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Thread: Western Style Japanese Knives

  1. #1

    Western Style Japanese Knives

    Sorry for the uneducated question but hopefully someone can clarify: What exactly is a "Western-Style" Japanese knife and how does it differ from a "Traditional" Japanese knife?

    From my understanding the criteria changes from brand to brand but for the most part the differences are: Western-Style are usually (but sometimes not) double-beveled, mass-produced, stainless steel, have a more obtuse angled edge, less sharp, easier to maintain and sharpen, less costly and don't have "traditional" handles. Some brands would include: Suisin, Shun, MAC, Global

    From my understanding "Traditional" Japanese knives are always: Made by hand, single beveled, very acute angles on the edge, much sharper, more delicate and prone to chipping, much more expensive, harder to sharpen and maintain, the handle is ''Traditional" and the blade is either 100% carbon steel or a mix of soft iron and carbon steel where the soft iron is used for the body and spine to make it less prone to chipping but still have the carbon for the edge to prolong sharpness life.

    Also, because of my inexperience with high-end knives and sharpening I think it's best for me to invest in Western-Japanese style knives, something stainless and good for professional use. I am in the market for a Yanagiba, a Honesuki and Gyutuo. Any recommendations for me? Thinking about Ittosai, Suisin, Shun or MAC.

  2. #2

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    I prefer the western style knives. I have Gesshin Ginga (Ashi) and Nenohi. Highly recommend both of those brands.

    -AJ

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by ams View Post
    Also, because of my inexperience with high-end knives and sharpening
    I would stay away from the yanagi and honesuki until you can sharpen well. It's easier to botch up the traditional Japanese knives than western style Japanese knives

  4. #4
    Senior Member Deckhand's Avatar
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    Start with a gyuto. Nothing wrong with stainless. I greatly prefer wa handles.
    Give Jon a call here and he can help you.
    http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/
    Depending on where you live different shops and people could help you try out the differences in person. It would help you.

  5. #5
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    This is a simplification, but traditional Japanese knives are the deba, usuba and yanagiba, and variations thereof. They are uniquely suited to the preparation of Japanese cuisine. They are single beveled, with a hard core of steel surrounded and supported by softer alloy, in many cases, soft iron.

    Western style knives, regardless of where they are manufactured, are more general purpose knives, suitable for preparing Western style cuisine. Gyutos/chef's knives, sujihikis/slicers, paring knives, petty knives/utility knives, boning knives - all fall into this category. They are double-beveled, or made with one side flat for all intents and purposes, but none are considered to be true single bevel construction due to the lack of a concave back. Many are made from a single steel (monosteel). Others have a harder core encased in a softer cladding.

    Western style Japanese knives differ from their European counterparts in that they are usually thinner, lighter and hardened to a higher Rockwell hardness. They may have Japanese style wa-handles or Western style full tang slab style handles.

    In making a transition to a Western style Japanese knife, the most commonly chosen style is the gyuto or chef's knife, so that the same basic cutting styles may be used with the new knife.

    Hope this helps,

    Rick

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by James View Post
    I would stay away from the yanagi and honesuki until you can sharpen well. It's easier to botch up the traditional Japanese knives than western style Japanese knives
    I don't plan on sharpening on my own just yet, I think I'll have a professional to do that until I'm more comfortable. The reason why I'm interested in a honesuki is because I'll be reasonable for all poultry butchery (chicken, duck and the occasional goose) at my new job. Also a yanagi would come in handy for when I do tuna tartare (a lot). Are these knives not worth purchasing for my needs? I'm not thinking anything too expensive.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Pensacola Tiger View Post
    This is a simplification, but traditional Japanese knives are the deba, usuba and yanagiba, and variations thereof. They are uniquely suited to the preparation of Japanese cuisine. They are single beveled, with a hard core of steel surrounded and supported by softer alloy, in many cases, soft iron.

    Western style knives, regardless of where they are manufactured, are more general purpose knives, suitable for preparing Western style cuisine. Gyutos/chef's knives, sujihikis/slicers, paring knives, petty knives/utility knives, boning knives - all fall into this category. They are double-beveled, or made with one side flat for all intents and purposes, but none are considered to be true single bevel construction due to the lack of a concave back. Many are made from a single steel (monosteel). Others have a harder core encased in a softer cladding.

    Western style Japanese knives differ from their European counterparts in that they are usually thinner, lighter and hardened to a higher Rockwell hardness. They may have Japanese style wa-handles or Western style full tang slab style handles.

    In making a transition to a Western style Japanese knife, the most commonly chosen style is the gyuto or chef's knife, so that the same basic cutting styles may be used with the new knife.

    Hope this helps,

    Rick
    Thanks that was a big help!

  8. #8
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    A honesuki can be a fun knife to use, but a 150 petty does just as good a job on poultry. If you've got the extra cash, sure, get one.

    There's nothing like a yanagiba for slicing raw fish, though. You can use a sujihiki, but it's just not the same.

    I would suggest that you learn to sharpen your knives at the earliest possible opportunity. In a pro environment your edges are just not going to last that long, and you really need to be able to touch them up without the expense and inconvenience of having someone else do it. Aside from that, it's going to be difficult to find someone who knows what they are doing to sharpen a gyuto and honesuki, much less a yanagiba.

    As far as recommending specific knives, I would suggest calling Jon Broida at Japanese Knife Imports - (310)399-0300. Jon's a member of KKF, and has forgotten more about Japanese knives than most of us know. A great guy to talk to and deal with, he'll be able to make recommendations for your needs and budget.

    Rick

    Quote Originally Posted by ams View Post
    I don't plan on sharpening on my own just yet, I think I'll have a professional to do that until I'm more comfortable. The reason why I'm interested in a honesuki is because I'll be reasonable for all poultry butchery (chicken, duck and the occasional goose) at my new job. Also a yanagi would come in handy for when I do tuna tartare (a lot). Are these knives not worth purchasing for my needs? I'm not thinking anything too expensive.

  9. #9

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    I will second the recommendation of contacting Jon. All of my interaction has been online with him, but very top notch service!!! I will do ALL of my non custom business with him, no questions asked.

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