Best first Japanese knife?

Discussion in 'Cooking Knife Reviews' started by erclark93, Jul 8, 2013.

  1. erclark93

    erclark93

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    So my first post received no love *sheds a tear* so hoping this one will be a bit more well received

    Since posting I think I have narrowed down my choice of a new chefs knife to a few different knives, all of them sharing one thing in common though, they are all japanese or have a japanese influence.  I've narrowed it down to

    -Shun Classic 8 inch Western Chef Knife

    -Tojiro DP 210mm Gyuto

    -Suisin High Carbon Stell 210 mm Gyuto (low on the list)

    The reason I say the Suisin is low on the list is because of the high carbon steel, I have obviously never had any experience with high carbon steel but I do know of its tendency to rust and pit much easier.  Now I am very apt to take care of whatever knife I get, with proper honing, sharpening when necessary, cleaning, etc., but high carbon steel just seems like a high maintenance girlfriend to me.  

    So all this being said are there any knives I should be looking at that are similar to these?  I am looking for an 8-10 inch, sub $150 japanese or japanese influenced chef knife with very good edge retention and something that will serve me at home and possibly even lightly at work (unlikely to use it at my job though).  

    Feel free to ask any questions for more info on what I'm looking for, I'll be happy to oblige.
     
  2. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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  3. northcack

    northcack

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    Why are you not likely to use your knife at your job? I am a little confused by your comment about light use - are you a professional cook?

    Personally, I would avoid buying a Shun. I don't think they are a good bargain period and you can get much, much better knives for the money.

    A carbon steel knife should not be an issue re: maintenance if it's for home use only.

    I am also a big fan of MAC knives... it was my first 'real' knife and I have put a lot of miles on mine over the years. Easy to sharpen, keeps a good edge, and a good value for your money. If you are a cook and think there might be a possibility of using yours professionally/want to get a lot of use out if it - then I would not get their Chef Series, instead I'd spend the extra money for their Pro line. This is the one I own, although it seems the price has gone up on them - http://www.chefknivestogo.com/macpr8hoedch.html

    I also own a Tojiro DP 150mm Utility, and I am a HUGE fan of that line. Awesome bang for your buck, comes razor sharp out of the box (unlike my MAC, which needed a little love), and keeps a good edge. I use mine almost daily and it's a complete workhorse... for breaking down chickens, cleaning hanger steaks etc.

    The MAC and Tojiro handles are very, very similar, and although I haven't used their Gyutos, I would lean towards the Tojiro for the price
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2013
  4. erclark93

    erclark93

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    I'd be unlikely to use it at work just because of the track record people have with knives there.  They can't even use a Victorinox by Forschner without causing some damage to it, losing it, something or other, so bringing my knife there would be great if I could hold onto it, but left in the wrong hands just once there would most likely be some consequences.  I work at an "upscale" supermarket where I do a lot of chopping for a salad bar, but I also make soups, salads, prepared items like salsa, guacamole, etc. So I'm not really a chef at work, just a multi purpose worker.  

    I have heard some bad things about Shun from some people, but it seems everywhere I look someone has one, must just be the hype.  That's why I was shying away from one because they seem to focus more on looks and less on performance.  What would you say the handle on a MAC or Tojiro is like?  I'm used to using either a Wusthof Grand Prix II from a set at home or the aforementioned Victorinox, so if you could give a comparison that would be awesome.
     
  5. harlock0083

    harlock0083

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    I think the reason Shuns are more commonly seen is they are stocked at stores like Williams Sonoma, Macy's etc. No facts to back this up just my best guess.

    Also would you consider a 240mm or are you set on a 210?
     
  6. bryantcc

    bryantcc

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    I have used a lot of knives over the years, but my Masahiro knives are by far the greatest knives I have ever owned.  I have an 11 inch french style knife for work and a 9 1/2 for home.  the best money I ever spent.  Sharp as razors, durable and perfectly balanced.  I got them from knifemerchant.com about 10 years ago and they are still going strong.  Also, I wouldn't go any shorter than a 240.  210s are pairing knives.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2013
  7. erclark93

    erclark93

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    I'd consider a 240 definitely, hell I use a 10 inch at work and never even realized it was a 10, but I wouldn't be cutting up any great quantities of things because it would be for personal use, so I think (could be wrong) 240mm/10 inches would be a bit overkill for my taste, I'd rather spend the extra few bucks if necessary on a higher quality knife than a longer one. 

    I did look at Masahiro knives but I feel that they are a bit out of my price range, especially since I am also looking to get some decent quality stones and ceramic rod.  Anyone have suggestions for those?
     
  8. northcack

    northcack

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    The handles on either will be smaller than the knives you mentioned. But larger than say a Global. Personally, I find it less bulky and more comfortable than Wusthofs.. but that's my own taste. Unless you can easily palm a basketball and don't use a pinch grip then there should be no serious issue as far as use.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2013
  9. erclark93

    erclark93

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    You had me at "larger than say a Global", those things were built for either women or the vertically challenged, the handles are miniscule.  No I cannot palm a basketball, yes I do use a pinch grip, a friend of mine showed me the pinch grip at school and I felt stupid for cutting any other way before that, so much more comfortable.  It's funny how many people at work tell me I'm holding a knife wrong, kind of attests to the whole "I work with morons" thing doesn't it?
     
  10. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    There are a lot of Shun knives.  The "Classic" series is san-mai; VG-10 hagane sandwiched between soft-stainless jigane.  From performance and blade-quality standpoints they don't stand out from a rather large group of similar knives -- neither much better nor much worse.  On the positive side, Shun has extremely good fit and finish (F&F) and outstanding post-sales customer support; on the negative they are quite expensive for what you get.  

    If you want slightly better performance in a knife with a little less tendency to chip at a substantially lower cost... Tojiro DP.  

    Lots of people don't like Global handles.  I have very large hands, and do.  The only way to know if they're comfortable for you, is to try one for a few hours.  You'll never know by demoing one in a store.  However, you might as well save yourself the trouble because the Global alloy, Cromova 18, is borderline crummy.

    The Kikuichi carbon Elite (aka "High-Carbon") isn't a bad knife -- especially considering that it's made from SK-4 which can have serious issues as it does in the Fujiwara FKH.  Incidentally, "high-carbon" doesn't mean what you think it is.  That is, the term "high-carbon" doesn't stand in opposition to "stainless;" but "carbon" does.  Stainless and semi-stainless steels can be high-carbon, because "high-carbon" only means that the alloy contains at least 0.50% carbon (except in Germany, where 0.45% is high carbon).  

    However, while carbon isn't really that bad, it isn't for everyone and if you're worried about there's no reason to buy it.  That said, Suisun makes a really well-finished, stainless knife at a very slightly higher price -- the Inox Western.  The Kikuichi Inox Western is a lot like the Fujiwara FKM, but nicer.    

    Here are a few Yo and Wa gyuto you might want to look into:

    Under $100:
    • Fujiwara FKM;
    • Richmond Artifex;
    • Richmond Artfiex "wa" (basically a wa-FKM); and
    • Tojiro DP.
    Just over $100:
    • Kagayaki CarboNext; and
    • Suisun Inox Western;
    A little more, but still under $200:
    • Gesshin Uraku;
    • MAC Pro;
    • Masamoto VG;
    • Richmond Laser; and
    • Sakai Takayuki Wa Gyuto
    $200:
    • Kikuichi TKC; and
    • Richmond Ultimatum (one of my go-to gyutos, but mine is carbon).
    I'm not particularly thrilled about going into great detail over every one of those knives -- and it's nowhere close to a complete list, not even of knives I know and like.  But we've got to begin somewhere.  Look around and see if you can't be a little more definite about what you actually want.  The more you can say about things like handle style, length, profile, how you plan to sharpen and things like that -- as opposed to rattling off a bunch of knife names -- the easier it will be to start putting together a list with nothing but good choices. 

    As for where we're starting... It's kind of hard to advise someone working from a list of knives he already decided he doesn't want.

    BDL
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2013
  11. erclark93

    erclark93

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    My "wants" are as follows

    -Relatively thin blade, not looking for a laser or anything

    -Larger handle, I'm used to using big bulky handles from german knives but I could certainly go a bit smaller

    -Something that holds an edge (with fairly regular honing on a ceramic/steel of course)

    -Not too curved, not that much of a rock chopper but I'm not looking for totally flat

    -Fairly easily sharpened on a stone (still looking for stone suggestions, I have a messermeister combo stone right now but I only trust it with lesser quality knives)

    -Something that will last years with proper maintenance (if this isn't possible in my fairly low-mid price range that's understandable, I wouldn't know the longevity of these types of knives and what would be realistic or not)

    That seems like a fantastic list though, I have come across some of those knives in my research so it's good to hear them getting a good rep
     
  12. erclark93

    erclark93

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    What can you tell me about the Suisin Inox and the two suggested Richmonds? If you wouldn't mind.
     
  13. northcack

    northcack

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    Definitely take your time to shop around, read reviews etc, but in my opinion, when it comes to your first knife - sometimes less is more. Save some money and invest in some stones & a ceramic honer. And you want something that is more forgiving ( at least to your wallet and mental health ) when it comes to learning to sharpen, improving your knife skills, maybe even bringing to work.

    I also own a Richmond Artifex 270mm slicer and I absolutely love it.

    I would recommend either a Tojiro or Artifex - either one would be a nice step up from what you're used to, and it would save you some $$$ that you could invest in a sharpening kit. And as you may find out, once you get bit by the bug, there are always other knives for you to lust over (and save up for)
     
  14. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Suisun Inox Western is a good, entry-level (entry to the "good Japanese" level) knife.  Fit and finish are outstanding.  Profile is good.  Blade geometry is okay.  Edge taking and edge holding properties are okay.  Overall comfortable and ergonomics are good.  In a word, a much better finished Fujiwara FKM. 

    Richmond Artifex is another entry-level knife.  The money is in the blade alloy, which is excellent.  Good handling, good profile.  A good knife out of the box (OOTB) which improves to an excellent knife with thinning.  I'm having trouble figuring out if it's fairer to say that the cosmetics are lousy or non-existent; in any case the knife wears its homeliness as a badge of honor.  The blade finish is typical of knives manufactured by Lamson -- which can be all over the map; but that doesn't go to performance.  Really good value.

    Richmond Laser is, in fact, a laser.  In other words, it's an extremely light and thin knife which pretty much says it all.  It is the only true laser in its price range.  Fit and finish is very slightly below the next level of lasers (which cost about 30% more), but very good.  If you don't want a laser, don't buy it.  If you're seriously interested in lasers as a class, consider spending more money on a "nicer" knife (not that it will get you more performance), like a Gesshin Ginga; Konosuke HH, or HD (got one), or Sakai Yusuke Swedish. 

    The big issue with lasers is not their fragility -- over-hyped, although you will need to go to your heavy-duty knife somewhat quicker than you would with a more robust gyuto -- but their tendency to bind in the hands of people who torque or rack the knife because they're under time pressure.  Personally, I'm a big fan of lasers. 

    BDL
     
  15. mostadonte2

    mostadonte2

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    Never Mind :). You can delete this
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2013
  16. erclark93

    erclark93

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    So if you had to choose between the Richmond Artifex which would you pick?  Because I'm thinking the Richmond based on price and the information you've given me, plus that gives me a bit more money for stones and a rod.
     
  17. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    I think Ben misunderstood the thread he cited.  And, with respect, I doubt he's ever handled an Artifex.  There aren't that many in Holland. 

    If you're worried about whether the knife is too thick to be pretty damn good right out of the box, contact taz -- the guy who actually thinned and re-profiled the knife -- on the CKtG forum.  The Artifex is extremely popular and pretty much everyone who buys one likes it quite a bit.  Naturally, the CKtG forum is full of raves; so you might also want to look on the KKF (Kitchen Knife Forum), where Richmond knives sail into a pretty stiff headwind (long story).   

    So, of the three knives in the sub-$100, "entry-level" category, I'd go Artifex.  But... I don't like the Tojiro DP because it's (a) san-mai; and (b) the handle is boxy.  And I don't like the Fujiwara FKM because I don't much care for AUS-8, the blade is a little too stream-lined, and handle fit can be sub-par.  So, I'm willing to put up with the Artifex's foibles of which there are a few.  It's a good knife for the price, but it's very much a "for the price" knife. 

    I'd also choose the Artifex over the Suisun Western Inox, but -- even though the Suisuin is more expensive, and is an "improved" FKM -- it would be a much closer call. 

    Given your ultimate ambitions, it might be worthwhile to spend a little more money on the gyuto.  $200 or more is not unreasonable.  But keeping it down to $200 or less -- the "affordable" class -- the best choices are:  Gesshin Uraku, Kagayaki CarboNext, Kikuichi TKC, MAC Pro, Masamoto VG, Richmond Laser, Richmond Ultimatum or Sakai Takayuki Wa Gyuto.

    Of those, the two AEB-L knives -- Richmond Laser, and Takayuki Wa-Gyuto -- and the two semi-stainless knives -- the Kagayaki and Kikuichi have the best edge taking properties; the Kikuichi, MAC and Takayuki are the best finished; the Kikuichi, MAC and Masamoto will feel most familiar to you, but the MAC and Masa require regular steeling to stay true;  the Masamoto and Ultimatum have the best profiles, with the Masa Sabatier-like and the Ultimatum Sabatier-clone; the Kagayaki is the value leader, with the two Richmonds close behind; the TKC and Uraku are the best, overall, middleweights; the Laser is a laser, well worth thinking about; and the Ultimatum is the workhorse -- as versatile as a carbon Sab or Wusthof going from micro-brunoise shallots for mignonette, to trimming and portioning spare ribs without missing a beat, but will feel the least familiar OOTB because it's a good sized chunk of steel coming out of a light handle, and -- not that the balance point is way forward -- the way it balances takes awhile to get used to.     

    They're all excellent.  It just kinda depends where you place your priorities.  MAC Pro is the knife I most often recommended in the past for people looking for their first, really good, stainless, western-handled, chef's knife.  I still think it's a great knife, but have become more open to recommending knives which are a little less vanilla -- wa-gyuto, lasers, and so on.  I bought my daughter a MAC Pro a couple of years ago; if I were buying for her now, and could talk her into a wa-gyuto, I'd probably get her a Uraku.

    My Ultimatum, which isn't stainless but 51200 carbon, I'd class as good as anything I've ever used once I got used to it and began to appreciate its insane versatility.  Fugly though.  For your purposes, the stainless version (19C27) is probably just as good.  The big problem with Ultimatums is that they sell out within minutes of coming into stock.

    I should add that my list is a little unusual in that there's so few san-mai knives.  I like a knife which feels very lively on the board, but san-mai blades feel very damped.  That doesn't mean they aren't good knives, so much as that I don't seek them out, and since knives haven't been coming to me the way they once were, I don't know enough about any to give an empirically based recommendation.  My feeling about them is not a majority opinion, but not all that uncommon either.  Just by reputation, I think you might also want to take a look at the Richmond AS Laser -- which is almost laser thin, but significantly stiffer.           

    Extra cost knife sharpening for new knives is worth it from CKtG, but not from JCK.  Korin's service is more expensive.  They do a good enough job, though.  JKI does it for free.  

    Whatever you do, don't try to learn to sharpen from Korin's videos.  You can skip JCK's as well.  In the world of free sharpening videos, CKtG's and JKI's are the way to go.   

    Now that you know the of four of the six best e-tailers (CKtG, JCK, JKI, Korin) you might as well fill it in with the other two: Epicurean Edge and aframestokyo.com.  There are some other really good online vendors but the stock tends to be a little more esoteric.  Visit all the sites and look at the stock.  What could it hurt?

    Don't just jump.  Ask lots of questions.

    BDL
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2013
  18. diablodan

    diablodan

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    I remember watching some cooking show several years ago. And they mentioned Masahiro knives. Fast forward a to today and I started looking to create an awesome set student set of knives. Call me eccentric, but I am planning ahead towards culinary school. Not for the industry's sake or employment, but as a mere connoisseur of food. Strange? But I like to eat, and cooking is a great relief from everyday stress from my job.

    So, is the Masahiro MV line an excellent knife or is there better. My plan is to buy a knife at a time. I'm not $$$$, but I do save up and cooking school is at least 2years away.
     
  19. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    As always, one of the first questions is "compared to what?"  Masahiro MV are decent knives for the money; but nothing special in their price range. 

    BDL
     
  20. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    I've seen much worse.  It's a knife with some convexing on the right face and almost none on the other -- not too unusual.  50/50 symmetry on the edge.  Not much in the way of a heel.  Thicker than some knives, thinner than others -- about average in that respect for a middle weight do-everything.  What is it about the grind you don't like?  What would you differently? 

    I've used and sharpened a few Artifex, think that although it's not a world beater it's a good knife for the price -- as good as the Tojiro DP and Fujiwara FKM, but with a different set of strengths and weaknesses.  It's not the "first sharp knife [I've] ever handled" either. 

    BDL