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Aug 5, 2010 04:48 PM

Suggestion for a Carbon Steel Nakiri

Specifically, I am looking for a carbon steel Nakiri (vegetable knife) with a kurochi finish. I have nailed down a few and hope some of you can give me some guidance or feedback.

Moritaka ($130)
Aogami (blue) super steel, beautiful, but the blade width may too small

Tanaka ($40):
Inexpensive, Aogami (blue) steel

Tojiro ($30):
Very inexpensive, but I have two Tojiro knives already.

Tosagata ($41):
Inexpensive, but I don't know much about them

Thanks for inputs.

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  1. Hey Chem.

    I am not familiar with all of these knives but I will tell you what I can.

    Moritaka - never used, sharpened, or handled one. I have seen the standard angled shots highlighting its geometry, and those were quite nice - quite thin, very acute, long taper, at least on that particular knife. But I also remember a thread from knife forums where Dave Martel complained that he had seen a lot of poorly manufactured knives from Moritaka (many KFers disagreed thoug). The thread is 2 years old, so I don't know if it would still apply.
    Tanaka - another knife I have no personal experience with. Tanaka has the reputation of a good company, and I have sharpened one of their yanagibas - a very nice knife, but also more expensive than the nakiri and made of a different core steel. This would be a good option if you are in the mood to test pilot what may well be a good, cheap knife.
    Tojiro - Haven't used/sharpened this one either. From Tojiro, at this point I would expect pretty decent manufacturing and good geometry. Probably a pretty safe bet.
    Tosagata - I own the Tosagata nakiri. Bought it a few years ago. It's a good hunk of metal, and in some ways, that's really what you're paying for since it seems they can be a bit inconsistent. First off, the nakiri is much thinner than other Tosagata types (a good thing, since the others are much too thick IMO). The taper was decent, but when I got mine, the edge was wavy, rough, and too obtuse (I should note though that the problems still weren't as severe as those Dave outlined Moritaka as having).

    I took the edge down, thinned up A LOT behind the edge, and evened out some of the waviness - it was the first big reprofiling job I ever did. It took maybe 4 hours. Ugh - very wear-resistant steel. After being fixed up, it's really a great little knife now.

    A friend was so impressed with my nakiri that he bought one himself last year... and his was perfect right out of the box. No issues with the edge, the geometry or the grind. Go figure.

    So in my book the Tosagata is batting 50/50, though both I've seen wound up being nice knives eventually.
    I'd also like to suggest you check out the Watanabe carbon nakiri ($55). This one has a fantastic grind - to me it just really feels like a nakiri should. It doesn't have the iron cladding your other options do, so I don't know if you'd rule it out on that basis.

    Even better, and with the Iron cladding, is the Watanabe pro 180 mm nakiri:
    Unfortunately it's pricier at $200.

    14 Replies
    1. re: cowboyardee

      Thanks Cowboy again.

      Wow, I didn't know Moritaka is having such problems.

      Tanaka seems like a good choice then.
      Tojiro is going to be good and cheap too, but not sure if I want to just keep getting Tojiro.

      Believe it or not, my original intention was to get a Watanbe due to its reputation and the more "hands-on" approach. The Pro is a bit too expensive for me for now, since its price has just gone up from $160 to $200. Ouch!

      I really thought about the standard Watanbe from chefknivestogo. I am holding back because of the engraved words on the knife. Watanabe knives should be made by Watanabe Iwao (渡辺岩男) the father or Watanabe Shinichi (渡辺真一) the son. The following two pictures are from the official Watanbe website and they havethe name of 真一

      However, the Watanbe knife from Chefknivestogo has a completely different name. It is not in any of the Watanbe family tree:

      I need to double check with Mark. Maybe he uploaded the wrong picture or something. Thanks. Now, you have remind me to email Mark.

      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        I have a Moritaka nikiri and I love it!! I have had it for about a year. I had the opportunity to choose between 5 of them before settling on the one I purchased.

        1. re: Zydecopapa


          Thanks. One question. Do you think the blade width is too narrow? Do you feel like your knuckles are always getting close to hit the cutting board/chopping block?

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I personally have no problem with with of the width of the knife. My Knife Nerd Kevin at Knifewear (Calgary Canada) had Moritaka create a "Super Nikari" which is at least 4 inches in width.

            1. re: Zydecopapa

              4 inches? Really. Won't that is simply a Chinese chef knife (chukabocho) as opposed a nakiri?

              Here are two references of Moritaka Chkahocho of 110 mm wide (4.3 inches)



              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                I must say, it does look like the chefknivestogo knife, but I do not think it was 210. Kevin called it a "Super Nikari", so that is what I was calling it. I wish there was a picture on the knifewear site. I am sure if you contacted him, he might be able to provide more details and a picture.

                1. re: Zydecopapa

                  I looked at the "Mega Nikari" (is what he is actually calling it) again and it is 165 X 90. He also has the Chuckabocho. I beleive that Motitaka makes them specifically for him.

                  1. re: Zydecopapa

                    Thanks. I think you are right. 165mm would probably preclude it being a Chuckahocho.

        2. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Interesting stuff on the Watanabe. Truthfully, I have no idea who actually makes their cheaper nakiri, though I can say from handling it that it is a nice budget knife regardless.

          If you do go the Tanaka route, please update with your experience once you get it. Tanaka seems like a good maker, but they don't get much buzz or reviews from experienced knife enthusiasts.

          (at your request, I'm still trying to come up with a friendlier term than 'knife nut' or 'knife nerd'... 'knife enthusiast' is too much of a mouthful, but I'm thinking 'knifeophile' is definitely NOT an improvement)

          1. re: cowboyardee

            Thanks cowboy,

            I think I am going to either get the Tojiro ($29.99) or the Tanaka ($39.99). Both looks nice from the photos. I read that thread started by Dave Martell a lot more closely now and there are many scary things there. The wavy / uneven back bevel is most scary thing of all. I know from my experience how scary that can be. You may remember that I bought a carbon steel Tojiro usuba and I said I messed it up. That is what I exactly did. The knife was fine, but I wanted to push for a low angle and weren't paying attention and ground the back bevel at different angles along the entire blade. Needless to say, it is now difficult to get it to a straight cutting edge along the entire blade length. Nevertheless, it is nowhere nearly as bad as what Dave Martel showed for that Moritaka.


            That is scary period. The sad thing is that a bunch of them agreed with Dave.

            Both Tojiro and Tanaka look nice to me.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Agreed. As much work as my Tosagata needed, it didn't have any problems that bad. That would scare me off the Moritaka too, even though there seems to be no shortage of people who love theirs.

              For the usuba - you mean you messed up the concave side of the knife? Or the primary bevel on the front (non-concave side) of the knife?

              Will this be your first time using a nakiri? If so, I bet you'll like it. It's a really fun style of knife - almost no learning curve at all, and it feels really good blitzing through vegetables with it.

              1. re: cowboyardee

                Yeah, it sounds like your Tosagata was not a refined knife out of the box, but that's it. Those messages about Moritaka literally suggest it is dysfunctional. There is a world of difference between an unrefined knife vs a dysfunctional knife. Dave even said he had seem the wrought iron cladding fell off from the steel core. What the heck?!

                For the usuba, I messed up the primary bevel on the front side. You know the huge single bevel side. I now simply sharpen it at an more obtuse angle (larger angle) and that seems to help a lot. I still use it and it cuts very well. I just used it to cut my papaya and remove the skill. Cut nicely.

                After I get my nakiri and maybe a santoku or something, I may come back and get another usuba and basically replace this Tojiro. I always had the intention of getting this Tojiro usuba as a learning tool for both sharpening and for usage, so I were not upset that I messed it up.

                I believe this may be my first nakiri. I may have used one when I were a kid, but I don't remember much.

              2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                That picture looks like the way some of my pans make contact with my stove.

        3. I have the Tosagata and love using it, but i second what Cowboy has to say about the blade. My edge came out very wavy and it definitely needs to be reprofiled, but OOTB it was still very sharp and amazed a few friends of mine. I have been dreading the reprofile, but I did buy the knife as a practice blade, so I guess I can't complain.

          I also had some chipping at the tip of the blade, but I think that was because of my bad technique.

          With that said, someone on Knifeforums a little while back recommended the Shimatani Nakiri with rosewood handle. It is $60 and looks really nice, and I may make this my next nakiri to try out. I am also intrigued with the Tanaka.

          Also, if you want some nakiri overload, this eBay store has some interesting ones for reasonable prices. I can't vouch for any of them, but the photos usually give you some idea of the blade geometry.

          1. :)

            My Tanaka kurouchi aogami nakiri arrived. I have wiped tung oil on the handle and am waiting for it to dry out. I will try to sharpening it and use it later. For now, I just want to share a few pictures because there are a few things I like to mention.

            The first picture indicates this knife has a rustic look and a slightly curved edge profile.
            The second picture shows that the blade is not completely symmetric. It seems the blade blank was lying flat on a surface while being hammered mostly on one side.
            The third picture shows the overall grind of the entire blade
            One last thing I like to mention (picture not included) is that the handle appears to be neutral without a left handed or a right handed D-shape - I actually like this.

            Guys. Thanks for your suggestions.

            18 Replies
            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              I'm glad you got it in. The blade near the handle looks pretty thick, but it also looks as if it tapers pretty quick towards the tip.

              1. re: smkit

                Yep. Exactly what you said. The blade near the handle is not thin. At its thickest point, it is between 4 and 5 mm at the spine. It tapers quickly toward the tips. The spine is ~1.3 mm at the middle of the blade, and is ~0.8 mm at the tip of the blade.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Chem that spine taper looks like most nakiris I've seen. Let us know how you like using it once you try it out. How is the factory edge?

                    1. re: cowboyardee

                      Cowboy and smkit,

                      Please bear with me on this long response. The factory edge on my Tanaka kurouchi nakiri is ok, but not great. I can slice paper, but I cannot cut paper by bringing it straight down toward a paper and I cannot shave arm hair with it.

                      I started sharpening from DMT coarse to DMT fine to Bester 1000 to Naniwa Super Stone 2000. The moment I hit the Super Stone 2000, I saw something wrong. A very small section of the edge is not polished, no matter how much effort I put on it. Then it hit me: that section is not flat. It is a valley point - a low point. Or as Dave Martell says: wavy edge. I worried for a moment but then noticed it is not too bad. Instead of sharpening by sections which can make this problem worse, I put the knife lengthwise along the DMT coarse stone and ground it back and forth. What I mean is that I started sharpening almost like this (jump to 1:40 min):


                      This is a method which I use to even out the high and low points along the edge. It took a little time, but it worked and I brought the nakiri through the rest of my stones using the standard sharpening method by sections. I put a 10 degree back bevel and a very small 15 degree edge/micro bevel.

                      This nakiri took a very sharp edge. The new edge can easily shave my arm hair. It can cut paper without pushing or pulling. For the paper test, it feels slightly sharper than my Tojiro DP gyuto and CCK Chinese knife. I cut some bitter melons and beef. The Tojiro, CCK, Tanaka all felt the same when I push-cut the melons. However, when I cut the melons by bringing the knives straight up and down (without the pushing or pulling motion), the CCK gave the least resistance, followed very closely with Tanaka, and the Tojiro gave noticeably more resistance. Aogami (blue paper steel) truly is more rust resistance. I even intentionally put water on it and left it air dried and it only slightly discolored. Finally, after the food preparation session, the Tanaka can still shave my arm hair and cut paper.

                      I am including two more “after sharpening” photos. In the first photo, you can see a very narrow bevel directly below the last Kanji “作” -- the one closer to the handle. That was the section which I had trouble putting a bevel. The second photo shows the blade on the other side. The bevel is wider on the Kaji blade side (the front side) than that of the other side (back side). The bevel width difference is due to the curvature of the two sides. As mentioned in an earlier post, the Kaji side feels more concave and the other side feels flatter.

                      In summary, the Tanaka kurouchi nakiri is an inexpensive knife with a good steel which can take on a sharp edge and have some rust resistance. It has a good rustic look. It has a ok factory edge. More importantly, mine has a minor wavy edge and the edges on the two sides are not identical. I am satisfied with this purchase, but I would feel very differently if I could not fix that wavy edge.

                      I recommend this knife for people like you two (cowboy and smkit), but I won’t do so for people who has limited experience of freehand knife sharpening.

                      P.S.: It just occurs to me. This is one example where most sharpening gadgets cannot help. I don't think even Edge Pro can help in this situation.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Chem, thank you for taking the time to write up such a full review.

                        The Tanaka seems to be pretty comparable to the Tosagata - pretty much the same steal, and both have issues with wavy edges. I actually found I learned a lot from reprofiling that knife when I got it, so maybe this was similarly useful to you (or just as likely you know more than I did when I got that knife). I lacked your foresight and didn't oil the handle before reprofiling, so now the handle looks permanently dirty from metal filing and aluminum oxide dust from the reprofiling process.

                        As a matter of comparison, the spine thicknesses for the Tosagata are:
                        ~3.2 mm above the heel, very quickly tapering to...
                        ~1.6 mm at the middle of the knife, then slowly to...
                        ~1 mm at the tip.
                        So maybe a bit less extreme of a distal taper than yours, but generally comparable. Also a bit different from smkit's incidentally. The Tanaka looks like it has a nice cross section given its thickness at the spine above the heel.

                        As a point of interest, I believe that the Edge Pro could have theoretically fixed this knife, but it would have been tricky, frustrating, and time consuming. You'd have to run the abrasive along the edge, which is possible with a short knife like this but not at all easy. I wouldn't want to try. Could be wrong even - it's been a while since I played with an Edge Pro.

                        I'm still hoping to hear how you like using the nakiri shape in vegetable prep once you're used to it - I know you like your CCK cleaver, and this one seems just a bit more practical and versatile. Which knife you find yourself reaching for most and such. I hope you enjoy the Tanaka. You've certainly earned it at this point.

                        1. re: cowboyardee

                          Hi Cowboy (rob),

                          This Tanaka is not as thick as I feared. I put the oil on the handle mostly for water repellency. During reprofiling, I wrapped a paper towel around the handle to prevent the metal fines and dusts. I learned from the mistakes I made for my Tojiro usuba handle. I found that Bar Keeper Friends with a dish brush is a good combination for removing light color stains from sharpening. I learned much by reprofiling this knife edge and lessen its wavy edge.

                          I am looking forward to use this nakiri more. It seems very promising. I like it so far, and to think it costs half as much as many Henckels and Wusthof knives. I will do a lot of head-to-head comparisons between the Tojiro, CCK and this Tanaka. Keep in mind that my CCK is smaller than your CCK, so it is a bit more nimble to use.

                          An additional information for others. Its blade width (spine to edge) is 5.1 cm or 2 inches. It gives me a reasonable knuckle clearanceon a cutting board.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Thanks for the tip about bar keepers friend for the handle. I'll give that a try some time.

                            The big CCK isn't that hard to control. I actually do fine with it in most applications. My biggest problem with it is I can't do the finger-over-the-spine thing to keep food from sticking, like for a brunoise of anything thick besides onions
                            (sorry, my vocabulary is failing me. If you're curious, you can see what I'm talking about at about the 1:18 mark of this video
                            )In some ways, it's a bad habit anyway. I'm not wishing for a smaller Chinese cleaver - I'm just used to the chefs knife shape, and a nakiri was less of an adjustment.

                            1. re: cowboyardee

                              Ah, yes, I have seen that finger over the spine technique. That definitely will not work with a wide blade knife like a Chinese knife. I have tried it a few times with narrow blade knives, but I was so slow at it that it wasn't even funny.

                              The way I often remove stuck food from most knives (especially Chinese knives) is the cut and tilt. I find this method works better for wider blade knives than thinner blade knives. For thick cuts like the tofu on that youtube of yours, I will do one tilt for one cut. For normal cuts, I may tilt my knife after several cuts. Sometime I don't care and I just let the food stick to it, especially for small jobs, like slicing a garlic clove.

                              By cut and tilt, I mean something sorta like this at 3:35


                              I don't tilt my knife all the way flat like the video. I just tilt it as much is necessary. It can work very fast.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                Cool technique - one of those 'so simple I'm embarassed I didn't think of it' type things. I'll have to work on it - while I'm not horribly clumsy with a Chinese cleaver anymore, I still can't fling it around like Yan does either. Also, for things like garlic or most simple slicing and chopping, I don't really care if food sticks either.

                                I actually tried the cut & tilt technique prepping brunch earlier today - it works well for a lot of ingredients, but for things like a potato dice it leaves batonnets in a pile that still needs to be reassembled before breaking it down into nice even cubes. What I've been trying to remember to do is to put the knife's tip on the board and use a drawing motion to cut - like saltydog does for his first few cuts in this video.
                                With a thin knife, that works pretty well on most ingredients. It's very quick, and foods stay right where they are. Unfortunately, the un-curved tip of the CCK bites into my cutting board if I'm not pretty careful. I'm even considering a minor reprofiling of the tip, but I don't want to be too hasty.

                                Do you find yourself using/needing the pointy (by comparison to the nakiri) CCK tip for anything much?

                                Still, my habit which is surprisingly hard to break is to just always use the index finger thing, and until I can get over that a bit, the CCK is gonna feel just a little weird.

                                1. re: cowboyardee


                                  Yes, the drawing/dragging technique is definitely the way to avoid food sticking to a knife. Here is another video on the drawing technique using a Chinese knife, jump to time 0:50 please:


                                  Personally, I really don't use this technique very much because it feels less safe for me. I guess I just like to have knife blade touching my knuckles all the time and this technique allows the knife to leave my knuckle at the end of every cuts. So I haven't reprofiling the tip of the CCK just because I don't use this technique very often. I do use it from time to time.

                                  I want to make one confession to smkit and you. Overall, I enjoy my CCK Chinese knife compared to my Dexter-Russell Chinese knife. It is sharper and it has less resistance. It is simply a better slicer. However, there is certainly something I miss from a medium thick Chinese knife. I can smash garlic and ginger fairly fast using my Dexter, but I cannot do that with my CCK. I can place my CCK on the garlic or ginger and then hit it with the plam of my other hand, but it is just not the same. It is not as fast and it hurts my palm after a few hits. I am very fragile. :P The results are also not as good.

                                  Last night I compared the two knives side by side again with the garlic and ginger. I just cannot do it with my CCK because it is too light.

                                  Here is an example (please jumps to 2:35):


                        2. re: Chemicalkinetics


                          Thanks for the write up and images. Good stuff.

                          You both are ahead of me in reprofiling your blades, and your experience will definitely help me out. I've been putting off my reprofiling until I treated my handle to avoid the slurry stain. In the next week or so I will be treating three ho wood handles with three different oil/wax cocktails to see which I like best. Once the handle is done, then i am going to town on the blade.

                          I like the kurouchi on your blade; it looks cool. And I too find them to be very rust resistant. Anyhow, i will let you know how my waves come out, and I also have some micro chips near the tip to work on.

                          Thanks again for the info.


                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Just for comparison. My Tosagata (that you were also considering) is 3.5mm at the handle, 1.3mm midway and about .9mm at the tip. Pretty much the same geometry as yours except near the handle. It is probably why I noticed it.

                      1. re: smkit


                        Just went back and read your previous post and noticed that you said your Tosagata has a wavy edge. So I guess we encounter the same problem. As written above, my Tanaka also has a low point along edge. It is relatively minor and it is only one small section on one side of the blade, so it wasn't too horrible to fix it. Good luck.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          Just FYI, when I ordered the nakiri, I also got the santoku by Tosagata. Both blades were wavy but the santoku was much less so.

                          As for cowboy's comment about how you, like the shape, i also will find that interesting. I still find my nakiri very fun to use. I like the balance and weight, how it slides along my clawed knuckles, and it is nice sometimes to not have to worry about a sharp tip. Of course the cleaver provides that too.

                          Fall and winter soup season is the best time to use this knife. So many veggies to cut.

                          1. re: smkit

                            How thick is the santoku from Tosagata? I got a small white steel 'paring knife' from them that was really quite thick for a paring knife. And I've heard knifeforums members complain about the thickness of Tosagatas, though I don't remember whether the discussion was specific to the santoku.

                            1. re: cowboyardee

                              I'm out of town for a while, so i can't answer exactly. Right off hand though, it didn't ever strike me as extremely 'thick'. I have thinner santokus definitely, but this one is just a different shape and style. With the exception of the shape, I thought it very similar to the nakiri.


                            2. re: smkit


                              During reprofiling, I warped the wood handle with a paper towel to prevent stains. I found Bar Keeper’s Friend with a brush to be useful for removing light stains from the handle. I also used beesmax to seal that orifice where the blade tang inserted into the wood handle. The kurouchi looks pretty good. The lack of a sharp tip makes it less verstile, but more specialized. Its edge is straighter than that of a Chef's knife or a gyuto, so the actual working edge for push cutting technique is actually longer.