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Looking for some Japanese steel

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

Hi there


I'm looking to buying a gyuto. I've been using my family's Shun Ken Onion set for quite a while, but I am moving across the country and finally have the chance to pick a knife I want to use. The Shun knives are decent, but I want something with a bit more behind it. A Japanese blade seems to be the best for me. I've done some research into the knives and I'm looking at 240mm knives, although I don't want to get ahead of myself and use a size I'm not ready for. Also, I am kind of lost with some of the finer details (grades of stainless for example) and which brand to choose. What advice do you guys have for me?

post #2 of 28

Richmond artifex uses AEB-L i think. I haven't used it, but a lot of people recommend it.

There's also the Fujiwara FKM that uses AUS8. I bought one as a gift for a friend about a month back seemed fairly sharp out of the box. I have a camillus knife that is AUS8 steel. It gets shaving sharp even with my sharpening skills so I'd think the FKM would be the same.

Finally there's the Tojiro DP which is san mai vg10 a lot of people like it and recommend it. 


I don't think you can go wrong with any of those mentioned knives. 


My question to you is: how are you going to maintain your knife?

post #3 of 28
Thread Starter 

That is the other bit of advice I am looking for. From my understanding of Japanese steel, the hardness of it makes honing very difficult. So in order to properly maintain a knife of this quality, I need to either sharpen it myself with a stone, or take it in to a professional. Personally, I'd much rather just learn how to sharpen a knife. But, I don't really know where to start with that. 

post #4 of 28

Hardness doesn't make it more difficult to sharpen (high wear resistance and toughness does I think). Hand sharpening isn't hard just takes practice. There are many videos for freehand sharpening tutorials like:


What's your budget for knife and possible waterstone set? 

post #5 of 28
Thread Starter 

I don't feel like skimping on the knife. I have done that in the past when looking for quality items. It just isn't worth saving the extra couple bucks. That said, the Fujiwara you mentioned is probably going to be the one I end up picking up. As for the stone(s), I don't know anything about what they cost

post #6 of 28

how much do you want to spend bro?


and what kind of stuff do you normally cook?

post #7 of 28
Thread Starter 

Somewhere in the $100-$150 range I think. Nothing super extravagant, but a solid real Japanese knife. I do a broad range of meals, but I definitely use a lot of onion, garlic, and chopped veggies. Some fish, beef and a lot of chicken. Although I am looking to move towards starting with the whole fish and chicken in my cooking.

post #8 of 28

The Fujiwara FKM is a good, first, decent knife.  It's entry-level into western-style Japanese knives, and not any better than that. 


It's one of what are probably the three best knives in that class.  The other two are the Richmond Artifex and the Tojiro DP.  Each knife has its own set of pluses and minuses, making one knife better for a given person than the other two.  The trick is matching the knife to the person.  But context.  At the end of the day, making the right match isn't terribly important because they're all good knives and good values. 


Each of the three is a little under $100 for a 24cm chef's.  Whether $100 is a lot for a knife or not, knife performance (including the intangibles of fit and finish, comfort, and aesthetic appeal as well as things like edge properties) improves markedly as you climb the price ladder until it peaks at a little less than $400.  After that, you're not buying more performance but more prestige.  I'm sure it's not true that you always get what you pay for.  But be assured, when it comes to knives, you never get what you don't pay for. 


The $130 - $230 price range takes you to the "first really good knife" category.  If you can afford it, I suggest skipping the Artifex, FKM and DP level and starting there with choices like the Gesshin Uruku, Kikuichi TKC, MAC Pro and Richmond Addict -- to name a few.  Compared to the entry-level knives, those represent a huge step in performance for a still-reasonable investment. 


The first question in the "which knife analysis" is:

  • How much are you willing to spend?


Almost as important: 

  • How good are your knife skills?  
  • How much do you want to improve them?


You recognize the importance of maintenance, and that's a good thing.  There are things to think about from the beginning, because they will ultimately affect your knife choice.  Among them:

  • How much money are you willing to invest in sharpening kit?
  • How much time are you willing to invest in learning to sharpen?
  • Can you afford $200+ for an Edge Pro?
  • Would you really be happier with an electric sharpener (like a Chef's Choice) or a pull-through (like a Minosharp Plus3)?
  • How large a space do you have for a board?
  • How much are you willing to spend on a board?


A good knife will be your best friend in the kitchen for years.  Take your time.  Ask lots of questions. 



Edited by boar_d_laze - 4/24/13 at 11:16am
post #9 of 28
Thread Starter 

If I were to jump up a price bracket, which knives should I be looking at? 


For my knife skills, I would say I know my way around a cutting board. I can cut just about anything in front of me efficiently, but I do it slowly. I haven't gotten to speed cutting, where I see people dice an onion in 45 seconds or less. But I would love to increase my skills in whatever way possible. 


Since starting this thread, I have been looking into sharpening. I would rather stick with stone sharpening by hand, mostly because it is a skill I would like to have. So far for stones, I have found the Chosera 1000 Grit stone and a stone holder and flattener. I will probably pick up a finishing stone of around 6000 grit at a later point. Any advice of what to look for in a stone is welcome.

post #10 of 28
stone wise everyone seems to like the bester 1200. personally i have a Mizuyama #1000; it was what was available to me locally in the uk at the time i needed to buy - youre lucky that you have a few retailers in the US that are really into this stuff so you have a lot more options.

definitely get a flattening something as well. i have a peacock #120 which works fine.

one thing i would say about the knife is the wa vs western handle thing. i like 240 wa handles size wise. the western handle 240s feel a little big for me. but its all personal taste. lots of people love 270mm wa handle gyutos.

if i was you i'd get a cheaper knife to start with cause you need to use something for a while before you really work out what you do and dont like.

whatever stones you buy are likely to last you a while. but the bester is only $50, which seems like a really good deal.
post #11 of 28
Originally Posted by ruscal View Post

stone wise everyone seems to like the bester 1200. personally i have a Mizuyama #1000; it was what was available to me locally in the uk at the time i needed to buy - youre lucky that you have a few retailers in the US that are really into this stuff so you have a lot more options.

definitely get a flattening something as well. i have a peacock #120 which works fine.

one thing i would say about the knife is the wa vs western handle thing. i like 240 wa handles size wise. the western handle 240s feel a little big for me. but its all personal taste. lots of people love 270mm wa handle gyutos.

if i was you i'd get a cheaper knife to start with cause you need to use something for a while before you really work out what you do and dont like.

whatever stones you buy are likely to last you a while. but the bester is only $50, which seems like a really good deal.


I like the bester 1200. The only negative is the soaking time.

post #12 of 28

So... your price range has moved up to the first really good knife level.  I've already suggested four "better" knives, and don't want to get more specific until you help me narrow the field a little.  The next questions are:

  • Japanese or Western handle?
  • "Do it all," or a very light knife (which will require going to a heavy-duty back up more frequently)?
  • Stainless, semi-stainless or carbon?


Chocera stones are excellent, easy to use, but expensive.  There are quite a few stones which perform just as well, are significantly less expensive, but are not quite as easy to use.  The Bester 1200, which is my medium/coarse stone, is one of those.


As good as Chocera is as a brand (they're made by Naniwa), there are better.  Better is a good thing, but it ain't cheap. 


One stone is not enough for the knives you're considering.  You'll need two right off the bat, and (probably) a third after about a year.  You need a medium/coarse stone to draw and chase the first burr; and a fine stone to draw and chase a more refined second burr, as well as polish out most of the scratch left by the first stone.  At some point, you'll also need a coarse stone to re-profile the bevel angles which become increasingly obtuse with successive sharpening; and to thin the knife as wear pushes the edge farther up the face.  


It's very important that you learn to sharpen with the medium/coarse and fine before attempting to use the coarse stone.  The medium/coarse will teach you the basics of sharpening; and the fine will teach you to hold a very steady angle.  If you use a coarse stone but can't hold an angle, you'll damage your knives in ways which aren't easy to repair except on a coarse stone, and... You get the picture, I'm sure.    


A very popular bench stone set, good enough to keep forever, and a lot less expensive than Chocera is:

  • Beston 500, coarse;
  • Bester 1200, medium/coarse; and
  • Suehiro Rika, fine.

CKtG sells them as a set, along with various accessories which you may or not need or want, depending.  One thing you will need right from the get go is an adequate strategy for flattening.  CKtG (again) sells an inexpensive diamond plate which makes a great deal more sense than anything else on the market (unless you have some special requirements, for instance you want to use your flattener as an extra-coarse bench stone).  


Bench stones may or may not be the best sharpening technique for you.  Learning to do an adequate job requires something between 12 and 20 hours for most people.  There are a few options which don't require the same learning curve.  But they are either more expensive (Edge Pro, Wicked Edge) or don't net you the same quality of edge (Chef's Choice, Minosharp Plus 3).   


CKtG comes up a lot.  It is one of the few very best merchants, but not the only one.  Also excellent for US consumers are aframestokyo, Epicurean Edge, and JKI.  JCK has a great selection and is very good (but a little less post-sales support).  Korin has good stock, but their advice can be somewhat whacky.  There are a few other really good dealers. 


If you're going to buy a knife based on the recommendations you'll get here on Chef Talk, you'll probably buy from either CKtG or JKI. 



post #13 of 28
Thread Starter 

Perfect, that is exactly what I was looking for in terms of sharpening equipment. Thanks for that. As


As for the knife, somehow I completely glanced over the four you mentioned. Sorry about that. They all look like great knives. But I'll answer those questions so maybe you can help me figure out which one.


I'm thinking a Japanese handle. I don't have much experience with them, but I like the way they feel in my hand when I have tried them. I am definitely looking for a do-it-all knife. While I don't do a ton of bone work, I don't want to feel like I'm risking the blade when I do. Obviously there might be a point when getting a cleaver makes sense, but right now one knife should do me. For the steel, either stainless or semi stainless. I don't really need a full carbon blade right now and I want to get some more time in with sharpening and knife care before I go to that level. 


Best on these answers, it seems like either the Richmond Addict or the Gesshin Uraku are the two winners. I was wondering what are your thoughts on the Hiromoto AS line? I've heard its a quality semi stainless, but the F&F is questionable. And while they are Western handles, this seems like another blade to consider. And are there any others I should look at besides what has been mentioned?


Thanks so much for you help. I know I am asking a bunch of questions and I am greatly appreciative of the effort you are putting into answering them.

post #14 of 28

The Hiromoto AS has a lot of very loyal fans.  I'm not one.  I bought four of the yo style (2 gyuto, suji, petty) a long time ago with the idea of replacing my old French carbon knives as daily users; didn't like the Hiros at all, and got rid of them as soon as possible. 


The handles were uncomfortable because they were too narrow.  I have large hands and a versatile, professionally trained grip.  My wife's hands are small, her grip is naive.  Both of us hated the Hiro's handles.  In addition, they didn't fit the tangs right, even after oiling them over a period of several days; the bolster/ferrules never fit well either.  The blade profile was -- at best -- mediocre.  The factory edge was poor.  While edge holding was better than the Sabs, edge taking wasn't better by much.  On top of it all, the Hiromotos are san-mai and san-mai knives feel unpleasantly damped to me.  A friend of mine, who experiences it the same way, compares it to wearing a condom.   


The idea of getting a prestige, carbon hagane wrapped in a stainless jigane to keep prices down and reduce maintenance is a pretty good one; assuming that is, that san-mai doesn't bother you -- and it doesn't bother most people.  The Hiromoto AS is nowhere near the best executed version though.  If that's what you're after you might want to think about a Moritaka KS (talk to the retailer to make sure there are no QC problems) or a Masakage Yuki (new kid on the block, getting good buzz). 


There aren't a lot of sem-stainless wa-gyuto.  As far as I know the only ones currently on the market are:  A) The Konosuke HD which is very good but expensive AND a laser;  B) Yoshikane SKD which is also good but expensive, and san-mai; D) Yoshikane SLD which are ridiculously expensive; and D) The Aritsugu A type, which requires a skilled and patient sharpener in order to get it thin enough to perform as it should, but once there it's outstanding.  


As it happens I use a 270mm Konosuke HD as one of my two, go-to gyuto.  The other is a Richmond Ultimatum with a 52100 carbon blade.   The Kono is out of your price range and a "laser" (which may or may not be a good thing for you); the Ultimatum is an excellent do-it-all, might be just the thing for you in Bohler 390, but it is no light-weight and the balance is decidedly blade forward.   I like the Kono + Ultimatum far more than I like either knife by itself, but living with just one or the other would still be a damn good thing.   


I only know the Gesshin Uraku by reputation.  It is, as far as I know, the least amount of money you can spend for a good wa-gyuto.  My experience with the dealer, Jon Broida, is that his entire stock is comprised of nothing but good things.  Setting aside the numerous positive reviews including a couple by people I respect, if all I had to go on were my knowledge of Jon, I would have no hesitation buying one fro myself or recommending it to you, especially if "bang for the buck" were high on my list. 


Context, context, context.  My understanding of the knife is that it is good, but is not the best knife in the up to $230 range.  There are loads of really good knives.  Some do some things better than others.  For instance, one knife might be easier to sharpen than another, while the other holds its edge better.  Is a Uruaku better than Addict? Is Addict better than Aritsugu? Is Aritsugu better than Masakage? Is Masakage better than Sadayasu?  Is Sadayasu better than Moritaka?  Is Moritaka better than Uraku?  Better for whom?  Better in which ways?  Better for which purposes?  


I'm sure you get the idea.   



Edited by boar_d_laze - 4/26/13 at 10:30am
post #15 of 28
Thread Starter 

Well there ya go. Thank you so much for all of the help. I think I am going to go for the Gesshin for now and change up if I need something else. But it is a shame that basically every knife mentioned is out of stock! How long does it typically take for the knives to come back in stock?

post #16 of 28

in this case, i'm expecting them to ship from japan in about 2 weeks

post #17 of 28
Thread Starter 

Well I can't think of a better source. Thanks!

post #18 of 28

lol... no prob.  Sorry things are out of stock.  Since the LA times article on us, that line has been selling like crazy.



post #19 of 28

Great choice.  Great dealer.  Much joy will be had.



post #20 of 28

Since this thread seems to have peaked, possibly I might piggyback on here rather than start a new thread since I am trying to make a similar decision for a knife.


Two Japanese knives I currently own are a Hattori FH honeseki, which is pretty nice after sharpening, and a Global 7 inch deba, which for a commercial blade gets pretty sharp and is really thin for a deba (it seems more like single bevel chef knife).


I mention the two knives because together they represent (somewhat) the kind of knife I am after:  a thin, relatively short "chef's" knife. The 160mm Hattori isn't quite long enough, while the Global's single edge steers the knife slightly, and also the blade has too much belly for my tastes (plus I want to buy something top of the line). A French chef profile in a carbon steel is closest to what I want.


I've noticed some of the more experienced knife users prefer semi-stainless and white steels. I watched some of Jon Broida's videos today while checking out Gesshin; I liked his thoughts on using a long petty, but for me it needs to be about 4 inches deep to give my knuckles enough space using a pinch grip. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find such a shorter chef's knife in white or semi-stainless steel.


After all my searching the closest I have been able to come to my ideal seems to be a Fujiwara Teruyasu's knife, Maboroshi no Meito chef's knife.  A close second is the Takeda AS Sasanoha 180mm, which isn't white or semi-stainless steel, but it is high quality carbon steel that owners claim is easy to sharpen (which is my main concern about AS steel).


Anyway, before I buy either, I thought I'd make sure I haven't overlooked an option. Advice and suggestions welcome.

Edited by les3547 - 5/16/13 at 6:21pm
post #21 of 28
A width of 4"?? Using a pinch grip??
post #22 of 28

Well, I always have used it, long before I knew it had the official name of a "pinch grip," and since my favorite blades have also been about 180mm with proportionate width . . .

post #23 of 28


Edited by boar_d_laze - 5/17/13 at 7:42am
post #24 of 28

It doesn't matter anymore but a new thread certainly would have been warranted.  You've got a completely different set of concerns than MercSoldier and seem to know a lot more going in.  Not many people know much about the level of quality you're talking about, and at the level of specific knives maybe not anyone posting on Chef Talk -- and that very much includes me.  If you don't enough knowledgeable and appropriately targeted feedback here, you might consider posting on the Chef Knives To Go Forum, and Kitchen Knife Forum


You're at the stage of knife knowledge where its common to over-emphasize the importance of particular characteristics of particular alloys.  The tendency is carried on the "Y" chromosome, and it's an inevitable part of learning about knives.  Don't beat yourself up; but do disabuse yourself.


Unless you're an incredibly good sharpener you won't be able to extract much extra sharpness from White #1, Blue #2, HD than you could from AS, 52100, White #2, or any of the other high performing carbons.  And if you are an incredibly good sharpener, you'll be able to get any decent alloy super sharp because you're an incredibly good sharpener.   


The whole point of AS is that you get all of the edge taking properties of the other aogami but some extra toughness and corrosion resistance.  At least according to Hitachi.  But, as I said, overrated.  Any awesome alloy in a storm. 


Q1:  7" is sort of an oddball length for a chef's knife.  Why?


[I've got a 7" Nogent chef's which I bought to use a sort of ersatz deba for things like small fish and quail.  It sometimes makes it out of the drawer because it's fun, or because its drawer is very convenient to one block; but it really doesn't see much use.  The 10" knives are so much more efficient, and there's no drawback to the extra length for almost any use.  So...]


Q1(a):  Why not a 10" knife?  If you're not already set, it should probably be your first priority.


Q2:  Tons of selection in 180mm santokus.  Why not? 


Q3:  Why not a funayuki?


Q4:  How do you sharpen?


There aren't many ultra high-end, semi-stainless, shorty, wa-gyuto on the market.  You're essentially limiting yourself to Konosuke HD, Yoshikane SK, and Yoshikane SLD.  Konosuke doesn't make a knife that combines the basic shape and length you want, but Yoshikane has several.   


That said... both of the makers you listed are in the "good as it gets" category.  At that rarified level of wonderfulness you're choosing appearance and profile, not quality.  I'm not sure what to tell you about either line you won't already know by reputation.  "Takedas are very thin and buck-ugly," seems likely to be redundant.  I actually do know a little (very little) about Takedas, and will gladly answer any question I can; but only know the Fujiwaras by (excellent) reputation.


Some other "can't miss" choices include Ajikataya (JKI) Gesshin Hide (JKI); Murray Carter (Carter, CKtG, etc.); some of the other knives made by Teruyasu Fujiwara, like his 195mm Nashiji gyuto (CKtG);  and, if you like pattern welding and have too much money, the Yoshikane SLD (EE).


Looking forward to continuing the conversation,


post #25 of 28



Ben wasn't confused by the term "pinch grip," but by the way you're using "depth."



post #26 of 28
I must admit in all my customary humility I still don't know what was meant by this 4" 'depth' with a 180mm blade.
post #27 of 28
Originally Posted by Benuser View Post

I must admit in all my customary humility I still don't know what was meant by this 4" 'depth' with a 180mm blade.


Ben, I was thinking 4 cm (blade width, where blade meets handle) but ineptly wrote 4 inches.

Edited by les3547 - 5/18/13 at 11:51am
post #28 of 28


It doesn't matter anymore but a new thread certainly would have been warranted.  


I see now you are right. I had envisioned a quick in and out.


RE: chef's knife, thank you for your thoughtful suggestions. I was going to answer your questions, but based on praise by many (including yourself) I decided on the Konosuke HD 210.

Edited by les3547 - 5/18/13 at 11:49pm
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