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In need of new Japanese steel

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Hello everyone,

 

I'm in the market for a new knife, and after much research I've decided that Japanese steel is the way to go. I've been beating the hell out of Google Search trying to find the perfect knife for me, and finally decided that it's time to just suck it up, join a (credited) forum, and ask its wise members for their suggestions.

 

A little about me and what I'm looking for:

 

I'm a professional cook/chef for a four diamond hotel, so as you can imagine, the knife work is plentiful and detail-oriented. The main workhorse that I'm coming from is a 9" Furi (I bought this before that moron endorsed them) east/west knife with the coppertail. This knife has served me quite well for years, however, the edge doesn't hold up to the copious amounts of acidic food that I come in contact with (it was the four quarts of petite-diced tomatoes that pushed me into the buyers market), and I would like something that I can be little more precise with.

 

I'm looking to get a 210mm gyuto that holds an extremely edge for a long time, can handle the volume (btw, I'm not one of those idiots that's going to try running this knife through bones or frozen items; I have my beaters for that), and feels comfortable through hours of use. I would also like something that looks good; I love the Damascus look.

 

Thus far I've really enjoyed the handles of the Shun/Miyabi knives (it's a shame the Shun blades are so poorly shaped).

 

I'm 6' with larger, skinny hands (big, but not bear paws or sausage digits), and work on prep tables of standard height.

 

I would prefer to stay in the $200 range, but if there's something that's just undeniably awesome for a little more, I'll probably be willing to budge.

 

I appreciate any input!

 

Many thanks,

Jon

post #2 of 11

Right off the bat, Miyabi -- Henckels in Japan -- has a new line called Kaizen, which is more or less a better Shun Classic. They're sold at SLT, so, unlike most Japanese made knives, you can go visit them and speed chop a few spuds. 

 

That said, we can probably find a better knife for the price, if you're willing to forget about Damascus and stick to what gets mirepoix into the pan.  I'm not saying looks aren't important or that your priorities are skewed, just that nothing comes without trade offs.  If you value a particular look, than that look you should have. 

 

I don't happen to like that look, but we're not talking about my next knife.  Watch me like a hawk, though.  It's so easy to project.

 

There are a few things which really distinguish one Japanese made knife from another -- especially in the professional, high production context. 

 

One thing is blade profile -- which you (bless your heart) brought up on your own.  There's a lot of "it depends," but a few brands do stand out.  I measure everything against Sabatier.  The more like a Sabatier the more I like it; and the less, the less.  By and large, anyway. 

 

Another is handle -- again, a few brands stand out.  You mentioned Shun.  They use a "D" shaped variation of a "wa" (Asian style) handle.  Would you be open to buying a wa-gyuto?  It's not as big a switch as it might seem -- at least not if you have a good grip.  There are some non-obvious advantages we can go into.

 

We should talk about your grip.  So...?  If you only have a good grip, we can bump it up to excellent in the course of a couple of shifts, at most.  That should allow you the freedom to get away from "ergonomic" designs like the Furi and give you a great deal more choice.  It will also make you more comfortable and faster. 

 

A lot of western cooks value stiffness more highly than a lot of Japanese makers.  Japanese knives are light (a good thing), and light can mean whippy (some people no like).  I'm not going to try and sell you the advantage of a flexi chef's knife.  If you like or even if you can live with some degree of flexibility, you gain a lot of good choices.  If not, we're only looking at a few brands.

 

Edge qualities of course, are where the rubber meets the road (alloy meets the board).  In your price range, you can pretty much have it all, pretty much.  Pretty much.  It's typical that if a cook sharpens a knife with good edge retention every other shift, he'll end up sharpening knives with very good and excellent edge retention every other shift.  Typically on the very same sequence of stones.  Maybe not all, but pretty much.

 

Furis have terrible edge characteristics.  Really, really terrible.  You will do much better, no problem.  Give it a few weeks and you won't have a clue as to how you could live with a Furi for so long.

 

Before we get into all the details and nuances, it's important to remember that while there are differences in hardness, alloy composition, and a bunch of other stuff, none of it will make anywhere near as big a difference as the quality of your sharpening, and your tolerance for performing regular and frequent maintenance.

 

You don't have to be the world's greatest freehand sharpener to enjoy a good knife, but if you're not going to sharpen to "extremely sharp," and maintain your knife that way, we're looking at different knives than if you are.  So... how do you sharpen and maintain?  Are you willing to invest time and money into doing it really well?

 

Looking forward to hearing back,

BDL

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post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

Wow, thank you so much for the prompt and thorough response. OK, here we go:

Quote:

Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

Right off the bat, Miyabi -- Henckels in Japan -- has a new line called Kaizen, which is more or less a better Shun Classic. They're sold at SLT, so, unlike most Japanese made knives, you can go visit them and speed chop a few spuds. 

 

That said, we can probably find a better knife for the price, if you're willing to forget about Damascus and stick to what gets mirepoix into the pan.  I'm not saying looks aren't important or that your priorities are skewed, just that nothing comes without trade offs.  If you value a particular look, than that look you should have. 

 

Not really concerned about looks, as they're more of an "icing on the cake" to me. I would much rather be able to cut that cake, y'know?

 

I don't happen to like that look, but we're not talking about my next knife.  Watch me like a hawk, though.  It's so easy to project.

 

There are a few things which really distinguish one Japanese made knife from another -- especially in the professional, high production context. 

 

One thing is blade profile -- which you (bless your heart) brought up on your own.  There's a lot of "it depends," but a few brands do stand out.  I measure everything against Sabatier.  The more like a Sabatier the more I like it; and the less, the less.  By and large, anyway. 

 

Another is handle -- again, a few brands stand out.  You mentioned Shun.  They use a "D" shaped variation of a "wa" (Asian style) handle.  Would you be open to buying a wa-gyuto?  It's not as big a switch as it might seem -- at least not if you have a good grip.  There are some non-obvious advantages we can go into.

 

 

We should talk about your grip.  So...?  If you only have a good grip, we can bump it up to excellent in the course of a couple of shifts, at most.  That should allow you the freedom to get away from "ergonomic" designs like the Furi and give you a great deal more choice.  It will also make you more comfortable and faster. 

 

Definitely open to wa-gyoto. Through the years of drumming/deadlifts that followed the Furi purchase, my grip has become pretty damn solid.

 

A lot of western cooks value stiffness more highly than a lot of Japanese makers.  Japanese knives are light (a good thing), and light can mean whippy (some people no like).  I'm not going to try and sell you the advantage of a flexi chef's knife.  If you like or even if you can live with some degree of flexibility, you gain a lot of good choices.  If not, we're only looking at a few brands.

 

Stiffness is not an issue

 

Edge qualities of course, are where the rubber meets the road (alloy meets the board).  In your price range, you can pretty much have it all, pretty much.  Pretty much.  It's typical that if a cook sharpens a knife with good edge retention every other shift, he'll end up sharpening knives with very good and excellent edge retention every other shift.  Typically on the very same sequence of stones.  Maybe not all, but pretty much.

 

Furis have terrible edge characteristics.  Really, really terrible.  You will do much better, no problem.  Give it a few weeks and you won't have a clue as to how you could live with a Furi for so long.

 

Before we get into all the details and nuances, it's important to remember that while there are differences in hardness, alloy composition, and a bunch of other stuff, none of it will make anywhere near as big a difference as the quality of your sharpening, and your tolerance for performing regular and frequent maintenance.

 

You don't have to be the world's greatest freehand sharpener to enjoy a good knife, but if you're not going to sharpen to "extremely sharp," and maintain your knife that way, we're looking at different knives than if you are.  So... how do you sharpen and maintain?  Are you willing to invest time and money into doing it really well?

 

With the Furi, as well as my other beaters, I mainly use steels/diamonds for the (frequent) daily maintenance. Occasionally I'll take them to the stones, which I actually enjoy.

 

Looking forward to hearing back,

BDL


BDL, you are an asset to this board. Greatly looking forward to your response.

 


Edited by doubleojon - 7/25/11 at 6:13pm
post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 

So as of right now I'm looking at the Hattori FH (was looking at the HD, until I read all of the horror stories about the chipping/breaking) - 21cm, the Konosuke HD wa-gyuto - 21cm (this knife looks so sick!), Konosuke White #2 wa-gyuto - 210cm, Tojiro Hammered wa-gyuto with Rosewood handle - 240cm (for that price might as well go bigger). Maybe the Miyabi Kaizen. Maybe.

 

I've heard so many good things about the Tojiro DP series, but never anything about their other knives. The Hammered wa-gyuto really has my interest because of the price, but I want to know how it would hold up in my kitchen, and how inferior it is to the Konosukes.

 

How would the white steel hold up? What advantages/disadvantages does it present? And what kind of maintenance can I expect (I don't even know how to develop/maintain a patina)?


Edited by doubleojon - 7/27/11 at 1:39pm
post #5 of 11

Assuming the Shiroko (white paper steel #2) is hardened properly, and assuming the knife is properly profiled and the edge properly ground:  It gets very sharp very easily -- as those things go.  It's not magic, someone who isn't a good sharpener can't extract anything like it's potential, but it's easier than just about anything else.  Also (still assuming everything else is right) it's potential for absolute sharpness, is among the very best alloys.

 

Shiroko edges wear well, but not as well as the aogami (blue paper) steels, especially Aogami Super.  The aogamis, especially AS again, are also more stain resistant.

 

AS has a better reputation than Shiroko among people who are more into knives than cooking, and tends to be more aggressively marketed.  But Shiroko is the cook's choice for its edge qualities.  Remember though, that the differences between alloys are more around the margins than really substantive.  The better your knife and sharpening skills, the better able you are to discern the difference, but the less meaning it has.  

 

In the past few days, I've written several times about carbon's "neediness," as I'm sure your aware; and have written about it many more times here and in other places in the past.  All things considered, good carbon knives are a legitimate choice -- but they aren't for everyone.  It's not so much that they need a lot more maintenance, it's just that when they need to be rinsed and wiped, or really cleaned, they need it NOW.   

 

I like carbon knives' edge taking qualities, and used them since before dirt.  I switched to stainless for a few years back in the seventies, but was never really happy with my Henckels, and went back to carbon Sabatiers in the early eighties for the bulk of my kit, including all the "core" knives.  I never much minded the differences in maintenance, and still don't.  But for completely extraneous considerations, I would have bought Shiroko Konosukes rather than HD and stainless. 

 

Bear in mind though that rather obviously I'm not you, and don't expect you to want what I want or like what I like.   

 

The most important thing in your last post, was something you said only in passing.  If you'd really rather have a 24cm than a 21cm knife, it's a good idea to do what's necessary to get a longer blade.  If that means buying a Tojiro, Fujiwara, Kagayaki, or other "budget" name instead of something more prestigious, so be it.  Length is one of the most important considerations.

 

What about a Kagayaki "Carbonext?"

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post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 

I don't mind maintenance; gotta love lovin' what you love.

 

About the size: I've been using 24cm for years now. It's what I'm used to. However, something a little smaller is very appealing to me; so honestly, I could go either way. From the reviews I've read, the laser knives feel smaller than they are, so I would be extra ok with a 24cm in that scenario. What I'm wondering about the Tojiro and the white #2, is if they have that same feel.

 

I'm really leaning towards a wa-gyuto, most likely a laser.

post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 

After all of this, I've pretty much settled on the Kikuichi TKC. It came down to the Konosuke HD and the Rosewood Handle'd Tojiro Hammered, and somehow I managed to find a group review including those two knives. Thrown into the mix was the Kikuichi, which was unanimously voted as the way to go for someone that wants a KHD, but works in a professional kitchen. 

 

Now, do I want 21cm or 24cm? Hmmm...

post #8 of 11

Just got finished writing the same thing to someone doing the same search.  The Kikuichi TKC is a very nice knife.  I haven't had enough time with one to make any serious comments, but a lot of people who know their onions are very high on it. 

 

BDL

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post #9 of 11

24cm ftw ;)

post #10 of 11

Oh yeah.  Length.  Nice pick up ruscal.

 

For your "go to gyuto" you want as much length as you and your board can comfortably handle.  For whatever reason most people feel the 3cm differences between 21 and 24cm and between 27 and 30cm as substantially more significant than the difference between 24 and 27cm.  My guess is that's because 21cm feels like a short knife, 30cm feels like a long knife, but 24 and 27cm are both mediums. 

 

Usually a little work with grip dyanimics will make the next size up just as comfortable as whatever it is you're used to now.  What you can't always fix is counter and board size.  Use a knife that fits your space.

 

Lately, I've been using a 30cm suji as my primary go to.  The knife is so designed and so light that neither the extra length or lower height put pressure on my meager skills, and my boards are big enough not to be an issue.

 

BDL

 

PS.  Go go Gadget suji!

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post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 

I ended up going with the 24cm. 21 just feels too small.

 

I can definitely say I'm in love. The edge is still perfectly capable of shaving, even after a small dinner (including bruschetta), and a 9 hour shift; this is the OOTB edge, too. No stropping, nothing. Just a quick rinse before use, and hasn't needed any sharpening/honing since. My cuts have been so precise, and prep has become a breeze.

 

The weight and balance are perfect, the handle comfy, and the profile of the blade is just right for me.

 

BDL, you were right, I really have no idea how I've tolerated the Furi for this long. 

 

 

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