Keith, running for cover...
Keith, running for cover...
If you reach the age of 60 without becoming a curmudgeon, you haven't been paying attention.
I'm sure buying a Shun, MAC or Tojiro would more than suffice for me. Knowing how I might end up sharpening them (personally or having them sent to a local "expert").
I suppose I'm asking more out of curiosity. Will a Fujiwara MNM gyuto (#1 white) be able to achieve a sharper edge vs a MAC or Shun Premier (VG-10) sharpened by the same expert? Hmmm...
Also interested to hear what Jon says (being an experienced sharpener/store owner).
The difference in potential sharpness between Aogami Super and White #1 is going to be something like "which one whittles blonde hair better?" or "which one will cut an s-shape into hanging tissue paper with LESS forward-backward motion and/or angling?" or "which one has a MORE uniforum edge when polished with a jig to 600,000 grit and examined with a 1000x microscope?".
Sound like a waste of time? It does to me!
Any good steel can get very sharp... I would say "sharper than you actually need for a practical reason other than impressing your friends / scaring your spouse." VG-10 is not considered to be in the same league as a good carbon or more premium stainless, but I have a shun VG-10 paring knife that I can polish to a very fine edge which is more than capable of passing any practical sharpness test (hair, paper, finger nails, tomato skin). It wont hold that edge as long as some other steels when contacting the board a lot, but that doesn't really matter because I use it mostly used in the air. Also, it's very easy to touch up on a strop or fine honing stone, so it's always at near peak sharpness.
Now, I'll compare that to SG2 steel: many people would call SG2 a "better" steel because it will get sharper and it will hold a pretty sharp edge for a long time. However, it's a bit trickier to sharpen and doesn't respond to stropping or honing as well. It also holds a "working edge" (85% sharp) much longer than it holds the initial ultra sharp edge (90-100%). So, the result is that at any given time, my vg-10 paring knife is actually sharper than my SG2 santoku.
Again, I'm not recommending SG2 or VG-10, I'm just trying to make the point that maximum attainable sharpness and edge retention play much less of a role in "how sharp your knife will be" than how often you will use, sharpen, and maintain it.
Personally, I like my knifes to always be absurdly sharp. Sharper than I really have a practical reason for them being. I also enjoy sharpening and stropping, but don't want to have to devote hours to it if I'm not in the mood and just want a sharp knife.
For these reasons, my priorities are: a steel that gets very sharp very easily and holds it for a reasonable time, but I am willing to sacrifice edge retention for ease of maintenance and extreme sharpness. I'm also not a pro, so I dont have to worry about needing to be able to beat the crap out of my knives.
Therefore, my favorite steels tend to be pure, relatively simple carbon steels like white, blue, W2 and strop friendly stainless steels like AEB-L or semi-stainless like whatever the stuff is in the Kikuichi TKC.
Now you mentioned what makes a knife feel effortless when it cuts... well, that's a whole other story. It's all about what you're cutting and the geometry of the blade (how thick / thin it is at varrious points between the edge and spine). It's a very complex thing, but to waaaay over simplify it: I'll say that being thin directly above/behind the edge is very important no matter what you're cutting, but after that, thinner / flatter blades with more distance between edge and spine tend to cut hard veg with the least resistance (look at chinese cleaver or nakiri), and blades with more convexity or angles like a single bevel (look at yanagi or even something like a hunter's deer skinning knife) tend to do better at slicing and separating protein as well as minimizing sticking/drag. Again, that's a super simplistic view, but this could be the topic of another 1000 pages (and I'm sure that it already has been).
I think in the end it comes down to your application, how well you maintain (or intend to) your knives and knife skills. For some one that only preps for himself (me...90% of the time) or his/her family I think most $100-200 chef's/gyuto (e.g. Tojiro, Shun Premiers) will suffice as far as OTB sharpness goes. And how sharp we get those knives sharpening them ourselves or sending them out to an expert. That after the knives have been sharpened properly to a degree of sharpness the "typical" home cook won't know the difference slicing through tomatoes, potatoes, carrots....etc (or even if they had a $100 Tojiro or $700 Hinoura). It's when you need these knives sharped to the nth degree for work reasons where the minute differences make a difference.
IME the factory edge on 99% of knives will not stand up to repeated refreshing(I.E. on a rod or strop) like a properly done edge. For example, the factory edge on a knife I used at work 6 months ago lasted for two weeks. Then I sharpened it, and it was much sharper, and held a good edge, with honing, over a month.
Your most recent "conclusion" is, "I think in the end it comes down to your application, how well you maintain (or intend to) your knives and knife skills. For some one that only preps for himself (me...90% of the time) or his/her family I think most $100-200 chef's/gyuto (e.g. Tojiro, Shun Premiers) will suffice as far as OTB sharpness goes. And how sharp we get those knives sharpening them ourselves or sending them out to an expert. That after the knives have been sharpened properly to a degree of sharpness the "typical" home cook won't know the difference slicing through tomatoes, potatoes, carrots....etc (or even if they had a $100 Tojiro or $700 Hinoura). It's when you need these knives sharped to the nth degree for work reasons where the minute differences make a difference."
You first wanted to know what steel or knife gives you the sharpest edge. But, now you're fine with an OOTB edge? I'm confused as to what you're trying to get at.
Asking whether a certain knife with a certain steel will get sharper than another knife made of another steel when sharpened by the same person is an academic exercise. One knife that is sharper does not mean that it will be a better cutting, better performing, or a more useful knife. A knife that gets sharper does not necessarily result in a better performing knife.
As a home cook, I agree with your first and third sentences, don't really agree with your fifth sentence, but completely disagree with your second, and fourth sentences. I thought Justin provided a rather good, concise explanation of both edge performance, i.e. how sharp an edge gets, and how long an edge lasts, and knife performance, i.e., how geometry makes a knife a better performing knife. These are distinct things that I don't think you've quite grasped.
Furthermore, a "typical" home cook will most definitely notice a difference between a better performing knife or even a knife that has been sharpened to different degrees of sharpness and especially when a knife is OOTB. These differences are not necessarily insignificant.
My ex, a very "typical" home cook, noticed that a Carter knife was a much better performing knife than a Global, even when roughly the same sharpness (King 1000, JKS Strop with JKS Diamond Spray). And when knives were sharpened to a higher degree of sharpness (King 6000, JKS Strop with JKS Diamond Spray), she noticed. But, again, the Carter was a far superior performing knife to the Global.
But, if you are already set in your thinking as to what is sufficient, then there's really no point in asking any further. Several members have taken a significant amount of time to help explain to you what makes a sharp knife and a well performing knife. But, I'll reiterate what's been stated multiple times in this thread - sharpness is only one factor in a good performing knife.
So, if you think that a $100 - $200 chef's gyuto, or a Shun, MAC or Tojiro will suffice for you as far as OOTB sharpness goes, then, by all means, go for it. Buy one of those knives and tell us what you think.
But, before continuing this thread, you should really ask yourself, "Do I want a sharp knife, or a good performing knife?" because sharpness doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with performance. And, if you want a good performing knife, read some of the numerous threads about knife geometry and knife performance that have been discussed here.
"Don't you know who he is?"
What type of knife do I want? A knife that fits my criteria for what a good performing knife needs to be (I think it's different for everyone) that can attain a high degree of sharpness.
Whether one type of high quality steel (e.g. Blue #1) might achieve a degree more sharpness than another (e.g. white #1) should be immaterial and not noticeable to a "home cook". As any possible difference there might be is likely too minute.
So I guess for me it's more about how the knife performs for me than what type of high quality steel is better. Unfortunately, I can't put my hands on Tojiro DP's (one of the brands i'm considering). So I can only guess how it will perform over let's say some Shun Premiers (which I can get access to back home...I'm living in another city temporarily).
Just from reading the thread I think your main concern is edge retention and it's ability to be touched up because you seem apprehensive about sharpening yourself.. If you are considering shun I'd look into Suisin Inox myself. I've heard good things for the $$. JKI, Korin and CKTG all carry them so I don't think they are something to disregard.
It's not the Answer it's the Experience