Gisele (wanring - long winded and pic heavy)
With so many things so right, if there is anything not quite right, itís easily overlooked.
Thatís pretty much sums up how I feel about this new knife from Yusuke, a 240mm stainless steel KS clone gyuto, by way of Keiichi Omae and his Blue Way Japan eBay store.
A brief background;
Itís no secret that Iím huge fan of Yusuke knives sold by Keiichi Omae through his eBay store, Blue Way Japan. I bought my first Yusuke knives looking to try a carbon laser without breaking the bank. I soon discovered that the Yusuke knives are not a budget line with some trade-offs and compromises. They are indeed some of the best made knives out there, rivaling other brands that are highly regarded.
A few months ago, I informed Keiichi there was a buzz going around about Yusuke knives. He is not a member of any forums that I know of, and he was pleased to hear of the favorable praise. During that time there was also a buzz going around about the beloved Masamoto KS knives, and how it was being cloned by other makers and sellers.
I had a back and forth e-mail conversation with Keiichi suggesting he and Yusuke produce a KS clone with the features that we westerners like in a knife. A stiffer blade with little flex (which means a blade slightly thicker than most lasers), distal taper to have a thin tip, a flat edge for about the first half of the blade road, then a slight rise to the tip, stainless or at least semi-stainless steel (not only to reduce maintenance but some believe stainless steel have better edge retention, especially when cutting acidic foods), thinness behind the edge for better cutting ability, convex grind for food release, higher HT for better edge retention,
One of the ideas was to make a knife that was a little more sturdy than the lasers weíre accustomed to in the low and sub- 2mm range that have some flex, especially towards the tip, and feel whippy. Thinness behind the edge was a key factor when making the knife thicker at the spine. I was told that Yusuke works with 3mm stock, and the thickest knife they could make is 2.8mm after grinding and finishing, which I thought was fine.
So, after several months, Yusuke produced a prototype and Keiichi graciously gave me the opportunity to purchase it. I jumped at the chance. To say this knife has been a game changer for me would be an understatement. I thought I was fairly well educated and experienced with what Japanese knives have to offer. This knife changes everything. Yeah, itís that good. Iíll try to break it down into manageable thoughts.
Specs (as from Keiichi)
length of blade (tip to handle)---249mm
length of cutting edge---237mm
width at heel---47.5mm
width at 12cm for handle---40.5mm
thickness of spine above heel---2.8mm
thickness of spine at 12cm for handle---2.5mm
steel----Swedish stainless steel
Fit and Finish
Thatís and easy one Ė itís nearly perfect. I say nearly, because there may be some fault or flaw that I havenít found yet. Everything is as it should be, and nothing more. The spine and choil are rounded. There are no grind marks from the rounding and finishing. The handle is perfectly straight both horizontally and vertically. There are no gaps or ridges between the collar and handle.
I now own four different Yusuke knives in different sizes and styles, and the handle on each itís perfectly suited to the blade size and purpose. This knife being a 240 has a slightly smaller handle than my 270 gyuto. At first I was thrown off a little and wanted a bigger handle, but when I compared to entire knife to the 270, I now find the handle perfect for the size knife. Itís a simple ho wood handle and buffalo horn collar. Itís got a slight taper from the butt to the shoulders. Its octagonal shape that is slightly taller than it is wide, so it doesnít twist easily in hand. It feels clean, simple and functional when using it.
The KS profile is so, so good. From the heel to the tip, every millimeter of edge is useful. The flat edge from the heel forward is not dead flat, but so flat that in use I donít notice any curve to it. I have found that a blade that is truly dead flat can be difficult to use, as weíve had a discussion about this. I have a kiri-gyuto that is dead flat on the edge, and it has an awkward ka-clunk to it when push cutting towards the heel. Not so with this knife.
The taper on the spine from heel to tip is not drastic. Iíll say the spine is perhaps a little thicker towards the tip than what we would normally expect from a laser, but as the spine drops to the tip it gets very thin and fine. This slightly thicker spine makes for a stiffer blade. If I use my 270 gyuto to lightly whack a garlic clove to break the skin, the tip will bend down and hit the board. Not so with this knife Ė it gives a satisfying solid thud and doesnít flex. Sure thereís minimal flex, but compared to the 270, itís much stiffer.
We always talk about how a knife has to have distal taper to be in the ball park of what we consider a good knife. But does it really? What does taper give Ė it gets thinner from heel to tip, therefore the tip will be finer and have less drag as it cuts. That is good, but taper also leads to e thin spine which can flex. I think this KS profile with its long, gradual drop to the tip produces a thin tip while maintaining a spine thickness with some stiffness.
The tip is especially nice. Itís like the tip on a paring knife. Sharp. Thin. Pointy. Sexy. Very useful for fine tip work.
The convex grind is great. Itís not so pronounced that it feel forced and unnatural. While Iíve had a few things occasionally stick to sides as Iím cutting, it does have considerable less stiction than other knives that I have. Potatoes to tomatoes, the convex grind pushes the food away in a noticeable way so that stiction is minimized and cutting ability is maximized. To me, every knife is going to have some degree of stiction; itís just a matter of minimizing as much as practical without making the knife feel unnatural.
Yusuke knives have a reputation for having very good OOTB edges, and this knife is no exception. The initial edge would easily and cleanly shave arm hair but wasnít what I would call scary sharp, a far cry from what I call Salty Sharp. None the less the edge was very practical for cutting food. And it still is. Iíve had this knife for about 6 weeks now, and itís the off season for me so Iím not doing any private chef work, but I still cook two to three meals a day of varying levels of cutting requirements.
I have no idea how Yusuke sharpened this knife, but itís quite something. To look at the bevels, they are not noticeable from the grinding on the sides. There is barely a hairline visible at the edge. I wonder if the knife was sharpened, then a final finish/grinding performed, and then the edge touched up prior to shipping. However it was done itís been a very stable edge with no chipping. I did notice some rolling of the edge after the first several days of use.
I have not sharpened this knife yet, primarily because it doesnít need it. But also, the knife is so pretty Iím in no hurry to scuff it up. So far Iíve taken it the MAC black ceramic rod 3 or 4 times Ė maybe once every 5-7 days. Three passes on each side, edge leading, heel to tip, and three passes on each side, edge trailing, tip to heel, and then deburr in champagne cork. This stainless steel responds very well to the rod.
On the white #2 Yusuke knives, the rod leaves a very aggressive, rather toothy edge that has too much bite and really doesnít feel sharp, yet cuts acceptably in a pinch. This steel, and how it was sharpened, responds to the ceramic rod with a very smooth clean edge that easily shaves arm hair.
Iíve stropped it once on my 1micron boron-on-balsa, .5 micron chromium oxide-on-balsa and plain leather strop progression, and it left a very, very sharp edge, as expected.
Whatís been remarkable so far is the edge retention. Again, Iím not sure if this is due to how Yusuke sharpened the knife, the bevel angle, or the HT of the steel. Iíve read posts where users say they have used their knife for several weeks with only touch-ups in between and can still shave, and pass crazy sharpness tests. Honestly, Iíve always been skeptical of reports like this, as it just doesnít seem plausible to me (saying that however, I donít discredit accounts of blades from masters like Devin Thomas and Bill Burke who are infamous for their edge retention), plus I hadnít experienced it yet. Well, now I have, and I have a new standard for how long a good edge should last. The edge on this steel far outlives the edge on my white # 2, SG2 and even AS knives.
The edge is now getting to a point where it hasnít responded as well to the rod, and I think itís about time to finally sharpen it myself (for better or worse).
Yusuke uses a Swedish steel for their stainless knives, which is usually hardened to around 58 HRC. This knife is hardened to 61 HRC. As Iíve not sharpened this knife myself yet, I cannot comment on how it feels on the stones, how it takes an edge, etc. All I can say so far is that retention of the OOTB edge has been great, and it is truly stainless Ė the blade looks as good as the day I opened the box. Iíve intentionally left acids like lemon and lime juice on it, and nothing happened. No reactions to onions, cabbage, or any of the other usual suspects, which is refreshing after having to be wary of my carbon blades reacting and turning foods off-colored.
This is where itís going to get a little hard for me. This knife cuts unlike anything else Iíve ever used, and itís got qualities that leave me grasping for words to use to describe just how it cuts. To use a car analogy, letís say my standard 270 white #2 Yusuke is a BMW M3 GTS. Sick track car, right? By anyoneís regard, this is a serious, respectable road eating machine. The new Yusuke KS clone is more like a McLaren MP4-12c. Itís just in a completely different world of performance.
Letís face it, all of the usual descriptions about how a sharp Japanese knife cuts are getting old. ďCuts like buttahĒ, ďFalls right through food like itís not even thereĒ, ďCuts everything I throw at itĒ, and the like are all quite stupid, really. Unless a knife is a big, fat dull pig, of course itís gonna cut right through food. Just like a hot knife through cold butter.
This knife doesnít just fall through food Ė for one thing the edge isnít that sharp, and I like it this way. Itís got great feedback. Itís cuts well, very well. I think itís got something to do with the convex grind in assisting with cutting. It almost feels like the convex faces part the food as the edge slices, releasing pressure on the sides of the blade. Iíve had it wedge in large, hard sweet potatoes, but then again what wouldnít?
The profile is probably what I love most about this knife. Honestly, why arenít more knives being made in this shape? It is just so good (maybe I said that beforeÖ). The low tip makes it easy to actually use the tip, yet there is enough curve that it rock chops equally well (yeah, I do that on herbs and garlic sometimes). The flat spot is great for push cutting. There is not a section of the blade that I find doesnít work well for multiple functions.
Another factor that I think plays a role is that itís stainless and does not have any patina on it. I think that on my carbon knives, the patina lends a small amount of drag as it cuts through food. Call me crazy and making up shite, but I think this is something that has a slight but noticeable effect.
What would I change about this knife, if I could, or were ordering a new custom? Not much. I prefer a knife that is a little longer and slightly taller at the heel, but in using this for the past two months Iíve become accustomed to it the way it is just fine.
Iíve been back and forth about the merits of a mono-steel vs clad blade. Originally, I was on the mono-steel side. Recently I had changed my opinion, thinking that clad blades had an edge, primarily because a knife can have a higher HT on the edge steel for a higher angle and better edge retention while maintaining ease of thinning with softer cladding. Now Iím not so sure.
Iíve had this knife for about 7 weeks now, and sharing it has been long overdue. I actually started writing this over two weeks. When I was looking for a pic of Gisele, my computer got infected with a virus. It corrupted my OS, and I had to reinstall. During the reinstall process, my hard drive failed, and I had to purchase a new. All of my data was safe as I use multiple back up sources. All in all I was down for about two weeks. See what I do for you guys?
Keiichi has informed me that he is planning on having Yusuke make more of these knives for sale, but he said it may take some time to get them produced. At this point, it may be sooner than later that he has them available.
If anyone has any questions or comments, let Ďem rip. Donít be afraid to question or contest anything Iíve written Ė this is just my opinion and in no way resembles fact.
NOTE: I have no professional affiliation with Keiichi Omae, Blue Way Japan, or Yusuke. Or anyone else for that matter.