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Honyaki?

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Neofolis

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Sorry for my ongoing noobness. I was just wondering, other than appearance, rarity and difficulty creating differentially hardened steel, is there any practical advantage to Honyaki knives?

Sorry, if this should be obvious, but all of the information I see seems to be referencing the things I mentioned.
 

aboynamedsuita

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I remember reading something about less carbon migration since there isn’t exactly cladding, but should defer to the steel nerds for further comment.
 

Barmoley

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Mostly it is for looks and makes it easier for the makers to straighten them after heat treat. There is an unintended benefit sometimes due to high rate of failure. Makers especially in Japan tend to put more work into finishing honyaki, so grinds polishing etc are usually better. This sometimes leads to better performance. Some users say they can feel the difference between honyaki and mono blades, some can't. I don't see a mechanism that would allow people to feel the difference, but that doesn't mean much. Hardened part of honyaki also tends to be harder than mono steel blades using same steels, but not always.
 

jacko9

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Mostly it is for looks and makes it easier for the makers to straighten them after heat treat. There is an unintended benefit sometimes due to high rate of failure. Makers especially in Japan tend to put more work into finishing honyaki, so grinds polishing etc are usually better. This sometimes leads to better performance. Some users say they can feel the difference between honyaki and mono blades, some can't. I don't see a mechanism that would allow people to feel the difference, but that doesn't mean much. Hardened part of honyaki also tends to be harder than mono steel blades using same steels, but not always.
I have never used a Honyaki blade but your explanation seems very reasonable. I don't understand the people that say they feel the difference between Honyaki and Clad knives on their cutting boards. I want to try one someday but my preference for a B#1 and blacksmith/sharpener may place it out of financial reach.
 

Gregmega

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There’s definitely a different feel, the steel is harder, the vibe is stiffer, and it almost has a ring to it on the boards (if that makes sense). To the lay there’s probably not a lot of difference, but after 2 decades in pro kitchens and a hundred or so knives later, it’s something you pick up on. As value perception goes, it’s really aesthetic, technically it performs the same tasks, shares most attributes with mostly the same results as a clad knife. It also helps if your wallet is fat.
 

M1k3

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The blade doesn't scratch as easily as any soft clad knife.
 
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Neofolis

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I suppose then, given that the appearance doesn't do that much for me, there's not much motivation for me to try to get one. It does, however, make a lot of sense that a maker would put more effort into every other aspect of the knife. Maybe I just won't have a Honyaki blade too high on my priorities list, for the next few years at least, especially as I am very much in the lay person camp and unlikely to notice better feel.
 

M1k3

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Mono blades feel pretty much the same. Just harder to straighten a bend.
 

Martyn

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i have a masamoto ks and a masamoto blue steel honyaki (both are yanagi) of the same specs, the honyaki feels denser when handling and cutting...maybe it is all in my head though....
 
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DavidPF

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There's no law saying what it is, but it seems clear that at least some people treat it as the "real deal" art of hand-forging knives in its purest or most developed form. Whether it is literally that or not, or whether there's anyone even qualified to judge whether that's what it is, the fact that some people treat it that way means sometimes that's more or less what it really turns out to be.

Does that mean it always results in the best knife? As always, best knife for what purpose?

Best single vessel for the display of an individual's knowledge and skill in the Japanese knife-making world? Probably sometimes, at least.

Best marketing mumbo-jumbo to sell tons of knives that have nothing to do with this idea? Must be pretty close to it, at least. :)
 

preizzo

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Cutting wise are exactly the same like any other knife
I notice differences most when sharpen them ,the steel on stones it s more clear and rise a brr that is very crispy and not gummy like sometimes can happen with stainless and mono
 

Gregmega

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I suppose then, given that the appearance doesn't do that much for me, there's not much motivation for me to try to get one. It does, however, make a lot of sense that a maker would put more effort into every other aspect of the knife. Maybe I just won't have a Honyaki blade too high on my priorities list, for the next few years at least, especially as I am very much in the lay person camp and unlikely to notice better feel.
If money is no object, then honyaki are fine and fun. But purely from a utility aspect, they’re not necessary. I think honyaki serve a more esoteric end for enthusiasts, as in pride, polishing, legacy, collecting, etc, more so than any meaningful improved performance attributes.

Maybe start by trying out a few makers/brands that also produce honyaki to get a feel for their styles, and then when a time comes that you may be interested, you could get one based on how you vibe with their iron cladded work.
 

lemeneid

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Honyaki can feel "stiffer" as its all hard steel as opposed to hard steel sandwiched between soft steel. And definitely more pain in the ass to polish compared to san mai.
 

Neofolis

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If money is no object, then honyaki are fine and fun. But purely from a utility aspect, they’re not necessary. I think honyaki serve a more esoteric end for enthusiasts, as in pride, polishing, legacy, collecting, etc, more so than any meaningful improved performance attributes.

Maybe start by trying out a few makers/brands that also produce honyaki to get a feel for their styles, and then when a time comes that you may be interested, you could get one based on how you vibe with their iron cladded work.
I intend to try as many brands as possible to get a better idea of whether I prefer certain makers, so that would include those that make Honyaki.
 

DavidPF

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I intend to try as many brands as possible to get a better idea of whether I prefer certain makers, so that would include those that make Honyaki.
Start slowly - spend time getting comfortable with the excellent knife you just got, because if you try everything in quick succession it all becomes a big blur, and the differences between knives will seem like "noise" to you. If I tried fifty wines in five days, I would remember "I tried a lot of different wines" but I wouldn't remember much important about them because I don't know wine at all. I could try ten different beers in two weeks and have at least a chance of telling you something interesting by the end, because I'm more familiar with beer.

You can't enjoy a vacation until you're used to your home first. :)
 

Midsummer

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Makers especially in Japan tend to put more work into finishing honyaki, so grinds polishing etc are usually better. This sometimes leads to better performance. Some users say they can feel the difference between honyaki and mono blades
For the most part, they are the best grinds in my collection.
 

ian

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I notice differences most when sharpen them ,the steel on stones it s more clear and rise a brr that is very crispy and not gummy like sometimes can happen with stainless and mono
Can’t imagine the actual differential hardening has anything to do with how the steel at the edge feels, though.

They do feel different on the board than san mai blades, but I can’t really tell the difference with mono blades. @Barmoley’s answer is perfect.
 

preizzo

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Can’t imagine the actual differential hardening has anything to do with how the steel at the edge feels, though.

They do feel different on the board than san mai blades, but I can’t really tell the difference with mono blades. @Barmoley’s answer is perfect.
I believe it depends on the hrc , generally honyaki have higher hrc ,but we should definitely ask that question to some of the maker in here
 

chiffonodd

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Can’t imagine the actual differential hardening has anything to do with how the steel at the edge feels, though.
Wasn't the differential hardening in traditional Japanese swords done at least in part to serve as a bit of a "shock absorber"? If so, I imagine that there could be some difference in how a honyaki blade feels when making board contact. Although, of course, (1) swords when used are subjected to much greater stress, and (2) people seem to think honyaki kitchen knives actually feel stiffer and more "ringy" on contact than non-honyaki knives. So who knows 🤷‍♂️🤷‍♂️
 

ian

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(2) people seem to think honyaki kitchen knives actually feel stiffer and more "ringy" on contact than non-honyaki knives. So who knows 🤷‍♂️🤷‍♂️
People say this when they compare them to san mai knives. Theoretically, you would expect honyaki knives to feel somewhere in between fully hardened mono knives and san mai knives, if you look at the amount of softer metal involved. I'm saying I can't tell a difference between honyaki and mono in use. Then again, my sample size is super small so idk anything.

(The comment you quoted was about how they feel during sharpening, though, which shouldn't depend on the presence of soft steel somewhere else in the blade.)
 

Barmoley

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Wasn't the differential hardening in traditional Japanese swords done at least in part to serve as a bit of a "shock absorber"? If so, I imagine that there could be some difference in how a honyaki blade feels when making board contact. Although, of course, (1) swords when used are subjected to much greater stress, and (2) people seem to think honyaki kitchen knives actually feel stiffer and more "ringy" on contact than non-honyaki knives. So who knows 🤷‍♂️🤷‍♂️
Anything is possible, but swords are so different from kitchen knives that it is hard to imagine that what was done to protect the sword from breaking has any effect on a kitchen knife. Especially when you compare mono to mono(honyaki). It's not like we have proper double blind tests to prove one way or another. For example let's say vibrations travel differently through harder steel vs softer steel, I don't know if this is the case, but would have to be for someone to feel the difference. We would need to know how much of a difference there is and at what point can a human feel it. Not all honyaki are same some have larger portions of hard steel some have smaller portions, at what point can a very sensitive human tell? That is if there is something to tell in the first place, no clue if there is. Even aesthetics of honyaki are flitting since patina covers all unless you just look at the knife or polish all the time. I've now had at least 2 mono blades that are as hard or harder than honyaki, so would they feel even more honyaki since they have more hard steel in them🤷‍♂️ you also have to consider that in many honyaki most of the steel in the blade is softer because the hardened part of the blade is significantly thinner in most cases so over all honyaki might have less hard steel then softer mono. Let's say mono at 63 hrc vs honyaki with bottom half at 65 hrc and the rest mid 40-50, not sure how hard honyaki spines are. Bottom line some people say they can tell, most probably can't, buy them if you like them, but just don't expect night and day difference in performance or feel.
 

Neofolis

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I wasn't really interested in getting a Honyaki blade, but I did want to try a mono at some point, so I thought it was worth knowing if the Honyaki had any advantages. Obviously grind, etc. is important, but it is also not guaranteed, unless you know the exact knife before you buy. I also need a lot more experience with good knives before bothering to spend the time and money trying to get something that I wouldn't be able to appreciate.
 

jacko9

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If money is no object, then honyaki are fine and fun. But purely from a utility aspect, they’re not necessary. I think honyaki serve a more esoteric end for enthusiasts, as in pride, polishing, legacy, collecting, etc, more so than any meaningful improved performance attributes.

Maybe start by trying out a few makers/brands that also produce honyaki to get a feel for their styles, and then when a time comes that you may be interested, you could get one based on how you vibe with their iron cladded work.
I seem to recall that you recently purchased a Honyaki as a birthday present to you. As far as brands so far I have collected and tried; Kato, Shigefusa, T-F, Watanabe, Toyama, Konosuke Fujiyama and a few others in petty knives. I wish I could tell you how these compare but I only cook for two of us at home and we don't eat that much at our age. However I do enjoy all of these fine examples of craftsmanship.
 

captaincaed

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They're much harder to refinish, since the steel is so hard and covers the whole knife. If it's blue steel and has alloying element, it's an extra chore. Ask me how I know.

I've only had a 3, but the steel feels more "friable" when sharpening. That said, I got a great long lasting edge from 2/3. It's a shame, one wouldn't hold an edge, but had a damn near perfect work pony grind.
 
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M1k3

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Burr breaking off easier is a byproduct of higher hardness. I've heard Japanese smiths generally heat treat honyaki to slightly higher hardness versus their san-mai knives.
 

captaincaed

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Yeah my impression is it's not "overdone", it's intentionally that hard. But again, I'm pretty clueless about the metallurgy process.
 

Eloh

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I would say the mono blade without hamon is better for the end user since you can't accidentally bend it. 😉
 
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