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Fallkniven K2 White Whale Santoku
Kitchen Knife Review

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K2 White Whale Santoku Knife

Fallkniven introduced K2 the White Whale just few month before I've started shopping for my kitchen cutlery. I knew Fallkniven long before K2 was introduced. I have been using and carrying their A1 Swedish Survival Knife(review) in the trunk of my car for a while by then. Overall I am really positive about that company. Without excessive hype, they produce reliable and dependable knives. Not all too fancy, but real world cutting tools. Surely, they are influenced by market demands, but still. In my opinion they're the good guys :) Back their warranty, provide objective data regarding their knives and testing them and so on.
    Once I was out to buy kitchen knives one of the choices I've had to make was to stick to Global knives only, or to try other things as well. I've already had some experience with Henckel, Wusthoff and Globals, and made my decision in favor of Globals. So, naturally, I'd have to buy Santoku from Global. After all, it[Santoku knife] is of Asian origin.
    Nevertheless, I choose to buy Santoku from Fallkniven. Few reasons for that. One, it doesn't really matter who makes a knife even if it is not their native style. Two, and most important, K2 uses the VG-10 steel that is better then CROMOVA 18 used by Global in their blades. The major deciding factor was the steel hardness. Globals are 56-58 HRC, and Fallkniven specs their blades at 59 HRC exactly. I'll discuss this subject a little bit later, in Steel section. One more reason was that it's thinner than Global Santoku.
Update - Later, however I did get different santoku by Global, the G-48 Hollow Edge only because of the granton edge and it's benefits.

Blade

 - 7" long, typical santoku style blade. Rounded tip, wide, straight blade, slight curve towards the tip. Worth noting, K2 came in a nice wooden box. Out of the box sharpness was excellent. Definitely on par with Globals. Convex edge, mirror polished, spooky sharp(that means slicing through the free hanging paper and shaving hair effortlessly). Santokus are wide blades as usual. So is the K2. It measures 47mm in width, at its widest part. At its thickest part blade measures 2.5 mm. Globals Santokus are well over 3 mm. Obviously those are heavier as well.
    For a lot of people heavier Santoku is preferable, because heavy weight does make chopping easier. However, I was more interested in harder and thinner blade. Given the advantages offered by thinner blade I figured that after all I wouldn't be chopping wood or bones with this knife, and soft stuff such as vegetables don't need excessive force in general, or if needed I could use other knife. Eventually all that worked out. For harsher vegetables I'd use either Global GF-33 Forged Chef's Knife or one of my field knives. But for usual vegetable cutting K2 works like a charm. Thin, super sharp blade just glides through.
    One more detail, K2 has black Teflon coating over the blade. Primary reason for applying that coating is to protect the blade from the destructive forces of the elements(water, air, stains, etc). Second, which is probably a side effect, Teflon improves friction properties, to be precise reduces friction because it is so slippery. So, whatever you cut, will stick less to the blade. The drawback with Teflon coating is that it is very "fragile". While it's pretty much intact on my K2, which is only because I take good care of it, Teflon gets real messed up on the field knives. Basically after first or second use it gets all scratched up. According to Benchmade scratches don't really affect corrosion protective properties of Teflon coating, as it goes into metal pores, but sure thing that affects the looks ;) If that matters to you - beware.
    As Fallkniven states they've run marathon tests on the coating in a dishwasher with no visible defects upon the surface.. However I would sincerely warn you against sticking your K2 in the dishwasher. one thing is a single knife for testing purposes in there, another is a dishwasher full of pots, pans and god knows what else with a knife in it. After all, the test doesn't tell you how did the edge survive, or if it survive at all ;) And no other quality knife should end up in the dishwasher. I wrote about that in Kitchen Knife Maintenance Tips. Aside of the reasons listed in that section, remember, the blade is covered, but the edge is not. You can clearly see bare metal on the picture. In the end Teflon does have few pluses, especially if you have to cut something real acidic, but don't count on it too much. You still have to wash your blade.
    Given the harder edge, Teflon coating and because it is a Santoku knife that 99% of the time I am using for push cutting I constantly maintain mirror polished, very sharp edge on this knife. Final finish is done with 3000 grit polishing tape and then stropping on the CrO loaded leather strop. Splits hair before even touching it ;)

Steel

 - The steel is the VG-10 stainless, as I've mentioned that above. I've already commented regarding VG-10 steel and its use by Global in GF-33 Forged Chef's knife review. Initially, I got the wrong info about Global using VG-10 in their blades. Later turned out that, CROMOVA 18 used by Yoshikin in their Global knives is a different steel, even though VG-10 contains all three elements, Chromium, Molibdenuim and Vanadium. I've made some comments comparing those two steels in GF-33 Forged Chef's knife review. In short I think VG-10 is better then CROMOVA 18. At least for my usees. I do take care of my knives, don't leave them dirty or wet, maintain edge, wash by hand, etc. And more importantly I cut stuff with theright knives. So, I don't have much use of Global knives increased toughness (due to lower hardness) or stain resistance(thanks to 18% Chromium). On the other hand, I clearly enjoyed better edge holding on K2. More on kitchen cutlery steels in Kitchen Knife Steel FAQ.
    One thing I'd have to note here is the ease/difficulty of sharpening. Lower hardness in general means easier sharpening. However, during more than 3 years of use both K2 and G-48 Hollow Edge(review) I didn't really notice that VG-10 at 59HRC was much harder to sharpen than Global's CROMOVA 18 at 56-58HRC. VG-10 does get sharper though. It has different feel when sharpening, hard to explain how it is different, but sharpens differently and gives keener edge. Thanks to higher rockwell hardness K2 can maintain thinner edge noticebly longer than Global G-48 santoku.
    Even if it was the same steel for those 2 santokus, the difference in hardness is 1 point at best, or 3 points at worst. All things equal, 1 HRC difference in hardness can amount up to 20% increase or decrease in wear resistance, depends from what side you look at it. In short, theoretically if you had 2 identical knives, one at 58 HRC, another at 59 HRC and set to cut the same materials, applying the same force second one would cut 20% more material before dulling as the 1st. Of course in reality things are far more complicated. Heat treatment is more important than 1 HRC difference, but granted that both makers do know their stuff, I wasn't afraid of bad heat treating. Identical forces are also hard to apply, but more or less, a person would cut same materials with roughly the same force, but not identical. Obviously, santoku from Global is a different knife than santoku from Fallkniven, blade geometry is similar but not identical, thickness, etc.
    The relationship between hardness and toughness is not simple either. But in general the harder the blade is, closer to its limits, easier it will chip or fracture instead of denting and rolling. 59HRC that Fallkniven used in K2 is pretty much close to upper limit for VG-10, but definitely not the limit. I'd have much lower chances chipping 56 HRC blade, but the loss of wear resistance would've been very significant. So, all those things considered, and also the fact that I was counting on myself that I could take care of my knives and use them properly I went for K2 White Whale. If you use hard blade for cutting right materials(not necessarily soft, can be abrasive, but not harder than the metal itself), it'll last you a lot longer and will require less maintenance(doesn't mean no maintenance at all).

Handle

 - Officially K2 uses Black Thermorun. I have no idea what exactly that is. Some sort of polymer I guess. the tang is fully covered, no exposed metal. Handle itself is pretty comfy in standard grip. Not all that good in reversed grip, but on the other hand, you won't be using santoku in reversed grip anyways, or you're asking for trouble. As of the grip security, no problem with it. I've used it with oily hands, with wet hands, sliced and push cut with it, no slippage.
    As far as the comfort goes, K2 handle is a good one. I've cut with it for quite long periods of time, around 25-30 minutes, sometimes more. No sore spots on my palms, never felt uncomfortable. Overall, it may not be the best handle there is, but definitely a very good one.

Usage

 - Well, I've pretty much covered this topic above. To summarize shortly I'd have to say that I use K2 only for vegetable cutting. Because I keep it always very sharp the cutting process with K2 is a joy. Few times for experimenting I've tried to use it to cut other stuff, for the few things performed well, for others not so good. Surprisingly it was real good with cheese, which is one of the worst things to cut out of all foods, and real hard on the blade. Not good for peeling anything, due to its size and blade geometry. Good slicer, but it has a polished edge, so at this point Globals with rougher 600 grit edged perform better in that area than K2 with the edge above 3000 grit.

Specifications:

  • Blade - 177.80mm(7")
  • Thickness - 2.54mm
  • OAL - 317.50mm(12.5")
  • Steel - VG-10 at 59HRC
  • Acquired - 03/2001 Price - 70.00$

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Last updated - 09/01/11