Japanese Steel: Proper Usage/Preventing Chips?

Discussion in 'Cooking Knife Reviews' started by ajames, Dec 27, 2009.

  1. ajames

    ajames

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    I've recently received a Shun 8" Chef's knife as a Christmas gift, and am looking to glean as much information on how to properly use and care for my first quality knife.

    I'm a 20-something male home cook, blessed with a passion for food. Between being the son of a top-notch home cook, and spending a semester in France, I've caught the bug. I've spend hours upon hours researching what to begin my personal knife collection with, and though I may have ventured towards a Tojiro DP, I was given a Shun. I do love it. Yes, I know there may be better knives for that price, and yes, I know the Damascus pattern is fake, and I've certainly seen the complaints regarding blade geometry. I don't really care. It's my first quality knife, and it feels great in MY hand. With a decent-enough thickness, and a nice small blade angle, I certainly don't feel as though I'm missing out on too much as a young, aspring cook.

    Now that I've justified myself to the powers that be, I'd like to ask some advice on how to NOT chip the edge. I am more than willing to learn proper care/usage of Japanese knives, but worried that I will miss something and mar the edge.

    Cooking lots of French/Italian foods means a great deal of mirepoix, garlic, and herbs. I've read up on and practiced my knife skills a great deal over the past year, and am certainly progressing in the right direction, but I've been working with a cheap, tough, Calphalon forged Santoku.

    What should/shouldn't a typical Japanese chef's knife be used for? Will I have to return to a different knife for mincing and creating pastes from garlic/ginger? What are the chances of chipping the blade when chopping some fresh rosemary -- even when gentle?

    I appreciate any suggestions or tips.

    Thanks

    aj
     
  2. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    As Japanese knives go, your Shun is not particularly likely to chip. Still, compared to a typical "German," it is both thinner and harder.
    • Keep it very sharp.
    • Use an appropriate sharpening method. Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but if the method's cheap, it probably won't do much to keep your knife functioning at the level it should, or to preserve it either.
    • Keep it sharpened at an appropriate angle -- Either the "factory" 16* or a more real world 15*. Shuns don't go much more acute.
    • Keep it at or near 50/50 symmetry.
    • Sharpen to a reasonable degree of polish, so that you've got a smooth edge. A good 2000# (JIS) edge is minimal.
    • Repair micro-chips and other minor chipping immediately. If you get a chip that's too big to handle easily, the warranty probably kicks in. If it doesn't, and you're not confident doing it yourself, have the knife profiled by a competent professional.
    • Steel the knife to keep the edge "trued," but don't bang it against the steel the way most TV chefs do.
    • Use an appropriate steel. No "diamond sharpening steels;" no "medium;" just fine or finer, whether steel, ceramic or glass.
    • Use a good cutting board. Nylon boards are especially likely to cause chipping.
    • Use a different, heavy-duty knife for splitting chickens, and other poultry.
    • Use a different, heavy-duty knife for cutting the rib tips off of spares.
    • Don't do things that will result in slamming the knife against the board. If the knife is very sharp you can cut the tops and bottoms off of gourds, and pineapples -- but if it isn't the knife will wedge, break through all of a sudden and slam against the board.
    • Use common sense, even though it's not very common at all.
    Enjoy your new knife,
    BDL
     
  3. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    Don't sweat the "fake" Damascus- suminigashi is faux Damascus on virtually every Japanese knife you can get. I dunno why they do it or who started it but it's a near-universal with those knives. Shuns aren't super prone to chipping but it's wise to take a few precautions:

    1) Always cut on a cutting board, preferably end-grain wood or hard rubber. Next best is poly, and it's not nearly as good. Bamboo isn't a great option; the pieces they're made of are generally small and a require a lot of glue. The glue is pretty hard and not good for your edge. Avoid cutting on glass or stainless steel like you'd avoid AIDS.

    2) Avoid cutting protein that has bones. A bone will do a number on your Shun. I sold one in like-new shape to a co-worker who took a 3 mm chip out of it cutting into a bone in a piece of meat he thought was boneless. Not a pretty picture. Don't cut frozen foods with it, either, and don't use it to cut extremely crusty bread.

    3) Use proper technique when cutting. I see a lot of home cooks twist thru the cut for some reason. Cutting into the board and twisting is really bad for the edge and will definitely create microchips.

    4) Go easy with the steel. I dunno why Shun sells a steel that appears to be designed to ruin their knives, but they do. Stick with a glass hone, a ceramic or a smooth steel. Go gently, and watch your angle. I read somewhere that anything more than about 3 strokes per side damages your edge more than it helps; this could be urban legend but it has the ring of truth. It's like Right Guard- if a couple sprays doesn't do it, you need a shower, not deodorant.

    If you maintain your blade, use good technique and always use a cutting board you'll have no problems mincing herbs or doing any other kitchen task.
     
  4. luis j

    luis j

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    I still don't know why BDL doesn't send us to his personal blog whenever a question like this arises. It's a hell of a good source of information, I can't figure out if it's a matter of intelectual humble attitude (Wich I understand and support if it's the case...Or whatever is the case) . Please forgive me if I'm being invasive BDL but I have to share this link with Mr. Ajames http://www.cookfoodgood.com/?p=551 because it answers so many questions on "steeling" and taking proper care of  knives.

    Best regards.

    Luis
     
    wobelix likes this.
  5. beardedcrow

    beardedcrow

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    I'm not experienced with shuns chef knife, but my shun yanagi is vg10 and chips on the cutting board.

    Maybe it's just me, vg10 is a weird steel.

    Never again.
     
  6. franzb69

    franzb69

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    heat treat is the culprit. not the steel. 

    hattori does amazing vg10 steel knives. they know their vg10. 
     
  7. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    Yeah, they do know VG10.  However, a great many "Hattori" knives aren't HT'd in house.  It's a pretty widely known "secret" that their HD line is manufactured by Ryusen and just cosmetically finished by Hattori.  So far as I know the FH/KF line is done entirely by Hattori.
     
  8. franzb69

    franzb69

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    which is what i was referring to. their FH line from JCK.

    =D
     
  9. rick alan

    rick alan

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    I've had trouble with a Shun vg10 knife.  Would develop and awful burr just from cutting steak.  I kid you not, the edge would just roll over.   I tried grinding the edge down to remove the bad steel, which has helped but I am still getting a small burr forming just from a few cuts through soft stuff.  Maybe more metal removal.
     
  10. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    The FH line is great!  I still kick myself for selling my KF/FH 240mm gyuto.

    Some have said that VG-10 knives like the Shuns need some sharpening, even a few, to get rid of the original edge.  It's been speculated that the basic HT is okay but that the edge is being work hardened or overheated when the factory sharpening is applied.  I can't say for sure.  There's a Shun at work that's been passed around for a couple years.  Originally it belonged to the Chef, but he sold it to a cook who sold it to another cook who sold it again.  Like a bad penny it keeps turning up.  I've sharpened it at least ten times for four different cooks.  Edge retention is maybe a little improved but not by much if it is.
     
  11. deputy

    deputy

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    How does the Ryusen heat treatment compare? I haven't chipped my HD yet but am interested to know if it's something I have to be especially careful with. 
     
  12. beardedcrow

    beardedcrow

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    Ok maybe vg10 isn't the culprit but I'm most likely not going to purchase a shun anytime soon.
     
  13. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    I dunno for sure.  I've sharpened a couple of really chipped up HD's but they had been badly abused.  I had one HD of my own but it was a petty and so wasn't used very hard.  No issues though in  my use.  When it comes to knives actually branded as Blazen or Ryu I don't have enough experience to say definitively.
     
  14. deputy

    deputy

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    Fair enough. Doesn't really matter much anyway as I'm not about to sell it. It work VERY well. Very happy with it. 
     
  15. franzb69

    franzb69

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    i think it's mostly the user's fault that good knives get chipped. in this case, the HD.=D
     
  16. jimbo68

    jimbo68

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    My knives are VG 10, Kanetsune and 1 Tojiro.  I have not experienced any excessive chipping, certainly not in the mm range.  They also stay sharp for a reasonable time. 

    They are always used on a wood cutting board, and are always on the board, in my hand, or in the block.  Any bone work is done with Forschners.  Overall, I am satisfied with the performance.
     
  17. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    I really like Kanetsune.  Very good knives for the price.
     
  18. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Ryusen Damascus and Hattori HD heat treatment are EXACTLY the same -- which is unsurprising since at the time of heat treating the blanks come from a common pile and go back into another one. 

    How is the Hattori FH heat treatment different?  Good question.  I don't know the answer.  However, let me observe that the FH is distinct from the other two in a great many ways, and that comparing them on such a narrow criterion misses the apples and oranges differences.

    I wouldn't go out of my way to avoid VG-10, but -- no matter how well it's heat treated -- it's not the world beating alloy everyone thought it was a few years ago. 

    BDL
     
  19. ruscal

    ruscal

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    hey aj

    i'm a home cook too. got a bunch of masamoto, and a few konosuke, an ashi, a couple of macs and a global.

    for your new knife i'd recommend the following:
     * watch what you're cutting on. i use either an end grain chopping board or polyethylene board. DO NOT cut on metal, or glass, or stone (caught my flat mate once cutting up pizza on a pizza stone with one of my masamotos)

     * watch what you're cutting. like others have said avoid meat with bones. i have a drop-forged, thick as heck, global knife that i use for stuff when i'm the teansy bit nervous. its good to have a beat up knife. if in doubt, use the beat up knife and save your good knife for stuff you know is safe.

     * watch where you store your knife. i use a magnetic wooden strip to store mine. to remove the knives you turn the blade so the spine is against the strip and then angle it off being careful not to catch the tip of the blade on the wall. in my experience its as easy to damage your knife getting it to the board as it is on the board.

     * watch how you maintain your knife. hand wash only - no dishwashers. for sharpening i stick to japanese stones and a ceramic honing steel. avoid most sharpeners/honers that you'll find in "regular" shops.

    bet its a world of fun using your new knife. good luck with it! :)
     
  20. jimbo68

    jimbo68

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    I would agree.  They work for me, and I am a bottom feeder.  I purchased 5 of the100 series a couple of years back from Smoky Mountain.  The 240 gyoto cost $59, and they went down from there.  A good buy at the time.  Hard to beat that knife at that price.