I recently had an opportunity to try out one of the santoku knives from the folks at New West KnifeWorks in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I’d had my eye on one for some time and gladly took them up on their offer. My grandfather had an astonishing knife collection when he was alive, and I remember him showing my father all his new finds from flea markets and auctions. Even though I don’t collect knives as my grandfather did, the appreciation for good knives filtered down to me, and I do believe my grandfather would have enjoyed this knife.
New West KnifeWorks designs the knives, the blades are manufactured in Seki, Japan (the home of modern Japanese cutlery production), and the handles and knife blocks are hand made in Wyoming. The characteristic dimpled surface of the santoku blade is designed to reduce drag as you slice through meats and vegetables, allowing the perfect cuts required for Japanese cooking. I’ve seen several translations for the Japanese word santoku, usually “three virtues,” “three good things,” or “three uses,” all referring to the tasks the blade was designed for: slicing, dicing, and mincing. These blades are designed for fine kitchen work, and it performs beautifully. Don’t use this for hard objects such as bones, ice, or other frozen items as the blade isn’t designed for that kind of abuse. Stick with a cleaver for that type of work.
The Fusionwood Santoku knife is a truly terrific tool to work with. I do a fair amount of Asian cooking, which often requires very thin perfect slices of meat or vegetables, and the santoku is up to the task, slicing easily with no sticking or shredding. The knife weighs 8-3/4 ounces (247 g), making it substantially heavier than the 5 ounces (142 g) Chicago Cutlery santoku knife I’ve been working with. That doesn’t sound like much, but it does make a difference. The heft required a little adjusting on my part, but I soon came to enjoy the substantial feel.
The handle is beautiful and feels good in my hand. The company offers several different handle colors in the Fusionwood style as well as other colors for the Phoenix style.
Each knife comes with its own leather sheath to protect the blade. Care for the knife as you would any other good knife, using a knife steel to maintain the edge. Use only wooden or soft plastic cutting boards. Hand wash in soapy water and dry immediately; never wash in a dishwasher or soak for long periods in water. The company has a lifetime guarantee for home use and offers a full “tune-up” program; just mail in the knife along with return shipping cost of $5 and they will re-polish and re-sharpen free of charge.
I’m impressed with the quality of the knife and appreciate that it’s a piece of functional art for the kitchen. The price is higher than some high quality santoku blades but less than others, and after using it for a while I can say it’s worth the cost. These knives make fine gifts for cooking devotees, chefs, and knife collectors.
[Received sample from the manufacturer.]
The bottom line:
Pros: Very sharp, durable, holds an edge, easy to hone, elegant wood handles, comes with leather sheath.
Cons: High carbon-steel content in blade requires some care to maintain finish. Not designed to cut ice, frozen items, or bones.
Price: $159 for the Fusionwood Santoku (all knives priced according to size and materials)
Dimensions: blade 7 inches, overall 12 inches
Colors: handles available in a variety of colors
Materials: blades made from high-carbon stainless steel, handles made from hardwood veneers
Warranty: lifetime for non-commercial use, “full tune-up” available free of charge
Company website: New West KnifeWorks