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Can anyone recommend a good knife for cutting meat incredibly thin? [moved from San Francisco board]

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Can anyone recommend a good knife (style, material, and/or brand) for cutting meat incredibly thin? My butcher was saying she has sashimi knives at home for incredibly thin slicing, which she could bring to the shop if I gave her advance notice. Can anyone point me to a good sashimi knife so that I might try this myself?

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  1. Hida Tool in Berkeley and Japan Woodworker in Alameda have good selections of Japanese knives.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Thank you, Robert. You are extremely helpful!

    2. It depends how you want to cut your meat incredibly thin. If you want cut thin strip of meat of moderate thickness, then a yanagiba should be quite good. It is what sushi chefs do. A good yanagiba can take on an extreme fine edge which minimize the cell damage across a cutting surface. Of course, the knife is only half of the story. The other half is about your sharpening skill. A yanagiba is only sharp as you can sharpen it.

      If you want to slice lengthwise on top a meat, then I would suggest a thinner blade knife to minimize the drag/wedge resistance.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        I just purchased a yanagiba (http://www.hayneedle.com/sale/12inpoi... ), which I should receive in the mail soon.

        But I want to cut it as thin as humanly possible. I'm talking about wide rectangles of short ribs here. For that, are you recommending a thinner blade knife, or is the yanagiba what I want? If the former, could you please point me in the right direction (a link or a style name)?

        1. re: damian

          If you are talking about cutting ribs, then you should freeze the meat, and then use an electric saw. I don't think any of these knives can cut bones.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I should have explained more clearly. I'm talking about filleting the meat away from the bone, ribbon- or accordion-style. See http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/828310 for a description or http://postimage.org/image/eu1uxg11f/ for a photo.

            1. re: damian

              Damian,

              cowboyardee is a the knife expert, and he may have better suggestions when you see. What I do know is that many people like a Sujihikis over yanagiba because it is thinner and because it is double bevel (sharpened on both side) so it is easier to learn how to wield and how to sharpen.

              http://www.chefknivestogo.com/sujihik...

              Sorry that I cannot be more helpful. If I think of something helpful, I will write to you soon.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Never heard of Sujihikis. Maybe I'll buy one once I save up some money (they certainly aren't cheap).

                In the meantime, whilst waiting for my $16 (on sale marked down from $50) mercer cutlery yanagiba to arrive in the mail, I just tried filleting some veal short ribs with my ~8-inch kyocera ceramic knife. The kyocera is damn sharp, but the veal ribs are damn small, with the casing attached, unfortunately, so it turned out rather mangled, but hopefully it tastes good :/

              2. re: damian

                in addition to an EXTREMELY sharp blade, getting shortribs to look like that is the result of many years honing knife skills. That is some impressive knife work!

        2. Not knowing what you are cooking with thinly sliced meat, I can only hazard a guess. You do need an appropriately sharp knife. The knife recommendation depends on a more detailed description.
          I often semi-freeze meat to just before freezer hard, and then slice across the grain as thinly as possible. I use a chinese slicing cleaver. The meat is about 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick. It's much like slicing very very hard salami as thin as possible. The salami curls, top to bottom, as I slice.

          44 Replies
          1. re: rosetown

            I'm talking about wide rectangles of short ribs here, as thin as humanly possible. Actually, I'm planning to slice it ribbon-style or accordion-style, in preparation for wang kalbi (aka, king-style Korean BBQ short ribs).

            Chemicalkinetics is recommending a yanagiba or an even thinner blade, so as to minimize drag/wedge resistance. A Chinese slicing cleaver has a very wide blade. What would you recommend, given my purpose?

            1. re: damian

              Tnx for replying, now we know the application. Since I am unfamiliar with wang kalbi, I'm not able to to make a recommendation for an appropriate knife. I'm sure others can.

              1. re: rosetown

                See http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/828310 for details about wang kalbi, if interested :)

                1. re: damian

                  I've just been reading the wikipedia article:

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galbi

                  Very interesting - it looks to me that one gets a rack of ribs and then slowly cut it in half - leaving the ribs in-tact resulting in a doubling of length. I'm sure I missing something!!!

                  1. re: rosetown

                    I think you are missing something (no offense—it took me a great deal or research to understand it myself). The length of the meat is much more than doubled. If it's cut extremely thin, the meat of a single rib can be a couple of feet in length.

                    Imagine a spool of ribbon, with a cardboard core. Now imagine unravelling the ribbon. The meat is like the ribbon. The bone is like the spool. Except that the bone is on the edge of the meat instead of in the center, and you have to cut the meat before you can unravel it. See http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/828310 for a description or http://postimage.org/image/eu1uxg11f/ for a photo.

                    Make sense? Knowing that, can you make any knife suggestions?

                    1. re: damian

                      Tnx damian - now I've got it - wow - I've butterflied for schnitzels and then pounded it to thin and increase size - but this is uber butterflying - truly an accordion and no pounding. Don't give up!! I think a number of knives would work - but I have no idea which knife would work best for this application.

                      1. re: rosetown

                        Thanks, Rosetown. I'll keep experimenting :)

                        1. re: damian

                          I agree with Chem that a super sharp and super thin Sujihikis would do the trick.
                          I also agree with twyst that very good knife skills will help achieve this kind of thin slice.
                          Also Rosetown makes a great point about the meat being semi frozen(or at least extremely cold) will help with desired results.
                          Judging by your photo,those short ribs were sliced by someone with excellent knife skills with a super sharp,thin bladed knife(suji,yanigaba,270-300mm gyuto) while the meat was semi frozen...
                          Or they got their butcher to do it with a band saw.... :-D
                          Hope this helps!

                      2. re: damian

                        I can't look at the postimage.org photo right now, though I did see the video you posted in the other thread. I'm assuming that's what you're going for.

                        If I were looking for a knife ONLY for the sake of making kalbi in the manner of that video, I would pick a long petty (150 or 180 mm should do the trick) - basically a thin japanese utility knife. It would be the most manuverable option. That said, you could do the job with any knife that is long enough (I'd say 5 inches plus) and sharp enough with a reasonbaly straight edge. A sujihiki would work, and is certainly not a bad choice. So would a gyuto. So would a western filet knife or boning knife. Even a Western chef knife could get the job done, though it would make it a bit harder.

                        I would advise against the yanagiba for this particular job, unless you want to practice with it for a few months before trying. The problem with a yanagiba (which can be a great knife, btw) is it steers, and it takes some practice for you to learn to control it well. If you practice with it, I think it could do an excellent job, but it wouldn't be my first choice.

                        What matters most for something like that is going to be your skill with a knife. The factors that matter in the knife, in order of roughly descending importance are:

                        sharpness

                        length (doesn't matter if it's 6 inches or 9 inches, as long as it's not 3 inches)

                        thinness

                        height (I'd prefer a knife that's not too 'tall' for this job)

                        1. re: cowboyardee

                          Thanks, Cowboy. Very helpful.

                        2. re: damian

                          This what I call a roll cut. A long thin very sharp knife is needed. The knive doesn't have to be that long as you are not trying to make a cut in one pull, but long enough to allow long smooth slicing. Actually a sawing technique could be employed as well if the knife is super sharp and the cuts are well controlled while the meat is rolled out. I have been peeling cucumbers in this fashion or a semi kanisu technique. I do it with the cucumber lying on the board since I really like my fingers

                          http://www.sushivids.com/how-to-prepa...

                          It would be hard with a really soft short rib to slice as thin as in your photo. If needs to be firmed up by being partially frozen but no so much as to crack while making the roll while cutting.

                          Good luck. This not an easy task. A roll cut is no sweat but getting it as thin as the picture you posted is not easy

                          1. re: scubadoo97

                            Hey, I was just making katsuramuki cut on my daikon yesterday with my fingers rolling the daikon. The sharper the knife is, the easier it is to katsuramuki cut it. In a sense, it is entirely possible to cut with an extremely sharp knife or just a regular sharp knife, but it takes more skill to cut with a regular sharp knife.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              What knife are you using? A usuba?

                              I was playing with my Tojiro Shirogami which has kept a very sharp edge with minimal touch up and can roll cut a cucumber. Tried it holding the knife and cucumber up off the board but just get weirded out about a slip and loss of fingers.

                              1. re: scubadoo97

                                Another couple of questions for you all:

                                What about ceramic knives? I have a Kyocera Revolution Series 5 1/4-inch slicing knife. It's ridiculously sharp--way sharper than my other knives--and I've never had it sharpened, despite the fact that I use it more than my other knives. Would this not be better than most fancy metal knives, given how sharp it is and how infrequently it needs to be sharpened?

                                Also, what about a Japanese mandolin? I have one I use to cut veggies, but wouldn't it cut partially frozen meat just as well, thinly and uniformly? Of course, I couldn't butterfly with a mandolin, but I could at least cut thin strips after removing the bone, right?

                                Thoughts?

                                1. re: damian

                                  I don't like the idea of a ceramic knife. I don't think you can get the edge as sharp as a steel knife because it is too hard.

                                  A mandolin will like to work on partially frozen meat, but it will get any of the King rib cut you have been talking about.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    Do you (or does someone else) have anything to back up your contention/suspicion that a ceramic knife can't get as sharp as a steel knife? The $35 ceramic knife I use on a regular basis is *way* sharper than any professionally sharpened $100 steel knife I've ever used.

                                    Anyone got any data on the sharpness of ceramic vs. metal blades?

                                    1. re: damian

                                      "Do you (or does someone else) have anything to back up your contention/suspicion that a ceramic knife can't get as sharp as a steel knife? The $35 ceramic knife I use on a regular basis is *way* sharper than any professionally sharpened $100 steel knife I've ever used.

                                      Anyone got any data on the sharpness of ceramic vs. metal blades?"

                                      Your steel knife is not very good or the professional sharpener was not very good.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        That's another interesting contention/suspicion, but it's still not data :)

                                        Do you or anyone else have any data on sharpness of ceramic vs. metal?

                                        1. re: damian

                                          :) Let's say I have seen many more impressive steel knife videos than ceramic knife videos.

                                          http://youtu.be/6aoQGC1yIlQ

                                          http://youtu.be/eC7EUa-S_qs

                                          In addition, how do you plan to sharpen your ceramic knife? Most powered sharpeners chip the heck out of ceramic knives even the diamond stones from EdgePro do.

                                          Jump to 8:57 min at the following video:

                                          http://youtu.be/KLMZ2fZCMtk

                                          Zknives also has a review on Kyocrea ceramic knife:

                                          http://zknives.com/knives/kitchen/ktk...

                                          1. re: damian

                                            Ever seen a ceramic straight razor? :)

                                            Jim

                                            1. re: knifesavers

                                              Best to stay out of this debate, me thinks

                                              ceramic knife I use on a regular basis is *way* sharper than any professionally sharpened $100 steel knife I've ever used.

                                              Bwahahahahahahahahaha

                                            2. re: damian

                                              damian,

                                              Sometime ago, I have cut a phonebook in a single push cutting motion (edited: It was a rock chopping motion) using my $35-40 CCK Chinese cleaver. So this is definitely not done with a very expensive knife, and not done by a professional sharpener:

                                              http://www.chow.com/uploads/3/1/5/675...

                                              You can tell it was done by a single cutting action.

                                              You can give it a try with your ceramic knife and see if it will cut through your yellowpage

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                WOW Chem, cutting through that phonebook is impressive. :D

                                                As damian said in this post.:
                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8283...
                                                "The proof, as they say, is in the pudding," and that is proof in the pudding!

                                                1. re: rosetown

                                                  Rosetown,

                                                  It took me forever to find the video in order to reply to you. Ok. This was the video which inspired me to try cutting my phonebook.

                                                  http://youtu.be/Yzeg1HfbmkA

                                                  I find it easier to cut the phonebook in a rolling action like the guy did too. If I try to push it straight up and down, then it takes much more force to do so.

                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    Chem - tnx for that video - I'm speechless!!

                                                    Duane

                                                    1. re: rosetown

                                                      Rosetown,

                                                      I changed my mind. I just tried it again in my kitchen. It actually work well to push cut when there is a large forward motion. So I guess "straight up and down" is tough, but we all knew that.

                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                        Regardless - the video is a rock cut and yours is a push/pull but only a push -don't see much of a difference - it could be the nature of a cleaver vs a chefs knife or gyuto.

                                                        1. re: rosetown

                                                          Actually, I did rock cut in that photo. I just tried push cut with a forward motion (10 minutes ago), and it seems to work too. I wasn't able to do it as effortless as the he did. He seems so effortless in the video.

                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                            Well, watching a video is effortless, but who knows how much pressure he used.

                                                            1. re: rosetown

                                                              I went to just get another phone book and tried push cutting (not rock chopping). I cut one corner three times, and then I switched to the other corner. You won't believe it. Look. The cut pieces just stay there. The very cover did fall off, and I placed it back (just to look good), but everything else was there:

                                                               
                                                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      Cool vid Chem. I don't think I'd ever seen that test before.

                                                      You can add me to the list of fellas up at midnight (ET) cutting the corners off their phone books. My yusuke went through it easily, though not quite effortless. Sharpened a couple weeks ago, I think only to 2k this time, though I did strop. My Hiromoto went through with a little more pressure. It had just spent a couple weeks in a professional kitchen, lent out to a friend who is a cook. It came back surprisingly sharp still - AS steel with a microbevel is a pretty impressive combination. My forschner took a good bit of pressure. But I used it to cut through one of the spine-end's corners, and I have no idea when I last sharpened it - doesn't get much use either, OTOH.

                                                      Definitely cut the easiest with a rolling action.

                                                      My wife might be a little pissed when she sees the phone book.

                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                        "My yusuke went through it easily, though not quite effortless. Sharpened a couple weeks ago, I think only to 2k this time, though I did strop. My Hiromoto went through with a little more pressure. It had just spent a couple weeks in a professional kitchen, lent out to a friend who is a cook....."

                                                        In my case, the push cutting actually works very well. A lot of forward action, I pretty much used about half of the blade length of the CCK knife, but very effortless -- more effortless than I did it a few months back.

                                                        This is obvious, but I might as well say it. As you cut the phone book corner, it get progressively harder because the area of the paper you are cutting increases. Hiromoto may give more pressure feedback because (a) it is not as sharp or as thin, or (b) it is just cutting more paper because it went second.

                                                        I haven't tried the spine end corners, but I assume it is much tougher.

                                                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    Damnit Chem you owe me a phone book. ;)

                                                    Jim

                                                     
                                                    1. re: knifesavers

                                                      Great, knifesaver (Jim)

                                                      :) So which knife did you use to cut the phonebook? By the way, I recognize that ShiBaiZi Chinese cleaver. Is that any good? I have never used one. I heard ok things about them, but when I looked at the steel composition from its website, they are not super impressive, not horrible, but not very outstanding:

                                                      http://www.shibazi.com/cn/product_cla...

                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                        Best $13 cleaver around.;) The belly cut is closer to a German profile.

                                                        Actually all of those cut the book with a variety of pressures. Far more than I would use typically. Just ran them on the honing wheel to dress them up afterwards.

                                                        Jim

                                                  3. re: damian

                                                    It's not so much that it's impossible to get a ceramic edge as sharp as you can get a knife made out of decent steel. In theory, a ceramic edge can get very sharp.

                                                    It's more so that in reality, ceramic knifemakers sharpen their edges only well enough. Ceramics generally come sharper than most factory edges on mass produced knives. I've never seen one that a man could comfortably shave his face with - on the other hand, I've sharpened up some of my carbon steel knives to that point (and yes, even shaved with one, as a dumb sort of test of my own sharpening skill). Likewise, ceramic edges tend to be smooth and not have a lot of 'bite' that can help when cutting food.

                                                    There are a couple factors working against ceramics from a sharpness perspective:
                                                    - They are difficult to sharpen - not only by you at home, but even at the factory, which is why they don't come really 'scary sharp' when new.
                                                    - They are so brittle that ceramic knifemakers won't apply as acute an edge angle as they might with a high quality steel. On top of that, they tend to be rather thick behind their edges as well (which increases resistance while cutting). This is all to make sure a ceramic knife's edge is stable enough not to chip terribly in a kitchen environment. Of course, chips still happen anyway.

                                                    I agree with Chem - if the ceramic kitchen knives you've handled have been sharper than any freshly sharpened steel knife you've had, either your knives are made of subpar-to-mediocre steel or your sharpener is doing a mediocre job. No offense is intended to you or your sharpener - I'm just speaking bluntly (har).

                                                    Also note - you don't necessarily need a knife that costs a fortune to see how sharp steel can get. My Tossagata nakiri and CCK are currently sharper than any ceramic knife I've seen on the market, and neither was particularly expensive. Even my old forschner, when it's freshly sharpened, will reliably out-perform a ceramic. Of course, it's taken some practice on the stones for me to be able to get them there.

                                            3. re: damian

                                              Use the sharpest knive you have.

                                              1. re: scubadoo97

                                                "Use the sharpest knive you have."
                                                __________
                                                When it comes down to it, this is probably the best advice. As long as that knife isn't serrated or a paring knife or something.

                                                Like I said above, this kind of cut has more to do with your skill using a knife than it does with the differences between, say, a filet knife vs a sujihiki.

                                                If the OP is interested in buying a knife anyway or learning how best to sharpen up, I'm sure we'll have many suggestions. But for the sake of cutting that kind of kalbi, you mainly want a sharp knife and skills.

                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                  Well put. Thank you.

                                                2. re: scubadoo97

                                                  Succinct!!

                                                  1. re: scubadoo97

                                                    Agree. It has more to do with skill and then the sharpest of the knife (which related to one's ability to sharpen a knife).

                                                3. re: scubadoo97

                                                  scubadoo,

                                                  Not sure how I missed your post, but I did. Yes, a sakai usuba.... I paid too much. I bought it for $129, but I just noticed it has a sudden price drop to $85. Oh well, such as a life. Win some, lose some. :)

                                                  http://www.ebay.com/itm/Japanese-SAKA...

                                                  About your Tojiro Shirogami.... is that an usuba you are talking about?

                                                  Edited. Opps, I looked at the wrong knife. This is the one:

                                                  http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?...

                                                  I was looking at a nakiri.

                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    No Chem, just a 210 gyuto

                                                    1. re: scubadoo97

                                                      Good to know, scubadoo. So I assume you did the rotational cut on the cutting board then. The technique which you roll the cucumber on the cutting board and slices the knife at the bottom of the cucumber (just barely on top of the cutting board), right? A long gyuto is needed since it gives a longer straight edge section.

                                2. One other very important thing - What is your knife sharpening strategy?
                                  If you already have one, great, and if you don't you've got to start thinking about it, like or not, because 'wang kalbi' requires a very sharp knife.

                                  46 Replies
                                  1. re: rosetown

                                    Great question. I have a honing steel, which I use regularly, though I realize that this is not the same as sharpening.

                                    I also have a whetstone, but last time I tried to use it (years ago), I scraped up my knives and vowed to never try to sharpen a knife myself again. From then on, I've had my knives sharpened professionally, maybe once a year.

                                    If I need an incredibly sharp knife, as for wang kalbi, how often do I need to have my knife sharpened?

                                    Is it worth learning to sharpen knives myself, or am I better off trusting a professional?

                                    Can you point me to a good resource on do-it-yourself knife sharpening, please?

                                    1. re: damian

                                      Can I ask you why do you want Wang Galbi (King rib) as opposed the much easier LA rib? Are you trying to be as traditional as possibly.

                                      The photo you linked to is crazy thin, which I believe the meat must have been partial frozen and cut with a real sharp knife. My guess is that most Wang Galbi in the old days is probably closer to this:

                                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kor...

                                      I don't know how sharp you need your knife for wang kalbi. I do know sushi chefs sharpen their knives every single day after work.

                                      There are many good knife sharpening videos on the website.

                                      Thomas Stuckey has some quick and rough sharpening videos. His videos are more general and apply well for Japanese and European knives:

                                      http://www.youtube.com/user/expertvil...

                                      Jon has several knife sharpening video. This one may be most interesting for you as it teaches single bevel knife sharpening:

                                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvDjAS...

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        Thanks for the videos. I'll check them out.

                                        For details on my interest in Wang Galbi, see the other thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/828310

                                        The short answer is this: I first got interested in king-style Korean short ribs because I read that upscale restaurants in Korea almost always served it king-style rather than LA-style, and I figured they probably had a good reason why.

                                        I'm not interested in tradition for tradition's sake. However, I have found that the thinner the meat, the more I enjoy it. And I eat only grass-fed beef, which I haven't found pre-sliced at the Korean market. My butcher can cut grass-fed short ribs pretty thin LA-style, but I've been wondering whether I might get it even thinner king-style. Also, I thought it might be more satisfying to eat the meat separate from the bone.

                                        But this is all just speculation, at this point. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding, so I plan to start experimenting in the next couple of days.

                                        By the way, I don't see how the meat could have been partially frozen in the photo I attached, because wang galbi is cut ribbon-style or accordion-style, and I don't see how one could cut around the curves with breaking the meat if it were even partially frozen.

                                        1. re: damian

                                          "because I read that upscale restaurants in Korea almost always served it king-style rather than LA-style, and I figured they probably had a good reason why."

                                          My swallow understanding is that it is more traditional. Afterall, LA cut would have been impossible with the invention of bandsaw and freezer. :)

                                          Since we are talking about rotation cut, I think this video may be helpful to you. This guy can do way better than I can. For one, he is working with a very long daikon. In addition, he is cutting very fine.

                                          http://youtu.be/eC7EUa-S_qs

                                          "because wang galbi is cut ribbon-style or accordion-style, and I don't see how one could cut around the curves with breaking the meat if it were even partially frozen."

                                          Not completely frozen, just frozen to the point of "stiffen" it up. This is just a guess -- without any real basis. I could be totally wrong. Good luck.

                                          1. re: damian

                                            The knife in my roll I would attempt this with is a fillet knife. The already thin 8 in. Victorinox may work for something like this-although you could thin the edge some further which I have done to facilitate cutting thin meat/fish cuts.

                                            http://www.cutleryandmore.com/victori...

                                        2. re: damian

                                          I'm loath to recommend a sharpening strategy - that's up to you to decide.

                                          If you are currently satisfied, with professional sharpening firms, then just continue.

                                          But for 'wang kalbi' you would be well advised to dedicate a knife and have it sharpened professionally by a firm that understands and values a Japanese blade.

                                          If you actually want to sharpen all your knives yourself, then others can make recommendations.

                                          1. re: rosetown

                                            reply to self but really to Damian:

                                            So there have been a flurry of posts this afternoon and evening (16JAN12)

                                            I'm wondering:
                                            o - is your professional sharpener any good
                                            o - is your maintenance of professionally sharpened knives sufficient.
                                            o - a properly sharpened $100.00 knife should be very sharp - why isn't it?
                                            o - when was the last time your steel knives were professionally sharpened.
                                            o - do you protect the sharpened edges.
                                            o - you said that the ceramic knife was wanting when you tried to thinly slice veal.
                                            o - do you have sufficient ardour to seek out a great professional knife sharpener?
                                            o - do you have sufficient ardour to maintain a great professionally sharpened knife?
                                            o - do you have sufficient ardour to sharpen knives yourself?

                                            One reason I'm asking these questions is because you've now been asking about using a mandoline, and you know that a mandoline will not provide 'wang galbi'. I'm concerned about your commitment to your quest. And I love the quest.

                                            1. re: rosetown

                                              Thank you, Rosetown, for the encouragement. I must admit that the idea of spending time and money buying and sharpening knives does not particularly appeal to me, given that my time and money are in short supply. But I am a perfectionist by nature, so that probably won't stop me.

                                              To be clear, I wasn't meaning to suggest that my steel knives aren't sharp. They are very sharp indeed. It's just that my ceramic knife seems to be sharper. And I think the reason I struggled with the veal short ribs wasn't because the knife wasn't sharp enough, but because (a) the ceramic knife has a blunted point, which made stabbing/grabbing the meat extremely difficult, (b) it was the most difficult job I've ever cut, because the meat was so small and the casing so intractable, and (c) my knife-wielding skills are rather limited, given that I have very limited experience cutting meat.

                                              But I appreciate your support nonetheless. I hear everything that's been said thus far about ceramic knives, but I frankly won't be convinced that steel is sharper until and unless I see some scientific data to prove it (I've been looking on Google and have yet to find any data, but I'll keep looking).

                                              1. re: damian

                                                You don't need to see scientific data - the kind of data you're talking about doesn't exist. You just need to handle a truly sharp steel knife and compare that to the ceramic knives on the market today.

                                                In terms of sharpness:
                                                Well sharpened steel = theoretically well sharpened ceramic > ceramic edges as they actually are sold on kitchen knives > factory edges on most steel knives = the work of many professional sharpeners

                                                The thing about a well sharpened steel edge is you can achieve this with whetstones and practice, with an Edge Pro or similar sharpening system, or by finding the right pro sharpener. If you're curious, I could recommend a few pro sharpeners who do fantastic work and take knives by mail order. That way you could see what we're talking about.

                                                Barring that, try shaving your face with your ceramic kitchen knife (don't try too hard - the difficulties should be readily apparent, without the need for a bunch of band-aids). Then take a look at this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsUw4C...

                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                  Ok, fair enough. Out of curiosity, do you have any experience with Kyocera ceramic knives? I've got one of them, and as I said, it's ridiculously sharp (though perhaps I have yet to experience a steel knife that's even sharper), and the factory will re-sharpen it for free.

                                                  As for pro sharpeners, yes, please recommend. I would prefer someone local—I live in Berkeley, California—but I'd be willing to mail if I can get sharper knives and the price is right.

                                                  As for the "edge pro" to which you prefer, are you referring to the Smith Abrasives Diamond Edge Pro Electric Knife and Scissors Sharpener available at http://www.amazon.com/Smith-Abrasives... or something else? And will this give me as sharp a blade as will a professional?

                                                  1. re: damian

                                                    "as I said, it's ridiculously sharp "

                                                    Like scubadoo said, your frame of reference is off. I have already given you two links which people have used Kyocera and both do not think very highly of it. Since you said your ceramic knife is so sharp, then please do this test for us. Cut your phone book with your sharp ceramic knife in a single motion. Several of us have already done it, knifesavers did it with several of his steel knives, I have tested it with three of my steel knvies (Watanabe, CCK, Dexter-Russell), and cowboyardee have also done this with several of his knives. Some of the steel knives we are talking about are inexpensive ones like my $38 CCK, and knifesavers' $18 ShiBaZhi.

                                                    It is a real practical test of cutting an object, and all of us have a yellowpage phonebook and they are made the same -- a very well control study. If you cannot do it, then it is not very sharp.

                                                    1. re: damian

                                                      I have used Kyocera ceramics. I had one for about a year. They seem to be the most well-known and reliable maker of ceramics, though other ceramic knives I've seen seem to have pretty similar quality and sharpness (though they're a little more likely than Kyoceras to have design flaws).

                                                      I don't know anyone in Berkeley. But I know of a couple guys in California. Japanese Knife Imports is run by an occasional poster on this site. It is in Venice, CA. He knows his sharpening. Here is a link: http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/a...

                                                      I know Ken of Precise Knife Sharpening was on the West coast, but I'm not sure if he's still in the sharpening business.

                                                      Dave Martell of Japanese Knife Sharpening is out in PA, but he accepts knives via mail. He's perhaps the best regarded sharpener I know of, though he specializes in Japanese knives. Here is a link: http://www.japaneseknifesharpening.com/

                                                      Obviously, a downside of these guys is they are expensive. There may be cheaper pros who will do a similarly decent job, but I don't know of them in your area.

                                                      The end result is also dependent on your knife. Some sharpen up well and some... less so. What do you use?

                                                      And by 'Edge Pro,' I do not mean the Smith Abrasives sharpener, but this un-powered system: http://www.chefknivestogo.com/edgepro...
                                                      It's what's known as a 'jig.' Obviously, it also has the downside of being fairly expensive.

                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                        Thanks, cowboyardee, for the info.

                                                        I'm much newer to cooking and cutlery than probably most of y'all. All I have is the 5.5 inch Kyocera I mentioned, a Henckels 4-star chef's knife, a Henckels stainless ~4 inch paring knife, a cheap Chinese vegetable cleaver, and a Hue ~3 inch ceramic paring knife.

                                                        Last time I got my steel knives professionally sharpened, the pro used only a simple whetstone. Is that a good sign, or a bad sign—as compared to pros with fancy machinery—or is that not enough info to evaluate?

                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                          I lived in Berkeley and went to Cal. I am sure there are many knife sharpeners there. How many of them are good is another question. It takes some skills and patience to be get the hang of sharpen a knife. The truth is that it takes some "love". :)

                                                          Ok, not love love, but you and I know this. Sometime it takes awhile to know your knife. What angle it can handle, what can't it handle. Do I put a compound edge? Let's take my recent usuba for example, it took me awhile to get to know it, and I am still learning it after three sharpening sessions. Meanwhile, I think I have a pretty good idea what my CCK and my Tojiro characteristics.

                                                          If we are talking about well known brand like Wusthof or Henckels, then I think many knife sharpeners can do something about it. If we talking about your sakai gyuto, then it will take a good knife sharpner and a bit of time to get it right.

                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                            By the way, if I can't afford an Edge Pro right now (which I can't), would you recommend I try using a traditional whetstone (or something in between), or am I better off going to a professional until I can afford an Edge Pro for myself?

                                                            1. re: damian

                                                              I understand that you already have a stone - do you know what grit?
                                                              Assuming that you have a very limited budget:
                                                              o - when you receive your yanagiba do a paper cutting test with the factory edge
                                                              o - report back here with the results
                                                              o - if necessary have the yanagiba professionally sharpened by a great
                                                              ----professional sharpener
                                                              o - if you can sharpen your other steel knives with your existing equipment
                                                              ----then great
                                                              o - if not, and you have 10 dollars to spend, you can sharpen your steel knives
                                                              ---- (not including the yanagiba) by purchasing a 2 stage manual sharpener.
                                                              ----This is not ideal but way better than nothing and with a minimal cost.
                                                              o - then there is maintenance - honing & stropping - shouldn't cost a dime

                                                              1. re: rosetown

                                                                I thought I had a stone, but it seems to have disappeared, so now I have nothing.

                                                                Can you recommend a two-stage manual sharpener for me to buy?

                                                                Should I not try sharpening a yanagiba, because it requires more advanced sharpening skills than regular kitchen knives?

                                                                And do I need to strop kitchen knives? Wikipedia says honing alone is adequate: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stroppin...

                                                                Finally, can you or someone else point me to a good web-based primer on knife sharpening?

                                                                Thanks again for your help.

                                                                1. re: damian

                                                                  I assume, perhaps wrongly, that you don't have the budget to purchase stones to properly bring a yanagiba to razor sharp.

                                                                  1. re: rosetown

                                                                    I think you assume correctly :) Does the yanagiba require expensive stones, or are you simply saying that any knife requires expensive stones to bring them to razor sharp?

                                                                    If the latter, I might just have my knives professionally sharpened until I can afford fancy stones and/or an Edge Pro.

                                                                    Speaking of which, will the Edge Pro sharpen a yanagiba?

                                                                    And regarding the fancy stones: What price range are we talking here?

                                                                    1. re: damian

                                                                      Others, more competent than me can answer your questions.
                                                                      I was thinking that it would be terrific to have one knife in your arsenal, that is razor sharp and that it would be the yanagiba and that the yanagiba would be your treasured knife for 'wang galbi'.
                                                                      Edit: I was assuming that the yanagiba would be the only knife sharpened by a great pro. Just thinking about limited budget.

                                                                      1. re: rosetown

                                                                        Makes sense. Wang galbi is my current mission, so your suggested plan sounds like a good one :)

                                                                        1. re: rosetown

                                                                          rosetown,

                                                                          I think daimian might not have gotten a real yanagiba in our narrow definition. I don't his is one of those white or blue carbon steel yanagiab of more than $100, let alone the more professional versions of more than $500.

                                                                          damian,

                                                                          I will reply to your question later. I am occupied by a few things here.

                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                            Thanks, Chemi. Here's the knife I got:

                                                                            http://www.amazon.com/Mercer-Cutlery-...

                                                                            MSRP $50, sushi chef reviewer says it's worth 4 times it's price, found it on sale for $16, in the mail as we speak :)

                                                                            1. re: damian

                                                                              The product listed on Amazon is listed as both a yanagiba or a sujihinki. The yanagiba is a single grind/bevel on front side and a concave back side. A sujihiki has got a bevel on both sides and is a western equivalent to a slicer.

                                                                              The yanagiba is a bit more difficult to sharpen due to the concave back side. Sometimes a small relief bevel is applied to the back side but the back is flattened with the stone. If you rub the knife's backside flat on a stone and if it's concave you will see the sharpening or polishing marks around the periphery of the blade but the center will be untouched due to the concave grind. Just a little more complex but overall it's still just sharpening using basic techniques

                                                                            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                              "I think daimian might not have gotten a real yanagiba in our narrow definition. I don't his is one of those white or blue carbon steel yanagiab of more than $100, let alone the more professional versions of more than $500."

                                                                              I'm with you on this one - do you think that it cannot be brought to razor sharp? - do you think that edge will deteriorate rapidly if it can be brought to razor sharp?

                                                                              I'm thinking, perhaps wrongly, that it can be brought to razor sharp, and when cutting parallel to the cutting board, with no contact with the cutting board, the edge has a much longer life. I stand to be corrected. ;)

                                                                              1. re: rosetown

                                                                                I'd be worried that it's not actually single beveled. Some of the sub-$100 yanagibas have a microbevel on the back side rather than the concave back of a real yanagiba. They do this so they can use a softer, lower grade steel and not have the edge fold immediately. The problem then is it doesn't cut like a yanagiba - it just looks like one.

                                                                                No way to know for sure without buying it and checking. If it does in fact have a microbevel on the back side, then a thinner double beveled knife would work better.

                                                                                BTW to Damian - I tried butterflying a squared off pork medallion in the manner of king-style kalbi. Used my gyuto (Japanese chefs knife). It worked fine and wasn't too hard to do. I did not chill the meat before cutting. Cut it into a thin, narrow (because the medallion wasn't thick) 2 ft long strip. The hard part isn't even cutting it thin but just keeping it as uniform as the cuts in your linked photo. That seems to require more concentration than I was able to muster, though I took a few pictures while I was doing it, which also made things tougher.

                                                                                The knife wasn't a big factor aside from it being quite sharp - I touched it up for a few strokes on a high grit stone before starting.

                                                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                  Thanks, Cowboy. Can you recommend a simple stone and web-based primer for me to use while I save up for an Edge Pro?

                                                                                  1. re: damian

                                                                                    As free web based primers go, Mark from Chef Knives to Go has a very good series of videos for a beginner.
                                                                                    http://www.chefknivestogo.com/vitu.html

                                                                                    I also like jbroida's videos (he was one of the pro sharpeners I recommended before). He doesn't cover the basics quite as thoroughly as Mark from Chef knives to go, but he understands the process a little better I think. I also think his basic sharpening motion is a good one to emulate:
                                                                                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKeSRD...
                                                                                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-POg4...
                                                                                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECfHNB...
                                                                                    There are more sharpening videos under his youtube account.

                                                                                    As for stones, I recommend starting with a (comparatively) affordable Japanese synthetic waterstone in the 1000 grit range (800 or 1200 are fine too). Some good options:
                                                                                    http://www.chefknivestogo.com/ki800gr... - nice all around affordable stone
                                                                                    http://www.chefknivestogo.com/bester1... - more expensive, but it's large and lasts a really long time
                                                                                    http://www.amazon.com/Woodstock-Steel... - Fairly inexpensive, and it's a combo stone that gives you a fine 6000 grit side to create a polished edge if you want. An excellent option as a first stone goes, but it's probably not among the most durable stones on the market.
                                                                                    http://www.amazon.com/Japanese-Profes... - first stone that I bought. Also not super durable. Also dual sided, but this one has a 1k side along with a coarse side. The coarse side is useful for repairs and for very dull knives, though it's open for debate whether using a coarse stone is a good idea for a beginner. I'm in the 'yea' camp and think it can help you learn more quickly, but others object because of the ease of damaging your knives with a coarse stone.

                                                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                      Thank you, cowboy. This is extremely helpful.

                                                                      2. re: damian

                                                                        Using a 2 stage manual sharper on a yanagiba would be a disaster and a complete travesty. The yanagiba needs to be treated with respect and perhaps even reverence. :D

                                                                        1. re: rosetown

                                                                          I thought you might say something like that. It's just that I'm new to this game, so I don't even know what a two-stage manual sharpener is :)

                                                                          As for sharpening it with an edge pro, I found an answer elsewhere:

                                                                          "You could probably sharpen the bevel side of your yanagi on the edge pro, but you would still have get a stone to remove the burr off the back."

                                                                          1. re: damian

                                                                            Let's just say that after this thread, you will know a lot more about knives and sharpening than roll cutting your short rib

                                                                            1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                              I'm learning much more about knives and sharpening than I bargained for! :)

                                                                              As for roll-cutting short ribs, I'm learning quite a bit over at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/828310

                                                                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                    Makes sense. Thanks for the info, fellow bear :)

                                                              2. re: cowboyardee

                                                                "Barring that, try shaving your face with your ceramic "

                                                                or with an ax :>

                                                                http://www.razoredgesystems.com/video...

                                                                1. re: bbqJohn

                                                                  I see your ax and raise you a spoon:
                                                                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4oHzF...

                                                              3. re: damian

                                                                Once you experience REALLY sharp, your frame of reference will shift. Ceramics are sharp but in no way are they sharper than a well sharpened Japanese knife. And ceramics are more difficult to maintain so I just don't see the appeal.

                                                                Yes other knives can be just as sharp as Japanese knives but the Japanese have really cornered the market for their steel and overall knife geometry.

                                                                1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                  Well spoken. Though my Kyocera ceramic is currently my favorite knife, I'm gradually being persuaded to branch out.

                                                                  1. re: damian

                                                                    Okay, so I've finally fulfilled the original purpose of this thread: to help me prepare "king-style" Korean BBQ short ribs (aka, wang kalbi), in which the meat is filleted away from the bone as thinly as possible using a roll/ribbon/accordion-cut.

                                                                    All the details about my experience, and an explanation as to why I probably won't be doing this again, can be found in the thread about Korean BBQ short ribs I created at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8283...

                                                                    But for the purpose of this thread, I'll say this:

                                                                    Whomever said that skill is the most important factor in cutting king-style short ribs was right. The knife seemed to matter much less than my relative lack of skill (which is expectable, given my lack of experience with butchery in general and wang kalbi in particular). That said, if I were to do it again, I'd want to use a different knife than my 5.5-inch Kyocera ceramic slicing knife (I only used this knife because it's currently the sharpest knife I own):

                                                                    1. I'd want a longer knife, so I wouldn't need to make as many back-and-forth movements, which shift the meat and make it more difficult to cut evenly.

                                                                    2. I'd want a thinner knife, so as to reduce drag while cutting, which made it difficult to make a quick, clean cut.

                                                                    3. I'd want a sharper knife—which y'all have convinced me is possible—so as to make the cut cleaner.

                                                                    4. I'd want a knife with magical powers that would automagically cut the meat at a uniform level of extreme thinness.

                                                                    The photos are not terribly impressive, but they juxtapose my cutting to LA-style cross-cut ribs (which I discovered that I much prefer, as I explain at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8283... ). In the first photo, the meat is unpounded; in the second photo, the meat has been pounded flat.

                                                                     
                                                                     
                                                                    1. re: damian

                                                                      A really great report in both threads. I'm glad you made the effort. It's been a great journey for all of us. When you receive your sushi knife please report back whether it is a single or double bevel knife. If I understood Scubadoo97 right it could be either. If it is a single bevel then I hope that you are right handed. :) Still, I have learned alot.

                                                                      1. re: rosetown

                                                                        Glad you enjoyed my reports :)

                                                                        I'll let y'all know what kind of knife I bought when I get it. The price tag, plus the lack of specification as to exactly what kind of knife it is, as well as the fact that it doesn't specify right- vs. left-handed, suggest to me that it's double-bevel, but I'll let you know regardless.

                                                                        Anyway, even if I don't end up using it to try making wang kalbi again, I do love sashimi, so I'll probably try it for that sometime.

                                                                        On an unrelated note, I'm kind of amazed at the passion, knowledge, and interest of people here on chowhound. I've known about the site for years, but this is the first time I've really gotten into the fray. Talking to y'all about cooking is much more fun and educational for me than talking about cooking with friends offline :)

                                                                        1. re: damian

                                                                          Okay, the Mercer Cutlery knife just arrived in the mail, and it's definitely a yanagiba, despite some people's suspicions to the contrary. As I said, I paid only $16 for it, but it normally sells for about $50 ( http://www.amazon.com/Mercer-Cutlery-... ). It's definitely single bevel (right-handed), and much longer than I expected. I guess I didn't think about how long 12 inches actually was, but the advantage is that there's less back-and-forth sawing that shifts the meat while slicing, I suppose. As I wrote elsewhere in this discussion ( http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8283... ), I've given up on wang kalbi, for now, but I'll be sure to try this next time I cut sashimi! By the way, it passes the paper test. As for the phone book test, I don't have a hard copy, and I'm not willing to slice my laptop, so I'll have to pass on that particular test for now.

                                                                      2. re: damian

                                                                        I didn't think there is anything wrong with LA-style.... Restaurants and especially high end restaurants use King-style because that is the traditional method. In old times, before the invention of electric band saw and freezer, LA-style should have been impossible, so the only way to do it is the King style.

                                                                        There are a lot of advantages to LA style. You can simply cut thinner (not that itself is an advantages), faster and more uniform. You get to keep the meat around the bone stays around the bones during grilling, and a lot of people believe the meat around the bones are the best. In King style, you would have remove the meat around the bones.....etc.

                                                                        There is nothing wrong with King style... it just that there is also nothing wrong with LA-style.

                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                          You're absolutely right. It's just that I needed to *see* it (and taste it) for myself :)

                                                                          1. re: damian

                                                                            Being a Bear (Cal), you probably just don't like UCLA, and therefore doubt LA cut.... that's why.

                                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                              Ha! You're probably right :)

                                                        2. Hi, damian:

                                                          Incredibly thin? A microtome?

                                                          Aloha,
                                                          Kaleo

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: kaleokahu

                                                            Ha! I wish :)

                                                          2. I recently purchased a CCK Duck Knife. It is pretty sharp and can cut meat pretty thin. I used it to cut carpaccio (partially frozen). Here in Vancouver it runs around $36. (Here is a photo I took the day I bought it.)

                                                             
                                                            15 Replies
                                                            1. re: fmed

                                                              Make sense.

                                                              1. re: fmed

                                                                I imagine the wide blade makes it easier to cut the meat to a uniform level of thinness, yes?

                                                                1. re: fmed

                                                                  Fmed - can you tell us more about CCK duck knife.

                                                                  o - length/width
                                                                  o - thickness of the spine - does it thin from the collar to to the front of the blade
                                                                  o - change in thickness from spine to cutting edge
                                                                  o - balance point
                                                                  o - stainless or carbon steel
                                                                  o - place of purchase
                                                                  o - other observations in use

                                                                  I'll be visiting Vancouver in March during Alaska king crab season - for the 3rd time.

                                                                  Duane

                                                                  1. re: rosetown

                                                                    :) Make some Peking duck first.

                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                      Funny that you should say that - I have a buddy living in Saskatoon who's planning on making Peking duck - so I was thinking that a duck knife would make an excellent gift.

                                                                    2. re: rosetown

                                                                      Hi Duane

                                                                      o - length/width
                                                                      21cm/5cm in the middle and about 1/8" less at the ends of the blade owing to the slight curvature

                                                                      o - thickness of the spine - does it thin from the collar to to the front of the blade
                                                                      I think it is 1.15mm (assuming I am reading my dollar store callipers correctly (I have attached an image of the calliper with the measure) and it stays constant

                                                                      o - change in thickness from spine to cutting edge
                                                                      It starts to bevel at around the halfway point.

                                                                      o - balance point
                                                                      15.5 cm from the front end

                                                                      o - stainless or carbon steel
                                                                      carbon

                                                                      o - place of purchase
                                                                      Tinland (You know the place well Duane!)

                                                                      o - other observations in use
                                                                      Sharp! Too early to make any real observations as the only things I have cut with it are beef carpaccio and an Ikea catalog :-) (Who uses phonebooks?!)

                                                                      It think this is a great purchase for $36 CAD (the USD is near parity so $36 USD). It might be relegated to specific uses that I have yet to determine (carpaccio and catalog cutting non-withstanding.)

                                                                      (Duane - look us up when you are in town. Look at my profile to where the forum moved to.)

                                                                      More info....

                                                                      There are fake CCK's being sold in this city and probably everywhere else. It is very hard to tell them apart. The way to do it is to hit the side of the knife with another object. A real CCK will ring like a tuning fork. The fake ones "clunk".

                                                                       
                                                                       
                                                                       
                                                                       
                                                                      1. re: fmed

                                                                        'I have cut with it are beef carpaccio and an Ikea catalog :-) (Who uses phonebooks?!)'

                                                                        Dude, that is the whole point, why are you cutting something useful? :)

                                                                        Nice review. By the way, I just notice that your duck knife is stainless steel.

                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                          Is it? Heh.

                                                                          1. re: fmed

                                                                            Is it what? Is the Ikea catalog useful? Maybe. Is the knife made of stainless steel? Yes.

                                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                              Sorry - yes. "Is the knife stainless?". Thanks. I did not know that. The Ikea catalog is marginally useful. :-)

                                                                              1. re: fmed

                                                                                There are the characters of "不銹锋利" which means "Stainless-Sharp"

                                                                                http://translate.google.com/translate...

                                                                        2. re: fmed

                                                                          Fmed - thanks so much - the detail is exactly what I wanted and the great photos are a bonus. It's kind of a sad comment that some find profit in counterfeiting CCKs given their low price point. Desperation? I did the ring test on my CCK KF1301 and it lasted 5 seconds. Amazing and easy to tell from a clunk. Still I suspect that Tinland doesn't sell counterfeits.

                                                                          For you CCK fans, it was Fmed who helped me source my CCK KF1301 cleaver a number of years ago.

                                                                          Fmed - I'll email you - I'll be 'bladerskate so as to differentiate me from spam. It would be great to get together in March, perhaps lunch, my treat. I've enjoyed a number of Vancouver restaurants due to your recommendations. Tnx again.

                                                                          1. re: rosetown

                                                                            Tinland sells the real deal. Martin there showed me some counterfeits and taught me the ring test.

                                                                            1. re: fmed

                                                                              Are we talking about real counterfeits or knives made to look similar to confuse (but not the same)? For example, Dexter-Russell Chinese cleaver enjoys a good reputation in the West Coast. Another brand name "Daways"or "Daway" looks very similar to Dexter in term of profile and even its Chinese characters on the knife -- not the same, but very similar:

                                                                              http://allnew-online.com/yahoo_site_a...

                                                                              vs

                                                                              http://img1.foodservicewarehouse.com/...

                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                The knives I was shown were "real counterfeit" right down to the CCK signature brown paper wrapper and CCK stamp. The stamps on the blade were identical too.

                                                                    3. You mean like this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwciXw...