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japanese (thin/light) vs western (thick/heavy)

post #1 of 52
Thread Starter 
Hi all. Just going through the age old battle in regards to the Japanese knives being so thin, sharp and light, vs the heavy, thick and more forgiving western style knives. Now I do own both a Shun santoku and an Icel 10" chefs knife. Thinking I would of prefered the chefs knife in the Shun also. I'm always swapping between the 2 knives when prepping food, mostly vegetables and fruits, occasionally meat. I really appreciate the razor sharpness of the Shun but I'm finding its all down to what your cutting. My heavy chefs knife splits zuchinis, carrots, etc length wise better, and also dices the carrots better. Its also much easier to cut tomatoes with which really suprised me. The Shun does perform better on onions and other soft vegetables though. Point being, I can't even pick between the 2 styles just cutting vegetables. They both have a place for me. The shun is super sharp but without the weight, it requires more effort on some cuts then I think it should. Is there maybe an in between knife? Still thin with an acute cutting edge but heavier also?
The larger, heavier 10" chefs knife does seem more versatile to me than the sleek, razor sharp Shun. Maybe I should just buy a large paring knife/utility knife with a thin profile to compliment the 10" chefs knife. What's everyone's personal preferences? I've never heard of Icel before either but I'd consider it a decent mid range knife
post #2 of 52

You can have any number of expensive knives, but sometimes it's good to keep a beater around that is hard to damage (and you don't really care if you damage it). 

post #3 of 52

I completely understand your observations. I have (and use) both Shun and western chef knives (German and American). The Shun performs quite good but the others are better for harder materials - like squash, carrots and chicken joints. Both kinds of knives have a place and I, too, swap between them depending on what's being cut.  If your Shun is requiring a lot of pressure it is possible that it needs a re-sharpening.

post #4 of 52
The Shun I've seen weren't that thin behind the edge and could use some major thinning.
post #5 of 52

You can thin both your present knives as Benuser pointed out [the very real need] and be happy with that improvement.  You obviously feel more comfortable with the big knife, but with the Shun thinned out I believe you will find it better at all tasks mentioned.  VG10 is not a super-steel, but it is far better than the crap stainless of the Icel.  With some effort you can get the soft stainless Icel pretty sharp, but it won't stay that way for long.  You can save the Icel as a beater for splitting squash and such with abandon.


Or pick up a Hiromoto AUS10 270 gyuto while they're still available at JCK, $137 shipped and you won't have use for your other 2 knives every again, accept the beater occasionally.


If you can consider stainless clad carbon there are a number of knives in blue#2 that are also very reasonably priced.





post #6 of 52
Thread Starter 
Thankyou everyone for you input. When you say thinning of the knife, are you referring to sharpening them at a more acute angle?

I will definitely look into the Hiromoto Rick, sounds like an improvement over both of mine. I did originally purchase the icel as a beater knife for heavier foods. I think a large gyuto might be the way to go.

As for the Shun being blunt, it did blunt quite quickly after the first 2 uses. A quick hone everyday its used keeps it pretty sharp. Just sometimes needs a bit of a push but usually cuts well if just honed. Just seems a little more tempermental where as the big beater knife just crushes with its weight and doesn't seem to need sharpening as often. But I hone my knives before or after every use regardless. I just think the weight is benificial on harder produce but I've not tried many knives to really know

Thanks again everyone
post #7 of 52
If you sharpen only the edge without removing steel behind it, it will become thicker and thicker. With the same sharp edge you will end with an axe in your hand. This is because of the taper: the spine is some 2-3mm thick, the very edge a few micron. Every time you sharpen the edge is moved to a thicker part of the blade.


That's why your sharpening should start behind the edge.

By the way, how do you hone?
post #8 of 52
I should have mentioned this very simple way to verify whether you knife has become too thick: cut a carrot in the middle. If you hear it cracking, it hasn't been fully cut, it broke. The blade is too thick. Have it thinned.
Edited by Benuser - 6/29/15 at 11:32pm
post #9 of 52
Thread Starter 
Ah, now I understand. The knives are relatively new so shouldn't have dramas there yet.

As for the sharpening, I don't consider myself good enough with a steel or stone so I use a Kitchen IQ brand with the set Vs. But has an adjustable angle from 14° right up to 24°, as well as having a coarse, ceramic sharpener on one side and a fine honing V on the other side. Obviously for best results I should learn to properly use a steel or stone but I was scared of damaging the aesthetics on the shun blade. Haha. I've sharpened my Shun down to 14° from its original 16°
post #10 of 52
I don't know that device, but I guess the bevel has got quite large. The prominent shoulders cause friction that reduces performance. Get a cheap carbon steel blade and learn stone sharpening.
post #11 of 52

Shuns and many knives like the Icel are excessively thick behind the edge as they come brand new.  You can try thinning yourself using course sandpaper in place of a 400 grit stone like Benuser has described in recent posts.  You could send the Shun out for thinning but you can't justify the expense for the Icel.  Once thinned adequately you won't need the weight or size of the Icel, though many do prefer a long knife.




post #12 of 52

You guys might be right about some thickness behind the edge, but the more significant issue could be the sharpening technique.  KitchenIQ are inexpensive pull-through and powered sharpeners.  I suspect that sharpening technique may be more of the issue than thickness, especially for the Shun being discussed above.

post #13 of 52

Oh brother...Here we go again...


Sharpening aside, with Shuns in particular the marketing department made a completely conscious decision to make their classic too thick for efficient cutting in order to allow a particular asthetic on their faux Damascus.  It's .025 right behind the edge, too thick already (this is also perhaps a precaution as Shun's VG10 tends to be on the chippy side compared to other popular VG10 knives), and then bulges out like a whale's head from there.  Absolutely every person knowledgeable here has said about the same thing, including BDL,a former knife guru here.  And that is half the reason why one person here recently came to the brilliant and contradictory conclusion that relatively inexpensive Forgecrafts where better knives.


For those used to typical German knives a Shun Classic seems like a good example of the breed.  It is essentially a German knife made in Japan out of a Japanese steel.  But in comparison to a Japanese knife, even an entry level one like the Tojiro DP costing just less than 1/3 the price, it's not a favorably comparable cutter.


Actually the best thing you could do for the Shun is ruin that faux Damascus some.  It's going to get ugly with use anyway, along with the decals.




post #14 of 52
Where are we going again? Discussing different experiences with knives?

Shuns work well for me and a lot of others. So do Forge craft. But I think you may be stretching my statement just a bit that they are better. I don't remember saying that but I do say that Forgies are wicked sharp and a whole lot cheaper.

Shun (and any VG10 I've used) are hard to sharpen. That makes them hard to sharpen not bad knives. The OP may need to worry about sharpening skills and then worry thickness of that becomes an issue. Even the late BDL would agree with that.

The forgoes, by the way, don't seem any thinner behind the edge than an off the shelf Shun. I don't have a micrometer handy at this moment by can do the measures if there is interest

In general, most cooks don't need scalpel quality blades to cook good. So when you say "knowledgable people" are you talkimg about knife geeks or experienced cooks?
Edited by BrianShaw - 6/30/15 at 7:44pm
post #15 of 52

Wipe your tears Brian, in a recent post you had the tumerity to say to me directly and right out of the blue that I was full of BS, and you have implied as much in other posts even though my opinions on the subjects where completely in line with the predominant wisdom.  Mostly I ignored those comments of yours to avoid obfuscating things.


I'm just trying to give the OP sound advice here, based on not mere opinion but what is simply imutable physical data and otherwise easily followed science-based fact, while you appear to still be defending a purchase you recently admitted regretting.




post #16 of 52
So you want me to go away; is that how to read your rather offensive posts of recent? I too share info to help, not to bully or swagger. Your opinions tend to be he extreme and supported by about two other experts. Hardly a majority but a very passionate minority. I'm ok with that.
post #17 of 52
I have no regrets. I did find another very affordable option though.

And feel free to ignore me; I won't be offended.

But do you really think that sharpening might not be a valid issue... That thinning alone or buying another knife is the only way to solve the poor guys problem?
post #18 of 52

Supported by only 2 [experts]?  My offensive posts of recent?  Brian you're a trip

post #19 of 52
how about if we stop obfuscating other folks threads. Let's start our own to bicker; okay? Or use PMs. Or just call; I'm sure a chat over a nice cup of tea would soothe sore feelings.

vinnie asked for opinions. I gave mine and you gave yours. Let's both be happy and hopefully Vinnie will be happy too. Peace out.
Edited by BrianShaw - 6/30/15 at 8:32pm
post #20 of 52

Here's one of my favorite videos and the one that got me started free hand sharpening.  He does a very good explanation of the difference between Western and Japanese geometry.  There are other more "technical" ones on youtube, but I find this highly entertaining as well.


post #21 of 52

Is powda sharpen de knife!  Yes fun video




Edited by Rick Alan - 7/3/15 at 5:10am
post #22 of 52
Originally Posted by Vinnie Sam View Post
Is there maybe an in between knife? Still thin with an acute cutting edge but heavier also?


You may consider a yo-deba, which is not a deba at all, but rather a pretty hefty gyuto.

Gebe Gott uns allen, uns Trinkern, einen so leichten und so schönen Tod! Joseph Roth.
Gebe Gott uns allen, uns Trinkern, einen so leichten und so schönen Tod! Joseph Roth.
post #23 of 52
Thread Starter 
Hi all, sorry for the delay. I've been using the knives a lot more and have re sharpened my shun santoku and paring knife to 14 degrees. They are both rather sharp and now cut effortlessly after a proper sharpen and hone. I should add that I bought the cheaper Shun soras which may be thinner. I think they have a more attractive blade then the more expensive ones too. I think it was more of a not properly sharp issue. I now really enjoy the Japanese blades and would like a Shun chefs knife also. I rarely touch the large German chefs knife anymore but will still use it as a hack on tough produce when I don't want to damage my shuns. It cuts through tough skin like an avocado almost like s serrated knife.

I also found that video on the sharpening very interesting and informative. I will definitely be looking to practice this but for now my pull through sharpener does a surprisingly good job. As a few people have stated, when you go Japanese and you learn the correct way of using the knife (helps if the knife is properly sharp) I really have little interest in the German knives. They still have a place but if I wanted to crush and split my food, I'd use an axe. The Japanese blades are so refined, the cuts are smooth and you loose very little juices in comparison.

I'm guessing most people here that have used Shuns would have used the classics. I can't speak from experience as ive never used the dearer Shuns but I think the basic Sora models are pretty close in specs and for the price, you can buy 2 Shun Sora knives to 1 wusthof knife which may have an acute cutting edge of 14 degrees but use a softer 56 rated steel vs the Shuns 60 +

After a 18cm santoku, a10" western chefs knife, a 3.5" paring knife, is there really any other knives that are essential? Or I should say, make life easier without nessacerally being essential. I would like a Japanese chefs knife, smaller then a 10". Something with more curve then the santoku so I can not only rock but make slice cuts like a utility knife. What's everyone's personal collection like?
post #24 of 52

Good for you Vinnie.  Congratulations!


One other knife I consider essential: serrated bread knife and a proper boning knife.  A long, thin meat slicer is nice too but mine doesn't get frequently used.


p.s. A properly sharpened German knife and an axe are two totally different tools. Ask any European-trained chef since about 1682 AD.  :lol: 

post #25 of 52
Thread Starter 
Lol. Very true about the axe Brian, I over exaggerated just a little there. Haha.

I would definitely agree with the bread knife. I think cheap is okay for a serrated knife no?

I have been looking at boning knives and slicers. Any particular recommendations on those two?
post #26 of 52
Thread Starter 
I think dexter russel might be okay for the boning knife, they are definitely common...but is it going to be harder cutting then using say a Japanese style boning knife? I guess for the price difference alone you would just buy a dexter russel for around a fifth of the price of a Shun boning knife
post #27 of 52

To not get murdered on shipping and import tax, check out this Australian retailer http://www.knivesandstones.com/


He has stuff from Tojiro to Shigefusas.  All depends on your price range.

post #28 of 52
Thread Starter 
Thankyou for the link MillionsKnives, they do have some good gear. I quite like the Tojiro. Although their handles are slightly square, they are quite cheap. I do like the look of the Deba knives.
post #29 of 52
Originally Posted by Vinnie Sam View Post

After a 18cm santoku, a10" western chefs knife, a 3.5" paring knife, is there really any other knives that are essential?


A Chinese cleaver.

Gebe Gott uns allen, uns Trinkern, einen so leichten und so schönen Tod! Joseph Roth.
Gebe Gott uns allen, uns Trinkern, einen so leichten und so schönen Tod! Joseph Roth.
post #30 of 52
Thread Starter 
Just have something to add about blades chipping. Although the Shuns have a reputation for being brittle and chipping. My two shuns have zero chipping, despit hitting the board firmly on quite a few occasions...yet the Icel brand 10" chefs knife with its softer 56-57 rating steel and 20 degree edge chips every time I use it. Bad batch/quality control or bad brand of knife? Was still up there in the dollars, very close to the price of my Shun. I will be returning it to King of Knives for an exchange
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