A prospective client recently asked me why they should consider spending hundreds of dollars on a customized culinary knife. They pointed out that the commercial market is flooded by off-the-shelf product at lower prices.

My first question to them was, were they satisfied with their factory made knife? Of course not. Factory made knives are just that regardless of how much they cost. They are built to maximize return. This necessitates the use of machine manufacturing processes and cheaper materials wherever possible. Rarely if ever are commercial knives made from steels equivalent to those used by reputable custom knife makers. Despite what they say, price dictates that they just don't use steels approaching the quality of RWL34, 440C or ATS34. And you CAN tell the difference. Good steel, heat treated well, with a carefully constructed cutting edge will sharpen more easily, last longer and cut better.

I then point out that a kitchen knife is a tool that you use just about every day of you life. How many tools do you handle more often in a week? Why wouldn't you want one that is a pleasure to look at and a pleasure to use. A good kitchen knife makes for a very satisfying experience.

Other considerations;

  • Commercially made knives mostly employ either all steel or plastic and steel construction, why? Mainly for cost savings. Fewer materials equals less construction processes. They might tell you its for hygiene, .......oh really!


  • Are commercially made knives more hygienic? No. Most commercially made knives use the same techniques for affixing handle materials as custom makers, rivets, glues and pins. But in all honesty, we're talking small potatoes compared to clean hands, chopping boards, plates, kitchen bench surfaces, cooking methods, fridge storage methods, washing up methods, etc. Do you think what's on your knife compares to all the unknowns that were in the processing plant that made your packaged food, or the sneeze of the passenger next to you in the train, or what was on the door knob of the public toilets? When was the last time you heard of someone getting sick from a knife! Give your knife a wash in warm soapy water and get on with life.


  • How easy is a custom made knife to sharpen? Despite the advertising blurb many, but not all, commercial knives come out of the box boasting an 'edge' that would embarrass a custom maker. Then to preserve this 'edge' commercial manufactures often make the steel way too hard which puts re-sharpening beyond the means of everyday owners. Do you have a cooks knife that you just cant put an edge on? Chance are the steel is too hard. Its best to take this type of knife to a professional sharpener. A custom maker will give you a sharper knife than a commercial maker. Proper sharpening requires the edge to have what's called a relief and primary cutting edge. This is a two stage process that must be done by hand. Commercial makers just can't afford the time this takes.


  • But isn't a sharp knife more dangerous? Some people are intimidated by the thought of using a genuinely sharp knife. But you've heard it before, a blunt knife is much more dangerous, and its true. When a blunt knife hangs up on a tough cut you push harder, causing the knife to suddenly burst through, usually with the momentum carrying the blade either into you or a bystander. A sharp knife cuts without much pushing force and this allows you to easily exert control on the direction of the cut. Believe me, after using a good, sharp kitchen knife you will wonder why you didn't have one all along. I often get my dinner guests to use my personal kitchen knives on some little chore because I like to watch the look on their faces change to wonder and surprise when they experience a truly sharp edge. (For all knives, commercial or custom, blunt or sharp, you have to follow good cutting practice, which includes cutting away from your body and hands. Another point to keep in mind is, never try to catch a falling knife, just get out of the way. It's not a big job for a knife maker to grind out a bent tip so don't fret about the falling knife, do whatever dancing you need to do and let the blade hit the floor).


  • Why don't commercial manufactures polish their knives? Simply because there is no way of doing so mechanically. Amazingly, even in this age of techno-everything, a true mirror polish can still only be achieved by hand. The commercial guys just can't afford the time cost. And, if you are wanting a true mirror polish, and I would because it looks just sensational, you have to pay for it. It takes me two days to polish a mirrored knife but the results are well worth the effort.


  • Won't wood degrade in a kitchen environment? Yes. Sometimes this is a good look achieved on purpose, see my father's kitchen knife on the 'how to buy a knife' page. However I use stabilized wood, buffalo horn and impregnated laminated wood products on my kitchen knives. These are all long wearing materials good for kitchen use. And if in doubt, have a good close look at your black plastic knife handle. After a year it looks like its been dragged down the lane under the kids billycart. All knives will show wear from genuine use.


  • Why are serrated knives sharper? Well they're not, but the appearance mostly comes from comparisons to blunt knives. Serrations consist of proud points and indented concave curves. The points tend to protect the curves. In doing so they get blunt and the curves stay sharper. A used serrated knife tears rather than cuts. When folk say they are sharp what are they comparing them to? Good, genuinely sharp knives will out cut any serrated knife. Serrated knives are also very time consuming to re-sharpen and it's often cheaper to toss them away.


  • Here's another thing that bugs me. Is it just me?? Take your commercially made knife and lay it lengthways on it's back, with the cutting edge facing upwards. When you let go, does it stay like that? Quite a few do, some don't. I really like mine to roll over on their side when you let go. I find a knife resting on a chopping board with it's blade up becomes hard to see and therefore a boobytrap for any unsuspecting folk following you.


  • Are handmade knives expensive? For something you will use every day for years, no.


And yet...., it makes me sigh,....just this month, I was watching a home style TV programme. The host was showing off in spectacular fashion. The dinner table was made from French-polished mahogany, the dense, starched, white linen table cloth was embellished by intricate hand sewing, the dinner set and silver were the latest modernist must-have extravagances. The meal boasted a hundred dollar joint of wagu beef, the wine carefully selected from the top shelf. All up, there would have been much more than ten grands worth of table, setting and food,.... and the knife she used to prepare it all was a thin, semi-serrated $10 steak knife, probably purchased as part of a cheap TV promotional set. I watched her hack and struggle through every cut and just didn't get it. Her main tool of trade was junk. How much better the experience would have been with a good knife. The 'missery-of-a-knife' she uses every day of her life wouldn't have cost one fifth that of the joint of meat she was cooking.

For goodness sake, get yourself a good tool and enjoy the experience.



Hand Crafted Knives


Warrick Edmonds

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Riflebirdknives, custom made knives by Warrick Edmonds, business card, taking orders Yes, books are open for 2016 orders. Keeping them interesting and exciting !


Riflebirdknives by Warrick Edmonds, go to cooks knife library for examples of handmade knives If you would like to see examples of kitchen knives that I've sold, a few photos to help guide your choice, press here