Regular readers of this blog know that I have a real weakness when it comes to well-designed, beautifully-made kitchen knives. I count myself super lucky to be the owner of a real Bob Kramer knife (as opposed to the Kershaw/Shun ones from Sur La Table). I also count the Japanese knives in my collection among the best I have ever worked with. And, like any obsessive collector, I’m always on the lookout for new names and exciting new designs.
So, when I was contacted by the fine folks at New West Knifeworks, I was extremely excited. I had a read a few snippets about their forged knives over the past year but doubted I’d get my hands on one anytime soon (the range of brands available in our local stores here in Sillypore being sadly limited). I both admired the philosophy behind New West’s approach to making knives as well as their artistic flair, exemplified best in the colourful handle designs in their Fusionwood line. Of the two lines, the Phoenix Knives and the Fusionwood, it was hard for me to decide which was more appealing. To be completely honest, the Fusionwood knives had an immediate visual appeal because of the gorgeous handles, made by infusing hardwood veneers with penetrating dies and engineering-grade phenolic resins. They reminded me of artworks one would see travelling through the American Southwest. On the other hand, the Phoenix Knives had more immediately applealing blades. The Fusionwood blades are cut from high-carbon Swedish stainless steel and then ground and finished in Seki, Japan. The Phoenix blades, on the other hand, combines a tool steel core and layers of Damascus steel. Sixteen layers of Damascus steel are forged together and the forge-welded onto the extra high-carbon stainless tool-steel sheet by master knife makers in Seki. The result is a gorgeous, thin but durable blade that can keep a very finely honed edge.
I should say that my wife S and I turn down about 90% of products offered to us and 100% of restaurant invitations. That 10% of things we accept are usually things we’re obsessive about — a food product or tool we just can’t resist. When New West Knifeworks offered to send me a knife to test, I simply couldn’t refuse.
The knife we tested, pictured above, was the 7 inch Santoku. Our first impression was that it had a beautifully designed blade. Not only is it well made, but a joy to look at — Damascus cladding always adding an extra visual perk to any knife. The handle was interesting. Made of Nobel-Lite, a Corian-like synthetic material, it’s both water-proof and highly resistant to stains, chemicals, bacteria and molds. Ours was in “Stone”, which has a pinkish, brown, grey pebble screed look. The knife also comes with a “Granite” handle, which has a black, grey, screed look. Honestly, I would have preferred it if they had offered the knives with a solid-colored handle — like an orange or a red, or maybe a baby blue. That said, one of our friends recently came over and immediately noticed the knife and gushed about how pretty the handle was. Different strokes for different folks I guess.
The knife is light, which is great for female users (and us short Asian guys) but very well-balanced. It feels really nice in the hand, and is comfortable when gripping the blade just above the bolster with your thumb and first finger (which is how I prefer to hold my knives when chopping or cutting). The edge (straight out of the box) is very finely honed. After chopping my way through a number of things, it still had a very keen edge. And while I usually try and hone each knife every time I use it, I’ve purposely avoiding honing this Santoku, trying to see how long the edge will stay sharp. It’s held up trememdously well, testament to New West Knifeworks founder’s Corey Milligan’s dedication to making great knives.
Overall, it’s a really fun knife to use. It can be used throughout a long kitchen-prep without tiring out your hand. The blade is beautifully-made and functions smoothly. I’m looking forward to seeing how it holds up over the years. And given the performance of this piece, I have to admit, I’ve been supremely tempted to place an order for a Fusionwood Chef 8, which looks sensational and I’m sure (based on our experience with the Santoku) will also perform well.
Oh, and if you’ve been reading this hoping to get the recipe for the charsiu (roasted pork) pictured above, that will be in the next post. Promise.