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Japanese chef's knife: Tojiro DP or something else?

I've about decided to replace my kitchen workhorse, a Henckels 8" chef's knife, with a 210mm gyutou. Unfortunately, I haven't found any Japanese cutlery in Sacramento other than Shun, Global, and MAC. I'd travel to the Bay Area if there were someplace there with a good selection, but a trip to San Diego, NYC, or Tokyo just isn't in the cards. So it's looking like I'm going to be mail-ordering blind. (One possibility would just be to have a dozen or so knives shipped to me, pick one, and return the rest. But it appears that many of the online retailers only accept returns for credit, so that's problematic.)

Price isn't really an object (within reason - the initial expense of the Hattori KD-32 would pale by comparison to the alimony payments), but value is. So at $50, the Tojiro DP looks like a serious contender. On the other hand, the Masanobu VG-10 looks very cool, and I've heard all kinds of good things about the Hattori and Nenox blades. And there are a dozen or more other brands that are available on the net at various prices.

The main thing I'm looking for is hard steel; I'm tired of having to hone the Henckels several times while preparing a single meal. The blade needs to be stain-resistant, because it will occasionally be left on a damp cutting board for an hour or more at a time (I know I should cultivate better habits, but probably won't). Function is more important than form, but an attractive knife will get the edge, and a butt-ugly logo (yes, MAC, I'm looking at you) is a drawback.

I know that at least a handful of hounds have experience and expertise in this area. If you could please share some of it with me I would be deeply appreciative.

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  1. I have the Tojiro DP, and I'd say it has all the features you're looking for: value, hardness, stain resistance, and a nice look. Hattori and Nenox look better/use higher quality steel, but cost more than twice what you'll pay for the DP. And if after a year or two of using it you're not happy with the DP, you're only out $50.

    I'd suggest getting the 240mm one though.

    1. Alan, I have a 240 Tojiro DP gyuto. It is an excellent knife for the money for sure. The steel I think is Sandvik 19C27 which is pretty hard and wear resistant. This steel is also used by Suisin and other high end knife makers. It sharpens and hold its edge very well. It has a Rockwell hardness rating of 61. The only thing you may read negatively about the Tojiros is that their fit and finish is not as good as other Japanese knives. I've seen some pictures of older Tojiros that looked a little rough but it is an exception to the rule. The fit and finish of mine is just fine but I have seen theTogiharu moly and the fit and finish is a little nicer but the steel is softer. The only thing I can say negative about the Tojiro is that the handle is a little blocky but it doesn't bother me at all. I have 3 Tojiros in all. A 240 gyuto, a 270 sujihiki and a 150 honesuki. All purchased from Korin on sale and a bargain if you ask me.

      One thing you need to note is that unlike the Henckel the harder Japanese steel is more prone to micro chips. You can't hack away at herbs or vegetables on the board like you do with the Henckels. Remember more slicing than chopping is used in Japanese knife skills. The micro chips can easily be sharpened out on a 1000 grit stone in a jiffy.

      As for stain resistance you can leave the knife wet for hours without ill effect. It is stainless steel but I read someone posting that they had a spot of rust after the knife was left after cutting a lemon over night.

      I think the Tojiros would be a great introduction to Japanese knives. You may want to consider the 240mm. It's not that much longer and without the bolster you will pinch up a little anyway.

      4 Replies
      1. re: scubadoo97

        Regarding the poor fit and finish of Tojiros, there was a place you could send knives to get them re-fit with a new handle. I think Dave (the knife sharpener) may have had something to do with it.

        1. re: Soop

          Just to clarify, I've had no fit or finsih problem with my Tojiros. Yes you can get a knife rehandled. A really nice wa handle would look killer but will cost you.

            1. re: Soop

              Yup, Stefan is the man! Really nice work

      2. In the same price range: Togiharu

        I haven't used it, but I have their petty and am pretty impressed with the quality for price. No issues with fit or finish on mine.

        http://www.korin.com/product.php?pid=...

        3 Replies
        1. re: The Loaf

          I like the looks of the Togiharu, but the steel isn't much harder than the Henckels. How do you find the edge retention on your petty?

          1. re: alanbarnes

            So far, so good. Was very sharp out of the box, and since it is fairly new, I haven't done anything more than touch it up. Long term... who knows? But having said that, the factory edge has held up at least as well as my Misono UX10 did when it was new.

            Whatever you get, let us know how it works out.

            1. re: The Loaf

              I've heard good things about the Misono UX10, Loaf, how do you like it?

        2. I would also suggest the Hiromoto brand found at www.japanesechefsknife.com Right now they have a sale until the end of the year. Normally I would recommend their Aogami Super steel series, but you need completely stain resistant, so their cheaper line with Japanese VG10 steel is good too.
          http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/Pag...

          1. Thanks, everybody, for all your input. I really liked the Hiromoto AS, but the carbon edge scared me off. And over on knifeforums.com there were a lot of recommendations for the Yoshikane wa-gyuto, but I couldn't find it in the configuration I wanted at a price I was willing to pay.

            So I decided to get something more mainstream, like the Misono UX-10 or the Masamoto VG-10. I called japanesechefsknife.com in San Diego for more info, but the person there didn't have much assistance to offer (although she did offer to email Koki in Japan and ask for suggestions). So I called korin.com (their prices were better anyway) and the person who answered the phone was VERY helpful.

            I told her right off that I was trying to decide between the Masamoto and the Misono, although I was open to other suggestions. She spent quite a few minutes asking me what I was looking for, how much I wanted to spend, and leading me through their website asking what I liked and disliked about various knives. She finally recommended the Togiharu G-1 as having fit and finish comparable to the Misono, with only very slightly softer steel, good design, and a price that was significantly lower (it was actually less expensive than either of the other knives I mentioned). Plus, i like the fact that it has laser-engraved kanji on the back side instead of printed roman lettering. (Does that make me shallow?)

            Anyway, out came the credit card. it should be on its way across the country by now. More to follow...

             
             
            6 Replies
            1. re: alanbarnes

              Oops, forgot you have to use a square image.

               
              1. re: alanbarnes

                I have the Hiromoto AS, and I have to say the carbon steel is not a problem. Just wash it and wipe it off when you are done, and it stays pretty pristine. Plus, the patina looks awesome.

                1. re: vanillagorilla

                  So anyone here think this will be his only Japanese knife? hehe

                  1. re: scubadoo97

                    I have quite a few. A Global pairing knife, a Tosogata santoku, and a Tojiro DP usuba.

                    1. re: vanillagorilla

                      yeah I kinda figured you did. The statement was directed at Alan on the purchase of his first.

                  2. re: vanillagorilla

                    I just bought a Hiromoto AS recently, a 240mm gyuto, and there were several areas of the edge which were visibly rough/dull. In a paper cutting test, it would always snag slightly in the same areas. I had to smooth the edge out with a 4000 and then 12000 grit waterstone to get it to cut smoothly. Now it's definitely a great knife.

                    So to the OP, even though you hear stories of how awesome these japanese knives are, examine the edge carefully when you get it to make sure it doesn't need and touch up/polishing.

                2. I think I'm too late, but I highly recommend the Yoshikane Gyuto! I recently purcahsed mine from the Epicurean Edge in Kirkland, WA (just accross the Lake from Seattle).

                  http://epicedge.com/

                  Great shop, very dangerous if you like knives! Anyways, I'm loving mine, I purchased to 240mm Gyuto with a Ho wood and Buffalo ferrule. Amazing knife.

                   
                   
                  1. Just bought a shun classic 8 chef's knife. I'm real nervous about attempting the 17 degree hone without the Shun brand angle guided steel. Any tips on getting the angle I want with a standard honing steel?

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: sasserwazr

                      Unless you have a ceramic "steel", I wouldn't attempt to hone the Shun at all. I believe the steel in the Shun is about RC 60 or greater. This is going to be harder than the almost any honing steel you have. For honing to work, the steel needs to be harder than the knife.

                      I'd either get a ceramic hone, or buy a water stone and just do touch up on that.

                      1. re: vanillagorilla

                        Like vanillagorilla said, it's recommended to keep your Japanese knives away from sharpening steels/hones. The preferred way is to pick up waterstones, alas most people are intimidated by them. There is a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, the process is very rewarding. A double sided Japanese waterstone like the King 1000/6000 would be a good beginner stone. The cheap double sided stones at your hardware stores are far too abrasive for Japanese knives. You will also require a stone fixer/leveler, which you use to flattent the waterstone after each use.

                        The other alternative is to use a pull sharpening system like lanskys or the more expensive edge pro.The cheap plastic pull throughs wear out rather quickly, while the Chef's Choice will work but will also eat up your knife much faster. There is a specific Chef's Choice model designed for Japanese knives like Global. Although w/ Shun's the bevel will not be 50/50 like Global/Mac, so avoid the Chef's Choice if you buy a Japanese knife that is right/left hand specific (70/30, 80/20, etc...).

                        If you must use a hone, the best one on the market would be the mac black ceramic honing rod. It has a steel core which makes it much less prone to breakage than a regular ceramic rod. If going with a conventional ceramic rod, make sure it's a "fine" one.

                        1. re: aser

                          You really don't need to use a waterstone leveler after every use. For very fine grit stones, the nagara stone does a decent job between leveling.

                          If you must use a hone, a glass one would be preferable if all one wants to do is realign the edge. A "fine" ceramic steel will still remove metal and make all that polishing with 8k/10k/12k stones wasted.

                          1. re: Cary

                            Won't a waterstone remove too much steel to be used often?

                            1. re: sasserwazr

                              Not if you're only using a very high grit stone rather than unnecessarily going through multiple stones each time. You should also be using *very* light pressure and a minimum number of passes.

                              Think of it as honing the blade on the stone. When this no longer yields razor sharpness or the edge has a defect, then go through the multiple stones.

                            2. re: Cary

                              I personally think you should use a stone fixer each time, especially on the medium grit stones like the 1000. Keeping it level w/ just a few strokes, rather than letting it get really concave over time before leveling.

                              I agree with you w/ the glass hone, but that's only for the knifeforum nerds in us. For a beginner on chowhound, a glass hone is overkill. That is why I suggested something more durable if they "insist" on using a hone.

                        2. re: sasserwazr

                          Have someone demonstrate the 17 degree angle for you, and then try a few swipes for yourself, under supervision. Remember, it is much more important to maintain the same angle with every stroke than to maintain that exact seventeen degrees (within reason, of course). As for a hone, put the steel on CL or Freecycle and get yourself a good diamond one. I like the house model at Sur le Table. It runs about 40 dollars and feels well balanced in the hand. Don't forget to strop the blade with leather for a final deburring.

                        3. I've seen numerous references saying the Tojiro DP can be purchased for $50 but have not been able to find it anywhere online for that price. Can you please tell me where I can find such a great deal? Thanks.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: rojo206

                            They use to be available for that price when on sale at Korin. After Heston Blumenthal began his endorsement of Tojiro the price shot up.

                            You can see a large range of Tojiros here and some are in that price range

                            http://www.chefknivestogo.com/tojirod...

                          2. ok.. this is kind of an old post.. but for my money you can't beat Knifeware www.knifewear.com for Japanese Kitchen Knives.. I think their prices are very competitive especially considering that they're all in canadian dollars and they offer free shipping to anywhere in canada or the usa .

                            I've got one of their Asai santoku knives and it makes me very happy - it's stainless steel and I got a break-resistant ceramic honing rod with it.. it sort of scares me actually.. I think it's really pretty - I keep it on display in my kitchen when not using it