Home cook, looking for a nicer knife I can use every day for most things (leaning Japanese)
What country are you in?
What type of knife are you interested in (e.g., chef’s knife, slicer, boning knife, utility knife, bread knife, paring knife, cleaver)?
Are you right or left handed?
Are you interested in a Western handle (e.g., classic Wusthof handle) or Japanese handle?
Japanese, but willing to go Western if it's exclusive to the blade I want
What length of knife (blade) are you interested in (in inches or millimeters)?
210-270mm, or 8-10''
Do you require a stainless knife? (Yes or no)
I don't know. Not quite knowledgeable on this yet.
What is your absolute maximum budget for your knife?
Do you primarily intend to use this knife at home or a professional environment?
What are the main tasks you primarily intend to use the knife for (e.g., slicing vegetables, chopping vegetables, mincing vegetables, slicing meats, cutting down poultry, breaking poultry bones, filleting fish, trimming meats, etc.)? (Please identify as many tasks as you would like.)
Slicing, chopping, mincing fruits and veggies-I eat a lot of them. Not necessary for breaking bones but I'd like to use it for cutting down poultry and slicing and trimming other meat.
What knife, if any, are you replacing?
A 6'' Henckles Chef's Knife
Do you have a particular grip that you primarily use?
What cutting motions do you primarily use? (Please click on this LINK for types of cutting motions and identify the two or three most common cutting motions, in order of most used to least used.)
Push cut, slice, chop
What improvements do you want from your current knife? If you are not replacing a knife, please identify as many characteristics identified below in parentheses that you would like this knife to have.)
Finish isn't necessary. Layered/Damascus is okay with me, some of the patterns I dislike though (Shun Soya). I like the Bamboo/bone/wood finished handles on a lot of Japanese knives.
I'd like it to be lighter and with great balance. I don't cut/prep lots of things, but I'm on the slower side so some nights I'm holding the knife for a long time.
I want to be able to use it right away, and I want it to do less wedging and have better food release. I work with lots of small chopped up herbs and vegetables.
I'd prefer as much edge retention as possible. I've never used a whetstone/strop/etc for knife maintenance or sharpening, and was planning on taking my knives to a professional once or twice a year for sharpening. I can go more often, and plan to learn on my own eventually.
Do you use a bamboo, wood, rubber, or synthetic cutting board? (Yes or no.)
Do you sharpen your own knives? (Yes or no.)
If not, are you interested in learning how to sharpen your knives? (Yes or no.)
Are you interested in purchasing sharpening products for your knives? (Yes or no.)
Absolutely, but I may not be able to afford all the bells and whistles right away.
Let me know if I'm completely off base with what I'm looking at versus what I may actually need. I do not like the look of santokus, but if they are more appropriate to my needs I will try one out. I love the look of the traditional Japanese chopping/slicing kitchen knives, and have spent the most time looking at gyuto knives.
You will be okay with a gyuto for sure. Santoku is basically a knife designed for home use with rounded tip and shorter length, and in Japan and Korea most people have a santoku rather than a gyuto at home. But it doesn't mean that you need to have a santoku just because it is for home use especially if you don't like the look of it, and a gyuto will just be fine as your multi-purpose home knife.
But because you are a lefty, the options you have is a bit limited.
Firstly, you need to make sure that the knife you are looking at is also suitable for left hand use. Most Japanese gyutos have asymmetrical bevel for right hand use only.
For example, Fujiwara FKM stainless gyuto is one of the best value entry level J-knives (priced under $100) but it has 70/30 bevel and it is not for left-hand use. If you ask for a left-hand version, the price will go up. And I was once told by another forum member that even if the bevel is 50/50, the grind can be asymmetrical (i.e. thinner on the right hand side). So please read the vendors' description carefully to check whether it is for right-hand use only or for both. If anything is unclear, contact the vendor or you can ask forum members here.
And if you are after Japanese WA handle (western handle is aka YO handle), you need to have either left-hand D shape or octagonal handle. The most common and the cheapest wa handle is D-shape handle for right-hand use. And I'm afraid that there are not that many octagonal or left D-handle available within your price range.
Gesshin Ginga Wa Gyuto from JKI meets all your requirements and would be my first suggestion (although it is a bit over your budget), but I think they are all sold out.
Gesshin Uraku would be also a good choice but only 270mm or bigger versions are left in stock at JKI, which I think is too long for home use.
You can give a quick call to Jon to see if he can do something for you quickly.
Or there is this one on eBay here. This is from the same maker (Ashi Hamono) who does Gesshin Ginga series but the F&F and quality is not guaranteed like Gesshin series. But it should still be a very good choice.
For sharpening, King combi 1000/6000 should be good enough to start with. But if you see yourself buying more J knives in the future, it may be a good idea to get a proper set like at least two stones like Bester #1200 and Suehiro Rika #5000 and add a lower grit stone later just in case you damage your blade badly. If you are willing to learn sharpening, check out Jon's YouTube clips and make them your favourites.
Bear in mind that J knives are much thinner, lighter and harder than German knives. You can't throw it into sink and should not put it inside a drawer unprotected with lots of other things made of metal, it can be chipped or damaged if you make a mistake on a plastic chopping board. But if you maintain it properly, it will beat crap out of any German soft-steel knives, and you will never want to go back
Thank you so much for the detailed response! I'm curious and green with the J knives, so how do the knives differ that you've mentioned or linked, vs. me going to my local Cook's Warehouse or Sur La Table and getting a Shun of similar price/length? In my quick browsing of the boards, I don't see them mentioned too often.
I really appreciate the guidance and absolutely prefer to go with what the community considers quality knives. If I were to be okay with Western handles due to my left handedness, would it open up my options at all, or did you include that in your considerations?
Pretty much all I know about knives came from this forum thanks to the awesome guys. So I'm sure you will also learn lots of things from them if you hang around here for a while.
I can't possibly explain why other forum members do not mention or recommend those more well-known J-knives but let me put it in this way.
Let's say you sometimes go to a big franchise sushi train restaurant for dinner. They have many sushi chefs in the kitchen (probably one older and experienced chef and all the others are young chefs). The price is not very cheap but you love the place because it gives you fairly decent sushi meals all the time and your favourite menus are always available (except for some more authentic ones like sea urchin) and it's also always full of people.
But one day you find a much smaller sushi place around the corner. In this place there is only one or two sushi chefs (sometimes they are father and son). There are not many seats so it is very hard to find a table or you must sit in front of the sushi bar. There is no set menu or a very small list of menu and you need to order your sushi directly to the chef who is making them behind the sushi bar. It is a bit inconvenient because there is no waiter or waitress and sometimes they don't have the fish you want, and the price is even higher. But somehow their sushi just tastes really good and you also make good friends with other customers at that place.
Now, one of your friends asks you to recommend a sushi restaurant, which one of these two places would you recommend? For me, if the friend is so willing to learn how to enjoy sushi and doesn't mind spending a bit more money, I would definitely recommend the second place.
Now back to kinves Yes, if you don't mind western handle you get more choices especially in your price range. Like Suisin Inox Western, Sakai Takeyuki hammered damascus (or JCK Gekko), Kanetsugu from JCK and some others. Even Hattori HD is avaialble within your budget but I don't know where to get them other than JCK where it's out of stock.
If I were left-handed I would like my main knife to be adapted. As said, J-knives are asymmetric, have their edge off-centered to the left, have the right face convexed, the left one flatter. Retailers will propose you to have the right handed changed into a more neutral by modifying the edge, but this is hardly a long term solution, because it doesn't change the asymmetric grinding.
You better have a left-handed grind, left side convexed, right one flat, edge off-centered to the right. Most makers can deliver them on special order, expect a 25% premium. This retailer has them in stock.