|GadgetScope.com > Cooking > Kapoosh Universal Knife Block|
|Reviewed 3-1-2006 by John Shirrell - Produced by iGo - List price: $29.99|
"Universal" has historically been a misnomer in application to any kind of device. The universal AC adapter you bought does not have the right size of plug. The universal remote has no "menu" button and doesn't work the TiVo. The universal headset doesn't fit into the Samsung mobile phone. However, every so often a gem turns up that truly defines, or at least approaches the word universal. The Kapoosh Universal Knife Block is a product that makes other products that claim to be universal pale in comparison.
The idea here is to provide the aesthetic benefit of a knife block to those whose knives did not come with a traditional knife block with slots carved in it. Those knife blocks are a classic way for the knife manufacturers to ensure brand loyalty, since you have to buy all 31 knives they sell to fill the block, and probably pay a premium for the block itself. Those sets are also often subpar as far as knives go. The Kapoosh is a $30 solution to this problem, being a charming little wood block with iGo's unique casing to suspend knives, which it calls "freedom rods." The wood block is rather plain looking, a simple maple color with a regular boxy shape, but it honestly looks as good as $1,000 knife set blocks. It would be nice if iGo produced some alternate versions with other kinds of wood, like oak, cherry, or painted colors to better match alternate kitchen decors.
The "freedom rod" system is interesting. Basically, thousands of thin plastic rods are compressed together and hold the knives in place through friction. Those rods are made with FDA food-grade plastic, according to the manual, which is written in a very silly tone that is a bit over-the-top. (Examples: "Your knives thank you. Listen carefully, you can hear them rejoicing in the drawer already." and "We understand you're the no-slot, freedom kind of kitchenite.") At least the manual is written in English, rather than a poorly translated Asian language. A one-year warranty is included, but the block seems rather sturdy so it should take several years of frequent cutting to wear it out.
Cleanup is the one area where the Kapoosh falls short of the kablooie it could be. The product is a wonder to store knives in, and a dud to clean up. The freedom rods slide out as one unit—thank goodness they are attached to the bottom so they do not pop out randomly—and can then be placed in the top rack of the dishwasher. However they cannot be heat dried and the dishwasher air dry is not sufficient to remove the water from the rods. The rods must be drained upside down, since the base is just a square bowl shape that does not drain water, and it is awkward and a bit unsettling to store the rods upside down. I cleaned the rods just once after buying the Kapoosh, and found that by the time the unit had dried on my dish drying rack, several of the rods stuck out in a very ugly way. I could not push them back in, so ultimately I plucked them with pliers. I worry that after just a few cleanings, a significant number of the rods would pop out like this and need to be plucked. Removing knives does not put the same pressure on the rods and they stay in place during normal use. To resolve this problem, iGo needs to put vents in the base and slope the plastic inside so water drains, whether the base is on its side or upright, much like a flower pot.
The capacity of the four-and-a-half-inch unit is impressive, holding fifteen knives at a time, plus, impressively enough, my sharpening rod which seemed like it would be too large to fit. Although a bit of force is needed to push the sharpening rod in, it does work, and the freedom rods do not seem to wear out in that area afterwards, either.
This handsome Universal Knife Block belongs in every kitchen, because—face it—nobody has exactly one set of knives. Either one is missing, or there are extra knives, or the knives you like do not come with a block. In any case, this block truly allows you to put the round peg in a square hole, or a serrated knife, or whatever you would like. Forks, spoons, and those sort of things do not work so well, but that is why this is called a knife block, not a knife, fork, and spoon block. It does what it promises. If only it were easier to clean up, or specifically, to dry, it would have gotten five dots.