To make it short, I would really love to practice some of the arts of very high quality sushi making, and from what I've been told this is a skill I'd be wise to learn. Unfortunately, I have to operate on a college student budget...and usuba bocho do not seem to have an economy level. so my question is....what is the best way I can learn this without one, or is there some slightly lesser knife out there that's still capable of adequately practicing it? and on that subject, would it be worth my time to pick up deba and sashimi bocho as well? If so..where can I find these? I know the wokshop sells some that are quite affordable, but as much as I love the things I've bought from them previously I don't know enough about them to be very certain as to their quality. This is a very difficult subject to find information on, so any help would be greatly appreciated.
Cheapest way to practice katsuramuki?
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It's all very well and good to talk about the traditional of usuba, deba and yanagiba, but they're just tools -- nothing magic about them. If you can't afford a quality Japanese style set it's good to remember that there are very few sushi-ya knife tasks which cannot be accomplished very nearly or just as well with western profiles such as a butcher's, a chef's and a slicer.
The big tricks to cutting fish are very sharp edges -- which comes from sharpening; and quick, long cuts -- which come from confidence born of practice. Don't hesitate, don't poke around with little exploratory cuts, and don't saw at the fish. Commit yourself and push the knife all the way through to where you want it to go.
I was shown how to break down and portion fish in the Japanese style by a Korean sushi guy who owned a fish market, and then a sushi-ya. Dave taught me to use (stiff) chef's knives instead of a deba and slicers instead of yanagiba.
As to a usuba, there's not much you can't do with a chef's knife or a slicer. Slicer's best for things which want a flat profile, for instance katsuramuki (cutting sheets of cucumber and daikon by rolling the vegetable against the knife).
If you're really into budget, traditional Japanese knives, you may want to look in at CKtG and KKF forums. But, if you're trying to squeeze the blood out of a nickel, there's probably not much you can afford which is also worth having.
Sharpness is so much more important than particular profiles...
Thank you for the response. I had assumed I'd get a response along those lines but I wasn't entirely sure how much of a difference single beveled edges made, having never tried one. I have been attempting katsuramuki with my Chinese chefs cleaver up to this point with decent results. I suppose I will start looking for a better set of sharpening tools instead, though I will probably keep looking to sate my curiosity. Thank you for directing my to kkf forums by the way - I'd never seen nor heard of it and it seems like it could be quite helpful.