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Xinzuo & Hezhen Knives at Messe Frankfurt Ambiente

📢 NOTE: It is important to note that the knives discussed here are not final productions. Xinzuo and Hezhen have informed me that they will refine the knives based on the feedback they receive and are keen on improving them before final production.

Xinzuo and their sub-brand Hezhen left an impression at the Ambiente event in Frankfurt, Germany. Engaging with Co-Founders Peter Ling and Steve Cheng was a pleasure. Having previously reviewed their knives and consistently provided feedback, it was rewarding to see their commitment to enhancing their collections.

Half of Xinzuo Showroom
Half of Xinzuo Showroom

New Collections and Improvements

Xinzuo is exploring new steel types from Japan like Aogami #2, also known as Blue Steel #2, and refining older steel types by incorporating a thinner grind. Additionally, they are working on enhancing the aesthetics, such as refining the Damascus patterns with different layering techniques and introducing copper infusion. The newer collections feature Japanese-inspired designs, notably with wa-handles.

Xinzuo Octagonal Wa-Handles
Xinzuo Octagonal Wa-Handles

Design Flaws on Prototypes

While examining the knives displayed at the Xinzuo booth, I took a closer look at their details. Before pointing out any issues, I asked Xinzuo if these knives were the final versions being showcased. They explained that these were from their newer collections, still undergoing refinement based on feedback. I then took the opportunity to highlight some concerns. Given my prior experiences with Xinzuo, I was surprised to encounter a flaw: a flat spot on the sharpened edge. I stressed the importance of precision in the sharpening process and offered suggestions to prevent such imperfections. Upon further inspection, I found more instances of flat spots. Notably, all these spots were located in the same position, primarily on the K-tip Gyuto/Chef’s knife style. Luckily, Steve Cheng, Xinzuo’s lead designer and co-founder, was present. He acknowledged that the problem might originate from a possible CAD (computer-animated design) error. I’m hopeful that this flaw will be addressed in the final production.

The one in the wooden box is a K-Tip Gyuto design
Xinzuo’s take on the Japanese Urushi Lacquered art on the Saya and handle

A Talk with Xinzuo & Hezhen Designer and Co-Founder Steve Cheng

Since Steve Cheng was present I took the opportunity to talk about the designs that compromised comfort and functionality for the aesthetic or cool factor in the review samples I had received in the past.

F2 Nakiri from Xinzuo
F2 Nakiri from Xinzuo (See Heel Part)

Such as the F2 series or other series where the knife had a sharp spine and choil, a handle with noticeable sharp edges too. Besides that, the heel portion had an outward-going heel which looks cool but it was also the first time I was noticeably aware of the possibility of nicking myself on it. Peter and Steve told me that they would discontinue the F2 series or change the design to address the problems. He was disappointed but also understood that comfort and functionality should come first, I have to give him credit as the knives look very cool!

110 coreless layers Gyuto from the F2 series
110 coreless layers Gyuto from the F2 series (See Heel Part)

Handle Desing

Upon examining the knives, I noticed that the Wa-handles were feeling larger in my hands than anticipated. Adjusting to the handle size might require some time, as they are noticeably larger in both circumference and length compared to the Japanese wa-handles I’ve used in the past. Additionally, I found some handles to be disproportionately large for the blade size. When discussing this observation with Xinzuo, they mentioned that they used standard dimensions comparable to traditional Japanese handles. While my initial impression was that they seemed too large, I acknowledge that further testing may be needed to fully assess their comfort and usability in the long run.

Besides this, they do have some new handle designs that were good in the hands and will suit more of a general audience. Such as the one showcased below.

Hamon Series?

Xinzuo proudly introduced a new product line resembling a Japanese Hamon. Typically achieved through a differential heat treatment process, a Hamon knife features contrasting softer and harder sections, resulting in a distinct appearance. In their showcase, Xinzuo presented three knives with a hazy or kasumi-like “mist” aesthetic. They shared that sourcing the right artisan in China capable of replicating this effect was no easy task. While these knives undoubtedly offer a unique appeal, my excitement for the final production is tempered by concerns about handle size. One of the three knives exhibited an unrounded choil, a minor flaw absent in the other two. It’s important to note that the Hamon line showcased were prototypes, not the final production models.

The below 3 knives are with a Hamon
The below 3 knives are with a Hamon

Bright Future for Xinzuo and Hezhen

Meeting Peter Ling and Steve Cheng in person and getting an inside look at what they are currently working on provides valuable insight into the future trajectory of Xinzuo as a manufacturer and brand. With their dedication to continuous improvement, there is great potential for them to elevate their position even further. While I consider them to be among the top manufacturers in China at present, the prototypes I observed during our meeting still require some refinement. I’ve had the opportunity to discuss these areas for improvement with them and will provide additional feedback, drawing from my experience with the three knives I received from their showroom: an improved 1.4116 German Steel knife with a refined grind, an M390 knife, and an Aogami #2/Blue Steel #2 knife. While their showcased products are promising, they have yet to reach their full potential. I’m hopeful that they will consider implementing my suggestions in the final production, and I am prepared to offer more detailed feedback to assist in this process.

Xinzuo and Hezhen knives showcase

Want to know more about my Visit at the Ambiente event: 
ChefPanko at Ambiente Frankfurt Germany

📢 NOTE: It is important to note that the knives discussed here are not final productions. Xinzuo and Hezhen have informed me that they will refine the knives based on the feedback they receive and are keen on improving them before final production.

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ChefPanko

Hi, I'm ChefPanko, I have worked for multiple restaurants and have decided to share my experience with you guys. I will share recipes and techniques that I have learned, taken, and improved from the French, Japanese restaurants that I have worked for. I will also explore other cuisines with you guys.

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6 Comments

  1. I’m loving the powdered steel knife (albeit from their Flagship series) which I bought from them based on your review! Honestly glad to have someone provide a review these Chinese knives because the good ones are real value for money.

    The K-Tip in the wooden box looks amazing. Any idea when it’ll become available for purchase?

    1. Yeah, with most of the other Chinese brands they offer them at a lower market price to break through as a brand. They might eventually raise the price once the brand has been established. Finding those gems can be hard sometimes wich I need to see which new brand has been emerging lately besides Xinzuo/Hezhen. Dongsun is a good contender but they have not released anything new for the western market.

      Unfortunately, I have no information on what series they are part of since they were prototypes. They are also not in their catalog for retailers. Catalog names are usually not the retail name as they are just names with numbers like B01, X03, etc.

      I will be providing them with more details on adjustments as that would benefit the final product. But it was great to see that they are not standing still and making more series and adjustments with multiple steel options.

      1. Yeah, I’ve also got the Dongsun based on your recommendation. No regrets there either!

        I’ve been looking on Taobao lately and Grandsharp seems to be doing some interesting things with their AUS-10 knives. Definitely tempted to buy their Kiritsuke style knife to round out my collection!

        Thanks again for doing all these reviews.

        1. I need to look at Taobao too then, I have no account so the website sometimes locks me out from browsing.

          I had mixed results with Grandsharp but the last thing I saw was that they were also working on thinning the blade ground.

          I am glad that Chinese manufacturers are working on those aspects that were hard to find 4/5 years back pretty much non-existent a copy of a copy from the various brands with similar grinds on the blade. (Where I rated them good since it was adequate, but nowadays they have improved at such a fast pace I can no longer recommend the older versions).

          Hopefully, I can find some more gems once I have reviewed the other 35 knives I currently need to finish the video review.

          A few Shibazi, Dongsun, Hezhen, Xinzuo, Shun, Nikken Cutlery Japan.

          1. Awesome, that means so many videos to look forward to. It must be fun having so many knives to test!

            Anyway, yeah, going down the Taobao rabbit hole (all started because of your reviews :D) has been rather interesting. There’s a company (鉴心作) serving the Chinese market only selling SKD11 and M390 knives. Just bought both for <$100 USD, so can't wait to see how they compare to the Hezhen PS knives.

            1. Sometimes quite fatiguing when you review the same kind of knives over and over again.

              But when I find some gems that is a lot of fun!

              The bad part is keeping up with the emails besides the long testing period + filming per knife.

              But overall fun indeed!

              Thank you for sharing the Chinese name those blade ground is looking amazing! Very thin!

              Hopefully they sell it on AliExpress, mostly my only way to get them until they become bigger outside of China.

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