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Can someone help me get a good set of Japanese knives

5426 Views 24 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  ordo
My current set is walmart cheap special, so everything is a definite upgrade. My husband is a really good cook. I like making bento boxes and I have done quite well despite my knife set. However it is starting to bug me. The uses I use them for is sushi, apple swans and other similar 3d food art, and i bake bread daily. He uses the basic traditional chop and slice and parring activities. My biggest problem is I'm semi left handed in certain knife activities. My husband likes Japanese knives and I think they will suit my cooking style very well compared to the german.
  • My budget is about 600-800 (for all 4)
  • My husband prefers the hammered finish (tsuchime) bc he thinks it's pretty (this is flexible if i can convince him the knife is very good and pretty)
  • I really just want a bread, chef, parring, and utility. Extras would be boning knife and slicing knife but trying to stretch the budget. Also need a honing steel.
  • Ambidextrous (husband is right handed and i go back and forth)
  • VG 10 (very important to me)
  • Husband has nickel allergy
  • We don't care about brand, I care about function, will it work for me, and is it comfortable
  • Looking for mid-high end knives that will last a lifetime
My husband and I keep getting stuck on a fracking shun premier set but i have to compromise on the ambidextrous that I want and the knife set that fixes that is something he doesn't like the look of therefore He'll be more reluctant to take care of.

I know shun aren't the cream of the crop or any blade dream but is there any other knifes someone can recommend. The others i'm finding don't feel right. The shun feel good but then i'm stuck not using my better hand on some things (I'm ambidextrous but left hand dominant)

What is a good solution? get a right handed set now to please him and then get a left handed set for me? Is there an ambidextrous set similar to the shun premier in price and blade finish? I'm just feel cornered without options on knives

I get 10% off shun knives too so that helps the cost but I'm still not sold and I think there may be better for the money. Thank you in advance for your help
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Concerning VG-10 and nickel - you also have to keep in mind that almost all of the VG-10 edge knives that I have seen any specs on are clad - i.e., multi-layered, with the VG-10 comprising only the innermost layer.  That means you have to research the outer layer(s) to see what they are made of.

Complicating the issue are the "Damascus" blades, where multiple layers are sandwiched together as a plate and then the blade is then formed when the outer layers are strategically ground down.  The problem here is that the decorative layers are chosen for their contrast - and each layer will be a different type of steel with a different chemical formula than its immediate neighbor.

Accordingly, you might search VG-10 for its chemical composition, but it's the other layers which will be more in contact with your husband's hand and fingers.

As for Shuns using a Damascus pattern, what research I'm getting on a quick search is that the cores are mostly VG-10 and the outer layers in their Damascus blades are alternating layers of SUS-410 steel and some form of nickel compound.   OUCH!

Another basic VG-10 cored knife, the Tojiro DP line, has what zknives believes the cladding to likely be SUS-410 steel.  That may very well be a better bet, especially if you are seeking a symetrically ground knife or knives that both of you can use.  Yes, the handle is clunky - but a pinch grip offsets that quite a bit.  They are also among the least expensive VG-10 cored knives around.  What I have also been seeing is that people who have used both Shuns and Tojiros find that the Tojiros have been less chippy than the Shuns.

You might also want to look into just trying some MAC knives.  If you're willing to do some serious eBay bidding, for the past several weeks,one of the authorized MAC dealers (listed on eBay as "justknives101com") has been putting up new MAC knives for auction on eBay.  Most of the knives have been in the MAC Chef line and the auctions have been 5 day auctions posted on a Tuesday and ending on the following Sunday about midday.  Each week produces a different batch of auction items, so you might need to have patience.  So far, I have picked up for myself three Chef series chef's knives, a Chef's series bird's beak, a Chef's series utility/petty and a Pro series utility/petty.  Winning bids have all been below the general MAC discount price (and therefore also significantly below the list retail MAC prices).  Since the Chef's series is a mish-mash of different knives, you need to pay attention to the thickness of the blades.  But, the BK-80 and the BK-100 are both worth seeking out as regular chef's knives.  Just don't get carried away by auction fever.

I agree with BrianShaw about sharpening.  That's equally important as the choice of knives (maybe even more important in the long run).

If you haven't yet factored it in, get a 12 inch Idahone fine honing rod.  Best $32 investment around.  And get a convenient hook for keeping it handy but protected from being dropped or jossled into a drop onto the floor, where it would get shattered.  3M Command is a $5 line of adhesive-backed removable hooks.

And don't forget a good quality cutting board.

Galley Swiller
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On the Wusthof In-Drawer storage:


These in-drawer trays are made by a vendor who sells similar products to multiple cutlery makers, who then retail it under their house label. I bought one of these wavy knife holders in the Mundial name a few weeks ago, took it home and found out it was pretty much useless for anything with a blade taller than 1 inch, or 25 mm. Fortunately, I bought mine used at a thrift shop, so I paid a minimal price. So, my modest loss is your knowledgeable gain.

The problem is that the individual strips of wood (the "waves") are held together by multiple dowels which go at 90 degrees to and through the strips and both secure and position the strips. When a "tall" knife (read that as any knife where the blade is taller than the proverbial 25 mm or 1 inch) is put into the slot between two strips, the edge of the blade will rest on the dowels and the handle of the knife will ride up well above the "waves", so the handle will not engage on a "wave".

Consider that there are not that many knives shorter than 1 inch.

Of course, if you rest the knives so the edge is facing up, then the blades will fit into the rack very well. But who wants to reach into a drawer with knife edges facing up? That's a safety nightmare.

I was in a retail specialty shop yesterday and looked at the Wusthof version. And it is wavy and has the offending dowels.

It used to be that Wusthof's version was a simple slotted version which had chunky and clunky blocks nailed and glued to a plywood backing. That version works very well (which I have several, with one being a Wusthof brand) .

Unfortunately, some "designer" felt that the "waves" were better visual design.

Such is the price of "progress"

Galley Swiller
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