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Japanese knives in the GTA (2013 edition)?

  • vil Jan 2, 2013 09:24 AM
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Happy new year all,

My beloved MAC chef's knife was dropped onto the floor on Christmas Day and the blade broke into two pieces. Now I am on a quest to find a replacement, for a reasonable price, as soon as possible.

I did sift through the older threads but the most promising leads seem to be a bit outdated. For example, The Cook's Place where I got the original knife is sadly no longer around, and some online dealers have changed what they stock or their shipping policies since.

My original knife was the MAC TH-80, and I am hoping to find the same thing or similar, a 8" gyutou, with or without dimples. Also hoping to keep to the price range of $100 or less.

Of the well-discussed brands on CH, it looks like the best bang for the buck is still MAC, and Tojiro.

For some reason, the official MAC Canada website does not even have the TH-80 anymore, only the TH-100, with a price that is about twice of what I paid at The Cook's Place years ago:

http://www.macknife.ca/buy-knives/che...

I almost made the purchase with the Tojiro DP 210mm with this sale going on, but then realized I will be paying about 1/3 extra for shipping, which does not quite make sense:

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

Any suggestions on where to get my replacement knife, either in store or online? Any other models recommended? Thanks a bunch!

Older thread:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/559616

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  1. There are two stores in Toronto that will help, but to be honest their knives are quite a bit more than what you were looking at.

    This is my recommendation to you...its a knife I've bought for my sister and another coworker. Its a really good knife, especially for its budget price. Well reviewed on knife forums. IMO it will be much better than tojiro or mac.

    http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/KAG... Get the 210 gyuto if thats the size you want. Its a few bucks over your budget. Shipping from Japan is quite quick and the site is very reliable.

    If you'd like to buy local and have a chat with them, there is Tosho Knife Arts on Markham/bloor and Knife Toronto, on queen west close to bathurst.

    6 Replies
    1. re: szw

      <Shipping from Japan is quite quick and the site is very reliable. >

      +1

      <here is Tosho Knife Arts on Markham/bloor and Knife Toronto, on queen west>

      +1

      1. re: szw

        Thanks, szw, that knife looks like a very good contender! Do you (or ChemicalKinetics or anyone) have advice on how well it remains rust-free, compared to stainless steel knives? Do I have to diligently wipe it dry immediately after every use (which I do not foresee I will be good at)?

        1. re: vil

          Cleaning and drying your knife after every use is an important routine that should be part of your knife maintenance,like sharpening and proper storage,regardless whether it's SS or carbon.

          1. re: vil

            <Do you (or ChemicalKinetics or anyone) have advice on how well it remains rust-free, compared to stainless steel knives?>

            CarboNext is a semi-stainless steel knife. It is much more chemically stable than a true carbon steel knife, but it is not quiet as stainless as a true stainless steel knife. I lent out this CarboNext knife (Not just cowboy and Eiron... I have lent it out to my other friends). So it has seen many kitchens and have been treated by careful and no-so-careful people, and it has acquired a dull color over time. Kind of like a dull color you see in an older coin. It has never "rust" on me, unlike my carbon steel knives, but it has acquire a dull color.

            If you don't care about shiny look, then I would say that you will treat it like 90-95% like a regular stainless steel knife really.

            <Do I have to diligently wipe it dry immediately after every use >

            I don't wipe it down after cutting different items if that what you mean. Some people do that and wipe their knives almost every 5 minutes, which is a good habit really. I don't. I do, however, wipe it down at the end of the cooking. So, if I spend 1 hour chopping my meat and vegetable, then I only wipe it dry at the end of the hour.

            1. re: vil

              I don't wipe my knife that often and leave it wet/dirty longer than I'd like. However, it doesn't rust at all. It takes on these weird splotches that look like water marks and gets kind of dull. But nothing like rust.

              1. re: szw

                Good to know, thanks! That just adds character to the knife and is totally fine to me as long as it is not rust!

          2. Hatcher & Krain is an amazing knife store. Very knowledgeable and helpful! - http://www.blogto.com/design/hacher-a... their main site is http://hacherandkrain.com/

            1. A longshot but try the Paderno Outlet in Scarboro. They once carried MAC at decent prices--got a few when they had a store in Mississauga several years back. Worth a try?

              1. Junors in Shops at Don Mills carries a good range of MAC knives and they're 25% off right now. IIRC, they are a bit more than $100 but perhaps you could call them to ask.

                1. The Healthy Butcher/Slice and Sear carries some MAC knives

                  http://www.sliceandsear.com/brands/MA...

                  Also +1 on Knife and Tosho...

                  1. I believe that Nikolau at Bathurst and Queen has Mac knives. Remember to try to talk the price down when purchasing there.

                    1. "Tosho" and "Knife" in Toronto are good stores. If anything, just for the thrill to visit. Both stores offer good quality Japanese steel knives, and knowledgeable advises from the respected owners. However, I do not believe they have many knives under $100.

                      If you want a stainless steel gyuto, then I think Tojiro DP and Fujiwara FKM ($75) are excellent choices. If you don't mind a carbon steel core knife, then Hiromoto AS ($135) is considered extremely good value.

                      http://japanesechefsknife.com/FKMSeri...

                      JapaneseChefsknife also offers a semi-stainless steel gyuto known as CarboNext series for about $105:

                      http://japanesechefsknife.com/KAGAYAK...

                      For a Canadian, JapaneseChefsKnife may be a better choice than Chefknivestogo. JapaneseChefsKnife "charges" the same $7 for shipping around the world.

                      "2. How much is the shipping cost?

                      We charge only US$7.00 for any orders from any countries, if ordered and shipped at one time to one shipping destination. "

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Thanks chemical for the recommendations! The shipping at JapaneseChefsKnife sounds like a steel, compared to many other merchants!

                        So many wonderful choices, although for now I will have to focus on the lower end options until I am more sure I won't drop any more knives.

                        I like the Tojiro DP but JCK doesn't seem to carry it. So, knowing I won't likely be able to try them out before purchasing, do you have any advice between the CarboNext and Fujiwara FKM gyutous? For example, in terms of how well the blade remains sharp, durability, comfort and ease of use? Thanks!

                        1. re: vil

                          <do you have any advice between the CarboNext and Fujiwara FKM gyutous? For example, in terms of how well the blade remains sharp, durability, comfort and ease of use? Thanks!>

                          Yes, unfortunately, JCK no longer carries Tojiro. I don't have a Fuijiwara FKM knife, but based on its reputation, it is a very good series. The knives are slightly soft among the standard Japanese knives, but slightly harder than typical German knives. This makes Fujirwara very good introductory knives for people used to work with German or American knives. They are also nicely priced. As for CarboNext, it is nice. It is a so called semi-stainless steel knife. It sharpened up nicely like a carbon steel knife, but it is rust resistance almost like a stainless steel knife. It holds its edge well both because it is relatively hard, and because it is stainless steel like. In my experience, it work a 15 angle (both side) no problem, but it cannot hold at 10 agree like the higher end Japanese carbon steel knife.

                          Because I have not used both of them. I am going to make some guesses. My guess is that the blades remain sharp for both series. CarboNext may be a bit better, but probably not by much. Durability will depends on durability against what. Fujirwara should have a slightly better durability against discoloring. CarboNext is not a true stainless seel blade, and it can discolor into a dul color. Comfort level, probably a small advantage for Fujirwara because CarboNext handle is more square and box like. It isn't painful, but some people prefer rounder handle. Ease of use, I would think this goes for Fujirawa because it is a true stainless steel. Now, ease of sharpening may go for CarboNext though.

                          If you really like Tojiro, I have another recommendation. It is a bit more, but not excessively more. It is the Kagayaki VG-10 from JCK. $150 for a 210 mm Gyuto (~8 inch). It has the same construction as Tojiro. It has a VG-10 steel core hardened to a 60-61 HRC.

                          The shipping at JCK is very speedy and prompt. I bought a couple knives from Japan, including JCK. These knives from Japan deliver to my local postal office no later than when I bought them from a US merchant. So do not worry about the shipping time too much.

                      2. Thanks all for the recommendations! Now that there are so many choices, I feel like I want to sit back a little to consider which one to go for, maybe even find some time go to some of the stores to try them out for feel. In any case it makes me want to visit Tosho and Knife soon because I would enjoy looking at the knives in person.

                        Will post once I make the choice, thanks again!

                        12 Replies
                        1. re: vil

                          Just an fyi, I'm pretty certain Knife uses JCK as a supplier, and if you want to support the local economy, you might elect to order from Knife as opposed to from JCK (althought, when I used JCK years ago to order my damascus blades, JCK was great). But if you use Knife to order from JCK, then you support them both - so win win!

                          Knife also has some great knife sharpening courses (both free and private), in case it hasn't already been mentioned.

                          1. re: justxpete

                            Knife may have some knives from JCK (I don't know), but they dont have all. Pretty sure they don't have Fujiwara or Carbonext.

                            1. re: szw

                              I think I recall him telling me that he uses JCK as a supplier.

                              1. re: justxpete

                                Probably.

                                I think szw's point is that "JCK" may not willing to supply "Knife" everything on JCK's catalog. I can imagine that JCK may not want to supply "Knife" with its JCK brand knives -- such as CarboNext and Fu-Rin-Ka-Zan....etc. Fujiwara probably is not a problem if "Knife" wants it, since many places sell Fujiwara.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  that wasn't my point, but its a good one!

                                  I just meant that I've been in the store only a few times, but they have never had fujiwara or carbonext knives there.

                                  Actually I thought Knife may not want to carry the lower end knives in the store as they would dilute sales from the more expensive ones, but thats just guessing at the reason.

                                  1. re: szw

                                    That sounds like a very reasonable guess.

                                    1. re: szw

                                      <Actually I thought Knife may not want to carry the lower end knives in the store as they would dilute sales from the more expensive ones>

                                      Oh I am absolutely sure. It wants to market itself as a high end Japanese knife store, which is different than say Chefknivestogo. You may able to convince him to buy a Fujiwara in his next shipment, and he maybe able to do it for special request (just a guess), but I am almost certain that JCK will not sell him JCK brand knives, like CarboNext.

                              2. re: justxpete

                                The win-win situation would be nice! But based on the interesting and informative discussion from you, szw and chemical (below), it looks like for now, I should stick with JCK for the best bang for the buck.

                                I can use some knife sharpening lessons at Knife, though, because it looks like my new knife will be my first one with an asymmetrical bevel!

                                1. re: vil

                                  It's all just speculation until someone asks. :)

                                  1. re: vil

                                    <because it looks like my new knife will be my first one with an asymmetrical bevel!>

                                    Which one will be your new knife? Most asymmetrical knives are very easy to sharpening. Let's say it states it is a 70/30. Then, all you need to do is to sharpen one side more than the other side by a factor of 7 to 3. 7 strokes on one side, and 3 strokes on the others. In fact, you may able to sharpen it just like normal at 50:50, and the knife will simply slowly convert to a 50/50 knife.

                                    http://www.knifeforums.com/forums/fbb...

                                    I does not hurt to stop by Knife or Tosho if you just want to do some window shopping. I like Tosho a touch better though. :P

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      I sharpen my Japanese knives the same amount of time on each side - just the angle is different (but I also have about 8 different whet stones). I've never heard of anyone suggesting that you can reduce the strokes on one side because of the angle. The key is the burr, and that can't be created with such a limited number of strokes.

                                      If you sharpen a Japanese knife like a German knife at 50/50, you'll lose the advantage of the Japanese knives - generally harder steel - which hold their edge longer.

                                      1. re: justxpete

                                        <I sharpen my Japanese knives the same amount of time on each side - just the angle is different>

                                        I think the problem or confusion comes from the definition of these asymmetrical edges. We all know what 50/50 is, but what is a 70/30 edge? Actually there are infinite ways to have a 70/30, but the two most popular definitions are shown in the following pictures, see #3 and #4:

                                        http://www.knifeforums.com/forums/fbb...

                                        You can have the angles the same for the two bevels, and the edge is off-centered and the bevel area is 70:30 ratio (see #3). Or you can have the angle partition to a 70:30, and the edge is on-center (#4). In the case of #3, what I described earlier will work and in fact preserve the original edge. In the case of #4, what I described will alter the original geometry. I think we can debate which one is more common. I think it is #3, but I certainly accept the possibility that I can be wrong. However, these two (and others) definitions do exist.

                                        <If you sharpen a Japanese knife like a German knife at 50/50, you'll lose the advantage of the Japanese knives>

                                        I partly agree and partly disagree. It can get in a pretty length discussion, but note that many Japanese steel knives are sold and made in 50/50 like Tojiro DP, Konosuke HD, Takeda, Watanabe, Shun Classic...etc. I think it is nice and interesting to have 70/30 or 80/20 edge, but I won't say that a 50/50 edge automatically lose advantage to a 70/30. If we really believe this, then we should never buy the knives which I listed above.

                                        Now, what need to be clarify is that sometime there are problems in converting a 80/20 edge to a 50/50 edge, but that is a different question.

                                        <I've never heard of anyone suggesting that you can reduce the strokes on one side because of the angle. >

                                        Well, now you can tell everyone that you first heard this from 1250 AM radio channel: Chemicalkinetics. The station which brings you kitchen knife information with no commercial interruption :)

                              3. I have found the advice, pricing, stock and service from Paul's Finest (online, physically located in Quebec) to be excellent. Lots of choices for Japanese knives.
                                http://www.paulsfinest.com/
                                I have purchased Misono's and Sakai Takayuki's and the prices were quite competitive. Lots of great info on the site too.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Cat123

                                  <physically located in Quebec>

                                  Paul has a physical store now in Quebec? Good for Paul. Paul used to be a frequent visitor on CHOWHOUND and I got to know him. Great guy. At the time, he told me that he only wanted to operate online.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    Sorry for any confusion - no I didn't mean he has a store - just that the warehouse/address for his business is in Quebec (as far as I know).

                                    1. re: Cat123

                                      Oh I see. Thanks.

                                2. So, after carefully re-reading all the comments, I just completed my order of the 210mm CarboNext gyutou from JCK. What helped me finally decide between that and the stainless steel knives is ChemicalKinetic's comments about the easier sharpening, and his and others' reassurance that there are no dampness-rust issues.

                                  Thanks again everyone who contributed, for the speedy and helpful comments, making this such a fun, educational and worry-free experience!

                                  I am so looking forward to my new knife!

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: vil

                                    No, the pleasure is ours. You are a very pleasant person to communicate. I should be clear that the CarboNext knife is just a touch easier to sharpen than most stainless steel knife, not some huge difference. Yeah, I have never seen my CarboNext knife rusts. I bought a CarboNext santoku and I intentionally left it wet to see if it would rust like most carbon steel knives, and it did not. I wrote it in an old review if you are interested:

                                    "The knife can stain/oxidize a bit, but it is very faint. It indeed has good rust resistance for a carbon steel knife."

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/785892

                                    Good luck.

                                    cowboyarde and Eiron also wrote their respective review on the CarboNext:

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/810866

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/826762

                                    1. re: vil

                                      Since you are buying the CarboNext, I think I can add something. It is made and sold with a 60/40 asymmetric knife edge. Because 60/40 is mild asymmetric edge, you have the option to convert it to 50/50 if you want, and you won't get into any trouble.

                                      Sometime (just sometime) a knife can get into trouble when you convert a very asymmetric edge (like 90/10 or 80/20) to a 50/50, but in your case you are fine. You can preserve the 60/40 or you can change it to 50/50. Good luck.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        Thanks for the thoughtful advice. Honestly, so far I haven't felt the difference in this 60/40 edge, compared to the 50/50 I used to have. I will keep it the way it is until maybe after learning more about the asymmetry is supposed to do.

                                      2. re: vil

                                        Hello all, I have been meaning to write back sooner, just got pulled away for a while by the other less fun aspects of life.

                                        I remember receiving my knife just 2-3 days after ordering, which was super fast, especially considering I only paid 7 CAD for shipping!

                                        The CarboNext gyutou turns out to be a very good replacement for the MAC one, being very similar in the shape, thickness of the blade, size etc... The only significant difference was that the CarboNext has a longer handle and it took a little while for me to get used to wielding it smoothly - something about the balance.

                                        Overall, I am very happy with the purchase. The only thing I would consider differently for next time, is to choose the "extra sharpening" option, as I feel that it is not as sharp as I imagined out of the box (but still sharp nonetheless). I wonder if that would make a big difference?

                                        Next step is to learn how to use the whetstone to sharpen properly - it looks like there are already some helpful notes in this thread!

                                        1. re: vil

                                          Knife offers free courses and private ones as well. I'd HIGHLY recommend you take one if you've never sharpened a knife before before you decide to take a whetstone to your blade. Bring a not-so-nice knife from your collection to practice with when you're there.

                                          It's a fun, rewarding hobby if you get in to it.

                                          1. re: vil

                                            <I remember receiving my knife just 2-3 days after ordering, which was super fast,>

                                            Yep. :)

                                            < is to choose the "extra sharpening" option, as I feel that it is not as sharp as I imagined out of the box>

                                            Yeah, but if you are going to sharpen it anyway on your own, then it does not matter.

                                            <Next step is to learn how to use the whetstone to sharpen properly>

                                            Practice on your less expensive knives if you still have them. Any knife of or above the quality of Victorinox or Dexter Russell is good enough for practice.

                                            1. re: vil

                                              I took the sharpening course at knife and also bought a set of the water stones. The sharpening lesson was awesome!! You basically bring you r own knife and he walks you through putting a proper edge on it. If you use your knifes pretty regularly, it's great having the ability to sharpen them properly yourself.