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OCD
01-30-2012, 12:20 AM
Hello all,

I'd like to start learning about the relative merits of some Japanese brands, using a 240mm Gyuto as a guide (for price comparisons). Aside from price (which I know doesn't always confer quality), what other things distinguish the brands from one another? How do I tell a Bentley from a BMW from a Buick?

Thanks!

JasonD
01-30-2012, 02:25 AM
I suppose to begin to tackle this question you have to understand what different makers are aiming for in their finished product. There are many knives that are considered extremely good that look quite rustic (Takeda, or even many Carters in my opinion). But, that is by design.

Each knife maker/brand has different qualities and it's up to you to decide which ones really bear most on your selection. Some of these things to be considered might be : thickness of the blade (laser vs mighty) / stainless vs semi-stainless vs carbon steel / even being more specific to wanting a specific alloy of steel / the blade's finish level (mirror/matte/kurouchi/damascus. even one maker's kurouchi finish will consistently look different than another's) / blade profile (lots of belly or flat) / handle style / handle materials / general fit and finish, tight joints at the handle, rounded choil/spine of the blade, etc / single steel construction vs cladded / convex grind vs straight / amount of distal taper.

I don't write out this big list of attributes to try to overwhelm you. I just want you to start to think about which bits of a knife really make a difference to you. For me, my last purchase was a Masamoto HC 240mm Gyuto. The reason I wanted that one was a high blade height at the heel, good carbon steel with a good heat treatment, uncladded construction, a blade in the middle-to-mighty end of the thickness scale, western handle, acceptable fit and finish, and price. It is probably easier to give a list of makers to consider once you've narrowed down what you're looking for. Different knives get reputations for their different qualities. It's up to you to figure out first which qualities you most desire, and then choose a brand that does it best. And of course, there's tons of people here that are happy to offer suggestions.

orange
01-30-2012, 05:13 PM
I suppose to begin to tackle this question you have to understand what different makers are aiming for in their finished product. There are many knives that are considered extremely good that look quite rustic (Takeda, or even many Carters in my opinion). But, that is by design.

Each knife maker/brand has different qualities and it's up to you to decide which ones really bear most on your selection. Some of these things to be considered might be : thickness of the blade (laser vs mighty) / stainless vs semi-stainless vs carbon steel / even being more specific to wanting a specific alloy of steel / the blade's finish level (mirror/matte/kurouchi/damascus. even one maker's kurouchi finish will consistently look different than another's) / blade profile (lots of belly or flat) / handle style / handle materials / general fit and finish, tight joints at the handle, rounded choil/spine of the blade, etc / single steel construction vs cladded / convex grind vs straight / amount of distal taper.

I don't write out this big list of attributes to try to overwhelm you. I just want you to start to think about which bits of a knife really make a difference to you. For me, my last purchase was a Masamoto HC 240mm Gyuto. The reason I wanted that one was a high blade height at the heel, good carbon steel with a good heat treatment, uncladded construction, a blade in the middle-to-mighty end of the thickness scale, western handle, acceptable fit and finish, and price. It is probably easier to give a list of makers to consider once you've narrowed down what you're looking for. Different knives get reputations for their different qualities. It's up to you to figure out first which qualities you most desire, and then choose a brand that does it best. And of course, there's tons of people here that are happy to offer suggestions.

isn't this sound similar to learning about wine?

tk59
01-30-2012, 05:20 PM
A cheat sheet might eliminate discussion on this board. Go make it yourself. :) Seriously, though. There are hundreds of brands and thousands of different knives and millions of different opinions. Good luck with that one.

stevenStefano
01-30-2012, 05:31 PM
I know it can seem overwhelming when you don't know a whole lot, but you just gotta try a few knives. Think of the ones you have and what you like about them and buy similar ones, then go from there

SpikeC
01-30-2012, 06:15 PM
Unfortunately there is no simple shortcut to learning the intricacies of Japanese knife production. One mans BMW is another mans Isseta. The knives that are bogus are generally the really inexpensive ones, butt that isn't always the case either!

Pensacola Tiger
01-30-2012, 06:25 PM
Hello all,

I'd like to start learning about the relative merits of some Japanese brands, using a 240mm Gyuto as a guide (for price comparisons). Aside from price (which I know doesn't always confer quality), what other things distinguish the brands from one another? How do I tell a Bentley from a BMW from a Buick?

Thanks!

Experience guided by intelligence.

Since you have to start somewhere, go read everything at Gator's website (http://zknives.com/knives/index.shtml). That will give you a minimal grounding in what Gator considers to be differentiating qualities.

Then, go buy a knife, either a new one or patiently wait for a used one to pop up on a forum. Use it, and make your own determination of the qualities you've read about. If you want, ask questions of the members here about these determinations, to fine tune your judgment. Repeat with another knife.

It's a longish journey, but eventually your experiences will coalesce into what you are seeking.

Rick

unkajonet
01-30-2012, 07:12 PM
Read read read. It's a cream rises to the top type thing. The better knives will come up more often than the POS knives. There's no real shortcut around doing the research.

tk59
01-30-2012, 07:31 PM
Read read read. It's a cream rises to the top type thing. The better knives will come up more often than the POS knives. There's no real shortcut around doing the research.To some extent, yes. However, I'm sure there are a ton of great knives that people do not talk about anymore. Who's mentioned Suisin, lately? How about IT? TKC? A-type? How many times have people mentioned Zakuri in the last few weeks?

Rottman
01-30-2012, 07:32 PM
It's like fashion, they'll all come back eventually...

unkajonet
01-30-2012, 07:37 PM
To some extent, yes. However, I'm sure there are a ton of great knives that people do not talk about anymore. Who's mentioned Suisin, lately? How about IT? TKC? A-type? How many times have people mentioned Zakuri in the last few weeks?

The third "read" covers that.

SpikeC
01-30-2012, 07:45 PM
I recall pretty much all of those in the recent past. You just gotta read all of the posts!:biggrin:

tk59
01-30-2012, 08:04 PM
I recall pretty much all of those in the recent past. You just gotta read all of the posts!:biggrin:I will admit I might miss a post here and there. However, I stand by my point which is that the "most mentioned" knife is not necessarily the "best" knife. A while back, the KonHD was easily the most mentioned knife and I love it but I can't say it's the best. You'd also think that HiroAS is among the best which I really disagree with.

@Spike: I'd like you to show me the last five mentions of IT. (If you even know what that is.:saythat:)

Eamon Burke
01-30-2012, 08:08 PM
I think the Hiro AS's reputation has largely been expanded by the quality of Dave's thinned, etched, rehandled, and sharpened versions...which only have the Hiro HT and bolster in common.

tk59
01-30-2012, 08:11 PM
...@Spike: I'd like you to show me the last five mentions of IT. (If you even know what that is.:saythat:)Okay, I was hot n bothered enough to actually do a search. It shows up about once a month barring sales. That ain't much.

SpikeC
01-30-2012, 08:30 PM
I will admit I might miss a post here and there. However, I stand by my point which is that the "most mentioned" knife is not necessarily the "best" knife. A while back, the KonHD was easily the most mentioned knife and I love it but I can't say it's the best. You'd also think that HiroAS is among the best which I really disagree with.

@Spike: I'd like you to show me the last five mentions of IT. (If you even know what that is.:saythat:)

Ok, that's one.......

stevenStefano
01-30-2012, 08:35 PM
I think some knives don't get mentioned because they are surpassed by superior and/or cheaper knives, which is a good thing in my eyes. When was the last time someone mentioned a Misono?

Timthebeaver
01-30-2012, 08:59 PM
The most glaring once-flavour-of-the-month-no-longer-mentioned must be Watanabe. Greatest comeback in this category must be Carter (helped in no small part imo by Salty's video "the Grind" where he showed a funayuki besting a who's-who of the gyuto world in potato release).

EdipisReks
01-30-2012, 09:12 PM
i don't consider Watanabe to be a flavor of the month, particularly.

Timthebeaver
01-30-2012, 09:15 PM
Go back a few years...

Cadillac J
01-30-2012, 09:16 PM
It's like fashion, they'll all come back eventually...

Exactly, just seems the nature of the game.


i don't consider Watanabe to be a flavor of the month, particularly.

It definitely isn't mentioned even remotely to the extent of 2+ years ago...I remember it seemed like everyone back then brought up Watanabe in the "what knife to buy".

EdipisReks
01-30-2012, 09:18 PM
Watanabe is still pretty well respected, despite that (and i remember it).

Timthebeaver
01-30-2012, 09:24 PM
Exactly, just seems the nature of the game.



It definitely isn't mentioned even remotely to the extent of 2+ years ago...I remember it seemed like everyone back then brought up Watanabe in the "what knife to buy".

This. Even recall a situation (Marko's kiritsuke gyuto group buy) where he was favoured over, gasp, Konosuke.

EdipisReks
01-30-2012, 09:25 PM
if Watanabe is a flavor of the month, then so is Konosuke.

Timthebeaver
01-30-2012, 09:28 PM
For sure. Konosuke really came into fashion (arguably still is) with the HD.

Cadillac J
01-30-2012, 09:51 PM
if Watanabe is a flavor of the month, then so is Konosuke.

Of course it is. No one is saying 'flavor of the month(s)' is a bad thing or makes them less than great knives--in fact, it seems almost every knife falls into this category nowadays.

They all have their time in the sunshine, and the shade...and then back in the sun again for some.

We were just talking in a Carter for sale thread--someone commented a sarcastic "Carters sit for a long time for sale"...as we've seen in the last 6 months that they don't last more than an hour...yet just over a year ago, we would see brand new Carters sit around with no interest....TB London mentioned how his Carters went through numerous price decreases even 18 months ago--you just don't see that right now.

OCD
01-30-2012, 10:38 PM
So far the responses have fallen into a few categories:

1) "depends on what's important to you"
2) "suck it up and read some more, N00b!"
3) brand arguments

My take on this is that there isn't an obvious short cut. *sigh* Guess I'll have to keep on digging! I'll definitely read Gator's stuff.

echerub
01-30-2012, 11:01 PM
Nah, there's no shortcut unfortunately. Some things, like typical profile or geometry characteristics, can be noted down easily. The tricky part - and really, the valuable part - is how they feel and perform and that can be a very subjective thing. What works great for one person may not be so hot for another.

It's one thing to create a cheat-sheet but it's a whole other thing to create one that everyone can rally around and support :)

Take heart though - it's the subjectivity and personal preferences that keep knives a fun topic of discussion :)

tk59
01-30-2012, 11:30 PM
Then there's the "hand-made" problem. Most of the knives discussed here are hand made to an extent (some more than others) which basically leads to every knife being different, sometimes significantly so. For example, I've seen Masamoto KS (one of the recent darlings) that are decent, slightly awkward knives and others that are laserlike. I myself was unhappy with my Konosuke HD for a long time and discovered that it was on the thicker end of the spectrum. I've seen significant variation in a number of different brands/lines of knives. Many of us only see one example of any particular "model" of knife. It's not going to be possible to get everyone to agree on the characteristics of something that varies so much.

Andrew H
01-31-2012, 12:07 AM
So far the responses have fallen into a few categories:

1) "depends on what's important to you"
2) "suck it up and read some more, N00b!"
3) brand arguments

My take on this is that there isn't an obvious short cut. *sigh* Guess I'll have to keep on digging! I'll definitely read Gator's stuff.

I guess my tip for a shortcut would be to find a vendor who really cares about the quality of knives that they sell. Once you find a reliable vendor then price is a pretty good indicator of quality. A $180 knife probably isn't going to be as good as the $480 knife, of course that isn't always the case.

echerub
01-31-2012, 12:25 AM
As TK mentioned, there's a lot of variability - sometimes simply due to the handmade nature of the items, sometimes due to the its-how-I-feel-today nature of some makers (Shosui Takeda and Murray Carter come to mind), and sometimes it's because the makers intentionally vary the product to suit changing customer preferences.

I think we *can* make really broad generalizations - and I mean really, really broad - but they are going to be so broad in many cases and with a number of caveats and exceptions, that what we'd end up with won't really be useful for someone new to the whole thing.

ajhuff
01-31-2012, 08:32 AM
Actually this isn't that hard other than an enormous amount of work. One could make a database or pages of lists listing all the makers by type, steel, simple profile, handle etc. Example, a list of all the manufactures with a wa handles carbon steel gyuto. It could be done. JKI and Korin already have basic searches for knife use/style. That's half of what OCD is looking for. The other half, a ranking or evaluation is too subjective as everyone has pointed out.

-AJ

echerub
01-31-2012, 09:40 AM
Ah, I already do something like that for myself :) Yeah, I use a spreadsheet to track my knife collection and pivot table it to show what I've got with what profiles, what steels, mono/honyaki or clad, etc etc :)

Does having to use a spreadsheet to track my knives indicate something?? .... NAH! :)

Cadillac J
01-31-2012, 09:42 AM
This thread is why a lot of us recommend buying a well-regarded 'starter' knife in the sub-$200 range that you can learn to sharpen and find out all the characteristics you like/don't like in it, and then make your next decision based off your new knowledge...this is a repetitive process from knife to knife.

tk59
01-31-2012, 09:53 AM
...I use a spreadsheet to track my knife collection and pivot table it to show what I've got with what profiles, what steels, mono/honyaki or clad, etc etc :)...You have a serious problem, dude.

DeepCSweede
01-31-2012, 09:59 AM
Well... It definitely indicates some serious dedication to your addiction.:knife:


Ah, I already do something like that for myself :) Yeah, I use a spreadsheet to track my knife collection and pivot table it to show what I've got with what profiles, what steels, mono/honyaki or clad, etc etc :)

Does having to use a spreadsheet to track my knives indicate something?? .... NAH! :)

echerub
01-31-2012, 10:00 AM
You have a serious problem, dude.

The fact that I use Excel to track my wines, knives, and other things... quite possibly ;)

DeepCSweede
01-31-2012, 11:48 AM
Nah, there's no shortcut unfortunately. Some things, like typical profile or geometry characteristics, can be noted down easily. The tricky part - and really, the valuable part - is how they feel and perform and that can be a very subjective thing. What works great for one person may not be so hot for another.

It's one thing to create a cheat-sheet but it's a whole other thing to create one that everyone can rally around and support :) Take heart though - it's the subjectivity and personal preferences that keep knives a fun topic of discussion :)



Not to mention the artistry and the one-off'dness of many of the knives. I think that is why so many of the members have multiple knives and buy and sell on a regular basis.
In addition, I think style wise many of us like and appreciate different types of knives for different purposes.
My viewpoint is that it I am constantly learning and gaining more appreciation for knives and thanks to the great members on this site for assisting with this.

Johnny.B.Good
01-31-2012, 01:04 PM
Ah, I already do something like that for myself :) Yeah, I use a spreadsheet to track my knife collection and pivot table it to show what I've got with what profiles, what steels, mono/honyaki or clad, etc etc :)

As long as we are all being honest, I do this too! At least, I did in the beginning. When I first got started researching knives, I would add those knives that appealed to me (or seemed to strongly appeal to others from reviews or endorsements from seemingly knowledgeable forum members) to a spreadsheet. I included the make, maker, steel, handle type, price, and retailer/s. It was a "wishlist" of sorts. I decided a wanted a good parer, petty, gyuto (210, 240, 270), bread knife, etc. Once I got familiar enough with makes and makers (and where to procure them), I abandoned my spreadsheet and just started collecting. ;)

stevenStefano
01-31-2012, 01:06 PM
I still think that at the start when you're looking at knives, there are some that sorta jump out at you more than others. You could be recommended a few knives that are better than a particular one, but it just looks right for you and you get it

echerub
01-31-2012, 01:38 PM
Once I got familiar enough with makes and makers (and where to procure them), I abandoned my spreadsheet and just started collecting. ;)

I started when I had enough knives that when friends asked me how many knives I had, I had to sit down for a few minutes to count them in my head :) I only catalog the knives that I personally have. I don't update it much now though - my big buying spurts are behind me. It's more a novelty now than anything else, but it's interesting to see the summed up results to see how things come out in terms of types, styles, steels, etc.

slowtyper
01-31-2012, 02:01 PM
As I was reading the thread, this is how I first read your post. I had to stop and read it again.


The fact that I use Excel to track my wives, knives, and other things... quite possibly ;)

mpukas
01-31-2012, 02:16 PM
I use a spreadsheet to track my knife collection and pivot table it to show what I've got with what profiles, what steels, mono/honyaki or clad, etc etc :)

I've got that manic-OCD-ADD-perfectionist side too, and it makes perfect sense to me why you would do that. I've got just enough sense to stop myself from doing that though.:razz:

Johnny.B.Good
01-31-2012, 02:19 PM
I only catalog the knives that I personally have.

I have a mild form of obsessive compulsive disorder (self-diagnosed) and as a result, I tend to catalog everything. Books are a far bigger problem for me than knives, and those are all cataloged in a third-party online database. Spreadsheets are fun though. I can see the allure for the OP of having one. I just read through forum archives making notes until I decided what I wanted. And what I thought I wanted in the beginning is not what I want today or what I ended up with.

echerub
01-31-2012, 03:36 PM
I can see the allure for the OP of having one. I just read through forum archives making notes until I decided what I wanted. And what I thought I wanted in the beginning is not what I want today or what I ended up with.

Slowtyper, I'd have some serious headaches going on if it was wives, knives, etc ;)

Johnny, books ... man, I've bought duplicates of books because I don't actually know what I've got. I get 'em from local used bookstores, but still, it's a waste and a bit of a letdown to come back and find that crapola, I've already got that book! :)

For the OP, yeah, it can make sense to put things down on paper or a spreadsheet to get your thoughts all organized. There really is a lot to take in. The best way for your brain to really make sense of it all though is to actually get your hands on something and try it out. Test-drive at a good store if you can, borrow if you can, and buy if you must. You might be surprised by where you end up... or to find out that what you started off with suits you very well after all!

Johnny.B.Good
01-31-2012, 03:47 PM
Johnny, books ... man, I've bought duplicates of books because I don't actually know what I've got. I get 'em from local used bookstores, but still, it's a waste and a bit of a letdown to come back and find that crapola, I've already got that book!

I think we have a lot in common. ;) It was having this happen to me a handful of times a year that finally motivated me to catalog my collection and stop the madness. Check out this site: http://www.librarything.com. There are many sites like it, but this is inexpensive and awfully well done. Now, when I'm tempted by something interested in a used books store (a relatively common occurrence), I quickly check to see whether I have it (or something close by searching a keyword) before buying. I am trying to buy less and read more. The same will be true with knives after this year: buy less and spend more time learning to sharpen properly.

OCD
02-01-2012, 09:37 PM
What a wealth of info. Holy Moly. I have SOOOoooo much reading to do!