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View Full Version : New Yoshihiro deba: First impressions and initial sharpening



UglyJoe
06-26-2011, 03:25 PM
A few weeks back I posted a thread asking about choices for a yanagiba and deba in the $500 range. In the end I eventually picked up a 195 Yoshihiro deba and 300 Yoshihiro yanagiba from Jon. I haven't had a chance to work on the yanagi yet (I'll get there eventually!) but here are my initial impressions and first sharpening of the deba.

First, a little bit about my experience with traditional Japanese cutlery, which is, basically, very little. I have a cheap 150mm yanagi that I picked up about a year and a half ago, very similar to the ones Dave used to sell. Some people don't like the idea of buying such a cheap knife, but I actually agree with Dave's assessment. It was a cheap investment and allowed me to practice sharpening on a single bevel knife to learn how to deal with many of the issues that arise with these knives, and it was a good learning experience. Plus, it's a nifty little blade to use kind of like a petty in some cases (slicing chicken beast, removing silverskin or the skin from small fish filets, etc.). That being said this deba was the first "real" traditional knife I've worked on, and it was a great learning experience!

Out of the box the knife was pretty well finished for something in it's price range. The spine was eased and the choil has a nice bevel in it that makes it more finger friendly. This being not only the first deba I've ever owned but also the first I've ever held I was SHOCKED at how heavy the knife is. I guess with steel that thick I shouldn't have been, but nevertheless, I had no concept of how heavy that much metal actually is. Here are some pics out of the box. Sorry about the photos, my camera is terrible.

http://i205.photobucket.com/albums/bb122/BillyTwilight/Yoshihiro%20Deba/DSC03001.jpg

The handle is very good, typical for knives in this price range. Nothing fancy, but comfortable and well finished. The saya is very nicely finished and thick; it doesn't fit like a glove, but I'd say it's better than the saya that came with my Mizuno gyuto.

Here are some shots of the blade, the spine itself, and the choil I mentioned earlier.

http://i205.photobucket.com/albums/bb122/BillyTwilight/Yoshihiro%20Deba/DSC03003.jpg

http://i205.photobucket.com/albums/bb122/BillyTwilight/Yoshihiro%20Deba/DSC03006.jpg

http://i205.photobucket.com/albums/bb122/BillyTwilight/Yoshihiro%20Deba/DSC03007.jpg

The back bevel on the choil is nice, but where the actual edges meet are pretty squared off and I am going to ease them myself at some point with sandpaper. They aren't quite uncomfortable, but not quite as comfortable as I'd prefer either.

The finish to the blade road looks pretty good in the pic I posted above, but that's mostly an artifact of my camera. The finish is fine, and evenly done, but not a true kasumi finish that you would expect on a more expensive line from say Suisin or particularly Shigefusa. Here is a better focused close up of the finish.

http://i205.photobucket.com/albums/bb122/BillyTwilight/Yoshihiro%20Deba/DSC03004.jpg

It's a pretty low grit finish and has no "mirror" quality to it at all.

Finally, the ura of the knife is what I would call immaculately ground out of the box.

http://i205.photobucket.com/albums/bb122/BillyTwilight/Yoshihiro%20Deba/DSC03008.jpg

Notice that at the edge the flat is so thin that it could barely be seen by the naked eye. On close up:

http://i205.photobucket.com/albums/bb122/BillyTwilight/Yoshihiro%20Deba/DSC03009.jpg

It's there, but very, very narrow. I actually like this, because it gives the sharpener leeway to set the ura as they see fit on initial sharpening.

On first inspection out of the box I was worried the knife wasn't straight. When sighted down the blade there appeared to be a fairly significant bend toward the hagane side. It turns out this is for the most part an optical illusion, probably caused by the fact that I have such little experience with a traditional knife this tall. The concavity of the ura and the way the grind marks of that surface were directed tends to trick the eye into seeing more bend in the blade than there is actually there, and it's something that I will have to account for as I gain experience dealing with single bevel knives. When I placed the blade lengthwise on a flattened stone there were some places that the edge didn't contact the stone and would catch a fingertip pulled back across it, but the gaps were very tiny, and when I placed the blade ura down on the stone at the angle that I would actually sharpen at, there were no gaps across this much shorter distance anywhere from the heel to the tip.

Once I was comfortable with the straightness of the blade I was ready to sharpen. The OOTB edge was sharp enough to cut paper with a drawing motion, but not push cut. The edge was slippery, and I think a good example of what Dave calls an obtuse factory edge. Because the ura side bevel was so thin I was uncomfortable doing any grinding on the primary bevel of the knife. I feared that I would eat right through the ura bevel, and that might make life more difficult bringing it back. Therefore, I started with uraoshi sharpening to get the ura where I wanted it.

Contrary to Jon and other's suggestion of using a fine stone I started with a King 1000. I probably made no more than 20 passes on any one section of the ura, and stopped when the edge flat was just under 1mm all the way up the cutting edge. This gave me room to play with on the main bevel sharpening, and insured that I'd be able to feel the burr raised on that primary sharpening and not eat through the ura side. I then continued uraoshi up through my finishing stone. When finished, the ura was fairly evenly ground across the cutting edge. Right at the heel it looks as though the ura was slightly overground (you can see this on the above OOTB pic), like the knife had been lifted slightly when this original sharpening had been done. It's such a small area that I didn't bother trying to fix it at this time. I think it will eventually disappear with subsequent sharpening.

I then cut a primary bevel into the bevel side of the knife by laying the knife flat on the main bevel, then lifting the knife a hair and using pressure just at the edge. When Jon talks about this he talks about the idea being that one should basically hit the hagane up to the lamination line here. My bevel wasn't quite that wide, more in the area of 2-2.5 mm, or about half of the exposed hagane. I was either A.) lifiting the knife just slightly too high (I tried to keep it low, promise!) or B.) the primary bevel from the factory was flatter and didn't have nearly as much of a complex bevel blended into it as some of the nicer hand-finished traditional knives might have. I think it was mostly the second, because after establishing a primary edge and generating a burr across the entire edge I started working the primary bevel from the shinogi down, and found that there was a slight concavity to the blade road all the way up the knife. I'm assuming this was from being ground in on a wheel, and that this wasn't removed with flat stones at the factory, simply polished over. At this point I dropped down to my Beston 500 (I don't like using this stone till I have a feel for a knife from my King 1000). I flattened the blade road, which went fairly quickly with the exception of an overgrind in the heel which you will see later. I sharpened out the Beston marks with the King, blended the bevels together to get that nice hamaguriba going on, and proceeded to uraoshi sharpening with my finishing stone. Deburred with felt pad and block, then repeated with the King 6000, and finally my finishing stone, a Shoubudani Kiita natural finisher that I picked up a little earlier this year from Maksim. I evened out the kasumi finish with fingerstones, applied about a 35 degree microbevel and here are the results:

http://i205.photobucket.com/albums/bb122/BillyTwilight/Yoshihiro%20Deba/DSC03011.jpg

You can see the overgrind in the heel here. I could have removed it with significantly more sharpening, but didn't feel it was worth the loss of knife life and frankly I was tired of grinding. I was able to polish it a bit with stone slurry and fingerstones, so it's not quite so ugly, but it's still obviously there. More pics.

http://i205.photobucket.com/albums/bb122/BillyTwilight/Yoshihiro%20Deba/DSC03012.jpg

http://i205.photobucket.com/albums/bb122/BillyTwilight/Yoshihiro%20Deba/DSC03014.jpg

http://i205.photobucket.com/albums/bb122/BillyTwilight/Yoshihiro%20Deba/DSC03015.jpg

http://i205.photobucket.com/albums/bb122/BillyTwilight/Yoshihiro%20Deba/DSC03017.jpg

As you can see I still have a ways to go learning how to use this finishing stone, but I'm pretty proud of my results so far. The Kasumi finish isn't perfectly even, and neither is the grind of the blade road, but I think next time I take it back down to the 500x I will really get the blade road where I want it to be.

And finally, the ura (I need to get a better pic of this, but this is all I have right now).

http://i205.photobucket.com/albums/bb122/BillyTwilight/Yoshihiro%20Deba/DSC03021.jpg

I'm still unsure of how thick the flat should be on the ura side. Too thin and the edge will be weak, too thick and the knife won't preform the way it should. Right now it's sitting at about 0.5mm thick up the cutting edge. Should I flatten that out a bit more?

All in all I really like this knife. It takes some work to get it where I want it to be, but it's worth it. The knife grinds very pleasantly, push cuts paper with ease, shaves with abandon, and was relatively easy to deburr.

For anyone who actually read all of this a big thanks! I appreciate any critiques from anyone and will answer any questions that anyone has. Thanks for reading!

UglyJoe
06-26-2011, 03:27 PM
I ran out of room in the initial post and just wanted to say thanks to everyone who made suggestions to me in my initial thread about purchasing these knives. Also, I would really, really appreciate as much criticism as possible from the sharpening gurus on here about my sharpening and where I need to improve, at least, what you can tell from the photos.

Thanks again!
UJ

Dave Martell
06-26-2011, 04:26 PM
I'm going to have to say that you did pretty damn good for a first run on a deba. You should be really proud of yourself for this.

UglyJoe
06-26-2011, 04:29 PM
Thanks, Dave! Coming from you, that means a lot!

Edit: Do you think I should widen the flat at the edge of the ura side a bit? I really have no idea how wide this should be for edge stability...

JBroida
06-26-2011, 05:06 PM
cant really get a sense of scale from your picture, but it should be about 1-2mm wide... often better to side closer to 1 and adjust from there as necessary after using the knife for a bit

Dave Martell
06-26-2011, 05:12 PM
I wouldn't widen it on purpose, keep it narrow as possible.

UglyJoe
06-26-2011, 05:37 PM
Thanks Jon and Dave. What do you guys think about the overground area in the heel? It didn't seem too deep to me, but it does extend down into the hagane pretty deeply. Is this something that I should be worried about, or do you think with subsequent sharpening it will work itself out?

SpikeC
06-26-2011, 08:24 PM
Great post, Ugly! That is a really good illustration of overgrind! I hope anyone who is unclear on the concept gets a chance to see this!

maxim
06-26-2011, 08:26 PM
I will also say very good job :thumbsup:
My first try with Naturals did not look like that :O

Naturals on a Deba can de difficult task because of wight and to much pressure on the stone !

No need to make ura bigger, just adjust your micro-bevel when you have used you knife for a wail.

That over-grind is very common on this knifes i have some Shigefusa with same over-grind too in many cases it does not affect sharpening

Dave Martell
06-26-2011, 08:28 PM
Thanks Jon and Dave. What do you guys think about the overground area in the heel? It didn't seem too deep to me, but it does extend down into the hagane pretty deeply. Is this something that I should be worried about, or do you think with subsequent sharpening it will work itself out?


I think it's up to you, if you can live with it looking like that then why bother with it but if it bother you get to it and get it over with. I see this all of the time and have to remove this problem because I can't send a knife back like that - I'll get blamed for it. :)

mainaman
06-26-2011, 08:31 PM
Joe,
this natural kasumi finish looks very nice, great Job with that deba.

UglyJoe
06-26-2011, 08:43 PM
@Spike, maxim, and mainaman: Thanks! I was actually very pleased that that was the only real trouble spot on the knife. The rest of the knife went really easily. Jon was right when he said these knives tend to be really well put together for a cheaper knife for beginners. Maxim, to be fair, I've practiced putting a kasumi finish on the cheap yanagi I talked about early in the post, so this wasn't my first time. I get a little frustrated with the stone itself as I can get the finish there, but it is very uneven and I have to use the fingerstones to get it looking as even as it does now, which still isn't great. I'm continuing to work on getting an even finish straight off the stone so that I can reserve the fingerstones for texturing the look how I want it. I also really like the kasumi finish of the hagane... it's obviously much more mirrored than the jigane, but it still has that melancholy haze that suits my particular aesthetic.

@Dave: After working on this knife for a while I really felt for you Dave. I can understand better how distraught you get when someone sends in a stupid hard 300+ honyaki yanagi that hasn't had the blade road flattened and you have to figure out some way to do it... any overgrinds in a honyaki would have to be... UGH. As for the overgrind, no it doesn't bother me enough to work it away all at once; I was just a little worried about how far down into the hagane it extended, and if that might cause problems with the edge later on (terrifying thoughts of Moritakas running through my head). Nothing about it suggested it would be a problem to me, but I'm not nearly as experienced with this as you are.

maxim
06-26-2011, 08:54 PM
Maxim, to be fair, I've practiced putting a kasumi finish on the cheap yanagi I talked about early in the post, so this wasn't my first time. I get a little frustrated with the stone itself as I can get the finish there, but it is very uneven and I have to use the fingerstones to get it looking as even as it does now, which still isn't great. I'm continuing to work on getting an even finish straight off the stone so that I can reserve the fingerstones for texturing the look how I want it. I also really like the kasumi finish of the hagane... it's obviously much more mirrored than the jigane, but it still has that melancholy haze that suits my particular aesthetic.


You will appreciate that shiny kasumi finish later :) when you can do even kasumi on that stone.
But before that you have to use more mud on your stone, before mud begin to be to thick just drop of water from your finger is enough to get it going again !
You have to repeat it many times before you start to wash your knife with water :)

Dave Martell
06-26-2011, 08:56 PM
Isn't it a crazy amount of work to do this? getting it sharp is easy but making it look pretty the first time is tough.

UglyJoe
06-26-2011, 08:56 PM
Thanks, Maksim!

UglyJoe
06-26-2011, 08:59 PM
Isn't it a crazy amount of work to do this? getting it sharp is easy but making it look pretty the first time is tough.

You aren't joking. I have to give a big thanks to you, Jon, Maksim, and a lot of others though. You had a large post explaining exactly how you treat traditional knives on the "other forum" - information that needs to be moved here, by the way! - and I've studied Jon and Maksim's videos for hours before preparing to do this deba. It's a lot of study, but from all the resources you guys have made available, I never found myself thinking, "Oh crap! What do I do now??" Big thanks to all of you guys.

Dave Martell
06-26-2011, 09:25 PM
I don't know about them but I'm a big mouth so it comes naturally to me so no problem here. :)

UglyJoe
06-26-2011, 09:38 PM
I don't know about them but I'm a big mouth so it comes naturally to me so no problem here. :)

I'm snickering on the inside right now. And on the outside a little bit as well....

steeley
06-26-2011, 09:58 PM
Joe he's not so ugly anymore.:ggodjob:

UglyJoe
06-26-2011, 10:01 PM
Hah. I have no idea what part of my mind my username came from, by the way. My name isn't remotely close to Joe, and I think I've only known like 2 Joe's my whole life. I signed up for a forum years ago and was trying to think of a name that was memorable and at the same time kind of icky. The one I came up with off the top of my head was "UglyJoeCream".... yeah, exactly. That eventually got shortened to UglyJoe and I've been using it as my forum moniker ever since.

UglyJoe
06-26-2011, 10:30 PM
Isn't it a crazy amount of work to do this? getting it sharp is easy but making it look pretty the first time is tough.

By the way, this post also made me feel like I'm part of a club. The over-the-top-overly-obsessed-stay-up-till-3am-in-the-morning-sharpening-so-a-knife-isn't-only-sharp-but-looks-good-club. Hurray me! :D

slowtyper
06-26-2011, 11:01 PM
Great post. I have the yoshihiro hongasumi from ebay and am having trouble sharpening it (lots of help in the thread I made but I didn't have a chance to go over the knife again yet) so I look forward to your yanagi post.

Is the knife from jon the same as mine? http://cgi.ebay.ca/Japanese-sushi-chef-knife-Yanagi-YOSHIHIRO-Hongasumi-27-/230617866113?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item35b1e55f81

JBroida
06-26-2011, 11:05 PM
no...its a little different

Dave Martell
06-26-2011, 11:20 PM
By the way, this post also made me feel like I'm part of a club. The over-the-top-overly-obsessed-stay-up-till-3am-in-the-morning-sharpening-so-a-knife-isn't-only-sharp-but-looks-good-club. Hurray me! :D


Oh your sooooo in the club! :lol2:

UglyJoe
06-26-2011, 11:28 PM
:nunchucks:

steeley
06-27-2011, 01:22 AM
First rule of knife club: post and show photos .
and to know the secret handshake .:boxing:

UglyJoe
06-27-2011, 01:31 AM
First rule of knife club: post and show photos .
and to know the secret handshake .:boxing:

Is that the three-finger handshake?:sofa:

Rottman
06-27-2011, 08:44 AM
Is that the three-finger handshake?:sofa:

If you still have three fingers your knives are dull...

UglyJoe
06-27-2011, 11:45 AM
If you still have three fingers your knives are dull...

Hah. I guess my knives are really dull then, cause I still have 8 fingers...

EdipisReks
06-27-2011, 10:11 PM
Isn't it a crazy amount of work to do this? getting it sharp is easy but making it look pretty the first time is tough.

isn't that the truth. once again, thanks for answering all of my emails so patiently, 6 months ago. :) once you have it down, though, it's pretty easy to keep it both sharp and pretty.

EdipisReks
06-27-2011, 10:13 PM
By the way, this post also made me feel like I'm part of a club. The over-the-top-overly-obsessed-stay-up-till-3am-in-the-morning-sharpening-so-a-knife-isn't-only-sharp-but-looks-good-club. Hurray me! :D

heh. i got into single bevel knives beginning of the year. i was stuck home with a badly broken leg (i wish the surgeon had used one of my knives, the scars would have been cleaner), and i bought single beveled knives specifically to keep me busy. there were times that i was still up at 5 AM with that. it really helped my recuperation.

Dave Martell
06-27-2011, 11:40 PM
Cool story ER :)

UglyJoe
06-28-2011, 12:18 PM
So I went at it again last night, took it back down to the 500 and polished all the way back up. Still a little bit of overgrind in the heel left, but it's almost there. Main thing is the blade road is mostly flat now with that one exception. Polished back up to the natural finish. It looks a lot more even now. Here's a quick video that shows what a kasumi finish looks like for those who haven't really seen one before. At some angles it looks like a mirror, at others it looks like an even (not streaky!) haze. This is still not the best effort, but I'm getting there.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5k74oN4otyc

SpikeC
06-28-2011, 01:10 PM
Dang! That is just lovely!

Dave Martell
06-28-2011, 01:16 PM
Looking good!

bieniek
06-28-2011, 01:20 PM
Did you tried it on any fish yet? :)
Looks beatifull but how does it cut??

UglyJoe
06-28-2011, 02:49 PM
Unfortunately no, and it's killing me. We don't ever get any whole fish here (nothing that looks remotely edible, anyway), and I haven't had any other butchery to do this week. Going to break down some chicken's this weekend, and I'm hoping to get a whole wild salmon from a local sushi joint in the next couple of weeks. Will let you know!

bieniek
06-28-2011, 04:06 PM
Thats what Im talking about!
Give it some hard time

Eamon Burke
06-28-2011, 04:09 PM
THAT is a really nice finish.

EdipisReks
06-28-2011, 05:48 PM
that finish looks great!

UglyJoe
06-28-2011, 10:21 PM
Thanks guys! The finish is pretty good, but the edge is a marvel. I can't wait to see what kind of edge I can put on the yanagi (which you can catch just a glimpse of on my board in the video). From what I can tell the HT on these Yoshihiros is fantastic. They take an amazing edge, they grind easy, and the knife really was set up exceptionally from the factory. It was a lot of work grinding the knife, but it was pleasant work, not panicked or frustrating work. I'd say these fall into the entry level of high end work. This feels like a knife that I would never need to replace, though I might want to for something more exotic. From a function and sharpenablity standpoint, I'm not of the opinion that you'd need something better... that's yet to be verified by actual use obviously, but everything about the blade tells me that it will work very well. Highly recommended, especially for people that fall in the "I don't want to spend a fortune on a knife but also don't want one I will want to replace in 6 months" category.

EdipisReks
06-28-2011, 11:28 PM
the Yoshihiros take a great edge, definitely. hopefully your Yanagi doesn't have the problem mine had, where there was a divot half an inch from the tip. that meant that i had to grind much more steel off the back than i wanted to to make it flat. it's still a very nice knife, cuts great, and looks nice (my usuba and yanagi look similar to your deba, plus 6 months of patina), but i was pained by how much i ground out the ura. maybe there was a better way to do it, but it was a pretty big divot.

UglyJoe
06-29-2011, 12:07 AM
A divot? In the blade road or ura? Can't quite visualize what you are talking about.

EdipisReks
06-29-2011, 12:08 AM
on the Ura imagine that the last half an inch of the blade was ground some small, but significant, fraction of an inch thinner than the rest of the knife.

UglyJoe
06-29-2011, 12:11 AM
And it wasn't a small bend in the tip that caused this? The actual hollow was ground out more and the edge wasn't touching the stone? Still hard for me to see in my head, but that wouldn't be the first time it was hard for me to see something in my head...

EdipisReks
06-29-2011, 12:15 AM
definitely not a bend. i was hoping it was a bend, after i discovered it (which was, of course, after i started sharpening it). the tip was just ****** up.

UglyJoe
06-29-2011, 01:52 PM
Well, when I get a chance to open up my yanagi I'll let you know. Might be awhile though. Prepping to lecture a summer session General Chemistry course. NOT FUN.

EdipisReks
06-29-2011, 02:52 PM
i'm sure yours will be just fine, i likely just got unlucky.

UglyJoe
08-07-2011, 07:32 PM
Okay, so it's been a while since I updated this thread. I finally got to legitimately use the knives for their intended purpose last week. It was my first experience breaking down a 17lb king salmon. My thoughts... damn, you sushi chefs make this look WAY easier than it actually is! As to the knife's performance, both the deba and the yanagi worked BEAUTIFULLY. Highly recommended. No chipping on the deba (and I never backbeveled the heel of the knife). After breaking down the whole fish it was still hair popping sharp. Needless to say my friends were frightened and confused by the edges of these knives. They had never seen such a heavy beast like this deba that could take the head clean off a large fish with one push and then still shave arm hair like a straight razor. They shook their heads, declined to even hold the knife, and walked away... one of them muttering something about "severed toes".

Needless to say, I couldn't have had a better experience with my first "real" traditional single bevel knives. They sharpened beautifully, there were no issues with grind, warping, etc., they took an amazing edge and maintained it... what more could you ask for??

jmforge
08-08-2011, 12:01 AM
Was that $500 for both knives that you were looking at or just for the deba?

UglyJoe
08-08-2011, 07:14 AM
It ended up being slightly less than $500 for both knives together.