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Performance versus fit and finish

Discussion in 'Kitchen Cutlery & Tools' started by milkbaby, Dec 6, 2016.

  1. milkbaby


    Aug 1, 2016
    Performance versus fit and finish... Well these two aren't mutually exclusive of course.

    I will say that as a kitchen knife enthusiast, on the forums that specialize in kitchen knives there's usually Japanese cutlery enthusiasts. And the fit and finish on those knives can vary widely. Some have that awful ho wood handle with a plastic ferrule that feels like garbage, and the choil and spine are cut square and sharp without any rounding, not so great for handling with a pinch grip. Some people don't care because they are most interested in the performance characteristics in the kitchen, and some things like relieving the sharp edges they can do themselves. To them, the handle is utilitarian.

    Here on these forums (bladeforums) there is a lot of emphasis on fit and finish, as that often shows quite a lot of skill and time invested in the making of a knife. There doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm for a really "rustic" knife. On the other hand, I've seen really beautiful looking knives that the maker obviously has skills and spent a lot of time and effort on, but then they make a big chef knife out of >0.125" stock with no distal taper or leave it 0.02" behind the edge before sharpening which is terrible for push cuts on hard foods. Makers here wouldn't make a wood chopper at HRc 65, but it seems a lot don't consider the specific requirements for good performance in the kitchen when they make chefs knives?

    Just thought it was an interesting observation...
  2. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 12, 2005
    Some folks who do not cater to the kitchen knife nut community make pretty or not so pretty knives that they say are intended for the kitchen and that is how they are used, but they are not the highly specialized knives you speak of. Others or try to make "pretty" specialized kitchen knives. :D
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2016
  3. timos-

    timos- KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 22, 2012
    This is an interesting topic to me also...with kitchen knives you have a pretty wide variety of knife users. A guy who carries an edc every day, who breaks down and cleans his own game might want a handmade kitchen knife and expect it to be just as strong and solid as his other knives. Or a guy working on the line might be really into his knives but also really appreciate the value of a great blade with a cheap handle. Then you also have the handmade kitchen knife enthusiast who wants the best looks along with performance. There is everything in between. I think alot of the experienced makers know what their customer wants and that is ultimately what is going to matter.
  4. scott.livesey


    Nov 10, 2011
    I make kitchen knives to be used in the kitchen. some end up pretty, some don't. on my list of things to do to make a knife, making it pretty is toward the bottom of the priority list. for me grind and HT are one two. for regular kitchen knives, i usually use 1/16" O1 PGFS at Rc62-64, primary bevel about 7 dps, 0.005" at the edge, 0.02" 1/4" up and 0.03" 1/2" up. I usually make handles of book matched hardwood.
    1.2519/O7 tool steel at Rc65. canarywood handle
    O1 at Rc62-63, red oak handle
    the handles fit well in the hand. you can chop on a cutting board and not bang your fingers. will slice proteins, veg and fruit paperthin. will push cut newsprint and shave without pulling. but if you look close, the blades have some scratches and grind marks.

  5. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 12, 2005
    My position is that if it doesn't perform, then it doesn't matter how pretty it is. That goes for any knife.
  6. Brock Cutlery

    Brock Cutlery KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jan 10, 2015
    It is an interesting thought and something that I am constantly considering. My early kitchen knifes were flat grinds, and pretty laser thin.
    Lately I am doing convex grinds, which are not as laser thin as a flat grind behind the edge.
    It's a difficult balance, and certainly there is no one answer to the perfect grind. One has to ask what is the perfect grind for "this" particular job.
    There isn't a lot of information readily available for a great grind profile, so we are all working to discover what it should be, and what are reasonable variations. At least that is true for my work to date.
    I just finished a 52100 Gyuto with a convex grind, full taper, and about .010 behind the edge. It cuts very well and potatoes peel off the blade during cutting fairly readily.
    With a convex grind, there are many variations to the weight of the convex, and that takes a while to learn.
    I am currently using a hardness of 62 which for me seems hard enough for good edge retention, but won't be as chippy as say 65, and sharpens easily enough.

    Do you have some suggestions on what you feel are exactly what you want to see in a gyuto and why?
  7. milkbaby


    Aug 1, 2016
    I think you and timos hit on some very good points. As Tim mentioned, some people will want a very tough and stiff blade, so although I feel distal taper is very important in a longer chef, maybe some people don't and it doesn't affect their use of the knife in the kitchen. There are plenty of factory kitchen knives that are just a flat long blade with a short hollow ground bevel for the cutting edge, but I think those are pretty terrible...

    Which really goes to the point that everybody is somewhat different, which can be a great thing for custom makers like yourself. A person can buy a kitchen knife that is custom tailored to their preferences and ways of cutting in the kitchen.

    So like you said, there is probably not one perfect grind for an all rounder like a chefs knife or gyuto. For a specialized knife, I can see where you'd stick with one type of grind, like the single bevels I've seen you (brock) posting recently. For an all rounder kitchen knife, I think like you mentioned convex and full taper can help with food release and "sticktion", but you can give up a little of the laser-ish quality that some people really prefer. You can end up with a bit of resistance through harder food like root veggies and gourds, but with the distal taper the tip is thin enough to still slice through onion easily for dicing.

    I think most kitchen users sharpening at home will end up with mostly a flat secondary/cutting bevel on waterstones (with some people adding a microbevel depending). Unless really steady handed or using a guided system, there will probably be a bit of mild convexity from not keeping the sharpening angle perfect, but I could be wrong? So flat or convex at the very edge bevel, I think either can work okay depending on the angle at the very apex. Although I really can't say that I've measured it, I've tried using pics and angle finding software to see what angles knives have right behind the apex. It seems quite low for many J-knives. And then we should also consider the steel and heat treat which probably plays a bit into what might work best.

    If you're not making a custom commissioned knife, then I think it's appropriate to describe what you made so people can decide whether or not they are interested. If somebody describes their knife for sale as an 8 inch chef, 0.150" thick, full flat grind, 20 dps, 56 HRc, then I personally would pass, but that might work for other people.

    To be honest, since I'm a bit of a doofus, there is probably a lot more intelligent discussion of these type of technical issues on the dedicated kitchen knife forums. I just thought I'd bring it up here for discussion by other people who don't visit those other forums often and for more knifemakers since there's a lot more discussion from makers than users (at least of kitchen knives) here.
  8. milkbaby


    Aug 1, 2016
    Thanks for your input, Scott. It sounds like you put a lot of thought into the qualities you want in your knives and how best to achieve them!

    I will admit that I feel that the handles you showed are kind of ugly and utilitarian BUT they probably work great as you said! Lots of Japanese kitchen knives have a really simple straight and oval or octagonal wood handle and those work great for me in the kitchen. It's nice to have a pretty blade too, but once it starts to get used... I've put scratches on soft cladded san mai with just the rough skin on my fingers and wasn't happy at first but it's a tool not a jewel... :)
  9. scott.livesey


    Nov 10, 2011
    this is one area where function wins out over form. my handles are straight so they fit in the hand and allow you to find the comfortable position. they are thick because i have very large arthertic hands that need a large handle. I also use handle size, shape and material to achieve overall balance.
    kitchen knives are a great place to experiment as you can dictate the knife's end use. i have made several blades from 1/32" material, about the only place you could use it would be in the kitchen.
  10. Willie71

    Willie71 Hobbyist Knifemaker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 23, 2013
    The first year I made knives, maybe year and a half, I didn't invest too much time in fit and finish. I concentrated on profiles, geometry, and heat treat. A knife has to cut, first and foremost. It should be an extension of your body, effortless to use. Pretty is just patience and effort.
  11. jc57

    jc57 Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 28, 2012
    I like purty knives that can still cut.
  12. HDCutlery


    Jan 12, 2016
    I'm fairly bias on this topic as I'm on both sides. For any chef out there the first we look for is if it can hold its edge. The second is the feel in your hand and based on whether working in a pub that serves 70-160 people or a banquet facility that serves 100-3k people will it kill your hand or not. As for bevels if the chef has any clue of what they using their knife to prep they will know if they need a chunky edge, clunky feeling fat flat or a Lazer edge. In the end kitchen staff or the hardcore home cooks are going beat the tar out of it so you need to make sure it can take it.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2017
  13. Brock Cutlery

    Brock Cutlery KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jan 10, 2015
    Thanks for posting your perspective. That is good food for thought.
  14. Jelle B. Hazenberg

    Jelle B. Hazenberg

    Feb 20, 2015
    Hi guys,

    Good topic. I think with fit and finish there is a point when it's good enough and it's not worth spending more time and energy. Whereas with performance it is always a good thing to go the extra mile to make it as best you can. Because somebody using the knife daily will appreciate it every time they use it. I don't think that F&F has such an impact on most people, certainly not me. It definitely needs to be at an acceptable level but I don't see the need to go overboard.

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