This is the last article in the kitchen knife series and we’re going to talk about new knife materials. If you have been following the series you are now able to build your permanent kitchen knife collection and maintain it. In this last article we will look at the emerging generation of knives that are not made of traditional steel or metal and see what else they bring to the table and whether these are relevant from a practical sense.
Over the past few years, ceramic has become a very popular material to make knives out of. Yes, the same materials that your kitchen floors are likely made of can also be transformed into a killer kitchen knife. A very versatile material, ceramic is very hard, heat resistant and non-reactive (won’t impart tastes to food). Another property that makes it an ideal material for knives is ceramics are amorphous, which is just a fancy word describing that it can be sharpened to a keen edge like glass. If you’ve ever broken a ceramic cup, you will know that ceramic is very brittle. The biggest promise of ceramic knives is its edge durability; ceramic knives should be able to go months up to a year without needing to be sharpened.
Victorinox has a ceramic knife series made out of pure Zirconium Oxide and given that they know a thing or two about making knives, including the Piquey Eater’s favourite. I decided to give the 6” Ceramic Chef’s knife a try. Thanks to Victorinox, they supplied one of these for me to test and for the last 3 weeks I have been giving this little knife a real going over in the kitchen.
As you can see by the picture, the blade shape is slightly different than the traditional chef’s knife and it looks closer to a Santoku in outline. The beautiful white colour of the blade makes this knife look very benign and almost toy-like but don’t let that fool you, even for a second. The edge is extraordinarily sharp and the first time you try and slice something like a ripe tomato, it will glide right through like air. The handle is the same Fibrox shape and material that I fell in love with on the Chef’s knife review so this is perfect as it was before. The blade however is really light, the whole knife only comes in at 75g. As a comparison in weight, a 4” paring knife that I have from Wenger which is a lot smaller with a smaller handle weighs in at 45 g. So for fine work and detailed chopping, this knife will be a pleasure to handle and in no way tiring. The blade thickness is on the thin side with a primary taper that begins 1/3 from the blade edge unlike most steel knives where the primary taper begins at the spine. You can see this in the picture as a grind line just a little below the Victorinox name that runs the length of the blade. Then at the very edge, the taper angles increase more aggressively to create the secondary taper to form the cutting edge which appears to be 15° just like their steel knives. This creates a very thin blade where it meets the food and makes slicing thinly a real pleasure.
So here’s the question that all of you have been waiting to be answered: How does this knife perform on a daily basis? Well from slicing tomatoes, dicing onions, julienning carrots to chopping ginger, this knife held up over the 3 weeks without showing any signs of wear or loss of sharpness. However due to the fragility of this blade material, I did not use this knife on any tasks that may torque the blade as it may break it.
Should your ceramic knife need sharpening, you can sharpen ceramic blades with a diamond stone but ceramic is less forgiving than metal blades in bad sharpening technique. My recommendation is to bring these knives to a professional to get them sharpened.
Would I recommend this ceramic knife to users? I would say it depends. As a dedicated knife, this is a great performing knife but one that requires special care and attention. If you are one to take care of your equipment and have a place in your kitchen for a specialty knife then this is a good one to add. I wouldn’t recommend this knife as your general go-to knife as it still is extremely delicate and is better suited for specific tasks like slicing.
Amorphous Metal (Some serious NASA shit)
Another material that has recently come to my attention is amorphous metal, as in my previous explanation for ceramic this just means glass like. The making process of the knife creates crystals and there is a way during the heat treating process to change the crystal grain structures. These crystals start to form in the steel when the steel is over 1000° C. By heating and cooling the metal relatively rapidly, the surface layer crystal structures can be altered to make its properties more suited for a knife blade. This is what bladesmiths over the centuries has essentially mastered.
What if it were possible to take near molten metal at over 2000°C with no crystal formations and cool it down almost instantaneously locking the structure of the metal in glassy-like state? What we would have is a totally new breed of metal achieving the pinnacle of sharpness with the favourable qualities of steel. Cooling down a piece of metal from 2000°C is no easy feat however.
In the 80’s and 90’s experimenting with metal is what NASA and Caltech tried to create for the space program. This lead to a discovery of the right alloy with the properties necessary to make this new wonder material. This of course was used mainly in the space program and then later in industrial tooling. Then, an engineer who was working on one of these projects decided to make a personal-use knife out of the material and found that not only was the knife sharp, but it also didn’t need sharpening. In 2013 a new company was formed via a Kickstarter campaign to make knives out of this material. The company name is called, Vmatter (www.vmatter.com). Unfortunately we were not able to get one of these knives in time for this review but we are working to get our hands on one for review and will let you know more in a follow-up post.
This ends my knife series on the blog and I hope that you have learned something new and useful for the kitchen. As of posting this article, there is still some time to enter in my giveaway for a Victorinox Chef’s Knife over here on the Knife Trial Post.
I actually like the production process of these series and I’ll definitely be working on a couple of more for the year. If you have any suggestions of topics you’d like me to cover, I am never more than an email away.
Until we dine again,
-The Piquey Eater
P.S. I really wish I had more pictures for this post, but I guess that is something that I’ll be working on next; getting more diagrams (even if they are shoddy MS Paint ones)