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Looking for some japanese knife info - Page 3

post #61 of 80
Find an old Phil Harris tune called "The Dark Town Poker Club" and play it as you polish your knives.

I guarantee your edges will be scary...
post #62 of 80
Hiromoto is a fairly large manufacturer. Hiromoto-san seems to be aiming for the niche of "a lot of features for the money."

The AS and G no. 3 share the same handle, same fit and finish and same blade geometry. The blade construction and alloys used are quite different.

Generally speaking thy share good geometry, although as soon as you have the skills you'll want to do some thinning. Also, edge asymmetry from the factory is variable. Over the years the knives seem to have become more asymmetric. Any given knife will be right handed with the bevels set at around 15* on both sides -- unless reprofiled. But the knives can run anywhere from 80/20 to 60/40 -- that's a lot variance.

To my mind, this inconsistency is typical of Hiromoto's general fit and finish. These are both high value knives in terms of raw materials and the way the blades are put together, and something's got to give. F&F can be a little irregular in terms of the handle scales being absolutely flat and tight to the tang, finish on the spine and choil, and the odd grind mark. Also, the heel, right at the chin can be a little thick. But the presence of anhy and all of these falls under the rubric of "not always." Sometimes the knives are perfect.

I've mentioned this several times but it bears repeating, the handles are on the slender side. Depending on your grip, and/or hand size, this can be an absolute disqualification.

The AS is a san-mai knife with a soft stainless (420J2, I think) jigane (supporting metal) and an Aogami Super hagane (edge and core steel). Aogami Super is a very special, high-carbon steel from Hitachi made at their Yasugi plant. Many people consider it the best knife steel in the world. I don't believe there actually is a single"best," but AS is in the select group at the top of the heap in almost every knife category.

However, it is not an easy steel for a manufacturer to work. Consequently, you almost see it in either kasumi or san-mai construction, in other words as the hagane (edge/core) part of a laminate. This is because the supporting layers (jigane) prevent the knife from cracking, breaking, or remaining permanently bent. The jigane also makes it significantly easier for the maker to drill and grind the knife -- in much the same way tape or sticky paper help with plastic working.

No question Hiromoto does an excellent job making a san-mai, AS blade. It's remarkable they can sell it at the price. One question still unadressed is "what does san-mai do for the owner." The answer is: Except for corrosion, not very much.

Note: Personally, I much prefer "single steel knives" over san-mai for very subtle differences in feel which very few users will notice. So, if my general dislike of san-mai construction bleeds through just ignore it. Take the knife on its merits.

That said, the knife itself is very good, but not outstanding in any category except in edge holding which is excellent. Otherwise, edge taking in terms of absolute sharpness and ease of sharpening are very good. The knife resists both wear and deformation. If the edge is profiled to adequate symmetry the AS can be tuned up on a rod hone. You'll want to use something very fine or smooth textured, and steel with a soft touch. You'll also want to bear in mind that you don't want to push AS around too much.

Although it's high-carbon, the AS is not particularly prone to corrosion at the edge. People who worry about what special or extra care the Hiromoto AS requires worry too much. You'll want to rinse and wipe the knife after every use, as opposed to leaving it sitting around with food on it -- but that's true of any good knife. Yes, the edge will darken and oxidize between sharpenings but the stain comes off easily, immediately and completely with sharpening or steeling. There is simply no reason to force a patina or do extra scouring.

The G no. 3 is made with (wait for it) G no. 3 (aka Hitachi's ginsanko 3 aka G3). G3, along with AEB-L (aka 13C26), and VG-10 is one of the "wonder" all around knife stainless steels. The performance characteristics of the steel, including price, are extremely well balanced. Hiromoto construction doesn't get in the way of any of them either. It's an excellent balance of edge taking, edge holding, and edge stability.

The G3 is a "single steel" knife. While not unheard of, it's not exactly typical for the price range. So again, good value. Compared to the AS, the G3 takes as good an edge, but takes it more easily. It wears slightly but not significantly faster and given equal edged geometry is more subject to deformation. Again depending on edge symmetry, it is an easier and better candidate for steeling. All things considered, I actually prefer the G3.

We owned a few AS knives (including 27cm and 24cm gyutos) a couple of years ago. They were very nice indeed, but not nice enough to push the old Sabatiers out of the block. True for Linda (my wife, who has decent intuitive skills and knidly allows me to sharpen for her), too. In fact, when I told her I was thinking of giving away some of our knives her response was "not MY Sabatiers. Apparently I'd given them to her without realizing it. Go figure.

post #63 of 80
Hmmm. For me it's more an issue of semantics.

For example, Clint Eastwood became famous with "the most powerful handgun in the world." Well, with certain parameters, the .44 Rem Mag was. It was the most powerful commerically loaded cartridge in an off-the-shelf handgun format. In the real world of true performance, that cartridge was never in the top five.

However, despite the odds, someone gets hit by lightning, someone wins the lottery, there's only one fastest automobile, out of six billion only one man is the strongest, and yes, in some kitchen there is the best, sharpest and strongest knife.

My guess is that the real champ is a one of a kind, period, 800 year old Japanese katana, wasabi or tanto locked away safely in some national-treasure museum in Tokyo.

However, no matter what it is, it is a laminate.

There are major differences in the ideas of "tough" and "strong" and "hard" and "sharp." A tough knife can take a beating, but while strong enough for that, it's rather soft and it sharpens like a chocolate bar.

What knife enthusiasts have been looking for is something akin to Jessica Alba driving a Porshe that can pull a plow.

Japanese laminates--while having many layers--are formed with a softer jigane as a core and a harder hagane for the edge. (Granted this is an over-simplification. I'm not going to type a treatise.)

A singular steel knife can successfully be "differentially hardened." However it cannot receive a successful HT creating over 300 layers in a perfect strata. Yes, I have folding knives made from uber steels with an HT from Paul Bos. They are the best on the planet. They are not samurai swords.

It is my hope that someday you get to slice a tomato with a Hattori KD series kitchen knife prepared by a competent polisher. The edge will fall through the tomato, and there won't even be the slightest 'hesitation' in slicing the skin.
post #64 of 80

I strongly disagree with a great deal of what you wrote. However, I don't want to hijack Al's thread with the discussion. I'll start another thread on Japanese laminated construction for culinary knives.

post #65 of 80
No need to apologize, I enjoy reading your stuff. In fact, some of the best times I have is when I shut off the computer, come back in several hours to find your name on the post.

Hey, I live in "The Peoples' Republik of Madison." Some of my best friends are liberals.

Why can't we disagree on knives and still have a blast?
post #66 of 80
Thread Starter 
Thank you for those further descriptions BDL. For now I think I am going to keep my mind on the Mac Pro, and will start working on my sharpening skills soon.

Thank you all for the great advice, and the effort and energy exerted on my account, it's been an amazing help.
post #67 of 80
The MAC Pro is an excellent choice as go-to gyuto for most people, especially those transitioning from western, mass-produced chef's knives to their first, good, Japanese knife. A nice balance of many strengths aganist few weaknesses.

If you need any help (and you will) learning to sharpen, let me know.

Very glad we could help,
post #68 of 80
Thread Starter 
I'm sure I will :)

I didn't get a chance to get out to the library to grab my sharpening book today, but tomorrow I have the whole day until the late evening free in which to get over there. Once I get questions, this will certainly be the place I'll be asking them.

While I may make a new thread to ask the majority of these questions, I do have one to start so that I can have everything in order asap. Is there a particular product I will want to use with my King whetstone aside from the stone itself for general sharpening of my set of practice stainless steel knives?
post #69 of 80
What? No thoughts about eastern mystism? No beguiling cloudy potions? No chanting for the dark arts? Yikes, your slant certainly takes the fun out of rubbin' the old wet rock.

Oh, I didn't know that. If you have everything that should make the job easier. If I sound disappointed it's just that there is no mention here of fun, or the arts or the love of the craft.

When you take up "the curse" you are entering into a guild brotherhood which spans centuries. There was always hushed awe for gods like Vulcan who forged edged tools. Where would the Spartans be without the arts in brass.

When you clutch up that first dripping waterstone and adjoin man to metal you become my kin and brother. Your lineage is now that of those who soil their hands to create beauty.

Either that, or we can just teach you to scrape metal with some form of abrasive thingamajig.

Have some fun, create some beauty. Learn the secrets of a seemingly simple craft that befuddles millions who will never grasp the skill.:D
post #70 of 80
Thread Starter 
Oh, don't worry, there will certainly be mysticism! I do fully intend on sacrificing a goat.

And I do intend on enjoying the **** of of it. This is the kind of thing I know will be fun for me. (especially the goat part).


There was actually another question I had for you Tourist. When you are fitting a customer with a knife, what is the process you go through to match them with a knife that they will be satisfied with?
post #71 of 80
I have a small, continuing clientele that has made several purchases from me in the past. I know what they like, and I've handled numerous repairs and re-sharpenings.

One client likes Emerson folders and 'folded' Japanese laminate kitchen knives. He's more adapt on the computer than I am, and he's pretty much researched every purchase.

If my suppliers carry the knife, I simply order it. Many times I might explain the differences in kitchen knives--their strengths and weaknesses--and how best it is to sharpen them.

Working chefs are different. I liken them to a tot in his "terrible twos" who claims he loves candy and demands it, but hates most of what you bring. I smile a lot, bring in lots of test mules and do a ton of listening. Sooner or later I find something he likes. I make sure I sharpen that knife several times at his kitchen until he's convinced I'm the only one in the entire world who "gets him."

I then spend his money on chrome, and drain off my adrenaline on heavy black iron and idiots who insist on crossing my path.

My therapist says I'm doing much better...:lol:
post #72 of 80
Thread Starter 
I did actually get a chance to handle the Mac pro today (finally found a local store that carries them) and wow...that handle feels like it was made for me specifically.

Due to the breakdown of my work laptop, and the fact that i'm self employed (so I'll be funding a new one) the knife purchasing is being delayed, but I have fully settled on the Mac Pro 9.5" Gyuto. Now just to decide if I want to go Mac pro for my paring knife as well (I have no paring knives of quality).

Thanks again for all of your help.

Oh, and also, as I'm almost done reading 'An Edge in the Kitchen' it seems to suggest I'll be wanting a finer grit stone than my King 250/1000 (for some reason I thought I had a 250/2000) to finish off my knives. Suggestions and thoughts?
post #73 of 80
You'll eventually want to finish your MAC Pro in the (JIS) 5,000# to 8,000# range. The Arashiyama 7000# aka Takenoko 8000#, and the Naniwa Chosera 5000#. Another stone, the Shapton Pro 5000# is also excellent, but is a very difficult stone to learn.

Speaking of learning ...

Learning to sharpen a knife like the MAC Pro takes awhile. Learning to polish it, is a different thing entirely. Usually, the fist part of the polishing learning curve, is screwing up the edge you just got from the sharpening stone, by rounding it over. The only fix is to return to the sharpening stone. It's a good idea to hold off on anything higher until you can pull a wire and deburr your MAC at the 1000# level.

Stones have different personalities in addition to prices. Some stones provide excellent feedback -- they help you "feel" if you're doing everything right or something wrong. The Shapton Pro 5000# might be the worst ever in that sense. It feels like granite mounted on jello. On top of that, it's PITA to flatten and lap. So, not for beginners.

On the other hand, there are some excellent stone with feedback that's helpful for sharpeners of all skill levels. Nonpareil aoto, Naniwa Super Stones and Naniwa Chosera are great examples of these. If you were starting from scratch, I'd say get Super Stones.

There are plenty of relatively inexpensive higher grit combinations which will compliment your King. In combination stones, I like Norton combis better than Kings. In your case, that's the Norton 4000/8000. By the time you wear out the King's 1000# side, you'll be ready to toss the Nortons and replace them with something better. Or, you could just get a Naniwa Super Stone 5000#. Either stone will serve you well -- but there's no great hurry.

If you haven't already, you need to decide on how you're going to flatten. That can't wait.

post #74 of 80
Thread Starter 
So as far as I understand it, the 1000 will do for general sharpening, a higher grit would be able to get me a finer and sharper finish, and then I'd use something even far higher for the polish, aye? By the time I get my mac and it needs sharpening I should have a finer stone, and be a bit practiced with sharpening.

Also, my practice knives are some older chicago cutlery knives, (probably a couple decades old, but they do appear to be made in china, last I checked). How well will 1000 do for sharpening them, for the time? Would that kind of cheaper steel be able to benefit from a much higher stone?
post #75 of 80
Thread Starter 
So this is a bit of a follow up on this thread, so I decided to not create a new thread. I am wondering if there are any particular reasons why I might go to some one else for my paring knife (that and my gyuto being the two blades of quality I need most at the moment) besides mac. I do find the mac pro paring quite comfortable in my hand, the steel is definitely of quality, and I assume at the same general sharpening level of difficulty as the gyuto. Is there any reason that can be thought of why I should really go for another particular paring knife at the same price range? I dont want to be spending ridiculous amounts on my paring knife as for the most part I dont do a whole lot of small knife work that cant be delegated to my cheapy wusthof gourmet.
post #76 of 80
Personally I see no reason to stick with any one brand just because you own a knife made by them. Often I'll love one company's gyuto but prefer another suji, for example.
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
post #77 of 80
Thread Starter 
Aye, I do have a mixed knife set and intend on further deviation, however that is the purpose of this question. Mac is a good match to my current cooking needs and sharpening skills/situation, which is why it is what I am considering first and foremost. It is again why I am asking this question so that if there is any particular brand or model of parring knife that excells I may consider it as well.
post #78 of 80
I think Shun makes one of the best paring knives out there. Even among guys who bash Shun you'll find love for that one. The shape & ergonomics is very close to perfect.
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
post #79 of 80
I feel obliged to mention that one pro chef and knife fanatic I know -- very hard-core sharpener with disturbing cutting skills -- swears by Victorinox paring knives, which you can get at 3/$12 (or less if you look). Once the knife won't take more edge without crazy sharpening behavior, you retire it as a box-cutter and go on to the next. For a home user, I suspect they'd last a decade or more. Good knives, honestly!
post #80 of 80
Thread Starter 
I will definitely check those out. In all honesty, while I feel very connected with the mac pro gyuto, I think I'm more oblivious when it comes to a parring knife. I just don't think I need something too high quality for my parring as yet, so as long as victronix is comfortable, I would be fine swinging one of those for now (****, I doubt I need more than my wusthof gourmet 3.5 for now).
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