Can someone help me get a good set of Japanese knives

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Joined Aug 9, 2015
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
 
2,563
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Joined Apr 25, 2014
ALL japanese knives are going to be asymmetric one way or the other.  The only question is how asymmetric and if you can deal with it.

How about this for the chefs knife? I've heard some lefties have been happy with it and it matches the aesthetic you're looking for. No nickel in swedish stainless AFAIK

http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com.../gonbei-240mm-hammered-damascus-wa-gyuto.html

Dunno why VG-10 is very important to you.  I think it's just an average steel that's hard to sharpen.  If you're worried about Nickel for allergies, double check anything you shop for with this site http://zknives.com/knives/kitchen/misc/articles/kkchoser/kksteelp2.shtml  It lists the composition of each steel.  Iron, carbon, magnesium, chromium etc.  all of what is in each steel and the %.
 
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Joined Aug 9, 2015
VG 10 is important to me because i think it maintains it's sharpness better than certain other ones (like my current set). But really it's more material of the knife is important to me because I don't want just a pretty face in a knife. I'm looking for a good knife to last me for years. I can compromise on material if it will last and is semi time tested. 
 
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Joined Nov 13, 2011
for what its worth, vg-10 is average at best when compared to many other steels common in higher-end knives
 
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Joined Aug 9, 2015
Please be aware that VG-10 contains cobalt -- don't ask me in which form, I'm no metallurgist. Cobalt may be problematic when someone is known for nickel allergy.
What metal would you recommend for someone with a metal allergy. I am open minded on vg 10 but just not the shun's weaker versions sorta deal. I'm really looking for a common and nice metal that is fairly easy knife to take care of (with proper washing, and professional sharping every now and then).

My husband's allergy isn't horrible but with prolonged contact with nickel he will break out in a rash.
 
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Joined Dec 18, 2010
Regarding the allergy - you really should consult with an allergist rather than a cooking forum. Nickel is all sorts of things and contact duration tolerance is a highly individual situation.

Regarding Shuns - a lot of people love to hate them, but a lot of people love them too. Think of it this way... is KAI/Shun really having a hard time selling their goods or are they going out of business because of internet opinions.  I think not.  Are there other options that may be "better" depending on how much of a knife aficionado one is... sure.

For ambidextrous use I find the Premier line to work fine. Even the Classic with it's D-handle isn't bad when used in a pinch grip.

When they are sharp they are good tools and when dull they are not. Much like any knife.  Others will discuss this in further detail, I'm sure... a steel may not be too useful but a ceramic rod hone moreso. No matter, you need a sharpening plan... even if the plan is to periodically send it to a sharpening professional.
 
510
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Joined May 29, 2013
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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Joined Nov 15, 2012
You want a knife that gets real sharp and stays sharp, preferably for a year of home use, is fully stainless and has no nickel  (or cobalt).  There are a few knives that can do that fairly well, but you should understand that most good knives take a few sharpenings for the edge to break in and really show it's potential.

I'm partial to the Geshin Kagero (SRS-15 super-steel) because I have one and am perfectly tickled with it.  And that you'll be buying the knife from Jon is a big plus because you know the grind will be perfect and out of the box (or padded carrying bag actually) it will be sharper than anything you every handled, except maybe a straight razor.  And the price is very reasonable.  Not a lot of bling but nicely finished and the heavily stamped kanji is a lot classier and enduring compared to Shun's decals.  http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/kitchen-knives-14/kitchen-knives/gesshin-kagero.html

These will cover your chefs, utility and parer, though you don't really need to spend that kind of money on a parer, but it is nice.  If you do go this way just ask Jon to put a more obtuse than usual angle on the edge.

You'll still have plenty left over for a top-notch bread knife like the Mac, and the 12" fine Idahone which I also think will serve you well here.

Rick
 
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On the real cheap go Tojiro over shun. On the still cheaper but much, much better knives than shun go masakage.
 
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Joined Aug 9, 2015
masakage looks pretty good to me. Still researching everything tho. My husband and i feel complicated on this subject. My husband isn't super sensitive but he does get a rash from wearing certain items
 
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Joined Nov 15, 2012
OK so I've given considerable consideration these six days now concerning a choice between the Masakage and Kagero.  Well actually I've been watching a lot of public television this past week.

But never the less I have a reasoned conclusion to the present conundrum and here it is:

The Masakage while a great value has some serious drawbacks for you, as you have described your situation and needs.  Firstly the only knives in there line you should be considering are the Mizu, Shimo and Yuki.  The Mizu and Shimo are carbon clad carbon.  They won't provoke your husbands allergies, but they will rust if not immediately cared for after each use.  The Yuki is stainless clad carbon, a little better on maintanence, but we don't Know its stainless's composition. 

These knives will get a little sharper than the Kagero, but their edge retention is no where near as good.  Also, they have very thin edges, and this is a concern for someone who does not have very good knife skills nor any experience with thin edges such as these.

The Kagero is thin behind the edge also, but less so than the Masakage,  It's SRS-15 steel not only takes a great edge, it holds that edge amazingly well.  You could very conceivably go a whole year without sharpening given ordinary home use.  The only question is what the stainless cladding composition is, Jon Broida will probably know this.

All of these knives are symmetrically beveled, and so ambidextrous.

Given a nickel content in the Kagero's cladding, there are mono-steel knives in Swedish stainless (19c27 in particular for it's edge holding) and Japanese Ginsanko.  These will have no nickel.

Rick
 
14
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Joined Aug 9, 2015
 
OK so I've given considerable consideration these six days now concerning a choice between the Masakage and Kagero.  Well actually I've been watching a lot of public television this past week.

But never the less I have a reasoned conclusion to the present conundrum and here it is:

The Masakage while a great value has some serious drawbacks for you, as you have described your situation and needs.  Firstly the only knives in there line you should be considering are the Mizu, Shimo and Yuki.  The Mizu and Shimo are carbon clad carbon.  They won't provoke your husbands allergies, but they will rust if not immediately cared for after each use.  The Yuki is stainless clad carbon, a little better on maintanence, but we don't Know its stainless's composition. 

These knives will get a little sharper than the Kagero, but their edge retention is no where near as good.  Also, they have very thin edges, and this is a concern for someone who does not have very good knife skills nor any experience with thin edges such as these.

The Kagero is thin behind the edge also, but less so than the Masakage,  It's SRS-15 steel not only takes a great edge, it holds that edge amazingly well.  You could very conceivably go a whole year without sharpening given ordinary home use.  The only question is what the stainless cladding composition is, Jon Broida will probably know this.

All of these knives are symmetrically beveled, and so ambidextrous.

Given a nickel content in the Kagero's cladding, there are mono-steel knives in Swedish stainless (19c27 in particular for it's edge holding) and Japanese Ginsanko.  These will have no nickel.

Rick
Can't find the knives you are recommending. If you could give a link I'll look them up. I don't really like ceramic out of bad experience 
 
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Joined May 21, 2013
I have a beautiful set of Miyabi knives, I also have a set of Midori knives. Both are excellent , comfortable and very sharp. As with any knives worth their salt, you must take good care of them and sharpen them on a regular basis.

The Miyabi were bought in Japan. The Midori bought online.

http://www.japaneseknifecompany.com/miyabi-5000mcd-collection

http://www.richardsonsheffield-studentknives.com/collections/midori-knives



 
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Joined Nov 15, 2012
Goldilocks, faux Damascus =very bad here, as was mentioned, lots of nickel.

BF, here are links for you to check out both makers I mentioned:

http://www.chefknivestogo.com/masakageknives.html

http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/kitchen-knives-14/kitchen-knives/gesshin-kagero.html

I am guessing that the Kagero and masakage both use JIS G4403/SUS410 stainless cladding, which has can vary in nickel content from trace amounts to about 0.5%.  I don't believe it will affect your husband at those levels.  Again Jon probably knows what the Kagero has for cladding, and likely also the Masakage and other knives as well.  Know that I think of it I've never heard any other stainless mentioned for simple non-Damascus cladding.

There are potentially lot's more knives to choose from, but let's work at getting your acceptable materials and general construction options narrowed down first. 

Rick
 
215
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Joined May 21, 2013
 
I have a beautiful set of Miyabi knives, I also have a set of Midori knives. Both are excellent , comfortable and very sharp. As with any knives worth their salt, you must take good care of them and sharpen them on a regular basis.

The Miyabi were bought in Japan. The Midori bought online.

http://www.japaneseknifecompany.com/miyabi-5000mcd-collection

http://www.richardsonsheffield-studentknives.com/collections/midori-knives



 
Goldilocks, faux Damascus =very bad here, as was mentioned, lots of nickel.

BF, here are links for you to check out both makers I mentioned:

http://www.chefknivestogo.com/masakageknives.html

http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/kitchen-knives-14/kitchen-knives/gesshin-kagero.html

I am guessing that the Kagero and masakage both use JIS G4403/SUS410 stainless cladding, which has can vary in nickel content from trace amounts to about 0.5%.  I don't believe it will affect your husband at those levels.  Again Jon probably knows what the Kagero has for cladding, and likely also the Masakage and other knives as well.  Know that I think of it I've never heard any other stainless mentioned for simple non-Damascus cladding.

There are potentially lot's more knives to choose from, but let's work at getting your acceptable materials and general construction options narrowed down first. 

Rick
Which are you referring to as "fake"?
 
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2,563
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Joined Apr 25, 2014
Probably the birchwood.  Damascus cladding is just on the outside.  It's not SG2, but some mystery stainless.   This is very different than damascus all the way through the core.
 
2,854
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Joined Nov 15, 2012
Yes, faux Damascus is just a cladding that goes over a core [mono] steel.  Also non-coredl Damascus has never been shown to be better or even equal to monosteel in edge properties.  What is referred to today as Damascus steel was never actually used in the production of real military swords, from Damascus or Japan or anywhere else.

It does look nice and that is primarily why knife makers use it, whether non-cored or faux.  The only big Japanese brand that offers non-cored Damascus, so far as I know, is Shun.

Rick
 
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14
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Joined Aug 9, 2015
I'm sure goldilocks knives are probably really nice and great. I'd love a set for myself if i didn't have the husband allergy issues. 

With a  nickel (more than trace) knife, if i cut a tomato he might react to it. I'm ok with trace amounts of nickel because my current knife set and all clad cookware has trace and he does fine. However larger is not a good idea (being certain more decorative patterns). Unfortunately, he is also drawn to said patterns and knives that contain high nickel.

I think we're going with the Masakage Yuki when we save up the money for the knife "set." The word set being used loosely as a group but they are being purchased individually. 

Last item i need to find is a knife block that is, simply put, decent. I'm looking for an in drawer knife block. Nothing fancy but helps maintain the knifes and wood prefered.

Counter space is a premium in my mid century house. I have a grand total of 36x10 in. It's not a bad kitchen just a poorly layed out one (I had nothing to do with this kitchen design). And magnets and wall mounts just scare me. I am clumsy enough i prefer to accidently drop the knife in a drawer or counter rather than downward to the floor and possibly my foot. Which it's the user that scares me more than the mounting system. 

I'm thinking the Wusthof but open to suggestions. 

http://www.wusthof.com/usa/Products...sp?/wide+in-drawer+storage+tray+8008/id-7851/

I get a 10% veteran discount at william sonoma. So it ends up being $36 but the 

the other one is shun

 http://www.williams-sonoma.com/prod...y/?pkey=cknives-blocks-storage|knife-storage|

It's roughly $50 and the difference is bamboo vs rubberwood.
 

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