High Tech Steel Santokus?

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Joined Mar 22, 2017
Hey all,

a few years ago, some of you really helped me with my start into the world of proper knives. I've learned a lot since then, my collection grew, and I'm still really happy with all my choices. So thanks I guess :)

Now, I'm trying to do the same for a friend of mine, but I need a specific recommendation, for which I'm a bit out of my depth.

I am looking for a roughly Santoku style, although a bit higher blade that usual would be nice. Additionally, western handle, stainless and for about €150-200, (which works out to roughly $180-245). Although the lower end of this range would be preferred, as I still could fit a decent Chinese Cleaver in the remaining budget.

So far so good, the difficult part is that I think a high tech tool/powdered/Swedish steel would be perfect, as he won't be sharpening by himself and I believe for novice cooks they have ideal characteristics, namely; rust resistant, high HRC, resistance to lateral stress. The only downside, AFAIK, is the difficulty of sharpening these steels, but that won't be an issue as mentioned already. Comments on my reasoning are welcome.

Any recommendations? I already thought about the Mac Professional, but it doesn't get me too excited.


Best,
DL
 
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Joined Nov 29, 2012
I am looking for a roughly Santoku style, although a bit higher blade that usual would be nice. Additionally, western handle, stainless and for about €150-200, (which works out to roughly $180-245). Although the lower end of this range would be preferred, as I still could fit a decent Chinese Cleaver in the remaining budget.

So far so good, the difficult part is that I think a high tech tool/powdered/Swedish steel would be perfect, as he won't be sharpening by himself and I believe for novice cooks they have ideal characteristics, namely; rust resistant, high HRC, resistance to lateral stress. The only downside, AFAIK, is the difficulty of sharpening these steels, but that won't be an issue as mentioned already.
Do you mean a taller blade (edge to spine) or longer blade (heel to tip) than what's usual for a santoku?
Is this friend just starting out with decent knives? Will the sharpening be done by you or by a service/company of some type?
 
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Joined Mar 22, 2017
Yes, by higher I meant taller, from edge to spine.

He is just starting out with decent knives, but got me to help him prevent the worst mistakes.

Sharpening will be outsourced to a nearby shop.
 
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Joined Nov 29, 2012
Well, I don't know which brands might be tallest, so you'll have to do some searching to find out dimensions if you can. There are a lot of round-nosed cleavers on the market right now (Serbian?), but most of them seem to be of lower-grade steels.

Glestain has a taller version santoku (48mm) that looks like it fits your criteria, and the kullens are said to be the best for food release. The steel might not be as high-end as you're hoping to find?
https://japanesechefsknife.com/collections/santoku-knives/products/glestain-santoku-knife

JCK also has their house-brand santoku that's not quite as tall (46mm) but maybe has steel that better fits your search criteria. Tool steels have the advantage of getting harder (better narrow edge retention) without becoming brittle the way a lot of popular knife steels do.
https://japanesechefsknife.com/prod...ayaki-carbonext-series-kc-3-santoku180mm7inch

Besides JCK, ChefKnivesToGo has a decent selection of nicer western-handled santokus. Hopefully the sharpener will be familiar with narrower edge angles and higher-end steels. :)
 
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Joined Mar 22, 2017
It actually is quite difficult to find someone I would entrust with my high HRC Japanese knives, yes :D I can relate. And for some reason, knife shops in my area can get quite agitated when you request to speak to their sharpening guy before handing your knives over..

Thank you for your recommendations, I didn't know JCK got their own line of knives! Very interesting. Will look into this. As for the Glestain santoku, you're right, I don't like the steel. Do you have practical experience with them? How do they hold up in comparison to the classic carbon steels (aogamis etc)?
 
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No, I don't have any experience with any Glestain knives. They do have a good reputation, but that's all I know. The only commercial santoku I own is the Forschner/Victorinox Rosewood model. It's super easy to sharpen and gets amazingly sharp (that's mine (and my arm) in the pic), but the steel is nowhere near what you're looking for.

Shun makes a wide santoku in premium SG2 powdered steel, but the western handled version is above your price ceiling:
https://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/shun-kaji-double-hollow-ground-sumo-santoku-knife/

They also have a version with their modified Japanese handle in an excellent steel (VG Max) that's on sale below your price floor:
https://www.cutleryandmore.com/shun-classic/double-hollow-edge-wide-santoku-knife-p138442
I really like their D-shaped handles. Even though I make all of my knives with full-tang western handles, I find Shun's handles very comfortable to hold. And if your friend is using a pinch grip, the handle style becomes less critical. :)
 

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phatch

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My daughter has a Mac Santoku she likes. My other daughter uses a Dexter Santoku I bought in my experimentation with the blade style. The Mac is superior in most every way, but the Dexter still the preferred blade of that daughter, probably because it was free to her and is a convenient size for her uses.
 
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I have a deep distrust towards Shun. Form over function, iPhones of knives etc

But I really dig your original suggestions, it's probably gonna be either the JCK santoku or something really close to it. That price to performance ratio seems hard to beat at a 110 USD.

Re: Handle
True, my main intention was ease of maintenance, as you don't have to oil/wax western handles. This particular handle seems to be treated in some way, maybe with a resin? So that wouldn't be an issue.

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phatch phatch
Thanks, I already commented on Mac in my original post, superb knife I guess, at least judging from their reputation. Never got to try one. Not exactly what I'm looking for though, same goes for Dexter. They seem more like a pro kitchen workhorse like F Dick and Victorinox?
 
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Joined Apr 26, 2012
I own a Shun chef knife and I love it. It has never failed me.

The philosophy of Santoku knives is literally "three virtues". These three virtues are meat, fish, and vegetables. Or can be described in three main functions... chop, slice, dice.

For a novice user, your friend could be happy with about any knife that will serve them.

I would start with a good chef knife. Unless they need specific cutting requirements, for example, to chop vegetables quickly and precisely. Japanese vegetable knives (similar to cleavers, but a little lighter and shaped a little different) are designed for this. But for general use, a chef knife covers most applications.
 
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The philosophy of Santoku knives is literally "three virtues". These three virtues are meat, fish, and vegetables.
I've not heard this version of "3 Virtues" before -- I like it better than the "s/c/d" version as a santoku has the design characteristics of gyuto/deba/nakiri all rolled into a single knife. 👍
 
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Joined Apr 26, 2012
I've not heard this version of "3 Virtues" before -- I like it better than the "s/c/d" version as a santoku has the design characteristics of gyuto/deba/nakiri all rolled into a single knife. 👍
Yes.. the word santoku means "Three Virtues".

It is true that the design of Santoku knives have multiple uses.
 
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Joined Nov 29, 2012
I have a deep distrust towards Shun. Form over function, iPhones of knives etc

But I really dig your original suggestions, it's probably gonna be either the JCK santoku or something really close to it. That price to performance ratio seems hard to beat at a 110 USD.

Re: Handle
True, my main intention was ease of maintenance, as you don't have to oil/wax western handles. This particular handle seems to be treated in some way, maybe with a resin? So that wouldn't be an issue.
I know what you mean about Shun, as I have similar feelings. Also, their VG-10 steel has long had a reputation for being more chip-prone than their competitors' VG-10 blades. (I'm not sure about their SG2 or VG Max) They do have one of the tallest santokus (maybe the tallest?), but their edge profiles are more curved than a typical version -- more like a truncated German-style chef's knife.

Yes, pakka is usually a resin-filled wood laminate and generally maintenance-free. :)
 
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Joined Apr 26, 2012
I know what you mean about Shun, as I have similar feelings. Also, their VG-10 steel has long had a reputation for being more chip-prone than their competitors' VG-10 blades.
My Shun chef knife is made with what they call VG-MAX. This is supposed to be stronger.

I have never had any damage to my knife. I take extremely good care of it. I do not use it on bone or anything hard, as recommended by the manufacturer. I will generally use a stainless steel knife I have for cutting bone if I need to.
 
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Joined Mar 22, 2017
I own a Shun chef knife and I love it. It has never failed me.

The philosophy of Santoku knives is literally "three virtues". These three virtues are meat, fish, and vegetables. Or can be described in three main functions... chop, slice, dice.

For a novice user, your friend could be happy with about any knife that will serve them.

I would start with a good chef knife. Unless they need specific cutting requirements, for example, to chop vegetables quickly and precisely. Japanese vegetable knives (similar to cleavers, but a little lighter and shaped a little different) are designed for this. But for general use, a chef knife covers most applications.

Yeah, I see what you are saying. I'll look into their VG-MAX.

I am not implying Shuns are bad knives. My problem with Shun is, that at their price point, visuals shouldn't be a major design focus. Sure, they should look nice and well made, but good steel, ideal treatment and overall build quality should be the main concern and the main money sink, and I don't feel like this is the case. If we get to a point where you're spending $500+ for a knife, fine go ahead and give them a fancy handle and damascus cladding. But at this price point, their very constructions seems more marketing than good engineering.

Regarding nakiris, yes they are way too specialized. But many home cooks don't like the size of a chefs knife and I respect and understand that. For this reason, I think it is perfectly fine to build your collection around something else, like a santoku or even a Chinese cleaver.

Yes, pakka is usually a resin-filled wood laminate and generally maintenance-free. :)

Fair enough.

I did a bit (actually a lot) of browsing on JCK. Their bunkas seem intriguing as well. While I'm at it, might snatch one up for visitors to use :)
 
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Joined Apr 26, 2012
If we get to a point where you're spending $500+ for a knife, fine go ahead and give them a fancy handle and damascus cladding. But at this price point, their very constructions seems more marketing than good engineering.

Regarding nakiris, yes they are way too specialized. But many home cooks don't like the size of a chefs knife and I respect and understand that. For this reason, I think it is perfectly fine to build your collection around something else, like a santoku or even a Chinese cleaver.
I would not recommend a $500+ knife. That is a bit overkill. My Shun chef knife retailed at $159 and I got it on sale for $89.

I shop for knives at cutleryandmore.com and most of their knives you are talking about run in the $100 to $200 range. None of the santoku knives I saw there are outside the prices you are looking for.
 
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Joined Mar 22, 2017
Oh no, don't worry, I would never recommend a $500 knife as someones first knife. This was simply a thought experiment to drive home my point about why Shun knives just aren't for me :)
 
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their VG-10 steel has long had a reputation for being more chip-prone than their competitors' VG-10 blades

I have never had any damage to my knife. I take extremely good care of it. I do not use it on bone or anything hard, as recommended by the manufacturer.
I agree, it's not difficult to take care of Shun's edges. I've had two of their VG-10 blades (4" paring and 6" utility) for about 10 yrs and have never experienced chipping on either of them. But then, I've repaired a couple of santokus (for friends) that had significant chipping. (pic attached) Besides the examples you mentioned, I think this kind of damage can also be done by slight twisting after the blade comes in contact with the cutting board.
 

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I agree, it's not difficult to take care of Shun's edges. I've had two of their VG-10 blades (4" paring and 6" utility) for about 10 yrs and have never experienced chipping on either of them. But then, I've repaired a couple of santokus (for friends) that had significant chipping. (pic attached) Besides the examples you mentioned, I think this kind of damage can also be done by slight twisting after the blade comes in contact with the cutting board.
It also depends on how the user takes care of the edge. These need to be washed and dried after every use. Leaving food residue or leaving moisture on the blade can allow small weaknesses to begin and then even normal use might result in chipping.

My regular maintenance includes hone, use, wash, dry, put away. I do this each time I use the knife.
 
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Joined Mar 22, 2017
Interesting, I've never heard of the food residue part. Got a source for that? I'd like to read more about that.
 
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