During the summer of 2012 I was browsing custom knife maker for sale section on bladeforums. Sometimes, very interesting pieces pop up. As usual, if I am going for a custom, I prefer to contact the maker, discuss all of the details beforehand, including the design, geometry, materials, etc. Still, may be because I am a knife collector, or may be not, but I do find cool pieces in that place. Although, more often I like the design and then the steel isn't what I want, but there's always a chance to get lucky ;) That day I've spotted medium sized fixed blade made by Oleg Krymlin. Designed looked nice and clean, straight blade, slight drop of the point, and that was more interesting made of wootz. That was the right combination, since I was looking forward to wootz steel knife. I doubt there is any other alloy surrounded with the amount of mystery, rumors, myths and misconceptions as wootz. In case you are not familiar with the word wootz, then it's just another name for the legendary Damascus steel, art of making was lost in last centuries, and supposedly having near or fully magical properties :) I'll discuss wootz in detail below, but for now let's move onto general description.
General- Wootz 2 knife arrived packed in a box, which besides bunch of wrapping paper contained a pouch, which in turn contained the knife. Opening the pouch revealed that the knife was smaller than I imagined it to be. Happened to me again :) Even though I knew the dimensions, I still thought it was a bit bigger. Actually, mainly it was the handle that was slimmer than expected. Inspected the knife as usual. Custom knife, not a budget price, therefore expectations were accordingly set. No visible defects were discovered on the knife. Make, fit and finish are all very good. Precision made piece, everything fits tightly, no gaps, no tool marks, nothing to complain about as far as worksmanship goes. Ideally, I've rather had a beefier handle on that knife, it's too slim to my liking, more along the lines of delicate parers like Messermeister Meridian Elite E3691-4 Paring Knife, or Miyabi Morimoto Paring Knife. Other than that, it is a high performance cutter, full tang, thin, full flat ground, high hardness steel capable of supporting a very thin edge. All the attributes are present.
Blade- The blade on the Wootz 2 knife is 125.00mm(4.92") long and just 1.66mm thick, like I said it is a very thin knife. Drop point blade is about 24.5mm at its widest. Because of the wootz alloy, the blade is pretty much black, although the patter is still visible. Wootz has much less pronounced pattern vs. modern pattern twist damascus knives, which is understandable. Modern pattern twist was specifically developed to have very visible patterns for designed purposes. The blade features Krymlin's logo on the right side, and the left side is blank. Out of the box sharpness was average, with a convex edge approximately 30° inclusive edge. Overall knife length is 230.00mm(9.06"), as you can se it's a medium/small knife, bunch of other fixed blades I have feature blades that long(OAL if Wootz 2), or more. Later, before any cutting tests I've sharpened the knife, since initial sharpness wasn't that that knife can do. Based on what I know about wootz steel, it has to be high carbon, low alloy steel, and as such, it will do well with high polished, thin edge.
Sharpening- Since the primary bevel was already formed and I wasn't planning on thinning it down further, I've picked 1200 grit King Synthetic Whetstone. About 15-20 minutes total on that, and I've has an edge which could shave easily. Next few steps were refining the edge to get high polish edge. I've switched to 2000-3000 grit Aoto(Blue) synthetic whetstone. Spent about 30 minutes on it, gradually reducing the pressure. Came out close mirror polished edge. One think I like about Aoto is how the slur breaks down with sharpening and gives more and more refined edge. Next step - 5000 grit Naniwa Chosera synthetic whetstone, 10 minutes on that tops, Auto did good job with it. Next and final stone was the 10000 grit Naniwa Chosera Super Finishing Whetstone. Another 15 minutes or so, which I really didn't have to, it should've been over in 5 minutes I think, however I wanted to ensure well formed, uniform polished edge. That concluded whetstone part of the sharpening and then I went to leather strops. When I want highly refined polish I use extended sequence, which means adding 0.30µm Aluminum Oxide film in between 0.50µm and 0.25µm diamond charged leather strops. I feel adding 30µm microabrasive it's improving polish and aggressiveness even though there's not a huge difference between 0.30µm and 0.25µm. Anyway, I did all that and the resulting edge was very satisfactory, high polished, blazing sharp.
Wootz(damascus) Steel- As promised about the wootz steel. As I mentioned above, wootz is another name for Damascus steel, not the modern one, but the old damascus, the one surrounded with legends and mysteries. The word Wootz itself originated from Kannanda ukku, mistranslation or incorrectly anglicized. I'll skip various theories on the original meaning of the word, as it is outside of the scope of this review. Important to know that Wootz steel first appeared as early 6th century BC. Wootz is believed to be originated in India and Shri-Lanka, although later it was made in several places in middle eastern countries. Over time the wootz steel spread around middle east, Arabs brought it to Damascus, where it local wootz manufacturing industry developed. Wootz was well known and respected throughout middle eastern countries, India and China, and around 17th century it reached Europe too. Wootz is a high carbon steel, which wasn't known at that time in Europe, and one way or another, it played important role in development and advancement of European metallurgy. Unfortunately, around the same 17th century the knowledge of wootz making was already becoming extinct and century or so later nobody possessed the skills. On the other hand, since then, number of metallurgists and scientists tried to reproduce damascus(wootz) steel in US, Europe, Russia(where it is known as Bulat steel).
Wootz was known and desired for two key properties, toughness and attainable sharpness. According to various legends wootz sword would return to true after bent 360° and cut through a free falling silk scarf. I don't believe either one of those legends, nor do I believe stories about those swords cutting through the rifle barrels and swords. Even if the other sword was wrought iron, it's still very difficult physically to cut through that with a sword, it's not a plasma cutter after all. Still, compared to everything else back in those days, wootz was a plasma cutter level I guess :) By the way, famous Viking Ulfberht swords were also made from wootz. There's a really interesting documentary about Ulfberht swords - Secrets of the Viking Sword, you can watch it on netflix. It shows in detail how painstaking and difficult it is making a sword from wootz. Anyway, long story short, the theory is that Vikings brought wootz pellets with them, and very few skilled masters did make Ulfberht swords out of those.
There's a huge amount of literature regarding wootz, far more than I can even list here. In short, wootz apparently started out as very pure iron ore, with traces of Cr, Mo, Nb, Mn, V. All of those improve steel properties and are widely used in modern metallurgy. Problem is those types of mines were rare, and there was no scientific either. Then there was specific technology to enrich pure iron ore with Carbon making actual steel, since as we know steel is iron + carbon. That was achieved by repeatedly burning charcoal around the crucibles containing the ore, and later exposing the steel bars or may be ingots to open charcoal flame. There was also some type of vegetation involved in that process, which is believed to be responsible for forming carbon nanotubes in the alloy structure. Well, organic fibers and those alloying elements together apparently formed those nanotubes. One way or another, the process was refined enough to be repeatable, and produced very high quality steel, comparable to modern alloys. That's the bottomline though. Damascus or wootz, it won't be better than modern hi-tech alloys, and you can easily disregard the legends. Still, having a steel which could perform like today's high end alloys 2000-2500 or even 500 years ago was a huge advantage, no wonder legends were spreading.
And finally, this particular wootz was made by unknown master :) In short, there are very few people who produce wootz, and from what I know Krymlin used Ivan Kirpichev's wootz in the past, but later he switched to a new wootz maker, but his name was(or is) still a secret. I specifically asked him about the wootz used in this knife, but all I got was that new wootz was better and maker was still a secret.
Handle- The handle on the wootz 2 knife is slim, a bit too slim, but it's functional and quite comfortable, which is what you want the most out of it. Material used for the handle slabs is Micarta, which is very popular thanks to its durability. Slabs are attached to the tang with two pins, and there's a red spacer for visuals. Micarta is quite smooth, but the grip is positive. I did get a chance to use it in a kitchen and I was quite happy with grip security. Overall handle comfort is good, even after 2 hours of cardboard cutting I didn't develop any blisters or sore spots. For that matter, high cutting performance helps with prolonged cutting too, it'd be far worse if the knife wasn't as sharp. Slabs are well machined, fit the tang perfectly, no protrusions, no gaps. The handle is tapering from the butt towards the blade. Handle butt is uniform and wide enough to be used as a crusher, at least I did manage to use it for garlics. Other than that not much to say about the handle, solid piece, and proportions are good.
Usage- Designated use for the Wootz two knife is light medium cutting. Obviously, #1 designated use was to get my hands on wootz and try it out for myself. I went through the usual test sessions, cardboard, miscellaneous materials and kitchen use. That pretty much covers everything that knife can do, save for chopping, which wootz 2 knife can not and should not do. So, to get started, I've picked up most of what cardboard I had left from previous tests and proceeded with cutting. Thin blade plus all the sharpening I did prior to testing did make cardboard cutting very easy. I went through about 500" of it before I run out of it, and the edge was still shaving sharp. Obviously the edge sharpness did degrade, but as far as control tests go, arm hair shaving and cutting through the free hanging paper. Overall, Wootz 2 did behave close to what I expected. High hardness, high carbon low alloy steel. I have not tested it with a rough edge, but I doubt it'd be competing with CPM 10V or something like that - high alloy, high abrasion resistance steel. Instead, polished, thin edge worked well and I've left it at that.
Part two of the tests was the assortment of random garage items to cut. Started of with PVC tubing which I use for building one of watercooled computers. Said PVC tube has 9.5mm outer diameter and 6.35mm inner diameter, i.e. the wall thickness was just above 3mm. Not too knife friendly thing to cut, tends to hug the blade real tight. Anyway, thin blade is a real advantage, but slippery blade would be better, although that's not how you use the knife most of the time. I've sliced about a dozen rings, using mostly push cutting. When the tube is laid straight it's quite alright to cut. Dozen of slices didn't kill the edge. Slim handle was not really helping, since I was trying to use force to cut through. Next up, rubber sheet, 6mm thick. No issues there, thin and very sharp blade had no issues. Next was the wiring. Copper, Aluminum and steel wires, plus coaxial cable. As I mention in all other reviews, it's safe for the edge if the edge is strong enough which shouldn't be a problem at 64HRC, and the correct technique is used to make a cut. Simply put, keep the blade steady, perpendicular to the wire and carefully push through it. I didn't see any edge damage after all the wiring, even though the edge was inspected with 20x magnifying glass.
Final test was mainly food related. Took the Wootz 2 to the kitchen. It is a small knife, with a thin blade, some cross between the Paring Knives and Kitchen Utility Knives. Hard to classify as one or the other, I've seen paring knives of that size, and utility knives too. Although, based on its width Wootz 2 is more of a utility knife, paring knives are narrower generally, and again, I've had kitchen utility knives narrower than Wootz 2. Attempted peeling an apple, and results were pathetic, due to my skillset, or lack of thereof. On the positive side, 64HRC, 100K edge knife had no problem peeling an apple ;) Somehow, with all the time I spend with knives and mincing various vegetables for testing and not, I never felt inclined to learn how to peel an apple or a potato properly with a knife. Kitchen Peelers work faster, and I guess I am a bit lazy too. Next test was more serious, in that it was about 1 hour long veggie prep session. Normally I do that using Watanabe Kamagata Paring Knife. Being a chisel edge knife Watanabe kamagata is sharper compared to Wootz 2, but for an average user, Wootz 2 is way sharp. An hour of cutting included cleaning 4 lbs of Brussels sprouts, removing ends from Celery stocks, removing leaves and cleaning red radish, cut the ends on green onions, Italian Parsley bunches, Asparagus, etc. All in all, it did really good. I could definitely use it as an utility knife in the kitchen if I wanted to, but I already have 40+ kitchen knives. Still, it'd be a good performer on a camping trip if I even went on one of those. It's good for general cutting like packaging, wrapping, ropes, etc. and because of the thin blade it's just as good with food. Due to relatively short blade length, it won't do a very good job with carving a turkey or large chunk of the meat, but those things are mainly for serious cooking/dishes, unlikely that'd be an issue on a camping trip.
Conclusions- Cool knife, and served to satisfy my curiosity regarding the wootz steel. If I was designing things form the scratch, I might go for a bigger handle. Otherwise, it's just fine as it is. Wootz steel can achieve high level sharpness easily and holds refined edge really good. The only thing is, wootz has no standard specification and frankly speaking, nobody really knows what's in each batch produced by individual makers. If the maker has a good reputation, then I guess you can count on good stuff. Reputation refers to both, knife maker's reputation and the maker of the wootz used by specific maker. Those two may or may not be the same person. What else... Well, be realistic and do not expect your wootz knife to chop other steel or even bronze knives in half. Wootz, when properly done is a tough steel and it did gain reputation being used in swords and other weapons. Just keep in mind, swords are designed to take abuse and small and even medium knives are not. Actually, it'd never be a good idea to bang knife edge on another knife edge, unless you are specifically studying edge to edge impact, in which case I assume you know what you are doing. Just remember, wootz isn't a light saber :)
- Blade - 125.00mm(4.92")
- Thickness - 1.66mm
- Width - 24.50mm
- OAL - 230.00mm(9.06")
- Steel - Wootz 2 steel at 63-64HRC
- Handle - Micarta
- Weight - 85.90g(2.9oz)
- Acquired - 09/2012 Price - 286.00$
Last updated - 10/16/15