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Chroma Cutlery Porsche Type 301 P02 Santoku(2014 model)
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Chroma Cutlery Porsche Type 301 P02 Santoku Knife, 2014 Model

About five years ago, I've picked up a set of four Chroma knives for testing and reviewing. All four reviews posted shortly after that, and to sum it up, they were quite negative. My main problem being the soft steel which was near impossible to sharpen. Even with the edges close to 20°-25° per side, sharpening was a problem, and edge holding was no good either. Plus, one knife had a large crack on it. I've posted the reviews and forgot about them, until in March 2014 I was contacted by Christian R. He works for Chroma marketing. Obviously he was not happy with the negative reviews about his product, or their product. Anyway, we've had long email exchange, I explained that I had no beef with Chroma, and reviews reflected the results I got while trying to sharpen and use those knives.

Christian was confident about Chroma knives, and he was convinced that the knives I had tested were most likely fakes. I can't exclude that possibility, I didn't buy those knives, they came to me used, few years old already. I did try to find my ex-coworker, from whom those knives came from and asked about their origin. Well, he wasn't the original purchaser either, and the best he could remember the knives could've been purchased at Sur La Table. Except, Christian said Chroma knives were never sold at that place, so we have 4 knives, which can be a fake or a real bad batch.

Either way, Christian was adamant, the real Chroma knives would perform a lot better, so I was offered a chance to test a sample knife, again. Like I said in many reviews, I'd rather write positive review, at least sharpening and testing would be fun. In this case, to exonerate Chroma knives, extra testing was well worth it. As usual, I explained the rules, which are simple, I post results as they are, no embellishments, and I never keep test knives either, they get returned, or donated. Christian was cool with all that, and asked to donate the knife to the best chef I know, which I did :)

Chroma Cutlery Porsche Type 301 P02 Santoku Knife, 2014 Model

General

- Unlike previous models, which came to me in used condition, the sample knife was in the original Chroma box. It is a really nice box too as you can see on the image here. Obviously, I was very curious about the knife, I wanted to see if the sample knife would be any different from the old ones. I didn't have the earlier test knives with me, so I had to go by memory and images taken during the first tests. I've inspected the knife as usual, visually and with the magnifying glass. Overall, it's a quality piece. I realize, the earlier knives were well used when I got them, but my overall impression was 2014 model was more refined and better made. No defects were discovered, no grind marks, everything was seamless, well rounded and shaped. Blade to handle transition is very smooth, obviously handle isn't the same material as the blade, but like I said, no seam line. No complaints in fit and finish department. Overall, it's still a santoku knife, with a rather unusual handle, which still is my major issue with the knife. Well, that's just me, apparently plenty of people in Europe like it, as per Christian. As for the differences with the previous model, I did find a couple, both with the blade, and I'll discuss them in detail below, in the blade section.

Blade

- Even though it is a same model, 2014 Chroma P02 was a bit different. Blade was 2.5mm thick, vs. 3mm on the earlier model. Another visible change was the bevel, which you can actually see on the image attached here, that wasn't present on the earlier model as well. Small differences, but enough to raise suspicions about fake earlier models. I'm not sure, might be a proof that the old ones were a fake? Either that or Chroma decided to thin down the blades, and bevels on them. Of those two, thinner bevel is a more important change, or a feature, and thanks to that feature, Chroma knife(when properly sharpened) has lower behind the edge thickness compared to similar Global G-48 Santoku knife and consequently, better cutting performance. Since we're comparing with Global, Chroma has a thinner, blade spine too, again helps with cutting performance. Ok, let's describe the blade, again :)

Chroma Cutlery Porsche Type 301 P02 Santoku blade measures a little over 7", 185.00mm(7.28") to be precise. Blade is 49mm at its widest, near the choil, and the spine thickness is 2.5mm exactly. The blade geometry is a typical Japanese santoku knife, and 2.5mm thick spine is closer to Japanese knives than previous model's 3mm thickness. The original edge on the knife I've received, was a standard V type edge, about 18° or more per side.

According to Christian, Chroma cares a lot about initial sharpness. I would care too, considering target customer base, which is unlikely to bother with sharpening. Anyway, it should've been ~15° per side, and more importantly, it should've been actually sharp edge. Unfortunately, the edge was thicker and was far from sharp. I've reported that to Christian, he was frustrated with the blunt edge. I told him it wasn't an issue, as I do sharpen all of the test knives anyway, unless they come hand sharpened from custom makers, or I have a specific reason not to sharpen them. In the end, I've sharpened the Chroma santoku 3 times, using different types of stones, edge angles, and edge types, I'll discuss that below in detail.

Steel

- Officially, Chroma knives list the Porsche series knives as Type 301, and that's all the information you can get. Back then I did try to get additional info, to be specific, I've repeatedly emailed Chroma using their site, asking if type 301 was the proprietary alloy or same as AISI 301 stainless steel, because later definitely is not suited for the knives. I got no response, and based on that I've assumed the worse, based on the only info I've had.

Later, when I was trying to sharpen Chroma knives, and kept failing at that, I've tried to contact them again, but no dice again. And then in 2014, Christian finally spilled the beans, Type 301 is a proprietary steel, made for Chroma, similar to Aichi AUS-6M stainless steel. That's in the same ballpark as Cromova 18 steel used in Global knives. Other than that, according to Christian, target median hardness for Chroma knives is 57HRC, which means spec would be 56-58HRC. Also similar with Global knives, and better made western kitchen knives. Although, truth be told, in mainstream western kitchen knives using good old X50CrMoV15 stainless steel or its clones, 56HRC is the upper limit, especially in larger knives 7" and bigger. Typically you get 54-56HRC, not 57-58. As Christinan said, Chroma doesn't cut corners on larger knives, and their big kitchen knives are also hardened with 57HRC target in mind, i.e. 56-58HRC range. In the end, yes, the Type 301 steel, being a variation of AUS-6M is heads and shoulders above AISI 301. Hardly a surprise, AISI 301 is not a knife steel at all.

Not exactly related to the knife, but I couldn't resist to vent my frustration with Christian regarding the 301 steel, lack of the information about it, lack of the response from Chroma and so on. In my opinion, 301 is a really poor choice for the name. I've demonstrated to Christina as well, search in either English or German for 301 steel or stahl(German for steel) yields AISI 301 or its German equivalents. Basically, naming a steel same as the one of the most widespread steel standard names in knife industry and then not even mentioning it's a proprietary alloy, let alone ignoring any inquiry regarding that steel is really counterproductive. I understand the whole proprietary alloy/secret thingy, but failing to mention the fact itself, and to assume nobody will ever run 301 steel search... Really guys?

Handle

- I couldn't find any changes in the handle on the new model of the P02 Santoku. It's the same futuristic looking handle as before, and it is the main distinctive feature of thee type 301 Porsche santoku, and the whole line of those knives. All steel handle, but obviously it is hollow inside, otherwise the knife would've been well over a pound. As far as handle ergonomics go, they are simply bad in my opinion. Tapered towards the butt, angular. I guess all those things were designed to make the handle more comfortable, but in reality it is rather awkward in many grips. According to Christian, feedback form the chef's and cooks in Europe has been more on the positive side, and a lot of people are happy with it.

I always state in my reviews, balance and grip comfort are highly personal aspects of the knife design and performance. Even though the handle on the Porsche design knives are highly unusual, I'm sure there are people who like it. I am not one of them though, and I can't attest to the numbers of people who like it or dislike it. Out of the three people I've asked about that handle, two replied they'd prefer more standard handle, and one said it felt comfy for cutting stuff requiring considerable force, because flat top side of the handle wouldn't hurt the palm of the hand too bad.

That is true actually, wider surface will exert less pressure on the palm, except for the fact that if you are cutting something that requires that much force to cut through, then Santoku knife is a poor choice to begin with. At that moment you should be using an axe or Deba knife as a minimum :)

As for the personal impressions: I didn't like is in pinch grip, which is main working grip when working with vegetables with the knife of this size. It feels a little better in hammer grip, but what's the point of that for the santoku knife. narrow butt of the handle also is a poor choice for a kitchen knife in my opinion, in many cases the handle but can be used to crush garlic of something similar, but as I said before, Chroma santoku handle is looks more like a skull crusher to me.

Smooth, metal handle of the Porsche knife provides very little grip security, which is one more problem with the knife. If or when your hands are wet or oily, the blade is rather problematic to control. Global kitchen knives also have full metal handles, but Globals also have those trademark dimples and they help a bit, while Porsche designed Chromas have nothing but bare, smooth steel in the handle. Although after prolonged use, I'd say the handle geometry, i.e. not being round does help a little bit.

Another distinctive feature of the Porsche design santoku and all other knives from the series is the fingerguard pin, or buttons on either side of the handle. I was guessing those are designed to serve as fingerguards, based on their placement and the fact they're placed on the knife. I wasn't wrong, they're not decorative. Because those pins don't help much with grip security, as in preventing your fingers from slipping down on the blade, and on 50mm wide santoku blade/handle height difference does safeguard job just fine. Bad part is, those pins or buttons really get in the way when holding the knife in a pinch grip. In short, those are rather nuisance than anything helpful or practical.

In the end, I'd highly recommend trying it first and then making your decision.

Sharpening

- As I said above, the knife came in dull. I've had few conversations with Christian, and first sharpening was done according to his, or Chroma official recommendations. That'd be 15° per side edge angle, and final sharpening stone being 1000 grit, not my usual 100K edge. Personally I prefer 100K edges for my kitchen knives after all the years of experimenting, but I was asked to perform the initial test with 1000 grit edge, and that's what I did. I didn't encounter any issues during the sharpening process. Unlike the old batch, steel would respond well to the stones, no edge folding, no loss of chunks, etc.

Edge #1 - For the first test I've just left the edge angle as it was, 18°-20° per side. Too thick to my liking, but average kitchen users use that or worse, and Christian mentioned in one of the emails a French Chef going all the way up to 30° per side. Dunno about that, to me that's closer to railroad spike, but whatever works for you ;) Overall, it took less than 15 minutes to bring the edge to shaving sharpness, using the 1000 grit stone provided by Christian and the edge was ready. I did mess around with 1000 grit stone trying to achieve as much sharpness as possible, but nothing really changed, in terms of sharpness improvement. The knife could readily shave arm hair, but that was it. I've assumed that stropping wouldn't be against the 1000 grit edge rule, so I've ended up stropping that 1000 grit edge on the plain leather strop. That was the edge used in the first test, and to my surprise it went through the whole test without no edge degradation I could detect with my sharpness tests.

Edge #2 - For the second test, I've gone with the edge that I'd normally use on my kitchen knives. Therefore, I've picked up where I've left off on the first sharpening. That be grinding a completely new edge, because I had to thin the edge down. Sharpening stone succession was as following: Bester 700 Grit Super Ceramic Whetstone to grind 15° per side initial bevels, followed by Aoto (Blue) XL 2000-3000 Grit Japanese Synthetic Whetstone, followed by Naniwa Chosera 5000 Grit Synthetic Whetstone, followed by Naniwa Chosera 10000x Super Finishing Synthetic Whetstone. After that I've switched microabrasives, specifically: 0.5µm diamond charged leather strop, followed by 0.30µm Aluminum Oxide film, followed by then 0.25µm diamond charged leather strop, followed by plain leather strop. Obviously, cutting ability was very noticeably better compared to edge #1, but I did have edge degradation, albeit rather minimal.

Edge #3 - That was result of the use and testing of the edges #1 and #2, obvious choice too, I might add. In other words, #1 lasted longer, and #2 cut better, and obviously I choose Compound, or a double bevel edge. That's a pretty standard approach for western knives, if you are ok sharpening your knives and care about the cutting performance, which apparently bothers less people compared to edge longevity concerts. Anyway, I've reground primary bevel a bit lower than 15°, my best guesstimate is 12° as a minimum, and 14° at most. Keep in mind, I sharpen freehand, and therefore angles always vary to some degree. Strictly speaking, the edge is convex, not straight V. As for the secondary bevel, it was at about 18°-20°.

Overall result was the increased edge holding and slightly decreased cutting ability. Since edge degradation was not noticeable and decrease in cutting ability was minor, overall it is a good compromise between #1 and #2 edges. Nothing new, really. Well known technique to achieve better overall performance and longevity, without sacrificing considerable portion of either edge holding or cutting ability.

Usage

- Considering the lack(or absence) of performance in the first batch of the knives, I didn't do much of the "usage" part of the review back then. I simply couldn't. This time it was a lot better. Chroma Santoku was actually usable knife. In the end, I've performed 3 full test sessions, one for each edge type. I've outlined edge holding and cutting ability results in the sharpening section, and now let's cover the tests themselves. All three tests were identical. About 18 lbs of vegetables during each test session, same ingredients and they were cut in the same order, in order to ensure accuracy of the edge degradation checkpoint tests, relative to each other(tests).

First Session, Edge #1

- First off, control cut, cherry tomato, cutting with just the weight of the knife. Required blade travel length to make a cut ~4.5-5". Then the actual test. Started off with Brussels sprouts, about 4lbs. Cut each in half, then minced. One of the harshest ingredients on the menu, and lesser knives do show noticeable edge degradation after that part. Once I've started cutting, once thing I've noticed immediately, how much more force I needed to apply to make a cut. I expected that much, based on the fact that the edge was thick, around 18° per side, although the difference compared to my own Japanese knives too big. Anyway, I got used to it in 10-15 minutes, can't say I enjoy using that much force during cutting, but then again, there was a time when I thought that was normal :) Anyway, did a control test after the sprouts, didn't really notice any degradation. That was a good sign already. Next up - Broccoli, about 3 lbs, minced crowns, then stems, slice/dice/mince. Then 2 medium size carrots, sliced and diced into 5mm cubes. Next one was the asparagus, diced. Next - Celery, sliced/diced. Control test, no noticeable degradation.

That pretty much concludes ingredients in hard or harsh category. Main impression - rather painful to work on all that with the edge that thick 18°-20° per side. Well, that is my personal observation. Non knife public is just fine doing all that with duller knives. Still, I'd much rather have a knife with a thinner edge. It is very different compared to what I am used to. The only reason I've finished the test session with that edge, because I was asked to use the original edge. Bottomline is, simply grinding shaving sharp edge is not enough, not at all. You do need thin bevels.

After that there was easy stuff, mostly soft leaves, like Italian Parsley - minced, Basil - chiffonade, baby spinach - minced, etc. Individually, neither is a challenge for almost any knife, but the amount is substantial, and it also involves a lot of knife blade - board contact. Once I was done with soft category I did control test again. The only place the edge showed degradation was the belly. Although I use very edge friendly board - end grain wood, it is still harder that the veggies. To give you precise numbers, the control cut on all parts of the blade would still need the same 5" length to cut through the tomato using just the knife weight, but the belly would require about 6", obviously I had to use saw type cutting, since the belly portion isn't 6° long. Well, there's not much of a belly on a santoku knife strictly speaking, but there's something.

Second Session, Edge #2

- Control cut before session, ~2" long slice to cut through the tomato. As you can see, the improvement in cutting performance was more than just "very good". 250% increase in cutting performance is very much noticeable for a single cut and especially beneficial for long running cutting sessions. Two major factors accounting for the dramatic increase of the cutting performance: a) more acute edge: 15° per side vs. 18°-20°; b) far more refined edge, 100K edge vs. 1K edge. By the way, for what it's worth, you should note that change in the edge angle was less significant than the edge finish, about ¼ change in edge angle and 100x change in the edge finish. In other words, you don't necessarily have to grind 100K edge with 5-6 stones in progression and few microabrasive stops like I do. More important is to have an acute edge. Obviously, sharper is better, and in the kitchen most of the time refined edges do work well, but the impact on the knife cutting performance is more pronounces with thinner edges vs. finer finish.

The second test was pretty much identical to the previous session. Same ~18lbs of veggies, cut in the same order and in the same manner. No differences. Therefore, I'll skip ingredients and related details. What mattered was two facts. One, cutting was far more easy. Still more effort that let's say Watanabe Honyaki Gyuto with 5°-7° per side edge, but as it was, it'd be on par or a bit better with stock edge Shun knives which come with polished, 15° per side edges, and outdo Global Knives which don't arrive with edges as refines as the one I had, and aren't always 15° per side either. Well, I am not sure how many people would be willing to spend couple hours or more to sharpen their Chromas or any other kitchen knives in order to get 15° angle with 100K polish, but point is, it can be done if you want to.

As for the edge longevity, it decreased, and there's no big mystery there either, more acute edge angle, far more refined edge. As for the control cuts, I noticed minor degradation after cutting harsh category ingredients, from 2" to about 2.5" to 3" throughout the blade, and about 4" on the belly. At the end of the session, blade stayed the same, belly was a bit worse, 4.5". Bottomline is, more acute and refined edge resulted in a considerably shorter amount of time(about 30 mins less) needed to complete the test. Yes, it degraded more, compared to #1 edge, but at the end of the test it was still sharper compared to the thick edge. The reason is obvious, thin edge needed a lot less force to make a cut, hence less edge deformation, hence less degradation, etc, etc... Better part of it is, edge degradation was less pronounced in relation to cutting performance increase.

Third Session, Edge #3

- Control cut before session, ~2"-2.5" long slice to cut through the tomato. There was a very slight decrease in cutting performance, I just gave min-max results here. The rest was identical with the previous 2 sessions, ~18-20lbs vegetables, exactly in the same order. Total time was close to the test #2, i.e. I didn't have to struggle with cutting as much as during the test #1, and the loss of cutting performance was negligible for most of the testing. I could tell the edge wasn't as efficient as in the previous test when I was cutting Brussels sprouts and carrots, but keep in mind I was specifically looking for the differences. On its own, it was quite a performer, it is highly unlikely for an average user to notice the difference between edge #2 and edge #3 even if I handed both of the knives in a blind test.

Overall, it was a good result and come to think of it, wither I wanted to keep the knife for myself, or I gave it to someone else, I'd choose edge #3. It'd perform almost on the same level with #2, and edge (and thus the knife) life span would be much better. Well, a lot of people choose to "prolong" edge lifespan by not sharpening at all, and then very seriously claiming it never needed sharpening for last 30 years. I've had that argument or conversation with dozens of people, and it's borderline useless. Now, I just state once that the 30 year old never dulled knife is contradicting both common sense and basic physics. Anyhow, performance was good and at the end of the testing, the belly dulled less than with the edge #2, ~4"-5" total cut length. Rest of the blade was the same 2"-2.5" long cut ware required to make through the cherry tomato.

Difference with the old batch

- Well, the obvious question is how come there was such a huge performance gap between the old batch and the new knife. Frankly, I don't have an exact answer. Theoretically I could've screwed up with the first batch, but my pride aside, it is highly unlikely that I would make the same mistake 4 times in a row, and be unable to grind a decent edge on those 4 knives. After all, I did not have issues with sharpening much harder and thinner knives including Aritsugu Honkasumi Yanagiba, Aritsugu A-Type Gyuto, Watanabe Hokyaki Gyuto and ton of other knives of all hardness, shape and size made out of couple hundred of different alloys.

I did get a good working edge in 3 variations on the last Chroma knife without any issues. So, that leaves one of the two possibilities, defective batch or a counterfeit knives. Considering the respectable performance of the genuine Chroma knife I got in 2014, and the fact that the original owner couldn't recall where did he got the knives, and his usual place SLT was never Chroma authorized dealer, I'll go with counterfeit theory.

Conclusions

- Overall, much better impression compared to the previous batch. That means edge holding. The rest was the same as before, dictated by design and geometry, which have not changed since last time. Considering that last time edge holding was the main complaint, that should be enough :) Cutting performance was good after I ground a decent edge on it. Would've been the same for any knife capable of sustaining the edge. Like I said in all my reviews, Chroma Porsche knives are rather unique design. Because of that it might not be everyone's cup of tea. Certainly, I was not happy with the handle design. Anyway, like I always say, design is a very personal thing, and don't really take my word about the handle comfort, balance, etc. Those are my impressions, not necessarily matching yours

So, to summarize, on its own, Chroma Porscha design knives do perform better than mainstream western kitchen knives made out of X50CrMoV15 steel, its equivalents or worse. Closet in terms of performance on the market and price range would be Global knives. Last of the Global knives I got had really crappy edges, as in thick and rough. Comparing Global's edge to the Chroma edge I saw on P02 Santoku, I'd say Chroma edge was thinner a bit, and not as rough, but it was still a dull edge. According to Christian stock edges should be better, as in really sharp. So, if you get that kind of a knife, it'll do good. Otherwise, you have to sharpen it yourself, which(sharpening) of course is still the inevitable eventuality with ANY knife being used.

That's pretty much it. If you like the design and price is ok too, then you know what to expect performance wise. It's not gonna compete with high performance Japanese knives, because of the edge geometry, materials, etc. However, it's not designed or meant to do that. For the record, Chroma does produce more traditional, high performance Japanese style knives.

    Specs:
  • Blade - 155.00mm(6.1")
  • Thickness - 2.50mm
  • Width - 49.00mm
  • OAL - 335.00mm(13.19")
  • Steel - Type 301 steel at 56-58HRC
  • Handle - Stainless Steel
  • Weight - 250.00g(8.45oz)
  • Acquired - 04/2014 Price - 110.00$

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Last updated - 12/07/14