Single Bevel Knives

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Dec 31, 2023
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Hi all – I am contemplating acquiring a single bevel knife at some stage, to try it and learn a new skill. I am principally interested in a Kiritsuke (traditional single bevel kind, obviously, and with a very flat profile) and another option is a Yanagiba. I am sitting on the fence, as I certainly don’t need one at the moment, but I’m tempted by the novelty. I am also attracted to the very flat, nikiri- / usuba- like profile of a Kiritsuke, which hasn’t been bastardised by the gyuto profile (I own a k tip gyuto but want something different). I’ve seen people using them online for slicing as well as typical gyuto duties and understand that single bevels can get extremely sharp due to edge geometry that I do not fully understand. I am aware of the drawbacks / considerations re steering and sharpening.

Does anyone have experience with a high quality kiritsuke (or a yanagiba, which is a second option, as I do not have a dedicated slicer yet) and would be willing to provide some thoughts and guidance? Welcoming comments on the user experience. Whether it is worth trying, and what to consider when selecting one e.g. dimensions, weight and geometry.

I hope that this is posted in the correct forum but please let me know if I selected incorrectly.

I'll throw some thoughts together in a bit for you, though I'm no particular expert tbh.

In the meantime; I'd say this thread/question might get a bit more traction if it were in 'The Kitchen Knife' subforum. Maybe one of the mods might be able to move it for you... (@Nemo @daveb)
Kiriyduke is a weird knife ... It's not all-purpose or necessarily only for executive chefs. And anyhow, the "traditional" Japanese single bevel kitchen knife shapes are only a couple hundred years old.

For very flat profile knives -- they often come with recurves on the edge profile. So many usuba and takohiki I've owned, and even rustic Japan-market nakiri have come with that. For most people, they won't notice too much of a difference aside from more clunkiness and not being able to rock chop, which shouldn't be done anyhow.

The point kirituske tip -- that tip shape is the most fragile tip shape a knife can have. Mukimono have the same tip shape. Because there's no upsweep angle to the edge profile -- it's very easy to poke the tip into something and break it. So for a normal use knife -- it's better to sharpen an upsweep the the very tip.

The thing with single bevels is usuba and deba can be heavy -- can and usually. Some makers do them lighter or have sub-versions of them.

There's kirituske with more upsweep, or you can grind that in, it'll help make it more useful -- for most people. Up to you.

Usuba are fairly heavy, and taller and thinner, so they go through vegetables well. Kiritsuke are longer than usuba usually, but shorter in height. This is because kiritsuke are the hybrid of yanagiba usuba. Yanagi are narrow to have less drag through meat, but also there's a lot of diagonal and sometimes horizontal board work cutting techniques, that a more narrow knife is easier to use for. Yanagi are lighter, so there's less fatigue too.

Well, single bevel kiritsuke, um, there's subtypes. Extra tall ones closer to usuba. Ones between usuba and yanagi in height-- the pure kiritsuke, and the most common that will be labelled kiritsuke. And the most common I've seen is the variant, kiritsuke tip yanagi, which are more common that kiritsuke it seems.

As for extra sharpness -- well that's just the edge angle you set, double bevel knives can be sharpened to the same edge angle, and thinned behind the edge too to be similar

I've owned usuba from 180mm to 240mm, and yanagi from 180mm to 330mm, and handled a couple kiritsuke and kiritsuke tipped single bevels (240mm extra tall, 150mm kiritsuke tip petty, 180mm mukimono).

Well uh, there's no super wrong answer, cause you'll at least try stuff, haha. Personally I'd recommend an usuba though if you want to do gyuto like things, more common to find, and fairly cheap here on kkf. Otherwise, yanagi for slicing meats

Knife wise me personally, I've used every sort of thing, so I don't have too strong of preferences, nowadays I'm lazier and use tiny knives.
Nothing in particular. I suppose I’m wondering whether it is worth trying a 240mm Kiritsuke or a yanagiba for the experience and the profile, and whether they offer something substantially novel and interesting (to the non sushi chef) as compared to their double bevel counterparts. I don’t have a specific job in mind, I’m attracted by curiosity.
Suggest you consider a deba as a first SB. Reasoning is that you can buy whole fish almost anywhere and learn to use the knife butchering them. They are also more robust (read forgiving) than a yani or usuba so that any sharpening mistakes can usually be corrected. 165 or 180mm will allow you to butcher salmon and similar sized fish readily.
Thanks very much. The more I think about it and I’m advised, the less I think I need one. I saw some sweet looking single bevel Kiritsuke on Strata and was seduced by the look and tradition, but if they’re not going to provide a substantially better cutting experience to my similarly shaped gyutos by the same forgers, probably not worth it for me and my needs.