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3 knife advice - heirloom for my son

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

Hi, this is my inaugural post.  My interest in knives has suddenly been ignited by my son studying to be a chef.  I'd like to buy him a nice knife for Christmas.  I've been looking around a fair bit on line and in the price range in which I'm looking (between $200 and $320), I've found three knives.  I'm going to list them, but first I'll list my 'requirements' (of course flexible and subject to change after advice).

 

Basically, I'm hoping for some advice about which is the 'best' of the three, and also if people think that all three are not worth the money...

 

So, my selection criteria are as follows:

 

Gyuto 240mm (so Japanese)

'damascus'

(full tang?? - is it an issue if it doesn't have a full tang - one of the knives doesn't)

stainless (vg-10) core and stainless damascus

looks cool (sorry, I know that sounds shallow)

pref hammered (again I think it looks cool)

 

I think that's about it... so the knives I've come with are (I'm leaning (a lot) toward the first one):

 

Kikuicho Warikomi Damascus:  http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kigoelgy24.html

 

Tenmi Jyuraku Damascus:    http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/TenmiJyurakuDamascusSeries.html#WIDTH:%20400px;%20HEIGHT:%20184px

 

and

 

Ryusen Tscuchime Damascus

 

http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/RyusenTsuchimeDamascusSeries.html

 

Any advice would be greatly appreciated (and thankyou for taking the patience to read this).  Please don't beat around the bush... if you think any of these knives are no-good, or any of my 'selection criteria' are silly, then please feel free to fire away.

 

Many thanks.

 

post #2 of 16

Do you know if your son's selection criteria match yours?

 

I'd want to know if he wants a warikomi knife at all (or maybe he doesn't have a preference); and then I'd want to know if he shares the concern with appearance -- and prefers damascus and tschuchime ("hammered").  I'm not specifically familiar with those knives, so they may all be great for the type. My own tastes are very different.  I think very occasionally there's a particularly good looking Damascus, or what I call "Damascoid", but that's rare.  In all of the cases you list, it appears to me you're being asked to pay a huge premium for the visual aspect of the knife.  If you like it, then it's not a silly criterion.  Or maybe it's more accurate to say, if your son likes it, it's not a silly criterion.  But I think ou could get a functionally better knife for less money without that criterion.  And then if his tastes run differently, you'd be correct to do so.

 

Kikuichi make some beloved carbon (Elite) and low-stain carbon (TKC) knives.  More beloved than their warikomi/gold.  I would look at the TKC, myself.   In part because I think low-stain carbon is as good as stainless to me.  It might not be to others.  And except in the ways in which it's as good as carbon (sharpenability, primarily.  There are stainless that are as good in these terms, too -- but in general I think VG-10 isn't one of them. "The same" steel from different manufacturers is different, so often there will be exceptions to many generalizations like this, by the way.  And... many knives, many very good knives, are made with mystery steels.

 

And with the brands... some lines of knives within one brand are very good, and others might not be.  I mention the Kikuichi above only because I've seen a lot of feedback on those.  I don't mean to ignore the others.  Ryusen -- I haven't really read anything, even, about their knives other than the Ryusen Blazen.  And though I've read a bit about Hiromoto knives, the Tenmi Jyuraku I've "run into" not at all.

 

Disclaimer is that I haven't used any of these knives specifically; and the redundancy -- my immediate reaction is that these are all expensive, and it seems much of that expense is based on the fancy look.  I relate to wanting a good looking knife -- it is important -- so don't know what to say about someone else's taste in looks.  Fortunately for me, I like lots of looks that don't automatically come at such a premium.

post #3 of 16

Wyvern, I like VG10 knives and I like damascus style. I have experience with a number of different makers and I can say that VG10 never disappoints, none of them... and I have a lot of knives to compare to.

 

Instead of the first knife you mentioned (Kikuichi Warikomi), I would strongly suggest to look at the Gekko from Japanese Chef Knives you already mentioned. I believe they are in the "specials" section. They are the same as the Kikuicho Warikomi, but look at the price...

 

Last friday I was watching "Lanz kocht" on the German TV and watched one of the chefs work with a Ryussen Tsuchime that you mentioned. That is a real beauty and watching him work with it made my mouth fall open!!!

Ryussen makes fantastic knives. They also produce the Hattori HD also available at JCK. In my opinion still one of the best chef knives in damascus around! But, if I were a chef, I would be extremely pleased with a massive VG10 chef knife from the HattoriFH series.

 

Here's a picture of my HattoriFHs(a gift to my daughter) and the 240 HattoriHD and 210 Gekko

 

HattoriKF.jpgtsushime1.jpg

post #4 of 16

Chris -- are the Gekkos literally the same as the Kikuichi warikomi, re-branded? That'd be a good thing to know!

post #5 of 16
I'm on my way out, and don't have time to go into detail but wanted to say something in case you were already warming up your Platinum Debit Card.

I'll be very blunt. None of the three knives you've linked are very good at the price; all are far more about appearance than performance; and none are appropriate in a professional kitchen, especially for a newly minted cook as all will call the wrong sort of attention the knife itself and your son as well. There's nothing magic about VG-10; it's reputation was highly over-hyped; it's no longer THE prestige alloy; there are a few really good VG-10 knives, but most VG-10 blades, hardened to 59RCH or higher, run brittle. There's nothing better about "full tang." What you really need to look at is the difference between "yo" and "wa."

The price range itself is probably inappropriate for a line cook's work knife. Knives get "borrowed" then "lost" or abused. We can discuss if you want, but understand I'm not going to tell you how much to spend on a gift.

Four "full tang" knives in a similar price range, and much better in every respect are: Hattori FH (one of the few really good VG-10s), Kikuichi TKC (mentioned by Wagstaff), Ikkanshi Tadatsuna Inox western-style, and Gesshin Ginga yo-gyuto.

More later,
BDL
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post #6 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wagstaff View Post

Chris -- are the Gekkos literally the same as the Kikuichi warikomi, re-branded? That'd be a good thing to know!



You would be surprised how many retailers sell the same knife. I found more than 5 different names for exactly the same discription! Don't know who makes them.

Here are a few;

http://www.mehr-als-werkzeug.de/product/719254/Kusakichi-Hocho-3-piece-set.htm

http://www.japan-messer-shop.de/kochmesserfuereinsteigerkochmesser/AOKI-Sakai-Takayuki-Suminagashi-Tsuchime-Sujihiki--24-5-cm-Klingenlaenge--rostfrei.html

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Japanese-meat-knife-gyuto-210mm-hammered-damascus-/360238432707?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item53dfe241c3 

post #7 of 16
A great many Japanese knives are made by committee. Even the blades can have the jigane sourced from one place, the hagane from another and be laminated in a third (especially with san-mai stainless suminagashi over VG-10). But it's not at all unusual for the blades to come from one manufacturer, handles from another, the finish work by yet another, and the final sharpening and detail by a fourth. Sometimes some of these subs are associated with one hamono, which may or may not attach its own name (Sakai Takayuki is a hamono, e.g., and not an actual maker), and sometimes not.

Just because two knives look EXACTLY the same and have the same description, doesn't mean they were made by all or any of the same people. If tsuchime/VG-10/san-mai santokus with rosewood handles are in demand, a bunch of people in and around Seki will end up working on them. On the other hand, just because they have different names doesn't mean they didn't come from the same manufacturers. It's all very complicated, and changes frequently. My impression is that much of the time many retailers don't know the specific manufacturing history either.

BDL
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post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 

Well, thanks very much everyone.  I asked to be served and I guess I have been (and trussed and bound).

 

I really do appreciate the time you have taken to respond to my original query.

 

BDL, I've taken your advice on-board... I guess I need to decide whether I want to buy him a knife he'll use, or simply look pretty and sit in the cupboard.  

 

I do reject your inference re my financial situation, I guess the issue for us is geographic... I live in Australia and we're totally used to getting completely shafted by retailers (and probably more significantly distributors) who feel they have a captive market... well at least until the rise of the www.  Now you should here them bleating.  EIther way I don't have a platinum (or gold) anything.  I'm not sure why I need to defend my lack of wealth, when really to have more dosh is 'better' than less... but there you go.

 

Anyway, I set my range as what seemed reasonable for (granted, good) knives over here.  But the quality available from the US (via Japan) far outstrips anything we get here for the same price.  Though not being very experienced buying knives, happy for other Australians to disagree.

 

So... BDL, Yo and Wa do you mean handle styles?  From your selection, I'm leaning toward Gesshin Ginga yo-gyuto.. but based upon nothing really other than I've not come across it in all my looking around.

 

I really do welcome the robust advice, and any more to come.   

 

Cheers.

post #9 of 16

I've got a Gesshin Ginga wa-  handled petty.  Yes, "yo" essentially means Western handled, "wa-" the trad Japanese handles -- and all that goes with it.  What goes with it is things like rat-tail vs. full-tang, which is I think why it came up. 

 

For some knives, the yo-handled and the wa-handled in the "same line" are very different -- the blade geometry might be very different. So for particular knives it might not just mean the handle type, even though that's what the words mean to convey in general. 

 

If this isn't too confusing (sorry for any whiplash) -- I don't think that's the case with the Gesshin Ginga; that is, I think the geometry of the blades is the same on the yo- and wa- handled knives.

 

Note those knives are super-thin, which means lighter, means will "feel sharper" than a thicker knife, means all sorts of things.  But it also means they're a bit less robust. Which may or may not matter -- cutting technique comes into play.

 

And you haven't seen them elsewhere in all your looking around because Gesshin is the house-brand for JKI, and the knives are made with Jon Broida's input.  Gesshin Ginga in particular are made by Ashi Hamono.  You'll find the Ashi around elsewhere probably; but the GG are tweaked and made only for JKI.

 

If I had the money and were in the market for a high-end stainless gyuto right now, I'd get the GG 270mm in a heartbeat.  They're beautiful knives. There are reasons to prefer and reasons to avoid something so laser-thin, so just be aware of what you or your son might prefer in that regard. Jon talked me into something a bit thicker and something a bit less expensive the first purchase I made from JKI.  And that was before he knew my crazed-eye consumerism well enough to know I'd eventually get to the anorexic blades...

 

Anyway, talking about the GG knives because you're at first blush attracted to them, and I've handled several of them, unlike the others up for consideration.

 

BTW, I do like Damascus steel in more decorative, ceremonial knives.  Like one I'd wear with the full traditional garb at a Scottish wedding.  I just rarely like them in kitchen knives.... but *still* I think that consideration is fine if you and your son really do love them.  It just seems like those you pointed out are too much jack for the performance. [And a knife that simply "looks pretty" might be used at home... if he's got other good knives for work... I dunno.  There are lots of considerations in gift-giving, some of which may -- in some cases -- be inimical to "best tool for the job".  So you may or may not want sort that out separately or differently from where input here leads.]


Edited by Wagstaff - 9/21/11 at 11:36pm
post #10 of 16
Sorry about the misunderstanding engendered by the debit card reference. It was in no way intended as a reflection or speculation on your wealth. Rather it was a joke.

Drawer queen or useful, usable knife? Appropriate for work, or at home only? Good questions.

If we're talking about collectibles, none of the knives on your list qualifies. Collectible Japanese knives start about three price ranges up, with things like Shigefusa Kitaeji and Yoshikane Tamomoku. I can't think of a collectible yo-gyuto off hand, but they may exist. In any case, these knives lose their collectible status the first time they're used moving from one status to that of merely ultra high-end.

Giving ultra high-end knives intended for use (top of the line Tadatsuna yanagibas, e.g.) as gifts to cooks is an honored tradition; but again, we're talking about bumping the price considerably to play the game. Unless the cook is a chef with total control of the kitchen (doesn't happen much in the US), the knife has no business going to work -- so it will be a stay at home or drawer queen, which takes us back to the basic questions.

I do know a little about knives in those exalted price ranges and would love to share with you if you're interested. But, soooooo expensive. For a few bucks more than the knives on your list you could buy a Masamoto KS wa-gyuto -- as perfect a practical knife as there is -- but whether that's the sort of knife you want to give remains an open question.

You can get all kinds of knives from Japan to the antipodes -- even Oz. At the end of the day, you might have to slightly prune your list of choices, but since you're starting at zero, that's not much of an issue.

Something else to consider is that practical knife ownership is always all about sharpening.

Understand, I'm not recommending anything one way or the other; just trying to give you an overview of the landscape while encouraging you to narrow the field by figuring out what sort of knife you want to give.

BDL
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post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 

Hey BDL,

 

Apologies, I've been away for a couple of days.  Many thanks for your advice.  I've also had a chance to speak with my son in the interim...

 

  • Wa or Yo (he's not fussed, he's used both - and is probably not yet experienced enough to go either way with conviction).
  • Damascus (he'd like a 'fancy looking knife - he's that kind of guy)... but for me, not at the expense of a better knife.  I've read that 'some' knifemakers use damascus because it has appeal, and it means that they don't need to use the more expensive core metal for the entire blade (basically, I still would like the knife to 'have a place' in the professional kitchen).
  • Still looking for a 240mm Gyuto (but I'm thinking that I have the idea that a Gyuto is a western blade not usually part of a traditional Japanese Chefs 'toolkit' so is a Wa handled Gyuto an oxymoron of sorts?
  • I'm still thinking stainless, I know the purists probably prefer high carbon, but I'm thinking my son may not have the maintenance discipline yet, and I would prefer he learn it on another high-carbon steel knife.

 

So, I am kinda looking at the Hattori HD, along with the other knives you recommended.

 

Based upon this extra little piece of knowledge, would you still be inclined to go with one of the three you recommended before?

 

Many thanks for all your (everyones) input and Kind Regards,

 

W

 

 

post #12 of 16

The style you mention is sometimes called "Damascus", but suminagashi is more appropriate.  As others have pointed out this is merely an ornamentation that does nothing to improve the performance of a knife.  BDL doesn't care for clad knives but if you don't mind them there are certainly some fine ones out there.  I find the "Tsuchime" or hammered style to be quite attractive.  I also like the more "rustic" kurouichi finish.  There's an embarrassment of riches out there; indeed, the problem lies in narrowing the field down to a manageable number.  I'd say living where you do that you may want to check out JapaneseChefsKnife.com.  They offer cheap flat rate shipping to nearly everywhere on Earth.  And their service and selection is very good, too.

 

Of the knives they carry, I can enthusiastically recommend a few.  First is the Kagayaki CarboNext.  These are made for JCK.  They're my favorite knives under $200.  The Hattori KF/FH that BDL mentions are also very good, and probably the only VG-10 blade I'd still recommend even in the $300 price range.

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post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 

OK, I've finally settled on a knife... thanks to BDL and everyone else whose chipped in (thanks) ...

 

And after your post yesterday Phaedrus, I stopped Googling 'Damascus' and switched to suminagashi.  This was very illuminating, I think to buy a good suminagashi blade is an expensive exercise, and I think I realised that buying a 'good' knife now is a better use of funds.

 

So the selected knife (fanfare please) - Gesshin Ginga 240mm Gyuto.  umm... however, I do have one more question... I was thinking of buying the Wa.  Do you think I should stick to the Yo?  Is there some reason the Ginga with a Wa handle is not the way to go?

 

Does anyone have any links to the differences (other than aesthetic and balance) between wa and yo?  Are the two styles held completely differently?

 

Anyway, thanks again to everyone... my rapid education in Japanese knives continues (now I suppose I really should buy for myself too).

post #14 of 16

Personal preference... I prefer the wa-, myself. The wa- is a little lighter for two reasons -- the handle itself is lighter, and there's less metal both in terms of the different length of the tang and how the blade is measured.  That is, the blade will be something like 10mm shorter on a wa- handled knife, generally.  While they're not even precisely measured in mm... the yo- handled knives are measured from heel to tip, where the wa- handled knives are measured from handle to tip. 

 

I love that knife. I'd buy one now if I had the scratch. My Gesshin Ginga petty is my most used knife nowadays (though I cook 99% veggie for one, which makes a big difference. The gyuto is a more all-purpose knife for sure).

 

With a gyuto, the two styles are held the same way. The spines and choils are rounded nicely on those knives, too -- ootb, really perfect for a pinch grip.

 

It IS a "laser" -- a very thin blade, which means technique has to be good as far as grip and squaring up to the board, not twisting at all on the draw through anything like a hard squash. That is, a little bit of adjustment of technique is necessary if your son is used to German knives, or just "mightier" knives in general.   (You probably already know this, so forgive me if it's just redundant). 

 

 

post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 

Many thanks for the input Wagstaff.

 

My only issue now is to wait until Jon has them in-stock. ;(

 

Now I need to find out about sharpening, so he can practise on cheap knives.  Sharpening a knife is something I've always wanted to learn too.

 

The Gesshin stones seem quite expensive (is that what you should be paying to sharpen good knives?), perhaps I should start a different thread or read-about a bit.  I've noticed some people are saying "I sharpen this to 13 degrees" and "that to 2 degrees", etc.  I'm assuming these people are doing it with machine assist...

post #16 of 16

It's almost certainly not possible to get to anything like a single degree accuracy freehanding.  Jon would tell you not to worry about it... especially on a knife as thin as the Gesshin Ginga.  (He's told ME that, at least!  And he never measures angles himself). 

 

The Gesshin stones are relatively pricey -- though they are long-lasting for what they are, and they're bigger than many of the competing stones.  The splash-and-go stones are less expensive than the soakers, but still, there are definitely stones that cost less that may be as good for your purposes, or you might like just as much or more.  Those stones are very much to Jon's personal taste. 

 

Before I bought anything from JKI, I bought a combination stone for cheap -- one of which is just "ok" from what I hear here (BDL has written of it-- it's the one from JCK, which I bought when I bought a gyuto from them, saving on postage and a stone, both).  Jon at first discouraged me from buying anything else, just so you know... he thought it better than he'd expected, and that it was adequate for practicing on, and created a good edge.  It's definitely nothing special, but nothing bad either; and finally the ability to sharpen, the technique, was more important than the quality of the stone. 

 

That said, I worked on various of his stones, too (and bought a couple since); I like the Gesshin stones VERY much indeed.  I worked on his 2000 soaker, which I thought was really great, and I may buy next.  I asked about the Bester 1200, though, which is less expensive, and is part of the  set of 3 sold for a very good price from CKTG. Jon said "great stone... I have a bunch of them myself, still".  So there's that.  I'd consider the set of 3 from CKTG -- it's a Beston 500, Bester 1200, and Suehiro Rika 5000 for a good price.  Around $130 for the set.

 

Unless you've developed a taste for one stone over another, it probably makes more sense to go with the less expensive good ones just to start. (But then you might get obsessive and have to buy the Gesshin stones just so you feel like you 'know'... I don't know if you're one of those people or not!)  I think often what people end up liking, at least for a while, is what they liked first.  (Does that make sense?) 

 

BDL has used a whole lot more stones than I -- as have various other people who post here.  There are some threads already up that go into the question of "what stones should I buy?" already... so yeah, read about a bit.  The Gesshin stones are pretty new to market, so you won't find a WHOLE lot of experience to read about with them; and especially not from people who have very broad experience and didn't just need a new stone after they came to market.  On another knife forum, the 400 in particular got a LOT of praise as a coarse stone; but where you are in this journey isn't particularly needful of a coarse stone yet, and again the Beston 500 is considerably less expensive and highly regarded in these parts.

 

For one knowledgeable person's bottom-line set of recommendations -- Look at BDL's Post #14 on this thread:  http://www.cheftalk.com/t/67301/mac-ultimate-v-zwillings-kramer-carbon-v-gyuto#post_362897

 

Edit -- I don't know when Jon will have the 240mm wa-GG back in stock, but he's in Japan at the moment, I'd be surprised if it's not soon upon returning.  I did see, however, the 270mm is in stock.  My preferred length, esp for a knife that light.  (This is just me, maybe -- for me the pair of the 270mm gyuto and the 210mm petty works; the 240mm feels like a compromise, but maybe for someone who isn't enamored of the 210mm petty it makes more sense.  I have the 240mm "surrounded"!)

 

 


Edited by Wagstaff - 9/26/11 at 10:05pm
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