Knife shopping recently, I was inspired by some conversation I had with a Jérémy and my target is high grade stainless steel Blue #1 Honyaki.
A blade I recommend for any house chef, if you treat it well a cutting a dream. Talking with Jérémy Escudero who has worked 8-years at Kama-Asa in Kappabashi: firstname.lastname@example.org and please contact him if you have any questions on knife sharpening, or Japanese knives in general. Jérémy is professional and should you have the desire to buy a new knife contact him and take his advice – he is a super guy and knows his trade.
Remember no two knives are the same …like most things…and not all Japanese knives are equally sharp, or can be sharpened to the same sharpness. Made by hand or machine made all knives have their distinctive peculiarities.
When buying a knife you should consider “how long will your blade stay sharp” and should you buy a single bevel, or a double bevel, and where does ceramic fit in. These are important questions for any chef when it comes to kitchen work. And, if you maintain a knife in good condition it will last longer and deliver better results. In fact, a knife used daily can last 50+ years sending on the use and care.
A double-bevel kitchen knife is another thing and they are useful and should not be the choice of one over the other. Both deliver cut quality but in deferent ways. The single-bevel wabocho requires more precise techniques: https://mesubim.com/2014/03/31/tsuma-kyuri-part-ii-video/
If you want to cut something with a double-bevel knife, you just bring it down vertically and can cut straight without a problem. However, with a single-bevel knife, it takes practice to make straight cuts and the motion is quite different. For this reason, wabocho are actually quite difficult to use, yet once you get used to it it comes naturally. However, as mentioned before, Japanese knives are best suited for “push-pull slicing” – and this is not intuitive for westerners.
Much depends on how you use it and if it’s your first time buying Japanese knife you have to pay attention to what you buy. There are so many different kinds of knives when you walk into a knife shop it is rather confusing. Now a days, the most common knife is a chef’s knife, an all purpose blade and the second most popular is the Usuba, a vegetable knife: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usuba_bōchō
Coming back to a chef’s knife, it is popular as an all purpose knife and useful as a general knife. But the Chef’s knife is usually double bevelled on the edge and no doubt stays sharp for a limited time. But that’s not a problem if you sharpen your knife frequently.
The double edge blade is V shaped and if you magnified 100 times you could see it like two parallel lines coming to a point shaping the blade’s cutting line, and the Japanese traditional knife is very different. The blade on the back is 90°on one side (back) and the front angle is about 70° – see the single bevel Japanese knife below.
Unlike western knives, Japanese knives are often only single ground, meaning that they are sharpened so that only one side holds the cutting edge. It was traditionally believed that a single-angled blade cuts better and makes cleaner cuts, though requiring more skill to use than a blade with a double-beveled edge.
When buying a knife the first question need to ask yourself is is budget and quality, and if so the more you spend the better the quality excluding Damascus. That is another ballgame all together so lets not go there now.
Ask yourself, what will spend because when it comes to Japanese knife budget, it is critical because any handmade knives are expensive, and if you consider that what materials are used the price increases. There are two main types of steel: shiro-ko (white steel #1 & #2) and Ao-ko (blue steel #1 & #2) and Aogami steel.
What is the difference between blue steel 1 and 2? Blue steel has tungsten and chromium added to the iron and carbon to create an easier tempering process and also a knife that holds its edge longer than a white steel knife, however while not taking on such a fine cutting edge. Honyaki is made mainly from white steel or blue steel.
And Honyaki has two types of manufacturing processes: water-Honyaki and oil-Honyaki. In the manufacturing process of oil-Honyaki, oil is used at the time of hardening that is the process of hardening steel which is less desirable.
If you seek quality buy “Honyaki” literally true-fired is the name for the Japanese traditional method of metalwork construction most often used. These knives made only with steel, while most knives are produced by forge welding steel and soft iron, honyaki are pure steel. They have amazing sharpness, but it comes at a price as the knives are incredibly hard to produce. Only be made by the most skilled of craftsmen, and you also need some skill to share them at your kitchen, or they chip and can break. But once you go to Honyaki Blue Steel #1 – it is truly difficult to go back.
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