A WORD OF CAUTION!!
Recently there is a flood of advertisements on Facebook about “Japanese steel” knives, selling knives and knife sets for huge discounts. Companies like Kamikoto use terms like “Honshu Steel” or “1000 of years of craftsmanship inspired the form” to pretend the Japanese origin of the knives. BE CAREFUL, they are Chinese made factory knives, produced at costs of about $20 a set, don’t be trapped by discounts of 80% even with that discount it is far overpriced for what they offer, do your research, ask what steel it is (there is no Honshu Steel) ask the hrc of the steel, ask where they are made. Check the 1 star ratings on Amazon… No reputable Japanese knife maker will ever give discounts of 80%. The wording of the advertising is clever, the marketing makes people think they buying a genuine Japanese knife.
Why do I mention this? I am not afraid of competition but it should be fair, I don’t want that people get upset about Japanese knives still not knowing that have an overpriced Chinese mass product.
Again, do your research carefully, google the companies and see if you find other sources than their own websites!
Choosing the right knife might be a bit challenging but here we give you some info which can help to make the right decision.
First of all you may think of either choosing a western style knife or a traditional Japanese knife.
I think there is no question that the traditional Japanese knives look much nicer with their beautiful wooden handles. But the western style handle might be a bit more long lasting especially when the care might be neglected. Wooden handles don’t like to be wet so they need to be dried after use. Following that they have almost the same lifetime.
The next question would be the steel. Generally there are two types of knives, stainless and carbon steel knives. The stainless knives are more rust resistant than carbon steel knives. In general the stainless steel is a bit softer than carbon steel that means that a carbon steel knife can hold a better edge. There are some kind of hybrids, the clad knives where a carbon steel core is covered with stainless steel. Carbon steel can tarnish or even rust, to prevent the knife from that you need to keep it dry and maybe oil the blade from time to time.
There is also a relatively new generation of steel, powder metal steel, hard as carbon steel but rust resistant.
The hardness of steel is measured in Rockwell (hrc), most Japanese knives start at around 58 up to 65 Rockwell. As a general rule the harder the steel the finer the edge and the better the edge retention. But when the steel gets too hard it can chip if not used properly. Harder steels are also not quite easy to sharpen.
After the steel you may give a bit of attention to the way the blade is made. There are several options:
Damascus (Suminagashi): A core layer is claded by several layers of other steel, usually alternate types. It creates a beautiful pattern but also it makes the blade strong but still flexible.
Clad (Sanmai). A core layer of hard steel is clad on both sides with softer usually stainless steel. The outer layer protect the core layer from tarnishing, only the cutting is exposed.
Mono blade Made out of a single layer of steel.
Hammered (Tsuchime). Hammer marks on the blade help that cutting goods don’t stick to the blade.
“Unfinished” (Kuro-Uchi). It is an economic way to protect carbon steel blades, basically the blade is not finished or polished except for the cutting edge, which also gives a nice rustic (dark) look.
After style,steel and blade the next question is what size or type of knife. For a good general purpose knife for almost anything I would suggest a Santoku or a Chef/Gyuto up to about a 21omm blade. The Japanese vegetable knife (Nakiri) gets more and more popular and many of our customers use it now as their favourite knife.
For normal household cutting I would also recommed a paring or petty knife up to a 150mm blade for all the smaller tasks where the main knife might be too long, like peeling fruits or garlic.
In addition to these knives you might want to consider a longer knife like a Sujihiki (Slicer) or Yanagiba (Sashimi) knife or the 240mm + Chef knife. such a knife has it use when you have a roast or ham to slice and if you working with raw fish.
And then we have several special knives, they all have their uses and each knife user has own preferences. Just browse through the shapes to get an idea what is available.
If you have any questions please contact me and I can help you making the right decision for your needs.