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Buying My First Nakiri? :D

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Hey everyone!

I finally decided to jump from Western knives to Japanese knives. I started off with a stamped Henckels Twin Gourmet Santoku (7 inch) and then bought a Kasumi Chef's Knife (Western style). I found that the Kasumi holds an edge incredibly well, the only issue I have with it is that I found that the factory-edge isn't as sharp as the Henckels (I will be taking the Kasumi to a professional sharpener to have it adjusted to a 16 degree angle). A few days ago I tried cutting vegetables with a Farberware cleaver (no idea why I own anything cutlery that Farberware or a cleaver as I have never needed one) and found that the general wideness of the cleaver allows for easier transportation of chopped veggies from the chopping board to the skillet. I'm looking to buy my first nakiri now. I'm not entirely sure what I should be looking for in buying a Japanese knife, but I have heard a lot of good things about starting off with a Tojiro (mainly being price). I was wondering what size of nakiri I should buy, I see a lot between the sizes of 150mm-165mm and generally use a 7-inch Santoku. I'm not too picky about appearances, all that I want is a higher Rockwell Hardness (60+), a lighter knife, a sharp cutting angle (16 degrees), and a d-style handle. I want to spend less than $150 on my first nakiri, as I will probably be buying a nicer one in the future.

Also, what is the difference between a nakiri and a usuba?

Does anyone have any videos on proper nakiri technique?

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  1. Great questions.

    <the general wideness of the cleaver allows for easier transportation of chopped veggies from the chopping board to the skillet>

    First, do you want a Chinese style cleaver (really Chinese style Chef's knife) or a Nakiri? A Chinese style cleaver has a wider blade. As for Nakiri, it is my experience, that most Nakiri offers about the same knife width as a Santoku.

    <I have heard a lot of good things about starting off with a Tojiro (mainly being price)>

    Either you can think of it as (a) lower price point than its similar quality competitors or (b) better quality than similar price point competitors.

    <I see a lot between the sizes of 150mm-165mm and generally use a 7-inch Santoku>

    It is up to you.

    <I'm not too picky about appearances, all that I want is a higher Rockwell Hardness (60+), a lighter knife, a sharp cutting angle (16 degrees), and a d-style handle.>

    I assume you want a stainless steel nakiri and not a carbon steel. If you want a carbon steel, let us know. For stainless steel, I say Tojiro nakiri is a good place to consider:

    Western handle (not D-shape)
    http://www.chefknivestogo.com/todpna1...

    Japanese Wa wood handle (D-shape)
    http://www.chefknivestogo.com/toshsa1...

    Shiki Tsuchime Nakiri (need to scroll down):
    http://japanesechefsknife.com/SHIKITs...

    <what is the difference between a nakiri and a usuba?>

    Depending who you talk to, some people will say the two words refer to two distinct knives Others will tell you that there are indeed two different knives, but they are not distinguished by these two words. In any case, nakiri is usually refer to the commoners' vegetable knife which I assume you already know what it is like. Usuba is a professional vegetable knife, but it functions differently. It has a single side bevel much like other Japanese traditional knives: yanagiba and deba. An usuba blade looks like this:

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_3RspRR2aF7Y...

    Now, if you are considering Shun, then you should know its Shun Classic vegetable knife is what many would refer as nakiri:

    http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

    While its Shun Pro Nakiri is what many consider as Usuba:

    http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

    3 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      Awesome! Thanks for the super detailed response. Unfortunately ChefKnivesToGo doesn't ship Tojiros to Canada, so I'll be looking for another way to order them. I've heard a lot about carbon steel knives but I don't really understand what the benefit of them is. I've only heard of the care required, I don't think I'll have trouble with caring for one as I never commit the cardinal sins of putting it in the dishwasher, leaving it in the sink or dish drying rack and I always clean and dry right after use.

      1. re: 1jc19

        HI.
        < I've heard a lot about carbon steel knives but I don't really understand what the benefit…>

        In general, carbon steel knives take and hold a better edge, are easier to sharpen, and are less expensive than comparable stainless steels, but carbons require additional maintenance (need to be dried, etc.) and can do funny things to acid foods. However, there are some stainless, semi-stainless steels with very similar carbon-esque traits.

        Also, what is the difference between a nakiri and a usuba?
        I’ve seen the word nakiri and usuba used interchangeably and as a vegetable knife. In my mind, a Nakiri (double bevel) and Usuba (single bevel) are indeed vegetable knives, but are totally different animals. The Nariki is essentially a miniature version of an Asian veggie cleaver. The Usuba is very specialized knife meant for doing specific types of cuts for Japanese cuisine. IMHO, unless you have a need for one, and are willing to invest the money (good ones aren’t cheap) and the time to learn how to use one properly, stay away from a usuba.

        Does anyone have any videos on proper nakiri technique?
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFbMpL...
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkCWn7...

      2. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Thanks for your detailed reply. If you don't mind, I need to get in touch with you privately, I need to ask you a couple of things about an article about Nakiri Knife I'm writing. I also sent you a message on google+, not sure it was you though (Chemicalkinetics)!

      3. Here's the Tojiro in your price range from Cutlery and More. It looks like a round handle, though.

        http://www.cutleryandmore.com/tojiro-...

        1. Thanks for the awesome replies everyone :D

          I saw this awesome video on the katsuramuki technique (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eC7EUa...
          )It looks like something I'll definitely be trying when I get my nakiri.

          I think I might order from JapaneseChefsKnife, since they do a $7 flat shipping rate and either low or no tax. Does anyone have any experience ordering from them?

          23 Replies
          1. re: 1jc19

            Yes, Koki from JapaneseChefsKnife is very quick. I have ordered 2-3 times from him, and the speed which I received my knives are no slower than if I had ordered here in the US.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              How much do you typically pay for taxes on JCK?

              1. re: 1jc19

                Usually (actually always). Zero.

                If we get technical, it is possible that the tax is already included, and you are paying that as part of the listed price.

            2. re: 1jc19

              Am I correct in thinking you want the JCK Original 風林火山 Fu-Rin-Ka-Zan, then? This looks to me like a pretty good knife for the price. But I am wondering how to choose between the "white steel" with stainless exterior, as this one is, and the carbon steel knives with the dark Kuro-uchi finish.

              1. re: GH1618

                I've narrowed it down to the JCK Furinkazan 165mm nakiri and the HKV KFV 165mm nakiri. Un fortunately the Furinkazan is sold out .

                http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/HKV...
                http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/Fur...

                I I can't seem to find the method used to create these knives. The price tells me that its very unlikely that either are made with a honyaki process. I'm also not entirely sure what the Furinkazan is made of.

                Could someone clarify what the unit they use to describe the thickness is? They say 3.5mn, I mistook it for mm and measured each of my Chef's knives. :$

                1. re: 1jc19

                  <unlikely that either are made with a honyaki process>

                  Most definitely. It is definitely not honyaki since it is not a solid single steel knife. Fu Rin Ka Zan are hand made -- or largely hand made. Furinkazen should be made with White Steel #1 core cladded with stainless steel.

                  I am pretty sure mn is really mm, and you got it right. There apparently the thick and thin version, so you can ask Koki for your preference.

                  1. re: 1jc19

                    The Fu-Rin-Ka-Zan knives are described as white carbon steel jacketed with soft stainless steel, a Kasumi process. The "mn" is an obvious typo, in my opinion.

                    FKV is also described as a jacketed construction.

                    1. re: 1jc19

                      As for the item being "sold out," why not just wait for the next batch so as to get what you prefer?

                      1. re: GH1618

                        I just also found their specials section:

                        http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/spe...

                        I just added the "JCK INAZUMA" to my list, I really can't decide between the 3 :$

                        1. re: 1jc19

                          My advice is to wait for the Fu Rin Ka Zan to become available, as it seems to have the best steel on the edge, which is what matters most. That's the whole point of getting a Japanese knife, it seems to me. However, I will defer to Chem's opinion on this, as he is the one here with the experience in such things.

                          1. re: 1jc19

                            Inazuma is ok. I am not never drawn to them. It looks like you are considering carbon steel knives. In which case, have you looked at JCK KAGAYAKI Aogami Super?

                            http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/KAG...

                            And of course, what about Masamoto nakiri which look very nice?

                            http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/ima...
                            http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/ima...

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              @Chemicalkinetics:
                              Those are really pretty, but I think I'm going to go with either the Furinzakan or the HKV series, which ones do you prefer?You seem to be one of the most knowledge people on Chowhound for knives. ;P

                              @GH1618:
                              The 3 point difference in HRC for $50 is will definitely play an important role in my decision. The "actual" (estimated I guess, considering that they wont be the same since they are hand forged) difference between the "thick" and the "thinner" version?

                              1. re: 1jc19

                                Hi. The reason I suggested Aogami is that it is blue steel. Furinzakan is white steel. FKV (or is it HKV) knives are made with VG core, but I do not know if it is VG1 or VG10. VG10 is generally concerned slightly better and more expensive.

                                So both knives look good. One is carbon steel and one is stainless steel. One is hand made, and one is machined made. Furinzakan looks nice except that some think it is bit thick. FKV is very reasonably priced if it is VG10, but I have a feeling that it may be VG1. You can email Koki to find out more.

                                Personally, I would pick the thin version of a Furinzakan just because it is white steel (a very good steel) and it is more of a hand made knife. I don't know that much about the FKV. If it is VG1, then I would recommend you to look back at Tojiro which is VG10 and is cheaper:

                                http://www.chefknivestogo.com/toshsa1...

                                http://www.chefknivestogo.com/todpna1...

                                Tojiro also offers white steel if you are interested.

                                http://www.chefknivestogo.com/toshna1...

                                Tanaka has a blue steel knife. I bought that knife for $40 back then, now it is selling for more than $80, and the Tojiro Nakir was only $30, now it is $50:

                                http://www.chefknivestogo.com/takuna1...

                                Both the Tojiro white steel and Tanaka blue steel knives are on the rough/country side if you know what I mean. They are not refined.

                                cowboyardee probably is one of the most knowledge person on knives on this board, and hopefully he can also share his thought on this.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  The fujiwara V Gold steel is supposedly some sort of moly steel or lower variant of VG-10.   If so, the tojiro vg-10 as you said seems like a better deal.

                                  OTOH,the Fu-Rin-Ka-Zan is in a different class.   Much more hand craftmanship , plus it's not only made of white steel, but grade # 1...done well, should be awesome.

                                  1. re: JavaBean

                                    Thanks for the information on VG. I agree with your view on Fu Rin Ka Zan.

                                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    Just a note (not only to original poster 1jc19): Tanaka Kurouchi blue steel nakiri knife is sold only for $50 on eBay and free shipping in US.

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

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      +1. To me, Tanakas are akin to a diamond in rough. For the $, you get great blade and the foundation of a great knife, but you definitely need to have some diy / sharpening skills to make them sing.

                                      1. re: JavaBean

                                        <For the $, you get great blade and the foundation of a great knife, but you definitely need to have some diy / sharpening skills to make them sing.>

                                        Java,

                                        I cannot agree more. For $40-50 (the price I bought for and the price on eBay now), it has an excellent steel blade. Excellent.

                                        I did have to work on the blade a bit first. I must have spent a hour on it before I realize the blade edge was slightly uneven. I then spend another hour to even out the blade and sharpening it. Once it was sharpened, it has the sharpest edge and great retention in my ktichen -- better than my Shun knife, my Wusthof, my CCK, my CarboNext....

                                        I gave it away after I got my Watanabe Nakiri. Not because Tanaka is a bad knife, not by any measure, I just felt bad because I started using it less and less frequent, and I thought someone else can benefit from it. I still miss my Tanaka knife.

                              2. re: 1jc19

                                By the way, this reminds me of an essay I once read (I can't remember where or by whom) about someone deciding between two Yankee drills. The shopkeeper advised him to go for the more expensive one, saying (I paraphrase) "you'll never regret buying the better tool." That's my experience. I have some tools which will last several lifetimes, even though I have only one in which to use them. I have also, on occasion, bought inferior tools and regretted it.

                          2. re: GH1618

                            < But I am wondering how to choose between the "white steel" with stainless exterior, as this one is, and the carbon steel knives with the dark Kuro-uchi finish.>

                            Carbon steel blades w/ stainless steel cladding gives you the advantages of a carbon steel cutting edge with the advantages of a stainless steel (no rust and/or acidic foods reactions) jacket wrapped around the rest of the carbon core. You still need to treat the carbon edge as you would any carbon knife.

                            Carbon steel knives with the dark Kurouchi finish are carbon steel blade w/ either a carbon steel or stainless cladding. Kurouchi means a rustic or raw blade finish; where the hammer dings, dark fire-ing colorations, etc. created during the manufacturing process is used as a blade finish. Some brands are more raw/rough/rustic than others. Plus, some makers do it for aesthetics value, whilst others do it as a means of hiding flaws or reducing polishing costs.

                            1. re: JavaBean

                              I understand the differences, but it seems a difficult choice, should I decide at some point to upgrade. I'm leaning toward the white #1 core with stainless cladding. For awhile I found the affordable Damascus knives interesting, but know I think there's no point to that in a kitchen knife.

                              1. re: GH1618

                                <awhile I found the affordable Damascus knives interesting>

                                There is nothing wrong with having a nice pattern on knives. I, for example, like the kurouchi (black) finsih on a knife.

                                Now, you may know this, but I am going to write it out anyway. The Kurouchi finish is actually easy to maintain. Obviously, we all know the stainless steel finish is easier to care for than pure iron/carbon steel blade. On the other hand, a Kurouchi finish (or rather unfinish) does not readily rust, so it is actually easier to care for than a polished carbon steel blade.

                                1. re: GH1618

                                  Yup. I have several Damascus clad knives and it’s nothing more than a bling thing.

                                  I believe Kurouchi, Nashiji, Kasumi and (Japanese word for mirror) represents the blade finish at different polishing stages. I think it goes sort like this… kurouchi, kurouchi + some polishing = nashiji, nashiji + some more polishing = kasumi, kasumi + a lot more polishing = mirror. Sortof boils down to personal preference.

                                  A grade #1 white or blue blade…done well is pretty special. If you get it, I’d love to hear about it.

                          3. < I'm looking to buy my first Nakiri now. I'm not entirely sure what I should be looking for…>

                            In my very limited experiences with them, here’s my 2 cents…

                            Functionally, I don’t think the 165mm vs.150mm blade length matters much. The 150mm Nakiri has enough flat cutting edge to handle everything that I would use a Nakiri for. Anything bigger, like a large cabbage, etc. I’d simply half or quarter first…or switch to a larger knife.

                            +1 on the lighter wa style handle. They do a better job of creating a neutral balance as opposed to heavy western style handles that tend to create a butt heavy balance with lighter weight blades. Bear in mind, the stated blade length on a wa-handle knife often includes the machi (the section between the handle and blade), so a 165mm wa-handle knife has the same amount of cutting length as a 150mm western handle knife.

                            To me, a Nakiri is pretty much a dedicated vegetable knife meant for either push-cutting or straight up & down chopping, so the blade should be super thin (thinner than chef’s knife, santoku / all purpose knife) with a very smooth tapering from edge to spine. I don’t understand the purpose / advantages of ones with ¾ or ½ tapers.

                            Since it will see a lot of acid foods, I’d suggest going with a finely grained stainless steel blade or a higher end carbon steel blade (white, blue, super blue) w/ ss cladding. I would avoid the less pure lower end carbons (harder to establish a good patina) as well higher end carbon steel blades w/ low-end carbon cladding – unless you’re comfortable dealing with carbons.

                            1. just a couple caveats: Make sure you know how to properly sharpen your Japn knives with waterstones (or a jig if necessary). Also make sure you get a honing rod to handle the harder steel. And lastly, are you really sure you want a Nakiri-bocho? I hate to say but the Japanese don't really eat that many veggies--in quantity or variety--so I wouldn't say their knives would be more suited than European chefs or hybrid knives.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: zinFAN

                                <I hate to say but the Japanese don't really eat that many veggies>

                                What do they eat then? Please don't tell me that they eat more meat than Europeans or Americans.

                              2. After a lot of research, I just bought this knife: http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kaankus... . I have only used it a few times so far, but I love it! It is my first Nakiri. I was considering a couple of more expensive knives, but decided on this one because of the lower price. As recommended on the site, I spent a few minutes on a honing rod with it in order to remove the factory lacquer finish on the edge. Once I did that, it is incredibly sharp! It is lightweight and the balance point is right about where the pinch grip goes, so it handles well. It is beautifully made. It flies through food and is very comfortable to use.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: oceanhillbk

                                  It does has a beautiful look to it, and it is not expensive (not any more expensive than a Henckels Nakiri...)

                                  http://www.amazon.com/Pro-Hollow-Edge...