It's not a secret if you've seen much of anything I've done that I have been a fan of the small knife company Dalstrong. I caught on to them very early on and bought my first several knives from them for testing a few years back and still use them daily. They have since been very gracious and sent me some other knives for review and even have provided me a discount code to fans since I was responsible for selling so many knives based on my recommendation.
That said, I do not work for Dalstrong, I also don't love everything they've come out with and done. I do fully support them constantly pushing the envelope though with their designs and pricing. It's clear their founder David Dallaire is fully committed to beating the competition on Amazon to the punch in both design and availability of products.
Let's talk first about the few designs that I just don’t think are for me, but still appreciate the concept. Released just this week is the new very design forward Crusader series.
While I appreciate the design aspects and even the awesome scabbard that it comes with, I worry that the handle will not be as comfortable as it could be. To be honest at the $40 introductory price it looks to be a decent enough piece. Also in the Crusader line is a 4pc steak knife set, a 6in Utility knife and a 7in nakiri knife. The pricing on this line puts it very much inline with the more traditional Gladiator series, which frankly I find to be some of the best knives on the market for the money when you consider quality, comfort and design. If super unique design is your thing and you want to spend a little more money Dalstrong has also released their Shadow Black series.
The hallmark of this series is that stealth fighter sort of design. This series is a little more intriguing to me personally, but I just don’t have any more room in my knife roll. The reports generally are positive on these knives and they even get decent marks for being pretty comfortable. Again, this is another knife series that I applaud Dalstrong for doing, even though they may not be exactly for me. They do offer a pretty good rounded out line up though including paring, steak knives, utility, cleaver, santoku and chef knives. All of which can be accessed from this link.
Once you have a lot of knives and you travel as much as I do what is the next thing you really need? A knife roll! I've known that Dalstrong has been working on its knife rolls for well over a year. I waited ever so patiently biding my time, but as luck would have it I was gifted a different knife roll just a few weeks ago and frankly its AMAZING. For the $385 asking price it should be. I hate that it costs so much and that I love it so much. The quality on it is just astounding! Gunter Wilhelm did an exceptional job with it and I appreciate their kindness in sponsoring me a travel set of knives to use while I work with the television show Bama-Q But this is about the new wares from Dalstrong so lets talk about their knife rolls. Again, I have not touched these in person so I am giving my impressions on them based on the pictures and what I can discern from that.
Let's start at the top of their line up with the Vagabond series. It is offered in a nice medium brown called "California Brown" and a deep black color called "Midnight Black." It has 14 knife pockets and two pouches so this is going to be a big and pretty hefty roll once you get everything you want in there. The styling and design is very similar to the Gunter Wilhelm I have now. The buckles and straps are all super sturdy and remind you more of something you'd find on a horse saddle. What I love about these real leather rolls is that frankly they are like a good baseball glove, they look better when used often and just worn in a bit. I wont use the term worn out, because frankly if you take care of this roll a bit it should be a lifetime piece. So how much will this set you back? $370 is the current introductory pricing. I have no info to know what the pricing will be once the introductory period passes, but these may go up to $430 based on what I see on Amazon and in the Dalstrong emails I got about the new products. I will be honest, this is a lot of knife roll and frankly it costs more than most people spend on all of their knives that will ride in the roll. It took me nearly 10yrs to feel like I should have a knife roll of this quality and even then I didn’t buy it, but now that I have one of this quality....I wish I would have a few years ago.
If the Vagabond is too much coin for you, Dalstrong also has a canvas series called the Nomad. Once it again it is offered in "Desert Drifter" (brown) and "Nightmaster" (black). I give them props for the dramatic names. This series has 10 knife pockets and a zippered enclosure as well as spots for pens and sharpees. I like that all the attachment points and contact points are all leather. This roll is definitely more value priced at $90 during the introductory period. It looks like its standard street price may end up being $130 after that. Even though the Nomad is more of the value line I don’t see anything in the construction that would lead me to believe this isn't a life time product as well. Its heavy canvas and reinforced where needed for longevity. It's a great roll and if not for needing the extra slots provided in the Vagabond line, I would personally probably pick this one if it was my money being spent.
Dalstrong did not stop there though, what else do you need if you have knives and a knife roll? A nice apron of course! So let's dive into those a bit. I'm pretty excited about this one since I'm likely going to order one of these myself. Now immediately you are asking yourself, "why would you order one if you know you could likely contact the company and they send you one to review?" Well, I have a philosophy about that. My relationship with any company cannot be a one way street of "give me, give me, give me." Also, if I'm only willing to support a brand because of what they give me what does that say to you? I feel like I really need to spend some of my own money here to find the real value of the product in question. I know most people do not operate this way. I also know from working with companies that this is the single reason most DO NOT sponsor very many people. It's the few ruining it for the many. You need to ask yourself one question, "what can I do to support this company that I believe in that is of a value to them more than just saying their name occasionally. If you cant answer that question, you aren't being an ambassador of the brand, you are being a leech on the system. I know that sounds very stern, but it's honest, and honest is why you are here.
I digress, let's talk aprons. Dalstrong has released what looks to be 3 levels of aprons. The top level is a 100% leather piece, the bottom being a coated cotton with leather accents. Each apron has a pretty fun name, whoever is doing the naming for Dalstrong needs a pay raise. I appreciate the tongue in cheek followed by a quality product. This stuff should be fun and not so serious all the time. So good job Dalstrong.
Let's start with the sticker shock at the top. For an introductory price of $200 ($320 after introductory price based on emails) you can strap into The Culinary Commander. This thing is full top grain leather and arguably the ultimate chef/grilling apron. It has a great cross back leather strap system, built in knife pocket, 3 chest pockets and a towel/tong loop that can easily hang spritz bottles for grilling. Let's be honest, its beautiful. Anyone would want this thing. If you keep it treated and waxed a bit everything is going to roll right off of this masterpiece. I will tell you from having to wear a similar apron on set all day these things can get heavy and hot though. So it's something to know going in if you belly up to the bar on this one. From just looking at the pics I appreciate the inclusion of a waist strap to keep things more secure, but I can tell you I worry about the girth of this strap. I'm a bigger guy and I'm in no way even close to the biggest guy I've been around. I worry this may not fit those chefs and pitmasters sporting those 4x-5x shirts. I'm a 2-3x guy and I already want to write Dalstrong and warn them to have double length waist straps available for the rest of us. That said, for $200 its in keeping with the nicest aprons I've seen and used and if I were into leather aprons (or were gifted one since its my birthday this month) I would not be upset :).
Next up is the Sous Team 6. I love the name lol. This offering represents the middle of the line up. It is a nice black apron that is made from heavy waxed canvas and comes with the same leather strap system as the Culinary Commander. I've had a few heavy waxed canvas aprons. They each suffered the same result, they were absconded by my father. I will say for each of the other aprons they did not include the leather straps and cost about $15 more than the Sous Team 6's $80 intro pricing ($130 after intro). There likely isn't much weight difference between the 6 and the Commander overall depending on the thickness of the canvass. Both will have to broken in so they will not be as stiff. The best thing I've found to do is just roll them up several times a day for a week and it breaks them in pretty well. The pocket set up is different on the 6 vs the Commander, but they both have the loop for towel/tong storage which for me is a MUST. Having a towel handy at all times is very important to me. The more I look at the 6 the more I think it’s the one I'm likely going to order for myself for my birthday. If I happen to get the Command as a gift...well I'd rock that like a champ as well lol.
At the lower part of the line up comes the same apron in several different colors. There is a black named The Night Rider, a camo called The Kitchen Rambo, a denim blue called American Legend and last but not least a nice grey called The Gandalf. Each of these sports 3 main pockets, an interior "stash" pocket big enough for cell phones, standard adjustable tie straps and leather accents. They all look to be made of denim that has been treated with a liquid repellent. Each can also be had for $26 intro price ($45 post intro). I think these are likely the most comfortable offerings across the board and for the money are obviously the budget winner. I've had my share of denim aprons in the last 10yrs and while I like them when I'm wearing them, you know going in they are a bit more "disposable." Once they are washed a time or three the liquid repellent becomes much less effective. You can of course retreat them and I highly recommend that if you purchase one of these. The break in period is very minimal and they breathe pretty well. All in all these are very well made and worth the $26 in my opinion, but I cant stop going back to that Sous Team 6. I think that is still my overall favorite for price vs quality and closer to I look for in an apron.
For those of you who are only interested in the knives, don’t worry Dalstrong still is obviously focused on making great blades, but its nice to see them branch out and apply their model to the accessories us chef types are continually asking for from them. I also may have left a few of you wondering if the Crusader and Shadow Black series weren't for me then what are the knives I do love and use most often. So let me touch on that for just a minute.
My very first Dalstrong knives that I touched were the Phantom series and the Shogun series. I still really like the Phantom's for their very "Japanese" design aesthetic. They are quick, light and everything a Japanese blade should be in my opinion. I still pull out the three I have and use them from time to time. The filet being one of my all time favorites frankly, I just love its shape. Several of my chef friends have bought that knife after using mine. But my heart always comes back to the Shogun line. It's balance of Asian and traditional is just near perfect in my eyes. I love the balance, the hardness of the blades and just how they make you feel like a bad ass when you have them in your hand. If I had to nitpick anything about the Shogun line it would be that I wish they would change the pin system that keeps the sheaths on. I keep losing those damn pins. It's a small complaint though. My overall favorite Shogun? That has to be 10in Cimitar. Somewhere between ninja and pirate is the feeling that knife gives you. I use it as my primary slicer because I love its arch and belly for slicing brisket. I also for the record have several Gladiator knifes and all of the Omega series. The Gladiators for me represent the best budget level knives Dalstrong makes. Their design is much more German aka traditional and I know I can recommend them to anyone because they are usually near half the price of the Shogun line. I gift the Gladiator line to many people each Christmas because of the cost and how good they are. But what is the one knife I reach for every time I'm at home? That is a tough one and it has changed many times in the last few years, but of late it has to be the Omega 7in Santoku. I love the size and the point of the blade. It's labeled as a santoku but honestly its more of a short kiritsuke. I have the 8.5in kiritsuke Shogun and I really like it, but the Omega is shorter and taller and just a joy to work with when you have a ton of misen plas to get done. The Omega's also come with leather sheaths that I really like. I get it, at $130 its not for everyone, but if you get one you'll know it was meant for you!
I know this piece has sounded more like an infomercial for Dalstrong, it really wasn’t meant to. I just wanted to cover all the stuff they have released recently and tip my hat to them as a really good company. Dalstrong and Gunter Wilhelm are by far my favorite knife companies and they both do customer service right and they deserve the press they get.
Love, peace and pork grease my friends.....
Pitmaster Shane D out!