Phil Wilson CPM154 Punta Chivato
Fillet Knife Review

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Phil Wilson Punta Chivato


- Compared to other types of kitchen knives, let's say gyutos or chukabochos, Punta Chivato fillet knife saw less use, but on its own, I did use it quite a bit. After all, I had to learn how to fillet the fish. On the other hand, there are lots of Japanese kitchen knives in my collection which are also designed for the same job, but have completely different design. Specifically, I am referring to Deba and its derivatives and relatives such as Miroshi Deba, Sakekiri, etc. If you are curious, you can check out the Japanese kitchen knives types and styles database and specifically, Japanese Filleting Kitchen knives list. As you can see, even the second list is quite long. And there's more fish related knives in the complete database, and on top of all that, the list in the main database is not even close to be complete :) I don't have all those knives in my possessions, but I do have a few debas, miroshi debas and a sakekiri, which are the knives I was using interchangeably with Punta Chivato filleting knife.

Western vs. Japanese filleting knives - I do not know how or why western and Japanese knives for the same job evolved so differently. Techniques also differ in certain details. To be more specific, western fillet knives have double grind edges, thin, flexible blades, so they can easily get into tight places, but because of the same reason - thin blade, I don't think it is a good idea to use a single western fillet knife for complete fish breakdown. I mean the fish head can be tough to separate, and chopping it off with relatively delicate edge of the western fillet knife will be either difficult and time consuming, or it'll damage the edge. Well, depending on the fish, head can be simply broken off, I've tried that with various specimens, and if you make correct incisions at the gills, then just pull the head back, don't even have to lift the fish from the board. Although, once I had to fillet large sturgeon, and there was no chance I could've broken that head off, nor would I risk Punta Chivato or any other western fillet knife to decapitate that one. So, for small/medium stuff you can get away with one knife. Japanese fillet knives on the other hand, have rigid, thicker blades, typically chisel grind edges and concave back - Urasuki. Debas or Miroshi Debas can do all the filleting standalone, although, depending on the fish size, you might have to pick up one or the other or another or another. That's why there's so many types of them. Techniques with western and Japanese fillet knives are also different. From what I have learned, one of the bigger differences would be that thanks to its flexible blade, western fillet knife can follow the ribcage contour and when you are done, it'll save you a cut to remove the ribcage. However, like I said, I'd hesitate to remove the head with western fillet knife. More experienced fisherman certainly can and will, but I'm not 100% even then the knife edge will remain intact. Separating the skin and fillet in my opinion is easier with Japanese style rigid knives, mainly thanks to their chisel grind edges and concave backs. Just lay the blade flat on the skin and push forward. Holding the flexible blade stable in flexed position when doing the same task with western fillet knife is a bit more challenging.

In summary, Japanese knives require more technique and knowledge and also in many cases you would have to pick the right type of the deba family to be the most efficient. It all boils down to your own skills and preferences in the end. Use whichever knife is more convenient and efficient for you. Learning curve with western fillet knife is less steep compared to Japanese counterparts, and for average westerner probably it's easier to maintain as well, because the same softer vs. hard steel school differences apply to fillet knives. Those debas, miroshis and sakekiri I mentioned, they are all in 63-65HRC range on Rockwell, way too had compared to average western fillet knife which is closer to 54-58 range depending on the maker. Phil's Punta Chivato is rather an exception, having almost maxed out CPM154 steel at 61HRC, you'll be very hard pressed to find another western fillet knife that hard. Because filleting fish is not my primary job, I have no intention or motivation to pick one or the other. I am a knife guy and the more knives I get to use, the merrier :) If you need to pick one for your work or school, then carefully consider those factors, i.e. hard vs. soft steel(which has multiple implications, including use and maintenance), more universal nature of the western fillet knife, and necessity to have another knife to deal with fish heads and bones if you have to. I never had to ponder those problems, so can't help you there.

I guess, that's enough about western vs. Japanese knives. I'll skip my learning how to fillet details, but let's talk a bit about the knife itself and its performance and maintenance. Once I got minimal required experience with filleting, using the knife was much more fun. Cutting performance on the Punta Chivato knife is very high, thin blade, 12° per side edge angle contribute to that nicely. Although, chisel edge Japanese fillet knives have even higher cutting performance, obviously so, because the edge is the half of the normal V edge. On the other hand, edge durability on Punta Chivato is higher, because of the thicker edge. The usual tradeoff. Because of the thicker edge, Punta Chivato is more forgiving compared to the Japanese knives, which is especially useful for the beginners. Flexible edge did present some problems while I was learning, that is, until the time I've learned to use its flexibility for the job. To be honest, I still feel more comfortable with rigid Japanese knives when cutting off fins, perhaps thinner edge helps too. If I were to pick a fillet knife for a fishing trip, I'd still take Punta Chivato. Its more durable knife compared to delicate Japanese knives I have and on top of that, CPM154 steel is stain resistant. It's not stainless, and it'll rust if neglected, but still, compared to carbon steel knives it's more likely to withstand harsher conditions in the field without any ill effects.

In the beginning, I was debating what finish to put on the edge. On one hand, the knife is a slicer primarily, just look at its shape, besides when dealing with something as wet and slippery as the fish is, you'd need more coarse edge for better slicing ability. On the other hand, I have plenty of other knives with 100K super high polished edges and they do just fine with slicing and push cutting, at least as far as food is concerned. I've tried once with relatively coarse edge, final finish done with the Japanese 2000-3000K aoto natural whetstone. Comparing that with the 100K finished edge on the Shigefusa Kitaeji Miroshi Deba, I couldn't really tell significant difference in terms of cutting performance when working on the same fish with both knives. I've tried soft tissue, and tried fins. Polished edge did better job separating the skin from the fillet parts, and that was the deciding factor. Since then, I keep 100K finished edge on the Punta Chivato, ending with 0.25µm diamond loaded leather strop. Maintaining that level of sharpness and finish is nothing unusual for me, and honestly, nothing difficult either. 0.50µm or 0.25µm diamond loaded strops are primary maintenance implements and then in reverse progression, as the edge requires it, 10000 grit or 5000 grit whetstones, etc. Although, so far I have never had to go below 5000 grit Naniwa Chosera Synthetic whetstone. And on the final note, I did experiment some with Punta Chivato in the kitchen, with various ingredients. Given its very specific blade geometry, there wasn't much I liked it for, but it can be used as a meat slicer with relative success. After all, it's a long, curved, very sharp blade, so why not. However, can't say flexible blade helps in that aspect. One unexpected, but successful use was mincing bunches of green onions. Curved, sharp blade just glided through. Well, that's it for the experiments and for this review so far. As I use it more, I'll revisit the review.


- For me, the knife works very well and I like it a lot. It's not something I use every day, and not even something I use every time I prepare the fish, but still, very high quality knife, joy to use when desired and easy to maintain. In my opinion, as far as western fillet knives go, I don't think it can get any better than this. Phil Wilson is a well known and respected maker, and fillet knives are one of his specialties, plus he does very good job with heat treatment of any steel I have seen from him. So, if you are on the market for the high quality fillet knife, and budget allows for it, then I could definitely recommend Punta Chivato.


  • Blade - 240.00mm(9.45")
  • Thickness - 2.50mm
  • Width - 29.50mm
  • OAL - 360.00mm(14.17")
  • Steel - CPM154 61HRC
  • Handle - Desert Ironwood
  • Weight - 130.00g(4.4oz)
  • Acquired - 10/2008 Price - 400.00$

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Last updated - 05/19/19