how well will a yanagi fit into my household?

Discussion in 'Cooking Knife Reviews' started by gonefishin, Jun 17, 2010.

  1. gonefishin

    gonefishin

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        Hi guys!  I'm back in the knife forum again...which means I've been getting the itch to get a new knife.  Since I generally work quite slowly I don't plan on purchasing for a while...but would like to do my homework now.  

         I've been kicking around the idea of getting a yanagi.  I currently have my Masamoto HC gyuto and love it!  All other knives that I have simply aren't in the "keeper" category.  I hope to replace many of them eventually.  To sharpen my knives I use the EdgePro Apex with a decent set of waterstones.

         I'm looking for a knife that will fit well for slicing duties.  This would include cutting sashimi and rolls, but also possible meat duties as well.  If this is overstepping the purpose of a yanagi let me know.

       I enjoy both eating and cooking.  But it looks as if each new kitchen knife that I buy will be used for it's primary function as well as a hobby within itself.  I haven't used a Japanese style knife yet, but I would like to look to that for my next knife...a slicer.

       I'm unsure what would be a suitable size.  I've seen it stated that the longer you can get the better, although it takes more skill.  What's the point you want to go to?  I'm fairly used to using larger knives but I don't want to get something that is far outside any skill level I may acquire with its use.

      My price range?  I'm not quite sure.  I'd like to get something that I won't have to replace as my skills improve.  But understanding that I'm not going to be spending a fortune on a single knife.  A good friend of mine has a brother that live in Japan (not sure where), if that may increase my choices let me know.

      thanks,

     dan
     
  2. chrislehrer

    chrislehrer

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    Okay. Let's focus on a few things here.

    1. Will you be slicing much raw fish to make sashimi? Not maki rolls, but sashimi.

    2. What sort of freehand sharpening setup have you got, and how good with it are you? An EdgePro is, as far as I understand it, very problematic for single-beveled knives.

    3. Think very, very seriously about the depth of your wallet. A decent yanagiba does not come cheap.

    Some additional information:

    1. A yanagiba is an excellent slicer all-around, but it is very much a special-purpose knife whose purpose is slicing raw fish. Unless you are a bit of a collector or knife fetishist, I do not think it is a good choice if you don't get much use out of the primary function.

    2. Sharpening a yanagiba is not easy. Opening a yanagiba is dead hard. A decent yanagiba should probably, on a normal day, start on a stone somewhere around 3k, minimum, and should be polished up about as high as you can get it. When I use mine, invariably for not much -- I'm not a pro and only cut fish to serve my family -- I sharpen that night, and start on a 10k stone. More recently, I have shifted my system and use pretty much exclusively a natural extremely hard Asagi stone, which one could rate somewhere in the vicinity of 15k, give or take. Every time I do this, I am not entirely happy with the result, but I get better each time. Believe me, it's hard work.

    3. Opening a yanagiba, if you can't do it yourself, is going to run you about $50. If you haven't used a single-beveled knife before, make no mistake: you cannot do this yourself. Don't try. You must factor this cost into the total cost of the knife. Another thing to factor in is a saya: a foot-long razor blade should not be banging around in a drawer and will not fit in most blocks. Expect to pay about $20 or so for this.

    I do not think that a yanagiba should be under 270mm. It simply will not have the weight to make the cuts for which it is designed. You can get short ones, around 195mm, for "home use," but you will find it frustrating, and most of them are made of quite poor-quality steel to boot. I use my short one, received as a wedding present, as a general-purpose slicer, but that's mostly because I like to play with knives.

    I don't buy knives in the West, fortunately, so I can't really advise you on costs with any precision, but I doubt very much if a decent 270mm yanagiba together with professional opening, saya, and shipping is going to come in much under $350 at a minimum. If you see something much cheaper, ask some very pointed questions everywhere you can about why it's so cheap, because there may well be a (bad) reason.

    So...

    Let's try again. Do you think you want a knife like this?
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2010
  3. gonefishin

    gonefishin

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       Thanks for the response Chris.

    1)  Yes, my preference is sashimi, but my wife likes maki rolls.  Which means I'll be making both when I have the opportunity.

    2)  I haven't got any freehand set up to speak of.  I'll have to look into how the EdgePro performs with single-beveled knives.  If it doesn't perform adequately I may have to look into other options.

    3)  I would be in the entry (ish) area...money wise.

    4)  I do want a slicer that will perform well at many tasks, but primarily sashimi.  Secondary simply using as a utility slicer (rolls and meat if it's able).   As I said, if the EdgePro is unable to sharpen a single bevel knife I'll look into something else as i just don't have the free-hand skills/experience.  

      thanks,

     dan 
     
     
  4. chrislehrer

    chrislehrer

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    Somebody who's used an EdgePro wanna comment?
     
  5. gonefishin

    gonefishin

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       Hmmmm....

       I've been trying to post my question about the Edgepro and single beveled knives in the KnifeForum but it's giving me a database error when I try to view the forum index and it won't accept my password at the main log-in screen.  I'll have to try again later today???

    dan
     
  6. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Don't confuse "sushi" with a need for a chisel edged knife.  At some absolute level of sharpness and technical skill you might be able to make a marginally cleaner, thinner cut with a yanagi, but otherwise a suji is more versatile and durable.

    All in all, you're probably better off with a good 27cm or 30cm suji than a yanagi.  Sujis of comparative quality are considerably less expensive than yanagis, and the edges are significantly more durable. 

    There's a pretty good selection of suji/slicers very close to the quality level of your HC at very attractive prices.  The Misono Sweden is a  particular standout.

    [​IMG]     

    I also like several of the Sabatiers, especially this 12" "Antique" from K-Sabatier:

    [​IMG]

    Both have a lot of soul, both are fairly reasonably priced (the K-Sab is downright cheap but they make you spend a lot on shipping), and either would be perfect for your purposes. 

    BDL
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2010
  7. chrislehrer

    chrislehrer

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    Tangentially: I know you're going to think this is a piece of pedantry, and I suppose it is, but I just have to point out that the only remotely common Japanese word pronounced "yani" is 脂, meaning nicotine, resin, or eye mucus. The knife is a yanagiba. If you called it a "yanagi" (wllow), in context, people would understand you but think it weird. If you called it a "yani" nobody would have any clue what you were talking about.

    "Suji" is a peculiar contraction. It means tendon, string, or perhaps plot-line.

    How about this: let's agree not to use the word "slicer," because it's clearly too long and awkward. Let's call it a "slick" instead -- it's just the same, right? And for "chef's knife," let's go with "chip." Or, conversely, we could just skip the Japanese entirely, and just talk about whether the OP should buy eye-mucus or string.

    So, in agreement with BDL, I'd say string is probably a better choice than eye-mucus.

    (Sorry, this has been getting to me lately....)
     
  8. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    I suspect BDL meant to type "yanagi."  Or perhaps he's recently been enjoying the soothing sounds of Yanni and it was a Freudian slip[​IMG].

     
  9. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Yanagi already.  To use another Japanese term, I was fehrmisht.  Not by soft jazz though, tanx G_tt.

    Yes.  "String is better than mucus," is what I meant to say.  I think.

    More, (staying with the regional Japanese idiom in which we are so entrenched) someone is shikkered, but it ain't me.

    I know I got those words right,

    BDL

    PS.  It seems a shame to discuss knives but the tendon etymology of suji (itself short for sujibiki) says something about the knife's versatility for trimming.  It's more than just a slicer.  Not that I'm much of a model, but I use my 10" and 6" for all sorts of purposes.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2010
  10. gonefishin

    gonefishin

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     Oh no!  I am nearly rolling on the floor laughing /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif

      BDL,  I see your point about looking at the sujihiki.  For the needs I've got in my non-professional kitchen I don't foresee a downside going with a sujhiki, especially for the advantages I would gain with its versatility.

        I say all this knowing that I'm ignorant on all that is about Japanese knives.  Which (from my point of view) isn't a bad thing to say, when your surrounded by some knowledgeable people.  What's the worst thing that can happen?  

        thanks for the suggestion!

      dan
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2010
  11. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    Edit all you like, BDL- I don't care who you are, that $hit was funny!/img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif
     
  12. gonefishin

    gonefishin

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       I'm still looking.  My money has been going elsewhere lately, but I still want to be prepared.  With the thoughts given to me here, and elsewhere, I believe a sujihiki sounds like a better choice for me.  This time around I'm looking for value, performance and style, in that order.  I don't have a large amount of money to dedicate to this purchase but I could benefit from having a quality slicer in my house.  As I've said before, this knife would be used for sashimi, rolls, and slicing various other proteins.  

      Value, performance, style.  Why?

      I say in this order because I understand that I'm looking to spend the lowest amount of money on a knife that really is a decent performer in its needed areas.   So why Style?  I'm usually not one to let style dictate what I purchase.  But in this case...I really do enjoy looking at the Japanese, Wa, style handle.  I won't find out how they are to work/feel with until I get one...but they're so darn beautiful!

      I'm eying up this 300mm Moritaka, from Chef Knives to go, for $200.  It's labeled as a Yanagiba, but it has a 50/50 bevel...not sure why it's labeled as such.  I do plan on having the knife "opened" from the supplier.

      thanks,

     dan
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2010
  13. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Hey Dan,

    We westerners are always dazzled by the edge geometry and blade profile and tend to overlook the rest of the knife.  Moritaka calls it a yanagiba because, despite the two sided edge, it's stiff instead of flexible like a suji. 

    Value / performance in wa-yanabibas (is there any other kind?) is very strong in the Masamoto KK and Suisun shironikou.  You can spend a lot more and not get a knife that will cut any better.

    Style?  Hard to say.  You seem to like the black kuro-uchi finish, which I detest.   Mabye the Takayuki Mr. Doi, in that it's not only visually stylish but is made (at least in part) by the hand of an old, revered, knife maker who won't be around forever.   

    And who doesn't like a dragon?

    Masamoto KS is a lovely knife, but no better nor much better looking than the KK. 

    For sheer versatility, including trimming briskets, a suji is probably a better choice. 

    BDL
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 28, 2010
  14. gonefishin

    gonefishin

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       Thanks for the explanation BDL.
     
  15. chrislehrer

    chrislehrer

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    I'm still waiting for someone who's used an EdgePro to weigh in on whether it can be used effectively with a yanagiba.

    I was under the impression, very strongly, that it could not --- that you cannot reduce the grind angle low enough. (This is one difference from Ken Schwartz's "Gizmo.") This makes an enormous difference for gonefishin, because he uses an EdgePro and has no freestanding stones to speak of. If my impression is correct, he's got to get something with an angle the EdgePro can grind.
     
  16. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    The minimum, marked edge angle on an EP Apex is 10*.  I don't know what the maximum decent edge angle is for a yanagiba, but with a chisel edge, the edge angle is the same as the included angle, and 10* is a fairly acute included angle.  If 10* is too obtuse, it seems a simple enough matter to fashion a jig and attach it to the EP's table in order to get sharpen whatever angle was desired. 

    People tell me tool and jig sharpening is not a good way to sharpen an ultra-fine chisel edge -- much less take care of the back.  Never tried sharpening the one on the other my own bad self.  Performance aside, I imagine regular sharpening with an EdgePro or "Gizmo" would be tedious, while "opening" would be perdition. 

    BDL
     
  17. gonefishin

    gonefishin

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        Hi Chris.  The[font=tahoma, verdana, geneva, lucida, arial, helvetica, sans-serif]re[/font]  is one EdgePro owner and knife nut who I trust with his opinion.  Many of his suggestions on the yanagiba mirror the advice given in this thread by BDL and yourself.  He suggested a sujihiki for myself as well.  Despite his concerns he did mention that the EdgePro is capable fo sharpening a single bevel.  I don't know if any modifications are needed, I didn't inquire further because I'm leaning toward the sujihiki instead.

       I'm not interested in getting a set of stones in addition to the EdgePro system I have, so your impression is correct.  

      thanks,

     da
     
  18. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    Wow, I haven't kept up with thread!  A few points- yes, the EP can do single bevels.  The Apex is a bit limited in how low it will go.  I don't have one anymore but IIRC it can go down to maybe 8 degrees.  Far enough for a yanagi.  I use a Pro; it can go down to under six.  But realistically you have to consider two things: 1) you can easily make a riser block to go down to near zero degrees and 2) there are very few knives, if any, that can hold an edge  under 8 degrees included.  That's razor blade territory.

    The Moritaka is a terrific knife, especially for the price.  The Aogami Super steel takes a razor edge and the ergonomics are fantastic.  I only used on for a week (passaround from KF) but I fell in love.  I will eventually buy one.  I suspect the reason they call it a "yanagiba" come down to marketing and tranlation- I don't know if Moritaka san speaks any English.  All of his knives are double bevelled so a yanagi isn't really a yanagi, and the kiritsuke is really more of an oddly shaped gyuto.  But none of this pedantry should detract from the fact that they're superb knives.  They're very thin, have great geometry and fantastic steel.  A home cook would be well served with a Moritaka suji (the more apt way to describe it).
     
  19. gonefishin

    gonefishin

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       Thanks for adding your thoughts, Phaedrus.  It's much appreciated!

          /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif,

            dan