I’ve long been interested in Masakage knives. They’re known as beautiful knives that are good performers. The first Masakage I owned was a Yuki. This was however, a bit of a disappointment: it was quite thick above the edge and consequently it wedged on a lot of foods. So I changed it for a Koishi. This one, in contrast, is crazy thin above the edge.
Later I also obtained a Masakage Zero. This was at the proposal of Matt Delosso who was going to make a handle for me. At first sight the Zero may look as the Western version of the Koishi: it has no kurouchi and a western handle instead of a yo handle, but it shares with the Koishi a hammered finish and the fact that it is made of stainless cladded Aogami Supersteel. However, we will see there are also significant differences between the knives.
Originally, the Koishi came with an octagonal handle of cherry wood and a black pakka wood ferrule. The Zero came with an ironwood handle and a welded bolster. Both handles were well finished.
However, I’ve had both knives rehandled with handles made of mammoth tooth and they are now the most beautiful knives I own. US chef and handle maker Matt Delosso made a handle for my Masakage Zero out of Mammoth tooth and Ctek, with a brass bolster. Dutch knife maker, handle maker and leather worker Frederiek de Vette made a handle out of mammoth tooth and bog oak for my Masakage Koishi. I wrote a separate blog post on the handles, so in this review I will concentrate on the blades.
Blade looks, profile and grind
As I wrote, both knives are made of stainless cladded Aogami Supersteel, which is hardened to about 64 HRC. They have a hammered finish, which in my view aids to their aesthetics. Something else they share is their height at the heel: 47 mm for both knives. The main difference regarding looks is that the Koishi has a kurouchi finish, wheareas the Zero does not.
The profiles of the knives are somewhat different. The Koishi doesn't really have a flat spot. Instead, it has a recurve towards the heel. This causes a mean sharp point at the heel and I've already managed to cut myself on it.
The Zero does have a proper flat spot, but the remainder of the profile is similar to that of the Koishi.
The spines of the knives are quite different. The Koishi has a spine that is 3.4 mm wide above the heel and then gradually tapers to 1.1 mm at 1 cm from the tip.
The Zero has a spine with almost no distal taper: it is about 1.9 mm wide over almost its entire length. It only tapers near the tip and at 1 cm from the tip it is, like the Koishi, 1.1 mm wide.
What both knives share is that they are wickedly thin just above the edge. Both knives have been ground somewhat asymmetrically and near the edge their grind is slightly hollow. (The choil shots only show this marginally.)
Even though both knives came out of the box pretty sharp, I first took them to my stones. The steel these knives are made of is great. They can take a wickedly sharp edge! And the edge will stay sharp for a long time as well. One does have to be a bit careful with these knives, since they are so thin above the edge.
I would classify both knives as all-round knives. They are wider at their spines (and at their tips) than lasers, but they are not as wide as workhorse knives.
I can be brief about the cutting performance of both knives: they cut great. Whatever I threw at them, from tomatoes to hard and dense products like carrots, they cut them very well. I experienced no wedging at all. These knives really show the importance of a blade being thin just above the edge. They also dealt well with onions, although I must say that knives with thinner tips, like my Carter funayuki or my Dalman gyuto worked even better on these. Even though both knives were ground somewhat asymmetrically, I experienced no steering.
Both knives had above average food release. Their hammered finish probably helps a little in this. I have read reports that the kurouchi finish on the Koishi would cause some drag when cutting, but I did not experience this.
Their differences in profile makes the Zero a bit more suitable for push cutting, whereas the Koishi is very good at rock chopping.
Both the Masakage Koishi and the Masakage Zero are beautiful knives that cut great. Their Aogami Supersteel can take a very sharp edge and stays sharp for a long time as well.
There are sufficient differences as well: the Koishi has a kurouchi finish and a yo handle. The Zero has a polished finish and a western handle. And whereas the Zero has a proper flat spot, the Koishi has a recurve towards the heel.
I think it is entirely personal which one you may prefer, but both a great knives.
The numbers in the factsheets refer to the knives with the original handles.