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MAC Ultimate v Zwillings Kramer carbon v Gyuto

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 



Im trying to decide between knives, im just curious for other opinions


The MAC appears to be very highly regarded by professional chefs but the Kramers appear to be more in vogue with the current fashionable trends.


Another route would be a traditional Wa Gyuto but i dont like the handles and although i know a knife is supposed to be about the steel but i cant get over the handles.


I currently own the MAC Ultimate cleaver and love that, its more of a deba, im just concerned that the ultimate chef knife might not be as thin and nimble as the Kramer or a true Gyuto like a Devin Thomas or similar.



post #2 of 14
A yo-gyuto is a French profiled (more or less) chef's knife, made in Japan, with a western style handle. A wa-gyuto is a French profiled (more or less) chef's knife, made in Japan, with an Asian style handle. While there are a few minor distinctions (e.g., machi, measurement points) the only significant differences are the handles.

If you have decent grip technique, your adaptation time from yo to wa-handle is 0, pretty much. I'm not saying you'll like one as much as the other, but the way you hold the knife doesn't change at all. I have both, and yes they do feel slightly different in the hand, but no I don't care one way or the other. You may find otherwise -- but the threshold for most people seems to be more a matter of skill level and grip style, than personal tastes. Call it a rough rule of thumb: The better your grip, the less the knife handle matters.

I've only fooled around with the Zwilling/Kramer at SLT -- cut a couple of potatoes and a little mirepoix. I can't say I really cared for the profile, it was too German for my tastes, but otherwise the knife was light, agile and easy to point. I don't know what the sharpening and durability characteristics are, probably excellent. $350 is a lot to pay for a knife, and while the Kramer seems extremely well made it wouldn't be my choice for anywhere near the money.

It's hugely different from a MAC Pro in a lot of ways. It's not really fair to either one to make a straight across comparison. Price isn't the only difference but it sure as heck is an important one. The MAC Ultimate is the MAC Pro with different cosmetics, a supposedly better alloy and a significantly higher price. As much as I like the Pro, I can't bring myself to respect the Ultimate. At the Kramer's and Ultimate's price, unless you're buying primarily for hobby purposes you should get something that is every bit what you want.

So? What do you want? What don't you want? What are your skills like? How well do you sharpen?

Edited by boar_d_laze - 9/5/11 at 6:14pm
post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 

I want a really sharp knife that looks fantastic, I am prepared to pay a little extra for cosmetics, im not willing to compromise the blade quality for cosmetics though.


Thats one of my biggest knocks on the MAC pro. the graphics on the blade are awful cheap nasty paint !!


My sharpeneing skills are coming along, I think i might end up investing in the Edge pro system though. I want to get all my knives then ill figure out the best way forward there. I know its not the best way but if stay with cheaper knoves I might just get teh Chefs choice XV sharpener.





post #4 of 14
Alan -- Know what you mean by MAC Pro's graphics. If it's any comfort, they're worse in pictures than on the knife; and they wear off pretty quickly under ordinary circumstances, faster if you want them too. You might want to check out the Masamoto VG. It's roughly the same price as the MAC, and as good an all-rounder, but with a slightly different set of strengths and weaknesses.

Look, I can help you spend $350 if you want, but doubt you'll be getting anything positive out of it that you wouldn't get for $100 less. At the high prices we're talking about, knives have been seriously tweaked in a particular direction or two -- for instance ultra-thinness and some sort of prestige alloy -- and/or they're customs or semi-customs, and/or they're seriously tarted up without any performance benefit whatsoever.

Without the skills to keep your blade straight and your edge dead square to the board, too much thinness becomes a very annoying liability. Similarly, if you don't have really good sharpening skills, not only will you not notice the benefits conferred by the big-deal alloy, but the super hardness won't stand up to ordinary maintenance techniques like steeling.

In the $200+ range, I think you should be looking at the Kikuichi TKC. Perhaps the Tadatsuna yo-gyuto -- either in Inox or White if you're open to carbon -- too, but a Tad might be too thin. I don't know the Gesshin Ginga personally, but am hearing very good things about it and should have the opportunity to mess with one shortly -- it's stainless but also maybe too thin. Masamoto HC is darn near perfect -- again, if you're open to carbon. The Ryusen Blazen sold at Epicurean Edge (not the one sold by JCK), ain't bad either. Too hard for my tastes, but maybe not for yours.

post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 



Ive been studying a lot today and ive narrowed it down to the following, its not all the choices but I have to draw a line. Honosuke HD, Hattori FH, Gesshin Ginga in the thin knives or the MAC Ultimate. I know you historically knock the ultimate but i get a good discount on it and would not pay more than $250 for the 10.5 inch.


My big issue is that I like the MAC knives I own and love the handles but i really want the thin blade with rounded spine that the other 3 come with.


I just cant decide which way to go. I think its down to the Gesshin Ginga for the thinner type and the MAC.


I understand your point about sharpening but thats something im going to have to invest the time in to learn.





post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 



Just when i thought id narrowed it down you bring up Tadatsuna, ive never checked them out before, they look really good.


The thing that everyone is saying though is they are very thin, this might im thinking make it hard for a novice sharpener like me to handle.


Its $288 for the 270 mm gyuto, it is tempting.


Its strange, I make decisions on million dollar projects at work and never second guess myself, at home i can even decide on a knife !!!



post #7 of 14
Just generically, thin is very easy to sharpen. In fact, thin is easier to sharpen than thick.

The issues, such as they are, are with use. Partly because of construction issues, and partly because of the way most Japanese makers understand the market, very few yo-gyuto are thin enough to be in the "laser" class. You'll be happy to know the Tad yo-gyuto isn't one of them.

But yes it is on the thin side of yo-gyutos -- along with some of your other choices; and the question is whether or not you'll be happy and comfortable with a knife which is going to feel whippy if you don't stay straight in the cut and square to the board. The usual use restrictions, fish bones, thick-skinned gourds, melon rind, pineapple skin, are an indirect way of saying avoid cutting anything which will overtax your skills. Otherwise, the thinner the better.

I've talked this over with friends (two professional execs, one ex sous who know owns a Japanese knife store) who've trained a lot of pros and the consensus among us is that a laser -- like a Tad wa-gyuto or a Konosuke HD (also wa) -- probably shouldn't be your first good knife in a pro kitchen because of the handling issues. On the other hand, I've heard from quite a few home cooks with barely adequate skills who've bought lasers as their first good knives, and been completely delighted.

One of the big reasons I recommend MAC Pro to so many people is because even though it's a just a touch thick by high-end yo-gyuto standards, it's so stiff; almost as stiff as a western made knife without being nearly as thick or graceless as most of those are. The Ultimate is much the same, and may well be the best choice for you.

I do steer people away from obviously bad choices, but don't want to push anyone towards any particular knife. Getting down to cases, even if I did I don't know enough about you to do that here. What I can and want to do is to give you some information about knives in general, give you a bit of an overview of the market (or market segment), and act as a sounding board for your own ideas so you can limit the pool of possibilities to nothing but good choices before you start throwing darts.

A good guide helps improve your climbing but doesn't pull you up the mountain.

post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 



Thanks, just to clarify a few things though.


1 - I am just an ethusiastic home cook, not a pro.


2 - Im not overly concerned about the yo-gyuto being used for heavy stuff, i have the MAC ultimate 8.5 inch cleaver which more than accomodates anything that needs some muscle. I set out to buy a deba but the MAC was on sale at 50% off and just felt perfect in my hands compared to a wa-deba


3 - I think im leaning away from the MAC's purely because of thickness, i think its down to the Tadatsuna and the Gesshin Ginga, they are both $300 including shipping. I do think that ill be better served with a stainless blade, although I look after my knives religiously I dont find the patina on carbon knives attractive, this might not be politically correct but hey its my knife !!


4 - What are examples of these laser knives you are talking about ? do the exist in yo handles or only wa ? is there a lower end one that I could maybe look at as an experimental knife or do i have to go to a high end one to make it realistic.


Thanks for taking the time to reply, hopefully a few others can relate.




post #9 of 14
Only wa. Nothing remotely inexpensive, making a knife that thin is very difficult and involves a lot of failures -- which you pay for when you buy a successful effort.

Best deals in laser gyutos are the Konosuke White carbon and Konosuke stainless. Put up your umbrella, it's about to rain carbon info.

The carbon is very nice; the particular alloy, Hitachi Shiroko (aka White #2, aka Shirogami #2), hardened to 63ish; it's too hard to true on a steel, but otherwise fairly easy to maintain as carbon goes; you don't have to let it grow a dark patina -- I have 70 year old carbon Sabatiers which glow like a well-maintained tool. It's just a matter of periodic scouring baking soda.

Except for the alloy, the stainless is the same knife as the carbon (and so is the very expensive HD, for that matter). The alloy is Hitachi G3, hardened to around 58, which is a little on the soft side for some people (not me). Considering that it's a laser, it's actually pretty durable. You can true on a steel if you're very careful; so "net-net," as a friend of mine says, it doesn't have to go to the stones more often than the other Konosukes. Perhaps the most practical of all the lasers.

Sakai Yusuke used to be the bargain laser, but I don't know were to get it anymore. Off the top of my head, the other quality lasers are the Tadatsunas in both white and stainless, the Suisun Inox Honyaki, and I think the Gesshin wa either qualifies or almost does as well... but you'd have to call Japanese Knife Imports and ask. The Tadatsunas are even thinner (but not by much) than the Konosukes.

If you're thinking wa, and are willing to spend the bucks, it's hard to beat the Masamoto KS (again, carbon) gyuto. The Masamoto is about as thin as you can get, and still be "regular," plus it's a Masamoto. In my opinion it has a very strong claim on "best knife in the world at any price."

FWIW, which is damn little, I have three Konosukes, an HD 27cm gyuto, an HD 30cm suji, and a stainless 15cm petty. Very impressive knives, which suit me to a "T."

Everything considered, if you want a laser, the Konosuke stainless could be a good choice. But fun as XTreme thinness is, it puts a heavy premium on skills. Jut just listening to your druthers, I'd lean towards the yo-Tad, yo-Gesshin (perhaps the wa-Gesshin if it's not too thin) and the Kikuichi TKC as list toppers. Re the Gesshins, Jon, the guy who owns JKI, has very similar tastes to mine in terms of profile, he's very high on them, and for the time being I'm taking his opinion on faith.

Edited by boar_d_laze - 9/6/11 at 12:46pm
post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 



Still no closer to a final decision, im going to sit on it for a day or two. I plan on calling Jon and talking it over with him also. The current leader is the Gesshin Ginga followed by the Konosuke HD, not ruling out others yet though. Im not overkeen on the Kikuichi, just doesnt catch my eye somehow.



Talking of eyecatching, i looked at the Masamoto KS, wow they are beautiful. It really makes me doubt my dislike for wa handles. The Gyutos look incredibly well made and finished but the 165 mm petty with the marble ferrule thats on the JCK site just looks like a work of art. They are pricey but not into the silly range, it does make me think !! once sorted on the gyuto i might just take a gamble on that petty.


I also saw that they make a 330 mm deba for like $1700 !! i can only imagine what a beautiful and powerful knife that would be.




post #11 of 14
If you don't absolutely love it, don't buy it. I'm not sure if Jon is in the country or not, I know he was going to Japan for a couple of weeks around now. When you do talk to him, let us know what he says. You may also want to talk to Mark at CKTG. He carries the Konosukes too, as well as a huge selection of other knives (that you've already looked at, right?). Like Jon, he loves matching knives to buyers. They're both very good at it -- just not as good as me biggrin.gif

post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 



I ordered the Konosuke HD 270 yo handle.


Its a bit cheaper than the Gesshin Ginga and seeing as i couldnt make a decsion based on any other criteria cost became the decding factor !!


Should arrive by the weekend with luck


Just hope its the right decision, its a well thought of product though so im thinking is i dont like this knife I probably would not have liked any of the similar knives.



post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 

Got my Konosuke HD 270


Wow, i love it, it feels great to use.


I genuinely did not know what sharp meant until i first tried this knife, it has opened my eyes to what sharp means !!!


The knife is a little plain to look at but this is not important, unlike the fancy knives at SLT etc this one is strictly based on performance. Ive had Shun etc and they have never been anywhere near as sharp and comfortable as this bad boy.


The only negative is that i can already tell im going to have to seriuosly step up on sharpening, I currently have a small 800/6000 king stone, looking around im thinking of either the edge pro system or some 8x3 Norton stones. maybe 1000/4000/8000  get two stones, one a combo to cover all three. Any advice please ?


Next up is to look for a couple more knives, i have the following


MAC carbon Yanagi 270

Mac 8.5 inch deba

Mac 3 inch damascus paring

Konosuke 270 HD gyuto.


Im thinking a smaller chef knife/petty, something in the 6/7 inch range but maintaining the level of sharpness of the HD, something with a bigish handle for the size of blade.






post #14 of 14
Four levels and Flattening
Coarse for profile and repair: Beston 500 or Gesshin 400;
Coarse end of Medium for drawing the first burr: Bester 1200;
Medium/Medium-Fine for a refined burr and a useful polish: Suehiro Rika 5K or Takenoko 6K;
Polish: Kitayama 8K or Naniwa SS 8K (experts only!) or SS 10K (ditto) or Naniwa Pure White 8K or Magnesia 10K; and
Flattening: Drywall screen (slow) or DMT XXC plate (expensive).

Or... Get one of the EP kits. It's not going to cost you much more than the high quality kit outlined above. You can get an Apex with Chosera stones for under $300 from CKTG. I might get an EP later this month as my "self birthday present," just to screw around with. Maybe.

If you're serious about a yanagiba though, you should know that EPs are not all that great on hamaguri and other single side edges.

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