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Jan 6, 2011 07:29 PM

My next knife - it's all about performance

I'm getting myself a late Christmas present (sanctioned by my wife, of course)

I'm in the market for a new gyuto. I'm looking for a thin knife with great geometry that cuts like a laser. No workhorse necessary - I've already got an all-around knife I'm very happy with. This one is to knock my socks off. I'm not too picky about handles or balance. Edge retention is important but not paramount. Carbon or stainless are both fine. I want the knife to be lefty friendly.

Here are the knives I'm considering:
Tadatsuna 240 mm YSS inox -$238
Great geometry. Stainless obviously. A little prone to chipping. I had one a few years ago, but had to sell it. Vowed to get it back someday.

Konosuke HD 240 - $265
Semi-stainless. Very well reviewed. Will require a few month wait while the seller restocks.

Konosuke White #2 240 - $205
Great geometry, decent price, carbon obviously. Leaning towards this one due to being lefty friendly and available now.

Ashi Hamono 270 gyuto - $235. The 240 is out of stock.
Fit and finish is supposed to be near perfect. Geometry is supposed to be likewise near perfect. Stainless steal. I'm a bit concerned about the left-handed thing though. Only hardened to 58 HRC - can't be sharpened to quite as acute an edge as the others, but I've been told this isn't much of a factor once you use this knife.

Sakai yusuke 240 white steel #2 - $198
So. Damn. Pretty. Again, reputed to have near perfect fit and finish and geometry. More risky due to difficulty of returning the knife. Though the seller is well regarded by the guys over at knifeforums. Good price. But I have concerns about the lefty thing.

Those are the knives I'm considering. The front runners right now are the two Konosukes and the Sakai Yusuke (I'm looking for an excuse to buy that knife - please, won't some lefty drop by here and say that they love it?) Aside from the Tadatsuna, i have no experience with any of these knives - this will be at least a bit of an adventure.

There is already a thread open at knifeforums. But I post here more often, so of course I had to consult with you guys. Anyone on this forum have any experience with any of the knives listed? Or any other super thin, well tapered gyutos? I figured that a few of you would be interested in pics and a review once I got the knife, at any rate. Any recommendations?

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  1. I don't understand your lefty concerns. You say that you're not too picky about handles. The ones you're worried about all appear (to me) to have symmetrical Wa handles. Isn't that design supposed to be ambi-friendly?

    I, too, like the looks of the Sakai Yusuke. That's become more important to me over the years. And I'm a sucker for pretty woodwork.

    The Tadatsuna looks do nothing for me. If you vowed to get it back, why is it not on your short list? (If it makes a difference, the 240 is only $200, not $238.)

    The semi-oct handles on the Konosukes look intriguing. But again, you don't care about that...?

    I'll be looking forward to hearing about the new arrival!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Eiron

      "I don't understand your lefty concerns. You say that you're not too picky about handles. The ones you're worried about all appear (to me) to have symmetrical Wa handles. Isn't that design supposed to be ambi-friendly?"
      The concern has nothing to do with the handles (though I know what you're talking about, what with d-shaped handles being hand-specific).

      Essentially, I'm a hypocrite. I've been telling people they can use asymmetrical knives regardless of being left handed. And this is technically true - I could use any of the above knives and would probably enjoy them. The problem is that the idea with this purchase is to get as much cutting performance as I can manage for my money. And all of these knives are ground for right handers - essentially, the right side of the knife is more convex while the left side of the knife is flatter. This makes food fall away from the right side of the knife, but stick to and creep up the left side. The Konosukes are noted to have a flatter grind (less convex on the right side) than the other knives, which could potentially make for less resistance for a lefty while cutting. It's a small thing, but I'm being very picky this time around.

      I've actually even contacted sellers about the possibility of ordering a knife ground for lefties, in one of these varieties.

      "The Tadatsuna... If you vowed to get it back, why is it not on your short list?"
      Basically because I made that vow back when the Tadatsuna (along with the Suisin Inox honyaki) was the only gyuto available with that kind of super thin precise geometry. But since then, there seem to be some new offerings in the same style. And I like the idea of trying something new. The Tadatsuna had a pronounced righty grind as well, BTW.

      "I, too, like the looks of the Sakai Yusuke."
      It's hurting not to pull the trigger on that one. And okay, I'll admit it - I do like pretty handles.

      1. re: cowboyardee

        Ah, I understand. [Sakai] It's too late in the day for me & I wasn't even thinking about edge grind bias. [Sakai] Totally makes sense to me now.

        I guess there's a plus for the Ashi. [Sakai] 58 HRC would make it easier to reprofile the edge geometry.

        Waddaya [Sakai] think?

        1. re: Eiron

          I see what you're doing. You won't affect [Sakai] my decision.

    2. all those knives look excellent, and they are all beyond me :P Definitely keep us posted on what you get, with copious amounts of photographs if possible!

      out of curiosity, what's your workhorse gyuto?

      1 Reply
      1. re: cannibal

        I'll definitely review and post some photos. Might take a while though, especially if I get a back ordered knife or custom order a left hander.

        The workhorse is a Hiromoto AS 240 gyuto. Bang for buck-wise, it's pretty hard to beat. But it's thicker than any of the above knives.

      2. Like Eiron, I didn't catch the asymmetric problem. The Ashi Hamono has a symmetrical octagen handle, maybe the grind look asymmetric, but I cannot be sure from the photo. The Sakai Yusuke is stated to be "Sharpening---Both edges evenly", so the bevels must be 50/50 then.

        I have no experience with any of them and it appears you have gotten a numbers of insightful replies from the knifeforum. Some excellent points were made about spine thickness is not everything and that the convex/concave nature makes an important impact on food release and etc. While that is true, the blade thickness right behind the cutting edge still makes a big difference in term of performance. Yes, the edge can be as sharp as anything, but foods do not simply see the knife edge, they also get pushed apart by overall blade. Since you already had a Tadatsuna 240 mm, maybe that is the one you need the least? The two Konosuke look the same to me except for the steel. The white carbon #2 should be a joy to sharpen and should take on a better edge, but I found white carbon can be high maintenance -- for me anyway. However, you have much better experience with white carbon and if you don't have much objection, then that looks like a better knife.

        Ashi is a bit soft to take on a crazy low angle edge, but like some of the knifeforum members said, the overall knife geometry is so good that it matters not.

        Now, Sakai Yusuke looks great. It looks to have straight-er edge profile too (less belly).

        At the end, I think you should get one with a left handed friendly geometry and if they are all lefty-friendly, then I think the Konosuke White #2 and Sakai Yusuke look very attractive to me. I am really looking forward for your review. Man, these are some real nice knives.

        Edited: Just read your explanation about lefty-vs-righty, now I get it. It is the overall blade grind, not the cutting primary bevel. Got it. In that case, see if you can get a real lefty knife if possible. Afterall, you are getting a high performance knife and you want it near perfect this time, so let's make sure you get it as closely to your expectation as possible. It will cost more I am sure. In that case, rule out the more expensive stainless then. What is the point of worrying about knife handle, when the grind may be incorrect, right?

        9 Replies
        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Chem - some of my dilemmas are no longer issues. I have spoken with some of the sellers (great, quick feedback from both Jon at Japaneseknifeimports and also from bluewayjapan, BTW, complete with quotes and options). Looks like I'll be getting a knife ground for a lefty.

          So my options at this point are narrowed - lefty Konosuke White #2, lefty Konosuke HD, lefty Ashi Hamono in either White #2 (!) or in a slightly harder stainless than the steel already mentioned (HRC ~60-61), or a lefty white #2 Sakai Yusuke with ichii handle.

          Tough decision, but these are VERY good options.

          1. re: cowboyardee

            :) Great news about you able to get a lefty knife. Now that you can get a lefty knife, I think that really clear out a lot of issues. I was a bit worry about that a right handed knife will take out too much performance advantage in your left hand.

            Can you tell us (on average) how much more you have to pay for a true lefty knife?

            You really didn't narrowed down your selection a lot :)

            1. re: cowboyardee

              An-n-n-n-d, the winner is....... ???

              1. re: cowboyardee

                By the way cowboy, what is the hardness for Sakai Yusuki Shirogami? Since it is a white #2, I assume it is at least HRC 61 or likely to be higher. Do you know?

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Bluejayway lists the hardness for the white steel version as Hrc 61-62. From usage, that sounds about right to me. Though I guess if you had told me it was HRC 59-60 instead, I wouldn't have questioned it - I haven't had a knife whose edge is this thin before, and it can make the steel seem a little soft, since the edge geometry itself is a little prone to rolled edge.

                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    "I haven't had a knife whose edge is this thin before, and it can make the steel seem a little soft"

                    I think so. I think from both the usage point of view as well as a sharpening point of view, a thinner knife can feel softer, but I think it is just because it is thinner. Thanks very much for your response. Would you have wanted the blade harder or softer for your laser knife? I can see both way -- drawing my experience from the CCK thin blade knife. On one hand, it would be nice to have a harder steel knife to hold the edge longer. On the other hand, you would also think a slightly softer and tougher knife is beneficial for a thin blade knife where "crack" and "chipping" can be a real problem. :D So, I am guessing that a HRC61-62 seems like a good idea for your thin blade knife.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      The hardness feels about right to me. I would fear that any increased hardness (with respect to that particular steel anyway) would increase the tendency toward chipping. And since I'm really trying not to overgrind the knife and to preserve that glorious initial edge geometry, I'd like to avoid chipping as much as possible.

                      I think it's hardened right about to the sweet spot that balances edge retention at a low angle with avoiding chips.

              2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                "Just read your explanation about lefty-vs-righty, now I get it. It is the overall blade grind, not the
                cutting primary bevel."
                This is something I seldom get into when discussing knives over here, because it gets complicated, and also it makes little difference for lefties until they're looking for very high performance. But as far as I can tell, all gyutos are ground with this overall bias to one side or the other. It's just a matter of how much. Your tojiro DP should be more convex on the right than on the left, for example.

                This is partially why i tell people not to move a 70/30 righty edge over to the other side - because the edge asymmetry (which in itself doesn't matter too much for a lefty) is also following the knife's asymmetry. I know Dave Martell recommends keeping a knife's asymmetrical edge intact, and I believe this is why (on a related note - there is the possibility you're moving the cutting edge from the center of the well-tempered core steel, making it weaker).

                In truth I'm not sure how much difference it will make cuz i've only ever used righty knives. I know that I like a righty gyuto much more than the (more or less ambidextrous) German knives I used before. I'm hoping a gyuto with super geometry AND a bonified lefty grind will hold over my knife habit for a good while.

                The whole right handed bias thing a pain in the ass given my current quest, but it's also one of those nice little subtleties about gyutos that makes me appreciate them and the work that goes into making them a little bit more.

              3. No experience with any of them. I'm sure you will be giddy with delight no matter which one you choose. No vegetable will be safe

                6 Replies
                1. re: scubadoo97

                  Moritaka 240mm agomi #2. Looks great(IMO) Laser sharp 50/50 bevel,not sure if that's lefty friendly.Very reasonably priced.

                    1. re: petek

                      My 3 Moritaki's all have the "D" handle that are right-handed biased. I am pretty sure that could be changed out.

                      1. re: Zydecopapa

                        You are correct sir. How does the "D" handle affect left or right hand performance?

                        1. re: petek

                          "D" handle doesn't really much affect performance. It just makes a knife more uncomfortable for a lefty.

                          I don't know exactly how a moritaka gyuto is ground, since I've only played with their nakiris. I'm sure there's some kind of righty bias, but I have no idea how much.

                          1. re: cowboyardee

                            I agree with Cowboyardee about the handle. My Knife Guy placed a right-handed bias on all 3 of mine from day 1, but I have heard that they come with 50/50 bias.

                  1. cowboy: Have you considered having a knife made for you?

                    You are already very knowledgeable about what you like and what you want. If you know the size, profile, thickness, features you want, why not? If you are willing to scare up the barstock and even just profile it yourself, you can probably save a pile by presenting the maker with the blank. There are some beautiful woods out there; maybe you already have a fancy chunk that's meaningful to you. Sometimes this way is the only way to have exactly what you want.

                    27 Replies
                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      I agree. A few years ago I had a custom bicycle made for me. The experience of being able to specify what I wanted to do with it, & then working with the builder choosing materials, geometry, user-interface features & style/appearance was extremely satisfying. I think that helped trigger my interest in making custom knives, as it was shortly after finishing my bike order that I wanted to do the same for people with nice kitchen knives. It might double the price, but it would be so much more enjoyable in the long run.

                      1. re: Eiron

                        Yes, even if it would nix most of the hobknobbing about commercially available makes and models.

                      2. re: kaleokahu

                        Thank you for your kind words and suggestions. It would make sense seeing as I'm getting pickier about knives the more I mess around with them. I have a friend, a very good carpenter, who keeps on trying to get me into making knives myself, but I keep resisting on the basis of start-up expense of getting into it and not having any knowledge of metal working beyond the purely academic (and sharpening/reprofiling of course).

                        Anyway for right now, I'm spending about as much as I could get away with. I doubt I'd get a custom knife for the price of the Yusuke. I might decide to get a custom knife in the future and one of the upsides of Japanese knives is they tend to keep their resale value pretty well, if it comes to that. For now, I have to save money - I've got a kid coming in a couple months (my first, a boy - YAY!)

                        1. re: cowboyardee

                          cowboy: Congratulations on both, but the boy is best.

                          The old Hawai'ians said something, loudly and publicly, whenever a particularly handsome child was born. Literally, it means "That child is ugly", but it was said to reduce the chances of jealous outsiders stealing the beautiful baby to raise as their own. Nowadays, it's said to congratulate new parents.

                          Keia keiki i ka pupuka.

                          1. re: kaleokahu

                            Thank you. I would be honored for you to dub my baby ugly.

                          2. re: cowboyardee

                            Yeah, boys are the best. :P

                            Isn't there some nomadic tradition of giving a baby boy a knife? Is that why you buying the knife? :)

                            I want to learn to make knives too, but someday... maybe never.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              Chem: "I want to learn to make knives too, but someday..."

                              It's a logical progression, neither difficult nor expensive. Is US $50 too much?

                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                :) Come on. This cannot be true, but I think I may just get the book and at least understand what knife making is, so one day when I retire I can make knives.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  Chem: Yes, it's true. I think the gist is that you can get set up and make a knife for that. If I recall, there is some scrounging involved. Now then, making a chef's knife completely by hand would take a considerable amount of time, but if you did it right, just think how satisfying it would be.

                                  1. re: kaleokahu


                                    Yes, I have to agree with you that it will be quiet satisfying. Although making cute babies like cowboy will be pretty fun too, maybe I should work on that too since there is more of timeline for that one. Man, I need to start get going. :P

                                2. re: kaleokahu

                                  I like the first review of this book, from May 2009. I know exactly how that poor guy feels.

                                  I have a friend who does the same thing. When I told him about my knifemaking plans, he immediately started telling me how much money I'd save & how much better my grinder would be if I built it all from scratch & from scrap. I understand what he means, but he's got a dozen different projects that he never has the time to start, much less finish.

                                  As much as I'd love to save every penny possible, if I follow his advice I'll never get started! It's worth it to me to spend an extra $100 up front to get something I can use to get started immediately.

                                  1. re: Eiron

                                    Thanks. Just read that review. So many things I want to do in life :)

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      LOL, I know what you mean! I am still going to build my big "primary" grinder from scratch. But on the small grinder I'd only save $100, & since I'd be using scrounged parts, the results might be less than optimal. On the big grinder I'll be saving $1,500, so there's a better ROI on that project.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        With respect to all, including the disgruntled reviewer (who was in the minority by the way), Goddard's book serves as a good reminder that one can make a good knife entirely by hand and for next to nothing. I think there's value in actually doing a blade or two this way, regardless of what plans or dreams you may have of going further. It humbles and gives you a basis for comparisons about how your style evolves, and what performance advantages there MAY be with choosing exotic toolsteels.

                                        A lot of folks jump into knifemaking from the pages of "Blade" and "Knives" magazines, or knifeforums believing they MUST use the flavor-of-the-month steels. They end up spending $$$ for the steel, contracted specialty heat-treating, (and extra belts) and so skip over learning how to work, harden and draw back basic steels. So they end up not knowing the practical differences, e.g., between 1095 and VG10.

                                        As with cookware and cooking in general, there's a temptation to err on the side of the arcane and "state of the art", and skip the basics.

                                        1. re: kaleokahu

                                          It isn't so much that I need state of the art. It is just that I don't want to spend too time starting from scratch. I know it humbles a person and gives a stronger appreciation, but sometime it is just easier to buy a grinder than build a grinder. As for reviewer from Amazon, I think he was concerning about the lack of details that Goddard has provided.

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            Chem: "sometime it is just easier to buy a grinder than build a grinder."

                                            Sure. Sometimes better, too. Spending the small $ to start with can save you having a $$$ grinder that you only get $ for when you stop making. And if you feel you have to spend $$$ to get started, you may not ever start.

                                            Goddard's a poor writer, I agree. Not the best book, but the premise is sound. I haven't looked in the last several years, but I've never seen any particular knifemaking book that gives all necessary details.

                                            1. re: kaleokahu

                                              kal, I started to write a lengthy reply last night, on the benefits of doing what Goddard proposes. Unfortunately, I've been on a business trip for the past 3 days & only have my phone to access the web. I had a good portion of my reply typed out, then I got a call & it wiped everything out. I didn't feel like re-texting everything at that point. When I'm back home this weekend I'll retype my comments.

                                              To summarize, I do agree with you. But the decision to proceed down that path may not apply without regard to additional cosiderations.

                                              Flight's leaving. Gotta go now....

                                              1. re: Eiron

                                                Eiron: No worries, either about your response or your other considerations. My apologies if I gave the impression I was writing about you. I've learned and can tell that you are not likely to be jumping into anything.

                                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                                  kal, no worries from this end, either. I was actually thinking I should’ve said something about this as I was hitting the "reply" button in my earlier post (on the 12th). I'm a big believer in "try it yourself." I enjoy figgering things out, but I also realize that it's not something everyone wants to do. I’ve also started to weigh the cost of saving money vs saving time. I’ve started to realize that I’m just never going to devote the time needed for some projects. I guess that’s the age thing kicking in, eh? :-)

                                                  Earlier this year I built my own stone/wheel grinder. I used an electric motor salvaged from an old Razor scooter, a grinding stone & a “wall wart” power supply from a thrift store, a plumbing compression fitting from the hardware store, & some scrap aluminum & plastic for the base. The whole thing cost me about $6, & a day to build. (And let’s not forget the ?? days to scrounge/save/store all the bits & pieces.) It’s not a brute, but it works for sharpening tools.

                                                  I've also done a lot of hand file work, doing everything from sharpening chisels, axes & mower blades, to re-profiling squared chunks of aluminum into smooth, contoured shapes. Hand filing is a great way to get a feel for a material's response to being cut. You get more intimate with the metal. Mistakes tend to be smaller & easier to fix. And it takes a LOT longer to reach your goal.

                                                  So yes, I definitely agree with you that there's a LOT to be learned from trial-&-error, & home-grown methods.

                                                  You CAN get started with some relatively inexpensive, low-end powered grinding equipment. The Harbor Freight 1x30 model is actually very well liked in a variety of knife arenas, & can be bought (after sales & discounts) for as little as $32. Here's the story that almost had me buying one of them:
                                                  Add a selection of belts for another $10-$15 & you're on your way for under $50.

                                                  I’m still moving forward with my plans to build my own 2x72, & I’ll be enlisting the help of my friend who’s just like Goddard! (Will it ever get done?? I think so, because he's pretty excited that I'm doing this with or without him.) But the cost difference between buying & building that one is $1,500. The cost difference between buying & building a 1x42 was going to be only $100, so it made less sense (for me) to spend an unknown number of hours to build one of those myself.

                                                  1. re: Eiron

                                                    Eiron: I'm sure you've thought all this out about interchangeability of platens, wheels, slackbelt, etc for the 2x72. Post photos when you get them, huh?

                                                    The closest I have to the Harbor Freight 1x30 is a Pittsburgh-Erie "Hook-Eye" which is a 1.5x24. I was surprised that it's still available.

                                                    This is somewhat sacreligious to say here (what with all the water stone fans and all), but these days I sharpen mostly with this machine, using a progression of increasingly worn belts, then a kiss from the 3600rpm buffer with white chrome to take off the wire edge.

                                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    It's possible that the baby and the knife will arrive on the same day. I guess that would be a sign meaning I HAVE to give the knife to him eventually. Greedy little bugger.

                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                      Yeah, I think you have to give it to him when he becomes a "man" which could be age 13 or 18 or 21... depending the cultures.

                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                        Sorry, I don't know how I missed this post.
                                        Let me be the last to congratulate you!
                                        (How embarrassing!)

                                        1. re: Eiron

                                          Me too. I missed several of his posts on the baby. It didn't show up as new posts. I only caught it because kaleokahu responded to him.

                                          1. re: Eiron

                                            No worries guys. I appreciate it now just as much as a few days ago. That's baby's still got a couple months to go before he's out.