Susin deba x-factor?
I have seen quite a bit of talk about debas recently (I'm sure these jknife society videos have something to do with that).
On paper, Susin knives never really caught my attention: seemed like good design, excellent f&f, average materials and WAY above average price (which, I guessed, was mostly for the name.)
However, the popularity of the deba with you and these amazing chefs makes me think that there is something more to it.
From what I can see, the tip looks a bit thinner than some of the others I've seen, and obviously it's inox(stainless), not carbon. I heard rumors that steel is actually sub vg10 in quality, but maybe their expertise with it makes up for that? Perhaps having a stainless deba is a big enough advantage over carbon that a little less edge holding is forgivable?
Anyway, I just wanted to hear your thoughts on what makes it so special/ justifies the price over other options.
so, first let me explain why i like suisin as much as i do. I think this will help you understand a little more about why the pricing is the way it is.
Suisin was started by Junro-san... a member of the Aoki family (as in Aoki Hamono AKA Sakai Takayuki). He started suisin because he thought he could do better with regard to quality control and product design. Suisin in a 3 "man" team... Jurno-san (the president), Tatsuya-san (his son and resident knifenut ;) ), and their secretary. In my experience, they have some of the best quality control in sakai. The number of things they dont sell due to small imperfections would be astounding. Every knife they sell is inspected by both Junro-san and Tatsuya-san before it leaves there. And Tatsuya-san has some of the best eyes for this kind of thing of anyone i've met in Sakai. He catches things that i would have missed. In addition to that, every line they have goes through insane product testing... Tatsuya-san has even spent a significant amount of time training in restaurants with chefs to better understand how his knives preform. They make changes to the lines as they see necessary to keep things performing the way they expect. Tatsuya-san has also spent a lot of time learning about sharpening and uses this knowledge in their product design. You may not notice some of the changes they make, as they are sometimes minor, but they are always trying to improve what they do. I also have a lot of respect for them as they are very open about and supportive of the craftsmen they work with. All of these things come together to make Suisin what they are today and this is why i have so much respect for them and their knives.
With regard to the average materials, this is an interesting concept. I am tempted to go as far as to say there are no objectively bad steels, just some that are better at some things than others. However, i'm sure i'd have to eat my words on this at some point. So let me say this... of the good knife steels, i dont feel like there are any objectively better steels. There are some that are better at taking a crazy edge than others. Some that sharpen more easily than others. Some that hold their edges better than others... and so on. I would say it is a much better approach to figure out why something was picked and how it serves its intended purpose than to just go straight to "this is better" or "that is worse".
So, on to the INOX Honyaki series... the inox in this line does its job well. In fact, i've used the same INOX steel from other makers, and i think Suisin is really on to something here. They have created a knife with good toughness and durability that takes a pretty damn sharp edge and holds it well. They also have spent a lot of time figuring out what kind of sharpening works best for their steel/heat treatment and thats why they recommend sharpening the way they do. This steel works particularly well as a deba because of these exact qualities. When sharpened the way suisin recommends (which includes the high angle microbevel i show in one of my videos), the knife takes very little damage and is easy to touch up on a finishing stone. In fact, it takes less damage than many carbon ones and is easier to touch up. Also, ease of care is something to think about (this may not be important to everyone, but to some for sure). One last thing to consider is the quality control again... high and low spots are very very minimal (at the end of the day, you can find them on EVERYTHING, so it becomes an issue of frequency and severity), warping is very very rare, and so on.
So, i hope that explains a little more about why i like these debas and the company (including the rest of their products), and why many chefs agree with me on this. Also, i hope it explains why things are priced the way they are. Suisin, like us, has a philosophy of pricing so that the price is fair to the customer, fair to them (so they can make a living), and fair to the craftsmen (so they can make a living too).
Anyways, please let me know if you have any questions. Also, i apologize if this comes across a bit harsh... that is not my intention.
Not harsh at all. Very informative.
If you have some free time and can read Japanese or feel ok via translator you can check out some more info about Suisin: Tatsuya san has written a number of articles about knives and sharpening at Suisin website:
His blog http://hibisyugyo.blog84.fc2.com/ has more notes about him training with Ueda-san and etc...
I have found lots of goodies there.
Thanks for taking the time for that fantastic writeup, Jon!
Certainly not harsh at all: just passionate, informative, and classy at the same time -typical JKI style :)
I had no idea that Susin is such a small company and had not heard about their philosophy or passion. The following for there knives makes makes much more sense now.
As for their steel, by calling it "average" I didn't mean to say that it was "bad"; just that it didn't seem to be exceptional (at least on paper) to be a reason on its own to justify the price or admiration.
However, your explanation makes perfect sense and it seems like the steel and their philosophy for HT, sharpening, and maintenance is, in fact, exceptional when I it comes to a knife like a deba where toughness, durability, easy maintenance and rust resistance are of particular benefit.
Schanop, thanks for the additional links; I'll be sure to check those out as well.
everyone thinks they're a huge company, but in a lot of ways, they are very similar to us (JKI)... i've grown to be very close with them and i have a lot of respect for how they do things.
And the faux kasumi finish on monosteel? Did you do that?
Wait, the Susin inox honyaki debas are mono, not kasumi?