I've never used one personally, but I've heard the blades are very nice, but the handle and finish leave a bit to be desired. It's always a good idea to go through a reputable dealer for qc reasons (as I'm sure you know).
However, this guy sells tanaka knives at a very good price. I have emailed him before and he can get different sizes easily enough. http://cgi.ebay.ca/Japanese-16-Dama...ultDomain_0&hash=item2eb45a1660#ht_3586wt_784
His English is limited, and I don't know about the qc, but it is another option.
My Tanaka Yanagi was a great value, got it from the same place. But the workmanship doesn't show a complete attention to detail. There are parts that are ground/hammered unevenly on the blade road, the finish on the blade was rough, and the handle is basically a hunk of wood that goes in your hand. That said, the steel is good, the knife is a great user and easy to sharpen. I think it makes a fine introductory handmade j-blade and would probably really shine if sent to Dave or someone to give it the once-over and rehandle it. But that is just replacing the cost of buying a knife that is finished better!
I've never had that gyuto, mind you, but from my experience with my Yanagi(which I love and use), I would consider it a great bargain! Top-of-the-bottom, as I say. I have a Tanaka and a Tojiro DP for work...I prefer to buy the top-of-the-bottom than the bottom-of-the-top!
I got two Tanaka VG10 damascus 165mm santokus from 330mate.
They were ordered at the same time however they arrived at different times.
I have no reason to believe that 330mate was dishonest but the purchase was nerve rattling like no other knnfe purchase before. I was very close to filing an E-bay claim as the last knife arrived only 2 days before the claim window shut.
Either way, both knives were fine (albeit poorly packed) and while the handles are not super, they are quite ok to work with.
Bottom line, if you are not afraid of the wait i think 330mate sells tanaka knives at very reasonable prices, but he is not the best to deal with. The Tanaka blades i got were nicely finished, thin and well worth the $50 a piece i paid.
Thanks for the replies everyone, and yes I still have the ITK. I've been using it here and there and it is the sharpest knife I own at the moment but I have not yet reached Cadillac J's sharpening skills so I cannot do it justice yet. I enjoy fine things and from what you guys have said it looks like I would be spending a large amount to have it re-handled to my liking as I have been spoiled by Stefan and Hoss's handles. I guess I'll be using the DT ITK more often or my soon to be re-handled by Marko, Konosuke White #2 240mm Gyuto. :razz:
Had a bad experience with metalmaster recently. I paid for EMS were not sent promptly, nor was there any communication from the seller. I did not even get a tracking number until threatening him with a paypal dispute 3 weeks after purchase. I would advice staying away from him.
I believe the tanaka knives from 330mate comes with a plastic vs buffalo horn ferrule from metalmaster. Based on the collective comments from others, both 330mate and metalmaster have a history of being unresponsive and the knives are often described as a diamond in the rough. Essentially, you get a great steel, and a serviceable handle, but will likely encounter some less than ok (f&f, grinding, etc.) issues.
The grinding on the blue petty that I got was pretty lousy. I had to level a hump on one side of the blade, fix the edge gaps, and a bunch of minor things, but nothing that couldnt be fixed with some elbow grease.
I'm happy with the 7 Tanaka knives that have come my way, including a 240 VG10 gyuto. No issues there at all. It's always the gyuto that I keep saying I'll get rid of to make room for the other gyutos that come along, but I can never get myself to take that step. I still like using it. Really nice geometry, handles well (though a bit blade-heavy which I didn't like at first), cuts well and because mine is the VG10 version, it's my go-to stainless gyuto.
I've got a Tanaka petty in blue and another in VG10 - the blue cuts much nicer than the VG10 and, possibly due to weight distribution with its thinner heel-to-ferrule section, feels better in the hand. If the petty comparison is anything to go by, I'd expect the blue gyuto to be better than the VG10 gyuto.
The only Tanaka I've had some issue with finish-wise has been a KU nakiri. No issues with anything from the damascus line. The handles, well, they're functional but definitely not fancy. I think the ferrules on the damascus line are all horn - I think it's just the KU line that has plastic ferrules.
No idea which ones I got from 330mate and which ones from metalmaster, but I have bought from both of them. I expected standard shipping to take a while (up to a month), email response was non-existent, but I got the knives and I'm happy with them. My Tanaka blue petty is actually my favorite petty to use - I generally like it better than my Takeda, for example.
I had a few Tanaka knives I bought on Ebay from MetalMaster. Steel was pretty good, especially for the money, but the handles were terrible. They were poorly fitted. On one the hole was much too big and irregularly shaped with big gaps on both sides of the tang, which allowed water to get in, causing the tang to rust and degrading the wood of the handle. The handle on that one came completely off after only a few uses. I reattached it with a bit of Gorilla Glue, which expanded to hold the blade to the handle and filled the gap.
I handled a few Tanaka gyutos in person, and if I had to summarize them with one word it would be 'inconsistent'. Some were ground well with decent geometry and some were thick behind the edge. Some handles seemed decently fitted (for the price) but some had big gaps. To use two cliches: it's the luck of the draw, and you get what you pay for.