Watanabe knives?

Discussion in 'The Kitchen Knife' started by MadMel, May 19, 2011.

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  1. May 20, 2011 #31

    chazmtb

    chazmtb

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    Sean, I am so envious of that handle. It was stunning when Stefan first unveiled it, and it continues to be stunning.
     
  2. May 20, 2011 #32

    Potato42

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    Thanks Bao. Yeah you know as little as I use this knife, It's still one of my top 3 I couldn't bear to part with no matter what. It was also the first "Artisan made" knife I bought and my 3rd "real" knife purchase. I really need to find some stuff to make that will have me using this fine slicer more often.
     
  3. May 20, 2011 #33

    rulesnut

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  4. May 20, 2011 #34

    Kentucky Jeff

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    In truth--there isn't a nickle worth of PRACTICAL difference between my Shig 300 Yanagi and my Watanabe. Certainly there are asthetic differences. To say one is thinner or better finished is truly a very anecdotal and subjective observation as individual knives will vary in tiny degrees but individual tastes and experience with these knives also is quite unique.. Some people will disagree and that's fine--its what makes the world go round. But in terms of thinness--no, my Watanabe is just ground a little differently from the Shig. I bet if I put my micrometer to each knife they wouldn't vary more than a half millimeter in width at any given point. They both are thin enough and will give you paper thin cuts on any fish you care to slice. The Shig is beautifully finished and so are all my Watanabe pro-line knives. They aren't finished the same--but different. I will say that the Watanabe finish is warmer and gives more of an artisan feel to the blade while the Shig is very clean, crisp and cold. Is one better than the other? That's like saying Van Gogh is better than Michelangelo.

    My experience sharpening the Shig vs. the Watanabe was that the Shig needed a LOT more work to flatten the blade road than the Watanabe which took very little stoning to get it perfectly flat. But that's again very anecdotal. Dave Martell could probably give a better opinion on that as he has sharpened at least dozens examples of each blade.
     
  5. May 20, 2011 #35

    Marko Tsourkan

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    If you want to know which knife is thinner, you weigh similar length knives from different smiths. I will bet that most Shigefusa knives will be lighter. I have compared a few and I did take tang length into account.

    Another thing to compare, is how straight the knife is. Bring the spine up your eye level and look. Check your Watanabe and Shigefusa and all your knives for that matter.

    As for fit and finish, some makers will go above and beyond and some will do just what is adequate. It has nothing to do with style, it's more a philosophy - what makes a complete product in their opinion.

    I don't want to come across as too zealous and self-serving, but having seen knives from many makers, Japanese and American, it makes me really appreciate Shigefusa so much more. I am sorry to say that Watanabe is just another decent maker, not more no less, and I mean no disrespect. There are many makers like him in Japan.

    Take my opinion for what it is - a lonely voice of dissent in a sea of praise.


    M
     
  6. May 20, 2011 #36

    watercrawl

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    My 240mm Watanabe pro series gyuto is still one of the best all around I have. Now, Dave M. Worked the knife over with a slight thinning and put a Stefan handle with the nicest black ash Burl I've ever laid eyes on so it's not really fair to say it's anything like a standard version.
     
  7. May 20, 2011 #37

    chazmtb

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    Marko, I have to disagree. Like Shigefusa, he and his family are an inclusive shop. I would say that his standard pro line is not up to Shigefusa's quality in terms of fit and finish, but the more custom creations, like the Kintaru Ame blue line is just as nicely fit and finished, and I give the back grind a little better nod to Watanabe. This is a direct comparison from the Watanabe with the Koa handle above and the 300 wide blade kitaeji you have in your possession.
     
  8. May 20, 2011 #38

    Marko Tsourkan

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    You said it Adam, you knife needed thinning, and so was mine honyaki that I bought from Lee. Mine also wasn't straight.

    Bao, KA knives were highest prices knives, so you would expect a better fit and finish. You would also expect a round choil and spine.

    I never said Watanabe knives cut worse than Shigefusa, or sharpen worse. At the same time I can't say that Watanabe is better than Konosuke. In fact, I find Konosuke Fujiyama line finish is slightly better than Watanabe Pro finish. I guess, when I look at a knife, I tried to understand what the makers envision as a finished product. Sometimes I think people cut corners.

    I think it is fair to present the information as is - with all cons and pros. This helps the buyer to make an educated decision.

    At worse, we agree to disagree. :) Maybe you see something I don't see. And again, I don't mean disrespect.

    M
     
  9. May 20, 2011 #39

    chazmtb

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    I agree M.

    Although Watanabe's pro knives used to not cost so much, and at the price point, in 2007-2008, it was a bargain. Now, not so much. I think Watanabe does too much, in too many shapes, styles, function. He does hunters, sickles, and all others, which may not be his core strength. I see that if he focuses, this knives can be superb, but at a different cost and price point. He's got a family to feed, so whatever the customer orders, he obliges. Shigefusa on the other hand, focuses on things that he does well, and does very well.
     
  10. May 20, 2011 #40

    MadMel

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    Wow.. Didn't expect such a deluge of information overnight. Pray continue with the comments and feel free to throw in information on any other custom makers besides Watanabe. I just put him in as a reference point for myself. I'd love to hear more about the experiences you guys have with different smiths just to broaden my knowledge.
     
  11. May 20, 2011 #41

    Potato42

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    I think there is a lot of truth in everything said here. While I love the knives I have, there are surely knives I would look elsewhere for before purchasing from Watanabe. A good example for me is his Chukabocho which weighs in at a hefty 610g, while I prefer something in the 450g range. He does tend to give you more steel for your money. If you don't like "mighty" knives, then you should probably be looking elsewhere. Even the petty I like so much is not a laser. It cuts like one, but compared to most other petty knives it is certainly "mighty".

    His KU finished knives are by far the smoothest and cleanest looking I have seen. I have read that some people think his pro line knives have a better finish than the KU, but to me they are about the same. You have to compare to similar knives from other smiths, and on that basis I think he does a phenomenal job. As for F&F for the Kasumi and Kintarouame knives, I'm not going there:tongue2:

    He does seem to have issues with inconsistency sometimes. The patterns he makes often seem to be executed very well, but custom orders and some of his experimental stuff seem to have more of a variance. You can see it even at his site with certain knives he offers. Right now he has a bunch of petty knives with wrapped handles and no two are the same. That could very well have been on purpose.

    In the end I'm happy with what I've got, and I hope all of the rest of you with his knives are too.
     
  12. May 20, 2011 #42

    mikemac

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    I think it helps the discussion a bit if 'we' step back and re-think how 'we' categorize these different craftsmen...I've always grouped Watanabe, Takeda , Carter, and Moritaka as artisans in the tradition of the village smith. Not sure if you can find it, but MC used to have a video that discussed the role of the village smith, and walked you thru his shop. Back then, and now, makers like Shigefusa, Doi, Hattori (KD's) and Nenohi were percieved to be at an enitirely different level, and they certainly produced a knife more sought after and pricier.
    Is one better than the other? That is not for me to say. They are just different, and personally I think they are all pretty dang awesome in their own right. (well, the ones I've been able to afford at least....)

    I just think it is a dis-service to everyone when we loosely lump Takeda and Kramer, or Carter's SFGZ and Carter's IP under the same heading of 'custom knives'

    Back to Watanabe - I think he has always pushed his offerings 'upstream' from the village smith mold, he's always had a pretty cool & eclectic lineup, those sweet looking damascus 'pocket' knives as well as the kurouchi bear hunters, and you usually get some kind of neat little gift with your order.

    Sinichi is cool...I hope he gets hellishly busy again.
     
  13. May 20, 2011 #43

    MadMel

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    Good point about not lumping each and every custom maker as just custom makers. So in that line, who will you consider custom kitchen knife makers and who are the village smiths/artisans? And what are the differences between them and their products?
    Also, you said that shigis, doi etc are perceived to be at an entirely different level. What kind of level do you mean? Is it in terms of the functionality of the knives that were produced? Or is it the looks and such? Or is it just the perceived value of the end products.
     
  14. May 20, 2011 #44

    Mattias504

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    If you've never handled a Shigefusa, they are pretty much perfect. Its crazy to think they are made by hand but then when you think about it you realize that no machine would ever be capable of producing such an amazing knife. I have owned 2 shigefusa and both were damascus. Totally flawless and my Shige yanagi is one of my most used and favorite knives. I would imagine that a knife made by Keijiro Doi is on par with this level of work. Some makers strive for absolute perfection and it really shows in their knives.

    On the "other end" of the spectrum, there are makers like Takeda, Watanabe, etc... These guys don't make every emphasis on fit and finish but they are all performance. In this case, the difference isn't so much a difference of performance but more fit, finish, grind, etc... All of the knives mentioned are excellent but each in different ways
     
  15. May 20, 2011 #45

    mikemac

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    Functionality? No. If we walked away from the knife world with only a 1k/6k combo stone and sharpening skillz, we could drop in on friends, sharpen up their mama's Sabatier, help prep a nice meal, have a few cold ones, and enjoy our friends and family. Is that time diminished because we used a old Sabatier instead of some "IT" J-knife? GAWD, I hope not. So not functionality.

    It is the perceived value - but then hopw do you define value - and it is OUR perception...we are the 1%'ers of the cutlery world. Why are we willing to pay 4x - 10x for an elite name, wait 12-24 months, and jump thru various other hoops...Why?

    For fun, tell your mom to take $500 down to the post office, buy an IPO, send it to Japan, then sit back and wait for 6 months for a package. Mom will probably make you your favorite meal, and suggest you take a nap - actually a good idea right now.

    I don't know all, or most of the answers to "why" , but I do know that one of the answers is that we..WE are KnifeKnuts

    word!
     
  16. May 20, 2011 #46

    Potato42

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    :word:
     
  17. May 21, 2011 #47

    MadMel

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    Haha.. That's THE reason isn't it?
    I've never handled any customs much less a shigifusa, and I've been thinking about owning one. Hence this thread. So far, we have all been talking about the Japanese smiths. How about the Western guys? How do they compare?
     
  18. May 21, 2011 #48

    mikemac

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    I wish I knew...
    The guys who get 'props' usually get them for good reason
     
  19. May 23, 2011 #49

    JMC076

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    Cool thread guys, good to see Shinici gettin some love again.

    My first hand made J-knife was a 240 white yanagi by Shini, when i got it i just looked at it for what seemed hours. Ive not used it very often being a home cook, but when i have i just marvel at its ease of cutting and colours of its patina. Great little slicer. May be time for a nice new handle (and ive gotta say his stock ho-wood handles are very nice).

    Then i got a KU 240 gyuto, man that thing is a beast, heavy and thick with a killer edge. No probs with reactivity for mine like the kasumi versions. It just smashes whateva i throw on the board. My better half is scared of that thing, every time i dry it off with the towell she looks at me a little strange, i must have a glint in my eye or something....she wont go near it its so big and heavy.

    Ive spent hrs trawling his website over the past couple of yrs, would love to get some more offerings but want to diversify with other makers. Maybe one day i guess...

    Great knives and easy to deal with both times, wouldnt hesitate recommending.

    Josh
     
  20. May 24, 2011 #50

    AnxiousCowboy

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    Guess this thread is an appropriate place for me to announce I just bought a 105mm paring and mioroshi deba. Can't wait. My knife set now is two masamotos and a suisin. Anxious to add some more white steel...
     
  21. May 28, 2011 #51

    stevenStefano

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    Anyone ever bought an engraved knife from Watanabe? They look incredible.
     

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