Figuring out preferences

Discussion in 'The Kitchen Knife' started by dan, Mar 26, 2020.

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  1. Mar 26, 2020 #1

    dan

    dan

    dan

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    I'm hoping to get some feedback and advice on figuring out my preferences. I think I know what I like (heavy blades, tall heel height, longer length), but I want to make sure I'm giving everything a fair chance! Please share your knowledge with me, KKFers.

    I'm a home user and I cook every day. I've tried around 10 knives in the last ~1.5 years - mostly gyutos. The most-used knives in (or previously in) my collection are 240 Toyama (iron clad and stainless clad), 240 Mazaki, 240 Ginga, 240 migaki Wakui (Epic Edge), and a 180mm Konosuke mirror gyuto. These are all fun knives, but undeniably differently. The Toyama and the Mazaki have been my favorite. Specifically I want to talk weight, heel height, and profile.

    Knife Weight
    I've noticed both the Ginga and Wakui have a very nice, smooth feel cutting through product. However, they seem to require more force to push through product than heavier knives (not 'a lot' of force, just more). Aside from food release, is this a common difference between heavier knives and lighter knives? I feel like the Toyama and Maz drop through everything with next to zero force. I'll add that both of these lighter knives feel amazing when used with more of a slicing motion, but I tend to be more vertical (closer to a chop than a slice) in my cutting motions.

    My alternative rationale for this difference is I haven't put a nice enough edge on the Ginga or Wakui... but based on touchups I've given the Toyama and Maz I don't *think* this is the issue. However, I'm not going to claim to be a sharpening expert.

    Heel Height
    I tend to notice the relatively short heel height of the Ginga and the 180mm Kono when I use them. It feels like my knuckles are too close to the board and my fingers pinching the blade are always very close to the whatever I'm cutting. Am I supposed to handle shorter blades differently than taller blader (at the heel)? I vaguely recall reading a post discussing how home users tend to pinch grip (incorrectly) vs pro users, so maybe I've just got the wrong grip. I'm also open to other suggestions.

    Profile
    This one seems to be the most elusive to me. So far, the Maz profile is my favorite. However, I'm having a hard time figuring out why I like the Maz profile better than the Toyama. If I align these two blades at the tip and the heel, they line up almost perfectly... but the handles protrude at two different angles. Why does one seem a little better than the other? Is it situational -- for example, if my board was a little higher, might I prefer the Toyama to the Maz?

    Other Thoughts
    Once I figure out my preferences with a gyuto, are these attributes transferable to other knife types (nakiri, suji, or petty)? I haven't explored other knife types much, yet, but I'd like to in the future. Further, has anyone noticed their preferences with gyutos (or other types) change over time?
     
  2. Mar 26, 2020 #2

    ma_sha1

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    My Maz was good until I cut into a watermelon, it wedged while Toyama went right through.
     
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  3. Mar 26, 2020 #3

    ian

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    A heavier knife has heft on its own, so it doesn’t need you to add as much extra weight to it to get through product. It’s the weight of the knife plus how much force you’re putting in that matters, so if the former is larger you need less of the latter.

    That said, there’s also a sort of complicated equation going on that determines the amount of friction (“stiction”) the knife experiences as it goes through the product, which also determines how much force you need. In a hard product with a thick knife, you may get more stiction because the knife is fatter and more wedged in there. However, you also get more stiction if there’s more area of contact between the blade face and the product. If there’s convexity in the blade face (thick knives are usually convex), the product is more likely to contact the blade face in a small area, while if you have a flatter blade face (like with a laser or a flat ground wide bevel) there’s more area of contact.

    —-

    My finger position changes a bit depending on the height of the blade. With a tall blade, they go more down, and with a shorter blade they point back at me more. You want to tips of the fingers to be sort of close to the edge of the knife for greater rotational control, but not so close that you hit the product. If you use a knife enough, you’ll eventually just end up at a well suited pinch grip for that knife, though.

    —-

    The angle of the handle to the edge makes a big difference. If your cutting board is lower down, sometimes it feels better to have more of an angle between the edge and the handle. Mine’s pretty high, and I don’t like raising my elbow way up, so I generally prefer knives where the edge at the heel is more of less parallel to the handle.

    ——

    Some of your preferences will probably translate, but you’ll have to try and see. That’s the fun, right? My preferences have changed somewhat, I suppose, but I think I’m still just figuring them out.
     
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  4. Mar 26, 2020 #4

    Michi

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    I've tried cutting with a 5 cm (2 inch) difference in height by stacking up cutting boards. The same knives felt different depending on where the cutting surface was in relation to my body. Flatter knives worked better for me on a taller surface, and knives with more belly worked better on a lower surface.

    Generally, I prefer knives with more heft. I've tried very light knives, and they don't work well for me. It's as if I have to control the motion of the blade for the entire duration of the cut, and keep applying pressure to keep the cut going. With a heavier knife, I don't have to press as hard and, once started, the weight of the knife helps to maintain momentum and sort of finishes the cut by itself on the trajectory I start it on.

    Think about using a scalpel. Ultra-sharp, and every little jitter in my hand gets faithfully mirrored in the cut line. A scalpel is extremely precise, and also extremely unforgiving. Now compare that to, say, a box cutter. It's got a beefy handle with some weight, and it's still very sharp. But, once a I start the cut, the weight of the tool helps to keep it moving on the same trajectory, with fewer deviations. What I end up with is an overall cleaner cut.

    Having said all that, I don't think there is a right or wrong, or a better or worse. It's simply what you like and are comfortable with.
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020
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  5. Mar 26, 2020 #5

    dan

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    I'm just surprised that ~20-40 grams makes that much of a difference! I think my Wakui is around 180g and the Toyama is 200g. Both ho handles. But I think your follow-on point covers it... Speaking of which

    this is exactly the kind of answer I would hope to get from you =)

    I guess on the subject of heel height I should just play around with changing the grip a bit more. I think I understand the suggestions on how to grip... I don't have extremely large hands so it should be adjustable. I feel I've seen mentions in the past of placing a finger along the spine for shorter knives, is that accurate? Perhaps for shorter edge length knives, more so than shorter heel height?

    This makes a lot of sense to me and confirms some of my suspicions. Seems like profile preference could change quite a bit based on board height and other ergonomic factors!

    It is! :)
     
  6. Mar 26, 2020 #6

    dan

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    Michi, you're describing exactly how I feel about the knives I've tried. I really like the heavier knives that sort of guide themselves after you initiate. Thanks for the analogy, it gives a clear picture and makes a lot of sense to me -- and thanks for confirming the board height!! I'm happy to know this is indeed a real factor to consider and not just some nagging thought in my head.
     
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  7. Mar 26, 2020 #7

    ian

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    I think that’s less to get the fingers out of the way, and more to allow you to put more pressure with your index finger more above the product. Imagine you’re trying to push a button with the end of the stick, and you’re holding the other end. It’s easier to depress the button if the stick is vertical, or at a 45 degree angle, than if the stick is horizontal. If you’re cutting product, draw a line between the place your hand contacts the knife and the product. If you have a knife with a short heel, the angle this line makes with the board will be shallow, so it’ll be harder to exert downward pressure on the product. Moving your index finger up the spine makes the angle larger.
     
  8. Mar 27, 2020 #8

    dan

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    It seems the use case for that hand positioning is for petty knives, and maybe sujis? More of a fine/gentle cut?

    I've got another question that came to mind recently. I suspect this is one of those things I'll just have to try but I'll ask anyway. How much does a finishing stone change the feel of a knife? So far, I've mostly used my Gesshin 6k as a finisher. The post-sharpening cutting feel for a given knife isn't always identical, but each knife does seem somewhat similar to how it felt after its previous touchup.
     
  9. Mar 27, 2020 #9

    McMan

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    This is a great kit! These are all fun knives--you've got your bases covered: heavier/convexier (Toyama), mid-weights (Maz and Wakui), laser (Ginga). Most recommendations would fill categories you already have--which can be fun, to hone in on specific tastes within specific categories. You might like a Yoshikane (downside is you like tall blades and it's short)? Another thought would be a Takeda--very tall and good food release. My suggestion would be to a petty or two and a suji or two. If you're big on veg, maybe a nakiri. You're in PNW, so a deba for salmon? Nudge, nudge--might be time to try a few new styles?

    In my thinking... nope. Knives are used differently and so different attributes matter. Just because you prefer heavier gyuto doesn't necessarily mean you'll like beefier knives for all types of knives...

    Absolutely! If they didn't, everyone would be gone after a year here :)
    These things aren't set in stone. Some knives I liked when I got them and still due (like Wakui). I'm not too interested in lasers anymore--but that's a function of getting two I really gelled with. Sometimes I'll try new knives and appreciate attributes I hadn't put much thought into before. It's a fun hobby.

    Plus, I don't love sharpening. Those that do are thinking about even more variables...
     
  10. Mar 27, 2020 #10

    M1k3

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  11. Mar 27, 2020 #11

    ian

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    Significantly. At least the grit that you finish at changes how smooth the cut feels, etc... Some finishers (esp low grit finishers) will give you more bite, so it is easier to tear through things like tomato and pepper skins, or through raw meat. High grit finishers allow you to move the knife directly through product with less push/push, and gives a smoother feel. The holy grail is a combination of both qualities.
     
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  12. Mar 28, 2020 #12

    dan

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  13. Mar 28, 2020 #13

    dan

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    Thanks! I definitely tried to be specific in my purchases and choose some 'classic' choices in each category. Before I try many more knives I really want to keep testing my current group. Although the Wakui and Ginga are not high in my preference list, I want to use them more to see if I can change my own mind. If not, I'll sell them and move on.

    It's funny you mentioned Takeda and Yoshikane because both are on my radar. It's good to know a more experienced member thinks these are some good makers to try in the future, thanks! I was considering Masashi instead of Yoshikane for the heel height. Think there's much of a difference between Masashi and Yoshikane?

    I'm definitely considering suji and a petty. I almost pulled the trigger on a Mazaki suji a few months ago and it may be my first non-gyuto purchase. I've used a few nakiris but haven't been crazy about them. I'll punt on that one for now. The deba is a maybe too, I don't eat too much seafood, despite growing up in the Northeast and now living in PNW.

    Good to know the consensus is I'll have to repeat this preferences process for all types of knives... I'm looking forward to that! :)
     
  14. Mar 28, 2020 #14

    McMan

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    Big difference between the old Masahi (Torpedo shape) and yoshikane. Old Masahi is quite tall compared to Yoshikane. Different profile too.
    There's a new Masahi with a different profile, much lighter, and less tall. I haven't seen the new one so can't compare.
    Hard to hold anything against yoshikane, though--a classic for a reason. You've got a grip of classics already, might as well take the plunge for the yoshi to add to the group :cool:
     
  15. Mar 28, 2020 #15

    dan

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    Which Yoshi did you have in mind, by the way?
     
  16. Mar 28, 2020 #16

    labor of love

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    I’m sure I’ll spend the rest of my life figuring out my preferences. My only advice here is that variety is the spice of life.
     
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  17. Mar 28, 2020 #17

    M1k3

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    @labor of love preference checklist:
    1. Have @CiderBear buy it.
    2. Wait for Knife to arrive
     
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  18. Mar 28, 2020 #18

    dan

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    :LOL: I think that's the fun of it, and that message surely matches your account name! I just want to be sure I'm giving every knife a fair shake ;)
     
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  19. Mar 28, 2020 #19

    McMan

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    hammered
     
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  20. Mar 28, 2020 #20

    CiderBear

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    My preference is Watanabe. I buy other knives because of FOMO, but I secretly want them all to be Watanabe.
     
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  21. Mar 28, 2020 #21

    lemeneid

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    I stopped having preferences after getting ahold of my Denka. Nothing I’ve used before or after comes close. Perfect blade in every way.
     
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  22. Mar 28, 2020 #22

    refcast

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    Reasons why you may like the mazaki over the toyama is that
    (1) mazaki has a thicker neck with a more rounded shaped choil. toyama is more narrow and angular
    (2) mazaki has a more smooth continous spine profile. toyama abruptly sweeps down near the tip.
    (3) mazaki is a wide bevel grind with smoothed shoulders. Toyama isn't (i think its concave kinda on the left, convex on the right, but I'm not sure)

    Heavier knives have more inertia when you move them . . . and the weight of gravity already pushing them down through the cut. So they commit to the cut more and keep on going, which helps the knife from getting stuck in the middle a cut . . . in a way. Whereas lighter knives are more finesse in going along with the cut. So for a heavier knife, the knife is the one guiding. With a lighter knife, you are the guide.

    denka was nice for me too but i like to use other knives. I like heiji steel more, and i like watanabe as an overall knife package in terms of finish and grind a bit more than tf. just a counter-denka perspective. denka steel is still awesome. and when the knives are thin behind the edge, they are some of the thinnest out there.
     
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  23. Mar 28, 2020 #23

    dan

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    I do like my Toyama, so I assume Wats are about the same based on discussions I've read. The cutting feel of the Toyama is better than the Maz in my opinion, but I think the profile of Maz has been better for me.
     
  24. Mar 28, 2020 #24

    dan

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    I probably won't seek a Denka until I'm better at maintenance since I've read repeatedly the F&F is not always the best.

    On the topic of the Maz, I think #2 that you mentioned is the biggest difference to me. I don't think #1 bothers me too much. And #3 I can't really that the Maz is wide bevel based on the choil. The two look very similar at the choil to me, I don't really remember seeing any shoulders on the Maz. And I'm glad to hear these similar descriptions on weight - it confirms my opinions on lasers vs heavier knives.
     
  25. Mar 28, 2020 #25

    M1k3

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    Some say Watanabe is Toyama. Toyama is Watanabe. CA4ZM8OUgAAlomB.jpg
     
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