In the press - Kitchenware News - July 2020
A Family Tradition of Damascus Cutlery
Don't wait until next year to learn about Faneema Cutlery, which makes the knife named the 2020 Knife of the Year at this year's Shot Show, the outdoor sports show held last January in Las Vegas. Although the natural emphasis in the cutlery that's displayed at the Show Show is on hunting knives, the win also threw a spotlight on Faneema's culinary knives. Sales for Faneema's cutlery range has now outstripped those for its line of recreational knives, and the company had intended to introduce those to a wider American market at The Inspired Home Show this year, only to be foiled by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Faneema Cutlery specializes in hand-forged Damascus steel knives. They're designed by Qamar Abbas, a Pakistani native who follows traditions that came down to him from his father, Ghulam Abbas, who learned his own skills during his childhood in Wazirabad, Pakistan, an elite knife-making center for the country. Abbas and his wife Janice, the co-Owners of Faneema Cutlery, had been raising their family in the U.S. for decades when two of their sons approached them with a proposition that they'd like to learn knife-making and then go into business for themselves. After years of apprenticeship, Qamar and Fakhar left the United States to start their own company in Pakistan, where they make knives that they export to the United States. Janice and Ghulam remained in the U.S., where they import and sell the knives to the American market.
The company started three years ago in Texas, where Faneema specialized in outdoor recreational knives, but Janice and Ghulam have since moved to Illinois, where they've set up their business outside Chicago and have turned their attention to culinary knives after sales for those took off, Janice said.
“The knives are all designed by us,” she said. “They are all unique. Damascus, by its very nature, is unique. They're like fingerprints; you cannot duplicate them.”
Faneema Cutlery knives are made of high-carbon Damascus steel that's relatively easy to sharpen to an extremely sharp edge. They have full-tang construction for balance and durability. Handles for the culinary line are either resin or pakkawood, both common in high-end knives adopted by working chefs. Although they have the quality and beauty that make them stand out, they're offered at an affordable price point that makes them achievable for home cooks as well as professional chefs.
Because they're high-carbon steel, they require greater care than a stainless steel knife, and they should never go into a dishwasher. “We feel that it has to go, not into a mass retailer – it's more specialty store,” Janice said. “The men who buy them love to take care of knives. They like them for outdoor cooking. We have some chefs who buy them.”
Faneema offers its culinary knives in sets, most of them anchored by an 8-inch chef knife. “We do have some sets with an 8-inch and a 6-inch,” Janice said. “We do make some 10-inch, but we've found that the bigger knives aren't as popular.”
The company has just brought out a new set that also includes a filet-style knife. “Damascus doesn't have any give to it, but it has the slender knife that goes to a very sharp point,” Janice said. “All of our knives have a paring/utility knife with a 4.5-inch blade, and we're going to try to get in a 3.5-inch paring.” Some sets also include a cleaver.
The newest set, FC3124, includes the cleaver, an 8-inch chef knife, 6-inch filet knife, 6-inch chef knife, and a 4-inch paring knife, all with pakkawood handles. The five-knife set will retail for $325.
Faneema also has the ability to do custom orders or create custom sets for retailers and can create custom pieces for individual customers. “We can imprint. We can etch their name on it; we can do all of that,” Janice said. “It takes around three months to create a custom piece.”