Why so japanocentric?

Discussion in 'The Kitchen Knife' started by banjo1071, Jun 21, 2013.

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  1. Jun 21, 2013 #1

    banjo1071

    banjo1071

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    Hi
    I noticed that this forum is very fokused on japanese cutlery or imitation/interpretation of it? I mean, there a so many wondeful knifmakers and fanastic knifecompanies all around the world that get no notice here. I mean not at all! Is there any specific reason? Is because people think japanese cutlery is superior op all other (thats what advertisment tells us, but i see hordes of japanes tourist buying loads and loads of swiss and german cutlery here in europe, so that hardly can be true).
    Or is it that all the good stuff from France, Switzerland, Austria or Germany is rarly exported und our US-Friends just get the china-made factory stuff like Zwilling, "Messermeister" (completly unknown in Germany) and the such? And have all the right to diss these crappy blades.
    Dont get me wrong: I love the eastern stuff too, the aesthetics and all. But over the years a i always came back to german super-thin high carbon knives as my goto-knives. And they just cost a fraction...

    Please enlighten me

    Greets Benjamin

    P.S: Please excuse my poor english, it obviously not my motherlanguage
     
  2. Jun 21, 2013 #2

    Mucho Bocho

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    Banjo, Welcome to our forum. You're English is better than mine and I'm a native. So I get asked this question all the time. There are far more knowledgeable members than I on this forum that will chime in, some considerations why most of us think that Japanese and Japanese inspired knives are better are because:

    1.) Their knife profile give the cook multiple ways to cut with them. example: Sure it can be done but its rather tough to push-cut with a proper European Chef knife.

    2.)The steels that are used are very specialized. They are selected specifically for their use. Some are very hard, allowing amazing long edge holding ability.

    3.) The knives we discuss around her are all hand made, but people that take their craft very seriously. Its a cross between an utility industry and artistic expression. Spend some times looking at the knives from the craftsmen on this board.


    BTW: Do you actually play the banjo? I pick a little Clawhammer myself. Enoch Dobson, bum diddy bum
     
  3. Jun 21, 2013 #3

    Von blewitt

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    I'd be interested to see some artisan Euro carbon knives! Any links?
     
  4. Jun 21, 2013 #4

    berko

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    i know exactly what you are talkin about, banjo. i think the main reason for this is language. people can hardly inform about knifes that are not advertised in their language. you also dont search russian forums, do you?
     
  5. Jun 21, 2013 #5

    Andrew H

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    Hi Benjamin!

    What advertising, exactly? I can't say I've ever seen an advertisement for any Japanese knives other than Shun, which doesn't really count.
     
  6. Jun 21, 2013 #6

    Benuser

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    Messermeister are the export series by Burgvogel, Solingen.
     
  7. Jun 21, 2013 #7

    Marko Tsourkan

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    I am one of the partial "imitators" of Japanese made knives and here is why I do it.

    Japanese culture makes a special emphasis on efficiency, be it in sports, arts or trades. For instance, by selecting a profile in a knife that allows efficient cutting, by choosing a steel that gets very sharp and can be hardened to high RCs, by giving a knife a thin geometry (some makers) you get a knife that will cut very well. There are subtle differences among knives from different makers, but in general the consensus wold be that Japanese knives outperform European knives.

    Efficiency and performance is worth imitation, and building upon. I personally picked a few things from Japanese makers and few things from American makers. Zero from German or French makers.

    Kitchen knives are like cars. A simple car with get you from point A to point B, but you can put a simple car on a race track. European makers can make whatever claims they like, but until their knives prove themselves, it's all talk. When I look at some knives, I see how they are ground and know what they are capable of.

    Note that many people on this forum are professional users and capable about evaluating a knife. So, many are Japanosentric for a good reason.

    M

    PS: Do I personally think that Japanese knives are best in the world, no. But they are worth imitating and build and improve upon.

    BTW: in the links in the next after mine post, the profiles are either copied from Japanese or pretty off.

    I didn't take it as insult. I am just explaining that people copy things for a reason, typically because it is a good design or a feature.
     
  8. Jun 21, 2013 #8

    banjo1071

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    Thanks fpr your kind replies
    Concerning the steel: There are also many different steels in use. They dont hav these fancy names. They haver rather technical descriptions like 1.3505.

    For example
    http://www.messerkontor.eu/KOCHMESS...CHANZ-Lucidus-II-Carbon-Gyuto-21cm::2358.html (okay bad example, also japanocentric)
    http://www.koraat-knives.at/ (this guy even casts a costum steel, depending on the purpose of the knife)
    http://www.messerkontor.eu/KOCHMESS...RC-60-nicht-rostfrei-Pflaumenholzg::2003.html
    http://www.messerkontor.eu/KOCHMESS...r-Manufakur/Drei-Lagen-Stahl:::3_942_944.html
    http://www.messerkontor.eu/KOCHMESSER-EXCLUSIV/Uli-Hennicke:::594_775.html

    Just to name a few...

    P.S. No Banjo here, but Ukulele.....
     
  9. Jun 21, 2013 #9

    banjo1071

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    @Marco
    Thank you for your answer. I know "imitator" is a poor choice of words, i just did not know how to say ist in other words. It was in no way meant as an insult, i am sorry i you took it as such.
    All you say ist true. But all the japanese steels have euro equivanlents. And these equivalents are used by knivemakers and they harden it to the same degree than the japanese makers. They also got very thin geometries an consequently cut well. Again: i am not talking about the buttersteel-everday-zwilling knife here, but handforged artisan knives. Thats what puzzles me.

    Greets
    Benjamin
     
  10. Jun 21, 2013 #10

    franzb69

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    there aren't many euro knife makers that make enough kitchen knives. and when there are, they don't really spark our interest the way japanese style knives do.

    =D
     
  11. Jun 21, 2013 #11

    Marko Tsourkan

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    "Cut well" is very subjective, especially if it's coming from outside this forum.
     
  12. Jun 21, 2013 #12

    Marko Tsourkan

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    944.jpg

    These are not efficient profiles, in my opinion. These are rockers, a profile (and resulting cutting style) that originated from thick convex geometries. One needs to rock with some pressure to cut through food. Most Japanese made knives are push/pull cutters.

    I don't know what to make out of the second knife. Purpose?

    Also, briefly looking at the links you provided, I see a lot of imitation of Japanese made knives, be it construction (san mai), handle shape or some knives' profiles.
     
  13. Jun 21, 2013 #13

    knyfeknerd

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    Recently I've seen some pics and links of French, German and Russian artisan made blades. They looked nice, but I think a lot of the reason they aren't as well represented here is because of the language barrier. I'd totally be down for a passaround so we compare japanese apples to some Euro-ones.
    I feel similar to how Marko does about the whole thing though. Once I switched to Japanese style blades, I was hooked. The only European ones that I give much praise to now are the vintage Henckels or well-made Sabatiers. These still get used quite frequently in my rotation.
    I think a lot of people are very turned off by integral bolsters and the bulky finger guard thingys too.
     
  14. Jun 21, 2013 #14

    ajhuff

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  15. Jun 21, 2013 #15

    Marko Tsourkan

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    In the description on the German site (in German) it says it is a large vegetable knife (aka cleaver), not a specialized fish monger's deba.

    That's a point I am making here - don't reinvent a wheel, unless you have a good reason.

    A quote by Niels Bohr comes to mind. "An expert is a person who has found out by his own painful experience all the mistakes that one can make in a very narrow field"

    M
     
  16. Jun 21, 2013 #16

    jgraeff

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    As a chef i started using European knives, and i thought wow i can get these sharp, as long as i have a steel im good. I never knew i would have a knife where i didint have to use a lot of pressure to cut thick carrots or dense items.

    I then got turned onto shun. and wow what a difference the knife is so sharp! I later found about waterstones and Misono knives and learned about Japanese knives.

    Lets forget about profile, the simple aspect of the steel is what sets them apart. Any steel can have a good or bad profile and or geometry. But if the steel is not fine grained or soft it will not hold up as well.

    I can speak of this from my Marko knife actually, it is very similar in profile to that of Shigefusa( respected japanese maker), however geometry is different. And the steel is a lot better for what i need it for.

    I have had that knife for about 6 months or more and i have only sharpened it twice. I maintain the edge about every week or two weeks by lightly stropping on diamond loaded felt.

    With these capabilities i can take my knife to work and work a full 8-12 hour shift and not have to worry about my knife dulling or where is my steel i cant cut this or that. And i do not have to be easy on the knife i can chops a mound of herbs which would normally dull and edge slightly then go right into slicing soft heirloom tomatoes super thin and precisely.

    Now with all due respect to Japanese makers their steels are not the best around in my opinion. White steel gets super sharp but loses edge retention very fast. Blue steel doesn't get scary sharp but can maintain an edge for about a week with moderate use.

    For me Japanese trumps European steel because its harder, gets sharper, and holds an edge longer. But for me the custom makers( like Marko, Mario, Pierre, Mike Davis, Carter etc) are really where performance comes in, they can get specials steels that allow them to take Japanese profiles and good geometries and produce a knife that is great at whatever the user intends it to be.
     
  17. Jun 21, 2013 #17

    banjo1071

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    I dont feel very comfortable with what you are implying here. For you Info: I have ben a knivecolletor for quite some time now. I own more that 30 knive from respected companies such as Konosuke, Suisin and many others, as well as knives from well known costum knivesmaker such as DT, Doi, TCblades, Harner and others. I have been a freehand sharpener with japanese natural stones als well as synthetic stone for over 5 Years and even took classes in knivemaking (this with very little success i must admit). So i guess, i know what "cutting well" means....
     
  18. Jun 21, 2013 #18

    Marko Tsourkan

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    What I am saying is that there are many factors one can evaluate cutting upon: sharpness, food release, edge retention, edge stability, etc. These are very subjective things. As Rick (Penn Tiger) once pointed out, food release on a knife for a pro is likely to be a significant factor, than for a home cook.

    I didn't mean to imply that you can't evaluate performance on a knife, just that the criteria are so varied, so unless you have a consensus opinion from a number of educated and experienced users, everything else is subjective. That is why a passaround on a forum like this one, among pros and home cooks alike is a good way to evaluate a knife. All knives will cut, but some will cut better than others.

    If my communication is too linear, I apologize.

    M
     
  19. Jun 21, 2013 #19

    pitonboy

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    Banjo, you also need to understand that some of this is due to the availability. This forum is in English and originated from the USA so by nature most of the participants are North American. In this geographic area, the most accessable superior knives are Japanese. There are several artisinal knifemakers on this soil, but their prices are typically higher and would put off most people who know nothing better than a Wusthof. In addition, their output is generally small, so wait lists are often involved. So the most economical obvious upgrade into the "wow" level of cutting is Japanese. I can't at this time find easy ways to access or purchase artisinal European knives which I am sure many of which might be impressive. If you know how North Americans can see, use and purchase higher end European knives, please let us know. Otherwise, the only knives that cut like hell that I can access are Japanese or North American.
     
  20. Jun 21, 2013 #20

    ThEoRy

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    What's funny to me is that the gyuto is actually the Japanese interpretation/improvement of a European/Western knife. And now we have makers like Marko, Devin, HHH, Pierre, etc. improving upon THAT now as well. Full circle perhaps?
     
  21. Jun 21, 2013 #21

    Salty dog

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    +1 ........The Euro makers need to make their wares easily available to the North American market. I'm sure there are good ones. We just don't get a chance to check them out.

    What one person thinks is a good cutter may be completely different from what I think. Happens all the time.
     
  22. Jun 21, 2013 #22

    chinacats

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    I'm currently waiting on a full custom carbon (1.2442) from Germany (TilmanL) as well as a custom carbon (O1) from England (WillC) and fully expect them to equal or surpass many of the J-blades that I have used. I guess I'll be trying to find out for sure, but really looking forward to both.

    Cheers
     
  23. Jun 21, 2013 #23

    Patatas Bravas

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    There was one member a few months back who lives in Paris and spoke well of 1 or 2 French makers; one was Vietnamese-French I think.
     
  24. Jun 21, 2013 #24

    Dave Martell

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    Any manufacturer or independent knifemaker can, and often does, get talked about positively here but lots don't meet the minimum standard that a $150 Japanese gyuto can deliver and that's just a reality.

    People will be interested in any knife that kicks ass and/or offers good value, it's of course a plus of it's obtainable to them as well.
     
  25. Jun 21, 2013 #25

    Gator

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    My 0.02$ is that mainstream is mainstream, here or in Europe or in Japan. I've worked for SAP which is a German software company, but point is I've had lots of coworkers who just came from Germany or other EU countries, and some of the did brought their kitchen knives with them. Guess what :) All of it was the same mainstream stuff, some no name knives, some popular stuff(one Messermeister too), etc.
    Good stuff in German is harder to find for English speakers too.

    I'd be interested in that too. One you linked, Hennicke, price range is 250-400 EU, that's hardly a fraction of the cost, same for the Schanz 230 EU. If I had to choose between Aogami 1/2 and more expensive 140Cr2 knife, which is also 3-5HRC points softer compared to many Japanese knives, it's not that hard to figure out which one I'd pick :) If I wanted a custom, US makers are easier to work with, no hassle with customs, etc.
    In my experience, high end knives in Europe are more expensive than in US and often than Japanese too.
     
  26. Jun 21, 2013 #26

    Gator

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    Interesting thing, that alloy is quite similar to Aogami 1, just not as strict spec on contaminants -
    Aogami 1 vs. 1.2442 steel composition comparison... Never had a knife made out of it, but I am curious how it works out, especially if you have Aogami knives to compare with.
     
  27. Jun 21, 2013 #27

    Birnando

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    Heh, fresh statement!
    The few customs from the US I have played around with did not quite look like much of an improvement.
    Good knives, sure, but improvements? Nah, not in my book.
    And no surprise either really.
    After all, someone having done this as a sole source of income for say 50 years, and learning from dad/ a master knifesmith who has even more, should be able to produce a better product than your average hobbyist out of Hicksville USA with a desire to make an extra buck or two...

    Sorry for the harsh words here, but come on, it's all good to support local artisans and all,but to expect them to top the very best of this game with just a few years of "homemaking" in the shed is kinda ridiculous.
     
  28. Jun 21, 2013 #28

    Marko Tsourkan

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    @ Birnando

    Tell you what. Let's make a bet. Pick a best knife in your opinion from a maker who has been making knives for 50 years and got that knowledge from generations before him, and I will pick a knife made by somebody who has been making knives (when not working on improving a process) for less than 3 years. Let's send both knives to a third party who is in no way affiliated with either maker/vendor. And let's see if your statement holds water.



    I don' t dispute that some of what you are saying might be true, but not as a blank statement.

    If you know what you are doing, if you have a proper guidance, equipment, use proper process and if you study the subject in depth, sky is the limit. At least here in the US.

    Don't believe me? Look at Bob Kramer. He has been making knives for about 10 years, and his earlier knives were probably no that different from his current, though his damascus became much more complicated. He learned his trade from hammer-ins and guys who weren't passed knowledge from their fathers. Some of the best makers in the US started as hobbyists.
     
  29. Jun 21, 2013 #29

    Birnando

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    You know what, I'll gladly take you up on that bet.
    Let us work out the details via PM:)


    I do not for a second doubt that.
    But let me assure you, the world is a whole lot more than the US, and in large parts of it, your claim is also valid:)
    That the sky is the limit, that is!
    My point is, it takes a bit of time reaching that sky..
    Firing up a kiln in the backyard and buying stock pattern welded steel to hammer a bit on after work, does not make a person a knifesmith.
    At least not the first few years.

    Am I to understand that this Kramer, while reputable, (or hyped) out-performs all Japanese maker after these ten years?
    In all aspects of knife making?
    And in practical use?
    And to the tune of five or even twenty times the value?
    ( I know, value is in the eyes of the beholder. As I own more than 40 custom straight razors, all but a few made in the US, I do get that concept)
    I do not have one, and while willing to accept your apparent expertise compared to mine, I must confess to having serious doubts about this statement.

    I readily admit that there are good steel- and knife-makers in the US, and other parts of the world beyond Japan.
    No doubt.
    But as a general statement that the names mentioned in what I quoted in my first post in this thread, and others, are improving on all Japanese makers per say?
    Nope, not a chance!

    Like I said, I have not tried, or owned, many US artisan knifes.
    The ones I have tried and owned though, were not all that to be honest, and I still have one that would make you cringe from the very apparent error on it.
    So much so that it would, by most anyone's standards, have been called for what it is, a faulty product.
    And this from a highly respected maker in the US..

    I have stated this before;
    I do not believe in vendor bashing on a forum like this, and will not start doing so now.
    So he will remain nameless.

    And to be even more clear, this was not an attack on the four lads mentioned per say, it was a statement meant towards what I saw as a blanket statement towards the lack of skills on the traditional and highly experienced Japanese makers.
     
  30. Jun 21, 2013 #30

    bieniek

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    Well I watched that movie about Kramer and there he, or the voice said, that he was multiple times [9 ?] in japan, learning about knifemaking, and studying sharpening and sword polishing.
    The link for the movie was found here, on KKF.
    Not sure if thats truth or marketing, but if its truth what kind of hobbyists you mean?

    I am with Birnando on this one, but I would say that there are some real talents in the world, like Mike Tyson was one of them for example. So it is possible for a guy in the shed to totally be producing out very quality stuff. Saying its better or worse in general is ignorant.

    But I know Bjornar, and he has the amount of experience,knives and stones, enough to state that from these blades he tried, japaneses were better, and I believe him 100%, if he claims that.

    To the OP.
    The thing is, honestly, not where to get them blades, but how to get the trust for the artisan. I buy Shigefusa with confidence. I know what to expect. I dont want to spend my bucks on european maker and then work on the grind, if its too flat.
     

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