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Japanese Knives – What to Buy?


rgruby
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As scubadoo97 says, usuba edges can get crazy sharp but but are fragile. If you're not doing reconstructive surgery on vegetables, I'd skip it.

I have a decent-quality nakiri packed up somewhere. I think it's intended as a general purpose knife, similar to chef's/gyuto, santoku and Chinese cleaver. Setting the santoku aside (I still haven't quite figured out what Japan was thinking), for my money the nakiri is not as useful as the other two - chef's allows you the full range of techniques we're all familiar with and the cleaver is clearly superior for vertical chopping, where the nakiri should shine compared to the chef's. Nakiris are also on the short side, which makes slicing anything bigger than an orange awkward.

You already have a perfectly good GP knife and in your position I would either invest in something more specialized or save my money.

Just IMO, YMMV, etc.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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  • 4 weeks later...

An usuba can do rotary peeling which is possible with a very good quality nakiri such as a Kato or Shigfusa.

The biggest difference between the two is the blade profile; Usuba's are very flat which makes them difficult to use on anything apart from leaf vegetables and thin slices. Nakiri's have a slightly curved blade which is more like a santoku so they are easier to use and much more versatile.

Why have an Usuba? They can cut very very fine slices of onion and do a killer chiffonade but they are challenging to use.

Why have a Nakiri? Dunno really but mine is a delight to use on cabbage and lettuce and makes vegetable prep a breeze.

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i'd recommend inquiring and shopping here: www.epicedge.com/‎. the owner, daniel, is very engaged with japanese knife manufacturers and trained in knife sharpening in japan. he's fond of bu rei zen knives, as am i. i own a 3" paring and an 8" nakiri from them. when i can afford it i'll replace my 8" german chef knife with one of theirs. the blades are so sharp you bleed just looking at them, and they're tough.

another source is http://korin.com/. they are very much "to-the"trade". i haven't purchased knives from them but have bought quite a few other items.

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Why have a Nakiri? Dunno really but mine is a delight to use on cabbage and lettuce and makes vegetable prep a breeze.

Hehe, I came up with another reason:

My youngest brother has been hassling me to "lend" him one of my good knives for cooking class (he's studying to be a nutritionist - don't get me started) for a few months now. In conversation I determined he's not just interested in the functional qualities of the knife (the school issues them Forschners), but he wants something "special." I wasn't about to part with one of my flashy damascus jobs so I got him an inexpensive carbon steel nakiri instead, as a Xmas gift. I figure he'll get to brag a bit to the girls in class about his "special" knife and maybe learn some proper knife care in the process, CS being more or less ideal for learning how to sharpen.

I just finished the hot vinegar treatment and started sharpening the thing - I think I'll put a 70/30 back bevel at 15 degrees and a 20 degree microbevel.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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Why have a Nakiri? Dunno really but mine is a delight to use on cabbage and lettuce and makes vegetable prep a breeze.

Hehe, I came up with another reason:

My youngest brother has been hassling me to "lend" him one of my good knives for cooking class (he's studying to be a nutritionist - don't get me started) for a few months now. In conversation I determined he's not just interested in the functional qualities of the knife (the school issues them Forschners), but he wants something "special." I wasn't about to part with one of my flashy damascus jobs so I got him an inexpensive carbon steel nakiri instead, as a Xmas gift. I figure he'll get to brag a bit to the girls in class about his "special" knife and maybe learn some proper knife care in the process, CS being more or less ideal for learning how to sharpen.

I just finished the hot vinegar treatment and started sharpening the thing - I think I'll put a 70/30 back bevel at 15 degrees and a 20 degree microbevel.

Show us the picture.

Please?

dcarch

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Sorry, already wrapped. Maybe on Wednesday.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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I got two more Japanese knives for my collection for Christmas, both Misono Molybdenum - an 80mm parer (which I asked for specifically) and a 145mm boning knife. My others are a Kanetsugu Pro-M 240mm gyuto, which is my daily driver, and a Shun Classic 150mm petty (which I don't know what to do with - the blade is too long to be useful for paring, and too short to be useful for chef's knife tasks - but it's beautiful).

The gyuto originally was wickedly sharp, and still, after three years, is a much better tool than the heavy Henckels that I used previously, but I've learned that I've been mistreating it in my efforts to sharpen it. It came with a convex, rather than beveled edge, and my Spyderco is designed for a beveled edge. Can I keep at it with the Spyderco and eventually convert the edge to a bevel and thence to superior sharpness once again, or should I switch to sandpaper and a strop?

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No harm to your knives in using the Spyderco, particularly with the UF stones, although the built-in 30/40 angles might be limiting. Sandpaper/strop would require learning a new set of skills; I suggest practicing on the Henckels before you try sharpening your good knives.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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i'm looking for a yanagi for action purposes only,not daily use though,couple hours a day of show cooking,i was wondering if i could find something with a katana-samurai style handle,is something like that in the market?

i'm in europe,and i still havent found anything like that,if you had a recommendation of brand/merchant whatever,it would be great,thank you

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I don't think silk cord wrapping would last very long in kitchen use. Tsubas and such would get in the way of any reasonable grip, too.

There's a few "traditional" blade shapes available (kiritsuke, funayuki, usuba, nakiri), and all sorts of finishes and damascus patterns. If you want something flashy I say start from that end of the knife.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Im looking for an all-purpose 8-9" chefs knife. Been reading around all sorts of forums. In my local kitchen supplier store I saw an extremely handsome Miyagi 600D knife, but the general reputation of this brand seems to be not good value for money, although they look really nice. On forums a lot of people seem to recommend Mac knives, as they supposedly are good value and have a good structure.

Im not very family with Japanese or Western-style Japanese knives. At home I use a generic Global chefs knife. It's okay but I hate the handle.

Should I immediately assume that I must get hold of 1 or 2 whetstones if I buy a knife like this? Spending £100-150 on just the knife is already quite enough, although I understand a good knife should last forever.

I understand that the best way is to go to a store and hold the knife, however I am only able to do this with the Miyagi's, as I cant find any retailer except online that sells Mac's. I am based in the UK.

Is chipping an issue with these knives?

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First get the whetstones or jigs and learn to sharpen your existing knives. They can achieve new life and sharpness. Then once you have that under your belt and still want a new knife you will be better able to maintain it.

It doesn't matter what knife it is except maybe serrated. They all need sharpening on a somewhat regular basis

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First get the whetstones or jigs and learn to sharpen your existing knives. They can achieve new life and sharpness. Then once you have that under your belt and still want a new knife you will be better able to maintain it.

It doesn't matter what knife it is except maybe serrated. They all need sharpening on a somewhat regular basis

Probably a good idea. Should I just get a 1000 grit? Are there any major differences from brand to brand? My local store sells MinoSharp and a few other brands.

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IMO a 1K/3K combi waterstone is probably the best starter. Much finer than that is pointless for stainless, and 3K to 8K is a natural step up for carbon steel (and about the finest you can usefully sharpen at in a kitchen knife) if you go that way, while a 300 or 400 grit is a natural step down from 1K and excellent grits for repairs.

There are differences between brands but they not really that significant starting out. A lot of it comes down to personal preference, which is informed by personal experience.

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This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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But if you are cheap like me:

A D-2 steel blank for $20.00

With a few hand tools and a grinder, shaped it to look like a knife.

Sent it out to be hardened and cryo tempered for $20.00

Sharpened it on a belt sander and stones to razor sharp and glued some scales for the handle.

I got myself a 330mm yanagiba for $40.00.

As you know, D-2 makes a very nice knife and keeps a razor edge for a long time.

dcarch

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  • 1 month later...

IMO a 1K/3K combi waterstone is probably the best starter. Much finer than that is pointless for stainless, and 3K to 8K is a natural step up for carbon steel (and about the finest you can usefully sharpen at in a kitchen knife) if you go that way, while a 300 or 400 grit is a natural step down from 1K and excellent grits for repairs.

There are differences between brands but they not really that significant starting out. A lot of it comes down to personal preference, which is informed by personal experience.

Unfortunately I havent had much luck in finding a 1k/3k combi stone. I've had a look around the web and my local kitchen supplier. The only thing I found on the web was a couple of noname stones. Also being an electronics enthusiast, I am very sceptical about 'brandless' items. Do you have a specfic combistone or brand to recommend that is somewhat easily available? I am located in the UK.

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  • 6 months later...

You know what I want?  The process of picking a knife is overwhelming, so I want a website, like travel sites, that you put in your preferred items, and they search the internet for the options and best pricing. The problem right now is if you don't know all of the manufacturers and terminology then you're out of luck, or some sites will say white #1 while others will say the Japanese term for the same steel.  I'm not going to do that site, but my descriptors would be:

 

Handle shape

Handle material

Style (with a diagram of what that style is)

Blade material (with a quick pop-up of characteristics of that material)

Length

Manufacturing process (handmade, stamped, etc)

 

What else am I missing?  The point is that someone could take a 10% commission if they could help make the connection happen.

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Weight of the finished product

Some measure of balance - I don't know whether or how that's quantified for knives, but it's an important aspect for the user

Warranty?

 

This is a good idea, gfron1.  There should be some enterprising genius hanging out here who could start up such a web site.

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Yeah that weight balance thing is probably not measurable unless the knife is in your hand.  I always though Globals were weighted well until I got my Fujiwara.  But most of us don't have access to a store with great knives.

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gfron, you could add to your list:

 

the playoff of brittleness vs strength or sharpness,

 

the strength of the blade-handle junction

 

the geometry of the edge, and the tapering of the design

 

ease of sharpening and maintaining the edge.

 

 

There are some some surprisingly inexpensive carbon steel blades from  CCK, Leigh Valley and from Japan that meet all my requirements (although the sharpest will show a few nicks after 10 years).

 

I suspect there are a lot of mid field players making large profits on knives that appear fashionable.

 

 

 

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You know what I want?  The process of picking a knife is overwhelming, so I want a website, like travel sites, that you put in your preferred items, and they search the internet for the options and best pricing. The problem right now is if you don't know all of the manufacturers and terminology then you're out of luck, or some sites will say white #1 while others will say the Japanese term for the same steel.  I'm not going to do that site, but my descriptors would be:

 

Handle shape

Handle material

Style (with a diagram of what that style is)

Blade material (with a quick pop-up of characteristics of that material)

Length

Manufacturing process (handmade, stamped, etc)

 

What else am I missing?  The point is that someone could take a 10% commission if they could help make the connection happen.

 

The chef knives to go forum has people that will make you very concrete recs if you can define what you want based on those parameters

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