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Maluaka
06-27-2011, 12:01 AM
Ok, here goes-

Now that I am an incurable J knife addict, I am feeling cravings for a stronger hit.... Yep, you guessed it, single bevels :biggrin:

First some info about me: Amateur but determined home cook. Use a pinch grip and mostly a push or pull cutting technique depending on the knife and what I am cutting. Cook with a lot of vegetables prepared many different ways but not much fish :sofa: (mostly because good fish is hard to come by here). Mostly chicken and beef (various cuts and preperations). Good waterstone setup (imo) and pretty good at sharpening (again imo). From lots of reading I have a very good Idea of how to sharpen single bevels and don't see it being too difficult. Almost all my outdoor knives are scandi grind which is pretty much the same as the frontside blade road of a single bevel. I know that the backside is sharpened very little, and only on the fine stones. I have gotten the impression that I might want to pick up something even finer than an 8000 for finishing. Any truth to this?

What I want to ask those of you who use them is the following:

1. What made you try single bevels?

2. What surprised you about them?

3. What was the learning curve like?

4. What style(s) do you find most useful and what styles do you think I would find most useful?

Of course Yanagibas are gorgeous but I also love the look of Usubas. Is there any point to a Yanagiba if I don't cook much with fish? I would get no use out of a Deba as I don't take apart whole chicken or fish with any kind of regularity.

I have been trying Katsuramuki with my Nakiri with pretty good results. Did a nasty old soup carrot today and only had it break twice. Cucumber and Zucchini went much better. Would a Usuba make it much easier?

Sorry, I know that was a ton of questions but anything you've got is always appreciated.

Thanks all!

echerub
06-27-2011, 12:23 AM
I first started using single bevels entirely out of curiosity. Then, once I learned how to make sushi properly and got into fileting fish myself and got to practicing it on a pretty regular basis, I couldn't go back to not having some good single bevels handy.

I have to admit that I don't get much use from my usuba, as I'm still used to using double-bevels for my veggies. However, there is a marked difference between using the usuba for katsuramuki and my nakiri or other double-bevels. It's a lot easier to keep the sheet thin and consistent with the usuba. Of course, that said, if I'm looking to prep some really fine julienne of cucumber, zucchini, or even ginger for garnish, I'm probably not going to whip out the usuba - I'll make do with whatever knife I happen to be using at the time.

What surprised me about them... mmm... well, I guess two things. First is that a single bevel blade is not automatically sharper or keener than a double-bevel. A single-bevel needs to be sharpened well to bring out its advantages. Otherwise, a dull knife is a dull knife, whether it's a single or double. The second is the fact the fact that the blades want to curve when going through something like a daikon. It is this tendency to curve in that makes it easier to make thin slices or katuramuki with a single-bevel, but it's something to get used to in order to avoid it when it comes to making simple vertical cuts through something thicker.

Learning curve... mmm... for me it was a gradual learning process. I had already begun weaning myself off rock-and-chop and training myself to get used to push-cutting, so that was already in-progress. It sounds like you're already a-ok on that count. I didn't encounter any big walls while trying to get used to single-bevels - it really was just gradually getting used to them and improving my technique just a little at a time. I'm still learning and improving, and I'm finding that it's spilling over to the way I use my double-bevels.

Because it's what I have handy most of the time - I cook for interest's sake, not professionally, and I actually carry some knives with me when I go to work or to friends' houses - the single-bevel I use most often these days is a kiritsuke.

Otherwise, if I had to choose one single-bevel as objectively the most useful, I'd have to say my deba. It's because I actually never learned how to filet fish with anything other than a deba :) I've been using a deba since the very first fish I tackled on my own.

The deba is pretty specialized, though, so I don't think that would be your best bet. If you really want to put the time into it to make it your go-to-knife, I think the usuba is the one to go for if you're prepping mainly veggies. I'll let those who actually get more use out of their usubas comment though :)

UglyJoe
06-27-2011, 12:25 AM
1.) I find them to be elegant and challenging, and want to prove myself on them... kinda hard to call yourself a Japanese knife aficionado if you don't have any experience with single bevel knives!

2.) How easy they are to deal with when things are right: straight blade, relatively even blade road, etc. If you know what you are doing, they take a lot of work, but they aren't a difficult task suited only for the gifted.

3.) Without help, immense. But from the information you can glean from this forum and users on this forum, it really isn't all that bad.

4.) Tricky. With the exception of a very few things (sashimi, katsuramuki, etc.), traditional knives aren't necessary. And you can even pull those off with success with wester knives, though the cuts won't be as elegant.

As for the 8000 grit question, it depends. Finishing the knife and getting an excellent cutting edge is easily obtained with no more than an 8000 grit stone. Making the knife look good on the other hand requires something else. Depending on the stone, you might be able to pull it off with an 8000 grit synthetic - but it will take a ton of practice and work to learn how to do that, and some stones simply aren't suited to the job (glass stones, for instance). You can use a natural stone to get a good finish (expensive), or natural fingerstones (cheap, but require that you get most of the way there with your synthetic stone), and some people use a combination of lower grit muddy synthetics to achieve a nice finish. All of these will require a lot of effort and practice, but it's well worth it in my opinion.

Darkhoek
06-27-2011, 04:20 AM
Ok, here goes-

What I want to ask those of you who use them is the following:

1. What made you try single bevels?
HOEK: Well I attended this sushi course many years ago, and I bought my first yanagiba. A smallish mediocre Masahiro, but I was sold as soon as I started using it.

2. What surprised you about them?
HOEK: Just how frig****ly hard the were to sharpen without screwing up the edge, and how easily the edge chipped.

3. What was the learning curve like?
HOEK: In the beginning exceptionally steep. Just to learn the basics so to not destroy the shape, edge, shinogi and ura was a very time and steel and stone consuming process.

4. What style(s) do you find most useful and what styles do you think I would find most useful?
HOEK: Like you I love my Usuba. I use a lot of fish, and use my Deba regularly as well as my yanagibas. My next single bevel will probably be a 240 or 255 mioroshi deba. I believe that is the best of two worlds. Part Gyuto, part Yanagiba and part Deba.

Of course Yanagibas are gorgeous but I also love the look of Usubas. Is there any point to a Yanagiba if I don't cook much with fish? I would get no use out of a Deba as I don't take apart whole chicken or fish with any kind of regularity.
HOEK: I love the feeling of power in the Deba blade. I don't believe you will need one on a regular basis, Maybe a Mioroshi Deba could be a solution. That is a very versatile knife.

I have been trying Katsuramuki with my Nakiri with pretty good results. Did a nasty old soup carrot today and only had it break twice. Cucumber and Zucchini went much better. Would a Usuba make it much easier?
HOEK: An Usuba will most likely aid you even further in performing your katsuramuki, but now we are moving into personal preferences, so for me, definalely, for you, probably.

Sorry, I know that was a ton of questions but anything you've got is always appreciated.
HOEK: I have tried to answer your questions, but these are only my personal experiences and preferences. For almost any knife exept for the finest yanagibas, you will be well off with a #8000 as your finest stone. For a fine yanagiba edge I would take it to #8000 and get a Japanese natural from Maksim at Japanesenaturalstones.com for the final finish. An Oozuku or Oohira or something like that. Maksim will be happy to help you out.

Thanks all!

DarkHOeK

Maluaka
06-27-2011, 10:06 AM
Wow! Thank you all for the time you spent on some very thorough replies!

This is all great info. It sounds like they are challenging as expected, but the performance is worth it if you put in the time.

I have to say that a big appeal for me is the traditional, truly Japanese aspect of them (hope that makes sense). For example how a Gyuto is a Japanese take on a French chefs knife, single bevels on the other hand are the real deal.

It's probably safe to assume that it will be best to avoid "cheap" single bevels so that I'm not pulling my hair out over wobbly blade roads and chipping, folding edges? Would something like a Masamoto KS be a pretty good value/quality crossroads?

Pensacola Tiger
06-27-2011, 10:52 AM
Wow! Thank you all for the time you spent on some very thorough replies!

This is all great info. It sounds like they are challenging as expected, but the performance is worth it if you put in the time.

I have to say that a big appeal for me is the traditional, truly Japanese aspect of them (hope that makes sense). For example how a Gyuto is a Japanese take on a French chefs knife, single bevels on the other hand are the real deal.

It's probably safe to assume that it will be best to avoid "cheap" single bevels so that I'm not pulling my hair out over wobbly blade roads and chipping, folding edges? Would something like a Masamoto KS be a pretty good value/quality crossroads?

I'd suggest that you talk with Jon Broida, of Japanese Knife Imports. He's very knowledgeable about traditional Japanese knives and is more than willing to advise you. Check out his store (http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/) and his subforum (http://www.kitchenknifeforums.com/forumdisplay.php?16-Japanese-Knife-Imports). You can also PM him or email (Jon@Japaneseknifeimports.com). I've purchased knives and stones from him and have been extremely pleased with both the products and the service.

You may also want to get a copy of this book: http://www.amazon.com/Japanese-Kitchen-Knives-Essential-Techniques/dp/4770030762. It describes the usage of the three basic traditional knives, the deba, the usuba and the yanagiba.

Rick

UglyJoe
06-27-2011, 10:54 AM
There are lot's of lines that would cover this "better than cheap aspect". I personally think that Masamato is overpriced, relative to their competition. If you could snag them during Korin's 15% off sale that's a different story. I think a much better thing though is to to talk to a reputable dealer who knows single bevel knives and can check any that you purchase before sending them out to you. Even the most expensive knives can have serious problems (although it's much rarer for the more expensive lines), and ergo you are better off with someone you trust guiding your purchases and making sure you get quality product, regardless of the brand that you end up buying. Yoshihiro makes good knives on the cheaper end, and Konosuke also makes very good single bevels in their Fujiyama line that would be on par as far as cost with the Masamato, and I personally think they are better finished as well.

EDIT: I will also second everything Rick said. That book is great, even as just a "coffee table" book, full of really nice photography. And Jon is an absolute pleasure to deal with. He doesn't carry everything, but he carries a lot, and even if you don't buy from him he can definitely help point you in the right direction.

Also, if I were you I'd consider a kiritsuke or kirisuke yanagiba. They are both hybrid knives, but will allow you to do both slicing and board work, which you might find more useful than either a yanagi or usuba alone.

Maluaka
06-27-2011, 11:17 AM
You guys are fantastic! I had also been eying the Konosukes as they aren't too badly priced either. I have heard the Masamoto sentiment before as it seems possible that they aren't as good a value due to people buying on a name. As you guys say, it's not such a gamble going with a small maker when you can have someone with a trained eye inspect the product first.

I like the Kiritsuke idea as my vain side thinks they are incredibly cool looking! Will they hold up to frequent board work? I tend to have a fairly light touch on the board.

Something like this? http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/kitchen-knives-by-type/kiritsuke/konosuke-240mm-fujiyama-white-2-kiritsuke.html# (Although the "requires great skill to use effectively" sentiment makes me nervous)



You may also want to get a copy of this book: http://www.amazon.com/Japanese-Kitchen-Knives-Essential-Techniques/dp/4770030762. It describes the usage of the three basic traditional knives, the deba, the usuba and the yanagiba.

Rick

It's funny you mention that book, It's on my coffee table at the moment :happyyes:

UglyJoe
06-27-2011, 11:43 AM
I like that kiritsuke. It doesn't look dead flat like some that I've seen, but I kind of like a little belly to it. It won't be any more trouble on a board than an usuba. Both are thin knives. I like a little curve for exactly this reason, it takes a little more work to get clean cuts, but with a dead flat knife you have to keep the blade exactly parallel to the board. If you don't you jam the tip or the heel into the board when cutting and can roll or chip your edge, or otherwise damage your knife.

ajhuff
06-27-2011, 12:02 PM
+3 on talk to Jon.

-AJ

EdipisReks
06-27-2011, 12:30 PM
i own a Yoshihiro usuba and yanagi, along with a little 120mm Ikeuchi ajikiri, all in white #2. i've gotten pretty good at sharpening and maintaining and polishing the blades, and i'm glad i didn't spend a fortune on knives for learning with. i find myself using the usuba quite a bit, especially for root vegetables, as it just falls through them in a way that none of my gyutos do, even my lasers. it makes carrot brunoise really quick, fun and easy. i would really like a better yanagi (my Yoshihiro yanagi was quite uneven front and back and, while i have it fixed now, it's not quite how i want it and i don't think it ever will be), but i don't cut enough fish to make it worthwhile, and the yanagi i have is very sharp and perfectly functional. i guess what i really want is a better looking yanagi. ;) i'd love a Shigefusa to match my Gyuto, and i have no doubt i could maintain a good yanagi very well, now. not in the budget, though. i use the little ajikiri constantly, as i cook a lot of whole chicken, and the thing helps make short work of portioning.

JBroida
06-27-2011, 12:30 PM
for what its worth, i almost never recommend kiritsuke to someone learning about single bevel knives... kiritsuke are hybrids of yanagiba and usuba. Once you can use yanagiba AND usuba well, then a kiritsuke MIGHT be the right knife for you. However, more often than not people want to buy them because they look cool (and i agree... they do look cool). But, at the end of the day, its a more difficult knife to use well and will not help you develop proper technique as much as getting a yanagiba and/or usuba. I say if you're going to just get started with single bevel knives stick to yanagiba, usuba (or kamagata usuba), and deba. Then, once you become comfortable with those, start to look at other shapes and styles.

@Darkhoek Mioroshi is just yanagiba and deba... not really gyuto at all in my experience. There are some gyuto-like things you can do with it, but i wouldnt call it gyuto-esque. That being said, i'm right there with you on liking that style/shape... 210-240 is just about right for me.

Maluaka
06-27-2011, 01:22 PM
Aha, thanks for the insights Mr. Broida! I think I will most likely go in the Usuba direction to start as it will get far more use in my kitchen than a Yanagiba would.

For a Usuba, what length would you recommend? I can understand wanting to start smaller but I also don't want to have to spend the money twice if I feel like I need something longer later.

Jon, I was looking at the Suisin Shironiko and Kamagata Shironiko Usubas on your site. They seem very reasonably priced even in the 210 length! Would this be a good place to start? How's the F&F on these and do they come "opened" or is that something I will need to do? *If this is not cool from a vendor standpoint feel free to PM me*

From what I understand, the difference in shape (regular or Kamagata) is more down to personal preference, however I can see that the regular style, due to the rounded tip, might be less likely to snag the cutting board on not quite level push/thrust cuts. Any thoughts on this?

Yeah, I'm the analytical type......

EdipisReks
06-27-2011, 01:36 PM
i have a 180mm Usuba, and it feels just about right in my hand. it's easy to control and nimble, but it is long enough to do everything i want. i tend towards long gyutos, but the completely flat profile of most Usubas means you have much more good blade section to work with even with a shorter knife.

Maluaka
06-27-2011, 01:55 PM
i have a 180mm Usuba, and it feels just about right in my hand. it's easy to control and nimble, but it is long enough to do everything i want. i tend towards long gyutos, but the completely flat profile of most Usubas means you have much more good blade section to work with even with a shorter knife.

I hear ya, I currently have a 165 Nakiri and find it extremely versatile.

Eamon Burke
06-27-2011, 02:37 PM
I got into single bevels way after I bought one. I got one to use at the sushi bar I got hired at, because it was a job requirement. I pretty much never used it, because my boss told me I had to have a yanagi, but then he told me that I can't cut sashimi. So I would just stare at it, fascinated, while I used my gyuto for everything.

I tried to sharpen it after it dulled down a bit, and boy did I screw it up. I had no idea what I was doing, and felt like I was running in circles trying to sharpen it. Found out a few months ago when I re-approached it with a new mindset, and the bevel is not dead flat, and it wasn't even enough to be called a hamaguriba. Oh well, that's a $180 yanagi for you. There's still an overgrind way up the blade road, but It'll never affect anything.

I agree that learning to sharpen them is like re-learning a skill. Once you get to understand the mentality behind why they were made that way, they are so bloody easy to maintain, it's pretty much a non issue. Sharpening addicts who do a lot of kata-ha knives end up with HAD, hone aquisition disorder. There is just so little science in sharpening them that to feed your addiction you become a stone collector.

As far as which to buy, I'd talk to Jon. He sells really premium stuff too, but he's not the kind of guy to push his own products exclusively. I'd strongly consider getting one of his if you want something more distinctive than straight outta Korin, and you're not looking to cheapskate your way through life like I do.

Maluaka
06-27-2011, 02:48 PM
I know what you mean on the sharpening. The first time I took my Scandi grind bush knives to the stones I discovered that flat Scandi ground bevels are very seldom flat. I had to put serious time in with all of them on the 220 to get them actually flat. The wide bevels take a while! I can't imagine what a 330 Honyaki Yanagiba at 64rc would be like if it wasn't flat :pullhair:. Once I got the bevels flat, sharpening was a breeze and they are now very easy to maintain. It's amazing how important it is to flatten those stones as well!

UglyJoe
06-27-2011, 02:59 PM
I...I can't imagine what a 330 Honyaki Yanagiba at 64rc would be like if it wasn't flat :pullhair:.

This is the reason why every once in a while Dave will post a thread ranting about death to those who decided really hard honyaki knives were a good idea in the first place...

Dave Martell
06-28-2011, 09:46 AM
Yeah plus kasumi blade roads look prettier. :D

UglyJoe
06-28-2011, 11:04 AM
Yeah plus kasumi blade roads look prettier. :D

I have to completely agree with this. They are prettier. Most honyaki knives are basically mirror finished, with some being a bit hazier than others. I just don't like that look.

bieniek
06-28-2011, 11:59 AM
Maluaka, you just want to buy a new knife, dont you? :D
Yes, miracoulously it happens to many folks on this forum.

Lets make this clear: You dont need any of traditionals. And I think it can end up it A) you wont like the way the knife functions and will use it once a year or B) it will become a pleasure and you will try to cut everything with it :) therefore may be wiser not to spend big bucks on the first one?

But theres something about gaining new skill,[and new possesion] isnt it? And the lean beauty and perfection of that shape. I think what I like about Single bevels is that they are thicker then westerns, makes them heavier and more proportional? When you pick it, click, and youre connected.
I tried to cut many things with my cheap yanagi already, ad I find it feeling great! I love to cut raw meat with it, even more than fish.
With the learning the principal for me was to understand and put into practice one thing: Technique over force. Simple as hell and hardest thing for a pro in the same time :)

Maluaka
06-28-2011, 05:51 PM
[QUOTE]Maluaka, you just want to buy a new knife, dont you? :D


Yep :D




Lets make this clear: You dont need any of traditionals.

Oh, I know, there was nothing wrong with my Globals either but we cant let that stop us can we :rolleyes2:


And I think it can end up it A) you wont like the way the knife functions and will use it once a year or

Always a possibility, just means one of you guys getting a good deal on one in the buy sell.....


B) it will become a pleasure and you will try to cut everything with it :)

That's the hope!


therefore may be wiser not to spend big bucks on the first one?

Money is not too much of an issue. This is by far the cheapest of my hobbies. My wife says the price of knives is worth it so she doesn't have to cook. I would rather spend what it takes to get something that's going to be straight with flat blade road conducive to sharpening without needing too much opening.


But theres something about gaining new skill,[and new possesion] isnt it? And the lean beauty and perfection of that shape. I think what I like about Single bevels is that they are thicker then westerns, makes them heavier and more proportional? When you pick it, click, and youre connected.
I tried to cut many things with my cheap yanagi already, ad I find it feeling great! I love to cut raw meat with it, even more than fish.
With the learning the principal for me was to understand and put into practice one thing: Technique over force. Simple as hell and hardest thing for a pro in the same time :)

That's the idea! :beer: