- May 20, 2019
- Reaction score
- Victoria BC Canada
A little over a year ago I followed an active thread debating the strengths and defects of knives made by Terayasu Fujiwara. There was a considerable view that defects in construction of the knives collectively called wabi sabi rendered them unsuitable for purchase at current prices. On the other side of the argument was a considerable number of equally reputable KKF members who took the position that the knives cutting performance and edge longevity out weighed any defects in construction to make TF knives very desirable additions in any kitchen, home or commercial.
I watched this debate unfold but couldn’t take a position on the debate personally. Simply put … I didn’t own a TF and had never used one. Other than by parroting one position or another I had no basis to judge or comment. I decided to learn for myself by buying a few examples and using them exclusively in my kitchen for a few months. A few knives turned into twelve knives, and a few months turned into seven months. Nine of the knives I used most are pictured above. A few knives turned into seven months of exclusive use because I wanted the experience of using them until a few got dull enough to require sharpening. Only then did I feel that I was in a position to comment.
The “Coles Notes” version of my Chronicle is that both sides of the argument have valid points. Everybody is right ! On balance I fall on the side that every kitchen should have at least one TF in it. When work has to be done I believe that most will find themselves reaching for their TF. I have to confess, however, that my favourite house had a rough split cedar shake roof. I like ”rough” so long as it doesn’t impede performance. It wasn’t until my twelfth knife that I received a TF which I wouldn’t use until I did some work on the blade. Most were previously used knives where some had modified the blade, generally by thinning. Other of the knives were untouched or new from the box.
Here’s a few pics from the time TF’s ruled my kitchen.
My time with TF’s started with a Morihei fine finish 240 Gyuto. It had been thinned by the previous owner and was an absolute delight to use. It used a pre-laminated steel with a white 1 core and iron cladding (I think). I’m a little uncertain about the steel because I later bought a Morihei version which appears to be stainless clad, thus the uncertainty. I sold this knife when I later purchased a 240 Denka Gyuto. I missed it so much that I later bought it back from the purchaser. I can honestly say that based on price and performance this knife is at the top of my collection.
From there I went on to two Maboroshi Gyutos, a 180 and a 210. Reportedy forge welded by TF the knives offer a White #1 core and stainless cladding. They also introduced me to TF’s heat treatment which is reportedly HRC 63-64. The arrival of these knives coincided with my temporary smaller kitchen and really introduced me to the utility of smaller knives. I’ve used them a lot and the ”as purchased” edge stood up for seven months without maintenance … not even stropping, before I felt it necessary to put them to the stones.
The next TF was a 240 Denka Gyuto. More attention had obviously been paid by TF to f&f but by no means could you call this Denka a “pretty” knife. With a hand forged AS core, stainless cladding and a heat treatment to 64-65 it’s a pure performer. It is so sharp and holds an edge so well that I may be only slightly exaggerating when I say that it may never need sharpening. It is, however priced accordingly.
To that point my experience was limited to gyutos. For the next page of my Chronicles I decided to add a nakiri and a petty. I chose to purchase them from District Cutlery and turn them over to “knife whisperer” Ryan Swanson for thinning before they were shipped to me. I’m not put off by thinning knives but I was concerned from previous comments that they may require significant thinning out of the box. I’ve had arthritis in my hands for too many years to want to take on a serious thinning job on stainless steel. I wasn’t disappointed. Ryan knows his work and provided me with delightfully thinned blades and scary sharp edges. The 195 Maboroshi Nakiri is a monster on the boards. The 150 Maboroshi quickly became my favourite petty of all time. F&f on both knives are excellent.
For the next turn in my journey I decided to move away from the western style handle to a Ho handle. I love the 195 Nakiri but I felt it was just a bit much for daily use. I also concluded from using 180 and 210mm gyutos that 195mm was my sweet spot. I picked up a 165mm Denka nakiri and a 195mm Denka Gyuto from Real Sharp Knives. The f&f on both knives were excellent and IMO no thinning was required. Both are excellent, excellent knives … heirloom material IMO.
The 12th and last knife was a 195mm Maboroshi Gyuto. It was used, priced right and I thought might be a perfect knife to reside in my travelling knife roll. I believe it was the oldest knife that I acquired. This knife taught me the meaning of “wabi sabi”. Were I to have received this knife NIB from a dealer I would have been disappointed. The f&f is mediocre at best, and the blade needed some effort before it was usable. It had been roughly thinned and still needs a bit more to be right. Can it be put right? It can be made serviceable by someone with the skills and inclination to take it on. Would I recommend it to the average knife owner … no way!
So … what’s my conclusion to all of this.
TF’s are for the most part great performers. They are rough, durable and long lasting. I doubt that there is much that can be done to them through aggressive use in a serious kitchen. They cut like demons and hold an serviceable edge way beyond what I experience with many other knives. The only defect I could see in all of them is that they are prone to stiction … the blades stick in some vegetables. No “Naughty Schoolboys” when you are using a TF to slice potatoes. To be honest … that surprised me. Do you like the way they look? I don’t mind their rustic look but then I liked rough split cedar shake roofs too.
I’m going to trim down my collection of TF’s. I certainly don’t need twelve of them. My problem is which ones … I’ve grown to love them all.