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Thread: A Q&A from a customer interaction- A question about knife steels and quality?

  1. #11
    This is a good topic. In my experience, I've used W#1 which got very sharp and sharpened up super clean (no wire edges). Perfect on paper, but it wasn't the most practical knife for me. It rusted really easily and the edge retention wasn't great. I prefered my B#2 over it, just a more preactical knife. So it's really about what fits you.

  2. #12
    I'm enjoying this topic, as well.

    My question is: how does one identify the exceptionally good craftsman by the steel? Do you know when you are sharpening for the first time? Are there tests that need be performed? Is there a way for a layman to recognize it?



  3. #13
    like all things in life, a lot of it is experience. Without much experience and context, it will be hard to tell good from bad (which is why i address this in my answer on the previous page). Its also important to keep in mind that you should also be considering how well the steel works for your needs (with regard to edge retention, ease of sharpening, toughness, etc.).

    Assessment can be done through structured tests (catra, etc.), but i feel like these only tell part of a story and would not be my personal choice. I think the best assessment can be done by someone who has used and sharpened a wide variety of things with a decent level of skill (in both use and sharpening). By both using and sharpening the knife and having relative context with regard to the performance of other knives, one can draw conclusions. What i'm trying to help people avoid here is the situation where they buy a knife, in say white #1, because they have heard white #1 is "the best steel ever", but without knowing who made it, if that craftsman does a good job with the steel, etc. People should be asking questions when they dont know and making sure the source of their answers has the knowledge to answer them adequately.

    With regard to the last part of your question, "can a layman recognize it?", the answer is sometimes (but usually not in my experience), but it doesnt always matter. As i said above, if the steel is doing what you need, that should be good enough. Whether it is a good example of said steel or a sub-par one, will not matter so much if it gets the job done. But here is an example to help make sense of this. Lets take cars for example... lets say your first car was a honda civic and you dont have much experience with other cars. You later get a celica and think,
    "wow, this engine is great. I cant believe how much performance they get out of this. This is a great example of what can be done with these kinds of engines"

    However, what you may not know is that the lotus elise has the same engine, but in that car, they really push the limits of what that engine can do, and, in my opinion, it is a better car overall when it comes to performance.

    Will you ever know the difference? Maybe, or maybe not... it depends on what relative experience driving you have, and how much you understand about cars and engineering. Will it matter to you? Maybe, or maybe not... it really depends on your needs. Does it mean that the celica is a good example of that engine? No... the lotus is a good example of that engine... the celica is so-so at best.

    Make sense?

  4. #14
    Correct me if I'm wrong Jon, but it seems that it's pretty hard to get a poor Japanese knife in the US than it would be in Japan... I'm assuming that if you're a knifemaker in Japan, your product has to be damn good for it to actually have demand from overseas. Also, since they're aren't many physical places that specialize in Japanese knives (I can only name JKI and Korin), these places aren't going to want to carry a low quality product...

  5. #15
    i think you have a little too much faith in people... let me give you an example... there are a number of wholesalers out there for a wide variety of products... these are often the guys who dictate what is or is not available internationally (or domestically on a larger scale). Many times, these guys arent experts in the things they sell, but even if they are, more often than not, they are interested in cost and ease of access that quality at all costs. Soy sauce is a good example... the best ones are not available in the US, but instead we end up with a bunch of different decent ones (but nothing special). Why would you expect the knife world to be different from this?

  6. #16
    Senior Member ChuckTheButcher's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Arlington Virginia
    I like the soy sauce analogy. That make a lot of since. I've never had really good soy sauce.
    All normal people love meat. If I went to a barbeque and there was no meat, I would say 'Yo Goober! Where's the meat?'.- Homer Simpson

  7. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by JBroida View Post
    Soy sauce is a good example... the best ones are not available in the US, but instead we end up with a bunch of different decent ones (but nothing special). Why would you expect the knife world to be different from this?
    I thought this because there aren't really many places to get Japanese knives from. I can get soy sauce anywhere, but I can only get Japanese knives from very, very few places (though that's changing). It's like buying foie gras rather than soy sauce; there's only a couple farms in the US that even make it, so if you buy US foie, the chances of getting something bad is low. Nevertheless, I stand corrected.

  8. #18
    Olsen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    I totally agree. We often tend to focus too much on the quality of the equipment/materials (myself included) and tend to forget that a very large amount of the quality of a product is tied to the skills of the craftsman.

    Sent from my GT-I9100 using Tapatalk

  9. #19
    Senior Member Geo87's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Jon : thank you , great thread .

    So it's not about the steel type ... More about the blacksmiths skills in getting the most out of the steel... And your own skills & experience dictates how much of the quality you can actually perceive.
    I'm storing that info in the 'important' section of my brain

  10. #20
    Jon, a question then. If the blacksmith is much more important then the steel used, why do not you disclose the blacksmiths you use on some of your Gesshin lines?

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