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Carbonext Santoku Passaround - A Review

cowboyardee Oct 5, 2011 01:29 PM

As part of the first Chowhound Knife Passaround (that I know of), I recently tried out Chemicalkinetic’s carbonext santoku for a couple weeks. The only real ground rule was that I couldn’t reprofile the blade.
Here is the initial thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/785892

Let me get one thing out of the way right off the bat. I’m not enamored of santokus. I don’t hate em or anything. I just prefer a longer gyuto for all-around use and prefer a nakiri or Chinese cleaver as a more specialized vegetable/fun knife. The following is my review:
___________________________________________
First impressions/ fit and finish:

First off – Eiron did a fine job sharpening the knife. Nice, clean ~15 degree bevels, very smooth edge (I’m gonna guess you took it up to a ~6k stone and spent some time there, Eiron?), shaved cleanly throughout the length of the blade.

The profile has a little curve to it as Chem pointed out. I could see this appealing to a broad range of people, since it was still easy to push cut with, but also transitioned quite easily to rocking. Balance point is right at the end of the bolster. Good feel to the handle – similar to the Tojiro DP handle but a little less boxy. Handle is slightly smallish, but that’s expected in a shorter knife. Nice distal taper – maybe a bit better than the Tojiro DP and pretty similar to my Hiromoto AS. The spine was in the range of 2 mm thick over the heel, and it tapered down respectably behind the edge – not to the same degree as a ‘laser’ (konosuke, yusuke, suisin, etc) but a nice balance of thinness and strength for an all-around blade. Actually, pretty similar to my Hiromoto AFTER I thinned the Hiromoto to my liking. No misground spots or overground spots. So basically, the factory grind is quite good for an all-around knife.

I had no major qualms with the fit and finish. The blade looked nice. Nothing sloppy. Handle was well fitted and smooth. Spine could have been a bit more rounded, but I seldom see a well rounded spine on a knife in the CarboNext’s price range. I didn’t get to experience the factory edge, obviously. No high polish or elaborate pattern, but certainly nothing to complain about either.
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Usage:

As I’ve said above, it transitioned easily between a pushing cut and a rocking cut. The tip was thin, precise, and by virtue of the knife being fairly short it was quite easy to do fine precise work with it. It was a little prone to accordion cuts when chopping quickly straight up and down, but could handle small items that way. The knife has an ever-so-slight righty bias, but food release was on par with other knives in the price range and style. It’s a santoku, so it didn’t have quite the all around versatility of a gyuto or the blazing efficiency of say a Chinese cleaver. But it did what I think santokus are supposed to do and did it very well – it was an exceptionally easy knife to use and to adjust to. No learning curve.
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Sharpening/edge retention:

I sharpened it soon after I got it in the mail (no offense Eiron – sharpening is an important part of how I evaluate a knife) and again soon before I sent it back to Chem. I used what’s become my most standard progression – 800 King, 2k superstone, 8k superstone, newspaper stropping. Compared to my knives and the knives I sharpen for others, what stood out the most is that the Carbonext seemed to be a little trickier in terms of burr removal. I would build up a nice burr, weaken it a bit, and then remove it (soft wood) – and found myself left with a surprisingly ragged edge that needed more passes on the stone and sometimes another burr removal. So sharpening took a bit longer than I have grown accustomed to for most knives. On the upside, the edge eventually got nice and sharp.

I finished with a steep, one sided microbevel applied on the 8k stone only (right hand side) – that’s a move I stole from J Broida, btw, and I’ve been liking the technique quite a bit, especially when sharpening for line cooks, so thanks. I was left with a very nice edge that push cut very well, still had some bite (from that 2-8k jump) but also had very nice edge retention.

I used that edge for a solid week and tried to put it through its paces – made a big batch of kimchi, a lot of prep-heavy dinners. No touch ups. At the end of the week, the edge still shaved, but didn’t pop hairs. One section of the middle of the edge didn’t shave very well at all. 30 seconds stropping on chrome ox loaded leather fixed that, and brought the edge back into ‘scary’ territory. I did notice on VERY small chip in the middle of the blade after that week. Very small – came out within just a couple minutes on the 800 stone. One tiny chip probably isn’t enough to even be significant – it doesn’t really tell me anything.

It’s hard to really measure the edge retention with only a week and a half of solid use. It seems to be roughly on par with my Hiromoto, maybe a bit better. Not quite the extreme improvement some of the knife forums guys have made it out to be. But more than respectable, especially for the price.
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Overall:

This is a good all around knife and I can see why it’s popular. It seems to be most often compared with the Hirmoto due to similarity in price, edge retention, all-around usage, and profile. Functionally, it seems to have more in common with stainless steel than carbon in terms of reactivity, which makes it a good choice for just about anyone. Excellent edge retention (though maybe not as amazing as I had hoped), easy usage, and a nice high-performance grind that still sports some durability make this knife and presumably the Carbonext series a great choice for people who just want a great knife. I can see why this series is popular with line cooks.

For home cooks, it is still a great option. For me personally as a home cook and kitchen knife enthusiast, that little extra bit of stainlessness and marginal improvement in edge retention over other knives in the price range is nice, but not strictly necessary. For me, the look and ease of sharpening of the Hiromoto AS is preferable, even though there are a few areas where the Carbonext seems to outshine it (stainlessness, edge retention, factory grind, maybe F&F).

Still, in its price range, it would be on my short list of recommendations.

Thanks again to Chem. I’ll post a couple pics shortly.

  1. cowboyardee Oct 5, 2011 01:45 PM

    Here are a few comparative shots:

    The first one is a cross section shot. From left to right, you see a vintage 12 inch Dexter carbon chef knife, the Carbonext santoku, the Hiromoto AS 240 mm gyuto, and the Sakai Yusuke 240mm gyuto.

    In the second pic, you can compare the profile and edge curve of the Carbonext santoku to that of the Hiromoto gyuto.

    The third pic is the Carbonext santoku by its lonesome.

     
     
     
    8 Replies
    1. re: cowboyardee
      Chemicalkinetics Oct 5, 2011 02:31 PM

      Thanks cowboy. This is great review. Informative, but not overly specific for general readers. It must have taken quiet a bit of time.

      "The knife has an ever-so-slight righty bias"

      It certainly was rightly bias when I first got it, but I thought I hard converted it to 50/50, but apparently not. :P

      "and found myself left with a surprisingly ragged edge that needed more passes on the stone and sometimes another burr removal"

      You may be right. I cannot clearly remember this part, but I think I had to use my poor leather strop to make it very sharp. I think some of my other knives didn't rely on the stropping as much. On the other hand, I am not nearly as knowledgable and skillful in the stropping department as you. I really need to get myself some stropping setup. :) Maybe.

      "I used that edge for a solid week and tried to put it through its paces – made a big batch of kimchi, a lot of prep-heavy dinners. No touch ups. At the end of the week, the edge still shaved, but didn’t pop hairs."

      The fact that it can handle a whole week of heavy usage without touch ups and remains sharp enough to shave hair is pretty darn good. Way better than say standard Wusthof, Henckels and probably better than standard VG-10 knives like Shun or Tojiro I think. I don't recall my Tojiro DP holds its edge quiet as well, though Tojiro DP wasn't bad by any mean.

      "For me personally as a home cook and kitchen knife enthusiast, that little extra bit of stainlessness and marginal improvement in edge retention over other knives in the price range is nice, but not strictly necessary. For me, the look and ease of sharpening of the Hiromoto AS is preferable"

      I absolutely understand the "ease of sharpening part", but what do you mean by "look"?

      Anyway, I think you conclude it quiet well that the CarboNext knives are a good combination between price and performance. That said, so is Hiromoto AS. These are all reasonably price yet good quality knives.

      Thanks again.

      (Eiron, where are you? :))

      1. re: Chemicalkinetics
        cowboyardee Oct 5, 2011 02:41 PM

        "It certainly was right bias when I first got it, but I thought I convert it to 50/50, but guess not. :P"
        __________
        I was actually referring to the overall grind, not the edge bevels. Same as my Yusuke has a lefty grind I had to special order. I'd say the edge seemed to have an even slighter righty bias than the overall grind, but it was so slight that it might as well be 50/50 (also, I couldn't say for certain that it wasn't me who ground in that tiny righty bias in the edge ;D - old habits die hard).

        Do let me know if you find you have burr removal problems. Our methods are likely different and that plays a part. Also keep an eye out for a wire edge - I think the CarboNext might be a little prone to those if you're not careful. But again, I only sharpened it twice (and didn't use it after the second time).

        "I absolutely understand the "ease of sharpening part", but what do you mean by "look"?"
        ________
        The hiromoto has that ugly/pretty thing going on with the dark patina forming right at the edge where the clad steel fades away. Gives it an appealing and unique look IMO. Of course that's very subjective.

        1. re: cowboyardee
          Chemicalkinetics Oct 5, 2011 02:46 PM

          "I was actually referring to the overall grind, not the edge bevels."

          Oh. :O

          "Do let me know if you find you have burr removal problems."

          I will double check later. I just don't remember, but you may be right about burr removal.

          "The hiromoto has that ugly/pretty thing going on with the dark patina forming right at the edge where the clad steel fades away"

          Ah, I was confused because I thought you had said the fit and finish is pretty good, then suddenly I read you like the Hiromoto AS look. Now, I know what you meant. You meant the edge, not the F&F.

        2. re: Chemicalkinetics
          cowboyardee Oct 5, 2011 02:45 PM

          "The fact that it can handle whole week of heavy usage without touch ups and remains sharp enough to shave hair is pretty darn good."
          _________
          That's certainly true. By any reasonable standards, the edge retention on this knife seems to be excellent.

          The issue is just that a lot of the knife forums guys went on about how the edge retention of the Carbonext blows that of the Hiromoto AS out of the water. I didn't get a chance to use it for months and get a great idea of the edge retention, but my experience over the last couple weeks suggests that the improvement is far more modest and marginal - probably dependent on sharpening and edge geometry too.

          1. re: cowboyardee
            Chemicalkinetics Oct 5, 2011 02:53 PM

            "about how the edge retention of the Carbonext blows that of the Hiromoto AS out of the water."

            :) Well, sometime people get so impressed that they exaggerate the true effects based on their feelings. You know, statements like "Kiwi knives are way better than Shun knives" These statements happen every now and then.

            Another possibly is the way how someone has sharpened the knives too. Let's say you push the Hirmoto and put a 10 degree edge. That 10 degree edge on Hiromoto AS may not seem to hold its edge as good as a CarbonNext knife with a 15 degree edge. One of the many examples.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
              cowboyardee Oct 5, 2011 03:14 PM

              From what I've heard and what you seemed to experience, the Carbonext actually doesn't do too well at a very low angle edge. The hiromoto OTOH can easily be ground below 10 degrees per side, whereas people seem to say that the Carbonext edge folds easily at that. BUT at 15 degrees/side, the Carbonext seems to hold its edge on par with or slightly better than blue steel at 15 degrees/side (I haven't had the Hiromoto this obtuse for a while, but I occasionally sharpen blue steel knives for others at a similar angle).

              Hard to say though unless I got to use it more and try out a few different edge profiles.

              I can say with confidence that it seems to outperform the edge retention of VG 10 knives I've sharpened and used. Traditional Western steel knives - goes without saying.

              Also - that steep one-sided microbevel I've been doing seems to give a real nice mix of performance and edge retention, so that may play into my impressions of the CarboNext.

              1. re: cowboyardee
                Chemicalkinetics Oct 5, 2011 03:54 PM

                :) Just got home and received the knife. Thanks. It looks and feels sharp, but I haven't really play with it.

                "From what I've heard and what you seemed to experience, the Carbonext actually doesn't do too well at a very low angle edge."

                Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Now that you mentioned, yes, I initially tried to put a 10-12 degree edge bevel and found it much worse than my Aogami knives. Upon bring the CarbonNext back to 15 degree, then it behaved nicely.

                "it seems to outperform the edge retention of VG 10 knives "

                If so, what reasons would you have to recommend a VG-10 beside being purely stainless? Oh, one question, did you find the CarboNext knife to be harder to sharpen than a typical VG-10 knife?

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                  cowboyardee Oct 5, 2011 09:23 PM

                  I do find VG-10 easier to sharpen than the carbonext steel - burr removal has never been a problem for me with VG-10, So that's one upside. Also, in some cases VG 10 knives are cheaper (I guess I'm especially thinking of the Tojio DP), So that's another one.

                  Other than that, the Carbonext steel seems to have the edge. Of course, there are a lot of reasons to buy a knife beyond just the steel used.

                  Glad it arrived back home in decent shape.

      2. Quine Oct 5, 2011 02:06 PM

        Nicely done! I am glad to included pictures.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Quine
          JBroida Oct 5, 2011 06:10 PM

          lol... i'm glad my techniques are getting some play ;)

          For what its worth, i picked that one up while training with Suisin

          nice review

          1. re: JBroida
            Chemicalkinetics Oct 5, 2011 06:17 PM

            Good job, Jon.

            1. re: JBroida
              cowboyardee Oct 5, 2011 09:12 PM

              I thank you and Suisin for it.

          2. petek Oct 5, 2011 06:53 PM

            Nice review cowboy! For some reason I thought Chem bought the Carbonext gyuto not the santoku.I bet he's glad to have it back :D

            1. Eiron Jan 18, 2012 12:18 PM

              CBAD,

              Nice review! (Yeah, I finally got around to reading it! LOL) It's interesting that you noticed the burr so much more than I did. I wonder if my pressure on the 6000 Suehiro has anything to do with that? I usually start with moderate pressure but finish (on the same stone) with very, very light strokes. I probably spend more time than necessary at this stage; then maybe stropping on the CrO elk hide becomes more of a fine-polish step?

              Or maybe the Honko steel composition just doesn't like the micro-bevel technique? You don't mention anything about it, but do you think the steel is maybe a little more sticky than your carbon or VG-10 blades?

              1 Reply
              1. re: Eiron
                cowboyardee Jan 18, 2012 01:20 PM

                My deburring technique sounds like it's different than yours. I didn't have any problems coming off 8k grit (where I created the microbevel) - though the only 'deburring' i do off the 8k stone is stropping strokes on newspaper.

                Mostly I deburr after each of the lower grit stones - 800 and 2k in this case - by running the edge gently into soft wood or cork.The idea is to have no wire edge at all going into the high grit stone (where, yes, i do use light strokes). But with the Carbonext, at least the first time I sharpened it, coming off those coarser stones, the edge seemed really ragged after deburring it, as though deburring tore out some of the edge itself.

                It could have been an issue where I just didn't weaken and reduce the burr enough before trying to take it off. Or it could have been ... I dunno, just one of those things that happens every once in a while sharpening where you have a harder time than you expected and it never happens again.

                Or of course could have just been that the Carbonext didn't like my method. That was my initial impression - that the steel was just a little stickier than the vg10 and carbon blades I work with most.

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