One to Watch: Rockstead Ryo
Tony Sculimbrene 01.31.16
A few years ago Lionsteel put out the TiDust, an 3D printed (additive manufactured) knife that set the record for most expensive production knife at $1,600. They stole that title from either one of the elite European makers like Percival or, more likely, from Rockstead.
Rockstead gained their fame in the knife world by producing knives of insane levels of sharpness. There is sharp, and then there is Rockstead sharp. Using a combination of great materials, a convex edge, and insane fit and finish, they made knives that were demoed doing crazy things like push cutting through a phone book or shaving after making 1,000 cuts in manila rope. These weren’t stunts pulled in a studio, like some other cutlery companies. No, Rockstead did these things live in front an audience at Blade Show. These demos and the knives used in them became something of a cause celebre. So much so that even with a price tag at or near a cool grand, their knives sold.
Even today Rocksteads are something between normal knives and Excalibur. They don’t want you to sharpen them. In fact, you get free sharpening and regrinding for life, so long as you cover the shipping. And if you maintain that edge (you can strop it), it will last for a very long time. All Rocksteads come with exotic steels, the most mainstream of which is ZDP-189. Their small batch, high tech approach resulted in knives that had INDIVIDUAL HRc numbers; they test every single knife manually and noted its hardness (if you have a Rockstead or see one, look in the ricasso area for a small dimple–that is the Rockwell machine’s testing dimple).
There was a lot that went into every Rockstead, and while $1,000 is excessive, the performance was equally excessive. But then, about two years ago, the crown for most expensive production blade went to Lionsteel for the TiDust. Poor Rockstead…
Well, don’t feel sad, they just snatched the title back. They have recently announced a new model, the Ryo.
It comes with all of the normal Rockstead bells and whistles: superb machining, insane tolerances, a beautiful 3.125 inch ZDP-189 blade. But it also comes with a few new twists. First, this is a very unusual blade shape for Rockstead. They have dealt almost exclusively in true tanto blade (as opposed to the “Americanized” tanto) thus far, making the Ryo’s Higonokami/utility blade a definite departure from the norm. Second, they have an innovative, hiding clip that rides on the spine of the knife instead of the side.
The clip was something of an issue. They developed it internally but when they did research before releasing the knife, they discovered that Joe Caswell, one of the most creative knife makers on the planet, already had a design for a hidden clip. Undeterred, they licensed the clip from Caswell, and the Ryo is scheduled for release this year. Note to other overseas makers, this is how you do it–don’t steal, license.
And then there is the issue of price. As of January 28, with the yen to dollar conversion rate what it is, the Ryo will take the crown from the TiDust. This is an $1,800 production knife, though really it’s not like any other production process out there. So if you have a cool $2,000 laying around, this is one hell of an apple cutter.