Buying Advice Japanese Chef Knife

Discussion in 'Cooking Knife Reviews' started by dalailamer, Mar 22, 2017.

  1. foody518

    foody518

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    Last edited: Apr 11, 2017
  2. dalailamer

    dalailamer

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    OK since it is obviously really hard to give definite advice in my case, is there anything I should be aware of or anything I should take care of not to do/buy when I go shopping in Tokyo? 

    Also, is it easier to sharpen a knife with a tip like the lower one compared to the upper one (disregard the broken tip, that's just the first image on google)?

    I would assume it is easier to hold the correct angle when the tip is closer to the edge of the blade. Hope it is clear what I mean, I'm missing the terminology. 

     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2017
  3. foody518

    foody518

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    Re: tip sharpening, I find it easier to sharpen blades that have less drastic curvature per length, if that makes sense. And somewhat low tips easier to reach cleanly than very high ones.
     
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  4. chrislehrer

    chrislehrer

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    Oh -- avoid  that A-steel unless you're quite good at sharpening. It's a proprietary alloy, apparently pretty much indestructible--which also means you can't sharpen it worth a darn. Back in the day, there were passionate arguments about this on Fred's Cutlery Forum, and I think the general opinion was that this stuff is fabulous if you're very good at sharpening and have excellent equipment, and awful for everyone else. I think the only guy I recall who really loved it used one of those sharpening rigs where you have the stones on long rods and run them up and down the edge clamped at a precise angle.
     
  5. chrislehrer

    chrislehrer

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    I can't really comment on which shops are good and bad in Tsukiji, other than to say that Aritsugu is terrific for what it is.

    Nor can I speak to whether these brands are available in the shops in Kappabashi. It's a very different system. For example, Aritsugu-Kyoto knives are available (a) at their shop in Nishiki Market, and (b) in Takashimaya department store, in Kyoto. Period. Otherwise, it's all mail order.

    Your problem is that you can't use the mail-order system. You don't read and write enough Japanese (I'm guessing), you don't have time, you don't have a Japanese bank account, and you're not legally entitled to import Japanese knives to your country direct. So you're stuck with one-brand shops and catch-as-can.

    My advice is to stop worrying. Just go wherever it is you're going to go, ask the best hotel concierge you can about a good place to get knives, and buy something that will serve as a good souvenir. It's just not worth the agony, you know? But if you must, I've heard only the best things about Aritsugu-Tsukiji. I have one of their knives, but I bought it mail-order, so all I can say is that it was worth every penny.
     
  6. chrislehrer

    chrislehrer

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    Last edited: Apr 24, 2017
  7. foody518

    foody518

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    I wonder if some part of that also goes back to what stones were more commonly available to westerners 'back in the day', relatively speaking. There's some more stuff that will cut even tough PM High Speed Tool steels pretty quickly and easily, would hope that stuff would work on the A-steel too. Though, I could understand that thinning hardened semi-stainless monosteel could really suck
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2017
  8. dalailamer

    dalailamer

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    OK guys, help me out here. So far, Aritsugu knives seem to be my best lead - both in terms of value as well as actual, geographic availability. 

    This review (http://zknives.com/knives/kitchen/ktknv/aritsugu/aritsugugy270.shtml) mentions the fact that these knives will not be sharpened when bought, meaning I could probably have it sharpened in store. This review further mentions that if properly sharpened, maintaining these knives is fairly easy. Doesn't that mean I could dodge most of the sharpening issue and just give the knife away to a professional when it needs thinning or other more work-intensive things? 

    Also, the review mentioned a 90/10 bevel, which I definitely don't want. Given the cheat-sheet with Japanese knife-related vocabulary I have prepared so far, I could probably communicate my wish? 

    Best regards, and thanks for your patience!
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2017
  9. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    You may be misinterpreting the situation on sharpening. The difference between "maintaining" and "sharpening" is not cleanly differentiated. If you can do one you can do the other. Suggest you give more attention to accepting the need to learn to sharpen unless you know there is a competent professional who can take care of that for you. But in general, my suggestion is getting comfortable with the idea of sharpening yourself. The worst that can happen (save spending too much time doing the wrong thing with a really coarse stone) is that the blade gets scratched, or not properly sharpened and you'll need to find a specialist to sharpen it.
     
  10. rick alan

    rick alan

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    Dali as Zknives stated any work done by Aritsugu will cost a relative fortune.  The knives come unsharpened and thick at the edge, the idea being that the buyer will add in/have added in the lead-in angle, amount of convexity, etc.  And, as a number of people have described, it's a 3 hour job [for an experienced individual] using a 120-140 grit diamond stone as a starter.  These are not for you, so far as I can see, there being lots of better options requiring no work, considering the costs.
     
  11. foody518

    foody518

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    You're going to find some level of asymmetry in probably many of the offerings. The fact that the review says 90/10 isn't even necessarily that helpful, as it doesn't speak about whether it's same angle on both sides with a heavily displaced edge, or a acute angle one side and obtuse on the other with less of an off centered edge. It matters more to understand the blade grind and not simply the edge bevel. You get better performance as a righty using a right-asymmetric ground blade, and just correct for steering with technique adjustment and tweaking the bevels as needed.

    Sounds like what the Zknives guy was doing was some pretty significant thinning OOTB, in which case thinning hardened monosteel can really take up a lot of time

    If you will actually go to their shop, it can't hurt to ask if they'll do an initial sharpening service for you as you are buying the blade right in front of their eyes.
     
  12. dalailamer

    dalailamer

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    The idea of learning how to sharpen myself is actually one of the things I am looking forward to the most! 

    I see how my use of these words was misleading. What I meant is that getting the initial edge on the blade as well as, further down the road, knife thinning, are the most work-intensive and difficult tasks while re-sharpening the edge is comparably "easy". I am pretty sure I will be needing a professional's help for the first two tasks. 
    I understood that knife-customisations cost a fortune but that knife sharpening is usually complimentary when shopping in Japan. Only if that is the case, I would think about buying such a knife. In that sense, what @foody518  said;
     
  13. foody518

    foody518

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    I've had to put initial edges on almost all my knives, ditto for all the thinning that's been done to them so far. I didn't know until very recently that there was someone in the area who did good sharpening, so learning then doing was a necessity. These are absolutely things a home cook and developing sharpener can try to do. You won't learn how to thin a knife or set bevels except by practicing.
     
  14. chrislehrer

    chrislehrer

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    They will do the first sharpening in the store, unless things have changed very dramatically lately. They will not likely do thinning and such.

    A-steel is a very, very bad choice for learning to sharpen or thin. It's ridiculously tough. You'd likely pick up some truly bad habits working with it. I'd say go Aritsugu but a different steel, such as carbon.
     
  15. dalailamer

    dalailamer

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    Sounds reasonable, then I know what my first destinations is going to be!
     
  16. dalailamer

    dalailamer

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    Soo, I'm in Tokyo right now, and my first stop actually was Kappabashi because it's close to my hotel.
    Found two gorgeous knifes who are the top contenders right now, both with a core of blue steel #2 and a stainless cladding, 21cm.
    It's a bit hard to find any information on those online.

    This would be the first one;
    It's the house brand from this shop Kamata Hakensha, which I think is quite known. Togiharu is the name.
    HRC of 61, blue #2 core and stainless cladding. Costs only €120, which is a plus, I guess.

    The second one is this here:
    Found it in one of these apparently pretty old shops, not even 2 meters wide, two old Japanese shopkeepers who barely speak English apart from words like cladding and stainless. Enough thought, especially with my vocabulary sheet.
    The information I could get about this 21cm gyuto:
    Core blue #2
    Company seems to be called Hontane, or maybe it's the person who made them? Forged on Tanega Island, and costs about €176. Very beautiful, mirror polish.

    I am leaning towards the first one, since I can't really see the difference and it would leave some room in my budget for a peti knife.
    Any thoughts?

    Shopkeeper are a bit anxious about taking photos, but I'm sure when I'm actually buying a knife they won't mind. Sorry for the bad formatting, I'm writing this from my phone.
     
  17. foody518

    foody518

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    Hope you're enjoying Japan
    Compare grind, thinness behind the edge of the two, weights, see if you can lay the knife flat somewhere and check out how the profile would look on a board
    Whichever you'd think you're able to keep up with how it will look with usage and scratching and all that, if it matters to you :)
    Hard to tell from this end without pics XD
     
  18. rick alan

    rick alan

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    You pay for the mirror polish.  As for the Togiharu, Korin carrie a brand by the name, 120 euros seems a very good price.
     
  19. dalailamer

    dalailamer

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    Will do that, thanks!
    Going to Tsukiji market tomorrow, after that I should have made a decision.
    Will let you guys know and upload a couple pictures hopefully.
     
  20. dalailamer

    dalailamer

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    Definitely, and I'll have something engraved!