After being the backwater of the custom field for years, the array of well-designed kitchen knives seems to be rapidly expanding. My latest evaluation knife from ABS Journeyman smith Steven Kelly is an outstanding example of this. Steven’s cooking line is limited to one model, a chef knife, but what a combination of great looks and high performance!

The knife he sent TK featured an 8.25-inch long x 1/8-inch thick blade of CPM154 stainless with a handle of desert ironwood and a 416 stainless bolster. At 10 ounces, the knife has more of the feel of a classic German chef than of the Japanese style “Gyutos” (cow swords) that are currently in favor with kitchen cutlery connoisseurs. While I wouldn’t call it a direct copy, Kelly’s knife seems to show a certain amount of Bob Kramer influence in its design.

As with all of the knives I evaluate, I put the Kelly chef to work in our kitchen with the goal of using it for as many different chores as possible. Most professional cooks claim you can cut 90% of everything that needs cutting with just one good chef knife. Obviously, with constant practice, you make about anything work, but I tend to favor backing the chef up with the universally despised among pros, 6-inch utility for much of my own cooking. To keep the evaluation interesting, I used the Kelly knife for as many of the chores that I would normally handle with the smaller blade as possible.

In the end, this meant the knife was forced to bone out chicken breasts, quarter fryers, filet fish, trim fat from cuts of meat and core bell peppers as well as perform all the normal slicing and dicing where chef knives excel. I would have to say that the sweep of the edge and the relatively narrow point make this a far better than average blade in its size range for fine work. This really is the type of all-purpose knife that, if combined with a good paring blade, would handle the bulk of the work in any kitchen.

Fit and Funtion
The 5-inch handle is fairly narrow but I much prefer that to some of the overly wide, fat grips on the market. Most of the time, I was holding the knife with the blade pinched between thumb and forefinger, something this handle seems perfectly designed for. Given I am an equally big fan of natural wood for knife handles, I would give the Kelly grip four stars for usability and looks.

The maker’s out-of-the-box edge easily sliced ripe tomatoes with little resistance. The ripe tomato test is a useful measure of any kitchen knife’s sharpness so I continued to use the Kelly blade until it would no longer pass it. After about a month of daily use, the knife was starting to drag a little on the thin skins. As an experiment, I thought I would first try steeling the edge on a smooth polish F. Dick packing house steel. If this failed to restore the cutting edge, I knew I could always move to a sharpening stone. A few quick sweeps over the steel and I moved back to the tomato. That was all that was required to have the blade back up to 100% efficiency.

With time running out before I needed to return the knife to Steve, I decided to resharpen the blade on a benchstone just to get a feel for how difficult that would be once the steel was no longer effective. While the CPM154 blade feels “hard” on a stone, I had no problem honing the knife to a razor-sharp edge. I would suggest that it would probably not be a good idea to let the knife get overly dull before touching it up.

At $475 this may be a little more money than most are willing to put into their kitchen cutlery, but many custom lovers spend that much on knives they will never use. Why not put superior materials and workmanship to a practical application?

For more information please contact SK Knives/Steve Kelly at or call 406-837-1489.

Up Next

Blackhawk UK-SFK British Spec-Ops Dagger | Combat Dagger Review

Move over Fairbairn, the Brits have a new Blackhawk UK-SFK knife for close-quarters combat!