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Introduction and a question about the cost of stee

Thu Jan 17, 2013 12:40 am

Hi,

I'm new to the forum and I thought I'd use this first semi-serious post to introduce myself and ask a question.

Who am I knifewise? I'm approaching seventy and I've been cooking at home for fifty years. Some people think I know what I'm doing and with fifty years under my belt I feel somewhat justified in letting them live with their delusions. I've always cooked with good tools including good Euro knives. I migrated to Japanese blades about a decade ago when Shun and Global started appearing in our better kitchen shops. From there I went to the Misono UX10 which I still believe is a wonderful blade despite what some of the scoffs on the various knife forums have to say about it. (Hey, at nearly seventy I really don't have to take a twenty-something's idea of knfe status symbols seriously. :-))

At this point, all but two small western handled knives have been passed on to grown children and friends, and I've become a wa-handled slicing and dicing menace with knives from Kanehiro, Konosuke, Masakage, Moritaka, Takayuki, and Takeda. I'm actually considering declaring Mark and Susan dependents on my income tax this year. :-)

In truth, I don't know very much about these knives compared to some of you, but I've always loved objects that combine superlative function and beauty. I've fly fished for decades, and a fine bamboo rod is more like a fine knife than you might ever imagine - but the knife is a lot cheaper. :-). But, as they say, enough about me...

My question comes from browsing the various kitchen knife boards. On several, I found negative comments about san-mai knives. The criticisms were not very specific but the implication was that clad knives were simply a marketing ploy that allowed makers to sell knives at premium prices while using much cheaper steel for the cladding. I guess the argument would make sense if the cost of the steel to make a knife were a significant percentage of its retail cost, but is it? The cost of a bamboo rod is in the range of $800 to, say, $8000. Obviously, most of that difference is not in the materials. What do you think? Is san-mai a marketing gimmick to increase profits or is it a significant innovation? How much of the cost of a fine knife is in the materials use to make it?

Re: Introduction and a question about the cost of steel

Thu Jan 17, 2013 12:47 am

BTW, my name is Richard and I can't find the edit button to fix the subject line.

Richard

Re: Introduction and a question about the cost of stee

Thu Jan 17, 2013 2:39 am

Hi Richard and welcome aboard.
Go to "User control panel" in the upper left, then to "board preferences" and set "my language" to "British English" and the edit and other buttons will miraculously appear on your post.
Other than that, I am of no use at all! :D

Re: Introduction and a question about the cost of stee

Thu Jan 17, 2013 7:21 am

Welcome! As for the cladding, it depends on how it is done. I have a Tanaka Damascus clad knife that is all carbon, even the cladding. It is a simple layered damascus, but the layers are very wide and can be felt with the hand. Little sticks to the blade because of this; it's kinda like the grantons, but it actually seems to work. Most Damascus are stainless steels stacked up and forged/folded to make a pretty pattern. This is less expensive than doing a full damascus blade and combines the aesthetic appeal, lower cost of the side plates vs having a mono steel knife and it is supposed to absorb some of the "shock" a blade encounters so the core can be of a thinner, harder material and not be fragile. Also, factories can produce this steel and offer it to manufacturers who may not be able to do the damascus or cladding themselves.

Some people bash on San Mai blades because they tend to end up thicker/heavier/clunkier than a mono steel knife. I have a San Mai knife (AS core, SS panels) that is thinner than many of my mono steel knives. Some feel that the knife doesn't feel as nice and doesn't have the lively feeling in the hand.

I don't mind San Mai blades. It is a way to make the knife prettier/stand out with some performance benefits (thinner/harder core steel, shock absorbing properties) and it also makes sharpening somewhat easier. This is because the hard core is thinner and the softer panels are easier to sharpen away than fully hardened steel. Many of the claddings scratch easier, though.

I hear ya on the fly rods; I've only built a few, but I was surprised at how much a factory Sage Z Axis cost! I built one up for less than $600 using Fuji Sic guides and Titanium frames guides, nicer reel seat and nicer cork and still got the rod case and bag for that price; factory version was like $715 before tax and used much cheaper snake guides. Customer wanted the larger ring Titanium guides for the rod and outcasted his other rods easily with it.

Re: Introduction and a question about the cost of stee

Thu Jan 17, 2013 10:45 pm

Hi Jeff,

Followed your directions but still no edit button. Should it appear next to profile and pm?

Re: Introduction and a question about the cost of stee

Thu Jan 17, 2013 11:02 pm

Taz,

Yep, if you're looking for a laser, San Mai is probably not the way to go, and it may not be someone's cup of tea in terms of style, but the argument that it's a real money saver for knife makers seems bogus. The cladding on my Kanehiro, for example, must take more time and effort to forge than a mono steel.

Well, Sage has got to pay for R&D, advertising and a warranty. I hear R&D includes a lot of on stream testing in exotic places, so you also have to factor in the cost of jet fuel. :-)

Re: Introduction and a question about the cost of stee

Thu Jan 17, 2013 11:05 pm

OckhamsRazor wrote: Hi Jeff, Followed your directions but still no edit button. Should it appear next to profile and pm?
No, it will be in the upper right hand side of your post.
You might need to sign out and then back in for it to reset.

Read this thread, still-unable-to-edit-posts-t445.html
It will help understand what is going on and the information I gave you is on page 4 I think.

Re: Introduction and a question about the cost of stee

Fri Jan 18, 2013 12:34 am

Thanks Jeff,

I'm thinking the problem is that I am on an iPad and it doesn't do flash. I will check my desktop browser later.

Richard

Re: Introduction and a question about the cost of stee

Fri Jan 18, 2013 4:09 am

Yeah, but with many of the cladded knives, the steel is purchased that way so that the manufacturer blanks out and grinds like a mono steel knife. They are not always forging the cladded panels to the core panel themselves. They have to use less of the more expensive core steel; I haven't seen an aogami super knife yet that has not been cladded as far as I know! There are some clad knives that are around the same price as the mono steel blades (Tojiro DP vs the Fujiwara Carbon or Stainless series) and some Mono steel that are more expensive than the Clad blades, and cladded blades that are very expensive, so it's hard to tell how the price of material affects the final price.

Re: Introduction and a question about the cost of stee

Fri Jan 18, 2013 4:16 am

I don't know about san mai marketing schemes, but I do know that a knife with san mai construction doesn't necessarily make me better at cutting, nor does it seem to cover up my cutting flaws. But since i like the way say White #1 cuts but can't afford say a Konosuke Fujiyama, the Yamasin or Tojiro ITK starts to make a lot of sense, hence why I built a Hexagraph :)

By the way, hello everyone! I love this forum and glad I finally found a post to chime in on. I'll try not to be such a lurker.

Cody
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