Tall Tale Review: K. Tanaka Tsuchime Nakiri (Matsubara)

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ModRQC

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This is my third Katsuto Tanaka unit. It’s one of those things you know… been browsing for a while for yet another different Nakiri to try, came out dry from all the usual options I’ve been seeing plenty, and then Sharp Knife Shop had a restock and this one popped in my face as a complete surprise, from a maker I like in a steel I like clad in SS how I prefer it, with a forget-me-not stance and wicked looks… and a monopiece Wenge handle! It was a matter of very little deliberation.

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Far to be ill-known, K. Tanaka is not as well represented on the market or as widely known as he should, especially for the usually lower tier price his knives sell for and great care they’re made with. Where we hear a lot about a few “Tanakas” for sure, he won’t be who’s being referenced more than 95% of the times…. even under the more widely used moniker “Matsubara Hamono” – a bit of a generic misnomer really since Matsubara is the city in Osaka prefecture where these are made, and there are more than one bladesmith located there.

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Among those that have tried that maker however, I’m definitely not the only one having bought a few. For one thing he’s likely to draw those seeking taller blades, especially with Gyutos, and for another his blades indeed tend to come with F&F out of expectations for the money, a thicker than average spine at heel, with clear signs of forged taper and a rather nice tip. And he does favor a bit of a tangible flat spot too. It’s really out of handle to the heel that you can measure how thick K. Tanaka starts with for the blades he makes, and fully appreciate how much of a taper he hammers into them, and then the grinds – and clad lines for that matter – tend to ride aggressively high as well. At the choil, they look much skinnier – almost laser – but they have a strong, almost meaty middle of the road feel to them.

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The whole blend yields pretty singular and likeable knives, and the worst that will happen is a somewhat ill-fitted handle, and some edges/grinds smarter than others – a pretty regular outcome in this racket until splurging twice the money – and once there yeah exceptions and allowances are still to be made. Basically nitpicking here, but it’s still a real thing.

Without further ado, specs for the Nakiri here under review:

MAKER
Katsuto Tanaka
TYPE & LENGTH
Nakiri 165mm
FINISH & STEEL
Tsuchime Aogami #2 Stainless Clad
WEIGHT / BALANCE
177g / +25
HANDLE MATERIAL
Wenge Monopiece
TOTAL LENGTH​
314​
BLADE LENGTH​
182​
EDGE LENGTH​
165
HEIGHT AT HEEL​
59
HEIGHT AT MID BLADE​
57​
HEIGHT AT UPSWEEP​
52​
SPINE THICKNESS
(3.9 mm out of handle)
HEEL​
3.1
MID BLADE​
2​
UPSWEEP​
1.7​
EDGE THICKNESS
@ 10 / 5 / 1mm over
Average
0.9 / 0.5 / 0.1
 

ModRQC

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Handle

Wenge monipiece. It’s the first time I see it on the market at large myself I think, although there could be some Hatsukokoro line I’m forgetting about that has it…

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For further reference usually K. Tanaka Tsuchime B#2 come “standard” with a Rosewood/Pakka handle which is a very good option as well. I’ve been browsing a bit and there were a few restocking of that line across vendors carrying it recently, but all of them with the Rosewood handle.

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House of Knives - Restock somewhere Spring 2022

I’d compare it best with the “standard” Walnut monopiece found on Ittetsu Kurouchi line. They’re really of roughly the same shape, a bit bulky (not necessarily bad and at least can be amended) for a regular length, some taper, and similarly rigorous and satisfying chamfering done at both ends, and all that is pretty good. There’s something “streamlined” if you will about both of them however, somewhat impersonal and lackluster despite a pleasing level of finish.

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Ittetsu W#1 "standard" Monopiece Walnut


Then the Wenge is on the better side of that comparison, where the bulk fits this particular blade nicely, but mostly because for one thing it’s a lot more textured, and for another it’s pretty impervious to food staining or water erosion, which ill effects would tend to afflict the Walnut unit after a short while.

2HDL2.jpg


If not perfect, I’d see any of both replacing the common cheap Ho handles any day of the week, is all I’m saying.



How tall a tale?

Not super tall, just… tall. Or wide, as these things are generally discussed. But “tall tale” does ring another bell which is mostly the point of what follows.

My first K. Tanaka was a 230/55 Nashiji Gyuto with a Ginsan core. I’ve never had a wider Gyuto than that. Closest to target was Kawamura/Y. Tanaka Damascus 243/54. I’m more of a 210mm guy so I’ve not owned nearly as much 240mm units, but I know 55mm is still rather tall for these as well – generally speaking.

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Trying to use "representative pictures" for economy here...


My second was a 171/53 Bunka of the same series as the actual Nakiri, but with the most often seen Rosewood handle. There again, even Yoshikane’s Bunka was a bit less wide for a similar length. From there most Bunkas will tend to be around the Yoshikane mark or easily narrower. There, a bit against the usual “tall” region recommendation, I’d look at a few “180mm” Sakai units for finding as tall or taller competition for similar real length just as quite readily available. The tall ones though are usually the higher end ones as well.

2OldBunka.jpg
... so if you feel let down somehow please take a look at posts #4-5


Most strikingly wide is the actual Nakiri standing at 165/59. Here I’d compare a Maz or Wakui 180mm Nakiri to usually be 54-56mm tall at best – and I think the Toyama/Wat tread these waters as well, or Yoshikane Nakiris nearing so on shorter blades. A few Sakai once again could fit the more or less 55mm mark… but nearly 60mm is another thing entirely, getting into a niche market alright.



Tsuchime finish…

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An interesting thing to note is how the Tsuchime pattern changed from my former Bunka to the present Nakiri. Well… obviously for one thing the former Bunka was not so nicely hammered than the Nakiri, what with one side trying somewhat poorly to be orderly strokes, the other trying to be random - also rather poorly. I think the Nakiri does a tremendously better job of “efficiently random” on both sides.

2Finish2.jpg


But the hammer point used is not the same either. The old Bunka had rather round imprints with the original Nashiji texture still prominent within except for the deepest part looking darker. I’m also calling your attention to the pics in the last post about the restock House of Knives got: not the same Tsuchime – nor handle – than mine Nakiri, even their Nakiri. Minei has some “eggish” shaped hexagonal imprints with a definite pattern from the hammer, striated with a clear shallower segment perpendicular to the striation that demarks the more eggish top of the hexagonal shaping. That is mingled with tooth-with-roots-on shape imprints that have a circular striation within, ending into some kind of central depression the exact motif of which is rather indistinguishable.

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I’ve had various Tsuchime patterns over the time, and very few I found nice, most rather forgettable, but this one is just an entirely different class of having at it, I’d say especially with managing that rather fancy pattern to blend so discretely, largely avoiding any kind of ostentatiousness. But mostly, I don’t know but his Nakiri with that Tsuchime and mono Wenge seems a bit out of the ordinary. No big surprise: from the same vendor it seems my former so claimed 225mm Nashiji/S3 is not likely to be found again neither. Hats to…. hmmmm… @madmotts if memory serves correctly for scoring this one out of me for a ridiculous price. See Post #5 for just how much.
 

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And whatnot…

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Ok that would usually be the bulk of the text, but I’ve already said 99% of what really drove me into writing this review. So let’s just carry on with what you but only need to see, and what I only need to add from there.

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3Grind.jpg

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Nose shot... you rarely see these here but I now make a point of it with Bunkas, Santokus, Nakiris...

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It’s fairly simple: it’s rather short for its width, but that in itself isn’t really the problem as much as the slanted profile and recessed heel is for the length. I had a 161/51 Nakiri where shortness was perhaps enhancing the likeability of (relative) width, so I’ve no preconceptions of a “necessary length” anymore; and for that matter the K. Tanaka is also balanced perfectly well for length. The problem is really that the heel starts quite backwards of the grip and really lost there, and then you don’t have so much edge left forward. You could say that favors a pull cut motion, but it doesn’t really, it mostly just limits the scope in push cutting. The easy fix some would put forward is that it should be longer, but really all I’d wish for is just a “squarer” profile pushing the heel forward towards the grip.

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Otherwise it separates quite smoothly and releases rather easily, and even the edge was likeable OOTB. Once given my edge, it’s taking things to excellence. The A#2 HT is quite as surprisingly enduring and easily manageable as what I expect the best of that steel to be. It’s quite an incredible knife to get for the price. It would need very little to be perfect, yet it doesn’t need anything more to be awesome.

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ModRQC

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And then the fair work I've done unto the Gyuto... once a prized jewel of my collection for the best part of a year, which back then speed I was buying these things was a feat.

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Original choil... again...

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Obviously thinned...


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Bit of a refinishing OCD in me back then


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BTW it was the first knife I ever subjected to such kind of work.

Next challenge was my first TF Mabs. Or it could be the other way around, I can't be sure... but from the lighting scheme I'd think this one came first.
 
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Malcolm Johnson

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These K. Tanaka knives are seriously excellent for the money. I had a shop loan me a 270 gyuto in iron clad shiro 1 and it was a pleasure to use. Hard to think of knives in this price point that compare aside from S. Tanaka
 

ModRQC

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These K. Tanaka knives are seriously excellent for the money. I had a shop loan me a 270 gyuto in iron clad shiro 1 and it was a pleasure to use. Hard to think of knives in this price point that compare aside from S. Tanaka

Indeed. For price range S. Tanaka nails the grind better, Y. Tanaka nails the finish better. Then there’s the question of S. Tanaka rather western-ish profiles vs Y. Tanaka typically flatter ones and boosted heights and the fact the latter tend to come much thicker at heel than your usual stock blades.

Thoughts for food, my friend… 😜
 
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