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I want Japanese carbon - choices, sharpening, etc.

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
Hi All,

I'm new to the forum and this is my first post. I have read through all the posts available here in the knife forum and have gained a lot of knowledge. Now I'm ready to get some new knives and add to my skills.

In the late 70s I got a Chicago 10" Chef's knife and a Victorinox sausage knife. If you've never seen the sausage knife, it's kind of like a thin, delicate cleaver with big curved front/tip. I used both knives a lot and sharpened them on a Chicago steel. Yes, I wore those knives down with that grinding tool. Anyway, the Victorinox blade is where I originally developed my affection for thinner blades. In the 90s I "moved up" to a set of Chef's Choice Trizor 10X. The Chef's knife was 8" and shaped like a German blade. That's how I found I didn't like the German shape very much and definately didn't like an 8" Chef. I just didn't know why. I was also able to try (at friends' homes) other good German Chef blades like Henckles and Wusthoff. Then I found I didn't care for the thick bolster. I also had some cheap carbon steel cutlery I bought from a dept. store chain that was going out of business. Now I find by accident I like sharpening on my old Smith's Tri-Hone (only the carbon steel) and using the blades. Smoother, sharper cutting, dulls fast. I take care of the blades. They never rust, pit, etc. and I like the darkening patina they develop.

So here I am years later and find this forum. I've learned a bit over the years how to cut properly with a Chef's knife, got a Chicago ceramic stick somewhere in the 80s that isn't destroying my blades and lost the worn out carbon steel blades I had. I still have my old Victorinox, my Chicago 10", my set of Trizor 10X and my Smith's Tri-Hone. Thanks to this forum I understand the basic shape differences of French and German style blades and the newer Japanese offerings. I need to learn a lot about sharpening and am willing to take the time and spend some money. I'll go back through the threads and see if there are recommended books, stones, etc. I haven't taken notes yet. Any new suggestions appreciated.

Now I am interested in getting some carbon steel blades and stones. I am looking at the Masamoto HC series and Misono Sweden Steel Series. I still don't have a real handle on the differences between the two regarding quality of steel, edge holding, F&F (I'm guessing the Masamoto might be better cosmetics?), etc. I do not mind spending the extra money for the Masamoto if there are more reasons than just cosmetics. I tend to keep blades for a long time and after more than 10 years the extra money just doesn't matter. I am a home cook and will not wear blades out. The next set could very well last me the rest of my life.

Having said all that, I'm looking for comparisons between the two makes I listed and any other I'm not aware of that would be in the same general quality and price bracket. I would also appreciate feedback for the length of Gyuto: 240mm or 270mm? I'm used to a 10" Chef. I can't visualize which direction to go. Right now I'm thinking a Gyuto, 150mm petty and paring knife would pretty much do it for me. If I need to split and/or debone some chicken, I've got plenty of other blades up to the task.

Sorry if this is long winded. Just wanted to give a background to explain how I came to want some Japanese carbon blades. It might help with giving some advice.

Thanks in advance!
post #2 of 7
Both these knives are very, very good. But if the money isn't a big issue, I'd say go Masamoto. You have the skills and experience -- cutting, handling, treatment, and sharpening -- to appreciate these knives, and either one will teach you to do all these things even better.

If I may be forgiven yet another car analogy, think BMW and Ferrari. Both fabulous, one a good deal more expensive, both attractive, etc. But in the end, if money doesn't matter and you've got the skills, a Ferrari is still a Ferrari.

A Masamoto really is a Ferrari. Perfect shape, beautiful handling, a joy to sharpen. KC Ma swears he's never gotten any gyuto as sharp as his old Masamoto. (Full disclosure: I have never cut anything with a better knife than my Masamoto KS-3127.)

But you know what? A good BMW is a heck of a car.

Go 270mm -- you'll never look back. But be advised in advance that Masamoto's run long.

On the sharpening issue, start with the assumption, with either knife, that you will never again use any but the finest stone of the Tri-Hone unless you've dinged your blade. Expect fairly soon to invest in a hotshot waterstone. With these knives, I personally recommend and adore the choice I eventually made, a Chocera 2000. For a gyuto, it is debatable whether you will want to go upward from that in terms of grit, but certainly you won't need to.
post #3 of 7
If you are used to a 10" Chef's knife I would stick with a 270 or possibly a 300. I would suggest you chose a petty or a pairing but if there are any budget concerns buy one first then see if you feel that you need the other.
I'm in complete agreement with Chris's stone choice choice. The chosera stones up to 5k are affordable and of excellent quality.
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #4 of 7
I have to agree that the Choceras are about as good as it gets for synthetic stones. You'll find yourself looking forward to your knives getting dull enough to need sharpening!:cool:
"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
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"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
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post #5 of 7
The Masamoto HC and Misono Sweden are both fine knives; but are in slightly different classes.

The Misono Sweden competes head to head in value and straight-across performance with the Kikuichi Elite and Masamato CT. It would be fair to throw in a couple of the best currently sold carbon Sabatiers in that group too, although the comparison is more complicated. The Masamoto HC, is in the next class up. As mass-produced, western-handled gyuto go, it's arguably the best at any price.

Masamotos are magic when it comes to edge geometry and all around "feel." From a design standpoint, there is nothing better. Why that is, I'm not sure. It's certainly not the best looking knife with it's late to drop point, and wide back end; but you don't cut with looks. The handle is comfortably designed and sized, the blade is light and nimble, the grind is not so thin as to be fragile, but it is thin enough so the knife will cut without any wedging.

Masamoto doesn't say what alloys they use in their western knife series. Whatever the HC uses, presumably Takefu V2C, it's tops in western-handled knives. Corrosion resistance is midling, but strength and toughness are high and well balanced -- which means edge holding is good. The edge taking properties, ease of sharpening, and ultimate potential level of sharpness are both extremely high.

Other than looks, the HC is better than the Sweden in every aspect discussed. However ... fit and finish is unfortunatey not a straightforward issue with the HC. Of the four or five I've handled, all of them been very well made. However, that hasn't been true for lots of people. There have been complaints about some minor grind marks and poor sharpening out of the box (ootb), but those don't mean very much. It's the issues with the old ebony handle scales that are more significant.

Masamoto has changed from ebony handle scales to pakkawood -- which is a lot more stable. You'd think that might take care of it. But before buying I'd get in touch with the retailer (JCK or Korin, probably) and make sure that my knife was hand selected for F&F, and that any issues were fully revealed and/or resolved before shipping.

Getting back to your question, the difference between the Masamoto and Misono certainly is not that the Masamoto has better F&F. At least not reliably. In fact, as Japanese carbons go the Misono rates very high on that score. Just remember that F&F can be variable with any Japanese knife. Sometimes the Japanese can be so annoyingly French, if you know what I mean.

Compared to the HC, the Sweden is very slightly less good in almost every respect -- but still a wonderful knife. Even without the engraving the Sweden looks great. It has a typically wonderful Misono handle everyone likes. Blade geometry is excellent, just not quite up to Masamoto/Sabatier standards. Edge holding and edge taking properties are also excellent, but not quite as good as the HC. The Swedens have really lousy corrosion resistance, or I'd peg them as best of the rest if just for the handle and edge taking.

By the way, both knives can and should be regularly trued with a honing rod between sharpenings. However while neither knife is prone to chipping, haste and clumsiness are the magic twins who can make unlikely things happen. In other words, do not clang the knife against the steel.

You're definitely going to want to step up from your Smith's. BTW, which model? A 6" with two manmades and an Arkansas? The ideal final stone for any of the knives mentioned in this post is something like a Kitayama -- but you could get away with a little less. Many people buying their first good knives, don't buy a coarse stone for profile/repair right away -- but you've got a lot of knives and I think you might be surprised at how good an edge the Chef's Choice will take.

Off the top of my head, a kit like, Chosera 400; Bester 1200; Arashiyama 6000; and Kitayama 8000 would suit a knife set with Japanese carbon at its heart darn near perfectly. If money is an issue (and when isn't it?), you could start with the Bester and Arashiyama then add the Chosera and Kitayama later.

"Chosera" (a line of stones made by Naniwa") is a name you hear bandied quite a bit lately. They are the best -- but they are also the most expensive by far; and the higher the grit level the more price distinction there is. At most grit levels, there are competing stones which will allow you to do as good a job for a little more work and a lot less money.

"Steel" choice is easy -- 12" fine Idahone; a fantastic hone. If you ever decide to go ultimate on steels, add a HandAmerican borosilicate rod, and use that for deburring and when the knife still carries a high polish; and drop down to the Idahone once the knife starts to wear a little and the borosilicate isn't aggressive enough.

Let me think some more about your sharpening questions. I'll either get back to you with some more detail, write a blog post, both, or you can ask specific questions about specific stones -- and break up what's a very big subject into something more manageable. I understand though, that you're aksing for advice precisely because you don't know enough to make distinctions.

Knife length is a very personal thing. Within some manufacturer's lines the weight and thickness difference between the 240 and 270 models is substantial and the knives feel completely different. But that's not the case here. If you have the grip, knife and board management skills for a 240 you'll find the extra productivity you get from the 270 compensates for any initial awkwardness. A 300mm knife is a different proposition altogether for most people; and for most people would not recommend one except as a special purpose knife. It's not only a matter of controlling the extra length, compensating for the extreme tip-heaviness, or hefting the extra weight, but a 12" knife just takes so much board management.

The NEW basic knife set includes a chef's (aka gyuto), slicer (aka suji), petty, and bread.

A chef's knife is not a slicer. While a chef's knife can be used for carving and the sort of portioning a slicer is built to do, the slicer will do it so very much better. You haven't mentioned buying a slicer, but if you don't have one you like it should be near the top of your list. Invest in a good slicer -- like chef's .

Petties are the new paring knives. The modern trend, which comes from God knows where, is to reserve small paring knives for special, decorative tasks and use a 5" - 6" knife. It has a couteau office geometry which translates as "all the time" knife -- and it's what you go to when you're chef's is too big. It's long enough to function as a "utility knife," but small enough to be comfortable for those tasks when you hold the blade steady and move the food. These knives often get a lot of odd duties like opening packages, cutting string, cutting pies, going out on the cheese board, and so on. If that's how you're going to use yours, don't spend too much. Personally, I keep a good petty (T-I "Nogent" Sabatier) and an old cheap Forschner which not only does all the weird stuff, but citrus too.

Paring -- don't waste your money, go cheap unless you're a collector. Use them, wreck them, throw them away. I know more than a few people who buy disposable, serrated parers so they don't have to waste time sharpening them. Not a bad idea. I've got a couple of cheap Forschners in utility and specialty shapes and a Sabatier carbon prototype for a line which was never produced -- and none of them really stand out. I baby the proto, but otherwise they get sharpened, they wear out, the end.

Bread knives vary more in quality than the quality matters in terms of utlity. That is, a cheap bread knife will work almost as well as good one -- and for years and years, too. The best choice in better breads is the MAC Superior. While it's almost a hundred dollars and not all that much better than a $30 Forschner Rosewood, it is a little better and you need to spend another hundred bucks still before you can buy its equal.
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post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 
A lot of great advice from BDL, DuckFat and ChrisLehrer. Thank you all very much but especially BDL for taking the time for such a comprehensive answer. I will do more research on the stones and seriously look into the set BDL suggested. I'm also looking into the Edge Pro system. Anyone know anything about this?

I am having second thoughts about going carbon and have posted another thread regarding this latest knife angst episode.
post #7 of 7
I can't answer your questions about carbon steel, since I have just started down that road, but I did take delivery of an Edge Pro Apex yesterday.

Up until a few months ago, I was destroying my Wusthofs and Globals with a Chefs Choice electric sharpener and a Chantry. I was on the verge of buying a Shun or another Global when I discovered this forum (and others) and entered a new world of Japanese steel and waterstones. I have since learned the error of my ways and the Chefs Choice is as far as possible from my new Kagayaki, Kikuichi and Hiromoto.

As part of my journey, I bought some waterstones, read everything I could, and after a few attempts, was able to produce edges that were sharp, but not consistently. As my goal was to produce and maintain a sharp knife, I was intrigued by the concept of the Edge Pro.

So far, I have sharpened two knives with it, and it could not have been easier. Setup took about fifteen minutes, and each knife took about twenty minutes to take through the 220, 320 and 1000 grit stones that came with it. The bevels and edges produced were much more even than my freehand efforts had ever produced.

Bottom line is that if you can already freehand sharpen adequately, or if you want to sharpen as a hobby, then you probably don't need to get an Edge Pro. If you don't, then consider the Edge Pro.

If I can answer any questions you have about it, ask away and I'll do my best.
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