How to ruin a Geshin Uraku: a review

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Gesshin Uraku 210mm White #2 Kurouchi Wa-Gyuto
Purchased from Jki above for $175 on 5/3/22, shipped on 5/4/22
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Pics:
Initial purchase - actually this is a little after, includes pics of a musashi bunka as well
Early photos and first sharpening -- a lot of photos, some of the handle here
Thinning
Current

Specs(copied from jki and then updated):
  • Steel Type: White #2 Carbon
  • Handle Type: Octagonal Ho Wood, black buffalo horn
  • Handle Length: 134.2mm
  • Handle Height: 26.7mm
  • Handle Width: 22.1mm
  • Handle to Tip Length: 215mm
  • Heel to Tip Length: 204mm
  • Width of Spine at Handle: 3.0mm
  • Width of Spine above Heel: 2.8mm
  • Width of Spine at Middle: 2.6mm
  • Width of Spine 1cm from the Tip: 1.1mm
  • Blade Thickness 1/2 way between the Spine and Edge: 2.3mm
  • Blade Height at Heel: 42.3mm
  • Weight: 152g
Thickness behind the edge at midpoint:
@1mm@5mm@10mm
.4mm.9mm2.0mm

Notes: The measurements above were all taken after 6+ months of ownership and after a noob thinning job. I also didn't take any photos when I first got the knife so all photos are after some light usage at best. I attempted to largely put them in chronological order for the for the review. I'm no photographer, though "I'm getting better", hopefully this will show more with future reviews. Also, I hadn't planned on reviewing my knives initially. This was something I decided to do after spending more time and money with them. Decided it couldn't hurt the community and I will be able to track my experiences better. Feel free to leave constructive criticism.

This was my first Japanese knife purchase. I spent some time lurking on r/chefknives and saw a lot of references to jki and their geshin ginga line, unfortunately they were all sold out at the time. After looking around I decided to purchase this Uraku as it checked many of the boxes I was looking for.
  • Wa handle - I had only ever held western handled knives. I knew this might not be the knife for me so there was little to risk by trying out a new handle type here.
  • Blue or white steel - I'd only ever had stainless knives and was eager to try a carbon steel.
  • clad and kurouchi - I definitely wanted at least one of these as I was worried about rust, having never cared for a carbon blade before.
  • reasonable price - Lurking around I was seeing a lot of $500+ knives, and this was something I wanted to avoid (initially).
  • size - 210 or 240 seemed to be what people suggested and 210 seemed similar to what I'd been using previously.
Pulled the trigger on this and got the obligatory call from jki. Confirmed with them that I was at least casually aware of what I was getting into, and probably spent ~15 minutes more learning about knives before I had to end the call. The entire process with JKI was a pleasure. Knife arrived quickly and well packed with a personal note. Honestly, at time of purchase I didn't fully understand what Geshin meant in relation to the brands I was seeing and that a geshin ginga and geshin uraku are two completely different brands, not lines from the same brand.
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First opinion: I'm not going to sugar coat this. I was pretty disappointed with the knife when It first arrived. At first glance the knife was fine. The handle was a little disappointing compared to a lot of the prettier handles I was seeing from other places and the ferrule almost looked like a black plastic cap, at the top you can see the wood and even some glue, though it's all flat and smooth. The handle felt decent in my hand though so I was happy with the wa handle experiment. Blade looked very nice to my novice eye, straight at least and centered. Decided to cook a vegetable soup that night... carrots cracked, potato's wedged and then cracked. I thought I'd asked jki to put an edge on it before they shipped it... maybe I was remembering that wrong and I'd asked them to leave the factory edge so I'd get the full experience 🤷. To be clear, the knife would cut things, but the performance was not great and certainly not what I had been expecting. It was in several ways worse then my cheap stainless chef knives. I was reading about workhorse vs lasers, thickness behind the edge, etc, maybe it was technique, but I didn't have enough experience to say what the issue was or even if there was one, perhaps this was just a case of my expectations being to great from all the NKD's I was seeing.

After a few months with it, trying a few more knives, a little more experienced at sharpening, I'd decided this was probably just thick and needed to be thinned. Looking at the specs above, I can say this definitely appears to be a bit thicker example of an uraku as I had to increase virtually every measurement of thickness from jki's site and that's after the thinning. I decided to take a stab at it as I thought it would be pretty simple. It looked like a wide bevel to me, so I wouldn't need to worry about convex grinds and while the finish was nice looking I knew I wouldn't be ruining a piece of art or anything. It was also the cheapest of all the knives I had on my rack at this point and I'd already attempted a little thinning on cheap stainless that I'd bought solely for playing with them. At this point it was either thin or sell. Thinning was a bear, all done on synth stones and probably took a little over 8hrs, definitely contributing to my future arthritis (who knew hardened steel was hard). I thought the slight concavity I saw was just a trick of my bad eyes, but nope those were not wide flat bevels and there were definitely some low spots as well. After thinning I was much happier with how the knife cut. I'm almost certain I changed the profile unintentionally but I don't believe its anything drastic and something I will be more aware of next time. I'm not sure I understand whats going on with the finish. There were times where I thought I'd completely gone past the cladding/finish while working on it, but then it seemed to come back with higher grits and then lost it again in areas like the tip.
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Final thoughts: I'm much happier with the knife now. Part of that is knowing I've put some work into it and that I like it more then when I got it. If this was to be somebody else's first knife I would definitely recommend asking for a thin specimen. The ho wood handle has really grown on me since the initial purchase. I was never interested in some of the very ornate handles I've seen, but a few of the simpler darker wood handles really appealed to me originally. I've grown to be particularly fond of the slightly rough feel and the grip it provides especially if your hands are wet. The fit and finish on the blade itself is decent and seems completely acceptable for the price. The spine and choil are not rounded, though the heel to handle isn't a hard 90 degree angle, it's curved at least. I still plan on coming back and rounding these for comfort. Kurouchi finish is well done, looks good, and I've had more expensive knives where the finish didn't hold up as well. I use this knife as sort of a workhorse petty. Currently it will push cut telephone book pages (pretty much the limits of my sharpening ability). It's no laser but can still do horizontal cuts for onions acceptably and handle most other produce fine. I've used it to break down chickens and slice steaks, though I'm still careful around any bones. It's not my favorite blade, but I can use it for just about any standard meal or just grab it to chop fruit for the kids. I also don't sweat bullets if I leave it on the board (momentarily) after cutting something wet. I've never had an issue with rust on it and after the thinning I'm not worried about the state of the finish. I've had no issues with chipping or rolling of any sorts over the entire usage and it sharpens easily enough that I can't think of any complaints in that area. This white #2 steel seems to be pretty reactive with food, I get more browning of the onions then on any of my other knives, though it doesn't patina or rust terribly fast or anything which I find a little surprising. Edge retention isn't anything amazing that I've noticed but it's not bad either, especially for how I treat it/beat on it. I probably put it on a stone at least once a month, but that's at least partially because I like sharpening and not because it's stopped cutting. Its a fun little knife that I'm happy was cheap enough to convince me to take a chance at working on it.
 
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