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Need help choosing the right kitchen knives!

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

Hello everyone,


I'm hoping to get some help to find the perfect chef knife for me. I've become really interested in cooking and would like to add/improve my kitchen supplies. I've done some research and I narrowed down my search to three different knives: The Miyabi Artisan or the Mizu, and the Shun Kaji SG2 Chef knife. 


I've heard that these knives aren't necessarily the best bang for buck, but no one really explained why. Can anyone expand on this? Also, anyone with past experience with these knives, did you have any trouble or complaints?


I'm quite open budget wise, although I'd rather not go over $250 on just the chef knife. Nevertheless, any suggestions are welcome.


Any help is welcome, and I'm not sure what information I need to share but please ask away! 





post #2 of 17
Hi Kevin, The "bang for your buck" critique seems to be based on two things:

1. If you shop around one can always find a cheaper option that may have the same or similar steel and may perform similarly.

2. A general dislike by some of larger corporate manufacturers with large advertising budgets and market networking in place.

3. And sometimes it seems... Any item that is not sold by one of the "darlings" of the Japanese knife retailers.

These opinions are written with fervor by folks with a strong opinion and a conviction that their opinion is the best. Often there is credible experience to support those opinions. But... Lots of other opinions exist that are also based on considerable experience.

Read it all and exercise your own judgement and values.
post #3 of 17
P.s. I have no personal experience with either of these two knife series but have a close friend who uses the Shun Kaji knives and holds a very positive opinion of then.

I use two other models of Shun. The fit-and-finish is exceptional and I've found them to be excellent knives. That's my experience over the past 8 years or more. Sure, they cost some money but I consider them a good investment if one cares for them and uses them right.

I always suggest finding a way to try before you buy so you have personal experience to supplement the Internet opinions.
Edited by BrianShaw - 8/14/16 at 11:17am
post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks Brian!


I plan on making a few trips to Sur la Table and William Sonoma to try them both out.

post #5 of 17
Just in case they aren't ready for your visit, bring a potato and carrot or two!
post #6 of 17
And if you live in a major metropolitan area, seek out a Retailer of other Japanes knife brands. You never know, they may be of interest and if nothing else at least you'd know what those products are like.
post #7 of 17

Welcome to Cheftalk K.


Let's just start off by responding to the input you've given rather than asking for more, as the unspoken thoughts you have may just alter themselves in the process.


The Myabi's and Shun you mention all perform respectably for SG-2 steel.


The Myabis are a decent value at the $150 I see the 8" gyuto going for.  The hammered finish helps with food release.  Nice profiles too.  


But The Shun Kaji at $250 is just way overpriced in comparison. Even if it had an engraved Kanji instead of just a decal, as any knife in for $150+should, it is not a better knife and can't justify the extra bill for the faux damascus.


If you want a really nice gyuto, really beautiful faux damascus and engraved Kanji, a far superior cutter to any of the above, there is the Shiro Kamo.


The Takamura Migaki is laser thin and super cutter of course, excellent FF and a nice Western handle. 


Another powdered steel knife I'd have you consider is the Kagero.  It's SRS-15 steel gets almost as sharp as the SG2 knives, but holds a sharp edge far far longer.  Actually, only a good sharpener could make a noticeable difference here in terms of absolute keeness.  Another plus for someone just getting into Japanese knives, this steel is not only harder/stronger than SG2, it's also more rugged/less prone to chipping.  And the bigger 240mm is even within your budget.


Jon is the man here, and he certainly qualifies as one of the "darlings" alluded to, and just buying a knife from him is an experience.  You'd do well to have a talk with him, he has a number of knives that are good choices for you. 


I have both the Takamura and Kagero, love them both, use both every night.  The Shiro Kamo is a beauty.  But for PM steel the Kagero would be my top choice for you.


You have to understand that these knives are not heavyweights, and anyways with the relatively brittle steel you really need to save your old knives for the more brutish tasks.


How do you intend to sharpen the knew knives?  I hope you realize that a pull-thru and steel won't cut it here.

Edited by Rick Alan - 8/14/16 at 4:01pm
post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thank you very much for those suggestions! I definitely agree with you that the Shun is very expensive, but I like that they offer free sharpening services that I hear can be quite expensive.


Being a newbie here, could you/someone explain the difference between SG-2, R2, and SRS-15 steel?


What is faux damascus and does this offer any sort of benefit?


As for all three of the knives you mentioned, do they require any special care such as oiling?


You mentioned the Kagero knife last, but I wasn't able to find it via the link you sent, as it was the same as the previous link. I tried finding it myself to no avail.


I've looked at SG-2 because I've heard it's better for slicing, is this true? I understand that the harder the steel, the more likely it will chip  (if abused). I was planning on only using this for the basics like slicing vegetables and meats. However, what type of steel is better for bones/frozen or harder substances?


I'm not sure where I'd get my knives sharpened, there is a Sur La Table and William Sonoma near me but I'm not sure if I should take my fine knives there for sharpening. This was why I was leaning toward the Shun Kaji, as they offer their own free sharpening service. I'll be sure to find a place prior to purchasing any fine knife though, as I've heard it's very important to keep them and use them sharp.


Thanks again for the advice!

post #9 of 17
You really need to consider learning how to sharpen. I've not had bad experiences with sharpening services but other have. Rick has a particularly tragic story to tell. In a mayor metropolitan area there are often many options for sharpening. Some good and others not so much. I, personally, have no concern with Shun's free advice except that it is mail order and puts the knife out of service for a week or two. The best sharpening, though, has been Perfect Edge in San Mateo. They sharpened for Shun when Shun stopped the free sharpening. Postage was a killer though.
post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 

Yes! I plan on learning to sharpen my own using stones, but I need to do more research on the best ways to sharpen a knife. I only mention the stones because I've read they're a great way of going about it? I'll practice using the knives I currently own, they're been used for well over five years and could use a sharpening anyway!


Also, I thought Shun still offered their free sharpening service? I figured that if I bought the Shun, by either the first or second time I sent it in I would have learned how to sharpen them myself. 


Thanks for the help!

post #11 of 17
Shun stopped the free sharpening for a while, and then resumed it.
post #12 of 17
There is a lot of material available on sharpening, here and elsewhere. Research will be easy for you. For hard Japanese steel most are using water stones. I use natural Arkansas stones and get good edges.
post #13 of 17

Sorry for the goof, actual Kagero link


Kma335, I take it you can discriminate sources of information for what they are worth.  Like our former knife guru BDL would say, "stupid is as stupid does."  I personally have never heard a good story about Shun's sharpening service, tremendous amount of material is removed, edge is never very good.


First thing you need to understand is that what the Big Marketers sell you in their ads is not of any necessity representative of what you get.  Moving on from sharpening services, Myabi claims the knives you mentioned are sharpened to a 9-12deg angle.  Anyone who knows SG2 will tell you that there is no way Myabi would ship knives sharpened that accute, as the edge would just chip right off in short order, especially with their typical buyer being completely bereft of any decent knife skills, or cutting boards.  In actuallity the edge as it comes from the factory will be closer to 20deg/side, and often very much more as the buffing process they use for finishing is by its nature going to drastically and unpredictably alter the edge as it comes off the grinding wheel used, always in the obtuse direction.  Shun and Myabi also try to sell you a [poorly made no less] grooved sharpening steel for there knives, which can do nothing but destroy their edge.  Doesn't take a genius to figure out what is going on here, but obviously most of their customers just never get it.


Few sharpening services out there will do a decent job, especially to Japanese knife standards.  You really do need to learn how to sharpen.  And nothing you do will be any worse than what a typical sharpening service will provide.  And you even have your present knives to practice on.


So you can, in some fashion, feel confident in proceeding boldly forward toward your first quality knife purchase, whatever that may turn out to be.

post #14 of 17

As to Faux Damascus and what it contributes, it is strictly for looks.  This is true whether you are talking about an entry level Japanese knife, or $800+ Shigafusa, or multi-K$ custom.


SG2 and SRS-15 are both very stain resistant, just rinse and wipe, no oiling.


Bones and frozen food, and anything else that seriously taxes the edge of a knife, should be left to your current knives.  Unless you want to buy something like Millions's favorite for the task, an Itonomon Wa butcher, specifically for those tasks.


I'll trim chicken breast with my Kagero, even [carefully] debone ribeye, only because I am not so concerned with sharpness at the tip end where it makes bone contact.  But the Takamura is strictly for slicing (not chopping) soft veggies, very thin, and boneless protein, minimal board contact to maintain max sharpness.  The Kagero simply laughs at the board.  Which is why, as a [somewhat] single knife solution, I feel the Kagero will work much better for most folks.

Edited by Rick Alan - 8/14/16 at 6:45pm
post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 

Good to know, I haven't really looked into the sharpening services for Shun or other companies yet, so I had no idea about the bad things that might happen there. I unfortunately have never sharpened my knives before, as I never expected much from my $50 knife set that I've had for years but they'll be good for practice.


I plan on asking/searching through these forums and other places to learn more about steel types, cutting boards, sharpening stones/sharpening styles, honing steels, and different types of storage/care for the knives etc. etc. before buying anything!


Would you also be able to share some of the online stores you've purchased from? I'll be honest, the only online stores I've looked at are places like BedBathandBeyond, Sur la Table, and William Sonoma..


I'll keep an eye out for the Kagero as it's currently out of stock, but I'll be looking into the other knives you've suggested as well. 


Thanks for helping out this newbie! :thumb:

post #16 of 17
Definitely take your time asking questions and reading around. Give Jon at Japanese Knife Imports a call- he very much cares about guiding someone to a choice that fits them, even if it doesn't result in a transaction
Since you are looking at knives that are above 30-50$ and are composed of hard steels, I recommend that you keep an open mind learning to use waterstones, unless you had a plan to send it off to someone who hand sharpens with stones as part of a not-free service (where people have strong expectations of the sharpening results) a couple of times a year.
Recent online buys have been from Bernal Cutlery, Japanese Knife Imports, Japanese Natural Stones, Japanese Chefs Knife, and Knifewear (and eBay and Korin last year). Knives And Stones has some fantastic offerings as well. Maybe I've been too good at keeping track of sales and discounts, but I do enjoy making my money go further... smile.gif

Something relatively thick and/or made of a softer steel and sharpened to an obtuse edge for frozen foods and going through bones (how often are you cutting frozen foods and through bones??) Or just a knife with some heft you care very little about.
I think you'd be pretty thrilled with a knife like Gesshin Kagero. Again, give Jon a call and you can ask when they're coming back in stock.

Any potential knife preferences? Anything you think you might want or qualities to prioritize. Any budget for sharpening equipment?
post #17 of 17
Thread Starter 

Hi Foody, I'll be sure to give Jon a call, thanks! I started a new thread that has a little more information about me. As for my budget for other things like sharpening equipment, I was hoping to figure that all out after finding the perfect knife for me. I figured I wouldn't want to spend too much on equipment for the knife if I end up buying a less expensive piece. 


I'll attach a link below should you wish to help me more there, or simply reply here!


Thanks for your time and the great tips everyone!

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