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Old 02-05-2010, 09:25 AM   #1
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Tell me about Japanese Knives

I'm old and set in my ways...but I haven't added a knife to my set in well over two decades. To be fair, no one on the east coast of the US was using Japanese knives back then. Well, maybe in the sushi bars and Japanese steakhouses, but I've never worked in one of them.

I'm finding the idea of ceramic knives very intriguing and can't seem to find much information about them. All I read is they stay sharp longer. Spiffy, but what do you do when they do get dull? Can you sharpen them at home? Do you have to send them back to the manufacturer? Wrap them in duct tape and drop them in the trash?

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Old 02-05-2010, 09:44 AM   #2
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I have heard very mixed things about ceramic knives and the info that I have been basing my purchasing decisions on is based on others telling me that Japanese knifes can actually be sharpened sharper than what most ceramics on the market are sharpened to. Top that with the fragility of ceramic knives and I see no reason for me to own one. Now there are plenty of people who have used and abused ceramic knives and they have held up fine. There are also a number of people who have chipped or shattered theirs in normal day to day use. I do not want to take the chance.

To sharpen ceramics you generally do have to send them back to the manufacturer. The good news is they hold their edge a long time so this would not be a frequent occurance, but it is still a hassle.

Japanese knives are amazing. I have two. Both were reasonably priced. One is a Tojiro and the other I am ashamed to say I do not recall the maker, but I like it even more than my Tojiro. I can get them super sharp and they stay that way much longer than my German knives (which I happen to like as well, just not as much as my J knives). I love the geometry of the J blades and also how thin many of them are compared to the German ones I have. Sometimes a thicker blade is what you want though so I am not saying they are perfect in every situation. I think having a number of different types of blades is a great way to go.
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Old 02-05-2010, 10:40 AM   #3
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The only thing that really attracts me to the ceramic blades is the simple novelty of it. They're supposed to be really light, which I suspect will really bug me....but there really isn't anything that I'm likely to have to cut that isn't covered by what's on my counter right now.

After poking around the Kyocera site, I found that they sharpen the blades "free" for ten dollars per shipment postage. The downside is that they have to go to California and back, so a minimum of two weeks turnaround.

Some of the Damascus steel knives are very appealing too. They're awful pretty. It's just hard to justify the expense for what will really be nothing more than a toy. At least the ceramic knives are pretty inexpensive. If I got one or more of the Damascus knives, I'd have to invest in one of those magnetic knife strips so that the blades were always out looking pretty. Then maybe I could justify it as both a tool and a decoration!
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Old 02-05-2010, 10:50 AM   #4
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Check out this knife. It will not break the bank and it will make you a J blade enthusiast.
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Old 02-05-2010, 11:13 AM   #5
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That's some site. Besides the drool worthy knives, they have a fantastic selection of Japanese table service supplies. I'm going to be in NY in May...will definitely stop by for a look.
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Old 02-05-2010, 12:32 PM   #6
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Check out this knife. It will not break the bank and it will make you a J blade enthusiast.
GB, I was at that site earlier today. I was wondering if the length of the knives listed included the entire knife or just the blade.
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Old 02-05-2010, 12:47 PM   #7
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I believe it is just the blade.
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Old 02-05-2010, 01:07 PM   #8
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I believe it is just the blade.
Wow, then that seems like a pretty good deal for those knives! It will be some time before I require one of them though.
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Old 02-05-2010, 01:17 PM   #9
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GB, talk a little about what it takes to sharpen them.
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Old 02-05-2010, 01:18 PM   #10
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They are an incredible bargin for what you get, honestly.

Yeah when I got mine I did not really needit. My brother was getting married and had registered for some ceramic knives so I asked him why and if he had considered J knives. I started to tell him what I knew and mentioned I had heard good things about Torjiro. I went online so I could send him a link and found the site I posted here and when I saw the price I decided right then and there to get it even though I had no need. It is now my most used knife.
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Old 02-05-2010, 01:21 PM   #11
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I don't think you will consider a japanese knife a toy after you use it once. I, like you,. am an old guy set in my ways and had not replaced my Forschners for years. I love my Japanese knives.
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Old 02-05-2010, 01:23 PM   #12
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GB, talk a little about what it takes to sharpen them.
Time. That is all. If you can sharpen a German knife then sharpening a J knife is the same, but just takes longer. For some, that can be an issue. I just sharpened this knife last weekend, but I did not get it as sharp as I would have liked because I had been at it for a while and my hands were tired and I was ready to do other things. I was OK with that though because it was already sharper than my Wustof knives. I have sharpened it to the max that I am capable of previously. I was probably 80% there this time around. I probably spend a good 45-60 minutes (wasn't really keeping track) to get to my 80% point. And that was starting with a blade that was still in decent shape. I have to sharpen it much less frequently that my Wustof knives though so the extra time evens out over the long run.
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Old 02-05-2010, 03:18 PM   #13
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I got this knife for Christmas. Feels good in my hand and I enjoy using it. I will be buying a couple more Tojiro this year. Good knives!
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Old 02-05-2010, 09:06 PM   #14
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Aha I remembered the other knife I got. It was the Hattori HD 3 Petty 150mmHD Series Japanese Knife,Japanese Kitchen Knife,Japanese Cutlery,Japanese Chef's Knives.Com. This is my favorite knife to use, but I get more use out of my Tojiro. This knife just feels and looks great though and man talk about sharp!
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Old 02-06-2010, 01:24 AM   #15
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Japanese knives do require a little bit different technique to sharpen, at least if you want to unlock their true potential. Overall Japanese knives are made with steels that are considerably harder and more wear resistant than typical Euro knives. Typically they're also thinner with considerably more acute edge angles than a German knife (ie, 12-15 degrees per side for J-knives vs 22.5 for the average Euro). This means the edge is sharper, and the fact that it's harder & more abrasion resistant means it will take and benefit from a higher polish than you'd use for, say, a Wusthof. And you have to get used to sharpening at a lower angle.

The other notable difference is that some of the steels used in the hagane of a Japanese knife will cling more stubbornly to a burr than a softer Euro knife. This is not always the case, but tool steels like SKD (used in the Yoshikani wa-gyuto) are notorious for being hard to deburr.

In use, Japanese knives tend to be lighter and more "agile" than you're used to. They cut very well! They tend to be a bit more delicate than you're used to as well. Cutting thru bones will cutting meat will likely result in a chipped edge. A good analogy would be that a Japanese is like a Hyabusa where a German is more like a dirt bike. Hard to hang with the rice rocket on good streets but it ain't gonna like logging trails.
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Old 02-06-2010, 01:47 AM   #16
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I like the analogy about the J-knives as Hyabusas and German/Euro Knives as KTMs.

An old school French Sabatier will take the most brutal beating you can give a knife and line up for more after a quick hone, but it will never be as precise or agile as gyuto.
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Old 02-06-2010, 06:07 AM   #17
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Aha I remembered the other knife I got. It was the Hattori HD 3 Petty 150mmHD Series Japanese Knife,Japanese Kitchen Knife,Japanese Cutlery,Japanese Chef's Knives.Com. This is my favorite knife to use, but I get more use out of my Tojiro. This knife just feels and looks great though and man talk about sharp!

I have that same Hattori. Very nice little knife but I almost never use it. It does have an Edge Pro supplied Naniwa Chocera 10k edge, though!
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Old 02-06-2010, 08:52 AM   #18
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I like the analogy about the J-knives as Hyabusas and German/Euro Knives as KTMs.
Okay, I'll bite. What's a Hyabusa and what's a KTM?

You guys have convinced me. I'm going to order a few pieces and see how I like them. Worst case scenario, I hate them and give them to my fiance or sell them on eBay.
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Old 02-06-2010, 09:17 AM   #19
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Okay, I'll bite. What's a Hyabusa and what's a KTM?

You guys have convinced me. I'm going to order a few pieces and see how I like them. Worst case scenario, I hate them and give them to my fiance or sell them on eBay.
A KTM is a motorcycle for dirt riding, and a Hayabusa is an extremely fast sport bike. I'd like both!

And if you don't like the J knives we can work out a trade! Somehow I think you'll like them though.
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Old 02-07-2010, 01:27 AM   #20
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The Hyabusa was the last "worlds fastest street bike" IIRC. At the high of the Japanese speed wars the Hyabusa reigned supreme until the manufacturers, facing legislation, agreed to limit the top end speed & power of bikes. It was named after a type of hawk known for it's screaming speed in a dive (seems like it can hit 185 mph!).
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