Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Beauty of a Finely Finished Blade

Santa Claus came early for me this year, when bladesmith Travis Wiege of Weige Knives here in Austin emailed me, letting me know that my custom chef’s knife was finished. You may remember my feature article for the Austin Chronicle last spring (see link, below), when I wrote a profile on Travis and explored the world of custom chef’s knives, while illustrating the myriad options involved in designing a knife, and describing the process of getting measured and fitted for my own knife.

bladesmith Travis Weige in his studio, holding Knife #50, MY knife.....

It’s difficult to order something like a custom knife that you know won’t be finished until eight or nine months later. The excitement wanes over time, and periodically you get amped-up all over again when teaser emails arrive from Travis letting you know the progress of the knife, as it slowly works its way down the assembly line. You can’t blame the lengthy wait, especially since at the time, Travis was making blades as a side gig. He started as an undiscovered artiste that those in the know whispered about, for fear that the rest of the culinary community would find out about him and the waiting list would grow longer. And now, nine relatively short months later, he’s given up his lucrative day job and gone full-time into knife making, and hired an apprentice to try to keep up with the ever growing demand for his beautifully crafted blades. Dude has gone fairly seamlessly from avocation to occupation, and carved out a really prominent niche in the Austin area culinary world while doing so.

my finely finished blade....Ol' Number 50

But enough idle backstory chit chat. What about the knife, you ask? I went by Travis’ studio yesterday afternoon and picked up my knife, Knife # 50. It is
absolutely gorgeous, with a total length of 12 ¼ inches, with a 440c high carbon stainless steel blade of 7 ½ inches in length, a width of about 2 ⅛ inches, and a very sharp convex edge grind (AKA “apple seed” grind). The handle, which was formed to fit a cast of my grip, is made from a matched bookend pair of stabilized lacewood scales. Lacewood, or Brazilian lacewood (Panopsis spp. (P. rubescens, P. rubellens, and P. sessilifolia) gets its name from lacey flecking from the medullary rays exposed when the wood is quarter sawn. I had doubts when I chose it originally, but after seeing that wild alligator skin-like grain and 3-D effect after Travis finished the handle, I’m glad I picked it. The pins are custom Sally Martin B-9 pattern mosaic brass handle pins, and they look fantastic against the wood of the handle.

handle detail, showing the grain of the lacewood

The knife feels incredibly solid in my hand, and it balances perfectly on my index finger where blade meets wood when I lay it sideways. Most importantly, it slices through food effortlessly, and with absolute control. It is amazing to use a tool that was built specifically for your hand, particularly when you have a big hand and have spent a lifetime clutching knife handles that are too small for you. Travis has created a brilliantly finished working tool that’s also a work of art. This is a knife that will be passed down when I pass on. And like Santa, I’ll look long and hard at my naughty-nice list when I decide who gets this jewel after I slip into that spiritual realm.

Mick Vann ©


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