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Thread: What is the most important blade characteristic?

  1. #21
    Most Japanese wa handled knives are blade heavy, so a balance will be up to 2" forward from the handle. It's not an issue if you are using a knife as intended with a pinch grip or a light grip with an index finger on the spine. A handle in this case is more for a leverage than for a grip.

    I balanced a wa gyuto on a couple of occasions, through using 1/4" NS spacer in the front and 1/16 in the back and embedding a small piece o metal in the rear, but it added to the weight of the knife and I didn't see any real advantage from balancing. Most wa hande knives have have at 1/2 -5/8" space between a handle and a heel, so a pinch grip or a forward grip with a finger on a spine is a comfortable way of holding and using a knife.

    For full tang western handled knives, the balance at the handle is more important even though many still use a pinch grip.

    M


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  2. #22
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    Out of curiosity, what is geometry? I've seen posts that have rated a knifes geometry from average to perfect. What makes a good geometry?

    The most commonly used test for geometry is wedging. Does the knife wedge in food? Knife technique, can also cause wedging. So is the wedge test, good for evaluating geometry?

    Some users pay attention to spine thickness, taking measurements at the choil, halfway down the spine and near the tip. Thin knives mean less wedging, which supposedly equals good geometry. By this definition, would the sujihiki, be the perfect knife?

    Jay

  3. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Martell View Post
    Here's my list in order of importance...

    1. Geometry

    2. Profile

    3. Heat Treat

    4. Steel

    5. Handle

    I can't believe that I didn't note "sharpenability" as a key factor for me. I think that I assumed that between steel and heat treat choices this would automatically happen, and it will if everything is done correctly, but when the wrong steel is chosen or poor heat treat is performed (actually poor forging - if forged- too) then sharpenability becomes a major issue that is too often overlooked.

    For my way of thinking, I'd rather have a crappy steel that I can sharpen than a super steel that I can't.

  4. #24
    Senior Member Avishar's Avatar
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    As someone who works on the line, If I had to isolate a single factor that defines whether I will use a blade or not, it is relevance: is it made in the way, shape, or form in which its suited to its task?

    If I'm going to be cutting through soft bones or doing more rigid duties, I want some thickness on my knife and a softer spine (a sharp spine and the shock of board impact is a recipe for easy blisters). I would want a sturdy steel, I don't want the steel to hold an ultra acute edge.

    If I'm reaching for a slicer I want it to be narrow and thin with a balance slightly forward, it doesn't need to be super wide or clear the cutting board. If I'm using a parer the feel (and size) of the handle is pretty important whereas balance may not matter as much.

    If I am using a chef knife Dave's list seems to be in line with my thoughts. In that regard I do look at handles a little more, as nothing irritates me more than if a knife is made in different lengths and sizes but the exact same size handle is stuck on all of them (A la Shun, Shun Elite, and the original Henckels Miyabi MC66 where the 240 length was required in order to balance the heavy handle). Overall though, If the knife isn't created in a way that it will fulfill its purpose effectively, then why even make it? After all, how many would reach for a Nakiri for cracking king crab legs? (Expert village video person doesn't count)

  5. #25
    Exactly yes, when the handle is way to big compared with size of blade itself, it makes cutting/peeling harder if you have a lot to do.

    My list would look like:
    Sharpness as i think you can't do sh*t with dull knife at all. Doesn't really matter who produced it and how good it looks etc
    Profile of blade and the angle its connected to the handle
    Handling and maintenance
    Versatility - i dont mind bringing case full of knives to the kitchen, but when its busy, how many of them do you really use? And space for how many do you have at your section?
    As you can see there is no steel or hardness on the list, that obviously doesn't mean to buy wooden knives. But is that as important? I agree with Dave, owning knife is one thing, but maintaining sharpness is what you gonna do the most - apart from giving it hard time

  6. #26
    Senior Member Cadillac J's Avatar
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    You really can't just pick one trait that is the most important, nor do I think you can really list in order either...as it could be different on a case-by-case basis. Like mentioned above, it is how all the characteristics come together that makes the knife what it is, and if it is worth buying or not.

    For those saying geometry is most important...does that mean you would purchase knives made out of cheap, soft stainless if the geometry was perfect? No you wouldn't, as a knife has to be good/acceptable in all areas for the task at hand. Not knocking the geometry guys here(as it is one of my tops as well), just the example I used, as the same argument could be made for any one characteristic.

    Jon is the only retailer I've seen that displays the cross-section of his products, as he knows what we like to assess visually without being able to inspect.

  7. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Cadillac J View Post
    You really can't just pick one trait that is the most important, nor do I think you can really list in order either...as it could be different on a case-by-case basis. Like mentioned above, it is how all the characteristics come together that makes the knife what it is, and if it is worth buying or not.

    For those saying geometry is most important...does that mean you would purchase knives made out of cheap, soft stainless if the geometry was perfect? No you wouldn't, as a knife has to be good/acceptable in all areas for the task at hand. Not knocking the geometry guys here(as it is one of my tops as well), just the example I used, as the same argument could be made for any one characteristic.

    Jon is the only retailer I've seen that displays the cross-section of his products, as he knows what we like to assess visually without being able to inspect.
    I think most of us here assume we are talking about Japanese knives which more often than not come with good steel.

  8. #28
    Senior Member Cadillac J's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mainaman View Post
    I think most of us here assume we are talking about Japanese knives which more often than not come with good steel.
    Just trying to emphasize my point about how its hard to narrow down to just one characteristic as most important, especially as that can even change by knife type.

    I've had knives with stock geometry that was average, but after putting in some work grinding and thinning a bit, they turned into exactly how I wanted them to be...just like Lefty mentioned with the A-types.

    However, there have been times when I've eliminated a possible contender due to only one of its characteristics. In general though, when considering knives, I tend to think of each knife as the whole, rather than the sum of its parts.

  9. #29
    This is my list when I approach a general-purpose(see: NOT a Yanagi, oyster knife, etc) knife in person, use it heavily, and judge it.
    1. Geometry(thicknesses + taper)
    Most important: it's geometry. By that I mean thickness + taper, and how they work together. I will grab a $4 Kiwi knife over any new restaurant supply brand knife laying around at work. I often do. But it won't make a knife worth owning. Those Kiwis are junk once they dull down, and if you abuse them, they REALLY can't take it.
    There seems to be this idea that Thinness is a fad of knives these past few years, but it's a fact that thinner cuts better. A thicker blade only provides weight in a kitchen, unless your menu has feisty live animals on it. The thicker it is, the less helpful it is in a kitchen, but lots of weight in the blade can help(and some perfect amount is required), which leads us to....

    2. Center of Gravity
    This is a design challenge, because the placement of the CoG needs to be a natural fit for the knife and it's function. A well designed thing needs no instructions, it just performs its task almost independently. You should pick up the knife, and the weight should be set to tell your arm "let's cut something". A good baseball bat makes you want to hit something, a knife should do the same. It should be placed as far forward as possible to do the most work, but not so far forward that you feel you need to hang on tight or lose it. A knife feeling like it "fits" is not a handle issue, but a balance issue.

    3. Edge Retention
    I don't really care how easy it is to sharpen, I want it to either keeps it's edge forever or refresh to a "like new" condition until the edge totally degrades. This is, IIRC, a heat treatment issue mostly, as well as a steel choice issue. As with all things in a kitchen, durability is king. I know there is not perfect for edge rentention(or else it would be literally impossible to sharpen), but the more, the better. If it's an s30v scimitar, just send it to a pro, like Dave...that's what he's there for right?

    4. Ergonomics
    This is almost entirely a backseat issue because a great CoG and a good sharpening job and you won't really notice how comfortable it is or isn't. And slippage is a technique problem, not a design problem(as long as the handle isn't a polished ceramic cylinder, you'll be ok). The main issues here are a bolster and spine that don't abrade and open callouses--I rounded the spine on my gyuto because some long days at work would eventually leave my hands hurting or bleeding from pushing that piece of steel through so much food. I don't know why anyone would want a knife with a spine and bolster as sharp as my Tojiro was when it was new.

    5. Blade profile.
    This is the LAST on the issue, because this is really what people need to learn to CHOOSE. Picking the right profile for you can be the biggest challenge--and you can't exactly put a Ken Onion belly on a Shigifusa.

    Other things like handle materials/nuances or cosmetics are all easily managed by cooks themselves or servicemen, and you will rarely totally please even 2 people on these issues.

  10. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Cadillac J View Post
    You really can't just pick one trait that is the most important, nor do I think you can really list in order either...as it could be different on a case-by-case basis. Like mentioned above, it is how all the characteristics come together that makes the knife what it is, and if it is worth buying or not.

    For those saying geometry is most important...does that mean you would purchase knives made out of cheap, soft stainless if the geometry was perfect? No you wouldn't, as a knife has to be good/acceptable in all areas for the task at hand. Not knocking the geometry guys here(as it is one of my tops as well), just the example I used, as the same argument could be made for any one characteristic.

    Jon is the only retailer I've seen that displays the cross-section of his products, as he knows what we like to assess visually without being able to inspect.
    I would still pick edge geometry and then handle. However, with real knives you don't have to pick. Compromises are for suckers.

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