For Japanese knife enthusiasts....

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alan m. kafton

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Rob Babcock

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Re: For Japanese knife enthusiasts....
« Reply #1 on: 1 Feb 2008, 09:16 am »
And that's just scratching the surface. aa  Most of my knives are Japanese, and it's hard to use most European/German blades after using a good laminated blade.  Even the cheaper ones from Tojiro will completely annihilate a Wusthof or Henkels.  I keep a Tojiro Guyoto in my work roll- first week I had it, I let two guys use it.  Both cut themselves on it, one badly enough to have to go to the ER. :P  [Note:  to see the humor in that I think you have to be 1) a Chef, 2) a Sadist (basically same as #1) or 3) a knifenut.]

Japanese knives can be as bad of an addiction as audio, but I think sharpening is even worse! :o :lol:  Ask the guy with 50 debas, wu-guyotos, honesukis, sujihikis & Ao-ko hongasumis just how many waterstones he has...probably the number will be more than the total of his knives!  And sharpening is completely addictive, and it reminds a bit of the vinyl ritual.  The stones must first be soaked; long enough to saturate them, but too long (for natural stones) and they'll revert back to mud.  The fine grits usually are worked over with a Nagura stone, enough to create a slurry but not enough to create a mess.  You'll start with a 250 grit is a blade is dull enough, then work your way up to absurd levels like a 30,000 grit Shapton GlassStone, not stopping until the entire bevel shines like a mirror.  And those finest stones cost as much as some speaker cables! :lol:  And when you get done with that, there's still stropping! :P

When I run out of stuff to sharpen, I get out forks and butter knives. :oops:  It's truly a sick obsession. 8)

Photon46

Re: For Japanese knife enthusiasts....
« Reply #2 on: 1 Feb 2008, 10:51 am »
Wow Rob, you do have it bad! I enjoy Japanese steel as well, albeit on a less obsessive scale! As you say, once you've used a good laminated steel knife in the kitchen, nothing from Europe seems very adequate. I also enjoy good Japanese chisels for carving woodcut prints. The Japanese have no competitors for those tools as well IMO. One of the printers in our workshop spent a couple years in Japan studying traditional woodcut techniques and he has an amazing collection of artisan chisels and good waterstones he brought back.

Rob Babcock

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Re: For Japanese knife enthusiasts....
« Reply #3 on: 1 Feb 2008, 12:10 pm »
Yeah, the Japanese have a different "techno/cultural" approach than the west.  I can't claim expertise in this area, though:  European woodworkers also have impressive methods for sharpening tools.  The Japanese were blessed, in my estimation, by geology:  look at the clay they have!  As a reluctant sensei once said, "it all started 1,000 years ago with a tinker and a wet rock."  We're still trying to understand that 'wet rock' today. :lol:

Okay, I'll let my true colors show:  some say sharpening is "a dying art," but I assert that there are more experts alive today than at any point in human history.  Sure, we don't fight with swords, but aside from practical concerns that dictate a sharp blade (eg: meatpackers, cooks, surgeons, outdoorsmen/women, military, etc) we simply have more people today.  And that means more geeks.  Plus, today we have scanning electron microscopes, plus other ways to examine the edge that didn't exist in the ancient past.

C'mon, AC geeks- is audio the only area where your geekiness shows?  Or are some of you also into:  model trains; role playing games; skiing; skydiving; coin collecting; firearms; stamp collecting; comic books; vintage furniture; romance with farm equipment (okay, just threw that in to see if you were listening and to seperate the men from the boys! :o :lol:).

Rob Babcock

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Re: For Japanese knife enthusiasts....
« Reply #4 on: 1 Feb 2008, 12:22 pm »
Does that mean you don't think my tractor's sexy? :lol:

Rob Babcock

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Re: For Japanese knife enthusiasts....
« Reply #5 on: 1 Feb 2008, 12:29 pm »
BTW, Marbles- when I was growing up, my Dad had an FFL.  Besides stock for sale we personally had, at a minimum, about 85 personal firearms among our immediate family. aa  Dad was always a bit nervous about my "mechanical apptitude"...  Do you recall when I proclaimed my "geekdom"?  Well, as a kid (before Al Gore gifted us with the internet...) I decided to research silencers the old fashioned way:  I used the State Library, the patent office & The Shotgun News.  I quickly ascertained that a silencer was essentially the same as a car muffler, with a few incidental differences that I discovered that probably wouldn't interest anyone. :wink:  My designs quickly grew quite efficient.  Might I also point out the some specific wear patterns on the sears of semi automatic firearms can lead to a completely unexpected full auto discharge?! :o :wink:

Heheheh...I shoulda been an engineer instead of a chef! :P  But there ain't that many legit jobs for anti-social engineers! :lol:

ecramer

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Re: For Japanese knife enthusiasts....
« Reply #6 on: 1 Feb 2008, 02:24 pm »
Nope Nothing better than a sharp knife :drool: I have never tried water stones might have to give them a try. My  ritual is a hard Arkansas to a translucent Arkansas then finish  with a black Arkansas surgical stone. Do you do free hand ior do you use guides for the proper angle. To me you can feel the pull on the blade lessen when they start to come in but that might just be me being addicted to the ritual  :lol:

Photon46

Re: For Japanese knife enthusiasts....
« Reply #7 on: 1 Feb 2008, 04:51 pm »
Marbles, I don't know of a better place in the US to get Japanese kitchen knives from artisanal makers than Japanwoodworker.com.  Even their less expensive three layer knives are razor sharp, hold a good edge, and are easy to sharpen. Just be aware that Japanese knifes are easily discolored by food acids and rust easily, so they take more care than a good european knife. a light coating of camelia oil ( which Japanwoodworker sells ) is the traditional protective agent after use.

Rob Babcock

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Re: For Japanese knife enthusiasts....
« Reply #8 on: 2 Feb 2008, 10:37 am »
A few pretty good vendors:
 

Cutlery And More is a good one.  They don't have a lot of Japanese knives, but they do have Shun, Masahiro, Kasumi & Mac, plus Global if you like them- I initially did like them d/t styling & ergonomics but the blades aren't as good.

Chef Knives to Go is another good shop.  They have most of what Cutlery & More has but add Hattori, Misono and a few others.

Japanese Chef Knife.com is an excellent source for more traditional Japanese knives.  They carry a lot of brands you won't find in the US, and some I've never seen anywhere else.  And the Engrish is amusing. :)

The Epicurean Edge sells lots of traditional & Western style Japanese knives.  They usually have the legendary Hattori KD in stock, in case you've got $1,100 laying around that's not doin' nothin'!

Korin is a great source for Japanese blades.  They're both a store and they make knives, selling their own & other brands.  The link I provided is to the Tojiro page; they're wonderful laminated blades that are priced even lower than most German ones.  And they'll flat out kill any Wusthof or Henkels I've ever seen or used (although the Henkels Twin Cermax are a whole nuther kettle of fish- they're laminated Super Steel knives, made in Japan & branded for Henkels).

Carter Cutlery- I gotta throw this link out there.  Murray Carter is a very rare gaijin indeed; he was essentially adopted as a son into a Japanese knifemaking family, something virtually unheard of.  This guy makes some amazing blades and is probably one of the best sharpeners on the planet.  He has videos showing you his method of sharpening, not that you'll ever come close to him! :lol:  Best part, for just $18,000 he'll personally instruct you in the art of knifemaking, taking you from not knowing squat to making your own laminated kitchen knife.


It's hard to give too much advice, for a couple reasons.  One, while I'm a big fan there are lots of brands I've never had a chance to use, or even see.  Few places in the US carry a wide variety, and most of them are on the coasts.  Plus, knives are at least as subjective as you choice in speakers.  First, you have to choose between Western style and traditional Japanese styles.  The former takes basically Western patterns and interprets them and forging them in the Japanese fashion.  These include the ones you often see on Food Network:  the Santoku, the Gyuto (basically a Chef's knife), the Nakiri, and the Sujihiki (a cross between a slicing knife & a French knife).  All these are double-bevel, meaning they're sharpened on both sides.  Traditional knives are chisel ground, or single-bevel.  These are sharpened just on one side.  You may see these on Iron Chef or at a sushi place.  The Western knives are usually (but not always) executed in stainless and/or some type of advanced powdered steel.  Traditional knives are often made of high carbon steel that's no less advanced than the stainless.  White and Blue steel are most common.  NOTE:  You could write a dozen thick books about the types of steel and the methods used to make Japanese knives, so consider this an extreme simplification!

As a Western cook, I prefer knives bases on Western patterns.  Tools evolve alongside the cuisines they're used to cook, so it's not surprising that different culinary traditions would have different styles.  I really love the santoku, a sort of East-meets-West interpretation of the French knife.  The Gyuto is indispensible for me.  Occasionally I'll use a Nakiri, but I don't have much use for an Usuba- they look identical, superficially, but the former is double bevel and the latter is a single.  And some styles, like the Honesuki just don't work well for me at all.  I occasionally find a use for a Sashimi or Deba but mostly I like the patterns I came up using.

A few that I like & recommend:

Shun- Personally I love 'em.  The Classics are made with a hagane (cutting core) of V-Gold 10, a powdered metalurgical 'Super Steel".  It's hardened to about 60 Rockwell C, then clad to a jigane of softer stainless Damascus.  The handles are D-shaped Pakkawood, specifically made in righthand or lefthand versions.  The Elite line uses an even more exotic steel called SG-2, hardened to about Rockwell 64 iirc.  They do make a couple of lines of tradional styles, but the aforementioned ones are Western styles, and are my favorites.  Shun was one of the first really popular Japanese knives, and Alton Brown has made them even more well known.  Because of this, some hardcore Japanese knife snobs (yes, they're even worse than TheChair(less)Guy and his vinyl! :lol:) tend to hold them in lower esteem, but they're fine knives.

Hattori- Really great knives!  Only the KD is truly handmade by Hattori himself, but all the knives are nice.  The KF line was made in collaboration with some KnifeForums members in the US, hence the "KF" designation.  The KF's aren't laminated- they're solid V-Gold 10.  Eventually an upgrades line of KF's will utilize ultra premium Cowry X steel.

Ryusen/Blazen- Blazen actually makes the Hattori HD; the Hattori shop polishes and finishes them.  Ryusen makes great Western style knives that hold an edge extremely well.

Tojiro- It used to be that it was hard for me to recommend a good Japanese alternative for a guy shopping for an $80 Wusthof.  Then I bought my first Tojiro!  It was truly a "German-knife killer"!  I got a 24 cm Gyuto (about 9.4") for under $70 shipped.  Compared to it my best Wusthof and Henkels were like rusted-out Kabars. 

Beyond these, it's hard to really suggest anything.  Misono & Mac are really nice, too, and of course if you want a handmade knife there are hundreds if not thousands of makers to choose from.  Certainly a Murray Carter will always perform well, and his "entry level" knives are pretty reasonable (around $200-$300).  His elite ones will run...well, let's just say "if you have to ask, you can't afford it."  Ditto for handmade custom Hattori's.

Let me say in closing that I'm far from an expert on Japanese knives...  Anyone interesting in Japanese knives can find some fellas @ KnifeForums.com that make me look like a total nOOb! :o :lol:  You can learn a ton by hanging out over there- they're like AudioCircle for knives! :thumb:

Bob in St. Louis

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Re: For Japanese knife enthusiasts....
« Reply #9 on: 2 Feb 2008, 11:53 am »
 :drool: Wow Rob, I was perfectly happy with my knives until you wrote all that. NIIIiiiice  :thumb:

Bob

boead

Re: For Japanese knife enthusiasts....
« Reply #10 on: 11 Jun 2008, 08:05 pm »


Awesome Knives, awesome audio too.

http://kyoceraadvancedceramics.com/

BobM

Re: For Japanese knife enthusiasts....
« Reply #11 on: 11 Jun 2008, 08:16 pm »
Wow, and I thought we had good Henkel's in our kitchen. Now I have to see what Tojiro is all about.

Bob

Dan Driscoll

Re: For Japanese knife enthusiasts....
« Reply #12 on: 11 Jun 2008, 11:42 pm »
Wow, and I thought we had good Henkel's in our kitchen. Now I have to see what Tojiro is all about.

Bob


I have a 4.5" Shun Elite Mini-Prep and the rest of my knives are Henkels 4 Star and 4 Star II. I like the Shun quite a bit, but the knives I use most are my Henkels 4" paring and 6" chefs, both the 4 Star II version.

I'm think about getting a 6" Shun Elite utility or 6.5" santoku, but based on my experience with the 4.5", I'm not sure I'll like them any better than my Henkels.

Stu Pitt

Re: For Japanese knife enthusiasts....
« Reply #13 on: 27 Oct 2008, 03:43 pm »
My favorite knife by far is a Shun Classic 6" Ulitmate Utility knife.  My wife thought it was kind of stupid to spend $100 on a "Sandwich knife."  She didn't question it again after the first time she used it.  It gets used far more than any other knife we have.

When my Henkels knives need to be replaced, we'll replace them with Shun Classics and not look back.

kyyuan

Re: For Japanese knife enthusiasts....
« Reply #14 on: 27 Oct 2008, 05:39 pm »
Rob,

Great stuff.  My everyday knife is a small collection of Mac and a Shun Damascus.  My personal prized knife is from Ryusen Blazen -- noob stuff in the eyes of KF experts -- and I use a couple of water stones to keep them in shape.

some young guy

Re: For Japanese knife enthusiasts....
« Reply #15 on: 2 Feb 2009, 07:50 pm »


Saw this deal on EBay. I can't afford it right now, but thought maybe one of you might be interested.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=270338604624&_trksid=p3907.m32&_trkparms=tab%3DSelling

mcgsxr

Re: For Japanese knife enthusiasts....
« Reply #16 on: 3 Feb 2009, 02:33 am »
Nice knives indeed.  I use mostly Henkel, a couple are the Pro's, and have a few Cutco around. 

I will give one of those cheap Japanese ones in time, I do like toys...

The other place my geekiness really shone, was with motorcycles.  I did a ridiculous amount of research back in the mid 90's, and discovered that most parts were straight swap for Suzuki GSXR's between 1985 and 1991.  I then bought, stripped, and built differing combos over the next 6 years (14 of them!).  I used to be able to tell what year a motor was, from a glance at it.  What fun, in younger days.

Syrah

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Re: For Japanese knife enthusiasts....
« Reply #17 on: 3 Feb 2009, 12:42 pm »
Since it is confession time.  Audio, knives, cooking, wine, and increasingly scuba diving.  Scuba diving offers a plethora of expensive toys for boys.

I have a few Henkels, Sabatier...  When I used to live in Toronto my local department store decided to discontinue Global knives.  75%!  I bought them ALL.  So I have about 10 different Global knives.  I was too stupid to realize that I was buying a right-handed sushi knife - I am left handed.  Anyone interested in a Global sushi knife for a good price?

I am thinking of trying out a good quality Japanese chefs knife.  Something in the $100 to $200 range.  Which one(s) should I try?

SET Man

Re: For Japanese knife enthusiasts....
« Reply #18 on: 3 Feb 2009, 06:57 pm »
Hey!

    Nice article :D

    I've been thinking of getting one lately. I've been looking at Shun "Classic" chef's/Gyuto since these are more affordable than others. But still not sure if I should go for 8" or 10" one. Currently I'm using 8" cheappy chef's knife. :D

   Sure! If I got the money I will definitely looking for a hand-made one, but they are pretty expensive and I don't know if I will be brave enough to use it almost daily.  :icon_lol:

Take care,
Buddy :thumb:

bbchem

Re: For Japanese knife enthusiasts....
« Reply #19 on: 3 Feb 2009, 08:19 pm »
 :D :lol:

Just noticed this forum, I have been doing a lot of writing on the audio part, but I am an avid knife fan, I have Global, Shun, Kyocera, MAc, Caphalon Katana, and a Deba Hocho knife from the www.JapanWoodworker.com, which is my absolute favorite for about $30 bucks, it cuts better than all of my others and the sharpness is super!! I love the Mac sharpness also.

 :thumb:  Bill