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Jun 22, 2012 02:06 PM

looking for knife gift

for a recent CIA grad who has just received a shun chef's knife. obviously, i'm looking for something different (does a gyuto count here?) in a knife, and perhaps a step up in quality.

have other people pitching in, so let's not worry about cost too much, but don't want to get carried away, either.

i should add the recipient is left handed.

many thanks, knife mavens.

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  1. Lefty myself, and big Japanese knife enthusiast to boot.

    Honestly, your post is just a little too open to answer right now - I can think of literally hundreds of knives that would make a great gift for a lefty cooking school grad. A few more specific questions:

    - Are you looking for something that wows in its appearance or in its performance?
    - Any thoughts on preference in terms of carbon steel vs stainless steel?
    - Any preference as to whether you'd prefer to get a chefs knife or maybe something more specialized like a slicer or a boning knife?
    - Does the CIA grad do any sharpening, and if not do you think they might be inclined to learn?

    If you are looking to get a gyuto, and price isn't a big deal, you might consider getting a knife that's specifically made for a lefty. Gyutos are typically ground asymmetrically, not just at their edge, but over the entire blade, which helps the knife cut straight while also helping food release from the face of the blade. Special ordering a knife ground for a lefty can really make a knife feel like a special gift, and many makers will sell you such a knife for a markup of about 30% and a few weeks of waiting.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cowboyardee

      I should also note that it depends on the knife how much of a difference it makes to have it custom made for a lefty. The Yusuke gyuto I had custom made (chem linked to the thread) is so thin that it only has a very slight convex bias, and the difference is very subtle. Meanwhile, a carbonext sujihiki (slicer) I bought later (and have not yet reviewed here, sadly) has such a pronounced righty bias in its overall grind that it's difficult for a lefty to use.

      In either case, I still feel a lefty grind can make a knife feel more special and personal, and again, almost all Japanese knives have some kind of bias in their overall grind, very slight or not.

    2. linus,

      Awesome. Cowboyardee has it right. I think it is cool that you have a very open-ended question, but it is also difficult to start. Assuming you do want a gyuto and cost is not too limited (under $300), then I would get a left handed one as cowboyardee has mentioned. More importantly, it is important to know if your CIA grad has sufficient knife sharpening skill. The greatest knife without maintenance sharpening will turn into a Walmart quality knife. Since the recent CIA grad has received a Shun Chef;s knife, an important question is: Do you want to give him sometime very different or do you want to replace that Shun knife? A gyuto is a great knife, but it will more or less replace the Shun Chef's knife. So beware of that.

      Cowboyardee has an awesome yet affordable gyuto, and it is carbon steel:

      Petek has a Moritaka gyuto, but due to additional care required for a carbon steel knife, he has recent acquired a semi-stainless steel Konosuke HD gyuto and loves it:

      I have a Watanabe Nakiri and a very inexpensive CCK Chinese thin cleaver (<$40), and I love both of them and use them regularly:

      I guess what I am saying is that knife can be personal, so if you can give us a few more hints, then we probably will able to better narrow down your choice. Thanks for your inputs.

      13 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        The kono HD is such an amazing knife, I prefer almost every detail of it compared to the considerably more expensive Masamoto KS I bought at the same time. I left a brief review of both knives in another thread a while ago, but I just wanted to restate how enamored I am with my konosuke hd wa gyuto.

        That being said, with the goft recipient having just received a shun chefs knife, Im not sure a gyuto would be my first choice for a gift assuming he really likes his shun. I would suggest a 150 mm petty, as a paring knife/petty is the second most used knife in most people's bags. Not knowing how into sharpening and knife upkeep the recent grad is, I think something like a 150mm petty would be a great gift. The kono HH is completely stainless meaning it can take some abuse and would probably be my suggestion knowing as little as I do about the recipient. The fact that its completely stainless makes it much more hassle free to use during service IMHO. I would recommend getting it with the available saya (case)

        1. re: twyst

          <I left a brief review of both knives in another thread a while ago>

          Yeah, I think you did. Do you mind putting a link here? The original poster may benefit from it.

          <Im not sure a gyuto would be my first choice for a gift assuming he really likes his shun>

          I was thinking just that. A gyuto will compete with the Shun knife. So a different knife may be better, not sure.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            It's pretty brief and isnt really worth posting when comparing to petek and cowboys excellent and thorough reviews but here you go!


            A standard masamoto ks would be pretty much unusable for a lefty because of the d shaped handle and the grind, but the kono handle is octagonal and I think the grind is 50/50 so its usable by both lefties and righties.

            1. re: twyst

              <It's pretty brief >

              Brief reviews have their own charms. They are like presidential debriefing :)

        2. re: Chemicalkinetics

          thank you all for your responses. i have learned a lot by reading them, and, of course, reading this board in general.
          as far as additional info goes, i think "replacing" his recent shun chefs knife gift is kind of a dick move, so perhaps a gyuto is not the answer, if, indeed, it will compete.
          i was thinking getting him somehing in carbon steel, to augment the chefs knife. as far as his sharpening skills go, i am ignorant, but wouldnt mind giving a carbon steel knife and "forcing" him to learn.

          one logistics question: how would i go about getting the knife (or knives, if i went for lower cost items) made for a lefty, and whats a general idea of how long that would take?

          i should add im not concerned with knife appearance as much as performance.

          again, thanks for all the advice so far.

          1. re: linus


            <i think "replacing" his recent shun chefs knife gift is kind of a dick move>

            It depends. If your friend/relative has been complaining about the new Shun Chef's knife, then it is a actually good thing to get a gyuto. Or if the CIA grad himself bought the Shun Chef's knife, then it is fine. What is probably not nice is that his mother or father bought the Chef's knife, and now you bought a knife which competes the Shun Chef's knife. Anyway, these are not knife questions, but more about people-to-people interaction.

            Knife sharpening is not too bad especially for most Western style double bevel knives like gyuto, santoku, petty,...etc.

            <how would i go about getting the knife (or knives, if i went for lower cost items) made for a lefty>

            Sometime the seller will list both left and right handed knives. In other cases, you can directly contact the sellers and acquire the situation of the left handed knives. Sometime, the left handed knives are in stock. Other times, it can take an extra 1-3 weeks.

            For carbon steel Japanese knives, then I recommend the aogami (blue) steel series. There are aogami 1 (blue 1), aogami 2 (blue 2), or aogami super (blue super). They are all great steels in my opinion. Actually most professional Japanese chefs love the shirogami (white) steel series. The white steels are slightly easier to sharpened, and the words on the street is that white steel knives can also get slightly sharper than blue steel knives. Blue steels, on the other hand, are more rust resistance, but slightly more expensive.

            Hiromoto AS knives are known to be great performers and very reasonably priced. They have a blue super steel as the core, and cladded with stainless steel. So they have the cutting ability of a carbon steel blue super steel, and relatively easier to take care of. In addition, they are very affordable. Cowboyardee has one, and I know he likes his, so he can give much better insight of this. Cowboy, do you know there are left handed version of Hiromoto AS knives?



            If you want a blue super steel knife with Japanese wa wood handle and Damascus blade pattern, then the JCK KAGAYAKI Original AS knives are something to consider:


            also Kanehiro knives:


            Finally, if you like traditionally looking carbon steel knives with some hand forged processes and the black kurouchi (black) appearance, then Watanabe and Takeda make some good knives.



            For pure functional, I guess Hiromoto AS is a good choice. I mean .... you can get a 210 mm (8") gyuto for less than $140. Not much more expensive than a typical Henckels or Wusthof.

            Now, these are all carbon steel based knives, if you ever decided to get stainless steel knives, then let us know.

            *Edited* Funny enough that I forgot to mention CarboNext knives which I own a Santoku version. They are semi-stainless steel knives. Sharpened easily like most carbon steel, but very rust resistance almost like stainless steel. In my experience, they cannot hold a very low acute angle like the blue steels knives (not much below 15 degree each side), but at higher obtuse angles, the edge holding ability is very good. In addition, they are very affordable. For example, a 210 mm gyuto is only $105 tag price and ~$112 including shipping fee.


            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              thanks for this. the recepient just got the shun chef knife and by request, so i think a gyuto may be contraindicated here.
              i'm thinking a blue or white steel nakiri, petty, slicing knife or cleaver. just have to choose a price point and brand, and check on left handed availability.

              1. re: linus

                Some of the nakiri, petty, cleaver knives do not have handiness. So you may not have to worry to much. Have fun.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  is that watanabe nakirii you purchased ok for a lefty?

                  1. re: linus

                    The Watanabe Nakiri I purchased has a righty handle. I am actually rightly. I know Watanabe Shinichi can make a lefty knife for additional fee.


                    My understanding is that his nakiri blade is symmetric while the handle is not. So it is not the end of the world if you get his righty knies. Watanabe knives are nice because they are made to go. You can customize the knife. For example, his standard nakiri knife blade spine thickness tapers from 4.5 mm to 1.5 mm from heel to tip.


                    I wanted something thinner, so I asked for a knife which taper from 3.5 to 1 mm. This was mentioned in my review:

                    "...The blade was requested to be thinned to 3.5 mm at spine heel and taper to 1.0 mm at the spine tip. The actual product I received is 3.0 mm at spine heel and taper to 1.0 mm at spine tip – pretty close to my request. ..."


                    Our friend Dave5440 also custom-requested his Watanabe Deba knife.

                    That being said, you can get a reasonable nakiri for ~$50. My first nakiri is really cool. I paid only $40 and it was made with a blue steel core and cladded with iron finished with the kurouchi black color.


                    I gave that Tanaka knife away after I received my Watanabe nakiri. I kind of regret doing so. Not because I need to use it, but because that knife shares a great deal of history with me. Although it wasn't my first Japanese knife, it was definitely the first knife which made me think "Wow you can get a affordable and high quality knife at the same time". It also taught me a lot about knife sharpening.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      thank you again for those links. there is a five piece lefty set there that is very tempting and seems a very good deal.

                      1. re: linus

                        Oh that. I only used that link to show Shinichi can make left as well as right handed knives. That 5-pieces lefty set is his "standard" set, not the "professional" line, so they are not as refined. If you just want a set of knives, then it is probably a good deal. However, I doubt they are well refined knives.

                        If you are really interested in 5 knives set, then I suggest you asking Shinichi what carbon steel are these knives made of.

                        By the way, you will see a lot of us recommend two internet sites: Japanesechefsknife and Chefknivestogo. However, I almost forgot about the eBay sellers. I have done business with bluewayjapan, and linya_japan



                        As you can see below, I typed "left" in Bluewayjapan's store and have some findings (unfortunately most of those are not white or blue steel knives):


                        Oh yes, bluewayjapan has free service engraving service. I asked for my name to be engraved (in Japanese kaji). The engraving can also make the knife more personal and unique.

                        I would consider directly contacting these sellers about your needs. e.g.: left handed Japanese white/blue steel knife (non-gyuto)...input your price range...etc.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          ah, i should have known that deal was too good to be true.