The “Sergio Leone” Review/Poll: TF Denka 210mm Wa

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In your opinion, is this unit...

  • Good?

    Votes: 3 42.9%
  • Bad?

    Votes: 2 28.6%
  • Ugly?

    Votes: 2 28.6%

  • Total voters
    7
Joined
Oct 16, 2019
Messages
4,146
Reaction score
5,014
Location
QC, CA
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After two Mabs Yo of this same dimension (don’t ask…) – and one Mabs petty sent back to the vendor (don’t ask either…) – I was sure of only one thing: if ever another TF it’d be a Yo Denka.

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I was still tempted by a recent restock from my favorite vendor of a few Denka Wa: price was relatively fair (compared with TF Direct who now charges shipping to Canada – an hefty amount of it) with a nice rebate, and it would get at my door within a couple of days. And I was curious after all: I always maintained that TF Yo were just about the best grip, comfort and balance in hand I ever experienced, enhanced with the finger notch, and notwithstanding the usually poor crafting and finish of these handles. However, folks on KKF seemed to have a relatively equal preference overall – or just not particularly attached – to either format for these. There would have been a whole lot less hesitation had he restock in Yo, but I thought that if I was to manage to keep one TF one of these days, I’d better be sure for myself, even if it meant that there was a good chance it was still not going to be this one.

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Asked the vendor to get me one of the nicer ones he had. What I got was… quite decent altogether. So… without further ado, the specs grid:

MAKER
Teruyasu Fujiwara
SERIES
Denka No Hoto
TYPE & LENGTH
Gyuto 210mm
STEEL
Aogami Super Stainless Clad
FINISH
KU Tsuchime
WEIGHT / BALANCE
156g / +35
HANDLE MATERIAL
Buffalo / Horn
TOTAL LENGTH​
360​
BLADE LENGTH​
223​
EDGE LENGTH​
216
HEIGHT AT HEEL​
51
HEIGHT AT MID BLADE​
43​
HEIGHT 35mm TO TIP​
28​
SPINE THICKNESS
(3.4mm out of handle)
HEEL​
3
MID BLADE​
2.1​
35mm TO TIP​
1.9​
10mm TO TIP​
1.5
EDGE THICKNESS
@ 10 / 5 / 1mm over
HEEL + 10mm​
1.3 / 0.8 / 0.2​
MID BLADE​
1.4 / 0.8 / 0.2​
35mm TO TIP​
1.4 / 0.8 / 0.1​
10mm TO TIP​
1.4 / 0.7 / 0.1​
 
THE GOOD…

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  • Blade is straight;
  • Handle is a really nice sample of a Ho/Horn;
  • Full inspection does not reveal obvious overgrinds or other faults;
  • Strong forward balance is fitting and satisfying;
  • OOTB edge quite excellent – and holding strong;
  • Nice food release.
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Edge was a real surprise, TBH. I wouldn’t bank on it being as Good, nor even decent, across all of these –not if I compare with the Mabs for one thing, but even so I’ve just rarely came across an edge so true and quite perfectly refined for kitchen use OOTB.

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Adding to the list of good things, these blades are really beautiful – the roughness of them, coupled with the dark KU-Tsuchime, is damn sexy and polarizing in ways I cannot completely explain. Indeed the “finish” itself, in comparison with non-factory J-knives overall as a generic point of critical feedback, is at best quite plain and that’s why I couldn’t truthfully include this in the main list. Yet, it’s the kind of blade that just has its own space. I like how different lightings play with it, going from bluish-grey to almost pitch black with a “vivid” bevelling contrast, to varying and non-uniform shades in between or towards washed out grey, sometimes specked with fiery burnt orange hues. Basically thrilling every time I pick it up, that glance at it before setting down to work.

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Although it just really goes down to expectations, the Wa seems to be quite light against its Yo counterparts. Average of both my Yo Mabs of the same length was a solid +50 grams, and they still had a forward balance in average close to 15-20mm from the heel. The Wa Denka here compensates some of that with an even more forward balance (35mm) which made its way to the Good list because it really fits it well. It sort of has the same kind of “magic equilibrium” around the finger notch both Mabs Yo had for me, but in reverse. Just like the handle of the Yo felt so very much there, yet not there, the very forward blade weight with the Wa Denka feels so very much there, yet not there. I’m still pinning a bit for the additional weight and marginally prefer the Yo, possibly just because it’s so rare to get one with a bolster and such a strong forward balance with an ample neck to fit it for grip.

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Some chamfer at spine and smoothing at choil and notch proved sufficient to date in use, albeit a bit too rudimentary to make it to the Good list.

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THE BAD…

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  • Geometry is, as always in my TF experience, a quite haphazard lozenge-ish affair;
  • Both Mabs had quite finer tips (about 30%) than this one to an otherwise similar taper;
  • Rather thick BTE like both Mabs, and similar wedging behavior.
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About wedging, this time around I’ve been patient with it (both Mabs went to the stones real fast) and choosing my preps with the Denka instead – there are a lot of things it does awesomely after all. Still there’s scarcely a day I don’t muse about taking it to the stones as well. My nature is to stick with knives that maintain good behavior all-around, force those that don’t into it for what they are, or sell them. Since this one had an actual edge that could be used joyfully OOTB while holding its own damn fine, I’ve stuck with it for now.

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I’ll also add that the clad line is quite low and all but invisible under the rather harsh hairline pattern – the latter one of the reasons why, for all these blades sheer beauty and stance, I had to concede that the finish is rather plain at best. Likewise, the clad line situation here is nothing so bad as to make it into the main list; more like it reinforces other bad perceptions. Looking at all these points, well it’s obvious that TFs of nowadays will never be praised much for the grinding skills on offer…

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… AND THE UGLY

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Blade is completely offset from the center of the handle.

Usually, I’ll see – and whine about – offset handles as in a “clockwise fashion”. Meaning from a choil shot standpoint, considering the tang is more or less dead center into the handle, good units will point to 12, but the usual variance is rather somewhere between 11 and 1 with worst case scenarios oscillating around 10 or 2, so that I now consider “neat” anything between 11h30 and 12h30. This time around however, the tang is offset from the center of the handle so much that what would usually be considered in the good range still barely hits 10h30 in reality.

In use it’s no bigger of a deal than regular “clockwise fashion” variance, which truthfully is not much of an inconvenience at all in any case except looking dumb whenever you spot it/are reminded of it. However, folks who follow my reviews will know I get easily aggravated with the usual “clockwise discrepancy”… so just so you know, I’m no more forgiving of “centering aberrations”. It’s really quite appalling, this one…

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Dark bass notes can be heard...

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Ominous melody is rising...

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... ending in cacophonic crescendo.
 
Afterword:

Of course, I could have integrated the 1-item-“Ugly” with the “Bad” within a single post… but couldn’t resist keeping true with the aptly TF fitting “Sergio Leone triad”… unbalanced towards the worse, that is, even where fortunately this one has a lot of “Good” things going around… it’s still just as “Good” as, say… Clint Eastwood persona truly is in those Leone classics.

It’s a rather fitting allegory really… it’s hard to deny the “dependable”, “rough yet not short-sighted” and “ultimately good” of a TF’s persona – nor the sheer legend of it. It’s just that there’s a whole world of nuances out there that are just… a little bit more adapted to the idea of what “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” should be for the “Fistful of Dollars” usually involved there.

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Like, a couple of the Good things would stand rather Bad against a whole lot of competition, and towards fairer and fairer prices as well. And geometry and tip work, in all absolutes, are rather Uglier than Bad. Yet I consider this review pretty balanced towards how I feel about the knife: the rather thick tip is no hindrance to date; the haphazard geometry is still distinctly TF in use and that has its own perks. Some wedging is part of that geometry, and as I said I’ve been circling around it without any particular dismay, especially where it mostly concerns taller and denser ingredients.

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Judging by what I got, Denkas are not particularly cared for so much that you’d always feel a step up from a Mabs – except edge retention, to date quite impressive in its own right. Almost two months with me, regular use (home cook choosing in between more than 10 knives) including some proteins slicing on bamboo or silicon surfaces, and still with the OOTB edge that’s barely showing signs of a slight weakening these days.

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I’ve not made my mind yet as to where to go from here: I do like it, but I’m not especially captured by it. Like with the Mabs – I’m more captured with the idea of bringing it to the stones for a good thinning, refinishing it more aptly, and in this case, perhaps get a nicer handle on straight. But I’ve become much more patient with what rewards I was seeking from spending on these things – hell, even a couple of knives I don’t have any particular affection for have wiggled their way into staying by me for some half a year now. Not so long ago, my reviews would usually be ready within a month, selling would happen within two – and my mind was set at each point of the process.

In 2022, well I’ve been mostly 2-4 months getting to a review at all! Mind you I’ve been identifying and circling my preferences for two years before reaching this plateau, so I like all of those I own enough that a quick sale is out of the question, and I want to go deeper with them before reviewing. And even if here we have a rather “early review” my mind is still not set. I just thought there was nothing worth adding to a review of my Denka itself from here… and my indecision a rather fitting conclusion.
 
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