Who makes the best honyaki?

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sleepy

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I've been trying to educate myself about honyakis and I was hoping you guys could help. I'm more interested in learning about honyaki gyutos than yanagibas, but I welcome anything you guys wanna share. From what I've been seeing, Ashi Hamono honyakis seem to command the highest price point (at around 4k?) - is that because of sheer quality/performance or some other factor? Who are the other makers that come close in value/quality? How much of a difference does having a hamon make on the knife (asking because I've seen some honyakis with distinct hamons and others that seem to lack one completely)? What are the best steels used in honyakis?
 

F-Flash

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Do you wanna know about Japanese makers only or also about western ones? There's more western makers making honyakis these days than Japanes.
 

Eloh

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just as a short answer for a part of the question: A knife having a hamon has nothing to do with its performance. That doesnt mean that knife maker x wont take special care for their honyaki knives. But thats more correlation than causation ;)

Who makes the best? No idea, i like my Xerxes and my Evan ;)
 
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captaincaed

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Gotta take the plunge, only way to find out. Keep in mind "bad honyaki" is like saying "bad pizza.". You can get burned, but it's still pizza.

A honyaki takes some skill to make. As long as it's not cracked, it should represent the abilities of a strong craftsman.

Notice Chelsea Miller hasn't made any. Zing!
 

DitmasPork

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I've been trying to educate myself about honyakis and I was hoping you guys could help. I'm more interested in learning about honyaki gyutos than yanagibas, but I welcome anything you guys wanna share. From what I've been seeing, Ashi Hamono honyakis seem to command the highest price point (at around 4k?) - is that because of sheer quality/performance or some other factor? Who are the other makers that come close in value/quality? How much of a difference does having a hamon make on the knife (asking because I've seen some honyakis with distinct hamons and others that seem to lack one completely)? What are the best steels used in honyakis?
"Best" is subjective, for me the Comet honyaki I tried has become my unicorn.
 

Midsummer

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Cost is likely related to higher than normal failure rates, more complicated process, and longer finishing procedures. Also apprentice smiths are not usually involved.
 

Barmoley

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Thanks for the responses. Are Western makers really better than Japanese ones? How can I tell?
Better in what way? Bad honyaki is bad, it being honyaki doesn't make it a good knife in any shape or form. It doesn't have to be cracked to be bad, it can be bad for any number of reasons.

Honyaki or not is so down the list of what makes a good knife that it only matters to some when everything else is good. Profile, grind, balance are a lot more important. When these are to your preference, then you can start thinking, steel, honyaki or not, etc. So pick a style you like then the rest. There are a lot of great makers these days and many of them make excellent honyaki. Western makers are often easier to work with and allow for more personal preferences, but you better really know what you actually want if you start customizing parameters, as often times what we think would work well doesn't in reality.
 

sleepy

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Cost is likely related to higher than normal failure rates, more complicated process, and longer finishing procedures. Also apprentice smiths are not usually involved.
How much of a difference does the steel type make in cost? How are Ashi Hamono honyakis $4k while a lot of western honyakis are <$1k?
 

Caleb Cox

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The cost of steel is going to be a relatively small part of the cost, as typically exotic steels aren't used. You're paying for hours of labor and cracked blades.
 

F-Flash

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That 4k Ashi price is supply and demand issue. Jon had one some time ago and price was 1500usd? If I remember right.
 

sleepy

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Better in what way? Bad honyaki is bad, it being honyaki doesn't make it a good knife in any shape or form. It doesn't have to be cracked to be bad, it can be bad for any number of reasons.

Honyaki or not is so down the list of what makes a good knife that it only matters to some when everything else is good. Profile, grind, balance are a lot more important. When these are to your preference, then you can start thinking, steel, honyaki or not, etc. So pick a style you like then the rest. There are a lot of great makers these days and many of them make excellent honyaki. Western makers are often easier to work with and allow for more personal preferences, but you better really know what you actually want if you start customizing parameters, as often times what we think would work well doesn't in reality.
Sorry for being so vague. That's good advice, thank you. I'm just so new to the hobby that I haven't really established any preferences yet. I'm just trying to figure where a good starting point would be and educate myself a little along the way.
 

sleepy

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That 4k Ashi price is supply and demand issue. Jon had one some time ago and price was 1500usd? If I remember right.
That's interesting that the demand is that high, I wonder how much higher it'll go if the maker's really not producing them anymore.
 

DitmasPork

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Ashi = rare a collectors item
Does price define a 'collectors item' to you? The Ashi honyaki I recently tried belonged to a pro cook, who uses all his knives. Current price for Ashi honyakis are fair IMO, considering the availability.
 

Gjackson98

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I think this question is almost like who makes the best car. It's all personal preference.
Regarding Gyuto honyaki, I have owned and used Togashi, shiraki, Y.Ikeda, Munetoshi, Toyama, Kippington and The9. They are all good stuff.
Personally Y. Ikeda's steel & HT and Kippington laser profile really stand out for me. Not saying the other's are not as good, but just what catched me at the moment.
Regarding where to start, almost all honyaki that I have owned(besides kippington Laser) are too thick when they came in and required some level of thinning.
If you are beginner I would suggest going with something cheaper.
 

Gjackson98

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Personally I will also add that same maker dose not mean same quality.
If we are talking about Japanese makers there are few more variable that we should consider.
Besides who is the maker, also ask who is the sharpener and never the less who is the carrier.

I have ordered custom knife before as an individual, the Fit and finish is just no match compare to the ones from a big retailer in the showroom.
Not saying the maker will halfuss your order, but understand the business impact of 1 knife vs. 1000 from a big whole seller.
Some brands/carrier will pay extra for the maker/sharpener to pay closer attention on things like fit and finish.
 

Barmoley

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Sorry for being so vague. That's good advice, thank you. I'm just so new to the hobby that I haven't really established any preferences yet. I'm just trying to figure where a good starting point would be and educate myself a little along the way.
That's perfectly fine, we are all here to learn, maybe not all but a large enough portion...that said, being new to the hobby I would not go for a honyaki of any type. You will pay a premium for it being a honyaki and will not realize or appreciate real or perceived benefits. Even if money is no object it would still not be advisable to get a honyaki as a user. Now, if you want one because they look cool and as a show piece, by all means get what looks good to you. If you just want a good knife, fill out the questioner and members here will suggest something good. Just to make it clear not saying you shouldn't buy a honyaki if that is what you want, but it would not be my choice as being new to the hobby.
 

Paraffin

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One way to find out if you'd like a honyaki knife from a particular maker is to buy one of their "lesser" knives, if available. That will give you at least some idea if you'd like the profile, the grind, and the general fit and finish.

I have several Yoshikazu Ikeda knives in his suminagashi clad series that are expensive, but not as much as his water-quenched and oil-quenched honyaki knives. I know from these knives that I'd probably like the grind and finish of his honyaki knives, if I ever want to spend that much and have the funds available. I've spent a couple of years testing the waters up to the $500 level, but I'm not quite ready to go over $1,000 for a kitchen knife yet.
 

captaincaed

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One way to find out if you'd like a honyaki knife from a particular maker is to buy one of their "lesser" knives, if available. That will give you at least some idea if you'd like the profile, the grind, and the general fit and finish.

I have several Yoshikazu Ikeda knives in his suminagashi clad series that are expensive, but not as much as his water-quenched and oil-quenched honyaki knives. I know from these knives that I'd probably like the grind and finish of his honyaki knives, if I ever want to spend that much and have the funds available. I've spent a couple of years testing the waters up to the $500 level, but I'm not quite ready to go over $1,000 for a kitchen knife yet.
Tried the blue sumi? I'm very close to the trigger on that one
 

Midsummer

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Does price define a 'collectors item' to you? The Ashi honyaki I recently tried belonged to a pro cook, who uses all his knives. Current price for Ashi honyakis are fair IMO, considering the availability.
Some may use their Ashi’s. Even fewer will use them in a professional environment. Even fewer as a beater. Most buy them and admire them/trade them.

A Ferrari Daytona may be a beater to some. For most it is a collectors item. That does not mean they don’t drive them.

I would say the current level of availability of the Ashi is “rare”. I choose that term for efficiency and to project a generalization. There are always exceptions. That does not change the rule.

At this time most who are waiting and watching with baited breath to pick up their first or second Ashi already own many excellent knives. They can more than satisfactorily handle their kitchen tasks with what they have on hand.

Some may argue that the performance of an Ashi justifies its cost. I say live and let live. If they want to buy one and work at a local establishment. Good for them.

Whether a price is “fair” or not; it seems that is for the market to decide.

Congrats on having gotten to handle an Ashi. I would love to examine one and better I would love to see how it cuts.

All this gets back to the OP’s original question. Knives are like cars and jewels and houses and all sorts of things. There are nuances that prevent direct comparison and make his question virtually unanswerable.

That said, I am going to say Mizuno out of Japan and Xerxes from the west.
 

Barmoley

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One way to find out if you'd like a honyaki knife from a particular maker is to buy one of their "lesser" knives, if available. That will give you at least some idea if you'd like the profile, the grind, and the general fit and finish.

I have several Yoshikazu Ikeda knives in his suminagashi clad series that are expensive, but not as much as his water-quenched and oil-quenched honyaki knives. I know from these knives that I'd probably like the grind and finish of his honyaki knives, if I ever want to spend that much and have the funds available. I've spent a couple of years testing the waters up to the $500 level, but I'm not quite ready to go over $1,000 for a kitchen knife yet.
This is good advice except that at least out of Japan the honyaki grinds are often different from the grinds of same maker's san mai knives. With western makers you can get more similarity, regardless of construction.
 

DitmasPork

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Some may use their Ashi’s. Even fewer will use them in a professional environment. Even fewer as a beater. Most buy them and admire them/trade them.

A Ferrari Daytona may be a beater to some. For most it is a collectors item. That does not mean they don’t drive them.

I would say the current level of availability of the Ashi is “rare”. I choose that term for efficiency and to project a generalization. There are always exceptions. That does not change the rule.

At this time most who are waiting and watching with baited breath to pick up their first or second Ashi already own many excellent knives. They can more than satisfactorily handle their kitchen tasks with what they have on hand.

Some may argue that the performance of an Ashi justifies its cost. I say live and let live. If they want to buy one and work at a local establishment. Good for them.

Whether a price is “fair” or not; it seems that is for the market to decide.

Congrats on having gotten to handle an Ashi. I would love to examine one and better I would love to see how it cuts.

All this gets back to the OP’s original question. Knives are like cars and jewels and houses and all sorts of things. There are nuances that prevent direct comparison and make his question virtually unanswerable.

That said, I am going to say Mizuno out of Japan and Xerxes from the west.
I was delighted to be able to handle both a Comet and Ashi. A honyaki is certainly on my wish-list, but these days it's a stretch for me to even consider getting a a knife in the above-$500 range. For my budget, the Kippington honyaki is a great value option—will probably go that route should I get another Kip, or push my budget when Comets become available.

In my kitchen, I certainly don't need a honyaki, my knives are perfectly fine—but do want one eventually.
 
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