Alright guys, BIG news! We’ve got a new kid on the block! No, no, no, this isn’t just some new Blue or white steel knife, or even something super exotic like a Cowry or ZDP blade, but a whole new animal
that I’m willing to bet NONE
of you have ever tried. What is it? Do I have your attention?
About a month ago, Ken daringly
sent me out a knife made by a mystery smith during the holiday mail rush. It made it safely to my door; where I unwrapped it like a kid on Christmas.
Ok… so it’s a yani. And it’s only 230mm… what’s the big deal?
Ahhhhh, Look closers. Still can’t see it?
It’s OK, I’ll give you a big hint. It’s made of Black Steel
What the hell is Black Steel?!?! Is it Hatachi made?! To my knowledge, no, and sadly I don't know much more about it... yet.
Also I noticed that even for it’s size it appeared thinner then I was expecting. It was closer to a usubiki then a yanagiba. (Think Shigi, just a tad thicker, but not yani thickness).
The knife was completely finished on natural stones as well, creating a very nice contrast. It is also of important note that the face of the blade above the shinogi IS polished, but not to a mirror like you would see with a Nenohi, Doi/Suisin, Konosuke, or the like. Nope, this is all natural stones, and since that area is comprised of soft steel it does not reach a mirror. For some this might be a turn off, but in all truthfulness it has a real sense of character about it that I began to notice more and more as time went by. When I first saw it I was disappointed with the lack of mirror as I was used to buying super high end shiny steel.
But to my surprise this began to grow on me just as much as the others. It has a real genuineness about it. It radiates with a truly individually hand made “vibe” that you can’t miss. Does this mean it’s poor construction? NO! This is not “rustic” like a Takeda or Moritaka. Quite the opposite. This knife is instead very strongly influenced by the culturally and aesthetic sensibilities embodied in the Japanese concepts of Wabi-sabi
I highly suggest reading this link in order to understand what I’m referring to. HIGHLY recommend, as it will be referenced later, if not many times after.
But enough of the aesthetics. We’ll come back to that. Let's get down to the good stuff. So let’s talk edge retention and performance.
Well the coin flip says we’re gonna talk about edge retention. In a word: Outstanding! How would I describe it?... sturdy, tough, and HARD. It has no micro bevel or hamaguri bevel on it. So you can’t count that in as being a factor in its toughness.
Over the past two weeks I was able to use this knife, and there was close to ZERO loss of edge retention in any form, except ever so slightly near the tip, so performance stayed consistent 95% through and through. Another interesting point to make though, and I’m not sure if this is because the knife was finished with naturals, but there was a very minimal
patina build up. I even tried to cut a whole bunch a raw bacon (very acidic)with it, and is left close to nothing as far as patina went. I’m still not sure how I feel about this, but I’m leaning towards good as I personally like things to stay shiny.
So to recap that. Edge retention was stellar. No Chipping either. Which surprised me as Ken has informed me that this steel is treated at approximatively 64 hrc! Considering that it was sharpened with naturals too, there is a theory that says that naturals can increase hardness by 1-2 degrees. Now whether this true or not I'm not sure, but if that's the case, we're talking one damn hard steel! The only other steels I’ve heard of that can do that are Cowry or ZDP-189. Cowry IS brittle. ZDP isn’t and neither is this (Black steel). I think I just might have a new favorite steel.
Ok so performance. It’s like this, I LOVE big knives. 300mm gyuto is perfect, but I’d go as high as 330 no prob. Yani? 330mm at the least. Get the picture? So this knife, when it came to me, was already at a disadvantage. I like to use a long, slow (knife weight only if possible) draw cut with slicing based knives. You really can’t do that with a knife this size… or can you?
OK so I wasn’t able to use just
the weight of the knife, but it was damn close. 270 would have been great. I sliced up all the protein in sight that I could find. Fish, liver, bacon, steak, little brothers, you get the point.
Anyways… like I said earlier it looked thinner then the usually yani, even for it’s size. Not quite usubiki thin, but not quite yani thick. It was perfect. To be honest it was a laser. It glides though everything. Even after I used it to cut tons or protein (some of it being very acidic) I later decided to try it out on some old fish that I pulled out of the freezer. I let it thaw and after, as I suspected, it was very brittle. It would tare looking at it. Well almost.. But exaggerations aside the knife was still, EVEN IN SPITE OF THE POOR STATE OF THE FISH, able to cut paper thin slices of fish with close to no tearing at all every time. This is AFTER extensive prior use, and Ken also had someone else try it out even before me, with no intermediate sharpening or touch ups.
I also want to point out that almost NOTHING sticks to this knife. I personally think that this is largely due to the finish that the natural stones leave, but I do not doubt that the thinness of the edge plays its part here to.
Now how this would hold up on something like a gyuto I’m not sure, but from what I’ve seen… I have no doubts
it will perform better then most gyuto’s I’ve tried. And I’ve tried a LOT!
All in all it’s a top performer, no shred of doubt in my mind at all.
So what are the down sides?... Not many.
I wasn’t able to see the saya work, but Ken will be able to show you guys some of that later.
Other then that, on a scale of 1-10 (As far as the fit goes) I’d have to give it a 7.5… initially that is.
Now?... More like 8.5. Here’s the thing, I value comfort almost too much
. If the handle, choil, ago, and spine don’t caress my hand, it’s a huge turn off for me. So hence my liking of Nenohi/Nenox. HOWEVER after learning about how wabi-sabi influences ideals of craftsmanship, I was able to perceive this knife in a totally
different light, and have come to like it for all of it’s very few and minor imperfections, there by coming closer to perfection (You didn't read the article yet, did you? Oh boy
). I’ll let Ken explain in further detail. But at least help him out by reading the Wiki link I posted for you guys. You won’t just look at this knife differently, but many other smiths’ knives, and other Japanese crafts as well in a different light.
So to explain what I mean, the spine was very nicely smoothed and polish uniformly with the face of the knife (above the shinogi).
My initial impression was that the ago-migaki and choil were not as smoothed down as I wanted them to be. They were not by any means
uncomfortable, nor were they un-aesthetically appealing, but I like what I like, and I hold things to that standard, while still giving room for appreciation of the works of others and their original intent.
Ken has informed me that for those who are interested in knives made by this smith, that you can request it to be completely rounded and smoothed out, but it is not necessary.
The handle is is fused by the traditional burring method, which I have no qualms with at all. My personal preference would be to additionally include some sort of wax treatment similar to Nenohi's. Although I really don’t think it’s necessary [in this case], it would have been nice. Again, just being picky. There were no gaps or holes either.
While the handle felt great (I love D-shaped) the ferrule was not perfectly flush with the handle in one or two spots.
So all in all, if I was to rate this knife on scale of 1-10, I’d give it a 9, now that I understand it. Before understanding it… 8-8.5. Hell I’d give it a 9.5-10 just based upon performance but my aesthetic standards required me to knock it down a peg.
Alright Ken, I’ll turn’m over to you.
Hope this helps guys!
| Charles A.K.A. 'Kade' |
"Ingredients have no boundaries."
It is NEVER sharp enough.
-Every sharpness addict