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joels747
11-26-2012, 01:01 PM
Hi,

It seems that almost all discussions in the forum are about Japanese knives.

are European knives so inferior to Japanese knives, or is it just a matter of taste of most people here?

I am personally fascinated by Japanese knives and other cutting tools, but I use European knives for daily cutting.

Am I missing out on something?

thanks,

Joel

jgraeff
11-26-2012, 01:40 PM
European are not inferior per se, i am not expert but the way i look at it is, japanese blades are intended for precise cutting, therefore they are using different steel that is harder, thinner, sharper, and usually lighter than European blades. Although the japanese blades will chip rather than have the edge roll on the european blades.

I woudlnt say either is better unless your intending it for a certain purpose.

I for one like using japanese knives over european in the kitchen for me the keenness the knives take, along with edge retention, and the way the cut over wedging like others is just superior for me, of course i have to be a little more careful not to push a knife too hard to where it will chip but i tend to like that over having to sharpen and hone my knife constantly.

Zwiefel
11-26-2012, 06:07 PM
I think of it in two dimensions: Audience and Purpose.

Audience: European knives are really for anyone interested in doing work in the kitchen; jKnives are more for the enthusiast, whether they are amatuer or pro, someone who looks at the knife as more than a tool, and doesn't mind spending a little time on tune-ups to keep it operating at its peak performance.

Purpose: European knives are pretty simple, and designed to absorb a fair amount of abuse without becoming unusuable; jKnives are more high-performance/precision tools, designed to do a narrow(-ish) range of tasks extremely well when maintained regularly.

So...if I was going to walk the appalacian trail and prep food along the way, I'd probably go with a european type of knife. If I'm going to be in my home kitchen, I'd go with a jKnife.

That's a bit of an oversimplification, but I am trying to draw distinctions instead of commonality.

My $.02!

turbochef422
11-26-2012, 07:37 PM
I used European knives and was an enthusiast especially for vintage sabs. Those were really the gateway knife for me. Then I tried a few j-blades and fell in love. They are on another level if you appreciate the skill, culture, geometry ect.

chinacats
11-26-2012, 11:19 PM
I used European knives and was an enthusiast especially for vintage sabs. Those were really the gateway knife for me. Then I tried a few j-blades and fell in love. They are on another level if you appreciate the skill, culture, geometry ect.

+1

and welcome joels747!

Korin_Mari
11-27-2012, 10:57 AM
As everyone here said, they're not inferior and it really depends on how you intend to use it. I've had customers who like their heavier and easier to maintain knives. It's easier to fix an edge that rolls than a harder knife that you need to use a sharpening stone to sharpen or fix a chip after being poorly honed with a steel.

Most Japanese knives have a 70/30 bevel, which is impossible to make with a soft thick steel; but because it has a harder steel, its more prone to chipping. Traditional Japanese knives (i.e. yanagi) chip like crazy if you don't know how to use it, because pure carbon is much harder... Especially if it's white steel #1 or honyaki. To most people who don't understand knives, it just looks better if you can beat up a knife and it never chips. But to cooking or knife enthusiasts it's a whole lot easier to use, even if it require more maintenance.

I really think its a question of who is using it and what they're looking for in a knife.

Canadian
11-27-2012, 11:08 AM
There are thousands of custom knife makers in Europe that compete with the best Japanese and American smiths. The reality is most people here have never heard of them nor been exposed to their knives.

The two brands that tend to be (exclusively) associated with "European knives" are Wusthof and Henckels, which is unfair.

Sabatier knives have gained a following in recent years, and are great knives. Robert Herder also makes great knives--thin with a good temper.

After owning knives from Shigefusa to Sabatier, Wusthof to a custom Rodrigue, I have realized three things over the years whilst shattering three illusions (or myths?!?)...

1) Geometry is more important than steel type when it comes to cutting food.
2) Hardness is overrated as a sole characteristic and often purported by arm-chair enthusiasts. More important is the blending of geometry, steel qualities/tempering with desired function.
3) The knives that I have owned/used in the past with the best combination of geometry and steel/tempering for cutting food have come from North American and European cutlers.

Europeans perfected the geometry of western style knives long before the Japanese started producing gyutos, pettys and sujihikis.

Unfortunately, High quality Japanese knives are simply more accessible than their western counterpart. The tides seem to be turning though.

quantumcloud509
11-27-2012, 11:12 AM
I <3 lazers.

Lucretia
11-27-2012, 11:24 AM
One thing I like about some of the japanese knives is that they are amazingly light weight. I have some that will just glide through things like potatoes, carrots, and onions. I'm getting some arthritis in my hands and wrists, and when I used to use heavier german knives it was painful to make dishes that involved a lot of chopping. Now it doesn't hurt.

And the Japanese knives are pretty, too. :D

Lefty
11-27-2012, 11:32 AM
It's a matter of taste, personal style, belief in what a knife "should do" and what you think sharp really means. I ca get old American carbon steel just as sharp as anything I've ever used, but the edge retention just isn't there. Also, if you try to push it too far, it'll roll or chip on you, and there's no benefit to having a "broken knife". However, these knives have soul, look amazing and perform very, very well with regular light honing.

Japanese knives are (generally) thinner, harder, sharper, more effortless to cut with and have a great amount of character and tradition to them...even new styles like gyutos and pettys. In general, the performance is even better than almost every other knife out, but extra care and attention are needed.

Lastly, great North American and European bladesmiths have learned A LOT from crazy people like us, and by studying quality Japanese blades. I truly believe that the makers here (Butch is included, regardless of status) can make just as great, if not better knives than Japanese smiths. Of course, this is not saying that the same can't be said of Japanese makers.

For me, what makes "our makers" so great is out ability to have ongoing, progressive discussions with them to ensure we get what we are asking for. I wanted a pure performer with toughness and great materials - insert Pierre Rodrigue. I wanted a knife that I can literally dig in the dirt with and cut branches with - insert Mike Davis (his kitchen stuff is great too). I wanted pure sharpness and fun performance - insert Murray Carter. Etc, etc. Marko, Randy, Will, Bill, Del, Mario, Butch, Rader, etc, etc and you will be happy, no thrilled, assuming you know what you are after.

SORRY IF I MISSED ANY MAKERS, but you get the idea.

Lefty
11-27-2012, 11:36 AM
Oh yeah, some guy named Devin Thomas, or something :D

DeepCSweede
11-27-2012, 11:51 AM
Oh yeah, some guy named Devin Thomas, or something :D

I think I have heard of him - isn't he called Hoss too?

Lucretia
11-27-2012, 11:55 AM
I should have said "Japanese STYLE knives"--by which I mean light and nimble, as opposed to the heavier Henckels/Wuesthoff type knife. Some of my "Japanses" knives were made in the United States.

Mike9
11-27-2012, 11:58 AM
Don't forget some of the commercial US makers - Lamson, Ontario, Forgecraft, etc. The carbon knives are great I love using the 10" Lamson I converted and I have a 12" Ontario I just took the slabs off of.

And then there is that Carter guy . . .

stevenStefano
11-27-2012, 12:05 PM
I've tried a few European knives and using them in work, the edge retention just sucks. Japanese knives also tend to be way better value for money. Saying that, my 2 most used knives did come from Germany though the only thing they have in common with the knives you are talking about is that they came from Germany

Canadian
11-27-2012, 12:43 PM
I should have said "Japanese STYLE knives"--by which I mean light and nimble, as opposed to the heavier Henckels/Wuesthoff type knife. Some of my "Japanses" knives were made in the United States.


Not to be nit-picky :nunchucks:, but writing "Japanese style" when referring to knives of western type is kind of a misnomer. Moreover, if you look at industrially produced western chef's knives pre-1950s--unless they are specialty knife--they all fit these descriptive terms.

Again, (and this is not directed towards you, Lucretia) I think it is unfair to categorize all European knives as poor. I have a stainless Sekiryu Santoku that is soft and brittle, sucks to sharpen and holds an edge for 5 min. That doesn't mean I equate an entire nation with crappy knives--

Lucretia
11-27-2012, 01:46 PM
I'm Queen of Nit Picking, so please tell me when I speak incorrectly and I'll try to do better! :D I would agree that assessing knife quality based strictly on where it's manufactured is a mistake.

It's interesting how things change. Back around 1994 I was at a Q&A session that had a panel of chefs & others who were big names in the food world. (I don't remember who all was on the panel other than Julia Child and Jacques Pepin.) Someone asked what kind of knife they should get--and the answer was almost unanimously "Wuesthoff!" For the home cook, "high end" knives were the Wuesthoffs and Henckels you'd see in department stores or in specialty kitchen shops. I bought my "good" knives before the Internet was regularly used for shopping and research purchases. :joec: When I decided to try one of those funny looking santokus that you'd see used on TV, it was a revelation (and it was also a Wuesthoff.) Who knew lightweight, thin knives could be so much more enjoyable to use? It was the first step on a slippery (and expensive!) slope. I've replaced all my knives (and then some) and it's been worth every penny.

DevinT
11-27-2012, 01:57 PM
Oh yeah, some guy named Devin Thomas, or something :D

Thanks Tom, that brought a tear to my eye.

Hoss

Cutty Sharp
11-27-2012, 02:30 PM
Just a couple thoughts...

First, I think it'd be great to learn more about non-Japanese makers, including the Canadian, British and US makers I see here. However - and I don't think too many here are the same as me in this regard, but - personally, I'm kind of interested in the culture behind the knives and stones in Japan and this motivates my interest in them.


Europeans perfected the geometry of western style knives long before the Japanese started producing gyutos, pettys and sujihikis.

Absolutely, and no one ever hides how these designs originated from the west. However, I wonder if the old idea that 'someone invents something and then the Japanese make it better' might come into play. It can happen.


It's a matter of taste, personal style ... Japanese knives are (generally) thinner, harder, sharper, more effortless to cut with and have a great amount of character and tradition to them...even new styles like gyutos and pettys. In general, the performance is even better than almost every other knife out, but extra care and attention are needed.

Agreed. I love the character and tradition. Think of a place like Sakai, where for several centuries they've been making swords and more recently kitchen knives, and they still continue today supported by a local culture that demands it. I don't know of another blade-place in the world quite like it. Unique and cool.


For me, what makes "our makers" so great is out ability to have ongoing, progressive discussions with them ... pure sharpness and fun performance - insert Murray Carter.

I haven't even been near his knives. Regardless, I think it's fair to say he should be classified as a Japanese maker, no?

Lefty
11-27-2012, 02:46 PM
Carter is Canadian born, Japanese trained and American living. For me, I meant accessible for the average North American knife nut, when I wrote "our makers". But, yes, "Japanese" knives are definitely what he makes.

Hoss, c'mon...you're obviously one of the "pinnacle" makers. :)

Lucretia
11-27-2012, 02:49 PM
Hoss, c'mon...you're obviously one of the "pinnacle" makers. :)

No doubt about that!

Cutty Sharp
11-27-2012, 02:51 PM
Carter is Canadian born, Japanese trained and American living. For me, I meant accessible for the average North American knife nut, when I wrote "our makers". But, yes, "Japanese" knives are definitely what he makes.

I knew what you meant. ;)

What was it - something like 19 years in Japan, and so about half his life? Just pointing it out for the wider world in case.

Canadian
11-27-2012, 03:00 PM
I'm Queen of Nit Picking, so please tell me when I speak incorrectly and I'll try to do better! :D I would agree that assessing knife quality based strictly on where it's manufactured is a mistake.

It's interesting how things change. Back around 1994 I was at a Q&A session that had a panel of chefs & others who were big names in the food world. (I don't remember who all was on the panel other than Julia Child and Jacques Pepin.) Someone asked what kind of knife they should get--and the answer was almost unanimously "Wuesthoff!" For the home cook, "high end" knives were the Wuesthoffs and Henckels you'd see in department stores or in specialty kitchen shops. I bought my "good" knives before the Internet was regularly used for shopping and research purchases. :joec: When I decided to try one of those funny looking santokus that you'd see used on TV, it was a revelation (and it was also a Wuesthoff.) Who knew lightweight, thin knives could be so much more enjoyable to use? It was the first step on a slippery (and expensive!) slope. I've replaced all my knives (and then some) and it's been worth every penny.

My first "good" knife was also a Wusthof (Ikon--the one without the full bolster). It wasn't a bad knife, but once I bought a Hiromoto AS I quickly realized that the Wusthof, though it had better fit and finish, was inferior in sharpness and geometry.

The difference was amazing, but over the years, many knives later and much money spent my tastes started to become more refined and once I handled a pristine 1890s hand forged French Sabatier (rat tang) I began to see the problem with a lot of Japanese western style knives--all of a sudden my Hiro felt clunky...

Aspects many Japanese gyuto makers neglect for me are distal taper*, balance**, and toughness***.

*the only Japanese maker I have come across that has mastered this aspect is Shigefusa. This also relates to balance...

**though scoffed at on forums and overemphasized my commerical practices, I've found balance in hand being an important aspect of any knife. This became extremeley apparent when I handled two knives and the heavier [custom] blade felt lighter and handled nicer than the blade heavy lighter knife. When I weighed them on a scale I was in disbelief.

***This is where choice of steel and optimal heat treat come in.

daveb
11-27-2012, 03:01 PM
Lets not forget that Martell guy. I think he hosts a web forum as well as making the occasional knife.

JohnnyChance
11-27-2012, 03:07 PM
Ehh, one is a minivan, the other is a race car. One is low maintenance and great for everyday use by just about anyone. The other requires extra care, maintenance and attention by a skilled user, but in the end they are rewarded with much greater performance.

Salty dog
11-27-2012, 07:02 PM
My favorite knives to use are by Japanese makers. Just saying. It's really not even close. IMO.

eto
11-27-2012, 07:43 PM
Wow this is a great thread . Really enjoying everyone's different views on Japanese - knives , European etc..

This thread really touched on many things that influence knife makers , cooks , chefs, collectors etc. when it comes to kitchen cutlery.

I think the future is looking bright on both sides.

EdipisReks
11-27-2012, 07:47 PM
My favorite knives to use are by Japanese makers. Just saying. It's really not even close. IMO.

i haven't been crazy about the Western artisan knives i've tried, though i'm more than willing to be shown the light.

franzb69
11-27-2012, 11:04 PM
Carter is Canadian born, Japanese trained and American living. For me, I meant accessible for the average North American knife nut, when I wrote "our makers". But, yes, "Japanese" knives are definitely what he makes.

so that's why i keep hearing a canadian accent on his videos. clears that up for me.

labor of love
11-27-2012, 11:19 PM
i know this may be a little off topic but does anyone else wish one of the sabatier brands made chef knife with a hitachi steel(or something similar) hardened to rockwell 61 or so?

Crothcipt
11-28-2012, 12:35 AM
My first "good" knife was also a Wusthof (Ikon--the one without the full bolster). It wasn't a bad knife, but once I bought a Hiromoto AS I quickly realized that the Wusthof, though it had better fit and finish, was inferior in sharpness and geometry.

The difference was amazing, but over the years, many knives later and much money spent my tastes started to become more refined and once I handled a pristine 1890s hand forged French Sabatier (rat tang) I began to see the problem with a lot of Japanese western style knives--all of a sudden my Hiro felt clunky...

Aspects many Japanese gyuto makers neglect for me are distal taper*, balance**, and toughness***.

*the only Japanese maker I have come across that has mastered this aspect is Shigefusa. This also relates to balance...

**though scoffed at on forums and overemphasized my commerical practices, I've found balance in hand being an important aspect of any knife. This became extremeley apparent when I handled two knives and the heavier [custom] blade felt lighter and handled nicer than the blade heavy lighter knife. When I weighed them on a scale I was in disbelief.

***This is where choice of steel and optimal heat treat come in.

Some times I think that balance can be achieved forward on the blade, or even in the handle. It pretty much depends on the grip that is used. Most of the time when I find that I am not liking using a pinch grip I switch to a hammer grip, or even moving down on the end of the handle.

Blobby
11-28-2012, 02:00 AM
Hi,

It seems that almost all discussions in the forum are about Japanese knives.

are European knives so inferior to Japanese knives, or is it just a matter of taste of most people here?

I am personally fascinated by Japanese knives and other cutting tools, but I use European knives for daily cutting.

Am I missing out on something?

thanks,

Joel


Yeah, I'm a bit dissapointed. I love looking at high end gear but that's just about all there is here. It's like joining a car forum and all they talk about (and sorry but there has to be a serious element of bragging too) is top of the range Maseratis. A bit boring really.

labor of love
11-28-2012, 02:16 AM
Yeah, I'm a bit dissapointed. I love looking at high end gear but that's just about all there is here. It's like joining a car forum and all they talk about (and sorry but there has to be a serious element of bragging too) is top of the range Maseratis. A bit boring really.

seriously? stick around for longer than a few days and maybe even participate before you write this forum off. or not.

maxim
11-28-2012, 02:22 AM
hmm i will also say you are quite off on this, i started buying Japanese knives because German was to expensive for me. There is much big choose in Japanese knives then European


Yeah, I'm a bit dissapointed. I love looking at high end gear but that's just about all there is here. It's like joining a car forum and all they talk about (and sorry but there has to be a serious element of bragging too) is top of the range Maseratis. A bit boring really.

joels747
11-28-2012, 02:30 AM
Well not boring at all for me.

Judging by the number and contents of the replies, it seems to be a subject that many people here have thought about and experimented with.

Most have come to the (inevitable maybe) conclusion that European style knives are good for regular tough cutting chores, while J knives are more like fine tuned instruments.

As I said before I am fascinated by the making and performance of Japanese knives, swords and other metal (and other) artifacts, so I wholeheartedly agree with the general atmosphere here.

But I guess its good to shake things a bit from time to time and think again of what we think we already know so well :laugh:

I am being enlightened by what you people write. - Thanks

Joel

sachem allison
11-28-2012, 02:40 AM
Yeah, I'm a bit dissapointed. I love looking at high end gear but that's just about all there is here. It's like joining a car forum and all they talk about (and sorry but there has to be a serious element of bragging too) is top of the range Maseratis. A bit boring really. yOU HAVEN'T DUG DEEP ENOUGH. almost all of my posts are on European knives and we have a thriving vintage chef thread called ODC (old dirty carbon) You will find that there is quite alot of discussion about vintage and antique European knives here and many of the chefs on this forum use Sabatiers and old Henckels on a daily basis for their line work. Dave does an awesome job refurbishing Sabatiers, Knifeknerd does his giveaways and Lefty sells alot of Vintage European knives in his store. Yes, we have a lot of Japanese Knife enthusiasts but, many of the members here are collectors. I know you think we always talk about high performance , high end knives but, that simply isn't true. More often then not we are talking about affordable sub $300 knives and even lower then that for the novice beginner. If you look in our buy/sell/ trade section most knives run below $300 dollars also. That is comparable if not cheaper then many high end European knives. If you feel that we are boring then you really aren't reading the threads or paying attention to what is being said, here. You just joined and your very first post is how disappointed you are? Really? You are not going to experience much if you only give it a day.

Welcome, by the way. I really hope you give the forum a chance.

mhlee
11-28-2012, 02:48 AM
Yeah, I'm a bit dissapointed. I love looking at high end gear but that's just about all there is here. It's like joining a car forum and all they talk about (and sorry but there has to be a serious element of bragging too) is top of the range Maseratis. A bit boring really.

Wusthof Classic 9 inch knife: $139.95 http://www.cutleryandmore.com/wusthof-classic/chefs-knife-p1603

Suisin Inox Western 9 1/2 inch knife: $143.75 http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/kitchen-knives/suisin/suisin-inox-western/suisin-inox-western-240mm-gyuto.html

Several well respected members here have openly recommended the Suisin. Not "high end gear" as far as price, but high end as far as quality is concerned.

Ask a few questions, e.g. type of knife you're looking for, size, price range, type of steel, Japanese vs. Western handle, without being dismissive. I think you'll be surprised by the number of positive responses you'll get.

sachem allison
11-28-2012, 03:02 AM
don't forget Fujiwara and carbonext

sachem allison
11-28-2012, 03:05 AM
don't forget Fujiwara and carbonext. come to think of it I only own 2 Japanese Knives and neither one of them are highend. A fifty year old deba and a Japanese cleaver. everything else is European or American made.

labor of love
11-28-2012, 03:08 AM
...or anything made by cck. priced similar to forschners but a helluva better bargain.

Cutty Sharp
11-28-2012, 04:05 AM
Carter is Canadian bornso that's why i keep hearing a canadian accent on his videos. clears that up for me.

Much more pleasant, isn't it! :razz:

Canadian
11-28-2012, 11:50 AM
i know this may be a little off topic but does anyone else wish one of the sabatier brands made chef knife with a hitachi steel(or something similar) hardened to rockwell 61 or so?

The Hitachi steels (particularly white) are nothing special and I mean that in a good way. They are simple high-carbon steels. You can find equivalents in every country/continent. 1095 (or C90) is very close to Hitachi white.

The older Sabatiers have very fine grain structure and high(er) hardness. There are many custom French smiths who work with C50-C100 steels and make beautiful custom chef's knives for prices much lower than their North American equivalents (i'm not divulging, yet).

But I agree with you insofar that I wish there was a contemporary Sabatier production knife that used a higher grade steel although the simple carbon steel they use isn't bad by any stretch, and will stand up to the abuse of cutting through rib bones better than most.

K-Fed
11-28-2012, 12:10 PM
The Hitachi steels (particularly white) are nothing special and I mean that in a good way. They are simple high-carbon steels. You can find equivalents in every country/continent. 1095 (or C90) is very close to Hitachi white.

The older Sabatiers have very fine grain structure and high(er) hardness. There are many custom French smiths who work with C50-C100 steels and make beautiful custom chef's knives for prices much lower than their North American equivalents (i'm not divulging, yet).

But I agree with you insofar that I wish there was a contemporary Sabatier production knife that used a higher grade steel although the simple carbon steel they use isn't bad by any stretch, and will stand up to the abuse of cutting through rib bones better than most.

+1 I love my vintage sabs. The steel is pretty great in my opinion. It gets nearly as keen as my ( japanese/ japanese( swedish ) carbon steel knives and is no more reactive than the white and blue steel knives I've used. Also I've been able to get away with simply stropping on the chocera 5k that I leave at work rather than steeling when an edge decides to become less than true and it works fantastically.

Benuser
11-28-2012, 12:30 PM
+1 I love my vintage sabs. The steel is pretty great in my opinion. It gets nearly as keen as my ( japanese/ japanese( swedish ) carbon steel knives and is no more reactive than the white and blue steel knives I've used. Also I've been able to get away with simply stropping on the chocera 5k that I leave at work rather than steeling when an edge decides to become less than true and it works fantastically.
+1!!
It's quite unlikely the French will ever change the hardness; they have to serve a large domestic market used to frequent steeling.
If you're looking for harder steel, go Japanese. Their profile is almost identical to the French.

Canadian
11-28-2012, 03:31 PM
+1!!
It's quite unlikely the French will ever change the hardness; they have to serve a large domestic market used to frequent steeling.
If you're looking for harder steel, go Japanese. Their profile is almost identical to the French.

Masamoto KS gyuto is the closest (in my experience) equivalent in terms of profile if you don't mind the -wa handle.

Zwiefel
11-28-2012, 06:14 PM
In addition to all of the comments above about the less expensive knives that get discussed here, I'd encourage you to check out the Buy/Sell/Trade forum. Frequently you can get an expertly cared-for knife used at 40-60% of the new price...and they'll usually give it a professional edge before they ship it out. This makes it possible to get some REALLY good knives for $50 or so....which is wal-mart/target pricing for henckels/wusthoff level knives.

joels747
12-03-2012, 06:43 AM
I am amazed how such a simple question brought up such a vast amount of knowledge and information.

But then I guess this is what this forum is about.

Thanks

Joel

quantumcloud509
12-03-2012, 02:51 PM
Wusthof Classic 9 inch knife: $139.95 http://www.cutleryandmore.com/wusthof-classic/chefs-knife-p1603

Suisin Inox Western 9 1/2 inch knife: $143.75 http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/kitchen-knives/suisin/suisin-inox-western/suisin-inox-western-240mm-gyuto.html


Several well respected members here have openly recommended the Suisin. Not "high end gear" as far as price, but high end as far as quality is concerned.

Ask a few questions, e.g. type of knife you're looking for, size, price range, type of steel, Japanese vs. Western handle, without being dismissive. I think you'll be surprised by the number of positive responses you'll get.


If you pay attention to Anthony Bordains "Mind of a Chef", David Chang is a Suisin knut :)


...or anything made by cck. priced similar to forschners but a helluva better bargain.

I dont have one :( I want one, but I dont have one. I have many others, and CCK is very affordable. Maybe when I get my Amazon gift card for christmas :)