Hi-end Japanese Knives

Discussion in 'Cooking Equipment Reviews' started by bdd8, May 27, 2012.

  1. bdd8

    bdd8

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    Truth be told, as a "home cook", I think any chef/gyuto in the $200-300 range is expensive ($300 being the most I'd spend on one knife...$100-200 reasonable for a good knife). But for Japanese knives in the $700+ range...I ask myself "Why??". Why would any one invest that much money in one knife? I mean what does that buy you besides bragging rights? Is any knife really worth so much money?? :)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 31, 2012
  2. duckfat

    duckfat

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    How do you get "bragging rights" with a knife? I mean who really sees the tools you buy? Clearly there are plenty of knives that are worth that price to some one or no one would buy them. A Doi Yanagi is well over that and no where near the top end of the price range.

    I know I'd like to have one.

    Dave
     
  3. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    There are phenomena described by economics as "Veblen" and "Giffen" goods. Those are items whose perceived value exceeds their utility. The value of a Veblen good is very dependent on the status it conveys to its purchaser. Status can mean more than "bragging rights" (how other people perceive the purchaser), and go very much into how the purchaser feels about himself as a result of the purchase.

    Giffen goods are a special subset of Veblen goods, in which most -- if not all -- of their status value is conveyed by the high-price itself.

    For instance, that a stainless steel Swiss watch with a self-winding hand-made movement won't keep time better than a Chinese made, battery powered Timex makes the Swiss watch a Veblen good.

    That a stainless Tag Heuer is equally well or better made in every way than a stainless Rolex, makes the Rolex -- at least to some extent -- a Giffen good. It's expensive because it's desirable. It's desirable because it says something about you. What it says about you is that you can afford the most expensive things money can buy.

    To a very large extent, any knife whose price reflects more than mere utility (and include many of mine in that category) says more about how the owner perceives himself (or hopes to perceive himself) than about the knife itself. But so what?

    BDL
     
  4. bdd8

    bdd8

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    Whether it's perceived or if the item is indeed expensive...we know there will be those people that like to brag about something they bought. The same types who can only talk about money and material items 24/7. Just to make themselves feel important. Whether it's a new set of (ya I know...don't buy "sets") expensive knives or a Benz. Hi-end watch (e.g. Piaget, Rolex...etc.). These types will always find something to brag about to their friends or strangers. Makes them fell good. You know the types...stereotypical Beverly Hills super snobs. 

    i went to school which people like that. Was sickening. They would talk a certain way to belong to their group (J.A.P's....Jewish American Princesses). Starting every sentence with "O MY Goooawwd!!!...Miii DAD just bought a 600SL.". :)

    Any how...I spotted some Tsuukasa Hinoura knives for $1700-2500 USD each. :) NUTS!!! Even if they are handmade. 

    Ok onto other topics...
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2012
  5. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    Well, I do have one Japanese knife that's over $800.  To me it's worth it because of the rare and exotic steel, beauty in character of a handmade knife, the geometry and the way it cuts.  Is it 3x better than a $250 knife?  Maybe not to you.  For the most part I think you can get 90% of the way there at $300 or less...unless you're talking single bevel.
     
     
  6. bdd8

    bdd8

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    While I'm not a chef I'll bet that $250-400 ($400 being the most I'd spend on a single kitchen knife) knife will cut just as well as a $2500 Hinoura. Assuming they use a similar quality steel, same bevel...etc. If not "just as well" then the difference would be unnoticeable.

    I think once we pass the $400 mark I think the idea of diminishing returns kicks in. Performance wise. Art wise? Subjective.

    To each his own. 
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2012
  7. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    The law of diminishing returns is part of cost effectiveness analysis which isn't a very good prism for evaluating higher-end kitchen knives.  For the sort of knives we're talking about, the price point at which the law of diminishing returns tells you that price is in excess of its utility is entirely arbitrary.  You really have to define what you want and how much you're willing to spend in order to achieve mostly or exactly what you want. 

    Intangibles like beauty, and factors which mean more to one person than another, like "edge properties" render the calculus very personal.  So does variation in income.  Your $400 is Phaedrus' $1,000, and Ice Man's $25.  Who's right?  Each and all of you.

    BDL
     
  8. bdd8

    bdd8

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    Income? Sure. But not in my case. My point was...being that I'm not a chef (or an ex-chef)...and quite honestly I don't see the "art" in a $2500 kitchen knife that much more appealing than one costing 1/5 as much. But this is just me. As I said...art is subjective. So if some one wants to spend $800 on a knife all the power to him/her. Or if they want to buy that $2500 Hinoura. It's just not going to be me. :) 

    Now if we're talking about Japanese swords that's a different story...for ME. As I can see more artistry (there IS more artistry clearly) in the combined parts of a sword...each of which is in itself an art piece. All the many artisans specializing in one part of the sword (e.g. blade, polishing, sword decoration, saya art/production). In this case it's all about the art since swords are no longer used for it's original intended purpose. Obviously. 

    For now. For me the law of diminishing returns kicks in at around the $400 mark. Which isn't to say I would never spend $2500 on a Japanese kitchen knife. I just haven't seen one with the artistry that would move me to do so. Show me a gyuto with a blade that resembles a sword blade (e.g. the hamon, same degree of polish work, details in the handle etc.) artistry then perhaps.

    Any how, time to move on...for me...other threads...etc.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2012
  9. mano

    mano

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    You just answered your own question. 

    But, having just hosted a gathering of ultra high-end knife makers, collectors and chefs I saw their obsession with sharpening, profile, geometry, and blade steel that go far beyond the artistry of handles and Damascus design patterns.  They literally talked for hours about minutae that either you "get" or don't.  In person, the artistry of many of these knives is breathtaking.  Others, which are still costly, appear ordinary but are valued because of how well they're crafted and perform.

    For me, I'm a user not a collector so my six or so knives was a small fraction of what these other guys had.  The neat thing is that they use all of them to cut food.
     
  10. bdd8

    bdd8

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    HAH!! And that is the other reason why I would almost never spend over $400 on a single kitchen knife. We're buying a tool to help us prep our meals. Cut carrots, tomato, meat...etc. So any "artistry" there is or is perceived becomes moot IMHO. And also why I think talking about as you put it the "minutae" between kitchen knives only gets one so far. But I'm no kitchen knife nerd so if they want to go on for hours on kitchen knife steel, geometry...how this $2500 Hinoura kitchen knife cuts through a tomato more effortlessly than a $100 Tojiro...and use that $2500 knife to cut veggies...so be it. :)

    Ok. I'm really bowing out of my thread now. :)
     
  11. mano

    mano

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    I'm a dunce.  He never really wanted an answer to begin with.
     
  12. Iceman

    Iceman

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    People buy what they do because for them it means something. I buy a tool for it's working value. Another guy buys an $XXX knife because he likes it. It's the same with any type of product; cars, stereos, wines, grills, fishing poles et al. I'll be the first to argue that some "home cook" is not going to plate better eats with his $300 knife than I (a pro chef) am with my $15 jobbie. I won't at all however, take away from him any intrinsic value he gets from doing it though. I hope the "vocabulary police" don't come after me for using "intrinsic"
     
  13. bdd8

    bdd8

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    "Just when I thought I was out...they pull me back in!!" (Godfather movie ref...not word for word but you get the idea). Was about to post another thread when i noticed people were still commenting on this one.

    No and NO. :) I just had an epiphany about kitchen knives. 

    Wines? Perhaps. Cars? No (e.g. Fiat 500 vs Ferrari 458...difference in all respects is plain as day). $2500 Hinoura vs $100 Tojiro...Is there $2400 worth more of "intrinsic value"? HELL NO!! Not for a prep tool. (IMHO). 

    And I think it's VERY presumptuous to assume that because one is "a pro chef" that you'll always plate a dish better than ALL "home chef/cooks". I'm sure there are self-taught "home chef's/cooks" with more talent than "Chef A, B...". 

    "Ok, Ok, Ok...(another movie dialogue ref)" I'm REALLY bowing out this time. :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2012
  14. chefsmith

    chefsmith

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    It's ridiculous to claim that there is no art in the act of cooking (for some).  Just like physically painting a picture can be art, so can cooking a meal, not to mention the actual finished product (the food or painting).  I am not claiming that there will be a difference in the finished product, but there is a difference in the act, for some.

    Why is artistry removed or moot because the knife is being used?  Utterly ridiculous.

    YOU buy a knife as a tool to help you prep meals.  SOME buy a knife as a tool for the sake of the tool itself and find that there is even greater "art" in using a super fancy knife to actually cook than just leaving it in a glass case.  Art is always relative.  I might view what you call art as ordinary crap, and you might view what I call art as ordinary crap.  Just because we don't understand each other doesn't mean that our views are not valid.
    I think you are being incredibly inconsistent and don't recognize it.  You are claiming that there is, universally, an additional $200,000+ worth of value in a Ferrari over a Fiat (I'm assuming a Ferrari is upwards of $215,000 and the Fiat is $15,000+, but I could be wrong).  Ridiculous.  Value is always going to be relative to the individual.  There's going to be an undefinable something about an object that adds value for one person that may or may not exist for the next person.  Just because you don't recognize that undefinable something, does not mean that it's not there for someone else.
     
  15. diamond g knive

    diamond g knive

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    From a $35 Kitchen Aide to a $3500 Kramer and up.

    To me it is 1.) A tool that must perform its task well. 2.) It should maintain a good edge 3.) It should last for a decent amount of time with proper care.

    Past these points I belive it's been covered that everything else is subjective to the owner/buyer.

    I am a custom knife maker. I have made User Grade, and Presentation Grade Chefs knives. They all had the first part, they had to cut and cut well as a tool, some were as ugly as a mud fence, but performed their job amazingly well while others I was told later were "too pretty to use" and became drawer Queens to be brought out on special occasions.

    I apologize for rambling on, but I have been looking at this issue for a while myself. I am wanting to produce a "Custom" Chefs Knife that will perform well in a professional environment, while being affordable to most (less than $350) The question I have, is this. All things being equal, steel type, Heat treat, Shape, Grind, Handle Materials, what else can be added to a knife to demand such prices?  Just how much "Magic" can be imparted into a piece of steel??? Is it the artist/knifemakers reputation? Availablility (you have to win a lotto to have the option to purchase  a Kramer currently) or somthing Im not seeing?

    I would greatly appreciate any imput you folks might have, as well as your ideas on what would make the "Perfect Chefs Knife" in your opinion. ( I know this is a Chevy/Ford/Dodge) argument, but im curious. What are the basics that are important to you. Is it steel type? Handle Shape? Balance point? Blade Shape? Point placement? What woould make your dream knife a reality?

    Thanks and God Bless

    Mike
     
  16. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    It's hard to put your finger on a particular point at which any particular characteristic becomes more about something else than performance. Your questions are not so much about knives as about particular economic concepts like Veblen and Geffen goods.  More succinctly: Yes.  Status issues with no bearing on performance, like reputation, scarcity, and the amount of hand labor by the named maker himself, play important roles in pricing.

    It's a little easier to figure out which materials and how much time should go into a budget knife, than an "ultimate."  Either way, your choices say at least as much as your workmanship.     

    Pricing is a complicated issue.  When I was Pure Logic I learned to base prices on niche more than costs to get my products to the right customers.  If you price too cheaply, they won't pay attention to you... at least not the right kind of attention.  That wasn't just true for consumer high-end audio cable, but for industry air-bearing supply and control systems as well. 

    BDL