Custom Chef's Knives

Feb 15, 1999
Does anyone know of a custom maker of fine profesional chef's knives? I am looking for something unique, functional and elegant. I am currently using a Wustoff 10" Grand Prix and I love it, but as person who truly loves all types of knives, I want something special. I am a professional chef and this would be my working knife. I also just saw a chef's demo of Grey Kuntz, and he had a really interesting blade that had a succession of holes that ran along the length of the knife about 1/4 of an inch up from the edge. I'm assuming that this is to keep foods such as potatoes from sticking to the blade as you slice them. Anyone with ANY information, please let me know.
The very first thing that I'd ask of any potential custom kitchen knife maker is the thickness of their stock and as-built knives.
IMO, there's simply no reason that a full sized wide blade 10" bladed Chef's knife should *ever* be made of anything thicker than 3/32" stock. And of course, everything smaller should be of thinner stock. There are applications like cleavers where thicker stock might be desirable, but the first and foremost q I'd ask of any kitchen knife maker is: "Can you tell me the thickness of your 10" Chef's knife (or Santoku) as measured 1/2" up from the edge on the end closest to the handle?" If she said anything over 1/32", I'd look for another maker. But, that's just me.

Clearly, I must be in the minority on this opinion because companies like Henckels and others sell mere 6" forged blades that are a whopping 3/32" as measured 1/2" up from the rearmost portion of the edge and a monstrous 5/32" thick at the spine-handle junction everyday. It amuses me greatly that the first thing many knowledgeable cooks do with these is have them professionally reground to compensate for this "feature", (defect).

If you find a maker that will make you what you think you desire out of 1/16" and 3/32" stocks and will guarantee the handles and the blades against reasonable use then you've done your homework.

As for knives with holes in them: I demoed a cheap stamped Korean "vegetable" knife that had holes in the blade ostensibly to break the 'suction' of slicing veggies like wet onions etc. The only two things that I saw the holes do were to trap bits of food making cleaning harder and to give storefront eye appeal causing knuckleheads like me to think that risking $16 was worthwhile. (It wasn't, although it was good testimony to the idea that onions and tomatoes don't much care if your knife is a $200 custom job or a cheaply stamped import.)

Thanx for the reply, mps,
I agree about the sanitation aspect of the hole in the blade, but these were quite large holes and it's just something DIFFERENT. If I were to find a custom maker to produce me a new knife it probably would not have holes. The chef I saw, Grey Kuntz, is an abosolute maniac about cleanliness( he's Swiss) so I'm not sure it would be a sanitation concern if you keep your equipment well maintained anyway. Thanx for the info about blade thicknesses and if you know of anything about the steels that makers use that would be suitable for my purpose, let me know. One maker contacted me and said he uses ats 34. You think that would be good in the kitchen?
Thanks for the reply, Joe

Rock On!

I thought about the same thing and wanted to explore using M-2...

Was thinking about an Asian vegetable knife, maybe a chinese cleaver.
ATS should work well, it is a very good utility knife steel, and would work well in a kitchen knife.
M2 is a very very strong steel that will really take and hold a edge, but it also rusts very easyly. It would not be my choice in a kitchen knife.
Hi lightninjoe!
Those of use who have the privilige to be able to use a knife in our profession should envision this tool as an extension of our body. The sheer amount of time we spend with a knife in our hands makes it important to carefully consider three aspects of the knife design:

1) Comfort in the hand --- To me, this is number one priority. Everyone has individual tastes in this area and its only after working with a blade for many hours of hard useage that you begin to realize what you like and dislike about the handle design. Balance is a given, its important to have a counterweight to the blade to lessen fatigue.
Handle material and shape are the most personal choices. Most chefs grip the knife with the thumb and index finger on either side of the the heel of the blade with three fingers on the handle. This is why you will see chefs'knives that are made with thicker blade stock, its for the index finger to rest on. I used a Global chefs knife a few years back and painfully became aware of the dilemma of super skinny blade stock cutting away the carefully cultivated callus at the base of my index finger. If you use a four finger grip on the handle, blade stock thickness is not a consideration, and you should lean towards the thinner side.

2) Blade Design --- Right tool for the right job!

3) Edge Retention --- Its a P.I.T.A. to have to take your blade to the stone too often, and causes premature wear. Frequent touch ups on a ceramic should be adequate to keep a good edge. I also believe that ATS-34 should make a good kitchen blade. I've begun a dialogue with Robert Simonich about making a Talonite Chef's knife out of 1/8" Talonite stock(Talonite is essentially cobalt) that I'm anxious to get going, I'll keep you posted on the progress...

Good Luck in the hunt! Let us know what maker you decide to go with when you take the plunge!

Nick Blinoff
I vaguely remember looking at some Michael Vagnino kitchen knives that were gorgeous, and exhibited the excellent edge geometry that mps favors. Check him out if you get the chance.

Hi lightninjoe:

Check out Steve Mullin's web site.

"My kitchen knives are made of 3/32 ATS34 steel with standard cocobolo handles. They come in 3 popular chef's styles, 6", 8", and 10". Prices are $90,$105, and $115 respectively. Custom orders are welcome. Just send a tracing of a favorite knife."

Don't know much about him, but he was suggested by a well respected custom maker.

Chop On,

Rob Simonich and Kit Carson are making up kitchen knives in Talonite. Handles are Corion, so everything is sealed up.

These should be incredible. Walt