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Petite Chef knife with Olive Wood

Kitchen Knife Design In Black Mountain
How To Make A Great Kitchen Knife 

The appeal and usability of a knife are determined by several crucial factors such as its shape, handle design, type of steel used, and overall balance. These components must work seamlessly together to produce a personalized and functional knife that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also reliable. It is essential for both professional chefs and home cooks to own high-quality chef's knives, cleavers, or paring knives. The correct choice of steel, shape, and handle design can make or break your experience with the knife, so it's crucial to choose wisely.

Knives with custom handles
The Keith Nix KNives Micro Cleaver
A Well Sharpened Knife Edge From Keith
Edge types courtesy ZKnives
AEB-L-vs-stainless-toughness
carbide hardness chart
Carbides in D2 Tool Steel
Carbides in AEB-L steel
SEM images of carbides in a steel matrix

What Makes A Good Custom Kitchen Knife?
How to Design a Great Kitchen Knife
Let's Explore The Possibilities
Who Makes Custom Chefs Knives In Black Mountain?
Keith Nix Knives

THE STEELS

Welcome to Keith Nix Knives, where we are experts in crafting exceptional knives with superior cutting performance and razor-thin edges. Our knives are made of high-performance steel that has undergone custom heat treatment and cryogenic processing for unbeatable toughness, strength, and durability. We meticulously select steels and heat treatment protocols that create a carbide and ferrite matrix strong enough to support acute sharpening angles and tough enough to stand the test of time. Our kitchen knives feature AEB-L stainless steel, which has proven to be the toughest stainless steel in our testing. Trust us to provide you with knives that are unrivaled in performance and quality.

AEB-L offers high hardness and an excellent grain structure while also being easy to sharpen, polishes well, and has good stain resistance. Additionally, we offer CPM MagnaCut, the super steel, in addition to 80CRV2, 26C3, or 52100 high-carbon steel for our kitchen knives. These simple steels have low alloying and high carbon, resulting in a fine grain and carbide structure that offers outstanding toughness, high hardness, ease of sharpening, and machining, at a comparably low restock cost. Our knives are ideal for professional chefs, hunters, and outdoorsmen who demand the highest level of performance from their blades.

Keith Nix Knives are Guaranteed For Life!
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Who makes kitchen knives in Black Mountain?

Keith Nix Knives!

"Keith Nix, the local custom knife maker in Black Mountain, brings a unique touch to his craft. He is a native of the small mountain town just minutes east of Asheville, NC, and specializes in making custom chef knives, kitchen knives, hunting knives, belt knives and outdoor knives right here in town."

HANDLE DESIGN

Finding a knife that fits perfectly in your hand can be an indescribable feeling. This is why custom knife handles are crucial. At The Black Mountain Knife Shop, we prioritize designing handles that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Our selection includes a range of materials, from local and exotic hardwoods to durable synthetics, with each handle crafted with great attention to detail and precision. Our ultimate goal is to provide you with a handle that fits your hand comfortably and offers top-notch comfort, regardless of how frequently you use it.

Our handles are exclusively designed by and used only for Keith Nix Knives. They are fashioned from premium materials such as stabilized wood, G10, or Micarta, each boasting a unique pattern and profile resembling a soft drink bottle, with no straight edges other than at the spine. The center of the handle is slightly bulged, ensuring your palm is at ease, while two smaller diameter areas located at the front and rear to guide your finger placement.

Our wooden handles are polished to a smooth finish of up to 3000 grit and treated with Tru Oil, a robust blend of oils and varnishes typically used on gun stocks. Furthermore, we can customize the handles to match your hand and grip style.

It's important to note that while the handle finish is durable and can withstand many hand washings, it won't survive even a single dishwasher cycle. We recommend hand washing and drying your knives without the use of abrasive scrubbers or harsh chemicals.that could damage the handle or blade.

THE PROFILE

When using knives, their profile plays a vital role in determining their intended use and convenience. At Keith Nix Knives, we specialize in creating custom knife profiles that cater to your individual requirements and preferences. We carefully consider different factors, including the edge's curve (belly), handle shape, and blade's overall height and length, to ensure that every knife we make is perfectly suited for its intended purpose. Our objective is to deliver custom knives that are not only visually appealing and sophisticated but also comfortable to use and durable..

When it comes to knives, their profile refers to their external dimensions. This includes the amount of belly in the edge, the meeting point of the spine and edge at the tip, the shape of the handle, and the overall height and length of the blade. These elements are important as they work together to create a knife that is both practical and aesthetically pleasing. For instance, if you prefer a rocking motion while using your 8" chef's knife, then you'll want a knife with enough belly to allow for that. On the other hand, if you tend to lift your blade off the cutting board while chopping, then a flatter area near the heel may be more suitable for a guillotine chop. Different people have different preferences when it comes to the profile of their knives, with some favoring German, French, Japanese, or modern Western styles. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong profile – it's all about finding what works best for you.

Introducing the Mini Cleaver!

Check out the new MICRO CLEAVER here!

Take a look at this Western style all carbon Deba!

THE EDGE

When creating the perfect edge on a knife, there are various methods to choose from. Personally, I use a compound bevel approach, similar to the fifth method in the accompanying picture. However, my edges are much sharper and have three different angles. 

The first angle is responsible for forming the "cheeks" of the blade, and it typically ranges from 2-3 degrees, depending on the height and thickness of the blade. This angle extends from the spine to an edge thickness of 0.000 -.005 at the heel and .005-.010 at the tip, which adds more strength to the blade. 

The second angle, which is about 11 to 13 degrees per side, forms an apex at the edge. The final angle, which is applied by hand on a fixed angle sharpener and is finished to 3000 grit, is 15-17.5 degrees per side. This angle is then stropped to achieve a shaving keenness and a score of 150-170 BESS. After that your knife is delivered to you. 

To summarize, the steel, profile, handle, and bevel angles must all work together to support your slicing or chopping efforts. The steel used must be tough and strong enough to support the thinner edge geometry of a kitchen slicer, and the handle must fit comfortably in the hand and provide a firm grip. Finally, the profile must be both functional and visually appealing.

 

STEEL HARDNESS

Let's start by clearing up a common misunderstanding: in steel, hardness and stiffness are not related. A steel part can have high or low hardness, but its stiffness remains the same. To increase a knife's flexibility, we need to make the blade thinner, which means simply that we are bending less steel.

Hardness measures a material's relative strength. This is a bit counterintuitive for me, as I naturally associate the Charpy toughness test with strength. However, the definition of hardness states that it is directly related to a steel's "ability to resist permanently deforming." Therefore, hardness contributes to edge stability.

Hardness also improves wear resistance, which is important to keep in mind. There are various methods to measure the hardness of a hardened steel, but the Rockwell C test and scale are the most widely used. This test measures how deep a diamond cone can penetrate under a 150 kg (330.693 lbs) load.

Although I know what hardness my heat-treating recipes should produce, testing the hardness of every blade ensures that human error and failure of my ovens or cryogenic quench have been eliminated. This hardness translates to greater strength and better edge holding, up to a certain point.

All knives must be "tempered" in their heat treatment process. When first hardened, they become quite brittle and have severe internal stresses due to the rapid quenching. To relax these stresses and slightly soften the knife, the blades must be reheated to a lower temperature. Many mass producers of knives temper their blades to be much softer than necessary for kitchen use.

At Keith Nix Knives, we strive for 62-63 HRc most of the time, whereas other producers are usually in the upper 50s. We use a digitally controlled convection oven for tempering, which is accurate to within plus or minus 2 degrees at 400F.

Therefore, tempering is crucial to ensure that the knife is a reliable kitchen companion.

 

TOUGHNESS

The ability of steel to withstand catastrophic fracture is called steel toughness. In the chart displayed on the left, you can see various stainless steels and D2 tool steel. The vertical lines indicate toughness, measured in foot pounds of force required to break a standard sub-size Charpy sample. Meanwhile, the horizontal lines represent the hardness of the steel, which is measured on the Rockwell C scale. One significant observation is that the harder the steel, the lower its toughness. These two desirable properties nearly always have a negative impact on each other. However, maximum hardness/strength and toughness/fracture resistance are essential for maintaining edge stability. Based on the chart, I chose AEB-L as my preferred "House Stainless."

Carbides and Edge Stability-

It has been established that the stability of the blade's edge is at partially dependent on its hardness and toughness. However, the size of the microscopic carbides in the steel also plays a significant role in blade performance. While larger carbides negatively affect toughness and edge stability, they have a positive effect on edge retention.

Carbides are formed by a combination of carbon and other elements found in steel, such as iron carbides, Chromium, Tungsten, Vanadium, etc. These carbides are much harder than the steel matrix around them, but they are also brittle. When steel is subjected to stress, the carbide particles can crack, which leads to a "crack initiation point", that may cause the entire blade to fail. More carbides result in better edge retention but poorer toughness.

Fortunately, this issue can be addressed by processing the steel to have smaller carbides. Tests have proven that smaller carbides are less detrimental to toughness and edge stability while still contributing to edge retention. Therefore, the ideal steel for blade production should possess extremely fine carbides, such as AEB-L.

SEM images of D2 and AEB-L demonstrate how the size of carbides affects blade performance. D2 has larger carbides, leading to poor toughness, while AEB-L has tiny carbides and excellent toughness. Blade production requires careful consideration and balance of various properties, including sharpenability, affordability, and ease of manufacture.

At Keith Nix Knives, we strive to find the best balance of properties to produce high-quality, affordable knives. Our commitment to unmatched customer service and the Keith Nix Knives "Guaranteed For Life" policy sets us apart from other brands.

Look to Keith Nix Knives for Hand Made Chefs Knives near you!

Check out "The Norton" Fillet/Boning/Camp Kitchen Knife to experience the quality of our products.

Other FREE Learning Articles:

See the Mini Cleaver!

Learn To Care For Custom Knives

Cheap v.s Custom Knives

Heat Treating Steels
Making A Knife Handle

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