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Down to two...

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
First off, much thanks to everyone in this forum as it is an encyclopedia of knowledge. Second, many many thanks to BDL in educating me in various areas via email!

But now I'm down to two choices for my first Asian knife. I have been a "loyal" Wusthof fan for several years...mainly because I didn't know any better! I'm not a pro, but an avid home chef.

So...I want a 240mm gyuto, stainless. And it's down to:
  • MAC Professional
  • Sakai Takayuki 17-Layer Damascus Chef's Knife (or perhaps Grand Cheff ???)
F&F is not a deal killer, but I don't really like having "MIGHTY" on my knife :-) However, the warranty and service by MAC America would be great to have.

Any last minute thoughts on these knives? I guess if I was down to three, it would be a Akifusa or Hiromoto G3.....too many choices :confused:

post #2 of 15
Don't let the "mighty" scare you away. It is silk screened on. I have the MSK-65 Mighty Santoku and the silk screen wore off in a few weeks from regular use and washing. The laser etched kanji script stil looks nice though.

Mac was awesome when i chipped my knife, they re-ground it at no charge and even paid for shipping.
The handles on all three Mac's I own are incredible comfortable
I find it very easy to sharpen even though I am a novice.
You can't beat the price / performance.

There is my vote.
post #3 of 15
So the markings on the Mac Pro blades are done in different ways on each side? Just wondering because I don't really like the Mac logo but the kanji looks nice. Hmm they both feel like they're painted on or something. Maybe I'll get the kanji side engraved over if I can find someone good to do it.
Anyways back on topic, I love my Mac very much, so does everyone else at work that I trust enough to let have a quick test drive. I don't personally know anyone who's used the other one. I did a fair bit of internet research when I was looking for a new knife a while back (I ended up getting a Mac) and heard a lot of good things about the 'Grand Cheff'.
I don't know enough about it to try to influence you one way or the other, and don't know if one's 'better' than the other or not, just thought I'd say I've never used my Mac and thought I'd made a bad decision (which I have thought with several other 'well respected' brands of knives) :)
post #4 of 15
I'd avoid anything damascus, myself. It scratches off over time, just as will "mighty" or whatever.

I've never handled either knife, but I've certainly heard very good things about both the MAC Pro and the Grand Cheff. But isn't the MAC a whole heck of a lot cheaper? If so, I'm surprised there's much contest.
post #5 of 15
Chris, are we using "damascus" the same way?

Damascus, to me, is a method of making steel. The metal is folded, and hammer forged, folded, and hammer forged, etc. etc. I have knife-making friends who do that as much as a hundred times before forming the actual blade.

The design on the blade surface is achieved by treating the blade so that the pattern of the folds is visible.

So, my question is, how can it "scratch off." It's not something applied to the blade surface. It's an integral part of the metal.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #6 of 15
Well don't i feel silly.

In fact the logo is worn off of both sides of all my macs. I stand corrected. It was my Kai that has the etching on one side and silk screen on the other. I had a brain fart when I typed this last night.
I apologize for my failing memory.

Either way, the logo wears off rather quickly and all of my other positive comments on the knife still stand.

Not sure if this is exactly on topic or not.. but

Yes the Mac's are very well priced for what you get in opinion. I have not seen too many of the super high end knives mentioned on here in person, but compared even to a Henckles, global etc I think you get way better value in the Mac. Of course thats only if you like the way it feels in your hand.

Their superior line is not necessary a beauty queen, but i dare you to find a better knife for $60-$70 usd. (sk-65 = $53.95, SA-80 $69.95 @ CKTG)
post #7 of 15
No, brother, we're not.

You're talking about real, wootz type Damascus. Chris is talking about the faux Damascus (actually "suminagashi") which is soft stainless, created by pattern weldging, and made separately from the knife's core-steel; but then attached to one side (kasumi, hon-kasumi) or wrapped around it (san-mai, aka warikomi). Chef's knives aka gyuto, like all faux Damascus knives sharpened on both sides, are san-mai.

This type of construction is extremely popular in modern Japanese culinary knives. It supplies many benefits to the manufacture -- a few of which -- aesthetic and price -- filter down to the consumer.

Chris is correct that the pattern on these types of knives tends to fade. Unlike "real" Damascus, the pattern welding is done with one type of soft steel, rather than layering soft with hard, and brought out with acid etching. The soft steel is susceptible to scratching and the pattern fades. Once it does, it cannot be brought back by buffing -- which would only make the fade worse.

But, the softness of the outer steel (jigane), is important. Because it makes the knife easier to manufacture by preventing failure and waste (principle of constrained layer mode damping) caused by cracking and bending, it keeps prices down and allows manufacturers to use some otherwise rather difficult steels for the cutting core (hagane).

"Damascus," as a term applied to Japanese knives, is just English language advertising copy. A way of communicating to the customer that the knife is tarted up with a particular type of pattern associated with a very special steel forging technique. Chris knows the difference as well as anyone; but like me (if I may write on his behalf) is exhaused from making the explanation. IIRC, the OP knows the difference as well.

Speaking of OP's -- I'd go with either the MAC Pro or the Grand Cheff. Although lacking any real experience with the Sakai Takayuki Damascus, I don't like "cladded" knives. They feel weird to me and to a precious few other people. Not many though. Actually, forget me. If you like the pattern enough to deal with it, Sakai Takayuki makes nice knives.

I like the MAC Pro a lot for darn near everything. The handle is the best in the business. The silk screen comes off with use and a scotch brite.

I also like the Grand Cheff a lot (although getting it can be difficult). It's not quite as stiff as the MAC Pro (slightly whippy) but has incredible edge taking characteristics -- nice if you have the skills to take advantage of them, and something of an aid if you're developing your freehanding technique. Both knives are excellent.

Hope this helps,
post #8 of 15
What BDL said.

It's perhaps worth noting that true "Damascus" folded steel does exist in modern knives, but it's exceedingly rare. I know of nobody who sells such products as part of a normal line; my understanding is that the few people who actually make it do so on a custom basis.

As to the thing about being able to feel suminagashi cladding -- or any kind of cladding, for that matter -- the claim is that the knives feel dull. Not in the sense that the edge isn't sharp, but the knives don't give much feedback, making them feel lifeless.
post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 
Wow...thanks everyone! And thanks again BDL...I knew you'd come back with the Mac Pro suggestion :-)

The only other suggestion I received was to consider a Kagayaki VG10 which is price competitive with the Mac Pro. I think these are probably my favorites from my research and discussion.

...so I guess I'm really down to two now!
post #10 of 15
Funny about that, especially since I don't own a MAC of any kind and never have. I think the MAC Pro fits comfortably within a group of half dozen or so knives -- as a knife that's at least very good in every respect with a few standout features and a few minor tradeoffs. In total they rank pretty much as equal, except that the MAC's standout features -- handle, stiffness, US support, and 25 year, nearly unconditional warranty -- tend to matter a great deal to American users.

IMO the Sakai Takayuki is just as good -- the minor tradeoffs being the Grand Cheff is a little easier to sharpen and perhaps capable of an RCH more ultimate sharpness, while the MAC has a better handle (love that handle!) and is stiffer. The big difference is the US support. With a Sakai Takayuki you must go through the seller; with a MAC it's MAC USA, and you just can't beat MAC USA for service and support.

From what I've been hearing about the Kagayaki VG-10 it's the value leader right now in good Japanese knives. The handle is a bit on the small side both in width and length. But F&F is supposedly very good for the price, geometry is about what you'd expect, and I don't think you can get an all VG-10 blade for less money. That said, if there's a problem -- not that there are many -- you're at Koki's tender mercies. He's great most of the time, but occasionally he can be a bit of an [orifice].

Warranty and support aside, the choice between JCK Kagayaki (by reputation), MAC Professional, Masamoto VG, Sakai Takayuki Grand Cheff, and Togiharu G-1 is pretty much a "U Pickem." They're all terrific exemples of the qualities which make a stainless, mass-produced, Japanese made, yo-gyuto preferable (if that isn't qualified, what is?) to a stainless, mass-produced, German (or US, Swiss, or...) made chef's knife.

It's unlikely I'd ever buy a stainless knife, and if I did, I'd likely spend the extra bucks for an Ikkanshi Tadatsuna. But if I did buy one in this particular extended price range -- it would go all the way to the top of the range with the Masamoto. Masamoto yo-gyutos have the same magic "let's go to work, boss" quality as old carbon Sabatiers -- at least to me. That reason; because I don't mind a little flex; and because I'm willing to sacrifice the outstanding positives for a total absence of negatives, are enough to put up with the lack of US support.

Of all the knives in that group, I most often recommend MAC because I get asked for recommendations alot, and MAC's never blown up in my face. Yes there have been problems -- two bogus handles to be specific. But considering I've "sold" more than two dozen, that's very few problems. And, MAC USA took care of them promptly, cheaply (actually for free, but I didn't want to spoil the alliteration as with this paranthetical remark), and cheerfully. MAC USA's commitment to support is even more amazing when you consider that one of those problem knives was sold an English e-tailer to a Danish buyer.


PS. Whatever you buy (or anyone else buys), if you don't already have them buy an adequate sharpening kit, storage, and board.
post #11 of 15
You're talking about real, wootz type Damascus. Chris is talking about the faux Damascus


It's perhaps worth noting that true "Damascus" folded steel does exist in modern knives, but it's exceedingly rare.

Thanks, guys. That clears up one bit of confusion.

I have several (non-kitchen) Damascus knives, and, yes, they were all custom made and hand forged. They're gorgeous. And hold an edge two days longer than forever.

But I can understand how true Damascus kitchen knives would be prohibitively expensive.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #12 of 15
I see true Damascus hunting knives fairly often. They are art in the form of a knife. I would love to have one.
For the vast majority a warranty is little more than "Feel Good" marketing. If a knife is correct out of the box there's not much to fail in the future. If it's not correct out of the box you just return or exchange it.
No warranty required.
I wouldn't avoid Koki out of fear that he might be hard to deal with. I have never seen any one out side of this thread complain about him so it's mighty rare. He is a very pleasant guy (and fast!) to work with.
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
post #13 of 15
My opinion of Koki is very good. I've purchased six knives from him -- two Hiromoto AS, tried them for a couple of months, passed them on as gifts; and two Misono Sweden, bought as gifts to begin with -- in the last four or five years, and know of scores of transactions which went off without a hitch.

Indeed, until last year I'd never so much as heard a bad word. However, since then I've read or been told of several complaints regarding his handling of knives which were shipped defective or damaged in handling; were shipped back as instructed to the office in San Diego; JCK in San Diego judged as user damage; and Koki backed San Diego rather than the buyer. This happened three times that I know of. Twice with Mizunos (Fred's), and once with a Masamoto (a friend's).

Another known issue is Masamoto western style handles. Why is it that JCK and Korin sell so many knives with really badly fitting handles, while Anzen (a brick and mortar in LA that doesn't e-tail) only sells knives with good ones? If you ask, Korin will go through their stock and ship you the best they have. After correspondence (masterminded by guess who), Koki's been known to run a knife or two down the street to have the handles replaced. However, a customer who won't press the issue -- and most Americans won't -- gets a pig in a poke. and a pig with a bad handle, at that.

Plus, stuff does happen. Knives can chip badly after a few years; handle scales shrink; rivets fall out; etc. It doesn't happen often, but it happens. It's generally nice to have back up -- and for some people it's more than nice, it's a necessity. When I write about knives for other people I'm not writing about me, rather I try as much as possible to write about things they'll find most important.

As I said, the warranty and US support shouldn't be necessarily determinative. If I were buying a new knives I might well buy from Koki, but there would be e-mail about what I expected from the knife and from him before I gave him my credit card number again.

There's also the stand up way MAC USA dealt with the two bunk knives -- two handles and a chip we heard about on this forum (only MAC F&F problems I ever heard about, btw). They've also been very generous about dealing with problems that probably weren't caused by defect, and in general customer support and advice. H/t Pete McCracken.

MAC's successes and and JCK's failures are either worth acknowledgement or not. I think they are.

Just my 2 yen,
post #14 of 15
If we are to count internet posts from unknown entities there have been other complaints out there about the handles on the MAC as well. It's not just limited to one or two people on this forum. Considering the number of knives any of these companies make that should not come as a surprise.
IIR the person with the multiple defective MAC handles received a replacement knife with a handle they weren't thrilled with as well. That's not really a great measure of success.
Especially when we have a Mac distributor that posts here.
All I can say is I've spoken to scads of people who have ordered from Koki and I have as well. I've never seen a complaint from a first hand source (including this thread) but I'm sure it happens once in a blue moon.
I don't want to give the impression that I don't think any of those reports are worthy of consideration but IMO they do need to be taken with a big grain of salt. Some times that's just the nature of the internet.
None of these are warranty or even vendor issues. These are quality control issues from the manufacturer.
I won't comment on the Masamoto western handles because I don't use them and it often leaves me confused when I see others up on a soap box about a product that by their own admission they don't own or use.
Go figure.
What I can say for a fact is that I've never received a bum handle from Koki and I've never asked for any "special" service. However, I agree it sure can't hurt to ask for a vendor to hand select a knife for you.
With regards to the Kagayaki from Koki I would place the WA version on a level that competes with knives far more expensive and that's an opinion I've seen shared by many others.
All I can do is share my hands on experiences with the products I use and in the end hope that it's helpful.
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
post #15 of 15
I wonder if you are referencing my posts about MAC and handles? I posted on here when I got three MAC knives, two of the knives had what I considered poor handle fit/finish. One call to MAC and not only did they replace it but gave me good advice (I got a hold of MAC first, but the reseller would of handled things also I found out). Both replacements have been fine so far.

From what I understand the handle on a MAC knife uses wood which in some extreme cases can shrink/warp but with MAC's excellent support you shouldn't have to worry even if you do get one with something not quite right about it.

Since then I added a 6' Mac pro paring/utility knife that the handle was fine on.
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