Kasumi, money badly spent?
basically, im just looking for a new japanese knife to play with. i've looked at tojiro dps, macs, and a few others
There are hundreds of other makers of Japanese knives, and tons of great options in your price range. Someone really ought to write a post called "So, You Want a Japanese Knife, Huh?" and have it stickied to the top. I nominate BDL!:lol:
I would say that my Mac chef`s edges it out in terms of comfort and sharpness, but it`s a good classy looking knife.
Surprised to hear you "perk" at MAC. Thought you'd decided on "Damascus."
Excuse the spiel...
It's very hard to beat MAC Pro at anything.
If you break it down into the usual criteria, there are stainless alloys, G3 and VG-10, e.g., which can be thinned more and made a tiny bit sharper than whatever it is MAC uses in the Pro (VG-5 maybe?). But it would take a very skilled sharpener using a really good set of stones to coax that difference out; it's a complete knife-nut thing, and not something ordinary mortals need to consider.
Also, while I hesitate to talk Rockwell numbers because they're almost universally misnunderstood -- there are harder knives than the MAC Pro (HrC 59ish). Actually, that probably works to your advantage because the Pro trues so well on an appropriate honing rod. It's also a very "tough" (used as a materials term of art) knife, considering that it sharpens so quickly.
Otherwise, it's pretty much near or at the top of the class for mass produced stainless at any price. Good geometry, excellent handle (only a couple of others as good), very good F&F (by Japanese standards) and so on. It's ichiban (number one) for stiffness -- which is something most western users don't necessarily appreciate until the first time they try something whippy.
Also, it's the only Japanese knife I'd consider (neither Global nor Shun are on my list) with a strong manufacturer's presence in the US, excellent US support, and an excellent manufacturer's warranty (25 years).
There are very few stainless knifes which perform as well overall, and you probably have to get into the near $300 range and wa-handles to get something that can beat it. Suisun Inox Honyaki or Ikkanshi Tadatsuna maybe, if you can live with the flex.
It looks pretty much like a knife. No eye candy. The best part is the screened logo comes off.
You have to spend a LOT more to equal the performance and add "Damascus" too. Just bumping up to a Hattori HD, which is not nearly as practical as the MAC Pro, will cost beaucoup. Hattori HD is a nice knife, BTW.
You mentioned you'd be sharpening on "whetstones." Presumably you know that almost all waterstones are so much faster than any sort of oilstone, no matter how well used, that it's probably not worth bothering with oilstones.
Out of curiosity, which stones, brands, and grits are you thinking of for your kit?
Proud owner of two, count them, two, four-stone kits
For someone who's a collector, a hobbyist, or just curious and can afford to indulge their curiousity -- why not?
For someone seeking to improve their productivity they present the challenges of different skills, different grip, different profiles, etc. It's likely to be a long, long time before you get more and better mirepoix, julienne or brunoise out of a usuba than a chef's.
I frequently read about people who want a nakiri to "slice and dice" a few veggies, a takobiki to cut sushi once a month, etc., and since I'm not much of a hobbyist -- except in the sense of acquiring knowledge and posting about knives and sharpening -- it doesn't make a lot of personal sense to me. So, no opinion on whether you or anyone should or shouldn't buy any particular knife or other cooking tool. That you want it is enough. Live! Enjoy!
On the other hand, it's a good idea to understand your own motivations and what you're getting into. And, while nearly any sharp knife can do nearly any knife task, some make it a little harder than others.
O.K. my Shun Pro Usuba showed up here yesterdaywhen I figure out how to add images I'll tag some in. it was just a little larger than I thought it was -snicker- ... the -blade- itself is 7 inches, total knife is 12 1/4 inches ... by comparison, my Sabatier French chef blade is 11 1/2 and the whole knife is 17"
This thing has a VERY thin (right-handed in this case) and it's already drawn first blood. reached for it carelessly on my Boos chopping block and gently touched the butt corner so it bit my thumb in retribution. (no laughter please) ...
So far I've used it on full head of red cabbage, cucumber, red onion and boned chicken (herbs tomorrow).
You are definitely right about the distinction in cut. sliced the cuke in test at about a 32nd of an inch, repeatedly. With what I've run it through so far a sliding cut is the ticket and very effective. Herbs should be different. Still and all, it shows promise ... but it'll be a while before I'm doing katsuramuki strips with it. Ordering a Chef'sChoice Pronto Diamond hone model 463 asian knife sharpener and some camellia oil for it.
1. If at all possible you must maintain the edge to be ruler-straight. This is crucial.
2. This is a single-beveled knife, so sharpen dead flat on both sides, working almost exclusively on the bevel and then just deburring the back. Polish as high as you can with an usuba -- you should be able to shave with it, literally.
3. The grip is peculiar, though I have some reason to think there may be regional variations on this. Still, the undisputed masters of the usuba are Kyoto kaiseki chefs, and that's what I know (not that I am one, by any means). Do this:
a. Put the spine of the knife, a little in front of the ferrule, gently but firmly in the web of your thumb-forefinger.
b. Place the ball of your thumb on the flat, about halfway between the edge and the spine. Your thumb should be gently curved.
c. Place the side of the tip of your forefinger on the bevel, right below the shoulder. It should curve gently. Notice that your forefinger and thumb do NOT pinch the blade this way -- the forefinger is extended somewhat ahead of the thumb.
d. Curl the third finger gently around the ferrule, resting against the choil of the blade. You will develop a callous on that finger in time.
e. The remaining fingers should basically do nothing at all, just rest gently curled.
Maintain this grip for about 75% of all cutting. When you need more control and focus near the heel, as when peeling (katsura-muki, for example), the thumb moves radially toward the heelmost corner. When you need to cut straight through something thick and tough, in a thick slice, as for example cutting an inch-thick slice of daikon or carrot, extend your forefinger well along the blade and up to the shoulder, which will cant the knife over slightly toward the thumb side and help prevent serious wedging.
4. Basic cutting technique depends on your realizing that this knife has no curve and has a more or less pointed tip. If you cut down at an angle, as with a chef's knife, that point will dig into the board and stop the cut short. If you push, you will chip the knife. Start the cut with the knife edge absolutely parallel to the board. Push forward and gently down -- the weight will do most of the downward motion. Maintain the level edge right down to the board. When it strikes, the entire blade should strike simultaneously with a slight click. This takes enormous practice. To complete the cut, pull up and back at precisely the same angle -- it's just like cutting in reverse.
Depending on the firmness of the vegetable, you will do more or less forward-motion with the cut: soft vegetables not much, hard vegetables a lot, most vegetables in between.
Remember that trick about the pointed index finger when cutting thick slices of firm vegetables. Without it, the knife will steer and/or the vegetable will crack.
5. When peeling, whether shaving sheets of daikon or carrot or cucumber, or any kind of shaping/tourne work, the thumb will control the thickness and shaping of the peel. The off-hand thumb will feed the vegetable into the knife. The knife should rest on the forefinger, and jog up and down a very small amount at a time, sort of like a jig-saw. Don't rock the knife back and forth, just up and down.
6. Never, never, never cut any sort of flesh with the knife. With poultry and meat, the tendons and such can ding the blade. With boneless fish it's more of a purity violation, actually, but you still shouldn't do it.
7. If you really want to master this knife, you're going to have to use it constantly for a good long time. In skilled hands, it is awe-inspiring what this knife can do. But the learning curve is frighteningly steep.
8. In an ideal world, you should polish the knife on your finest polishing stone every day after you're done with everything else. Some prefer to sharpen first thing, claiming that an edge gets dull just sitting there overnight; others find that any but a honyaki knife will produce a slight metallic taste shortly after being sharpened because of the soft iron.
Do bear in mind that I have never yet heard of an amateur home cook in Japan who uses one. Actually, I've not met such a person who has cut with one even once. It is a dying art: only pros use them, and these days more and more pros in Tokyo and even Osaka are giving them up for other things like gyuto, kiritsuke, and so on. For the hard-nosed old-fashioned kaiseki chef, skill with this knife is the sine qua non. If you can use one of these, the rest of knife-work -- a big deal in that cuisine, as you know -- is a walk in the park.
Usuba instruction ...Too bad I wasn't paying attention during my years back and forth to Tokyo and Hamamatsu, I know (in retrospect) that I saw many chefs use them but was far more concerned with the 'product' landing before me to eat.
I have read several treatments on the use of a Usuba since I first started thinking about getting one but none have been as comprehensive and useful as your observations. So from a "Hinna Gaijin" (strange foreigner) ... "kokoro kara kansha shimasu" ne?
it'll be a long time before I can do what the $500 machine will though ... -snicker-
Peeler-S Katsuramuki Thin Root Vegetable Peeler
I have to back BDL on those MACs. If you want a cool Japanese single-edge to play with, well, they're fun, a totally different style of cutting, expensive, a totally different maintenance structure, *must* be kept sharp and straight. I don't see them as practical for either most home chefs, or Euro trained working chefs. The MACs (yeah, love the pro) have all the advantages of the Japanese steel, with few of the disadvantages. They are slightly lower Rockwell, but very tough. Good point that high Rockwell doesn't necessarily equal best toughness and longest lasting edge.
So, in real life use, they take a beautifully sharp edge like Japanese knives will, but they're comparatively un-finicky about nicking and chipping. MAC is a company that is obsessive about its steel recipes, and I think they do a great job of coming up with something that's great for cutting stuff in the kitchen, and keeps an edge, rather than being flashy. Definitely not as twitchy as Shun can be, though I have 2 Shuns and like them fine...as long as you don't beat them up. The service and support *is* amazing. The knives are Japanese, but the company is based in California. If you call them, as often as not you'll get Harold, the CEO will answer the phone and talk your ear off for half an hour about knife design.
Some of those cool Kikuichis and Nenox's are fun to play with, though.
Edited by MikeCable - 8/13/10 at 2:18pm
According to http://www.macknife.com/ , the HQ for MAC are a little bit north of LA
MAC Knife, Inc.
9624 Kiefer Blvd. #1
Sacramento, CA 95827-3822
phone: MAC-Knife (888-622-5643)
for information and orders, firstname.lastname@example.org
for warranty issues, email@example.com
And YES, Harold LOVES to talk and, if you catch him live, say at a trade show, he also loves to demonstrate his knives and what they can do. He IS pretty accomplished at making garnishes as well.
He'll also show you the "technique" for his non-western knives, which can be eye-opening!
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