I had the opportunity to test a pair of knives, courtesy of Michael Kerley from 7th Dragon Knifeworks. I want to start this review by saying that I know and like Mike, we play Star Craft together (he's vastly better than me, which I don't like). Obviously, there is some bias towards positive attitudes, but my opinions are based on physical tests and usage in my own home and kitchen. I feel it important to mention that I was not paid for this test, both blades are actually making a circuit around the US with a dozen or so different folks and I was fortunate enough to be on that list.
That being said, lets start at the very beginning. I received the box containing the two knives pictured from the previous gentleman in the circuit, wrapped up in some plastic-wrap with what looked and smelled like cosmoline beneath it. I carefully cleaned both blades (read: vigorously scrubbed with a scotch brite and soap) to make sure they were cleaned of residue. During this time I was impressed by how thin they were made and how comfortable they felt in the hand. Also, keep in mind, these had seen use by Mike and a handful of guys in circulation before it got to me.
I'm going to break this down into an individual review of each knife, especially because I tested the gyuto against one I have from a teacher of mine.
Straight from the wiki entry: "The chef's knife for professional Western cuisine. For vegetables, it is used to chop or thrust cut like a nakiri near the heel, to rock-chop stiffer produce in the belly, and to make fine cuts at the tip. For meat, it is used to saw back and forth for large cuts, to pull cut for softer meats and for a better surface finish, and to push cut for more sinewy meat. There is usually a slope from heel to the tip which causes the wrist to point down and shoulder to raise up to make cuts."
I was excited to try a gyuto from Mike because I, as previously stated, own one from my teacher Taro Asano. This was an excellent chance for me to compare an American and a Japanese interpretation of the same knife. Below are images of the knives from 7th Dragon Knifeworks (https://www.facebook.com/7thdragonknifeworks/) and Asanokajiya (https://www.facebook.com/taroasanokajiya/) respectively.
As you can see, Mike's gyuto has a much more rounded and gentle shape to the blade, with a sharp and angular handle. It's made from 1095 monosteel and there is a hamon present (despite the poor quality of my camera) and the blade was evenly ground and etched to show this. By comparison, Taro's gyuto has a sharp and angular blade with a rounded and more gentle handle. While there is an appearance of a hamon, it doesn't actually possess one. This is because only the cutting edge was polished, leaving the back half to two thirds evenly forged but retaining forge scale. Additionally, the image barely shows that there is a third transition right at the cutting edge itself; this comes from the gyuto being made of a Japanese laminate steel called shirogami.
Aesthetic choices of the craftsmen aside, both knives were comfortable to hold and use for the duration of whatever cutting I did. Not being a professional chef, I would claim based on my experience that both performed equally well except for one instance: Taro's gyuto would cut a loaf of bread without crushing it as much as Mike's did. With meat, vegetables, packaging (both plastic wrap and cardboard) both knives cut like a laser.
Result: serrated knives are bullshit and making a single edge to cut bread is not easy. Taro's gyuto is slightly better in that regards. Sentimentality towards teacher trumps sentimentality towards friend?
I asked Mike what exactly this knife was, and he told me it was a prototype for a line he's calling "gliders." I honestly couldn't give it a better name because it did just glide through everything. As it was explained: "The idea is to pinch the blade with your middle finger in the groove, and just enough handle for the other two fingers. Makes them stupidly light, and have great control for light duty use."
If I thought that gyuto was sharp, this little knife was terrifyingly so. Also, light duty? I did everything around the house I needed except chop firewood. Now, there are some admitted flaws in the prototype design direct from the maker, things I believe he's already addressed moving forward. For example, you can't really chop from tip to heel because the shape of the handle makes the knuckles hit the board a bit. For slicing cuts when you're pinching the blade though, there's nothing better.
If you notice in the picture, there's a chip out of the edge about a third of the way from the tip. This happened while it was in my care and I felt bad, but it was also a learning opportunity about the knife and maker. First thing, when I told Mike what happened (cat knocked it off, landed hard right on the edge) he wasn't really concerned or mad. Secondly, it told me that his differential heat treat on the blade was done very well. After falling three feet only a small portion of the edge chipped; the blade didn't crack or shatter.
Not only did it only break that small section, but I just steeled the blade a couple times and went on to cutting and it didn't negatively impact the performance. It remained, literally, sharp enough to slice a cardboard box with no effort (think Blue Apron delivery service size).
My only complaint about the blades is aesthetic, I'm not a fan of acrylic for handles. They are well shaped, fitted, polished, and the colors go well together...but it's still acrylic. I loved having them here at the house to use day-to-day until I dropped them in the post on to the next gentleman in line.
If you're looking for a good kitchen knife that will do whatever you ask, that looks and feels good, and won't break the bank then go talk to Mike Kerley. I've already commissioned two.