What (or rather, where) is the point of a nakiri?

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ian

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Sorry if this has been answered elsewhere. What's the benefit of the curved lack-of-tip that you see on a nakiri (or usuba)? I realize that it will be harder to damage, but I'm looking for something more performance based. Why would that shape be better than a slight upcurve to a rectangular tip, as on a cleaver? Tempted to buy one, but I keep thinking about putting vertical cuts in onions. (To nakiri users: how do you put vertical cuts in onions without going through the whole thing from front to back? Or am I overthinking this and the little part of the onion that the lack of tip won't contact is not a big deal.)

I realize there are nakiris that don't have this shape. Asking about the ones that do.
 
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Noodle Soup

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Its the Japanese take on the traditional Chinese cleaver. You will find some variation of the theme in every Asian country that uses a wok or something like stir fry.
 

ian

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Its the Japanese take on the traditional Chinese cleaver. You will find some variation of the theme in every Asian country that uses a wok or something like stir fry.
I get that, but I'm asking why the (non)-tip is shaped like it often is...
 

Mute-on

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Yes you are overthinking it (a bit). Nakiris are awesome. I love them. I have about seven.

Vertical cuts in onions are almost no different with a Nakiri as they are generally very thin overall, and particularly at the tip. The lack of point actually gives you a very distinct marker to gauge how far into the onion you are going with vertical cuts. I actually find them more accurate / easier to control than Gyutos in that regard.

I have no problems with the monster Toyama 210 Nakiri doing vertical cuts in onion, so most other Nakiris should be even better, unless they are particularly thick and/or have a blunt leading edge.

As to curve, or lack of it, Nakiris are generally flatter and as a result excel at chopping, as opposed to slicing, for which more curve is more useful. A Nakiri will have a longer flat spot than a Gyuto of the same length. There is always some curve, even if it is shallow. Without it, the knife would become very clunky in use.

Lastly, Nakiris are just plain fun to use. A bonus is that you are less likely to stab yourself with the tip, which some find less intimidating, and equally, it is harder to chip the tip (but not impossible if you are careless).

Buy one. Buy many. Enjoy.

J
 

ojisan

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Nakiris almost have been wiped out in the Japanese market and only senior people buy them. Santokus and gyutos are more useful or versatile for most people.

But I still love my nakiris. They are simple and fun to use.
 

Paraffin

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I use my nakiri more than any other knife. From my perspective, the shape has these advantages:

The curved part of the blade, the transition from the bottom to the front is sharpened just like the bottom edge. The bottom edge gets more abuse with chopping, but that spares the front curve. The front curve remains super sharp for precision draw slicing, vertical cuts on an onion, etc. In other words, chopping doesn't affect the more precise use of the knife, the way it might (depending on your technique) with a gyuto/Western chef knife.

The 90 degree flat part of the front is perfect for turning the knife more vertical and moving product around the board, like a scraper when organizing piles of garlic or ginger for chopping. It's faster and less messy than flipping the knife over to use the spine when you want to scrape and move product around without risk of damaging the sharpened edge.

A nakiri has a lot more vertical surface area than a gyuto or Western chef knife, so when slicing or chopping food, it doesn't climb up over the top of the blade as much. That flat area is also useful for transferring cut product to a bowl, again as a scraper, using a very low angle to avoid damaging the blade edge. I can move a larger pile of sliced or chopped food around with a 165mm nakiri than I can with anything except a much longer gyuto.

Due to the blade height, the blade weight of a nakiri is higher than a gyuto shape of equivalent length. This means that for free-hand, off-board vertical chopping, I can get a nice controlled rhythm with some power (weight) behind it.

Finally, it's really easy to sharpen compared to some other shapes. :)
 

Paraffin

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it's a one trick pony designed specifically to chop stuff.
No! It's great for push-cuts on firmer veg using more of the blade edge, or for very fine, precision draw-slicing using the 90 degree curve at the tip. I use it all the time for draw-slicing super narrow ribbons of green onions or fresh chilis for garnish. It's good for chopping but that's not all it can do.
 

stringer

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I have no use for a nakiri in my current gig. But they are really fun for project knives and available cheap for new or vintage. I like to fix old ones up and gift them to my vegan friends.
 

Matus

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For me, too, nakiri is a fun knife. I currently have 180 AS Moritaka which has a pretty pointy tip. Some nakiris I tried had the tip rounded a bit too much for my taste (Masakage Koishi), but the pointy tip of Moritaka also has some disadvantages - chopping close the a tip may result in digging the tip in the cutting board. I may round the tip gently over time.
 

Qapla'

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I'm not so certain all nakiri's have the same point or front-area design. On Rakuten I remember seeing some bunka-point ones (labeled as "imo-kiri", presumably meaning "potato-cutter") and upswept-spine ones (labeled as "naginata-gata", presumably meaning "halberd-shaped") as well.
 

ian

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Thanks all! In terms of the actual question posed in the OP, it seems the consensus is that a rounded tip allows for:

1) less worry about tip damage during chopping
2) greater variation in angle of attack during draw tip-slicing, and perhaps less worry about the part of the knife used for draw slicing contacting the board during chopping, which increases edge retention there.

And maybe I am indeed overthinking when it comes to the cons of such a tip, e.g. with vertical cuts in onions. (Although, is there really such a thing as overthinking knives on KKF?) I liked the videos @Xenif and @stringer included. However, I guess I was mostly talking about minimizing the small amount of onion left after the main chop, that has to be dealt with separately, and which invariably is of a slightly different shape. Still seems like a pointy tip would help with that. However, I think I should chill the **** out about that millimeter of onion, and just try one at some point. :)
 

Marcelo Amaral

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Besides all the points already made for nakiris, i feel it's better balanced to chop and the flatter profile adds another point, again while chopping. Most nakiris i've tried also do vertical cuts very well, which makes them perfect for dicing (vertical cuts plus chopping).
 

osakajoe

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Nakiris are leafy green vegetable knives. Old school ones had a curve but nowadays most are flat with a slight round at the tip designed for Push/pull flat cutting on vegetables (mostly leafy greens).

Vertical straight down cuts defeat the purpose of a sharp knife. You sharpen a knife to create serrations on the edge. These work like a saw if moved forward or backward they cut. A sharp knife is a serrated knife, you just can’t see them with the naked eye when dealing with proper steel and quality sharpening. When combined with a thin grind and edge they perform well.

True vertical cuts are actually push flat cuts to allow the edge to do the job. If just pushing straight down go buy a thin sheet metal and force it through

When cutting leafy greens with a curved blade and a flat push style of cutting the last few centimeters are not cut on large leafs. Hence why a more flat blade profile is desired for this style of cutting.

This is corrected with a curved blade such as a santoku or gyuto by “nose diving” into the item then flattening or “landing” your heel out on the push cut or the opposite by heel dragging and lifting it up to drag the tip to the board.

So as others said it’s mostly a one trick pony for push/pull flat cutting of mostly leafy green vegetables or Push flat cutting of hard vegetables. Yes you need a little force and push to get through carrots onions and such.

If you want a multipurpose knife, don’t buy a Nakiri.

Only buy one if you like the style of cutting and will actually use it.
 

panda

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joe i dont think most in here actually care about technique, theyre just in it for the nerdom. ie sports cars with automatic transmissions.
 

WPerry

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n00b question - so a santoku (or bunka?) would be similar but would give up a bit in terms of chopping while gaining slightly in versatility with the slight belly and more pronounced tip?
 

ian

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Nakiris are leafy green vegetable knives. Old school ones had a curve but nowadays most are flat with a slight round at the tip designed for Push/pull flat cutting on vegetables (mostly leafy greens).

Vertical straight down cuts defeat the purpose of a sharp knife. You sharpen a knife to create serrations on the edge. These work like a saw if moved forward or backward they cut. A sharp knife is a serrated knife, you just can’t see them with the naked eye when dealing with proper steel and quality sharpening. When combined with a thin grind and edge they perform well.

True vertical cuts are actually push flat cuts to allow the edge to do the job. If just pushing straight down go buy a thin sheet metal and force it through

When cutting leafy greens with a curved blade and a flat push style of cutting the last few centimeters are not cut on large leafs. Hence why a more flat blade profile is desired for this style of cutting.

This is corrected with a curved blade such as a santoku or gyuto by “nose diving” into the item then flattening or “landing” your heel out on the push cut or the opposite by heel dragging and lifting it up to drag the tip to the board.

So as others said it’s mostly a one trick pony for push/pull flat cutting of mostly leafy green vegetables or Push flat cutting of hard vegetables. Yes you need a little force and push to get through carrots onions and such.

If you want a multipurpose knife, don’t buy a Nakiri.

Only buy one if you like the style of cutting and will actually use it.
Interesting post. Didn’t know they were only for leafy green vegetables originally. Most of this makes sense, but do you have an opinion on how the OP question about the “tip” shape fits in to this discussion? Is post #15 accurate? I don’t see that addressed directly here.

I might push back on your “never cut straight down” assertions, though. I think that what makes a knife feel sharp is a combination of an acute, fairly regular apex, plus the serrations you mention. Sometimes it’s much easier/faster to chop more or less straight down, although I think there’s always a small bit of a push/pull. Anyway, it’s all a spectrum, right? For instance, when doing vertical onion cuts, I try to minimize the pull in order to make sure to cut the bottom layer as much as I do the top layer, but there’s a bit of pull...

joe i dont think most in here actually care about technique, theyre just in it for the nerdom. ie sports cars with automatic transmissions.
The unexpected longevity of that thread about horizontal cuts in onions might indicate that enough people do care, though, if not most.
 

SeattleBen

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I've also heard people using them as a test to see if they like a smith since they're usually some measure less expensive than a gyuto.
 

Hoonis

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Nakiris almost have been wiped out in the Japanese market and only senior people buy them. Santokus and gyutos are more useful or versatile for most people.

But I still love my nakiris. They are simple and fun to use.
I agree with this. A gyuto will slay an onion just as much as a nakiri will. And a gyuto has more versatility
 

Forty Ounce

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Sorry if this has been answered elsewhere. What's the benefit of the curved lack-of-tip that you see on a nakiri (or usuba)? I realize that it will be harder to damage, but I'm looking for something more performance based. Why would that shape be better than a slight upcurve to a rectangular tip, as on a cleaver? Tempted to buy one, but I keep thinking about putting vertical cuts in onions. (To nakiri users: how do you put vertical cuts in onions without going through the whole thing from front to back? Or am I overthinking this and the little part of the onion that the lack of tip won't contact is not a big deal.)

I realize there are nakiris that don't have this shape. Asking about the ones that do.
You trying to start a war?
 
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Forty Ounce

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Since I'm here now.. nakiris are pointless, literally. Gyuto can do everything a nakiri can do, plus more.. so why a nakiri? If you want a knife that's modeled after a cleaver, just get a cleaver.......
 

ian

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You trying to start a war?
I thought I was just asking why certain nakiris have very rounded tips, but that seems to be like .002% of the thread. :) It’s probably my fault for making the title of the thread sort of combatitive. I just really liked the point/point pun.
 

Forty Ounce

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I thought I was just asking why certain nakiris have very rounded tips, but that seems to be like .002% of the thread. :) It’s probably my fault for making the title of the thread sort of combatitive. I just really liked the point/point pun.
It's cool.. saw this go up yesterday.. been waiting patiently for the drama to ensure
 

Marcelo Amaral

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The nakiri's smallish size and flatter profile combo (when comparing it to a gyuto) makes it easier (at least for me) to chop and dice. The taller nakiri also offer more support to my fingers on its sides, specially near the tip. This way i can lift the nakiri a bit higher and that is nice for dicing with the tip for taller product like big carrots and onions. Also i feel the nakiri's balance is better, in general, for chopping.

I remember when i got a Kato workhorse kasumi 240mm gyuto. I found it a bit clunky and the taper wasn't near as nice as Kato 180mm kurouchi nakiri. Sold the gyuto and kept the nakiri in that situation.
 
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Forty Ounce

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The nakiri's smallish size and flatter profile combo (when comparing it to a gyuto) makes it easier (at least for me) to chop and dice. The taller nakiri also offer more support to my fingers on its sides, specially near the tip. This way i can lift the nakiri a bit higher and that is nice for dicing with the tip for taller product like big carrots and onions. Also i feel the balance is better for chopping.

I remember when i got a Kato workhorse kasumi 240mm gyuto. I found it a bit clunky and the taper wasn't near as nice as Kato 180mm kurouchi. Sold the gyuto and kept the nakiri in that situation.
Or.. you could buy a gyuto with the profile that you like, and call it a day
 

slickmamba

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Nakiris almost have been wiped out in the Japanese market and only senior people buy them. Santokus and gyutos are more useful or versatile for most people.

But I still love my nakiris. They are simple and fun to use.
Says the oji-san. :D
 

Marcelo Amaral

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Or.. you could buy a gyuto with the profile that you like, and call it a day
I love gyutos, but there's a trade-off here. If you get a gyuto with as much flat area and as tall as a nakiri, it will probably be bigger. There will be a shift in balance and/or in weight. You could grind a gyuto thinner with more taper than a nakiri in order to get that balance/weight back, but then you would be comparing a gyuto to a nakiri with very different grinds and tapers, which will then affect how it cuts hard product once more.

Anyway, that's just my reasoning and limited experience with nakiris and gyutos talking. I agree that if it doesn't work for you while using it, it doesn't make sense to have one. It works for me, but ymmv.
 
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