Looking for lower priced single bevel Japanese style knives

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Joined May 10, 2018
I like to cook at home, but haven't really taken the time to invest in some good kitchen knives. I woodwork so am familiar with sharpening Japanese style blades with hollows. Therefore, I want to keep with a single bevel style knife. Since I'm not using these to make money with like I would planes and chisels, it is harder to rationalize spending over $200 a knife and would realistically prefer to max out at $125-150. I live in East TN and closest knife store with selection has no stock in these style knives. Any suggestions?
 
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Joined May 10, 2018
Their carpentry tools are the exact same way. I just need a good start of what brands to look for and places to buy them from. The sites I have found so far do not always give information on the bevel or are inconsistent in giving that info. I have looked at metal masters and chubo.
 
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Joined Nov 15, 2012
You also need to look at JKI, google brings you right to Jon's site. Likewise Knives and Stones, and JNS.
 
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Joined Oct 9, 2008
I use single-bevels almost exclusively, which I bought nearly 10 years ago in Japan. I'm a home cook like you.

Short answer: if $250+ per knife for a set of 3 seems ridiculous, DON'T switch to single-bevels.

So, long answer:

1. I cannot agree with @benuser about specialization. Unless you are doing something quite unusual, and doing it often, there are only three knives in the standard set: usuba, deba, yanagiba (or takobiki if you prefer). The deba is for butchering fish and, if you're really going traditional, for mincing. The yanagiba or takobiki is for slicing raw, boneless proteins, especially of course fish. The usuba is for just about everything else.

Anyone with decent hand-eye coordination can learn to butcher fish with a deba passably. Slicing with a yanagiba is mildly tricky, but not especially so. (This is assuming you want acceptable results, not professional ones, which are quite a different matter.) An usuba will cost you several months of fury, lots of regrinding, and a fair bit of blood -- and that's just to get the hang of it. For starters, you must un-learn almost everything you've learned about cutting, because an usuba is just plain different.

To learn these knives, I recommend Hiromitsu Nozaki's excellent book on Japanese Kitchen Knives.

2. A mediocre deba is okay, unless you butcher fish often. A mediocre yanagiba is going to be constantly frustrating, but you can make it work if you're willing to sharpen constantly. A mediocre usuba is a horror: run away. It will never work right and will force you to learn very bad habits.

Non-mediocre professional knives like this do not come cheap. I know of no exceptions whatsoever. There is a large and constant demand for these knives in Japan, they're not mass-produced, and thus there is no reason to drop the prices significantly. A yanagiba or usuba under $200 -- unless bought on the spot in Japan -- is a terrible idea. A $100 deba is probably fine, as lots of home cooks in Japan have one and thus there is a reasonable demand for less pricey products.

3. I strongly recommend that you take a good hard look at Nozaki's book, and then think carefully about whether switching to single-bevels really makes sense for you. I did it and love it, but it wasn't cheap (even in Japan!) and it took a long time before I was really comfortable with it.
 
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Joined May 10, 2018
I have ended up purchasing this usuba and am currently deciding on a yanagi...do not need a deba because there just will not be occasion enough that I am butchering fish. The ones I'm deciding on are this blue steel and white steel (however I'm worried it may be too brittle) or possibly this ginsan-ko.
 
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Go with white steel. Blue can be useful on a long, punishing service shift of constant slicing, but for people like you and me, white is easier to deal with.

That's a promising-looking usuba. Get Nozaki's book ASAP, sharpen that blade until it scares you, and start cutting ken-needles.

Be sure to ask for help when you need it. (You will!) I know my way around, but there are a few here with professional usuba training.
 
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