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Should I buy an usuba? Which one?
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Thread: Should I buy an usuba? Which one?

  1. #1

    Should I buy an usuba? Which one?

    My question can be summarized thusly: I'm pretty familiar with the care and feeding of sharp things in general, and lately I'm looking more closely at kitchen knives. I have a CCK and a gyuto and I've used a nakiri in the past, but now I'm curious about single-bevel knives. How much of a difference will I notice between a CCK and an usuba? And... please show me where I can look at some pretty ones.


    What type of knife(s) do you think you want?

    I'm tempted to try an Usuba... maybe splurge a little and get something with damascus cladding and/or an exotic handle.

    Why is it being purchased? What, if anything, are you replacing?

    Mostly because I'm curious about single-bevel knives. I'm also living with two other people now (was alone before) so I have a reason to cook more often that I would for myself.

    At the moment I have a cheapo stainless CCK which covers my needs pretty well. I just picked up a Masakage Yuki gyuto and a small Tojiro DP petty knife. Still trying to get used to the gyuto, which is pretty different from what I used before. (misc pocketknives, a cheap nakiri, a carbon steel butchers knife)


    What do you like and dislike about these qualities of your knives already?

    Aesthetics- Stainless bores me. Generic full tang with black pakkawood handles bore me. I don't like the plain Ho wood on my gyuto at all - I'm tempted to stain or oil it. The cladding on my gyuto has something like an ishime (ishismei?) finish which I enjoy.

    Edge Quality/Retention- The way I use my knives, these are "nice to have" but really not deciding factors. I don't use them that heavily and I can maintain/sharpen "good enough" that I'm not worried.

    Ease of Use/Comfort- If it doesn't shine at a particular task, it'll get left in the drawer. This one is really important.

    What grip do you use?
    According to your list, mostly Finger Point with some Hammer and other stuff thrown in.

    What kind of cutting motion do you use?
    Mostly push-cut and draw cut.

    Where do you store them?
    Lashed to the pilings of the closest pier. Or back in the box they came in, whichever is closer.

    Have you ever oiled a handle?
    Only on my khukuris, but the idea is the same.

    For edge maintenance, do you use a strop, honing rod, pull through/other, or nothing?
    In the past I used a ceramic rod and sometimes a plain leather strop.

    Have they ever been sharpened?
    I've done a fair bit of it, usually shooting for a convex edge rather than a crisp bevel, though.

    Stone, diamond plate, sandpaper+mousepad, etc.


    What is your budget?

    Tough question. I guess am looking for something in the 180 MM - 210 MM size range for less than $500.

  2. #2
    What do you cook mostly?

  3. #3
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    That's a good budget. Get Gesshiin Hide 210 Kamagata usuaba from Jon@JKI, but perhaps as a second single bevel knife. Since you haven't had any prior single bevel knife experience, an usuba will be a beast to maintain.

  4. #4
    Mostly I cook, um, "asian-inspired" food.

    At lot of my cooking does not involve recipes - I'll pick a protein and then check the spice cabinet and fridge for ideas. Seafood and pasta/noodles figure prominently. Trying to use more veggies these days. If I use beef or chicken it's almost always cut into bite-sized pieces for something resembling stir-fry. Sometimes I'll make a large pot of curry - I've done it from scratch before but I usually don't bother. I eat a lot of ramen-esque soup. I've never willingly baked or mashed a potato in my life. I'll cube them up and put them in soup or curry, or fry them in bacon grease, though.

    Does that help?

  5. #5
    Senior Member mpukas's Avatar
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    see this thread - http://www.kitchenknifeforums.com/sh...php/3291-Usuba

    A usuba is not a general purpose knife that can be used in place of a cleaver/Chinese chef's knife. It is speacialized for fine cutting of soft vegetables. COMPLETELY different animal to the CCK. I've been CRAVING one for a long time, but have held off because the more I learn about them, the more I realize I don't really have a use for one. I will get one at some point, but it's not as high on my priority list as it once was - still hold a strong desire just to have one though.

    If you haven't seen it, check out JKS vid of Ueda-san;
    Shibui - simplicity devoid of unnecessary elements

  6. #6
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    Usuba are very specialized for certain things, it is likely that it will not get much use unless you know that you need one. It is definitely not an all purpose knife like a cleaver, I usually pick up my kiritsuke over usuba for the extra versatility. If you are wanting to try out a single bevel knife, I would suggest something other than usuba.

  7. #7
    Thanks mpukas - perhaps I should clarify.

    Now that I have a gyuto and petty, I'm using the CCK mostly on bulk veggie processing. That's why I'm trying to compare it to an usuba.
    (I'm not planning on cutting meat or mincing garlic with an usuba.)

  8. #8
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    Pick any one of these or these, based on how much you would like to spend, and you should be quite happy for your first usuba.

  9. #9
    Senior Member mpukas's Avatar
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    There are a couple of relatively inexpensive ones on ebay that I've been eyeing. I think there are laws about posting ebay links, so look up Blue Way Japan and Yoshihiro Cutlery - they both have ebay stores and both sell usubas. They may not be as good as the ones schanop linked to, but they are less expensive. It's been recomended to not get a cheap usuba, with about $150 being the low end of the scale. Since the edge is dead flat the entire length, it's inportant that the blade be straight and the grind good.

    Even for bulk veggie work, the CCK is going to be more verstaile. The usuba excels at katsuramuki and ken (needle) cuts. It's got a very fine edge and can't take abuse like a CCK or other veggie cleaver. It's not good for cutting through large items like squash or even larger potatoes and will steer. Not trying to disuade you from a usuba, just make sure you understand what your getting into.

    For a cleaver w/ better steel check out the Fanatic @ CKTG by He Who Shall Not Be Named.
    Shibui - simplicity devoid of unnecessary elements

  10. #10
    Senior Member Deckhand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mpukas View Post
    see this thread - http://www.kitchenknifeforums.com/sh...php/3291-Usuba

    A usuba is not a general purpose knife that can be used in place of a cleaver/Chinese chef's knife. It is speacialized for fine cutting of soft vegetables. COMPLETELY different animal to the CCK. I've been CRAVING one for a long time, but have held off because the more I learn about them, the more I realize I don't really have a use for one. I will get one at some point, but it's not as high on my priority list as it once was - still hold a strong desire just to have one though.

    If you haven't seen it, check out JKS vid of Ueda-san;
    That video had me craving a baked potato

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