On theory at least, a folding “kitchen knife” for traveling or camping sounds like a great idea. While it isn’t too hard to come up with a folder that will serve well as a paring knife, replacing the standard all-purpose “chef” knife is a little more complicated. For starters, the general rule of thumb is that the handle of any folder will need to be at least 1 inch longer than the blade. You can then assume that a 4-inch knife will have, at minimum, a 5-inch handle. When you consider the fact fixed-blade chef knives tend to start at around 6 inches in blade length, you can see why designing a practical folding model can be a complex problem.
OK, so a few compromises in blade length may be in order. One of the more interesting attempts at solving this design challenge has been the “Ryback” customs turned out by Kevin Wilkins, an American expat living in Germany. Nice as they were, the handmade versions of Kevin’s folding chef knife were probably a more serious investment than the average camper was willing to make. With the help of Cherusker Messer, Kevin has corrected this situation by introducing a mass-produced factory Ryback.
While the blade on the Ryback is listed as 120 mm (around 4.75 inches) long, the actual cutting edge is 113 mm (slightly less than 4.5 inches). The general blade shape might be called a “modified santoku” pattern, 1-7/8 inches wide. Chinese 8Cr10MoV stainless (Rc 58) is used for the blade steel. A massive frame-lock holds the blade securely in the open position. To accommodate this lock, only one side of the handle frame is covered with a black G10 scale while the other is left bare stainless steel. There is also a steel carry-clip on the bare side of the handle frame for tip-up right-hand carry. Weight of the knife, 255 grams or around 9 ounces. The suggested retail price is €79.70 (Euros), $103.
Wilkins certainly made the right move partnering with Cherusker for this project. As with all of the Cherusker knives I’ve handled, I was highly impressed with the strides Chinese-made cutlery has made in quality. No matter what you think you know about Chinese knives, this is a first-class knife that could probably never be made in Japan or Germany for anything close to the $100 range.
Fit And Function
As can be expected, the 6-½-inch frame is most comfortable in a fairly large hand. I found myself limiting my cutting holds mainly to a couple basic grips: my fingers wrapped around the frame with my thumb on the spine for slicing, and pinching the end of the blade between thumb and forefinger for dicing.
My evaluation consisted of using the knife in the kitchen for several days. A large salad proved the knife would slice ripe tomatoes with ease. Several fresh Pacific cod filets required refiletting (don’t get me started on commercial fish processors’ version of “filet”) to be bone free. Making a large batch of chili required dicing a couple of onions, several cloves of garlic, slicing and chopping bell peppers, and cutting up a couple of venison round steaks. Frankly, the knife proved better at slicing tasks than at dicing and chopping, as the handle doesn’t give the knuckle clearance of a conventional chef model. I made up for this by gripping the blade in the aforementioned pinch hold right in front of the handle. As far as cutting efficiency goes, the edge geometry was excellent. Edge retention also seemed to be fine and there were no signs of corrosion on the blade.
Will I lay my normal fixed-blade chef aside for the Ryback? Probably not, as the least-used knife in my block is a 6-inch chef. The vast majority of the time, I select a chef blade between 8 and 10 inches for everyday use. On the other hand, my style of camp cooking tends to be a lot more basic. Slice a little bacon, dice an onion, cut up a little bell pepper and peel a couple large potatoes equals hash browns. Fresh caught trout or a nice steak require very little knife work to be pan ready. Under these conditions, the Ryback should make a handy, safe knife for my tailgate kitchen.