I am at once thrilled and intimidated to have the opportunity to use and review a custom knife made by one of our own forum members, Tim Johnson. While on the one hand I am hesitant to offer any critical commentary at all on account of this being the first time I know the maker of the knife will read the review. On the other hand, it would be disingenuous on my part and counterproductive to Tim to be anything but entirely forthcoming with my observations. So it is with tremendous sincerity that I start by saying this is a very good knife. I want to be sure to say so up front without reservation because while I have some criticisms, this knife is deserving of real praise.
The profile is modeled on the legendary Masamoto KS. The knife does an excellent job emulating the KS in usability. The tip is pointed, delicate, and nimble in use. The edge profile is flat lending itself to chopping and push/pull cutting. The choil/emoto union has a modest curvature to it that I like but I would rather a sharp corner be maintained where the heel and the edge meet. I actually use the point of that angle for scoring produce skin before peeling.
The grind is high performance muscular. The convex grind produces good product separation with minimal wedging. One of my litmus tests for grind performance is how the knife slices down the length of a carrot. I have come to expect a knife to be able to zip a wedge of carrot off without steering issues or added downward pressure to maintain board contact throughout the length of the cut. Lesser knives lift up as the grind wedges into the product. This knife performed admirably on this test and was a perfect joy during normal use.
Over all the knife is attractive. It has a near mirror polished finish with a dark, exotic wood handle and a custom made saya. I have two issues with the execution of this knife, both pertain to the aesthetics. The finish does not work for me. Mirror polishes are excruciatingly hard to do because they provide nowhere for wayward scratches to hide and in this case, there are tiny scratches that detract from the look for me. If I were to order one of these, I would be inclined to ask for a brushed/hairline finish. I am partial to brushed finishes both because I like them but mostly because they are easy to touch up when the knife inevitably scratches during use. This is a design choice though and my preferences are not necessarily the right way to do something.
The second aesthetic issue is the handle. The handle uses attractive materials and is very well finished but the cross section of the handle is mildly out of square. I am actually a little annoyed that I even noticed. I happened to be visibly inspecting the handle when I noticed. Had I not looked, I would have never noticed by feel alone…it did not bother me at all in use. Like the brushed finish, I would be inclined to order one of these with a taller octagonal handle; this handle is fairly square-like is shape with approximately equal height and width. Perhaps on account of my relatively large hands, I prefer the added height of the more typical JK handle shape.
In my opinion, the most critical element of knife making…or at least the element I am least inclined to forgive, is grind. Aesthetics can endear me to a knife but if the knife does not move well through product, it is little more than a high value letter opener. When I say this knife is a good knife, it is not to be charitable to Tim on account of him being a hometown hero. I have used a great many knives that lack the quality of grind this knife has. A few modest changes to the aesthetic design and I think this knife could be really quite exceptional.
Thank you both George and Tim. George, your generosity with your knife is much appreciated! Tim, fine work! I sincerely hope that you find the review helpful and fair.
Specs: length, 253mm; height, 50mm; weight, 206g
PS. This review originally described what I believed to be a defect in the sharpening of the tip. It was brought to my attention that the tip was damaged in use and has since been repaired. Consequently, that section has been edited out. Apologies.