View Full Version : Cheapest Tanaka (Nashiji) initial sharpening and review

07-17-2013, 10:49 PM
Although a lot of posts I've seen concern Masamoto's and Shigefusa's, I would simply not buy something like that without trying to find better values first, and in the process, learn some of the ins and outs of the cheaper knives. So hopefully I can help some people understand what I've learned so far! And, steer them clear of the "lazy man's load" in the cheap knives department if they aren't so inclined to read/recreate this somewhat lengthy process.


The tanaka Nashiji is unpretty by design but also not ugly. It's appeal is in its functional look.. they're definitely not stunning kitchen gems but they aren't trying to be. Perhaps quaint elegance is a fair description. The knife came quite close to shaving sharp with a MICRO bevel.. difficult to see.

My goal was to achieve a full hazy polish as you would a top quality Jknife. After all, it's good steel. Yet, from the first minute on the lower stone, I realized this was going to be quite an endeavor. The knife is definitely rough... hence calling it the "flat". However even with some very nice chisels I have, there's always a good deal of setup, I've found... There were some good sized hollows left by the grinder in the "flat" of the knife. I didn't take pics, but these "holes" were 1/4" by 1/2" avg, but not TOO deep..

I started out on the 700 grit sigma "carbon" stone. This was a very good match and I shed the silver steel and stainless VERY quickly. I was pretty impressed how quickly the micro bevel became a full burr on this stone. After maybe 15 to 20 mins of sharpening/checking, I moved to the 1000 grit sigma, and I realized two things. First, I was far from flat, with good sized holes becoming evident in the new scratch pattern (3 main holes and one smaller). Second, I realized that as I tried to grind further into the remaining holes, some strange destruction was happening to my 1k grit "hard" stone, designed for alloys. 400-800 grit would sub for this step.

While the Sigma 1k was eating the steel rapidly with a thick gray puddle, there was an anomaly happening. As I was moving the knife back and forth, pieces of the stainless jigane were separating in surprisingly sizeable chunks and digging into the stone. If I kept going despite them, the blade was becoming slightly gouged, while the stone was much worse off. I messed with this a while and after many flattenings w diamond plate and testing of various pressures, it was clear under no circumstances would the 1k Sigma be participating in the process. For a while I thought the steel was separating from the burr, or the fairly nice "hamon" of the knife, but I eventually managed to stop delicately by feeling a piece still attached and it was dead in the middle of the flat I was trying to create, a small chunk twisted and hanging on by a thread. A 1k-2k grit stone is much preferred at this stage.

So I moved to the 5k, where I was fairly grateful to find the prior self-destruction wasn't repeating. So I polished a bit.. long enough to realize it was indeed going to take a while to fully eliminate the 700's scratches, and that I hadn't even gotten to the bottom of the initial grinding cavaties yet. So clearly I was at a stopping point for that session after the better part of 2 hrs, a good bit of the time spent "figuring out" *** was going on. I will say I don't think a king 1000 would have this same issue w the metal chunks that were jettisoning.. maybe the 1k Sigma is too powerful, in this instance.

Next session I made sure to have a good look at the remaining depressions and targeted them as I retreated back to the 700 grit. Soon I could feel I had established a MOSTLY-flat, so I jumped back to the 5k. After a brief stint there I decided the mirror wasn't coming in very quickly, at all, and it was probably just time to finish the task with some kasumi polishing on the natural stone.

The natural stone was THE MVP in this task. I asked a lot of it by jumping grits pretty massively and it really delivered. That made me pretty happy because I had originally gotten the stone for tool sharpenings, but it seemed a bit soft for the task. However for knives, it made a TON of slurry and really polished the edge well, removed the burr, and even polished into the recesses. So, props to the Japan Woodworker (kinda) because their #5 grade awase-toishi kicks a** for knives, even though it had been collecting dust for a time because it's perhaps too soft for tools (or razors)... even though I believe it's sold for that purpose. hahaha oh well.

Anyway, pics follow.. all in all it was 2.5hrs work, give or take. I have some decent stones and am fairly aggressive with them, but I was also sorta examining my work making sure I wasn't off. As it turned out, getting out the grinder gouges was a compromise no matter what unless I took away too much of the knife for .. well, little reason. Cosmetics, in the end, weren't worth it on this literally $30 knife that was never very cosmetic in the first place. And I made a several mistakes partially out of frustration and lack of patience as I abandoned caring about cosmetics as much.




As to the quality of the forging, I will tentatively say I think it's hovering NEAR the claimed 62 HRC after a few chips.. some from purposeful wrecklessness in the kitchen, one from sliding off the stone. Quite a crisp edge. The retention does seem quite good, and I really liked sharpening the silver steel. I thought it would be more of a bear with the chrome content. I've had much more trouble with Henckels knives so was presently surprised by the Japanese high carbon STAINLESS steel. However, while the edge steel seems quite good so far, I did notice something I wasn't thrilled with: when pressing hard on the stone, I accidentally bent the knife. Luckily, I was also able to bend it back using my thumb and forefinger. And I messed with that a bit, you can bend (at least the spine) with a fair bit of finger power. However, that definitely brings up some questions to the tempering process which in my understanding should make the knife much more like a spring than that. However, I like the thin-ness (not TOO thin, just right for me..) and flexibility a great deal. I would say the only time even a full time cook would bend the blade is smashing garlic in a careless way, and if you can open those really stubborn lids in the fridge you can probably get it back no problem. Plz comment on how unacceptable the bending would be for a higher grade knife.. I honestly don't know, and have had a bent Henckels before.



I also don't think this knife is made by Shigeki Tanaka, but by one of his apprentices. That doesn't matter to much to me, but the lower quality/price make a bit more sense in that regard. For the more practicall person who might get a knife similar to this, I would recommend on refraining from a full polish and mainly micro-bevel the knife for a good while before taking it on. This will actually enhance the non-stick aspect via the roughly ground bevel being more non-stick. I have an unopened Santoku I haven't gotten to yet, and against my better judgment, I will probably finish it the same way as this, only to hopefully improve upon the somewhat rough work I did on this knife. I would definitely say, "worth it!" and at the same time I kinda wanna give it to a close friend or relative who I catch wrangling an obtuse piece of steel if the opportunity presents itself :)

07-17-2013, 11:56 PM
The cladding feels awful and does gum up the stones considerably, however the core g3 steel is of very high quality and sharpens easy once all the fat surrounding it has been trimmed. For those willing to put in the work it is of supreme value and the end result is a high end performing knife, the retention is quite strong as well and responds well to stropping. I can't praise these knives enough. I have both a shig and a Watanabe and my Tanaka stainless 270 is still my favorite gyuto overall brcause of its geometry and profile.

07-18-2013, 12:06 AM
Great review, thanks for putting the time in to post.

07-18-2013, 12:20 AM
Thx Brian my pleasure!

Panda, thx for your comment, just what I wanted to hear! Clarifies what I was interpreting while sharpening. The gumminess of the SS didn't stop me on any other stone (maybe, close..) but on the 1k Sigma it was more harm than good, as I tried to show (was way worse..) I agree on the profile, and am looking forward to a long lasting edge. Surprised the name "shig" was mentioned as a comparison I must say!!

07-18-2013, 12:27 AM
funny, because the 240 profile is not good, it was actually taller than the 270 and a ton of belly. i think that's the case for a lot of 240 gyutos though.

07-18-2013, 12:41 AM
Which is too bad, as I prefer a 240(pro cook btw). Although I've yet to play with a 250'ish. Still pissed I missed Marko's last sale. Hope I'm not derailing here. It's nice to read these type of posts as I need a lot more experience in regards to thinning and polishing. Still working out angles/pressure/grit etc.

07-18-2013, 01:04 AM
240s that run long are a great length, i think optimal would be 255 basically in between 240 and 270 haha, we're so damn picky.

07-18-2013, 01:41 AM
240s that run long are a great length, i think optimal would be 255 basically in between 240 and 270 haha, we're so damn picky.

Which is obviously why Marko is pushing out a bunch of knives at that length. There's a demand for it, and its a good pool of users to give immediate feedback I'm pretty anxious to try one. The last 270 I enjoyed was an Ino(pre Ittetsu) from Jon, that I'd sold to Bienek, who(bear with me here), thinned heavily, refinished and threw out on a pass around. That knife was ridiculously nimble, dropped through food, but didn't feel like a laser in terms of flex. Fairly rigid.

07-18-2013, 07:42 AM
Nice review will. How do you find the cutting performance, now that you've opened it up?

07-18-2013, 09:28 PM
Hey Dusty. In short, damn good. As I said I like the thinness of the knife, its "just so".. I've cut cabbage, garlic, ginger, onion, the basics, and its really really good, the best I've used.. but this includes absolutely no high end JKnives. So, I think it's great! it shaves, will cut a tomato horizontally with no holding, etc etc. And in the cabbage, it's no laser, but it cleaved the whole head rather nicely, again due IMO to the blade thickness.

As for the handle/ergonomics of the blade, I was surprised to find I like it more than I thought I would. You see, I actually ordered the Santoku from eBay.. and received this. However the seller 330mate was very generous and gave me the knife for a steal, then sent the santoku for the original price (btw they're $50 if you're patient for 165cm!!). It basically beat sending it back, even the gas/time to do so if the seller had paid. So, when I was waiting, kinda debating the knife's future, I didn't expect to find it very useful, since the 165 was intended to be my main knife anyhow. And, even the 165 I was questioning.. preferring more a 180mm length in my head. However, again I will mention the cabbage.. it is just long enough to get the job done, and slices really nicely. It almost strikes me as a baby yanigaba, and since it's so sharp, there's not a lot of "pull" to cut something fully (chicken breast tomato etc). So it's very nice for that.

We'll see for edge retention.. and a good bit of that (in my experience) has to do with the final polishing technique anyway (100% burr removal etc, microbevel angle) so I think I got it pretty well the first go. So.. with all due respect for not over-expecting.. I was excited to hear panda's analysis on the retention! Even so it's super easy to sharpen the edge steel, so I'll be mostly impossible to disappoint at this stage.

Panda and brainsausage, you guys prefer bigger knives, so how much of a no-no is the fact these knives seem to bend semi-permanently? It seems more likely with a bigger knife, w extra torque while sharpening or garlic smashing or something, but maybe they're thicker to compensate.. have you noticed the bending at all panda? It bends back as I said.. but I assume the higher-end knives have a great deal more spring...

derail away all :) Next week sometime I plan to post the sharpening of the santoku with more pics of whatever hollows may exist while the majority of them still does, and some mud! Also, I now wanna try a 250mm!! I'm used to smaller knives via muscle memory but I can see the appeal.. does the geometry of the normal 240's allow basically a longer life via more sharpening potential, or a regular lifespan with a TON of work?? That would be a real sharpening endeavor!! haha. I think even I might look elsewhere at that point..

Maybe the smiths use the same amount of metal for 240/270 bc it's easier, or maybe the 240 is considered standard issue and lifespan is prioritized.. just a couple ideas... is 240mm most common Jknife for pros?

07-18-2013, 10:48 PM
There is absolutely no bend or flex in the bigger gyutos, they're very stiff.

07-20-2013, 12:08 AM
There is absolutely no bend or flex in the bigger gyutos, they're very stiff.

interesting.. I didn't realize the nashiji gyuto's existed til you inspired me to check elsewhere (than eBay) and I found them.. could you give a rough estimate of the blade thickness? the 155 is just over 1/16th inch.. not even 3/32.

07-20-2013, 01:48 AM
thanks for the review looking forward to getting these

07-22-2013, 12:31 PM
To answer my own question from earlier, from poking around I learned quality laminated knives like Takeda's super blue steel line have been known to bend and stay bent and apparently it's consistent across the knives, which hasn't been enough to deter a solid following. So presumably that lone poor trait is minor in use, and doesn't imply bad quality by itself.

07-28-2013, 02:25 AM
hi all! the 155 size Tanaka is really actually a winner, the size and especially shape is growing on me. I surfed some of my other favorite makers (in theory.. due to steel and process) and didn't realize it isn't a given style or size by a maker. Ex Takeda, Yoshikane, Fujiwara, all kinda let this style of knife.. not bein their lineup. $36 on ebay shipped??

Anyway before I get carried away with my growing enthusiasm (think I'm getting another one..) I'm posting today about the sharpening of the steel and microbevelling thereof. I brutally tested the knife sharpening for example a carpentry pencil, and it did not like the graphite much. Nor did it like the piece of Oak I started shaving. So I've been dialing down the original edge I had on it, which I've now calculated at a ridiculous 8.4 degrees, a total V

Now, I had an idea of how I wanted the microbevel angle just by feel, but I wanted to double check my instinct of how I wanted to hold the blade on the stone with the correct angle I was going for, and figured out more or less how to do that, on a dime. No srsly. ahhaa

So I started by calculating blade thickness, which was slightly less than 3/32, or as I called it, 1/16+. Call this T. So next I wanted to know the length of the bevel, call it B, and measured it at 7/16+. So, the ratio of T/B was just about 1.x/7. This gives me the triangle with 3 sides, 1.3, 7.3, 7.3. Now I can calculate that angle, and this is the pure V of the entire bevel, which is too steep in practice for this GS3 steel.

So, I basically decided I wanted 22* total. Dividing the current total angle of both bevels by two, it's like 4.2* per side, and I had to add 7ish degrees microbevel, per side. The issue became visualizing this angle with the knife on the stone, or more importantly, figuring out the hand positioning, and this is probably the part that gets tricky/intimidating for most people.

Something just came up but I have some pictures/further explanaiton to help illustrate how this is possible with something hopefully everybody here has access to. More to come

07-28-2013, 03:34 AM
Alright never mind I can finish this again lol. So I was a bit wrong above anyway 1+/7 is a bit more like 9 degrees, and we want to add therefore about 6.5 degrees per side. Now you could carry on drawing triangles, because all the info is there but there's an easier way, in this case.. we know 1/16th+/7+=9, so we need to add about 2/3 of that. WELL. It just so happens a quarter is exactly 1/16th of an inch. Well shucks that's too much. But luckily there are thinner pieces of US coinage! In this case, a dime is very, very close to 2/3 a quarter's thickness.

Before I get too carried away, it's important to remember your point of measure due to distal taper. If you want to find WHERE your spine is 1/16th, just use your fingers and a quarter, and mark with a pencil, and keep that point as your point of reference. Now your ratio will be 1/16 over whatever the bevel width is.

In my case, the dime was close to the 2/3 of a 1/16th I needed. So what this means is, if we put the dime under the farthest point of the bevel, where the ratio is about 1+/7 (it's a somewhat specific point you will have this ratio due to distal taper..), it will be around the 11deg microbevel we want on that side.

Here's the dime under the knife (sorry it was a bit tricky..)


As you can see, the edge is raised a decent amount off the table, and if you're confident/skilled, you could probably just see this distance and kinda memorize it and proceed with the microbevelling. But, it's definitely a difficult process to slide that dime under there JUST so the edge of the dime meets the far extent of the bevel, so really, the functional distance you can see/feel is the height of the spine off the surface. So that's again, available to you as a triangle mathematically, which I did calculate, and I already knew I wanted the spine 3/16 off the table (handily, 3 quarters). However, another way to do it would have been to just hold that bevel as I did for the picture and begin sliding change under the very edge of the spine and get it to touch at two points. What I mean by that is shown with this sketch


since both edges touch the coins at.. their edges, this is now a gauge you can use to make sure you're holding at the right angle.


Here's a final picture of where I actually had the coins positioned so you can see from the top. Just imagine that the dime is basically on the underside, not top, and maybe moved left a hair..


So, now, this doesn't work for all edges. If you have a convexed laser, just measure the total belly, and plug in the desired microbevel angle (lets say 11 again.) So, now assume your knife was I dunno 2 inches deep at the reference point (a point on the knife of your choosing). Now you have a triangle with 2 angles, 90 and 11, and a side of 2". There are plenty of triangle solvers online that make this process very easy, so no arcsine's are involved haha.

And, more importantly, the gauge isn't that useful as a stack of coins. So, wrap the stack of coins with some tape and what's even better about that is, if you're likely not going to have something perfectly incremented in coins thicknesses. So, you can either push the stack of coins deeper, and kinda mark a line on the tape at which depth they're relevant, or again use the exact spine, and just wrap more layers of tape!

Hey, it's not perfect, but perfect edges don't exist anyway. I mean, is there REEAALLLY an edge that is microbevelled at exactly 11 degrees ALL the way up the blade? What about if its distal tapered, does that microbevel beome narrower/shorter or does it change angles steeper and keep its size? It gets pretty complicated to make a perfect edge, and there are probably two ways: one, a very robotic bondage looking series of jigs and polishing equipment. Or, practice and skill. The best purpose here is you have a crutch to be able to trust your hands a bit more and help you get sharpening. With time, there won't be any more need for taped up coins and your knives will be sharper than ever.

07-28-2013, 09:48 PM
nice knife! I think you may be over-thinking the sharpening...I'd suggest watching Jon's videos that can be found here (http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEBF55079F53216AB&feature=plcp)

07-29-2013, 02:19 AM
yeah you're nuking it, just hit it on the stones and experiment.

Brad Gibson
07-29-2013, 04:31 AM
that looks fun. how much did it cost total to buy it from ebay and have it shipped to the conus?

07-30-2013, 01:36 AM
currently, 36$. But the yen moves a lot. Still it's def one of the best deals I've gotten on anything and goes to illustrate the law of diminishing returns in some of the pricier echelons.

chinacats, thanks for the reply. I'm def overthinking it, I know haha. Hence the 3d modelling. But the point is, I actually want to know the angle at which I'm sharpening the G3 steel so I can find the ideal angle for this steel, which is presumably slightly different than others. This is a good experiment for this knife because it's extra chippy at lower angles. The steel characteristic is both chippy due to temper (which seems "as advertised") and chippy via no Mo or V additives so I'm guessing it's towards an extreme. So actually one or two trig puzzles in this case is just enough thinking.

I liked Johns vids. Better than most I've seen. I prefer to switch hands and still flip. Always found scratch pattern better this way, nice X pattern both sides, easier to buff out at the finer grits. As it turns out my default microbevelling hand position was damn close to the degree I wanted anyway, in the end, but I wanted to know for sure what I was doing a bit more precisely. Good luck getting much data on your output another way. German makers use lasers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgiwd98Bs1s#t=42s). Hadn't seen a gauge block mentioned in this regard