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Help OCD geek decide on his first "big boy" J-knife

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

I can haz my own thread?


Greetings from a long-time lurker. I can't even begin to guess how long I've been reading this site (and others) as I research this topic. But I finally made myself an account.


I've read until my brain hurts and read more. I figured maybe it was time to actually have a discussion thread custom to me, instead of sorting through all the ones that don't apply for various reasons. So let me tell you about me:


Home cook, although all my friends thing I'm a "pro chef" from how I approach things and the final product. Stocked kitchen, albeit small (live alone by myself). Always had a passion for food and cooking. A bit geeky (computers) and OCD by nature... perhaps to my detriment here. I have better knife skills than all my friends, who are "wowed" by stuff I think nothing of, and I naturally picked up a pinch-grip on my own, but in my opinion I suck compared to all of you. :P Certainly to what I see on Food Network.


I used to think I wanted Wustof or Henkels. Then I thought I wanted Shun. My research eventually lead me to enlightenment, and sites like here.


What I want: A good, all-around replacement for my "chef knife" which is my go-to knife out of habit. At least for starters. I have a block set, it sucks. It was a gift... (no hate). I'll use it to practice my sharpening skills on, along with a random assortment of high-carbon knives. I'm used to a 210mm and have a small workspace. I'm comfortable and agile with that so preferably I'd like to stick with that. I suppose I'd be willing to move up to 240mm if there was a knife that was so "OMFG" better that it was worth it but otherwise let's focus on 210mm. I'm used to western "yo" handles so that'd be my first choice but I don't want that to be a limiting factor. I'm pretty sure I could learn a "wa" handle if it was a deciding factor or could save me a considerable amount of money for the same blade. So I'm open to it. All things being equal, I'd probably prefer "yo" but I'll learn "wa" if the perfect blade only comes in it or is a lot cheaper. I'm not a "death grip" guy.


Carbon vs. stainless? I still can't decide. I'm sure I can handle the maintenance of carbon, but the ease factor of "not having to worry about it" of stainless is appealing too. Despite the countless hundreds of posts I've read from experts giving advice to others, I still can't decide where I stand, because I can't even figure out where the experts stand. Don't rule out either I guess. If carbon has enough advantages, let's go carbon and I'll deal with it. If there's a stainless or semi-stainless that is "close enough", then that's on the table too. Fair enough? I'm not a pro chef... I cook for myself, occasionally a second... once in a blue moon for many people. Keeping my knife clean is not a problem. I tend to prep ahead of time (my friends are always fascinated by my extensive use of prep bowls) and take my time. I don't own a dishwasher and would never let my knives touch it even if I did.


I'm more utilitarian than looks and flash. While I can appreciate the looks of some Japanese writing on the blade, it's not a deal-breaker. I am pretty sure I do not want "damascus" steel. That seems all about looks and nothing else, to the point where I think I'd be embarrassed to have it just like some obnoxious over-sized useless spoiler on my car. I'm still trying to get beyond my old thinking of "3-rivets = good".


Sharpening: I recognize it's all about sharpening. While I imagine I'll be good at sharpening just from intuition and my attention to detail, I don't have a "proper" stone set yet or practice on one. I'm anxious/eager to learn. Let's work on the assumption that I'll already have a Shapton Glass set (2 stones, probably 3) and will have cut my teeth on it using my existing crap knives for practice by the time I actually buy my big-boy knife discussed here, but I won't be "expert". I'm OK with the cost and it seems a good brand/stone.


Budget: I don't want to spend less than $100 I don't think. Under or around $200 would be ideal, but that's not "hard". Consider $300 to be the "hard" limit unless you are really good at convincing me why the $320 knife is better than the $250 one. Sound fair? I want this to be a sensible long-term investment, not a tentative playful test of the knife-waters.


It's be cool if it was good and sharp OOB as who knows how my sharpening skills will be and how soon. However, if "the perfect knife" is not sharp OOB and there's someone I can mail it to who will put an amazing edge on it for me and ship it back, I'm down with that but let's factor that into the price when comparing with other knives which may not require such post-purchase detailing. Assume there's nobody nearby I can take it to.


I've been familiar with CKtG and JCK for some time, although I've never ordered from either. I know both come highly recommended. I've not spoken with either of them yet. I'm comfortable ordering from either... but honestly there'd be something cool about ordering from some Japanese guy direct using PayPal and waiting a month for it to show up via slow boat international mail. So if there's a little "hassle" in the ordering process in order to get a good knife, I'm not shy about it (Aritsugo?). I do not speak Japanese, however. So CKtG, JCK, otherwise... it's all good, as long as English can get the job done and someone here can vouch for the company. Hell, if you're well-known here and live in Japan I'd be down with sending you money for you to pick up some cool knife and mail it to me.


My "list": I don't have a "list", so you can relax. :) What I do have are some knives that sort of caught my eye that seemed like they might fit my tastes. You might tell me some/all are junk. You might tell me my perfect knife is not on the "list". That's cool... please please please don't limit your suggestions to this list. My only attempt here is to try and communicate better where my mind is and what I've seen so far.  That said...


Fujiwara Kanefusa FKM No. 9 210mm Gyuto (disturbingly inexpensive?)

JCK Original KAGAYAKI CarboNext (ES) Series KC-5 210mm Gyuto

Tenmi-Jyuraku Series (Aogami Super) TJ-25AS 210mm Gyuto

Misono Professional Sweden Steel Series No. 112 210mm Gyuto

JCK CT Series CT5021 210mm chef

JCK HC Series HC-5021 210mm Gyuto

MAC Professional Mighty Chef's Knife 8.5"

Konosuke HD 210mm Gyuto

Ryusen Blazen Series BL-7 210mm Gyuto

Aritsugo (Tokyo) A-Series

Richmond Addict 2 (not available in 210mm?)

Tojiro DP (disturbingly inexpensive but nice looking, highly recommended here but it's VG10 which I thought fell out of favor)


I see Masamoto KK recommended a lot but see no Gyuto available...?


What I think I "know": Damascus is for vain looks only. VG10 has had its day and VG2 (and others) is better. AEB-L is really good and "where it's at" with stainless. The "CarbonNext" knives are also really good (and not really "carbon") but tend to come virtually unsharpened. "Lasers" can be too "thin" and buckle/lock if you're not anal about holding them straight. Carbon reacts with onions and tomatoes but if you keep it clean then the patina is just about looks and not functionality.


Bonus points if a knife has a story about the maker or what I had to do to get it. :) (again...Aristugo?) I love stories, and a lot of things I own and use have interesting stories. :)


Anyhow... does that give you anything to go on? Am I too vague? Am I too picky? Am I impossible? Am I flamebait? If nothing else... first post! Greetings to all on the forum. :)

post #2 of 11

I'm in the same kind of place as yourself, not sure exactly what I want to go with, these are the knives I'm considering:  (this one has an srs15 core, the latest and greatest supersteel)


I mostly use a 7" petty/slicer for my style of prep, but you'll find lots of chef knives in there.  Then you need to decide on the steel, I'll give my feelings there in the next installment.  I enjoy sharpening so have been content with cheap stainless knives up to this point, but time for a change.



post #3 of 11

I have the Carbonext, in 210mm. I like the knife, but I rarely reach for it because I find it too short. Make of that what you will, I don't want to stop you getting it if thats what you want, but I thought I wanted 210mm, but I find a 10 inch chefs to be much better. FYI, it did come incredibly dull but its easy to sharpen. And I paid extra for the 'extra sharpening'. Don't bother, it took a week longer and I didn't seem to get much for it.

I also have a carbon Sabatier Nogent, which would meet your wish for something with a romantic story, but you said you want Japanese and you aren't sure if you want carbon. Thats currently my go to. I want to get the Artifex (maybe you'll want to look at that too) but the p+p makes it quite an expensive knife so I'm holding back.

post #4 of 11

I tend to be "not so polite" in threads like this (I'm a researcher but not OCD and have a difficult time understanding that thought process).  So I'd like to offer two thoughts and a well-wish:


1.  The only real secret I know to being happy with a carbon steel knife (aside all of hte other wisdom that would apply to any knife) is to keep it dry so it doesn't rust.  Oh, and don't fret if it starts discoloring.


2.  Ask around our locality for a professional knife sharpening service.  Try asking the chef at any decent restaurant at which you dine.  Then send one of your current blades there and see if they are good.


Well-wish:  Good luck in your selection.  Its not easy to know what to buy if you don't really get to handle them.  Just don't overthink things and you'll get a nice knife that will suit your needs.  If not... then buy another!


p.s.  I've bought from Chef Knives To Go and been very happy with their selection and service.

post #5 of 11

So many issues, so many knives...


Wa or yo?  Wa makes for a lighter knife.  If you have a decent pinch grip it takes almost no time to get to used to wa. 


Price range -- $100, $200 or $300?  The law of diminishing returns doesn't apply since so much of the decision will be based on aesthetic concerns.  The "performance" advantages of better are a product of how much the maker is willing to spend on making the knife which translates to the amount of hand work, the quality of the finish, the process itself (thin knives are hard to make by hand) and so on.  For $100 you can get a darn good knife -- Fujiwara FKM, Tojiro DP, and Richmond Artifex are -- in my opinion -- the obvious choices.  For $300 you can get one that's a lot better.  In between are a lot of knives which are in between.  Is it worth it to spend more than $100?  I can't answer for you.  The more specific you are about what you want, the more specific the guidance. 


There is no KK gyuto.  If you want a Masamoto wa-gyuto it's KS or nothing.  If you want a KS clone, the Richmond Ultimatum is available in three different alloys. 


VG-10 is a very good alloy.  It's not perfect though.  If you're "learning" from my posts, part of what I'm responding to are the hyper-ventilated claims that VG-10 was a perfect, wonder-alloy.  VG-10 gets very sharp, if it's properly hardened it will hold the edge very well, but VG-10 tends to be chippy and feels like crap on the stones.  Some VG-10 is less chippy than others.  In general, san-mai (or warikomi, not that there's a real difference) VG-10 knives are more chip resistant than single steel knives.  Tojiro DP (san-mai laminated) and Hattori FH (single steel) seem to chip less than other VG-10 knives -- for whatever reason. 


Shorter, 8" knives exaggerate the rocker (curve in the middle of the blade) and belly (curve leading to the tip) compared to 240s.  If you want to move beyond rock chopping, and there's any way you can make a 240 fit in your kitchen, it's probably a better length.   


Carbon vs Stainless:  Caring for carbon can involve a little more than what Brian wrote.  You don't actually have to rinse and wipe immediately, the knives won't succumb to some alloy eating virus if you don't.  But if you don't take care of them immediately, you end up with a much bigger chore.  Some people force a patina, others (like me) keep their knives from discoloring.  Carbon used to be a much bigger deal a few years ago, but a few stainless and semi-stainless alloys came on to the market which give the advantages of carbon -- including its feel on the stones -- without its reactivity.  Good carbon alloys tend to be more bang for the buck than good stainless alloys -- but like the other advantages, that's less true now than before.  You have to take these things on a knife by knife basis.


  • Fujiwara Kanefusa FKM No. 9 210mm Gyuto (disturbingly inexpensive?) -- Good entry level knife.
  • JCK Original KAGAYAKI CarboNext (ES) Series KC-5 210mm Gyuto -- Excellent bang for the buck.  However, JCK has a reputation for not shipping them sharp.  Furthermore, JCK's extra cost sharpening service has track record for not actually sharpening knives and/or sharpening them poorly.  If you can't already sharpen well enough to profile a new edge -- probably not a good idea.  Otherwise, most knife for the money.
  • Tenmi-Jyuraku Series (Aogami Super) TJ-25AS 210mm Gyuto -- Tenmi Jyuraku is a knife series from Hiromoto, consisting of a sam-mai knife made with AS hagane and a single steel knife made with G3.  The AS series were wildly popular a couple or three years ago but popularity has fallen off.  F&F was mediocre, and the handles were too narrow and short for my wife (who has small hands).  I was unimpressed with the knives edge taking and holding properties, thought the profile wasn't very good, and didn't like the handles either.  The AS also confirmed my then-developing prejudice against san mai.   I bought four AS knives with the idea of replacing my old Sabatiers as my primary knives, kept the Sabs and sold the AS after four months. 
  • Misono Professional Sweden Steel Series No. 112 210mm Gyuto -- Extremely good knife.  Very reactive even as carbon goes and needs a little extra attention, accordingly.  Excellent edge properties.  Nice profile, but not as good as Masamoto's in my opinion.  Great handle. 
  • JCK CT Series CT5021 210mm chef -- Not JCK but Masamoto.  The CT is Masamoto's less expensive line of western handled, carbon knives.  Masamoto's chef's knife profile is very similar to Sabatier's, best in the world.  As is typical with Masamoto's  Good everything. 
  • JCK HC Series HC-5021 210mm Gyuto -- Not JCK but Masamoto.  I think it's the best western-handled, mass produced, non-laser, carbon knife on the market.  Great alloy.  VS2 maybe?
  • MAC Professional Mighty Chef's Knife 8.5" -- I used to recommend MAC Pros to everyone.  They're very good across so many axes, the sum becomes greater than the parts.  But since their last couple of price rises, they're no longer that much bang for the buck.  If you can tolerate a little less stiffness and live with less manufacturer support for a mass-produced, VG2 (or might as well be VG2) stainless, western handled, chef's knife, you should consider the Masamoto VG. 
  • Konosuke HD 210mm Gyuto -- Great knife, and the only laser on your list.  I use a 270 as my daily driver.  I know the White #2 knives are just as good, and hear that the HH knives are damn near.  The differences, such as they are, will be less on the board than on the stones. 
  • Ryusen Blazen Series BL-7 210mm Gyuto -- A very good san-mai PM.  All in all, san-mai PM is a collection of materials and techniques which check a lot of boxes which are impressive but not important. 
  • Aritsugo (Tokyo) A-Series -- The OOTB edge profile is not great.  The alloy (an HSS tool steel) is extremely difficult and time consuming to profile.  An excellent knife if you have the skill and the kit to reprofile it -- but you don't.
  • Richmond Addict 2 (not available in 210mm?) -- Huge quality for the money.  Try and get beyond your 210mm prejudice.  Also, you might want to think abo9ut an Ultimatum.
  • Tojiro DP (disturbingly inexpensive but nice looking, highly recommended here but it's VG10 which I thought fell out of favor).  One of the best entry level knives along with the Fujiwara FKM and Richmond Artifex.



Edited by boar_d_laze - 11/18/12 at 7:47am
post #6 of 11
  •  (this one has an srs15 core, the latest and greatest supersteel) -- Akifusa.  Okay san-mai PM.  There's nothing magic about SRS 15.  It can be made very hard, so what?  FWIW, the "latest and greatest" alloy is probably Bohler 390.
  • -- Hattori HD.  Beautiful cosmetics.  One of the first and still one of the better 33 layer VG-10 san-mai knives.  Hattori VG-10 tends to chip less than other maker's.
  • -- Fujiwara (presumably the) FKM.  Nice, entry level knife.  Nothing really stands out good or bad, but one of those things where the sum is greater than the parts.  Of the three entry to the high end knives I like, as a purely personal ranking I like it less than the Richmond Artifex, but more than the Tojiro DP
  • -- Not as good as their old rep would have you believe.  Not bad, either. 
  • -- Moritaka has major QC issues with their smithing and grinding.  Sometimes you get a good knife, sometimes you don't.  Sometimes the problems are easily spotted, sometimes they're not obvious to someone who isn't really familiar with knives.  Sometimes the problems are user correctable, sometimes not. Why take the chance? You don't indicate which Moritaka strikes your fancy, if it's the KS clone you might want to consider one of the Richmond Ultimatums instead. 
  • -- Zakuri.  Not only am I unfamiliar with the knife, it's not my kind of knife and holds no interest for me.  Too thick, too crude, too kurouchi... too lots of things.  However, Jon is very particular about what he stocks; and if he stocks it, it must be good -- if it's the type of knife you want consider that a recommendation.  You should know going in that the kurouchi finish won't hold up very long. 
  • -- Tojiro (presumably DP) The DP, is a good, entry level knife.  Like the FKM, its sum is greater than its parts.  Not chippy for VG-10, it gets sharp.  Even though it's been refined to be less "blocky," some people find the handle uncomfortable.  Also like the FKM, it's been described in so much detail so many times I wonder if you need more discussion.  If you do, that's okay.



Edited by boar_d_laze - 11/18/12 at 9:09am
post #7 of 11

BDL, while you're about, could I get your opinion on the Tojiro ITK range? Not really the handle, as I'd plan to rehandle, but the blade alloy and profile?

post #8 of 11
BDL, while you're about, could I get your opinion on the Tojiro ITK range? Not really the handle, as I'd plan to rehandle, but the blade alloy and profile?


You're really asking the wrong person in that there's so many things about ITK Shirogami knives I dislike that my mind is closed -- even though I've never tried one.  Too thick, too crude, too kurouchi, too flat a profile, too much drop on the tip.  Reaction from buyers on the boards is decidedly mixed; more unhappy customers than you'd expect. 


Yes, the ITK Shirogami series seems like a very high end alloy for a very low price, but it's easy to overemphasize the importance of the alloy -- especially its "name brand" identity.  The alloy is only one part of the gestalt of the knife.  The particular alloy (for instance White #2, AEB-L, VG2) is not particularly important as long as (a) its quality is commensurate with the rest of the knife; and (b) it's hardened appropriately and otherwise properly worked. 



post #9 of 11

Okay, thanks for the honest answer. Would you say the 240mm Artifex would be a better bet, if it were to cost around 140$, due to postage?


At that price point, (150$ inc S+H) what would you say the best knife is for someone who is willing to use carbon or stainless, wa or yo and can sharpen reasonably well?


Also, if you could give me your opinion on where the law of diminishing returns in regards to price vs performance comes in I'd be grateful. What do you get from a 300$ Konosuke over a 100$ Artifex? How good would you have to be to bring those benefits to light?

Edited by kingofkings - 11/18/12 at 1:13pm
post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thank you for all your advice. I knew the 210mm thing would get pushback. :P I will try to get my hands on some 240/245mm knives to play with/borrow and see if I can stand the extra length. No promises... but I'll try!


BDL: thank you especially for your detailed feedback on the knives I listed. I know you hate "lists" though so I want to make sure you realize that wasn't my narrowed-down list. I'm definitely open to any other knives outside of that list you think might suit me.


King: stop hijacking my thread. :P


How flexible/"bendy" is the Konosuke HD? Missed that it was the only "laser" I mentioned.


The suggestion to ask the chefs at local restaurants where they get their knives sharpened is a good one. While I'm very rural and there aren't many nearby choices, I can think of a couple so I'll be making some inquiries.


At the moment, of the knives I listed, I think I'd narrow it to the CarbonNext, Masamoto HC, Konosuke HD, and the Richmond knives (which require me being comfortable w/ 240+mm).  If that spurs new thoughts/feedback, I welcome it. :)


You talk about the Richmond "Ultimatum"... it would seem to come in three different metals: 19C27, 52100, M390. Thoughts on these? I'm aware 52100 is carbon. All of the Richmond knives (Ultimatums and Addicts) are currently out-of-stock (although it'll probably be at least another month or 2 before I'm ready to order and I'll be ordering stones first before knives). I'm ok with the prices, and can probably "deal" with carbon just fine and feel capable of adjusting my cleaning regimen to whatever is necessary if it's worth the price/effort to get a better edge. The Addict 2 is also available in 52100. What's the deal with the "HD" Addicts?

post #11 of 11
Originally Posted by sremick View Post

The suggestion to ask the chefs at local restaurants where they get their knives sharpened is a good one. While I'm very rural and there aren't many nearby choices, I can think of a couple so I'll be making some inquiries.


In 38 years of restaurant work, I have seen a lot of commercial sharpening services that do work for restaurants. I have yet to see one worth a damn. Also, maybe I am anal or a snob or an anal snob, but I don't think that I would trust the recommendation of a sharpening service from a chef that has someone else sharpen his knives.

Edited by cheflayne - 11/20/12 at 7:54am
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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