Michiel Vanhoudt design, Kuo Shan-Hsi blade

When I first saw a few pictures of the knives Kuo Shan-Hsi made, I was left impressed by the steel grain and how simple, yet elegant they looked. Some had steel ferrules that I didn’t care for, some were absolutely astonishing. When I was invited to design a blade and he would make it for me, I obviously jumped on board right away. The man may not ring a bell to all of us, but he made the sword for the movie “Hidden Tiger, Crouching Dragon”. The next pictures I saw left me in awe for his craftsmanship.

During a trip to Germany I designed a number of blades. I prefer cleavers myself and use a petty for smaller tasks like mincing garlic and chili peppers. I have a number of cleavers that serve me very well and while I have a soft spot for them, I believe a petty would be a better choice, so I put away all the nakiri and cleaver designs and emailed Tom Blodgett the design I drew with the specs I wanted so Kuo Shan-Hsi could go to work.

Here’s a first quick picture Tom just sent me and it is spot on to the design I sent him. I look forward handling it when it arrives.

Specs:

 

  • Blade Length: 152mm

  • Cutting edge: 140mm

  • Spine thickness: 2mm tapering to 1.1mm at the tip

  • Handle: Taiwanese cedar with ebony ferrule.

  • Steel: High carbon cladded steel

  • Grind: Full convex

 

Picture courtesy of Tom Blodgett – Jende Industries

Zen

Deadlines, customs pissing you off, spam, cuts, sweating, and burnt fingertips. It’s easy to get frustrated while sharpening sometimes, especially when doing bulk work. It’s hard to relax when you’re doing 50 belt sander jobs during one single day. You get in the zone and you just get the job done.

Then a knife pops up that changes all of this. A nice Japanese knife, or a folder with amazing build quality and a new exotic steel. You break out the stones, perhaps even step away from your precious splash and go Shaptons, and switch to Nubatama or Chosera stones.  You calm down, take out the blade and carefully examine it, plan your sharpening session and put on some music. Bob Dylan, Neil Young or maybe something more modern like Two Gallants, Jack White or Nick Cave. The 400 grit Chosera comes out of the water, you lap it flat and start sharpening. The world calms down, the room dissolves and what is left is the stone, the blade and your hands. The rest of the room and world has evaporated in a few minutes. Your mind fixed, hands precise and your body comfortable. In a matter of minutes the work of the 400 grit Chosera is done, and you switch to the 1k Chosera, or the Hulk as I like to call it.
This is where even the music kind of disappears. Even the wonderful lyrics of Nick Cave or the sweet guitar sound from Jack White’s Gibson become blurry and fade away in the background. There’s nothing in the world except steel, swarf and water. The creamy feedback of the Chosera stones are pure Nirvana and your mind starts to think about other things. Maybe sharpening related, maybe not. You’re at peace.

That, my friends, is true sharpening happiness.

Taiwan trip!

All my bags are packed and ready to go….

You know the song, but this is really it. over the past 2 years Tom Blodgett and I have been trying to meet up. Considering we don’t even live in the same continent, this has become quite the ordeal. But now, 18 months later, it is finally happening and I couldn’t be more excited. There will be sharpening, a visit to the Maestro Wu factory and much more.

To say I am thrilled is an understatement.

Taiwan, here I come!

M390… Is it even steel?

Introduction

 

This is without a doubt the most anticipated knife of 2012 for me. I’ve been eyeballing this knife for months and I’ve kept my eyes open for a good deal, but it seemed all these wonderful blue knives were priced at a ridiculous price, or simply sold before I got the chance to buy one.That was until 4 days ago when I saw one for sale and was able to buy it at the retail price. To say I was excited, is an understatement.

The fit and finish of the blade was excellent and the blade was perfectly centered and locked up perfectly. All in all, I was really excited to put the knife to use and test out the new M390 blade steel.

 

Here we go!

 

Out came the Edge Pro and the stones. I selected the following progression:

 

  • 140 Atoma Plate

  • 320 DMT plate

  • 220 Shapton Glass stone

  • 1k Chosera stone

  • 4k Glass stone

  • 8k Glass stone

  • 2µ CBN on horse leather

  • 1µ Boron carbide

  • 0.25µ Monocrystalline diamond spray (Hand American)

 

The reason I chose this was because I heard this steel was so abrasive resistant, most stones wouldn’t even cut it and if they did, they did it so slow it would drive you insane. I opted to set the bevel with diamond plates first so I could take out alle the uneven grind marks and reset the bevel completely before starting with the waterstones.

When I put the 140 Atoma on the blade and started sharpening, it SKIPPED. It didn’t plough through the steel like I’m used to, but needed some pressure to get it to bite through the steel. I was already impressed as I’ve never encountered something so abrasive resistant. The same applies for the 320 grit DMT plate. At this point I wasn’t really sure this stuff was even steel! It seemed unnatural to me and surely no human could have made this. It seemed as if my efforts would be futile, but persisted and got the bevel set after much hard work.

 

Here’s the edge of the 320 DMT (Burr wasn’t removed for this picture).

Now I started to doubt if anything would be able to tackle this steel, so I went back to the 220 GS to make sure everything was evened out. After 30 minutes of sharpening, I was satisfied with a 220 grit edge. Most of the time I’m done after 30 minutes of sharpening.

 

Here’s the 220 grit edge (deburred)

Now this is where the dilemma started. Icould go with 2 stones I saw suitable for the task. Both the 1k Chosera and Shapton pro were ready to tackle this beast of a folder and I had to make a decision. The Shapton would cut faster as it’s a bit coarser, but it would glaze and I would have to clean off the stone more often. The 1k Chosera is roughly the same as the 1500 Pro stone, so it would be slower at cutting the steel, but since it wouldn’t glaze, I chose this stone. i lapped it with a 140 grit Atoma plate and didn’t lap it any finer since the coarser stone finish would improve the cutting action. The result was almost 20 minutes on the 1k Chosera before I felt it I was done with it. the Hulk didn’t disappoint, it’s just the M390 that challenged it to the last minute. The result was a close to mirror finish from a 1k stone. That’s the power of the Hulk.

At this point I was so focused on the knife and the sharpening, i no longer went back to the microscope to take pictures. I felt it would take me out of the zone and would destroy my sharpening pleasure. It’s been a LONG time since a knife challenged me this hard to make a perfect edge.

The 4k Glass stone was my weapon of choice now. I knew the GS was fast and would cut very well, but the jump from the 1k Chosera might have been too much for it. because I ignored the 2k Shapton Pro it had a hard time removing all the 1k scratches. Next time I will include the 2k Shapton to make sure the scratches are gone. (Pretty much every other steel would be fine with a 1k Chosera to 4k GS jump). When I was done I could see the ridges of my fingerprints in the reflection of the edge.

I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice and opted for a 8k GS instead of the Naniwa Snow White. While the Snow White is a very nice stone capable of some amazing work, I figured the GS would work faster and would compliment the 4k stone better. My intuition wasn’t wrong as I ended up with a perfect clear mirror and an edge that could push cut magazine paper an inch away from the holding point.

After this I refined the edge further with CBN, boron carbide and diamond sprays. I’m pretty sure refining it with something like CrO is an exercise in futility.

The result


I think my final edge is more than decent. I could have done better at the 1k – 4k gap, but overall, I’m pleased with my result. The fact that this steel held up to EVERYTHING I threw at it is impressive on it’s own. It polishes well, It is so abrasive resistant, that I wouldn’t even dare to reprofile it without diamonds and the final edge passed the HHT4. I think there’s not much more you can ask for in a knife steel.



ZDP 189? no problem!

I got a ZDP 189 Endura that popped up and needed a sharpening session. The edge out of the box wouldn’t even shave arm hair. Not what I’m used to from Spyderco, so I convexed it. Belts up to 600 grit, then paper on strop up to 3k, then 4µ CBN, 2µ CBn, 1µ Boron Carbide and 0.5µ CBN.

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