Knife Review: Kobayashi Dojo Nakiri
As some of you know, this review has been a while in the making. But i wanted to really put this knife through it's paces and then some, before completing a full review.
We eat a lot of veggies, so the flat blade profile of a nakiri holds a lot of appeal. I have quite a lot of knives but my go to knife for quite a while has been an entry level carbon tosagata santoku. It takes a very sharp edge but ... doesn't hold it so well. So I really wanted some seriously good carbon steel that also would provide edge retention.
I had considered the Tojiro white carbon nakiri but had been concerned that it would be more of the same as my current santoko. I now believe that it is more likely that the steel (and/or) hardening process of my tosagata is probably not what it could be. I have no real evidence per se, but I suspect that a white steel Tojiro nakiri or santoku would hold it's edge quite a bit better than my tosagata.
I had emailed quite a bit with Mark at cktg and this was one that he recommended. One thing that really caught my eye was the "Aogami super steel core". As I understand it, blue steel is usually classified as blue #1, blue #2 or super blue (the latter is exclusively manufactured by Hitachi). The latter has small trace elements that help to make it a bit more resilient. Most knives with super blue steel cores are pretty expensive. So ... for $80 ... a super blue nakiri? Ok - sign me up - I'll try that!
It’s also pretty thin. The back is only 1/16" and tapers gently all the way to the very edge, where there is a very tiny micro-bevel. In this photo, micro-bevel just really isn't visible - but it is there, right at the very edge - and it's merely a fraction of 1 mm. So the blade itself is quite thin right behind that area. Think pretty thin - that’s this nakiri. I'll try to get around to posting another shot, where you'll be able to really see the micro-bevel. Full disclosure: the micro-bevel is likely a tiny bit larger than when I first received the knife, as a result of my sharpening.
Please see the attached photo. It really is one pretty attractive knife. I sent this over to Mark at chefknivestogo as the stock photo really doesn't do this knife justice and he agreed so it's now the one that they use as well.
It turns out that the core steel in this knife is probably NOT Aogami super blue. A few weeks ago, I decided to do some additional research on this knife. There isn't a lot out there. And I could not find any reference for "aogami super blue" connected with this particular nakiri - or the rest of the Dojo line - outside of cktg. I decided to email the folks at japanwoodworker.com, as they also carry it, to see what I might be able to find out. And, after a few back and forths, I managed to get this:
I can not tell you any more than what our rep in Japan said.
"Regarding the item 11.011.03 the knife is made of blue steel #1. We
have asked the maker for details about the blue steel. However, the
maker was saying the information is their business secret . The only
thing we are sure about the steel is that it is the super quality blue
steel." ... He has been making these same knives for over 15+
years, and the quality has been consistent.
So it would seem that the core is actually blue steel #1, rather than true aogami super blue (Hitachi). In any case, this is really good steel. Honestly, I am not bothered in the least and have been VERY pleased with the knife in nearly every respect. I have yet to share this info with Mark but will do so shortly.
I've been using this knife now pretty much daily for a few months. It came very sharp out of the box and it has held that edge quite well. Slicing and chopping ... I’m very pleased. Even hard winter squash like butternut is no problem at all, with little or no wedging resistance. Onions ... just no challenge at all. Brussels sprouts? Those wonderful little morsels with their complex internal structures offer some challenge for a knife. Part of them are a nice clean solid veggie core and the other part a more resilient "mini cabbage kevlar". They do try their best to resist a nice easy clean fast cut and have been known to ruthlessly employ combined techniques like wedging and "giving" instead of just getting chopped, cut and sliced like a well-behaved veggie should. The dojo nakiri makes prepping these a real pleasure. This is a darned good knife!
Retention and sharpening?
I really wanted a blade that would not only take a great edge but also hold it really well. And this knife delivers. I used it constantly for a week and it finally needed only a quick touch-up with my DMT 8000 (xx-fine) grit stone. Only a few few light swipes are needed to bring it back to being able to do pure "push cuts" through paper along the entire edge. If I use it a LOT, without honing, then I'll first do 3-5 light strokes with the DMT 1200 (x-fine), get my burr, reverse it then finish on the xx-fine. IMO, it is very easy to maintain the edge on this knife. Perhaps the flat profile helps?
Ok ok ... but what don't I like?
The negatives? Well this is a more subjective thing. The feel of the knife is really quite decent. I usually use a pinch grip or modified pinch grip. Bottom line - the handle is "fine" and is "reasonably comfortable" and suited to it's function. But, if I could have my true preference, it would be to match this blade with a traditional Japanese handle. My Tosagata has this knife beat in this one respect - the handle is awesome. Again, this is personal taste.
In summary - the Dojo nakiri is one great knife. I hope to someday be able to really compare it to another really good carbon steel offering but this has completely replaced my tosagata santoku as my "go to knife for everything that used to grow".
Jeff (email available on my profile)
Good job, J. It is a nice review. Unlike most people, I don't hang up too much on Aogami #1, #2 or super. It is not that these are not important information, but they are all very good steels when you compared them to the standard Wusthof/Henckels steels. I knew this knife will hold its edge well. Aogami #1 gives you a bit better toughness anyway. As we have discussed before, your Tosagata shirogami santoku probably wasn't tempered correct, so it lost its hardness. I hope you don't give up on the shirogami knives.
If you ever into the market for some aogami knives again, then Watanabe is pretty good. Takeda has great reputation, but a bit too expensive for many people.
A very informative review.
"But, if I could have my true preference, it would be to match this blade with a traditional Japanese handle."
Ironic, as this handle I really like...full tang, riveted, durable and sturdy looking. Lots of Japanese handles seem cheap to me. It could be I'm just more comfortable with blades that are more like "SUV"'s than "sportscars!"
They are both durable. If medieval warriors can use insert stick weapons to bash shields and cut armors, then it is untrue to claim kitchen knives need to have the full tang riveted design to be durable. It actually does not make sense from an engineering point of view. There are a lot of misinformation floating around due to marketing. Many claim that knives need to made with a forged bolster to be durable, but if you ask them, they won't able to explain why. This is because it is not true. Think about it. Of all the kitchen knives, the meat cleaver is the one take on the most abusive jobs, yet meat cleavers are usually made without a bolster.
The insert design with a stick tang is very durable. Ironically, the riveted design came about due to modern machining because a machine could automate the riveted design, but the insert design required a craftsman. It was invented to be the cheap alternative. Modern machining can now handle both.
Let me quote Chad Ward:
"In fact, it wasn't until after World War I that a full tang and slab handles even became practical, much less desirable in the kitchen. Stainless steel was introduced in England in 1914 , but it took several years to work the kinks out (well, that and there was that pesky World War to deal with). Until that time, and for quite a while afterward, knife blades were made of carbon steel. Carbon steel rusts and corrodes readily. The last thing you want is a way for moisture and goo to get inside the handle. That's a big reason hidden tangs were de rigueur, there was only one entrance point, the juncture between the blade and handle. A full tang with riveted handles provides the equivalent of valet parking all the way around the perimeter of the handle for crud to work its way between the tang and slabs."
So I will argue that the stick tang insert design (often associated with Japan) is in fact the more traditional, durable SUV approach. Now, don't get me wrong. I like the modern full tang riveted design just as much -- ask Dave5440 and he can vouch for me.
yeah, meat cleaver, good point. And general knife work such as breaking down poultry, or lighter meat fab...that's where I'm more likely not pinch grip, but rely on a robust handle for leverage and heft....and those knives usually always have a beefy handle. Plus there's an excuse to own a few different kinds of knives. The handles of the couple of "hidden tang" or "stick insert" blades I've had a chance at, felt a bit loose to me, could be they were abused.
So far, there has been very little food adhesion. If I'm prepping a LOT of stuff, the occasional piece will try and "hang on" to the right side of the blade (I'm right handed) - but it'll get knocked off with my next chop/slice - and that next piece doesn't try to do so as well.
I use it pretty much exclusively for all veggies, and the occasional piece of cooked chicken, when I'm too lazy to get out the santoku merely to slice up one cutlet.
Most of what I prep very regularly with this knife includes a lot of winter squash: butternut, spaghetti, kabocha (awesome), and sometimes acorn. Also a LOT of brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, and onions. We also really like korean squash (see photo). But most of these are prepped via my spiral slicer ... which will be a different review.
Great review Jeff, you sure put it through its paces, I was sold untill I looked at the pic, gorgous blade but the handle's a deal breaker. I'm thourghly sold on traditional J handles, Chem may be indifferent but not me. I also (not intentionally) don't own one kinfe with a full tang and rivets, well other than my G-ma's machette that she made in the late 50s, I think the style/looks never appealed to me without being concious of why.
For breaking down chicken I just use the tip of my gyoto or deba there's no call for leverage for that task and cutting meat same gyoto.
I understand and no offense taken. The blade is GREAT. It is vastly superior to all my other knives - even the santoku immediately after a sharpening just doesn't compare. The Dojo is in a league of it's own in my knife block. The others must bow down in supplication on a daily basis.
The handle is nice enough - I do LIKE it but I don't LOVE it. All my future knives will have the Japanese version. But I am very happy that I bought the nakiri!
I did look around a fair bit before pulling the trigger and I couldn't find a blue steel core nakiri for anything even close to $80. If you know of something that I don't ... please don't be shy!
Yes that is a steel for blue#1, and I mean no disrespect as to your choice it sounds and looks great, but I couldn't get past the handle, I find it odd that they wouldn't make it with a wa handle as well. I wonder how hard it would be to install a J handle on it. I think I will start looking for a knife with a full tang at some pawn shops and see if I can change it. CKTG sell a few cheap ones to try with, as it is pretty easy to install once the tang is cut to fit.