Pros: Light. Agile. Great Profile. Sharpens Easily to Incredibly Sharp. Stays Incredibly Sharp a Long Time
Cons: The Knife is a "Laser," Very Light and Fairly Flexible. The Handle is on the Narrow Side.
Welcome to the Wonderful Word of Lasers:
"Lasers" aka "Kate Moss knives" are a relatively new class of chef's knives which is becoming increasingly popular. Their outstanding characteristic is thinness combined with high-end knife alloys. Making very thin knives out of good alloys is not easy, and I suspect their recent emergence depends on new or at least refined, techniques.
So far, all the lasers are wa-style, which means they all have Japanese style handles, and the peculiarly Japanese machi/tang. The Japanese style tang is substantially lighter than a full-tang western style, and contributes to Kate Moss knives featherlight nature. But who knows? Western handled lasers may be around the corner.
Because of the edge geometry which is a combined product of alloy and thinness, they can be made very, very sharp and very acute. Furthermore, at any level of sharpness they seem sharper than their thicker cousins by virtue of their resistance to wedging.
The number of manufacturers and their availability is increasing. Konosuke is a very new entry in the class.
Until the Konosuke HD, the available high end lasers have either been made from a group of very limited and excellent stainless and carbon alloys, including AEB-L, G3, White #2, and perhaps a few others. The HD breaks new ground in alloy type.
Enough introduction. Let's get down to specifics.
Tale of the Tape - Getting the Measurements Out of the Way:
My knife is putatively 27cm long -- but it's a little shorter along the edge and a little longer from tip to handle along the spine.
It weighs 6 oz. Thickness is around 2.1mm at the spine where the machi meets the ferrule, and maybe 2.0mm at the where the machi ends and the back begins. Light and thin no matter how you slice it.
A Very Special Alloy:
The HD's alloy is different. It's a semi-stainless HSS (high speed tool steel), which resists corrosion about as well as the stainless knives, can be hardened to levels approaching White #2's, and resists wear better than either. It's not uncommon for Japanese manufacturers to guard the specific identity of an alloy, and so far Konosuke is unwilling to specify HD by a more identifiable name or particular steel maker. I know someone who had the steel analyzed and even knowing its composition was still unable to make an identification.
Edge Characteristics, or
Exotic Alloy Is As Exotic Alloy Plus Exotic Geometry Does:
Whatever this stuff is, it's great. Wide spectrum great at that. My HD excels at three of the four edge characteristics: edge taking; absolute edge quality; and durability. The fourth, maintenance, can be a slightly mixed bag depending on the degree of asymmetry to which the knife is sharpened.
Hardness is rated at 61HRC.
Absolute edge taking is hard to judge, limited as it is by the sharpener's abilities. My impression is that the HD is as good as White #2 and any of the Blues, and (at least) slightly better than any laser stainless. It's not quite up to White #1, but nothing else is either.
It will certainly take, should be given, and will hold highly acute edge angles. It will also take and hold a very high polish. I stropped mine all the way down to 0.25u diamond, which is a highish for a straight razor and absolutely ridiculous for a chef's knife. FWIW, a finish of about 0.1u -- which would be a 10K stone, about -- is well beyond adequate.
It's a very easy and quick knife to sharpen. But profiling can be a little tricky. Unless and until you've had a lot of practice establishing bevels that acute you're likely to scuff up the face a little. I'm estimating my edge angles at slightly tighter than half my usual 15*, call them 6* - 7* ish. I've also currently got the edge asymmetry at around 80/20 (lefty).
In addition, the feel of the HD on the stones is the best of any (near) stainless. It grinds smooth without any sensation of grittiness or chatter.
Edge durability is, so far, outstanding. It's a little hard to judge because the knife is going to act very sharp anyway, unless it's very dull. It certainly holds its edge better than my Sabatier chef's -- which is more impressive than it sounds, because the Konosuke is too asymmetric to use a steel.
What Does All of That Edge Stuff Mean as a Practical Matter?
It means the "effortlessly gliding through" a cut is as difficult as it gets. The knife definitely "falls through" with no more effort than its own weight. And remember, it weighs practically nothing.
Ergonomics - F&F, Handle, Profile, Feel, Balance and All That Stuff:
Fit and Finish is impeccable. It's as beautiful as an absolutely plain knife can be. The spine and back (some kitchen knife guys call the back the choil, but other knife guys mean something else) of the blade are nicely crowned (rounded over) so as not to hurt your fingers. The "engraving" is hand struck, the handle has a natural buffalo horn cap as well as a ferrule, the saya is well made, the pin has a cunning silver cord, et cetera, et cetera.
As already mentioned the handle is on the narrow side as wa-gyuto handles go. If you wrap your fingers all the way around the handle it might be an issue for you. Jon Broida (Japanese Knife Imports' owner), who has smaller hands and whose grip is only marginally tighter than mine says he prefers the Suisun and Tadatsuna handles. It's not only a total non-issue for me, I think the handle is excellent.
The profile, "French" at its best, is outstandingly good, with just the right amount of straight, leading into a gently arced belly and mid-line point.
In one sense, the knife is proportionally as blade heavy as any wa-gyuto The knife is so light that "balance" is irrelevant.
Using the profile to help establish the chopping action on the board, is as good as a Sabatier or Masamoto.
How can any working knife be worth as much as this one costs? Especially when there are a lot of knives which will do a spectular job for around half the money.
Yes. The Law of Diminishing Returns started kicking very hard at around half the price. Masamoto HC, MAC Pro, Misono Sweden, K-Sabatier au carbone, Masamoto VG, Kikuichi TKC are all significantly less expensive and all within angstroms of being as good in nearly every respect.
No. I can't tell you how to value the extra quality and performance for this knife or any other at this price level.
It won't confer extra knife handling skills or -- outside of its edge characteristics -- make you a better cutter in any way. And I suppose it's worth adding that a wa handle is no big deal one way or the other. If you can use a yo handle you can easily adapt to a wa in minutes, and vice versa.
It's a lot of bucks, and the biggest possible bang. If you want it, it costs as much as they charge. Not only that, you'll probably have to get on a waiting list.
Wrapping it up:
For me, purchasing the Konosuke HD wasn't about buying a perfect or even the best all-around wa-gyuto. Carbon sabatiers occupy that position in western chef's knives, and don't even cost very much.
If what I wanted most was something as all-around and as nearly perfect, I would have bought a Masamoto KS. But I chose the HD over the KS because I wanted something really different.
The HD's overall feel in the hand and on the board is as good as a Masamoto or Sabatier -- and that's what I value most. Despite being a laser there aren't any more practical restrictions to using this knife than on any other thin, hard, Japanese knife. If you're going to use any one of them as your go-to gyuto, you'll need a heavy duty, second knife for heavy duty tasks.
The HD is not a Henckels Classic, not for cutting through chicken bones, fish heads, or through any one of a number of other things. But if you can hold it straight, you can by God cut a squash.
Bottom Line - Highest Possible Recommendation.:
Until the Konosuke, the Masamoto KS was the best all around wa-gyuto I'd ever used. Now there are two. Sometimes perfect happens and you just have to learn to live with it.