Now THAT is one sexy beast, Stefan!
Details, por favor!
I currently own four of his knives and would love to own a 210mm Miroshi Deba from Shinichi. But money is tight right now and by the time I stick a Stefan handle on the thing its five C notes...
My 240 proline Gyuto was my first Watanabe knife and for some reason he only makes this blade in Blue #2. Its one of the most used blades in my collection and as everyone has said--while not a laser--its no slouch and it takes as fine an edge as Dave Martell can give a knife. (Which is saying something)
I have a 180 Deba with a Stefan made ironwood/streaked blond buffalo horn handle that is to die for. Its also a very unusual blade in that the tang and top of the knife are warped in quite an obvious manner yet the blade geometry remains perfect--the back side lies flat as a pancake on the stones. To me that's just representative of kasumi single bevels and it presents no defect in cutting or sharpening. Its just kinda-twisted!
I own a 300 Yanagi and a 240 Yanagi and they are both as good as anything Shigefusa ever made and I own a Shig 300 Yanagi!
In any case, Watanabe makes great knives--and you can actually get them for a reasonable price in a reasonable wait time (like 4-6 weeks) as opposed to some makers where the wait time is over a year and you'll pay nearly double.
I can also vouch for the awesomeness of the pro petty. I just took mine to the stones last night, so it's dangerous to just look at it at the moment.
Probably the hardest knife I've ever sharpened. It took a bit longer to develop a burr than my Takeda Nakiri did.
Sean - I know, man. That knife is awesome because it is pretty much a compressed down version of his gyuto. The KU was beautiful and the handle was awesome. More of a mini-gyuto than a petty.
Jeff - Is the Watanabe yanagi thin like a Shigefusa?
No, Watanabe yanagi is a bit thicker and finish even on his damascus knives is a level below Shigefusa.
My impression of Watanabe has been mixed. I used to be a huge fan but cooled over time, mostly because of inconsistency in custom orders and some hints I got that Watanabe are OEM.
The last group buy that I put together had a number of knives that came thicker than promised and there were some grinding issues.
Generally, his gyuto, honesuki/garasuki and yanagi are the popular ones.
An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field.
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I've had good experience with Watanabe over the last 4 years. I have about a dozen of his knives, mostly traditional styles. As for OEM, maybe the standard line, but not the Pro line. All the orders I've made were obviously done just for me. At this point (I've gone through at least 100 J-knives) I could pretty much do with only Watanabe and Konosuke knives now. Here are some of the more interesting knives I've gotten to give an idea of the variety of styles he does: