Joe Calton Paring Knife

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In looking at Joe Calton’s website www.caltoncutlery.com I was struck by the utilitarian appearance of his knives and the emphasis that he seemed to place on performance. I set about finding one to test and was able to obtain an unused Calton paring knife to evaluate. It is made from 1095 and has a handle that I believe is lacewood.

The knife is 7 ½” overall in length, blade about 3 5/8” long and .728” in height. The flat ground, carbon steel blade is thin, .071” at the spine and .026” – .027”, measured .235” back from the edge. The knife weighs 1.83 ounces. When it comes to cutting, thin wins, so at first look I was pretty certain that the knife was going to be good at the kitchen tasks that it was designed for.

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The handle is ovoid in cross section and the slabs are secured to the tang with two Corby bolts. It measures about .632” wide and .755” in height at the largest point.

The knife arrived very sharp, and examining the edge under magnification it appears toothy and not polished. The cutting edge as received would easily shave arm hair, push cut post-a-notes, and cut tomatoes as thin as wanted.

Kitchen knives are different animal. Their thin blades create grinding issues that their thicker relatives don’t have; and their very thin edges must be heat treated just right.  They probably will be used, and so customer will be able to see how they perform as compared to factory kitchen knives that the user already owns and has experience with.

I spoke with Joe on the phone and have corresponded with him by email. In speaking with Joe I got the impression that he has done quite a lot of testing and has determined what works best for him to get the performance that he wants from his blades. He was very generous about sharing information regarding his methods of manufacture, testing, and sharpening the knives he makes. I told Joe that if I owned the knife I would test the edge for flex over a brass rod, but since it wasn’t mine I would forgo that. He said that he had performed that test on this knife, and I believe that he said that he performs that test to all knives that leave his shop. According to Joe the knife is triple edge quenched 1095.

After cutting over a hundred feet of cardboard shipping box material using the same area of the blade, the knife was very (and I stress very) slightly dulled but still easily sliced thin, cheap printer paper. Some resistance to starting a push cut in the paper was noticed, and in cutting tomatoes very little, if any difference at all was noted from prior to cutting the cardboard. I would think that the knife would hold an edge for a long time if only food stuffs were cut. I touched the edge up using a medium Spyderco stone and it would easily slice thin phone book paper.

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Overall, my opinion is that Joe’s paring knives offer excellent value at the price he charges. And, if this knife is any indicator, his other types of knives offer the same value. Anything negative that I might say about the knife has more to do with personal preferences as far as ergonomics and visuals go, rather than performance aspects. This knife is an excellent performer at the tasks for which paring knives are normally used in my kitchen.

This is not a highly finished knife in that the blade is not hand rubbed but belt finished, but a slick finish is not required for it to be an excellent tool. Joe explained to me that offering “belt finished” knives allow him to offer knives at a price that his customers seem to like. And I have to say, looking at his website; his knives are very reasonably priced.

Joe Calton’s website www.caltoncutlery.com

Cliff Stamp has done some interesting testing of Joe’s knives and has posted videos on YouTube.

 

©Bill North 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opinel paring knife, the most unassuming knife in my house.

I am a knife enthusiast; I see them as particularly interesting and useful tools. There are many knives of many types and price ranges in my house. I am interested in their design, the processes by which they are made, and the materials that they are made from. Today something interesting, (at least to me), struck me The thing that I realized was that what is probably the most unassuming knife in my house, is unquestionably one of the most used.

The knife I am speaking of is not the product of some custom maker, neither is it made from exotic materials, nor is it of some radical design. It is a sharpened piece of thin carbon steel secured into a slot in a wooden handle by two pins. It is the modest Opinel paring knife.

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The carbon steel blade is 3 ¾” long and .630” at the widest point. The spine of the blade measures just .056” immediately ahead of the handle slabs, and the blade is .023” thick measured .250” back from the cutting edge. The thin blade is a great little cutter and the edge is easy to bring back by stropping or touching up lightly on a stone. The knife is light, less than one ounce in weight.

This knife gets used almost every day in the kitchen; it’s small, easy to use size and easy to maintain edge makes it a favorite of mine. I really like this little knife; in fact, I like it so much I have two.

©Bill North 2014

 

 

 

 

The Demo knife loses weight and a Christmas present from Earl

 

“Gosh it’s cold in here,” I said entering Earl’s workshop.

“I just built a fire, it will warm up soon,” Earl said as he hunched down by the woodstove trying to get some warmth. “what’s going on?” he asked.

“About the same as always, Earl, I just stopped by to say hello.”

Eventually the shop warmed up and Earl started to work finish grinding some knives that had been forged, rough ground, and heat treated sometime in the past.

“Earl, I have that Wiggins demo knife that I like so much in the truck.”

“So?”

“So, it’s a tad thick behind the edge for my taste, how about thinning it a little for me while you’re in the mood to grind.”

“Why don’t you get Wiggins to do it?” Earl asked.

“Well, I got him to give me the knife and I sort of hate to ask him to do some more work on it…it might make me look cheap. You know, like I want something else for nothing.”

“So you want me to do it for nothing?”

“I was hoping you would.”

Earl grumbled and went back to grinding, and I went out and got the knife in question out of the truck. Going back into the shop, I sat in the old office chair that was repaired in several places with duct tape. Bullitt the Bulldog came over, got patted a little and then returned to his place beside the stove. He gave me a look that said, “If you want to pat me, you’ll have to sit over here where it’s warm!”, and then he went back to dreaming bulldog dreams. Since he got fixed I suppose those dreams are about cheeseburgers or whipping some poor coyote’s ass. Whipping coyotes is pretty high on Bullitt’s preferred night time activities list according to Earl.

Earl turned the grinder off and held his hand out for the Bill Wiggins knife. “Well, I could thin it down some, but if Wiggins found out he might not think it’s cool for me to be grinding on a knife that he made…”

“He knows it’s thick, Earl,” I said trying to be reassuring and get my way, “It was a demonstration knife, so he had to make it in a short time. Besides, he’ll never know. He probably doesn’t remember how thick it is, I mean that was a year ago!”

“And you won’t give me up?” Earl asked.

“Of course not,” I lied.

Grumbling some more Earl put a different grit belt on the grinder and went to work. In no time he had the knife blade thinned down and finished with a fine grit belt. “How about rubbing it out?” I asked hoping to get Earl to hand finish the blade.

“No,” Earl said firmly, “I’ll Scotch Brite it, but that’s it.”

“If Mike was here he’d rub it out,” I said hopefully, referring to another local knife maker.

“Yes he would, but I’m not going to. So do you want it Scotch Brited or not?” Earl asked.

“Please,” I answered seeing that was all the free work that I was going to get.

When Earl was done, I’ll admit I was pretty happy with the knife. Earl even sharpened it before he gave it back. I was pretty happy with myself too, feeling that in some small way I had gotten the best of Earl, which is a rare thing for me.

After some small talk I thanked Earl and started to leave, “Wait a minute,” Earl said, “here’s your Christmas present.” He handed me a box that was covered in a light coat of grinder dust.

“Can I open it now?”

“Sure, he answered.

Inside was a really beautiful paring knife blade that Earl had made, and a killer set of figured wood scales. The handle scales were not shaped or attached to the tang of the blade.

“Thank you, Earl, it’s not quite finished though,” I said.

“It’s a kit and I can explain why,” Earl said and then he told me a story that was right up there with the well-known, ‘the dog ate my homework’ excuse. After he was through with his explanation, or excuse depending on how you look at it, he said, “You can put it together, or you can come back in January and we’ll put it together, it won’t take long.”

Bear in mind it’s now the first of December, and if it “won’t take long”, why do I have to wait until January. Well Earl is going deer hunting in some other state until Christmas Eve to hear him tell it, so I guess I have to wait until sometime in January to go back, and get my Christmas present put together. And of course it goes without saying that I’ll need to be bearing some sort of decent gift, if I expect Earl to put my paring knife together… game over, Earl wins.

It is going to be a nice paring knife though, and the Wiggins Demo knife got thinned down.

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©Bill North 2014