Aogami Super Steel

Posted: November 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

In the world of knives, both high end and your standard everyday mass produced models, there inlays common traits: a handle of some sorts and the most important part, the steel. The steel that is picked for a particular knife has a large impact on how well the final knife will take an edge and how long it can retain it. I’ve used over the past ten years knives made of different steels: Stainless, high carbon, carbon/stainless, white # 2, blue steel, but if you are looking for the best of the best in terms of the ability to take and retain even a highly polished edge, then you need to really look no further than Aogami Super Steel.

Aogami Super Steel or AS, is steel that is composed of a high percentage of carbon, chrome which increases the hardness of the blade along with over all toughness and corrosion resistance, manganese, which adds to the further wear resistance, molybdenum which helps in maintaining the steels strength during heating, phosphorus, sulfur, silicon, tungsten and vanadium. The last ingredients further add to the steels over all strength and wear resistance.

So, should you be all hyped up over steel and its ability to take and hold an edge? Simply put. Yes. If your knife can hold a razor edge exceedingly longer without breaking down, even when used on pounds of onions and tomatoes, you won’t need to sharpen it nearly as often. This doesn’t mean that it will never need to be sharpened, just less so. Soon, every knife will need to be sharpened. Unless you never use it that is.

The reason why I love using it so much, as mentioned before, is its ability to take an exceedingly high polished edge and keep it like that for a very long time. While all knives are able to take a high polish, not all are able hold it and will quickly go dull. I am able to sharpen and polish the knives I have that are made of Aogami to fifteen or twenty thousand grit natural stone finish, and it has the ability to hold it for many uses, both at work where I prep and also at home. And, when it does start to feel a little dull, I’ve only ever had to take it though my set of strops. Which consists of two balsa strops, both loaded, one with 1 micron boron carbide (which is about 30,000 grit) and the second being a .5 micron chromium oxide (which is about 60,000 grit) and finally finished off with a leather strop sprayed with .25 micron diamond spry (which is about 120,000 grit) So as you can see, even with a high polish, this steel can easily handle it but is also not a nightmare to sharpen either.

The following are four knives, two of which are by the same maker, but all four are made with an AS core. They are: 215mm Takeda yanagiba, 240mm Kanehiro gyuto, 240mm Moritaka gyuto, and a 240mm Moritaka gyuto/kiritsuke. All of the knives were sharpened as close to the same as I could and to about the same degree edge (about 15 degrees)

Takeda Yanagiba:

First is the 215mm Takeda yanagiba, which in reality is a sujihiki or slicing knife being that a true yanagiba is a single edge, where as this is double beveled. The over all length is about 215mm, (being that they are hand made they will very from knife to knife.) and weighted in at 97 grams or 3.4 ounces. Out of the box, the Takeda was by far the sharpest edge I’ve ever felt/used to date. While it is aggressive toothy edge it is very sharp, easily push cutting receipt paper with ease. The blade is also thin, but it doesn’t have as much play as you might think. It does flex but it’s still ridged enough to use on vegetables with no problem. Also, that since it is carbon, you need to make sure that you keep it dry and wipe it off because if not the blade can rust.

Usage:

For the first test, (after the push cut test on receipt) was a half a red skinned potato which was about two inches in length. The test was simple: get as many slices out of it while doing so at speed, (which for me is rather fast) the result was 57 slices in about ten or so seconds, which the slices were for some, thin enough to see through. Second test was a half an onion. Once again for speed. For the horizontal cuts, (two in total) I used the tip area of the knife and easily sliced through the onion. For the vertical, I then did about a dozen slices, followed by another fourteen or so slices to make a nice and uniformed fine dice. From start to finish, there was no wedging, (where the blade is thick and has a little trouble passing cleanly though the product) due to how thin the blade is, but while you can use it on both proteins and veg, I wouldn’t take it to very hard items like some squashes as you might damage the blade.

But where this knife really comes into its own is meat preparation or portioning. From cleaning and butter flying chicken breasts to slicing pork tenderloin, the Takeda yanagi does do with very little effort. Draw cutting is the preferred method of usage, but will also work with a chop or thrust cut; it’s just that the shape and size of it is better suited to a pull. Also, if you are looking for a knife to use on the line and are fine with taking care of carbon, this knife is a good option. Being that it’s small and thin enough so it won’t get in the way and not take up much space if you’re faced with limited cutting space.

The handle is a good size for the knife, but that is where I have a few problems with the knife. How close choil is in relationship to the handle, it’s very close. So close in fact that I find it a little hard to pinch grip so I had to readjust my grip. The closeness also I found a little annoying was when it came to sharpening and touch up stropping. Since the two were so close I kept hitting the hand I was holding the handle with and had to be careful not to scratch up the ferulle by grinding it on any of the stones. But the biggest gripe I have with it is that where the handle and the machi meet is a large amount of epoxy that squeezed out from sticking the handle on. I’m sorry, but for the price I felt like it should have been pristine. Other than that, I have nothing but positive things. Great cutter and awesome steel and the best out of the box edge I’ve ever used.

Sharpening:

Sharpening the knife even though the steel is that tough, surprisingly takes a minimal amount of time to get back to shaving sharp, from my 400 grit stone to my final natural was about twenty or so minutes, add in a pass through my strops to sweeten the edge and it was good to go for the next round. After sharpening, it only took a few passes over my strops to bring back the edge.

Conclusion:

If you are in the market for a thin and out of the box razor sharp edge knife and will hold its edge for a very long time and don’t mind spending a little bit of money ($300, but remember that is for handmade) you have no need to look further than the Takeda yanagiba. From prepping out meats, to medium to soft vegetables, all will fall by the wayside. Also if you are in the market for a good line knife to use at work and are cool with caring for carbon, this would make an excellent acquisition

Kanehiro Gyuto:

The Second knife is the Kanehiro 240mm gyuto. Little was know to me about this knife maker, since they are of a smaller company. For AS steel, there were only either a normal “D” shape handle or the octagon handle (which I prefer) so for those that left Takeda or Moritaka which normally have to be special ordered as they come with “D” shape which left lefties such as myself limited either tweaking or replacing a “D” shape or going for a Takeda.

Kanehiro comes with an octagonal handle and has a nice gentle belly, but still has a nice amount of flat to it so chopping is not a problem. The edge is rather thin when you look at how rather large this knife is. The Kanehiro has a kurouchi finish, which means that the blade isn’t fully polished, but the maker has left the blade rustic and not smooth. Where most kurouchi feature a black finish, the Kanehiro has more of a texture finish and forgoes the blacking finish. The AS steel is sandwiched between stainless steel so the only care that is needed is at the cutting edge which you need to keep dry otherwise it could rust.

Usage:

For the first test of the Kanehiro (out of the box) was once again a half of a red skin potato. Once again it was simply as thin as possible while at speed. Result was about 37 nice thin slices of potato. Now since it’s thicker, (this knife is not a laser, but a work horse) you can’t expect it to work like a Nakiri or such. But, what it does do and do very, very well is blast through just about anything and everything you have to prep or such. For more delicate tasks you can use it for but another knife might prove to be better suited. But saying that, the Kanehiro is by far the best knife I’ve used to date.

For the next step of its usage, I decided to take it to work, (still on the factory edge unstropped or touched up in anyway) my normal prep list consists of: 6 large onions, 12 large tomatoes, 12 bell peppers, (all of which are small dice) 4lbs of mushrooms sliced and about 2lbs of either sausage, ham or bacon sliced. Now, most knives after being hit with such acidic foods, there edges would be very noticeably duller, while there was some with the Kanehiro, it was rather minimal. There wasn’t a lot of wedging with the onions when slicing through the core, what there was, was where the heft of the blade came into play (193grams/6.75oz) and helped with that issue.

The second part of the test was done again the following week, ( I had used the knife a few times still on the factory with good results) but before I took it to work for a longer prep list, I decided to give it a full sharpening job (see sharpening section) This days list was a little more substantial than the last. This day consisted of:  17 large onions small dice, 16 peppers small dice, 4 lbs mushrooms sliced, 12 large tomatoes, 16 very large potatoes small dice, few pounds of cooked bacon chopped, (which was cold and as anyone could attest, very hard on knives) and 4 cups of kalamata olives cut in half. Now, this by far is a good test for edge retention, (all was done on a poly cutting board as well) After all was said and done, the edge (which was done to 15 or 20k natural before a three strop set up finished with leather loaded with .25 micron diamond) was rather degraded, (that is a little trade off when you polish an edge to that high of a finish. Very keen and sharp, but longevity isn’t a good) but, before I put it back in my bag I decided to see if I could still pull cut it through a sheet of paper. Result? It could. It was a little rough, but it did. So when I got back home at night I decided to see how much the edge would come back. So I took it through my 1 micron boron and ½ micron chromium oxide. The result was I kid you not able to push cut paper! Now, that’s what I call edge retention.

Sharpening:

When it finally came to re-sharpening the Kanehiro, (not that it really didn’t need it but I wanted to see how well it preformed when fully polished) it was really quick. Initial bevel setting was done with a 400 grit stone, (I set the bevel to about 15 degrees, as AS steel can chip if taken to low) then from there to final polish took about 25 minutes or so. The edge could push cut paper with no resistance and could shave without pulling hairs.

Conclusion:

For those of you who are looking for a wonderful knife to use for everyday prep, be it at home or a pro setting, the Kanehiro will bit a lot of your wish list. Out of the box is good enough to last a while before needing to be sharpened, but is a breeze to sharpen. It’s edge retention is second to none, (for the price of $235 which is very reasonable) able to come back from a beating with once again ease. So, if you are looking for a full on work horse of a knife, you should highly consider the Kanehiro 240mm gyuto.

Moritaka gyuto:

The third knife is the AS review if the Moritaka 240mm gyuto. This was my second knife from Moritaka in about a month after purchasing the first, (which will be reviewed later on) so I already knew what I was getting when I purchased it. Moritaka’s is the lest expensive of the other two brands, (at $192 for a 240) but that doesn’t mean that they don’t perform less. On first inspection I knew that the blade was pretty sharp, (could push cut receipt paper no problem) and it has a nice amount of flat surface for chopping, but also a nice belly if you are a rocker. The blade is a kurouchi finish leaving a portion of the blade polished, (should be noted that they do patina really fast and if not kept clean can rust) Also the kurouchi does have a tendency to rub off if you take it to highly acidic foods so be forewarned.

The handle is a “D” shaped, (so for lefties prolonged use may cause some cramping and fatigue) and weights in at 6 oz (or about 170 grams) The cutting edge on these knives is thin, (even at 15 degrees so it makes it a nice cutter) and yes they are able to go lower, but for all intensive purpose I did them all to 15 degrees. There is a little wedging when you are going through a really big onion, but nothing to bad I assure you.

Usage:

Since, as I said already, that this was my second Moritaka, I knew what to expect when I started to use it. Very smooth cutting, able to cleanly slice and dice anything you put in it’s path. I did a video using it and in the span of 39 seconds, all four onions were finally chopped. Now, I’m not patting myself on the back, but to be able to accomplish that you need a sharp knife, and one with good geometry (knowing how to use it properly is a good thing as well) But I did and do still take it to work with me and it’s been put through the same standard prep list consisting of: 6 large onions small diced, 12 peppers small dice, 12 large tomatoes small dice, 4 pounds of mushrooms sliced, and 2 or 3 pounds of either ham (small dice), sausage or bacon. I’ve done this same list while on the factory edge (preformed very well) and as well as fully sharpened, (which made things even easier)

On the first day I took it to work I had just touched it up from my 2k aoto to my Ozuku Asagi, (followed by the usual three strops) and one of the chefs needed to slice about 10 pounds of tomatoes. So, instead of using one of the standard knives he asked to borrow one of mine. I offered up my Moritaka 240 and stood back to watch the fun. Simply put, it fell through the tomatoes, and left him wondering what kind of knife this was. Needless to say, more than an impressive knife.

Sharpening:

Sharpening up my Moritaka, is really easy considering how much you can put these through yet how long it keeps it edge. When I first got it I used it for a few days then I decided to take it to the stones and touch it up, (which only took about 15 minutes) then after a good two weeks of use at home and work took it and did a full sharpening job. That time took about 25 minutes from start to finish. So once again, the ease of which you can fully sharpen up these knives is very impressive, considering how long they will keep there edges.

Conclusion:

For it’s price, you are really hard up press to find a knife to out perform the Moritaka 240 gyuto. Edge retention, ease of sharpening and over all sharpness are more than enough to go out and try one. The only dry back, (for lefties at least) is the “D” shape, but for the majority out there, the handle shouldn’t be a problem. Over all once again a great knife for a great price.

Moritaka 240mm gyuto/kiritsuke:

The last knife on the list was the one that started it all. The Moritaka 240mm gyuto/kiritsuke. Simply put, if you’re on the fence about spending $208 for a knife, please do yourself a favor and reconsider. I was the same way, but now I’m very happy that I took the plunge.

The gyuto/kiritsuke is 240mm long and weights in at 6 oz (or about 170 grams) and has the standard kurouchi finish and “D” shaped handle. Since this was the first time I’ve ever bought a knife that was made of AS steel I had no idea how well its factory edge was how well it took, (I did some reading up on it, but personally this was new territory) Out of the box was really nice, push cutting paper with ease.

Now, if you’re wondering what a kiritsuke/gyuto is, well simply put it’s a very flat, (a small up sweep towards the tip) and sword shape/style knife that is traditionally designed for a single bevel style to replace both a usuba and yanagiba. Since it is so flat, it could take the place of thin slicing vegetables and also do a good job at slicing meats. As mentioned before in the gyuto review, these knives patina very fast must be kept dry or rusting my happen, which I found out after taking it to work for the first time and going about the standard prep list.

Usage:

Since, it was my first time ever using a knife such as this there was a little grace period for getting used to the feel of how it cut, (which wasn’t to long a day or two) but after that, it was smooth sailing.

Since the blade is so flat, it really does lend itself when used while draw cutting, or chopping. If you are more of a rocking style cutter, than this knife I’m sorry doesn’t really lend itself to that because of how flat the edge is.

When I took it to work and proceeded to go about my standard prep list, I quickly noticed how fast the steel took to patina, (now it is carbon so it will patina anyways) especially after I finished up with the tomatoes, the edge was already a darker color. The factory edge was very good, easily going through tomatoes and onions with complete ease.

After using it for a week, I decided to take it to the stones for a touch up, (it should be noted that it didn’t need it as it was still very sharp so edge retention was great). So, starting at my 2k aoto and finishing at my Ozuku Asagi plus strops, I was finally able to see what all of the fuss was about. It was able to take a very keep sharp edge. Push cutting receipt paper like it wasn’t even there. Then after I took it and used it at work, I was finally able to see why everyone said this was awesome steel.

Sharpening:

When it came time to fully re-sharpen the Moritaka, I was somewhat apprehensive about it. Since the steel could take such a beating, I was thinking that it would be a nightmare to sharpen. Thankfully I was wrong. From start to finish it only took about 25 minutes from start to finish. After which, how keen and sharp this steel can get was something to behold. Shaving and push cutting receipt paper zero problem and no resistance. Easily the best edge I’ve had off the stones ever to date. Simply great.

Conclusion:

Once again a very hard knife to beat for at the price. Ease of sharpening, edge retention and keenness are more than enough reasons to try one and find out for yourself why they are such a great knife. The only problem as with the gyuto version is the handle, but that is easy to over look.

So, there you have it. Three knives all made out of the same great steel. All three different than each other, but all three have the same things in common: ease of sharpening, stellar edge retention and keenness. It’s easy to see why; so many people love to work with the steel. Does it cost more than some? Yes. Is it worth it though, most defiantly.

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