Thank you Ravenswood Hand Forged for providing me with one of your knives for review!
For the past few weeks, I have been giddy with excitement to receive this chef’s knife from the wonderful people at Chicago-based Ravenswood Hand Forged. It is truly a pleasure to share it with you all.
First of all, let’s start with some information about Ravenswood. Ravenswood Hand Forged LLC is “a small producer of high quality handmade knives in Chicago, Illinois with a focus on professional quality chef’s knives.” The company is lead by Chris Mayor (who has been forging blades for almost a decade and currently teaches knife and sword making , as well as traditional blacksmithing ,at the Fire Arts Center Of Chicago a non profit school for traditional metal sculpture) and Chef Brendan McDermott (a bladesmith, chef, and culinary instructor with an award winning knife skills class and over 15 years experience working in kitchens. He currently teaches at Kendall College Chicago).
When asked about what it takes to make these fine knives, Chris shared with me the arduous process that goes into hand forging blades. “We don’t use blanks or patterns or cut outs. All knives are hammered to shape from a full bar of Carbon steel, without a power hammer. This gives us more control of the details of shaping . It makes each knife an individual, and allows us to continually develop our designs to bring in more subtlety to the performance of the blade . The forging process in general already has improved performance over other fabrication methods because of a property of steel called linear grain structure. What that means is that at a certain temperature all the carbon in the metal becomes a fluid form of carbon called austenite. In this state we can adjust and direct the material just like clay, pulling the material in different directions. When the grains line up towards the edge and follow the contour of the roll, the steel will wear more evenly and the crystalline structure of the steel will reinforce the cut, making it possible for blades to get sharper and hold the edge longer then non forged blades. Because of our method of hammering We don’t do very much grinding, and the little grinding we do is free hand, no patterns no jigs . We do all our own heat treatments and handle work . And blades are finished and sharpened by hand on a stone, this allows us to focus on a greater amount of detail that makes a huge difference in performance.”
Once the knife is formed, it must pass the inspection and in-kitchen testing of Chef Brendan. This step in the process undoubtedly differentiates Ravenswood’s work from other hand forged knives, and especially those coming from high-volume manufacturers. As Chris says, “Chef Brandon takes [the knives] to the culinary school and beats them up for a couple of weeks and has other instructors and students handle them. This insures that every blade has been exposed to real world conditions in professional kitchens and can hold up and perform optimally. Nothing gets signed that hasn’t been put through extensive use.”
Even more surprising, Chris acknowledges “the blades look beautiful and striking, [but] our goal isn’t aesthetics. They’re not intended to be decorative. They’re intended to be professional tools.” However, the gentlemen at Ravenswood manage to create beautiful blades paired with decadent wood handles.
Now, let’s take a closer look at this knife.
When I held this knife in my hand for the first time, I immediately understood it was much different than anything else I have ever used. Most of the high-volume, machine-made, knives I have held in the past lack the weight, balance, and noticeable durability that this knife exudes. However, holding this blade made me question if I would ever need another chef’s knife rather than when it would need replacing.
The rich, smooth ebony wood handle is formed so that it provides maximum comfort and control. The knife’s weight and sharpness help it glide through cuts and slice through everything from onions to a thick cut of meat. The knife handles exceptionally well for even the most delicate cutting and chopping. The icing on the cake is the beautiful leather sheath provided to protect this magnificent piece. This knife will surely last a lifetime and measure up to any kitchen cutting task.
These knives are the perfect gift for professional and aspiring chefs, serious cooks at home, and those who appreciate the workmanship of a fine knife.
Ravenswood Hand Forged puts countless hours of work into each blade and subsequently does not have a large stock of products. However, follow their Instagram, Facebook, and Etsy page to see when they release new items for sale. You can also contact them by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to make a custom order.
Visit their website here to learn more about their history, process, and products.