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Is knife balance important to you?

  • Eiron Feb 7, 2011 06:09 PM
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One of the main things I like about my knife is the balance. I noticed it immediately when I first picked it up in the store. The other things I like about it are its lightness (155g for a 210mm/8.3" blade) & its ambi-ergo handle shape ("ambi-ergo" meaning that's it's not designed specifically for either righties or lefties, but that it is designed to fit the natural wrap of your fingers & provides more ring/pinkie control of the blade's tip than most other knives I've used).

And does the way you hold your knife affect where your preference of the balance is in it? If I pinch my blade at the bolster, do I want a different balance than someone who grips the handle?

So, does balance matter to you? Do you even notice where the balance is on your knife? It's not a bad thing if you don't; for years I didn't. Even after taking a one-day "cooking school" class.

What do you like?

And can you post a picture of your favorite knife's balance point?

 
 
 
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  1. I like the balance (center of mass) in the front. In other words, blade heavy. I pinch-grip my knives.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      I never really notice unless the blade is really heavy, then i choke up on it , so that would tell me I prefer a lighter blade

      1. re: Dave5440

        My Tojiro gyuto is actually slightly handle heavy I think. The center of mass is at the bolster. Knife balance is important to me, but not the most important factor. I notice that I can adapt to different knife style and knife balance soon or later. I am more of a blade guy.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Chem, do you think you would like your J-knives as much if they were balanced more like German knives? I realize that may be hard to visualize....

          1. re: Eiron

            "do you think you would like your J-knives as much if they were balanced more like German knives?"

            I think so. My Japanese knives have different balance anyway. My Tojiro gyuto's center of mass is right at the bolster like cowboy's Forschner, while my Tanaka nakiri and Tojiro usuba are blade heavy with the center of mass at least an inch up from the bolster area. My CCK Chinese Chef's knife (not Japanese, but a favorite of mine) is also blade heavy.

            I think I like J-knives in general because they can hold a sharper edge. In addition, the blade is thinner which allows the knife go in and out of the food with less resistant. Overall, it cut better -- for average home cooks anyway.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Here. Clearly this post is an excuse to challenge us to do "knife balance shot". Notice that I took one picture with my left hand and the other with my right hand.

               
               
              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Ha! I knew we'd suck you in.

                Now you're in our stupid little club. The only ways out are death or a job hawking Cutco.

                Edit: How'd you operate the camera with your left hand?

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  "Clearly this post is an excuse to challenge us to do 'knife balance shot'. Notice that I took one picture with my left hand and the other with my right hand."

                  Very impressive! We might have to start calling you Ambidexterouskinetics! And yes, I did want to promote CBAD's idea of a collection of balance point pics. (With slight selfish motivation to post my in-the-air balancing. :-O)

                  Hold on... I just realized that the handles of both knives are out of the picture. I think we might have to disqualify your claims of steady competence.

                  All in the name of "fair & balanced reporting," of course.... :-D

                  1. re: Eiron

                    It was more difficult to hold the camera than to hold the knives: taking the picture with my left hand on a right handed camera -- odd.

                    "fair & balanced reporting" -- took me a second or two to get the joke on the BALANCED part.

          2. re: Dave5440

            Dave, so you're saying that you would change your grip of two similar knives based solely on balance? (That is, choke up on a blade-heavy chef's knife, but not on a handle-heavy one?)

            1. re: Eiron

              I guess I do , I never really thought about it untill this thread, but my old knives I use a pinch grip well ahead of the handle but my myiabi I hold by the handle with my index finger on the spine, won't know now that i'm consious of it

        2. Showing off your amazing knife balancing skills again I see! ;-) I'm particularly impressed if you're holding the camera in your other hand rather than having an assistant take the picture.

          I agree that good balance is important for a knife, and IMO, the balance point of your knife is just about perfect for a pinch grip. If you hold a knife by the handle, I don't think that balance is as much of an issue.

          1 Reply
          1. re: tanuki soup

            tanuki, I have no assistant, & I work without a net, too!
            (Well, technically, I DO have an assistant; but she's usually walking away muttering something about me being off my nut...)

            ((Shhhh... I'm saving the really tricky pics to stick on CBAD's comments!))

          2. Balance is probably the most important attribute for me when buying knives.

            Not just any balance, but proper balance and feel in my hand.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ipsedixit

              yes! More important to balance to me, is how the knife fits/feels in my hand...I could never buy a knife without getting my hands on it first

            2. I have both of those knives.

              1 Reply
              1. re: jaykayen

                Cool! I like both of these knives a LOT. What do you think of them?

                tanuki soup also has the exact same gyuto (with a different brand name on it) & likes it. As of two weeks ago he said he'd only used it a couple of times. He made this comment (apologies if I'm incorrectly assuming tanuki is a male),

                "I'm quite pleased with my Kumadori. Nice (but not obsessive) fit and finish, very sharp, well balanced, and feels light and nimble in the hand. IMO, it's an attractive and good-handling knife for a reasonable price."

              2. Yes and no. I don't usually factor 'balance' into my choice to buy or not buy a knife. But in part that's because the knives I consider buying are typically well balanced by their makers in the first place - it seems to me that most decent Japanese knife makers put considerable thought into the balance points of their knives, just like they do with other factors like hand bias and edge geometry.

                I hold a chefs knife with a fairly high pinch grip. As such, I like the balance point to be a little forward of the heel of the knife - that seems to feel best to me.

                I have knives whose balance points are in other places - my forschner 8 inch chefs is balanced right at the end of the grip , and thus when I use a high pinch grip, the blade is annoyingly handle heavy (it's obviously supposed to be gripped a little lower than I typically do). My tossagata nakiri on the other hand is very blade heavy. It's a fun knife, but I don't use it anywhere near as much as my gyutos. And I use the forschner even less. Honestly, I couldn't tell you whether the balance of these knives is a major factor given that there are many other things I like more about the gyutos.

                Not to be outdone, Eiron, I took a few more photos to help illustrate. In the last three, see how the blurry backgrounds and wrinkles in the towel on the table make it clear the knife is in mid-air, so you don't have to just take my word for it? ;P

                I'm kidding of course. Nice work with the camera, and interesting thread.

                 
                 
                4 Replies
                1. re: cowboyardee

                  I have problems loading more than two at a time.
                  Here's the forschner and the nakiri.

                   
                   
                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    "Not to be outdone, Eiron, I took a few more photos to help illustrate."

                    Oh yeah? Me too. :-)

                    I took a few more photos after I was done playing with my sharp objects. This really forces you to relax, & nobody can even be walking thru the room because the footsteps create too much vibration (unless you're on concrete). It takes a bit more concentration to balance than the Kanetsune does, but it's much more satisfying & safer, too!

                    Unless, of course, you end up throwing the thing across the room out of frustration....

                     
                     
                    1. re: Eiron

                      Is that the salt game thing? Putting some salt on the table and then balance a drinking glass at an angle?

                      1. re: Eiron

                        You win this round, Eiron.... But this is not over.

                        Say, you didn't grind down one corner of that shaker flat with DMT, did you?

                    2. I think balance and fit are the most important aspects of a knife.

                      1. When I was cooking professionally, knife comfort (as opposed to balance) was a critical issue because of the volume of knife work that I was doing. At home it's somewhat less important, but I still reach for and use one particular knife above all others.

                        It's not "balanced" in that the handle is significantly heavier than the blade, but it's a very hefty knife, and I can work with it comfortably for ages. I don't pinch-grip, I never have; but this knife feels like part of my hand, and that's what's important to me.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: SherBel

                          SherBel, I completely understand what you're saying. When I actually held a Shun Kramer Euro chef's knife in my hand (this past December), it felt all-together wrong for my style of grip. However, when my wife picked up the exact same knife, she quickly proclaimed it "The most Comfortable Knife Ever!" Like you, she has never used a pinch grip, & I'm sure that's the single biggest reason why the knife felt perfect to her.

                          I would supportively disagree with your statement that your knife (& this Shun Kramer) are NOT balanced simply because the handle is significantly heavier than the blade. In fact, if you DO NOT pinch grip, then having the weight handle-biased DOES, in fact, balance the knife for the way you use it. That increases its comfort, no? I can imagine that a more center-balanced knife would become more fatiguing if you were forced to always "lift up" the blade while you're using it.

                        2. To be honest, it's important but not essential. I use several knives and they all have different handles and balance. It doesn't mean that much to me since I feel comfortable with all of them once I use them a while. More important to me is how they perform.

                          1. I know I already responded to this thread. And as I stated, balance point is a factor in how much I use or enjoy a knife, albeit a small one. But there's a flip side to that coin.

                            I'm always very suspicious of a knife or a knife review when it's balance is listed as one of its chief attributes. Eiron, I know you know what you're talking about, so don't take this as a personal criticism - but how many times have you seen a knife described in a review or on the product description as having "perfect balance." It's cool to have a knife that feels good in your hand, but saying a knife is 'perfectly balanced' is quite a bit like saying it's perfectly long.

                            It's all well and good to consider comfort and balance the most important aspects of a knife, but the irony is that the most uncomfortable, annoyingly handle-heavy knives I've used were ones that advertised comfort and balance as their selling points, apparently aiming for a crowd that holds their knives differently than I do (and I suspect seldom uses one for any significant length of time). As such, I am extremely suspicious of any knife that advertises it's balance or comfort as though these were straightforward quantities that can be measured on a 'low-to-high' scale.

                            That feels good to have off my chest.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: cowboyardee

                              CBAD - Multiple replies are not discouraged!

                              I think know what you're saying. I wasn't approaching the question from that point of view, but I agree that it's one of those spurious "features" that are commonly cited to promote an item otherwise bereft of tangible benefits. (Have I used my dictionary quota for the day? :-D)

                              My thought was directed more towards an individual's opinion of their own purchase(s). Does balance come into the "ownership" equation? It never did for me prior to 1+ year ago, when I started looking at buying an expensive knife (a Cutco) & exploring alternatives. That led me to Henkels, then accidentally to Shun, & prompted my initial knife query post back in Dec 2009.

                              Obviously, ergonomics¹ mean a lot to me. But I also recognize that many (maybe even most?) people really don't think about it all that much. Perhaps it's because, like me, they've never been given the opportunity to think about/compare those differences. Or maybe they simply don't care.

                              I agree, advertising "perfect balance" is as meaningless as "perfect comfort" (Ken Onion? Alton Brown?), "perfect length" or "perfect shape." I'm just wondering how others view their knives' balance, & if it forms any part of their opinion of their knife.

                              Oh yeah, & I also wanted to promote your idea of balance-point shots. But I guess we won't see any from those folks who don't think about the balance of their knives...
                              _________

                              ¹ - by ergonomics, I mean: balance, total weight, handle shape, blade shape, cutting ability, materials (interface feel), fit & finish