Why I’m not backing the Misen knife (Kickstarter is not a store blah blah blah.)

A number of people have been asking me about the Misen knife, so I’m collecting my thoughts here.

  1. It seems like a nice knife, and it’s getting a lot of attention because Kenji wrote a really glowing review. The last thing I bought from a crowdfunding campaign praised by Kenji was the WokMon, a much simpler project which has yet to materialize a year later and where the creator has seemingly disappeared with everyone’s money (read that last page down to the end for fun comments). I say this not to disparage Kenji, whose work I think is actually revolutionary, but to stress that a good review of the product means absolutely zero about whether the product will eventually ship.
  2. At the time of this writing, the creators have been funded about 10x what they asked for. Great! They have enough money and the project doesn’t need your contribution to get off the ground.
  3. However, none of the founders have listed any specific experiences with at-scale manufacturing, distribution, or support. For an example of why this might be a problem, the only risk they list is ‘timing’, in spinning up a from-scratch manufacturing pipeline for a highly refined good that’s now on the hook to deliver ten times as many knives as they originally planned for (and there are another 28 days to go). [ Update: 40x. ] Make of that what you will. My first response is probably a genuinely empathic “good luck with that”.
  4. Moreover, I don’t really understand what the innovation here is supposed to be. Kenji claims in his review they’re doing the manufacturing themselves to cut costs but they’re working with factories. Which is it? Also, I’m hesitant to recommend a softer steel knife to beginners — for a project that wants to get people in the kitchen, maintenance can be a chore and a turn-off, and that strikes me as an odd choice.

For almost exactly the same price, I’d recommend the Mac Chef’s Knife instead, which will stay sharp for years with almost no care, and you can have it in your hands and start cooking tomorrow if you want. This is the knife I’d most recommend if you don’t already have knives you like. The only downside it has compared to the Misen is that it doesn’t have a forged bolster, but that’s a relatively minor concern you probably won’t notice if you’re not using the knife constantly all day. It’s a great starter blade, but it’s not the knife I use most often — that honor goes to the Kyocera black blade 5.5" Santoku. At $40, this knife is an absolute steal, but I can’t recommend it as your only knife, because ceramic blades have some limitations — they’ll chip if you drop them, they can’t be used for smashing garlic with the side of the blade, and they can’t really be used to cut through bones or firm cheeses because the blades may snap under cross-pressure. If you’re comfortable with those limitations, they require the least maintenance of any knife I’ve used, they stay sharp for years, and they’re light and comfortable to use. This is what I reach for first. I bought my first black blade over ten years old, they have never been sharpened, and they still perform like new.

At this point, if you back the Misen project, you’re buying a knife that you won’t see for at least six months even if they make their schedule, and what you get out of that is $10 off the retail price. If you want to throw them some cash because you think this is a great idea, more power to you, but I see more than $10 worth of risks here. I genuinely hope that they make it into production, but there’s little downside to waiting until they actually do so and making your decision then.