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Thread: Japanese Brand Cheat Sheet?

  1. #1

    Japanese Brand Cheat Sheet?

    Hello all,

    I'd like to start learning about the relative merits of some Japanese brands, using a 240mm Gyuto as a guide (for price comparisons). Aside from price (which I know doesn't always confer quality), what other things distinguish the brands from one another? How do I tell a Bentley from a BMW from a Buick?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    I suppose to begin to tackle this question you have to understand what different makers are aiming for in their finished product. There are many knives that are considered extremely good that look quite rustic (Takeda, or even many Carters in my opinion). But, that is by design.

    Each knife maker/brand has different qualities and it's up to you to decide which ones really bear most on your selection. Some of these things to be considered might be : thickness of the blade (laser vs mighty) / stainless vs semi-stainless vs carbon steel / even being more specific to wanting a specific alloy of steel / the blade's finish level (mirror/matte/kurouchi/damascus. even one maker's kurouchi finish will consistently look different than another's) / blade profile (lots of belly or flat) / handle style / handle materials / general fit and finish, tight joints at the handle, rounded choil/spine of the blade, etc / single steel construction vs cladded / convex grind vs straight / amount of distal taper.

    I don't write out this big list of attributes to try to overwhelm you. I just want you to start to think about which bits of a knife really make a difference to you. For me, my last purchase was a Masamoto HC 240mm Gyuto. The reason I wanted that one was a high blade height at the heel, good carbon steel with a good heat treatment, uncladded construction, a blade in the middle-to-mighty end of the thickness scale, western handle, acceptable fit and finish, and price. It is probably easier to give a list of makers to consider once you've narrowed down what you're looking for. Different knives get reputations for their different qualities. It's up to you to figure out first which qualities you most desire, and then choose a brand that does it best. And of course, there's tons of people here that are happy to offer suggestions.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by JasonD View Post
    I suppose to begin to tackle this question you have to understand what different makers are aiming for in their finished product. There are many knives that are considered extremely good that look quite rustic (Takeda, or even many Carters in my opinion). But, that is by design.

    Each knife maker/brand has different qualities and it's up to you to decide which ones really bear most on your selection. Some of these things to be considered might be : thickness of the blade (laser vs mighty) / stainless vs semi-stainless vs carbon steel / even being more specific to wanting a specific alloy of steel / the blade's finish level (mirror/matte/kurouchi/damascus. even one maker's kurouchi finish will consistently look different than another's) / blade profile (lots of belly or flat) / handle style / handle materials / general fit and finish, tight joints at the handle, rounded choil/spine of the blade, etc / single steel construction vs cladded / convex grind vs straight / amount of distal taper.

    I don't write out this big list of attributes to try to overwhelm you. I just want you to start to think about which bits of a knife really make a difference to you. For me, my last purchase was a Masamoto HC 240mm Gyuto. The reason I wanted that one was a high blade height at the heel, good carbon steel with a good heat treatment, uncladded construction, a blade in the middle-to-mighty end of the thickness scale, western handle, acceptable fit and finish, and price. It is probably easier to give a list of makers to consider once you've narrowed down what you're looking for. Different knives get reputations for their different qualities. It's up to you to figure out first which qualities you most desire, and then choose a brand that does it best. And of course, there's tons of people here that are happy to offer suggestions.
    isn't this sound similar to learning about wine?

  4. #4
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    A cheat sheet might eliminate discussion on this board. Go make it yourself. Seriously, though. There are hundreds of brands and thousands of different knives and millions of different opinions. Good luck with that one.

  5. #5
    Senior Member stevenStefano's Avatar
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    I know it can seem overwhelming when you don't know a whole lot, but you just gotta try a few knives. Think of the ones you have and what you like about them and buy similar ones, then go from there

  6. #6
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    Unfortunately there is no simple shortcut to learning the intricacies of Japanese knife production. One mans BMW is another mans Isseta. The knives that are bogus are generally the really inexpensive ones, butt that isn't always the case either!
    Spike C
    "The Buddha resides as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain."
    Pirsig

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by OCD View Post
    Hello all,

    I'd like to start learning about the relative merits of some Japanese brands, using a 240mm Gyuto as a guide (for price comparisons). Aside from price (which I know doesn't always confer quality), what other things distinguish the brands from one another? How do I tell a Bentley from a BMW from a Buick?

    Thanks!
    Experience guided by intelligence.

    Since you have to start somewhere, go read everything at Gator's website (http://zknives.com/knives/index.shtml). That will give you a minimal grounding in what Gator considers to be differentiating qualities.

    Then, go buy a knife, either a new one or patiently wait for a used one to pop up on a forum. Use it, and make your own determination of the qualities you've read about. If you want, ask questions of the members here about these determinations, to fine tune your judgment. Repeat with another knife.

    It's a longish journey, but eventually your experiences will coalesce into what you are seeking.

    Rick

  8. #8
    Read read read. It's a cream rises to the top type thing. The better knives will come up more often than the POS knives. There's no real shortcut around doing the research.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by unkajonet View Post
    Read read read. It's a cream rises to the top type thing. The better knives will come up more often than the POS knives. There's no real shortcut around doing the research.
    To some extent, yes. However, I'm sure there are a ton of great knives that people do not talk about anymore. Who's mentioned Suisin, lately? How about IT? TKC? A-type? How many times have people mentioned Zakuri in the last few weeks?

  10. #10
    It's like fashion, they'll all come back eventually...

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