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Introducing K&S Custom Saya

Posted by James Zhang on

Finally, I am able to offer you the one thing that I have been waiting for a long long time ---- the K&S custom hardwood saya. The K&S hardwood saya is designed by me and manufactured in house using varies exotic hardwood under strict standard. The most notable feature of the K&S custom saya is that they all come with fabric underlay to prevent the hardwood scratching the knife while enabling a better fit compared to a typical hardwood saya .

These exotic sayas will cost you about AU$50 (about US$35) when you buy it with a knife from K&S. Due to the nature of manufacturing, we only produce one specific profile at a time, as a result, the popular profiles will become available earlier, before gradually adding other types of profile.

(Varies designs of K&S Custom Saya)

Behind the making of K&S saya

I understand how you guys are frustrated by the so many of my knives did not offer the a saya. I am equally frustrated as well. As a kitchen knife ethuthist, I have all my knives to have great handles, and I equally love to have a saya for them as well, even that I am a homecook and don’t often carry knives around, I still feel only with a saya, as the whole thing just feels like a complete set.

(An ebony saya set, featuring Knives and Stones Saya and Handle)

As you know, over the years, K&S has created its own top quality custom handles and making them available to many knives that you would consider “cheap”. This is something that was totally not available when I bought my first Yanagiba back in 2009 and I consider the creation of the custom K&S Wa handles as a huge achievement for my venture into the world of Japanese kitchen knife.

Still, this is only half the story of a complete handle and saya set that I would like to offer. While I could just get the ho-wood saya and sell them as is, the problem for me is my only source of supply is from Sakai and the profile is largely designed for Sakai use only. Take 240 Gyuto for example, Sakai usually runs at 230mm edge, while Takefu / Sanjo can be as long as 250mm. The result? A 240mm Gyuto Saya from Sakai will not fit a 240mm Gytuo from Takefu. If you have ever tried to find a saya for your Kurosaki, chances are you will probably find your Kurosaki got stuck half way into the saya, doh!

(A generic Sakai Saya that doesn't fit an Echizen knife)

So, as a keen woodworker, the solution I initially came up was to make the saya myself. I offered my handmade saya to the Syousin Sakura line (additional cost of $50) and free for most of the honyaki Gyuto that I carry.

(James use to hand make saya for the Syousin Sakura line)

I never charged for an excessive amount of money because frankly, that is what I would love to pay for a saya. Customers love them, but the problem? They are too time consuming and I struggle to keep up with demand, and 50 Aussie Dollars will not even cover the cost of labor (forget about the material). Following the expansion of K&S into other markets, I finally disabled the saya options of Sakura and stopped offering honyaki knives with my Saya.

It wasn’t until late 2016 that I can finally get myself together and commit to a proper design of K&S sayas that can be manufactured according to my standard so that I am happy to sell. It was a lot of hard work, with multiple test runs, redesigns and lots of wasted material to pull this off. Now the K&S sayas are finally coming out (albeit slowly).

Lets have a quick rundown of the features that made K&S custom sayas special (and made me proud again ;) ):


Material

We all love wood. As a woodworker I am always fascinated by the how many different timber species out there, each with its unique texture and lust, that are waiting to be turned into all kinds of sayas and handles. One aim of K&S saya is to come up with different types of wood that are both look and feel great. we tested many different types of wood, such as Rosewood, Lignum Vitae, Australia Ringed Gidgee, Huon Pine just to name a few, and so far Teak and Bubinga are the best candidates that we are able to produce in a larger quantity with consistent quality. I may find other timber species that are suitable for saya making so don’t be surprised if I come up something new :)


Design

As previously suggested, the biggest problem that I had with the stock ho-wood saya is that they don’t fit knives from other regions, and half of the time the slot is too thin for the heavier workhorse blades. So one of the main goal is to deal with this problem once and for all: we have to make the profile large enough to fit a Sanjo blade and slot bigger for the thick spine.

(A Hinoura 270mm Gyuto with a K&S Saya, it fits!)

The hard part of the design, is to deal with the balance between “just right” and “scratch the blade”. As we know, hardwood saya can potentially scratch the blade surface. If we make the slot too wide, it will become too loose giving an impression of bad “fit”. So to deal with this, we introduced a layer of fabric underlay to act as a buffer between the rather “soft” cladding of the knife and the “hard” timber wall. This way, the saya pretty much feels like a ho-wood inside, and in many cases a rather perfect friction fit was able to be achieved. (disclaimer: timber do move due to the change in environment moisture content, therefore a great fit in Sydney may not be that perfect in your country!)

This design is particularly impressive when you try to combine mirror a polished blade with a tighter fit saya, while previously this is almost impossible to do, now it can be done with ease.


Craftsmanship

I like properly tapered slot which fits the geometry of the knife, so I make sure all our saya are done in this way.

(The perfectly slot)

Each saya is sanded to a very find grit and polished to a silky smooth finish.

Price

As always, we have to talk about the unavoidable price. I haven’t work out the exact price of every single profile yet. Lets take 240mm Gyuto saya as an example, I said that I don’t like to pay too much for a saya, so I will be offering them at AU$55 when you purchase a 240mm Gyuto from K&S. This is a one-time offer that you have to take when buy the knife. Otherwise you will have to purchase it at the standard retail price of $100.

I will gradually list more profiles and more types of wood, so please stay tuned on the exact details :)

Thanks for reading and I look forward to service you with more of these knife lover’s saya :)


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