Shigefusa 270mm kasumi yanagiba with custom, by me, desert ironwood handle

16 May 2011

Pimp My Knife! - Victorinox refurbishment project

I was discussing good bread knives with my friend Øyvind, and he told me he was planning to order a Güede. I told him that the Victorinox would probably be a better choice and a lot more bang for his buck than this pimped up Güede bread slicer.

As it was, Øyvind already had the Victorinox in question, but he believed it was to old and to ugly looking compared to the rest of his magnificent collection. He then came up with a cool suggestion. I could do a rehandle on his Victorinox. A "Pimp My Knife" project.

The Victorinox is a mid-end blade, higly commercialized and not exactly an eye-catcher. No matter its humble pedigree, it is a blade that is actually one of the very best in what it is designed to do. It is a long time favourite amongst European chefs, and I doubt that you will find a professional kitchen in Europe without at least one of these knives. It is called "The world's best bread knife", and as far as cutting bread or cakes, I have not come across any knife that does it better.

To cut a long story short...
The blade and handle sure had some issues that needed fixing, so I accepted Øyvind's challenge to "pimp" his Victorinox. The starting point was a bit depressing looking, and I sure wondered what I could do to the knife to make it shine again.

First task was to get the old, cracked handle off without damaging the blade. Drilling out the rivets, which were aluminum, was easily done. At this stage I also sharpened the blade on the back side with a #1200 Aluminum oxide stone to bring out a fresh serrated edge. This grit made it fairly sharp while keeping the toothiness required to cut bread and especially crust effectively. I would later remove the scratches when satin polishing the blade.

Next up was to find a nice piece of wood to fit as the new handle. I wanted to keep the semi-hidden tang from the original handle, so I needed a block rather than scales for this one. I know Øyvind and he is a lover of curly and burly woods. I happened to have one that was both curly and burly, and it was Norwegian as well. A nice stabilized block of exhibition grade Masur birchwood.

I wanted to make a handle that had a little more belly and palm swell than the original handle, but still keep the light feel of the knife and its grip-friendlyness to both large and small hands. I thus made a rather highly contoured shape with a good palm swell but with narrower grip towards the blade.

I was wondering what to to to make the knife a little more special looking. After all this was a "Pimp My Knife" project. A knife I had seen on an exhibition a few weeks earlier gave me the idea. Fileworking the spine in the handle. So I started out experimenting on how this could be done as easy and consistent as possible. I ended up using my high power Dremel with an extention cord and a small sanding drum with a #120 grit aluminum oxide paper. This worked like a charm!

Next up was to attach the blade to its new handle and align everything. I sanded out a little extra space in the slot for the tang to fit a couple of black fiber spacers to give a better contrast for the file worked spine.

To finish the handle I used #220, #400, #600, #1200 and #2000 sanding paper followed by a light wood buff on the wood and a green metal buff for the spine and the pins. I also fitted a nice mosaic pin to give it that final "Pimped" look. I gave the blade a nice satin finish with a #1200 fibercloth doped with aoto powder, giving the blade back the as-new finish.

This Victorinox has been officially DarkHOeK Pimped!
Thanks for reading.

10 May 2011

Mystery stone - a nice pre finisher for kitchen knives #6-8000 Lv3 - 3,5

I frequently browse the Internet for japanese natural stones in my quest to learn new things about them and maybe find the occasional bargain. It is an exciting treasure hunt that has brought me more paperweights than actual usable stones, but every now and then I score a good stone at a bargain price.

This nice little rock I found on e-bay. I misspelled the search word and wrote "toisi" instead of "toishi". The search returned 1 hit, and this "toisi" was up for auction. There was one bid in, but I waited for 4 days until 15 seconds before the end of auction and bid $10 over the current bid and I won! A couple of weeks later it arrived in my eager hands and I couldn't wait to try it out. Hoping that the stone would be good but expecting just another paperweight.

Nice and clean stone. A corner missing but good size.
No cracks but a few firm and light inclusions not affecting sharpening negatively.
Observe the small black seeds like vanilla

Kiita with a greenish hue to it. Almost like green tea jelly with vanilla seeds

Clean and homogenous side with a few firm lines

The stone looked very old as it was previously lacquered to reinforce it due to its rater soft composition. The lacquer was yellowish and tarnished of age and the stone looked used. That was a good sign. I started out removing the tarnished lacquer and applied a couple of fresh layers to keep it stable.

The stone board is free of cracks but have some firm inclusions that does not effect sharpening in a negative way. The colour is kiita with a greenish hue with what looks like vanilla seeds in it. Very small black dots spread evenly throughout the stone. Might be renge or goma or something. It seems very uniform and has this velvety cool feeling to the touch.

The skin is very nice and dramatic looking with its very clear palette ranging from dark brown to a rusty orangey color. The stone itself on the bottom side is a light kiita color.
Dramatic and beautiful skin on the stone

Very nice back side with a clean kiita color under the skin

So for the sharpening experience. I pulled out my trusty Kasahara Aoko #2 kasumi usuba from Iida Tools. I use the same knife for all my tests as this gives me a firm reference for comparison and a large area to show the qualities of the stone.

The stone gives up slurry quite easily. The slurry to swarf ratio is fairly modest and the feel was very creamy and non-scratchy. What was immediately apparent, however, was the stones ability to make a high contrast between the jigane and hagane on the knife. It was clearly visible even through the ritch slurry. Even if it is a fairly soft stone it wears pretty slowly and will stay flat for a long time.
Very rich slurry. The light color indicates modest swarf to slurry ratio.
Looking at the result, we can se that the stone is not a final finisher. However, it produces a finish with very shallow scratches which makes it a very good pre-polisher for the final finishers. It also leaves a fairly dramatic contrast between ji and ha which I like a lot.

Nice contrast between jigane and hagane, but not the finest of finishers.

To sum up. The stone was a bargain for the price paid. However, most of the times you get what you pay for and this is not a very agressive nor a very fine grit stone. I believe the quality is fairly good.

The stone is a fairly good performer that sharpen most kitchen knives more than sufficiently for daily use. The edge off the sone compared a lot to the edge off my Oohira Asagi which is rated Lv 4,5 and #6-8000. As it is a fairly soft stone it is also very easy to use and very forgiving when sharpening. I believe it will be a very good stone for the beginner and intermediate sharpener.

If anyone have an idea what stone this might be, please leave a comment. I am excited to hear your opinions.