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Thread: Student needs a jack-of-most-trades Japanese knife!

  1. #1

    Student needs a jack-of-most-trades Japanese knife!

    Hi there, I am a medical student with a passion for cooking. I have been fascinated by sharper knives seen on cookery shows and online. I am interested primarily in the increased sharpness, and secondly the ergonomics/weight and ease of use when cooking.

    My budget will be stretching up to $250ish, give or take, because I know that I would like to make one purchase to last me a longgg time without getting upgrade-itis .

    I have tried to answer the following questions to help clarify things:

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

    I believe I would be looking at a gyuto or possibly a santoku – essentially a chef's knife that I would be able to use for almost everything.

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

    I was using a cheap but effective (at least to me) ceramic knife, which has now snapped at the handle . Not good.

    What do you like and dislike about these qualities of your knives already?
    Aesthetics- The ceramic knife was...spartan aesthetically. The blade was white though, which was kinda cool I suppose.
    Edge Quality/Retention- The knife kept an edge quite well, though the first couple of months were clearly its optimum. It was still sharper than other cheap metal blades I have though, I believe this was because it had a biased edge (sp?) for right handed use.
    Ease of Use- I really liked the lightness of this knife. It was all plastic, so for soft objects I could just let the knife do the work, which was something I appreciated. I would like a bit of weight in my new knife, however, as it helps me control the cutting better.
    Comfort- I suppose this knife didn't really have much ergonomics, so it didn't fit in my (relatively large) hands. I was using the finger point/pinch grip so the shape of the main handle did not impact me much.

    What grip do you use?
    As stated above, I think it was a mixture of finger point and pinch grip. Based on what I've read however, I would be keen to move towards a pinch grip with the new knife for the added stability and control.

    What kind of cutting motion do you use?
    For softer foods, I think I use the slicing/push-cut/drawing technique in that order. For times where my knife's sharpness was not up to par, I think I probably slammed it down into the chopping board pretty hard..

    Where do you store them?
    In a drawer, though if I were to get a proper knife I would obviously take better care of it.

    Have you ever oiled a handle?
    Never. I would prefer not to have this added maintenance (over and above sharpening, of course).

    What kind of cutting board(s) do you use?
    Using an acrylic board at the moment, but would be willing to invest in a better board some time down the line if this allowed use of better knives or prolonged durability, in the price range I'm talking about

    For edge maintenance, do you use a strop, honing rod, pull through/other, or nothing?
    Since it was a ceramic knife, I never tried to sharpen it.

    What do you cook and how often?
    I cook about once every two days. I cook all sorts of stuff, but mostly curries and pasta dishes with lots of vegetables and some protein, ie. chicken.

    Special requests(Country of origin/type of wood/etc)?
    Japanese knives - from what I have heard - offer the best value for money.
    Aesthetically, I am quite fond of the layered look of the damascus etc. knives. But if this compromises value for money in terms of sharpness/ergonomics, then I would be willing to sacrifice it.

    Also, can someone recommend me a sharpening tool/block etc. to go with the knife they recommend?

    Thank you very much in advance for your advice!!

  2. #2
    Senior Member lowercasebill's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    S.E. Penna.
    i started with a substantial budget but promised myself no expensive knives untill i learned how to sharpen them properly.
    tosagata or country style knives are available in both blue and white steel and are inexpensive. soak the handle in tung oil once and that is it for handle maintenance. i actually like the more rustic look and recently bought another. they are available here
    for sharpening start with a 1000/4000 stone which you can flatten on sandpaper.
    i am not familiar with this stone
    i am familiar with this stone it was my first and i liked it
    since dave [our fearless leader and forum owner] recommends this http://www.japaneseknifesharpeningst.../combo1x6x.htm stone it would be my first choice.

    this for meat

    this for veggies

    this for general purpose

    good luck with your studies and with what will turn out to be an expensive but rewarding hobby/obscession

    Last edited by lowercasebill; 06-23-2012 at 12:15 PM. Reason: brain fart

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    First of all, welcome!

    Second, there are a lot of options in your price range. Are you looking for a western or a wa (Japanese) handled knife?

    Third, how long was your ceramic knife? Did you find it to be too short? Do you have a certain length of knife in mind?

    (Mods: maybe we can add a few more categories to the sticky like type of handle, carbon v. Stainless, and preferred length as these questions always seem to come up.)
    "Don't you know who he is?"

  4. #4
    Senior Member chinacats's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    On the (frozen) water Maine
    Welcome and good luck in your quest!
    once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right

  5. #5
    Senior Member wenus2's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    I'm going to go with the standard maximum-value-for-a-beginner answer:

    Get a 240 mm gyuto from the CarboNext Line

    And a combo stone to keep it sharp

    Master these tools, then worry about upgrading after you are making some real money. Truth be told, this is as good a knife as most of us ever "need," the knuckleheads on this forum just don't know when/how to quit.
    -Enjoy the ride. *** All statements made herein are my personal opinion and nothing more, regardless of tone or context. ***

  6. #6
    Thanks for the warm welcome guys!

    The ceramic knife was about 5", and I occasionally felt that it was too short – I am guessing that 6" or 7" would be enough for me.

    I am not too sure which type of handle I would prefer. Is there a general consensus as to which is better for precise cutting when using/developing a refined push-cut technique? If it makes any difference, I am leaning more towards the lighter and more agile type of knives than ones with hefty handles. Sorry if this doesn't make much sense, I have only hand-held a few proper knives and from this experience know that I prefer a lighter type of knife/handle.

    The other thing I would add is that the knife should preferably keep an edge longer than average/be more durable, as I would like this purchase to last quite a while!

  7. #7
    Senior Member Benuser's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Amstelveen, The Netherlands
    I wouldn't advice a CarboNext as it comes with an unpredictable edge - if any.
    A Fujiwara FKM or Artifex would be a good choice in stainless, Fujiwara FKH or Hiromoto AS in carbon. The last one is cladded: great carbon core for sharpness with stainless clad for easy maintenance.

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Reno, NV
    My personal thoughts with your budget would be a Gesshin Ginga 210mm stainless gyuto from japanese knife imports. It has both wa or yo handle options. Since the steel is AEBL hardened to 61, it should hold it's edge fairly well, and be easy to maintain. For the stone, just a cheap king 1k/6k combo stone should be all you need to keep it sharp and practice with. And welcome to the site! On a side note, Jon's customer service at JKI is above and beyond, if you end up leaning towards the knife, don't hesitate to call.

  9. #9
    SpikeC's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Welcome to the Knut House! Learning to properly sharpen your knife will make it much more pleasant to use, and will help you out when your scalpel gets dull in the middle of an operation!
    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."

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Honolulu, HI
    Welcome! I second the carbonext or gesshin ginga. The carbonext is one of the best values for the money. The carbonext features a semi stainless which is easy to sharpen and holds an edge really well. The gesshin ginga is one of the best performing production knives available. Also the togiharu line from Korin and the suisin inox series are some other budget knives worth considering. As for sharpening stones. Look into getting the bester 1200 from Japanese knife sharpening and when you are proficient with that adding a suehiro rika 5000.

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