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Miyabi Birchwood? Any good?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hey, I'm looking into starting my first nice knife set. Probably just starting with a chefs knife for now and expanding over the next couple years. I don't know a ton about knives but am drawn to damascus steel. Visually the Miyabi Birchwoods are stunning... but at that price are they worth it from a performance standpoint? The little bit of research i've seen seems mixed, just curious what everyone on here thinks! Thanks! 


Also, while I wont be putting them in the dishwasher or leaving them wet. I'm not sure if i want to deal with the extra maintenance of super high carbon steel...


I'd also love to hear any recommendations anyone might have.

Edited by skiian - 4/14/14 at 2:12pm
post #2 of 7

Myabi like Shun have a low performance/price ratio, and if you really use them those decals and the shiny faux Damascus lose their bloom quickly.  performance wise you can do as good or better for less than half what they sell for.  There are so many choices with knives that you'd have to be a lot more specific for anyone here to really be of help.  You can search recent posts and get a lot of information.  Boar de Laze has been our resident knife guru, and though he seems to be on sabbatical at this time you can still search for his posts, and you will see the many points to consider in choosing something that will work for you.



post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the input rick! 


What makes you say it's faux Damascus? 


I've looked through some of the old posts the last few days.


In terms of more details...

I'm not a professional cook or anything, so I won't be using it for 8-12+ hour shifts like the many people on here. Just a home cook that wan'ts to get more into cooking. I'm looking for a good all around chefs knife to get my collection started. I'll expand to other styles with time. I know that high carbon blades offer the highest hardness correlating to best sharpness and edge retention. But I would prefer not to deal with the extra maintenance needed. I don't plan on neglecting these knives, I'd just prefer not to have to worry about it as much. I know it doesn't necessarily indicate quality, but I'd really prefer a damascus style knife. If i'm going to have it for years i should at least like the way it looks! I've been looking on at the following:

Gekko Kiwami


I plan on using them for most everything in the kitchen. But assuming a more acute angle japanese blade I'll be avoiding heavy work like crusty bread and breaking down chickens/fish that could chip the blade. 


Thanks again for the input!

post #4 of 7

Damascus in the traditional sense is a Wootz type steel, a high carbon and high cementite alloy of steel. The carbon darkens, the cementite shines giving the blade a distinctive patterning. The forging technique has been lost though various theories attempt to recreate it.


Modern Damascus is a blend of a high carbon and a high Nickel steel. The two steels are forged together, folded in various patterns or folded randomly creating thin layers. This is technically pattern welding and is the same basic welding technique as in traditional Japanese swords. Similarly, the vikings had developed a spiral pattenr welding technique. This pattern welded steel (modern damascus) is then shaped, tempered, ground and then acid dipped. The acid dip brings out the pattern by reacting with and darkening the high carbon steel. The higher nickel steel resists the reaction more and remains shiny. 


These steels are claimed to have the benefits of hardness and edge holding from the carbon steel while having a toughness from the softer high nickel steel. Additionally micro serrations are attributed to the steel at the edge where the two steels wear and sharpen differently. 


In actual practice, modern powder metallurgy can achieve higher performance steels. In aesthetics, the Damascus patterns are quite beautiful. There are modern stainless versions of Damascus now as well (though being stainless, it's not a true Damascus), often used to clad a high performing steel such as VG10. This cladding or san mai technique lets you use a thinner piece of expensive performance steel and clad it in a cheaper softer more stain resistant steel. This gives you the benefits claimed above of toughness without much brittleness except at the edge itself. The clad steels are often now an inexpensive stainless Damascus. Overall, this should result in a slightly cheaper blade, but is often marketed as a premium. 


Thus the description of Faux Damascus.


Devin Thomas is a master of modern pattern welding and his web page shows some wonderful examples of what's possible


The "hamon" is an often related topic. This is a visual discontinuity in the steel of the blade produced by a technique known as Differential Hardening. The lower 1/3 or so of the blade, the edge area, is hardened to a higher temper. This creates good edge holding ability, but leads to a more brittle steel. The thicker remainder of the blade is hardened less so it's somewhat softer, giving it toughness. But you normally temper the whole blade at once so the thicker part of the blade is buffered from the heat of the tempering, traditionally through a clay coating on that part of the steel. With modern equipment, specific heating and cooling methods are now sometimes used as well that achieve the same result.


Birch wood is generally a pretty bland wood for knife handles. It's quite light in color and without interesting grain  though it's not unpleasant. Specialty varieties such as Birdseye command a higher price and offer more visual interest. An infected/rotted variety of birch has led to what is called Spalted Birch and is quite pleasing at least to my eye at least.


The features of the linked knife then are more aesthetic than performance oriented. And that's fine. I've bought a number of knives for aesthetic premiums over the standard version, though usually pocket knives.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #5 of 7
Thanks for this great summary, Phatch!
post #6 of 7

Actually the method of creating Damascus steel was never lost, not sure how that myth got started but it did spread far and wide.  The steel making method was originated in Asia, but became attached to the city of Damascus where many swords were forged from the imported metal.  It's method of manufacture eventually spread all over but dwindled with the advent of more economical modern methods of manufacture.  Until the advent of crucible steel in the latter half of the 1800's it was probably the best method of creating high grade  steel.  The best ancient examples where made from iron ore that naturally contained chrome (ancients knew nothing of chrome or most other alloying agents) that came from a particular mine that was eventually depleted.  As sword material I have heard it was superior to contemporary Japanese folded steels, probably tougher/less prone to breaking, while taking and holding a good edge.  Google wootz steel and you'll find plenty of info.


In actuality Damscus steel is about on par with modern 1095 steel (also known as "clean steel") except the slow cooling process of Damascus causes the carbides to crystalize into  particles large enough to be easily visible, producing a natural and uniquely durable toothy edge (as the teeth are all large carbides) and forming the patterns seen in Damascus steel.  As one modern knife maker put it, "It makes a great steak knife but you wouldn't want to shave your face with it."  Modern crucible and CPM steels are far superior in strength, toughness and wear resistance.




post #7 of 7
A word about carbon steel knives. I bought a carbon sabatier and didn't use it at first. I ended up forcing a patina so I wouldn't have to fuss with it as much; after that I started using it more. I love it; it sharpens easily, performs excellently, and the extra care is really no more than just giving it a rinse and drying it off when you're done with it. So, don't be scared of the carbon steel. You can't leave you're knife soaking in the sink, but, probably shouldn't anyway.
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