwoods, and metals. Though there are some materials that get tacky when moist, they are few. So if the issue of grip security is so large, why is it that the industrial standard for knife handles is a smooth finish? With a rough surface, you face the possibility of skin irritation and abrasion on any type of handle material. If you use a knife for twenty minutes a day (a very long time for the home chef), you probably wouldn't notice the roughly finished handle irritating your skin. But if you are a professional chef who may work with a knife in his hand for several hours a day, you will suffer the consequences and pain of a poor finish and a rough surface texture. I discuss in depth on my Military Combat and Tactical Knife page surface texture verses handle shape, and illuminate why the shape of the handle is more important to grip security than the surface texture.

Many people who ask about slippery knife handle grips refer directly to chicken, and sometimes to fish. Good chefs know well how to handle these two meats and don't complain of slippery hands. How do they do this? First, they handle them carefully. Chicken and fish are best prepped when very cool, even frosty, and they can be sliced with greater accuracy and control. Additionally, good work technique with any knife is key. The hand that is gripping the knife or utensil handle is not the hand that manipulates the food on the board, and thus, the hand gripping the tool is not in contact with the food or slimy. The ingredients are then scooped or scraped into the dish or pan with the knife. Of course, this is prep 101 for most people who are looking at these fine custom and handmade chef's knives.

You can read more details and see many examples of gemstone handled knives on my Gemstone Knife Handles Page. There are more details about Knife Handles, Fittings, Bolsters, and Guards in general on this page.

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Dear Jay - just a short note to let you know that my Cyele arrived yesterday and I put her right to work prepping dinner.

My initial impression is one of lovely lines, nice balance, and great artistry in her design and fine craftsmanship in execution. I own a number of custom kitchen blades, and your Cyele is a standout in every respect.

Many thanks, Jay - and my deepest appreciation for your skill.
--Doug Cremer


"Chef's Set" knife group, in hollow ground mirror polished 440C high chromium stainless steel blades, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, scapolite in sodalite gemstone handles, stand of gemstone, rock maple, paduk hardwood
More about this Chef's Set

What about construction of Chef's knives and bacteria?
You won't find any tools in the operating room that are not stainless steel.

Occasionally, I get asked about the construction method of my (and other) kitchen and chef's knives and the possibility of trapping bacteria and contaminating food. This is a hot topic on many people's minds, one that is regularly covered in the morning network television shows, particularly if they have no other worthy news. I always know when things are going relatively well, because the television networks start the "germs on your kitchen counter and cutting boards" segments. They'll make a great show of swabbing various areas and growing cultures in Petri dishes to illustrate the dangers of bacteria in our homes. As always, fear sells best, and they have done their research to know just what you might respond to in the face of fear. It's important to note that the main commodity they are selling in the advertising of these programs is soap, cleaners, and disinfectants. I hope you recognize the process.

No one likes bacteria, though we could not live without them. No one likes a dirty or contaminated kitchen, utensils, implements, or hardware. So where does the knife construction come into play in this discussion?

Most people who ask about contamination and trapping bacteria are concerned about pockets, voids, recesses, joints, and shapes of the modern chef's knife, and the possibility of those areas trapping and holding debris that will foster bacterial growth. They may even claim that integral or one-piece knives are superior than bolstered and handled knives because there are no voids or seams. This would be a worthwhile argument if these tools were being used to perform surgery in a sterile operating room, but, after all, this is a kitchen. Here are some points to consider:

  • All surfaces can become hosts to bacteria; no surface can be completely sterile unless it is autoclaved before and after every use. Please consider your cutting boards, pots and pans, bowls, plates, silverware, countertops, plastic storage containers, refrigerator doors, drawers, and surfaces, and all of the surfaces that lead to the kitchen tasks of prepping a meal. Consider the sink area, which remains damp, the handles of the faucets, the spigots, the drain board and drainer. Consider the light switch over the counter, the receptacles for the appliances, and the plugs on the cords that are inserted in them. Many of these items are never cleaned, much less decontaminated for sterility. Some of these items are permeable, or even porous.
  • Every knife, no matter the construction, can host bacterial growth if not kept reasonably clean. While there are obvious choices that would foster trapping debris (the beaten, rough, blackened, gouged and scoured primitive knife blade finish), there are choices that will make a knife blade very easy to clean and maintain (stainless tool steels, brightly satin finished or mirror polished). Please consider that in the medical field, most surfaces are smoothly finished or polished and not pitted, rough, or scoured. This is because they are easier to clean and keep clean. Note also, that they are all highly corrosion resistant. You won't find any tools in the operating room that are not stainless steel.
  • There is no knife without some type of seam, unless you are describing a solid metal knife and handle. These are heavy, uncomfortable to use, and not practical from a construction or user standpoint. If the concern for bacteria was high, this is the only knife you would see. Conversely, this type of knife handle is actually rare. Some knives along this line have hollow handles and are welded in construction, but you might consider what is trapped in that hollow void.
  • Even when the continuous metal blade and handle is used, it is often shaped at the handle with cuts and milled grooves to aid in gripping, or with rubber or plastic inserts to improve the grip. These can host bacteria as well as any other void or seam on any other knife, so there is no obvious advantage.
  • Integral knives with handle material other than solid polished stainless steel have other handle materials attached. These all have seams, potential voids to trap bacteria. It does not matter whether the handle material is synthetic, manmade, wood, horn, bone, ivory, or gemstone; whether they are ribbing, pads, or plastic inserts, all have seams or microscopic voids and can trap bacteria.
  • The knife blade itself can be a trap for bacteria. Consider carefully that damascus blade now. All those welds are seams. Microscopically, those seams can and do often have voids. Those voids can and do trap debris and can host bacterial growth.

Obviously, this could get ridiculous. If one dwells on the subject too long, he'll chance the conversion to an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder like an eccentric billionaire, confining himself to darkness in a Las Vegas penthouse and counting and arranging his peas on the plate while insulating his flesh from the world with layers of boxed tissue. Bacteria exist. Keep your home, your kitchen, and your utensils clean and dry them after use. Just to sooth your fears though, here are some points about my own knives:

  • Most of my knives are polished, which makes them easier to clean and keep clean. Polished surfaces also dry quicker. In knives that are not mirror polished, they are finely satin finished, the same finish you would encounter on a scalpel in an operating room. They are very easy to clean.
  • Many of them do not have filework, or the filework may be limited to the blade only, making them easier to clean.
  • Most gemstone is not deeply permeable, so cannot host moisture and contaminates. The same can not be said for woods, horn, bone, ivory, and (believe it or not) synthetics and plastics. But I use those materials too, if requested.
  • The fit on my knife components and handles is excellent, preventing voids or cracks at seams of different materials.
  • All of my handles are bedded and sealed with high strength, industrial jeweler's grade polyepoxide thermosets, eliminating voids.
  • The seams between the bolsters and blades are also sealed with epoxides or cyanoacrilate esters.
  • Though the blocks are wood, just like a cutting board, wood tannins are believed to inhibit bacterial growth.
  • In over thirty years of making fine knives for kitchen, chef's, prep work including hunting, field dressing, and cleaning fish in the wild, I've never heard of anyone getting sick from a knife... anyone's knife!

If you're still worried about this whole contamination thing, take a coarse bristle brush to your fingernails with a generous dose of surgeon's anti-bacteriological soap. Then do it again, and again, and again... okay, one more time to be sure-

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"Artemis" obverse side view: CPMS30V high vanadium stainless tool steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Red River Jasper gemstone handle, ostrich leg skin inlaid in hand-carved leather sheath
More about this Artemis

Some Insight About Factory Chef's Knives

A client sent me an article clipped from the New York times about knife sharpening and the legendary skills of the Japanese in making blades and having a better cutting edge. It was the usual knife hype from a mass-market industry, and I evaluated and wrote:

Hi, B. Thanks for the article clipping. It's interesting how little people actually know about the cutting edge. There is no mystique, no legendary knife style or unique quality necessary for a very sharp, very long lasting cutting edge. It's simple, really: the blade behind the cutting edge must be as thin as possible, and the sharpening angle as low as possible. There are other considerations, of course, being the type of steel, and the geometry of the grind, and the intended use of the knife. Chef's cutlery is ground as thin as is reasonably possible. In some ways, the chef's knife is one of the toughest to make by hand, and I grind them incredibly thin. I also use a hollow grind, something you will seldom, if ever, see in a factory chef or kitchen knife. Factories flat grind the thin blades on automated machines, and though the flat grind is initially sharp, it will get much thicker with the first and successive sharpenings. I detail this on my Blades page here

When I got into knives, I looked for the ultimate resource on the cutting edge. What I found was a man who had made a living for over 35 years as a sharpening consultant to the textile and meat packing industry. Now in industry, these guys don't screw around. They don't have time for confusing and mystical gimmicks or hyperbole. They must have the sharpest cutting edges, for the longest time, with a technique that is clear, maintainable, and very sharp. If you've ever seen the "line" at a packing plant, it is an amazing thing- the people are whipping meat off the bone at an incredible pace! The knives are super-razor keen, and they wear special Kevlar or stainless steel cut-resistant gloves for protection from the blades. In textile plants, razor sharp wheels, shears, and blades cut through thousands of miles of materials, without snagging or tearing. This guy advised them on how to maintain their cutting edges. His name was John Juranitch, and he wrote a good, short, concise book on what he knew. It's called "Razor Edge Sharpening" and it's available on his website (at this link). They also sell gadgets on their site that help you maintain that sharpening angle, but I don't recommend them on a custom knife, because they clamp on to the spine of the knife and can mar the finish. But the resource and technique is worth it, and that's why I recommend Juranitch's book on every knife care sheet I supply with every knife. I can't live long enough to have the experience this man has had sharpening blades, so I use what he learned.

About the companies selling kitchen knives: these types of knives are a big volume business. They rely upon continuous sales in a pretty low end market. There is a heap of competition in what they do, so the only way they can be successful is by selling more units at a higher price than the competition. So, the industry relies upon an immense and embarrassing amount of hype. There are no 'legendary' kitchen knives, anywhere in history, no matter what they say. Here's a comparison: In the days of old, the musicians, jesters, actors, and entertainers were some of the lowest class, lowest paid, taking bones thrown from the King's court as payment for their services. Today, they are hyped by our culture and media's hunger for dollars to a point of absurd payment for their services, some have become "idols." Is their talent really that precious? Or is it a twisted part of capitalism that has somehow skewed our values? The same can be said of kitchen knives. Kitchen knives are common, mostly cheap and every household has them, but somehow these companies try to hype the quality of their cheap knives for a greater return.

Here's a prime example from the article: the difference of having a relief angle and edge on one side of the blade is not some great advantage to the end user of the knife, its one of savings in manufacturing! It's cheaper and simpler to take a thin blade blank, put a relief angle only on one side, cut your machining expenses in half, and then hype it up as some great benefit. It makes no difference whether the compound angles come from one side or two, a low angle is possible with both methods, and thus, there is no sharper knife. What it says to me is that these Asian cutlery firms are competing with the dominant German firms for moderately priced kitchen cutlery, in a world where people are starting to realize that they don't want a "Ginsu" kitchen knife sitting on the counter of their very expensive and important kitchen. That's where fine custom knives come in. Factories can't even come close...

Want to learn more about the astounding differences between factory knives and fine handmade and custom knives? I've dedicated a special page to this topic.

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"Vitruvius-Vega" obverse side view: 440c high chromium stainless steel blade, nickel silver bolsters, Monzonite gemstone handle, kydex, nickel plated steel sheath
More about this Vitruvius-Vega

Making Chef's Knives for Professional Chefs
Consider the role a fine knife can play in your profession, passion, and career.

Evening Jay,
I wanted to give you a proper testimonial now that I've had time to use Sirona at work for a day. I couldn't wait to bring out Sirona at work, everyone noticed the shining mirror polish immediately while I was getting ready to small dice about 150 tomatoes to keep the restaurant stocked for the day. Sirona was well up to the task. The knife felt like an extension of my hand, and the extra weight also feels good, knowing that I'm not using some flimsy piece of carbon steel that I'm so used to. After seeing in person how good a knife could be, my first thought was that I can't wait to order my next two! It was a pleasure to speak with you on the phone and I look forward to doing business with you in the future.

--A.


From one professional to another, I get asked continually to make professional chef's knives for the professional chef. This is a very important service that I offer here in Enchanted Spirits Studio, in both sole authorship knives and collaborative works with Rusty Russom, who is an experienced professional restaurant chef as well as a professional knife maker. This is one of our most important duties and skills: to be able to take another professional's design ideas and preferences and build them into the tool that he will use daily in his trade and passion. Like my combat knives, I take the commissions and trust of the professional chef seriously, building the chef the very best knives possible. A good portion of the knives you see on this page and the related pages on the site are for professional chefs.

The great thing about working with professional chefs is their ideas, input and passion for their art and craft. Since they use knives probably more than any other accomplished trade, they have a special and deep relationship with their tools. They have given me great insight over the years as to what constitutes the very best chef's knives, whether for general use or for specific tasks in the full service kitchen. These ideas, designs, patterns and features are then not only incorporated into their knives, but also offered to other clients as well, just as my combat and tactical knives benefit from the input of serious combat and rescue professionals. This relationship between the metals and tools artist and the professional who uses his knives to feed his own family through his daily passion and art is very old and honorable, and I'm proud to carry on this historic tradition.

Though there are many kitchen and chef's knives in the world, and many claim to be the top of the line, the best, and the finest, please take a very close look at those claims, the knives, and the company or person who offers them. Most of what is offered for kitchen, professional, or chef's use is clearly cheap and low grade. Even the so-called best standards of the chef's knife fare pale and wither when compared to a truly fine handmade and custom knife by an experienced craftsman with decades of practice making fine knives. The makers or manufacturers may claim superiority by nebulous historic relationships to old warriors or practices of the past or they may claim that the knives originate in the classic European guilds or locations that were once revered for the finest cutlery (but no longer exist). You may see claims of superior and yet mysterious steels and processes, but know this: most of the chef's knives and kitchen cutlery made in the world today is made in China, Taiwan, India, and Pakistan, no matter who claims to historically run the manufacturing firm. Of special interest seems to be Japanese knives, which are poorly made, stick-handled pieces of hammered plain carbon steel; the very worst type of knife for the kitchen. More on these on an upcoming page on the site.

Compare this to the artist and craftsman who works with the finest, highest alloy ultra-modern tool steels and practices, a craftsman who is responsible for every component, piece, part, operation, and interaction of the custom knife experience, and you cannot ignore the glaring truth that the very best knives made in the world are made in the modern metal artist's machine shop and studio, not in a foreign manufacturing plant. It is my goal to pull back the curtain on knives and the knife industry in very specific, clear, and definitive language, without any hype, mystery, or claims of historic relationship to once-great industries or traditions. On this very page, I go into great detail to clarify what makes a very fine knife compared to a factory or lesser knife, and it should then be clear to anyone who has read this that today, the very best knives in the world are handmade.

Sadly, many of the finest chefs in the world do not use the finest knives. Since the price of these fine knives are well within their reach, there are several reasons why they may not acquire and use the finest knives:

  • They have never seen or experienced a truly fine chef's knife. You would think that with all the knives in the world for the best chefs to try, they could have their pick of fine knives. This is not the case. Extremely fine knives are hard enough to find, and extremely fine chef's knives are even harder to find. They won't pop up in kitchen supply catalogs, on television, or even on the internet without a detailed search. They simply are very rare. They are rare because most companies and individuals who make knives are focused on one thing: volume of units. The more knives they can sell, the better. A knife making artist is focused on extremely high quality, not volume, and even if he has made thousands of knives in his career (like I have), please remember that there are millions of knives made and sold annually. The percentage of the very best chef's knives are incredibly small. I'll go so far as to say that there are many more chef's competition and cooking programs on cable than there are knife makers who make these exceptionally fine pieces.
  • Some of the best chefs use the worst sort of tools. Yes, it might hurt a bit, but it's true. I've seen these so-called best chefs whip a blade over a striated steel rod with obvious careless abandon, as if this is some great flourish before the cut. To the maker of fine knives, this is the result of years of suffering cheap, inferior knives. Only a cheap knife needs to be constantly sharpened, and even the honing steel has a specific and careful application on those cheap blades, detailed by a true expert on sharpening, John Juranitch, who quite literally wrote the definitive text on sharpening knife blades. How many of these accomplished chefs have even read the book on how to sharpen a knife? They haven't learned by watching other chef's sharpen cheap knives on a steel rod, have they?
  • Some chefs do not consider a fine knife important. To them, it is simply a tool, like a spoon, whisk, or pot. Since there are no custom handmade fine spoons, why would they be interested in a knife made this way? This is probably the saddest attitude, because it does not persist because of unavailability of the tools or ignorance of the tools, but because the tools and equipment of their trade (cooking) are simply not important to them. From a craftsman's standpoint, this is one that I can not fathom. The tools of the trade, in many ways, dictate the quality of the result of the artist's or craftsman's work. To compare, a knife maker can make a knife with a hand-drill, file, torch, and sandpaper, so why would he need anything else? It's because if professional results are expected, a professional tool set is required as well as a professional's attitude, practice, and skill using those tools is necessary.

If you are a professional chef reading this, please consider the role a fine knife or fine knives can play in your profession. If you do not order a knife from me; that's fine, but please consider getting just the knife you want from another custom knife maker who can answer your questions and build you a knife suitable for your passion, your life's work, and your career.

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The very best knives made in the world are made in the modern metal artist's machine shop and studio.
Professional Chef's Evaluations

I consider it very important to have worthwhile evaluations of chef's knives by the professionals who use them. You'll see several of those on this very page, and just below, I've included a highly detailed knife evaluation of "Cybele," a boning and fillet knife owned by Ulises Magana. He's been kind enough to give detailed points about the Cybele, and honored to consider all the specific points in upcoming projects. It's extremely important to knife makers to encourage this conversation and continue to grow in their pursuit of the ultimate professional and investment knives. Since we, as knife makers, do not have the experiences of a chef, nor can we in the short time we are alive, it's critical to continually evolve and improve our service and our potential. Otherwise, all we will offer is what everyone else is making, the 8" Sabatier with three rivets in the handle.

Hello Jay,
I have been using Cybele, holding Cybele, and trying to learn how it was created (specially its edge) by observing. This is a review of your knife; one of many. To give only one would be a ridiculous insult, it is not a meal that is eaten and then gone and remembered (I will probably never have a chance to remember this blade of yours and mine, because it will outlast me). While both a meal and a knife can be masterpieces, the time in which each is experienced is different. I am glad that you exist.

  • I have held it for every waking moment that I am home; holding it, waving it, running my fingers across its edge, and looking at the multi-planar surface of its edge.
  • Cut potatoes, apples, pumpkins, tomatoes into a extra fine brunoise, and spinach into a ridiculously thin chiffonade.
  • felt its edge before and after using it. Usually the edge changes (with a regular knife), but no noticeable change was found with Cybele.
  • I've held it in every way I could think of; in a pinch grip, forward grip, a glide grip (which is used mainly for delicate or hard to cut food due to its decreased traction when pressure is applied to it, such as squid, seaweed, nori, dried limes, soaked dates. These foods are common to me by the way)
  • I have tried to imbue it with as much of my energy as possible.

When I opened the FedEx package I was confused at what I was holding in my hand. Heavy...well heavier. I held it for hours before I cut anything with it, I slapped the blade against my hand, knocked it with my knuckles. I had never experienced a knife made of this steel before. Nor one made this well. Its shape still confused me though. It felt the most natural when held in a forward grip I was unsure if the handle was any good at all. I held my other knives in comparison and soon I started to dislike them. The knives I had had so much experience with and had done things so well with, were nothing in comparison to the cuts full of finesse I was making with Cybele, a knife I had never played with.

I wasn't having to accommodate for the knife, finally the knife was doing as I commanded. I will send you a video so you can see Cybele in action. I have broken down many fish, and I am waiting for a good sized opportunity to test how it will do with a large one (TUNA :) ), since its design is better suited for that. As a Chef knife it falls short because of its height, the amount of clearance in height for your fingers between the edge beginning after the choil and the belly of the knife, and its pivot point has a significantly decreased edge sharpness. Usually with a Chef's knife because it is quite large and tall you are able to easily curl your fingers and rest your proximal joints against the side of the blade. With Cybele this is not possible and the alternative is to rest the top surface of your intermediate phalanges at about 110-120 degree angle. This is not bad but it is not the most desirable for someone like me who can go a great speeds with a knife; the upward force exerted against my fingers can sting and burn from the rubbing. But, I experienced this from the up and down rubbing against my joints from larger Chef knives so the trade of is not bad.

I am a small guy, I am 5 foot 5 inches. My hands are small my fingers are not thick, and I bump or squish my fingers against the cutting board when trying to use the full length of Cybele's edge. Since Cybele has a curved blade the percentage of the actual edge that comes in contact with the surface of the cutting board is about 33%. A percentage similar to this is inherent with almost all cooking knives, but with Cybele in order to use the last third of the cutting edge the handles rear quillon needs to come down millimeters away from the cutting board. This does not leave enough room for my fingers. So, I have to remove them from the belly of the knife and switch to a glide grip (where the blade is held by the sides), again not bad; but not Great. Then, usually the Chef's knife pivot point is at the tip of the blade, in Cybele there exists two pivot points (the stinging trailing point (I think that's what its called) and the transition point/tanto blade ) The one usurping the traditional tip of a Chefs knife is that transition point; it is not as sharp as the rest of the blade. Dragging the knife along this point can cause ripping and not cutting of food stuff (though I see that the primary edge was continued farther up well into the beginning of the secondary edge).

-8/12/12
I wrote the previous paragraph thinking I understood Cybele having used it. But, cutting with it is a delightful experience. Every cut is exact, every slice is even, every dice looks like it was machine cut, and every piece of food minced has absolutely defined borders. Cybele is not the sharpest, fastest, thinnest; but overall it is the best by very very VERY far. Usually you would expect to teach the blade. Use it wear out the edge, train the edge, smooth in the middle from wear and deliciously sharp at the tip from occasional wear. The change in Cybele's edge is the least detectable that I have ever experienced. Knives to me are like nails to fingers, I can feel exactly where every part of the knife is. I have never had a blade with such a great fit. I hate hidden tang blades for this reason (but I'll hold my tongue since I have not had yours), the transference of force is not good. Often the transition and loss of force from blade, to handle, from handle to hand is to great. Even with full tang forged blades I have never had such great transference of energy. I was never a butcher, and I now am able to crack atoms and see inside them with Cybele.

It is a very releasing experience to use Cybele while cooking because the blade has tamed me, Cybele has taught me. I am incredibly fast and precise with every knife that I own, but I have never felt the need to slow down and enjoy the cut. A lot of the problems I faced with my fingers not having enough space were almost all gone because I reduced the speed of my cutting.

All my blades have "para aprender" etched on them that only I can see, Cybele is the only blade that has it physically engraved. The reason for it being written in Spanish is because of its double meaning; for the sake of learning and for learning with (meaning Cybele is a tool to be used for learning).

-9/6/12
Thank you so much, I want to continue ordering and working on the rest of my future knives with you. It is a great feeling to come home tired as hell from a 16 hour shift and go to my kitchen and cook for even longer and more enjoyable hours than ever before. I want you to do me a favor, if you will allow it; every time I purchase potential (a knife) from you I want you to put my full name on the page of every knife that I purchase from you. I am a proud owner of your work! We need to have a long talk as to how this project of mine is going to come to fruition.

thank you,
Ulises Magana


"Cybele" fillet, boning, chef's, carving, collector's knife, obverse side view in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Unakite gemstone handle, lizard skin inlaid in hand-carved leather sheath
More about this Cybele

Chef's set in 440C high chromium stainless steel blades, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Crocidolite gemstone handles, block of maple, black walnut
More about this chef's set

Collaborative Chef's Knives with Rusty Russom!

The interest in my chef's knives has always been high, and continues to grow. I'm thankful for all the people, chefs, and culinary artists who have been my patrons, every day. In an effort to supply some of these knives in a shorter time frame, I've started a new program with my son-in-law, Rusty Russom, here at the Enchanted Spirits Studio. Read more about this expedited program on Rusty's dedicated page on my website, and please consider his unique and special talents and our collaborative knives for your culinary knife purchase. Thanks!

Yesterday my buddy took his Grady White 60 miles off the coast to Blue Fin Tuna Fish (something very difficult for U to do in N. M.). He caught a 94# Blue Fin Tuna. He brought it to me to butcher. I as U know have a new Chef’s knife! It performed all the tasks of Gutting, skinning, deboning, and trimming without requiring even one sharpening.
Wow!

--B. M.


Please click on thumbnail photos

Rusty and Jay,
When I first saw my knife in person I was blown away, it is exactly what I needed. It's sturdy, strong, sharper than a razor and holds an edge perfectly. It is the all around knife that in my nearly two decades as a chef I have never before had the pleasure of owning. Words cannot express how pleased I am. You are true craftsmen. I'm truly honored to possess this amazing piece of art. I can't wait to start another project with you both in the very near future.
Thank you.

--D. K.


Rusty Russom and Jay Fisher Collaborative: "Arcadia" fine handmade chef's knife, obverse side view in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Cocobolo exotic hardwood handle, stand of American Black Walnut, red fiber spacer, Baltic brown granite base
More about this collaborative chef's Master Knife

Chef's Culinary Set: Vega, Nereid collaborative knives in 440C high chromium stainless steel blades, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Ziricote exotic hardwood handles, block of cherry, lauan, ziricote hardwoods
More about this Collaborative Chef's Pair

Why do the knives you classify as Chefs knives have sheaths?
The worst enemy of a knife is another knife.

A knife can never be disarmed or made safe.

You will notice a lot of sheaths with the knives on this page. Conventional wisdom is that a sheath knife is for the "field." The truth is, a sheath protects the knife and the owner. If you're going to store your knife in a drawer banging into other knives and kitchen tools, your expensive custom knife is going to get dinged, have the edge dulled, and get torn up. The sheath will offer protection. The worst enemy of a knife is another knife and other metal kitchen tools.

"Volans" fillet, boning knife: 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Antelope Jasper gemstone handle, emu skin inlaid in hand-carved leather sheath Also, many of the knives shown are dual purpose, that is both utility knives and chef's knives. Some are well suited to boning, dressing, and carving. Some have more elegant displays. There is no "rule" about knives, and some of my clients insist on taking a fine sheath knife to even the best restaurants, where all they have to offer to carve a thick steak is a worn-out thin stainless steel spring saw the restaurant calls a steak knife.

"Volans" fillet, boning, carving knife: 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, hollow ground and mirror finished, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Fossilized Cretaceous Algae gemstone handle, hand-carved leather sheath When the knife owner pulls out his fine custom knife, people at the table (and sometimes other tables) beg him to use it when they see it glide through the meat. Some of the knives have blocks or stands, some have sheaths. Some sheaths are kydex, some are leather. Protection for the owner and the knife is important, and sometimes a big bulky counter block takes up just too much precious counter space. Since this is a custom affair, I strive to make the client just exactly what he needs and wants.

Read details, see more pictures of these fine boning, carving and fillet knives on special pages here and here

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"Cyele" chef's knife: 440C high chromium mirror polished hollow ground blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Australian Tiger Iron Gemstone handle, kydex sheath
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Chef's knives and kitchen cutlery patterns, styles, applications, and photographs

While many different knife shapes can be used in the kitchen and the type of knife varies from chef to chef, there are some standards that have proven track records in the art of cooking and meal prep. These are usually recognizable knife shapes, but not always. There are no rigid rules about what knife to use for each task, so the variety can become bewildering. In my 390+ knife patterns, certain knives have been specifically used by chefs, many other blade and handle designs are used by cooks, but span type styles for other uses. The thumbnail group below gives a general idea of knife styles that are applicable in the kitchen, from fine chef's knives to designs that cross over into other uses. If a dedicated page is available, it will be linked at the caption below the thumbnail photo. Please contact me if you are interested in any fine custom, handmade chef's knives.


"Vega" master chef's knife, obverse side view in milled 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Australian Tiger Iron gemstone handle, slip sheath of kydex, nickel plated steel
More about this Vega

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