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A few more blows to the poor horse

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Hello everyone. I have spent probably the last 3 hours searching and reading these forums and I have come to discover a couple of things that have lead to my joining of this community. Unfortunately, I'm about to perform what some veteran forum posters (including myself) view as almost a taboo: the dreaded (queue dramatic music)..... INTRODUCTORY POST LACED WITH INQUISITION!

 

From what I've read, BDL is a base of great knowledge for rookie and veteran alike. Humorously, I've discovered that when commenting on a question post, his preference lies with clear details in the questions being asked, so I'll make my best attempt not to let my nerves get the best of me and speak clearly. Some of what I mention and ask may seem irrelevant, but I promise they have an ultimate meaning in the end.

 

I'm a 23 year old man who has taken to cooking for the past 4 months or so. An inadequacy in self-worth/confidence from a childhood scarcely social due to not being in the "rich popular crowd" (sadly where I live that's all that seems important) combined with a selfless "consider myself last" attitude with my family (family meaning my wife and son who will be 1 on the 28th), I haven't done many self-gratifying things. Deciding to make some life changes and take more time out for myself, one of my focuses is in my cooking. Not possessing much in the money range, I bought a cheap Wal-Mart knife. Low cost meant low risk as I had intentions of upgrading anyway, and I began developing my knife skills. I have always been quite fond of Japanese culture and craftsmanship, so Japanese knives came naturally.

 

The point to all of this is that I'm looking for a self-pleasuring experience through use and maintenance - though some will consider maintenance viewed as pleasing to be slightly sadistic :P. I've absolutely loved some of the Japanese knives that I've looked at, and am teeming with nerves and excitement both in my gut and my wallet. I've seen plenty of great knives that I've loved, but spending over $200 and approaching $300 right now just isn't in the cards. I've seen some good knives in the low price range, and look to the more experienced for direction.

 

If you're still reading this, I appreciate and applaud your patience. Now to the juicy details.

 

Preference: Traditional wa-style handles.

 

Knife brands considered thus far: Takeshi Saji, Fujiwara, Tojiro ITK, and Richmond Artifex. 

 

Use: Use will be to home cooking for my family with the occasional dinner party of friends or family, no more than 10 guests really. Prep work with vegetables of all cutting sizes and cutting meats including beef, chicken, and fish.

 

From the research I've done, the knife setup I'd like to build is one of two sets that I'm hoping are feasible and accurate, though I'm hoping for some guidance if I'm in the wrong neck of the woods. First would be a wa-gyuto, nakiri, and a petty, and the second a deba, usuba, and petty, possibly a yanagiba.

 

From the research I've done, the traditional Japanese Takeshi Saji series and the Tojiro ITK are the ones that stick out to me the most because they seem to fit the aesthetic bill as well as the use bill - from my limited experience that is. The prices are in the low range which is nice, but I'm afraid of the "you get what you pay for" consequence. The first one I fixated on was the ITK series because of the looks and the price was awesome, but then I found the Takeshi Saji. I don't mind to go either way because they both fit my desires. I do not mind the maintenance necessary to care for and sharpen the blades, as I plan to build a water stone sharpening set as well - not to mention the zen of it all, as goofy as that may sound.

 

In an attempt to lure the rare and elusive BDL from his hiding spot, I'll attempt to further entice him.

 

To directly ask my questions: of the brands listed, which shines the best for value, quality, and longevity. From what I've seen, if you maintain them and sharpen them, they'll take and hold scary edges and cut with almost no effort. I've read that BDL isn't a fan of san-mai knives, but as my skill grows and budget grows, I think I'll be able to move towards the better knives on the other end of the spectrum - still within reason of course.

 

Budget wise I'd like to stay under $100 per knife if at all possible for my list of desires.

 

I would like to apologize for my long-windedness, and I hope that I've managed to keep the attention of some cutlery gurus residing here. If there is any detail I may have left out in this book I've written, or you need further information to help you in your answers, please ask and I'll gladly elaborate or provide the information you require.

 

I appreciate any and all help given to me here, and I look forward to enjoying these forums.

 

Thanks everyone, 

Kris

post #2 of 11
include if you're left handed or right handed, include what would you be cooking more. do you like to butcher meats? do you like to fillet your own fish? how are you gonna be doing that? japanese style knives or western style knives? two very different approaches and sometimes even the result. how often will you be doing that?

you can get away with a 240mm gyuto, a bread knife and a 150mm petty knife for general cooking purposes. the rest will grow with your cooking needs and your taste in knives.
post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by FranzB69 View Post

include if you're left handed or right handed, include what would you be cooking more. do you like to butcher meats? do you like to fillet your own fish? how are you gonna be doing that? japanese style knives or western style knives? two very different approaches and sometimes even the result. how often will you be doing that?
you can get away with a 240mm gyuto, a bread knife and a 150mm petty knife for general cooking purposes. the rest will grow with your cooking needs and your taste in knives.

Right handed, vegetables will be a part of 90% of the meals prepared, and every meat will be included at least 2 times per week. I would like to butcher my own meats eventually for cost efficiency and personal reasons, but there aren't many options for that where I live currently; same with the fish and even quartering a chicken. I like the traditional Japanese knives (single bevels intrigue me for some reason) but I also like the Japanese variants of western knives (wa vs yo). Going either direction wouldn't bother me, but the traditional style Japanese handles are what I'd like to stick to. I mostly am curious from the experience of other people here who have had more exposure to these knives on which side of the spectrum holds up better, as well as the quality of the various knife brands I listed for getting one's feet wet in the knife pool. Perhaps I wasn't as clear as I'd hoped, and I apologize for that. Let me see if I can word it a little better than I did.

 

I'm looking for knives that I can maintain through sharpening and care where I'll have a scary sharp edge that can retain itself well and make cutting a pleasure - ie save the "butchering" for where it's needed. I'm also a believer that my knife skills will develop better and more accurately through a sharp edge, and I'll feel more confident about continuing when I don't have tomatoes splattering and etc.

 

I want to stay in the Japanese realm of knives, be they traditional (adapted for "western style use" I guess you could say) or variants of western knives and at a budget of no more than $100 per knife if possible - which is why Tojiro ITK stuck out so much. I do not mind to go to different brands than the ones that I've listed above, they are just the only ones I've discovered thus far through browsing CKtG and JCK. I hear CKtG puts out great product, and I don't know much at all about JCK. From reviews I've both read and watched, Tojiro seemed like an almost obvious choice, but coming here and seeing some opinions, I may be completely misguided. In my efforts to not get myself excited about a new knife adventure only to be disappointed with not being able to even cut my own skin, I come here and do what a lot of veteran posters probably don't like as much (at least in my own experiences in different forums) and pick the brains of the more experienced.

 

I hope I clarified to the point where I am easier to understand. If I still have not, I apologize, and if more information is still needed, please ask and I'll try to fill in the blanks as best I can.

post #4 of 11

Hi Kris- I'm no knife expert (and I'm sure BDL will weigh in soon enough), but I can give you a few data points.

 

First, there really isn't much choice in wa-handled gyutos under $100, but things really open up when you hit $200. I've got a Tojiro ITK petty. I like the knife decently enough, but I really don't like the handle and the plastic ferrule. It sharpens up nicely. It is a little thick. That isn't really much of an issue with the petty, but I think if I had the gyuto, I might well find it too thick. I personally like kurouchi finishes and wa handles a lot, but the poor handle would have me passing on the ITK gyuto. I'm even thinking of re-handling the petty somehow.

 

I've got a Fujiwara FKM petty. I quite like it. I imagine the gyuto is nice, too. But the handle is yo, so if you really want wa, get wa. Ditto on the Artifex. I've got the Artifex 240mm gyuto in AEB-L. I've only had it a few weeks. So far, I like it well enough. The grind seems a little thick behind the blade, though- it wedges a bit, and potatoes stick the the side of the blade like remoras on an inebriated whale. I'm coming from a CCK 1303 cleaver, which is quite thin, so that may be influencing my opinion. I LOVE the cleaver, but the Artifex? Maybe it just needs thinning. Anyway, it has a wa handle.

 

Perhaps you should spend a bit more on the gyuto and then get the rest of the knives as finance permits?

 

I think you'd be much better of with a good gyuto and a less expensive petty than you would a cheap gyuto, cheap nakiri, and less expensive petty.

 

I've got no personal experience with the following knives, but they're what made it onto my list of possible gyuto purchases: 

 

Sakai Yusuke 240mm white #2 gyuto, from Blueway Japan on ebay. Around $200, or $240 if you want one with a flatter profile.

Ashi Hamono "Ginga" series 240mm gyuto, in Swedish carbon steel for $192 or Swedish stainless for $214. Straight from Japan, prices depend on the value of the dollar.

Konosuke 240mm white #2 gyuto, various places. This was my total first choice at the old price of $183, but with the new price of $238, it isn't quite the slam-dunk it was.

Gesshin Uraku 240mm Stainless Wa-Gyuto, $155 with saya. From Japanese Knife Imports. If I understand correctly, these are made by Ashi Hamono.

 

Questions you might ask youself:

Do you want a blade with a long flat spot, or are you more of a rock-chopper?

Stainless or carbon?

 

Hope this is of some help. On the plus side, whatever you get will be MUCH better than what you have now!

John

Boulder, CO

post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 

DenverVeggieNut, thank you so much for your post. I've gained a lot of great information from it. I didn't really give it much thought before, but now I think only getting the gyuto to start with and opening up the budget from where the other knives would've been to accommodate getting higher quality is a great idea. I'm kind of embarrassed that I didn't consider it more before to be honest :P. Correct me if I'm wrong, but can't the gyuto do everything the nakiri/usuba and petty can? I know the cutting motions are different between them, but is it really just that, or does the size+comfort factor in for working with smaller ingredients and a smaller knife together? If I'm not mistaken, couldn't a gyuto and possibly a nakiri/usuba be all I really need, and the rest more associated with just want/vanity since I'm not working in a restaurant? I imagine the philosophy of smaller knife+smaller ingredient=more comfort/precision holds some weight somewhere, but if the gyuto can replicate the same thing, I think holding off for the future wouldn't be so bad, plus it affords me the ability to acquire a great wa style, enhancing the whole zen feeling of the process - as goofy as it may sound :P.

 

That being said, has there been any opinion of these knives? http://japanesechefsknife.com/SajiJapaneseTraditionalStyleKnives.html

 

I'm still learning the uses for actual traditional Japanese knives, so I could be a bit off base on this next sentence, please correct any inaccuracies:

 

Would a larger deba+usuba work in the same fashion as a gyuto or gyuto+nakiri and be easier to maintain because of a single bevel? 

 

I think the thinner edge would probably be better for me (not a laser yet I don't think) to get a better feedback on my cuts to ensure good muscle memory and habits develop.

 

I really appreciate all of your help on this. Your points have helped clear up the air in this whole thing. 

 

Looking forward to hearing more from you guys :)

 

Edit: I forgot to answer some of your questions DenverVeggieNut.

 

Stainless or carbon isn't all that important. I think the responsibility of the carbon may be more gratifying, but stainless will be welcomed just the same. I like the look of damascus, but won't break budget/quality just for that purpose. 

 

Flat spot vs rocking motion is I guess somewhere close to each other. I like the rhythm (percussion musician for 13 years) of the rocking motion a lot, as well as the concentration for "straighter" cutting from flat spots, but if I had to only choose one I would go with the rocking motion.

 

Hope that helped :)

post #6 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by DenverVeggieNut View Post

Hi Kris- I'm no knife expert (and I'm sure BDL will weigh in soon enough), but I can give you a few data points.

 

First, there really isn't much choice in wa-handled gyutos under $100, but things really open up when you hit $200. I've got a Tojiro ITK petty. I like the knife decently enough, but I really don't like the handle and the plastic ferrule. It sharpens up nicely. It is a little thick. That isn't really much of an issue with the petty, but I think if I had the gyuto, I might well find it too thick. I personally like kurouchi finishes and wa handles a lot, but the poor handle would have me passing on the ITK gyuto. I'm even thinking of re-handling the petty somehow.

 

I've got a Fujiwara FKM petty. I quite like it. I imagine the gyuto is nice, too. But the handle is yo, so if you really want wa, get wa. Ditto on the Artifex. I've got the Artifex 240mm gyuto in AEB-L. I've only had it a few weeks. So far, I like it well enough. The grind seems a little thick behind the blade, though- it wedges a bit, and potatoes stick the the side of the blade like remoras on an inebriated whale. I'm coming from a CCK 1303 cleaver, which is quite thin, so that may be influencing my opinion. I LOVE the cleaver, but the Artifex? Maybe it just needs thinning. Anyway, it has a wa handle.

 

Perhaps you should spend a bit more on the gyuto and then get the rest of the knives as finance permits?

 

I think you'd be much better of with a good gyuto and a less expensive petty than you would a cheap gyuto, cheap nakiri, and less expensive petty.

 

I've got no personal experience with the following knives, but they're what made it onto my list of possible gyuto purchases: 

 

Sakai Yusuke 240mm white #2 gyuto, from Blueway Japan on ebay. Around $200, or $240 if you want one with a flatter profile.

Ashi Hamono "Ginga" series 240mm gyuto, in Swedish carbon steel for $192 or Swedish stainless for $214. Straight from Japan, prices depend on the value of the dollar.

Konosuke 240mm white #2 gyuto, various places. This was my total first choice at the old price of $183, but with the new price of $238, it isn't quite the slam-dunk it was.

Gesshin Uraku 240mm Stainless Wa-Gyuto, $155 with saya. From Japanese Knife Imports. If I understand correctly, these are made by Ashi Hamono.

 

Questions you might ask youself:

Do you want a blade with a long flat spot, or are you more of a rock-chopper?

Stainless or carbon?

 

Hope this is of some help. On the plus side, whatever you get will be MUCH better than what you have now!

John

Boulder, CO

just to interject for a second, the gesshin uraku line is notmade by ashi hamono

post #7 of 11

Self pleasuring experience you say?  Oy.

 

There are very few HUGE bargains in kitchen knives.  With very few exceptions, high value but less expensive knives aren't as good as high value more expensive knives.  On the other hand, there are quite a few overpriced stinkers -- which is why we're here to help. 

 

I'm really the wrong guy to ask about the Tojiro ITK shirogami series.  They're not my type of knife at all.  It's too heavy, too thick, too crude, too kurouchi (the dark finish), plastic handle, etc.  I've been around enough knives to not be impressed by a prestige alloy in a cheap knife.  The gestalt of the knife, i.e., how all the pieces work together is the most important thing; but even within the context of taking each attribute separately the identity of the alloy is not one of the more important ones. 

 

Also the wrong guy to ask about sub $100 Takeshi Saji.  I know zip.  However, even if they're an exception to the "you get what you pay for" rule I don't think you've arrived at the place in your cooking career where you want or need to invest a substantial part of your budget in traditional Japanese knives.  I suggest holding off on the usuba / yanagiba / deba thing until you can afford knives as a hobby. 

 

Unless you are going to plunge in to traditional Japanese knives, don't worry about right or left handedness.   

 

Based on Jon's description of the Gesshin Uraku at JKI, it sounds interesting and seems likely to be the least expensive wa-gyuto on the market which would fit all or most of my own criteria.  Jon is extremely selective in choosing his stock.  Anything he sells is going to be good value -- but whether it's the right knife for you is another question.   

 

Below $100, the three chef's knives I'd steer you towards are the Fujiwara FKM, the Richmond Artifex, and the Tojiro DP.  None of them are perfect or near perfect, but they're lots of bang for the buck.  However, I think you might want to reorder your spending strategy and climb a step or two up the quality ladder for what will be your most used knife. 

 

If you're looking to spend around $300 on three knives, I suggest spending around $200 on a gyuto and around $100 on a 6" petty.  Depending on what's in your block you might also want something for heavy duty work, but there are many, good cheap candidates.  After that, add a good bread knife ($40 - $100) and a good slicer (same price range as the gyuto) when you can. 

 

Don't buy a nakiri until you can afford to fool around to satisfy your curiosity.  It doesn't do anything a 10" chef's knife won't do as well if you know how to use one, and can't do plenty of things the larger knife can.  Knife skills take awhile, but they don't cost anything. 

 

In addition to everything you've already volunteered, let's start with a few more questions:

  • Entry level or better?
  • Budget for chef's knife?
  • Total budget for knives?
  • Stainless, carbon, or don't care?
  • Laser or regular?
  • How well do you sharpen?
  • What's in your current sharpening kit?
  • How much time and money are you willing to invest in sharpening?  In learning to sharpen?
  • How big is your board?

 

BDL

post #8 of 11

BDL, I rarely see you recommend Carbonexts, is there something you dislike about them?

post #9 of 11

Very good knife, big bang for the buck.  It's the same knife as the Kikuichi TKC pretty much, but for about a third less money.  So what's the problem? 

 

JCK has a reputation for shipping some, but not all CarboNexts with lousy edges.  It seems to be very inconsistent and very much catch as catch can; and if people posting on the knife boards are to be believed, JCK's extra cost sharpening services does NOTHING to improve a lousy OOTB edge.  Furthermore, JCK hasn't been particularly responsive to this long standing problem.  More, JCK doesn't have a great reputation for after purchase service -- not to say it's bad, but JCK's not nearly as response as CKtG, JKI, MAC USA, or even SLT and WS. 

 

The bad edge is an even bigger deal than it might otherwise be because what makes the CarboNext special is edge taking.  Otherwise, it's a good knife for $130 -- but it's just a knife and nothing to write home about.  Perhaps I should add that a newbie and/or mediocre sharpener won't be able to get a CarboNext any sharper than anything else. 

 

You have to remember that most of the people I talk to are (a) looking for their first good knife, and (b) and not only aren't good sharpeners, but aren't even aware of how important sharpening skills are.  That's why I spend so much time talking about sharpening and trying to develop a balanced perspective which includes all of the various aspects going towards making a knife a good fit for someone instead of listing a few favorites.  I try to avoid imposing my own choices on other people.  My thought is to assist them in finding a small group of knives, any of which they can use and enjoy right away and into the future as well. 

 

If you're already a good sharpener and looking for a mass produced, semi-stainless, western handled knife at a very attractive price, the CN should be on your short list. 

 

BDL

post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

Self pleasuring experience you say?  Oy.

 

There are very few HUGE bargains in kitchen knives.  With very few exceptions, high value but less expensive knives aren't as good as high value more expensive knives.  On the other hand, there are quite a few overpriced stinkers -- which is why we're here to help. 

 

I'm really the wrong guy to ask about the Tojiro ITK shirogami series.  They're not my type of knife at all.  It's too heavy, too thick, too crude, too kurouchi (the dark finish), plastic handle, etc.  I've been around enough knives to not be impressed by a prestige alloy in a cheap knife.  The gestalt of the knife, i.e., how all the pieces work together is the most important thing; but even within the context of taking each attribute separately the identity of the alloy is not one of the more important ones. 

 

Also the wrong guy to ask about sub $100 Takeshi Saji.  I know zip.  However, even if they're an exception to the "you get what you pay for" rule I don't think you've arrived at the place in your cooking career where you want or need to invest a substantial part of your budget in traditional Japanese knives.  I suggest holding off on the usuba / yanagiba / deba thing until you can afford knives as a hobby. 

 

Unless you are going to plunge in to traditional Japanese knives, don't worry about right or left handedness.   

 

Based on Jon's description of the Gesshin Uraku at JKI, it sounds interesting and seems likely to be the least expensive wa-gyuto on the market which would fit all or most of my own criteria.  Jon is extremely selective in choosing his stock.  Anything he sells is going to be good value -- but whether it's the right knife for you is another question.   

 

Below $100, the three chef's knives I'd steer you towards are the Fujiwara FKM, the Richmond Artifex, and the Tojiro DP.  None of them are perfect or near perfect, but they're lots of bang for the buck.  However, I think you might want to reorder your spending strategy and climb a step or two up the quality ladder for what will be your most used knife. 

 

If you're looking to spend around $300 on three knives, I suggest spending around $200 on a gyuto and around $100 on a 6" petty.  Depending on what's in your block you might also want something for heavy duty work, but there are many, good cheap candidates.  After that, add a good bread knife ($40 - $100) and a good slicer (same price range as the gyuto) when you can. 

 

Don't buy a nakiri until you can afford to fool around to satisfy your curiosity.  It doesn't do anything a 10" chef's knife won't do as well if you know how to use one, and can't do plenty of things the larger knife can.  Knife skills take awhile, but they don't cost anything. 

 

In addition to everything you've already volunteered, let's start with a few more questions:

  • Entry level or better?
  • Budget for chef's knife?
  • Total budget for knives?
  • Stainless, carbon, or don't care?
  • Laser or regular?
  • How well do you sharpen?
  • What's in your current sharpening kit?
  • How much time and money are you willing to invest in sharpening?  In learning to sharpen?
  • How big is your board?

 

BDL

 

 
I knew it sounded weird when I put it that way :P. I only mean self pleasuring in a sense of making cooking more enjoyable. I currently dread chopping anything for obvious reasons.
 
I see your point on the Tojiro ITK. I had no idea that knives from the same company around the same price would be so drastically different on those finer details. I really do appreciate you bringing your knowledge here and sharing it with a rookie :).
 
I had that suspicion of the nakiri, and am glad that you cleared that up for me. I think that removing that knife from the equation and adding its cost to the gyuto budget will be best for me. I've read conflicting approaches of "have the right knife for the job" where people have one for each purpose, and then also how some use their gyuto for pretty much everything. I don't know if it's just their own personal preferences or what, but I think using a gyuto for the majority of things and then having a petty for small things is fine enough for me. The other knives I can probably wait a few years, or even just sticking with the setup I have to afford better quality.
 
Entry level or better? Since I've adjusted my budget, better than "entry level" is what I'd like to go for.
Budget for chef's knife? I think $250 for a wa-gyuto can be my new price range. That can get me great results in that range can't it?
Total budget for knives? With the wa-gyuto budget, I think $150, possibly moving to $200, would be perfect for a petty. 
Stainless, carbon, or don't care? Don't really care. Stainless would probably be best for my first knife, but I welcome learning to care for a semi-stainless or carbon as well. 
Laser or regular? Really just depends on the price. I imagine a laser will require more care. I just need to educate myself so I don't ruin my knife.
How well do you sharpen? I learned a little knife sharpening from my step dad and a friend of his years ago on pocket knives. I believe with more practice I'll be able to sharpen them well.
What's in your current sharpening kit? I don't have one currently, but I was thinking a setup of maybe 800, 1200/1500, 5000, and then a finishing stone 8000+, plus a strop (I hear that makes them all the better) treated with chromium oxide.
How much time and money are you willing to invest in sharpening?  In learning to sharpen? I believe the sharpening will be just as important, if not more, as the investment for the knife. I intended to get a set of naniwa (I hear they're the best) regular water stones or the naniwa superstone water stones, just depends on which is better priced at the time. I plan to devote as much time as needed to improve.
How big is your board? Right now it's a rinky dink plastic board from good ol' Wally World, but I plan to move to something better with a better knife; something in the 11x9 range maybe.
 
So, with the new budget range of $250 (with maybe a little wiggle room if it's worth the price) for a wa-gyuto, what better suggestions would you make? From what I've seen, the 200 ranges have a lot of knives to choose from, but I don't know the reputations of the companies to be able to zero in on a good choice.
 
Thanks for replying here BDL. I look forward to seeing what you have to say under these new circumstances.
 
Edit: I forgot to ask one thing. Would you mind to also recommend the slicer and bread knife that you mentioned for the future?

Edited by Gakusei - 11/20/12 at 3:01pm
post #11 of 11
you're gonna have a bunch of good choices in that price range. at that price range, i doubt you'll be making a mistake on picking any of the knives in that bracket.

good luck.
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