Watanabe Professional Nakiri First Impression (with updates in the future)
As my CHOWHOUND friends know, I have ordered a custom made Watanabe nakiri bocho knife from Mr. Watanabe Shinichi (渡辺真一). To summarize, it is a knife based on the standard 180 mm Aogami #2 (blue paper steel #2) core nakiri knife with a thin blade customization:
The blade was requested to be thinned to 3.5 mm at spine heel and taper to 1.0 mm at the spine tip. The actual product I received is 3.0 mm at spine heel and taper to 1.0 mm at spine tip – pretty close to my request. Due to the blade customization, the kurouchi finish was removed and resulting a polished finish. The knife was made in 2 weeks and shipping to me in 3 days – though it took me another 2 days to pick it up from the postal office. I am very happy with the production speed, shipping speed... etc.
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Here I have uploaded some photos and will discuss the positives and negatives from my first impression.
The first photo is a comparison between the Watanabe Nakiri (top) to the Tanaka nakiri (bottom), showing that the Watanabe nakiri is slightly longer and wider/taller.
The second photo compares the spine thickness between the Watanabe nakiri (left) and Tanaka nakiri (right), showing the Watanabe is slightly thinner for most of the blade length expect at the very tip where the Tanaka is slightly thinner. The photo may not do them justice here.
The third photo shows the Watanabe nakiri overall blade grind. its blade suddenly tapers down faster at 1 cm (3/8 inch) above the cutting edge. In other words, it converges especially fast 1 cm from the cutting edge.
The fourth photo shows the Tanaka nakiri overall grind. It is a bit more complicated. It tapers down fast 1.5 cm to 1.0 cm away from the edge and then slows down. In short, it tapers fast right after the end of the kurouchi line (see the first photo).
The fifth photo shows the engraved signature of the two knives. I also want to mention that the Watanabe spine has been rounded and smoothed out, but the heel area is still rough. I will smooth it out in the future.
The sixth photo is a close up for the engraved Shinichi signature. Reading from top to bottom, it is 真一作 (Shinichi Made).
The seventh photo shows the handle area which has a lot of gaps between the steel and the insert in the wood, and between the bolster/ferrule and the wood.
The eighth photo shows there is minor but visible gap between the handle and the bolster.
The bolster/ferrule area is probably the weakest aspect of my Watanabe knife. The blade is straightly aligned with the handle. The fit and finish of the bolster/ferrule area is functional, but not polished. These are minor problems for me. I have put some beesmax and sealed all the gaps and holes. Similar to Dave5440 experience for his Watanabe Deba bocho, my Watanabe Nakiri bocho is well sharpened out of the box. It can push cut printer papers, though not smooth. The overall grind around the edge is fairly smooth. There is no overgrind or undergrind area. In other words, there is no noticeable "wavy edge". The blade is also fairly straight. Dave's post on his Watanabe Deba bocho knife:
I have sharpened it through 1000, 2000, and 5000 grit waterstones. The knife can shave arm hair and push cut paper even better than before. However, it is not as smooth as I think it can be, and I know it can be better. Along the edge, some sections can push cut papers better than other sections. I have already sharpened it twice, but I will do a more thorough job when I have time. Today, I really wanted to make dinner and did not want to spend too much time.
I compared its food preparation performance with the much cheaper Tanaka nakiri which was also sharpening today. The two knives performed similarly on tomatoes and Cubanelle peppers, but the Watanabe noticeably performed better on the yams. I only used the Watanabe on the onion, and it cut very nice.
Needless to say, the edge holding ability is fine after one cooking session, but then most of my knives can handle at least one cooking session, so it isn't saying much. I will use the knife a few more times with additional sharpening and reprofiling, and will do an update later.
So far, I do consider it a very good knife and has slightly better performance than the Tanaka nakiri. Does the price justify its $277 price tag? I think that depends how you look at it. From a pure performance angle, I am guessing that you can probably get much of the same performance from a $40 Tanaka nakiri. On the other hand, this Watanabe nakiri is made to personal specifications from an experienced blade shop lead by Mr. Watanabe Shinichi, so it is good deal from this sense.
Let me be the first to congratulate you on having *just* what you want! There is great value and satisfaction in having a tool you spec'd, something that is yours alone. Our culture would be a far happier one if everyone did what you have done, at least once. You enjoy!
And if the ferrule/handle ever bother you, they are easily set right, again to *your* specifications.
Thanks for stopping by and I appreciate your warm congratulation. The ferrule/bolster/handle area does not bother me at all. It is a very easy fix. I just put some beeswax and it is the end of it. However, I wanted to mention it because many people do care about the fit and finish of all aspects of a knife and I do not want to skip anything which may be important information for others.
:) Oh I almost forgot. You are a knife maker (part time?) too. If I need to customize the knife handle/ferrule, I will let you know. You should start to auction your handles like Bob and then you may get pay a lot and you can quit your day job. As of now, your day job will pay you better than your part time hobby job.