Archive for the ‘General Discussion’ Category

by:  Aaron Gibson

Konosuke HD:

Length: 240mm

Steel: Carbon/stainless to HRC 61

Weight:152 grams/5.35 ounces

Handle: Either octagonal ho or Western

Price: $206.00

Kikuichi Performance TKC:

Length: 240mm

Steel: Carbon/stainless to HRC 61-62

Weight: 206 grams/7.25 ounces

Handle: Western

Price: $189.95

Impressions of Konosuke HD:

Well, seeings how this would be my fourth Konosuke knife, I really knew what it was I would be getting into for the most part. I knew that the fit and finish would be very good, and out of the box it would be really good as well. The edge I feel is about a 1/2k finish then stropped, (once again this is what I think so I might be wrong) but none the less, it was what you would expect from Konosuke, a nicely rounded spin and choil. Light weight and nice and thin just weighting in at 152 grams.  It comes in either a Western style or octagonal ho wood handle, which is nice if you prefer one over the other. The one I purchased was the ho wood model as I really do prefer it over Western since I use my gyutos for some 7 to 9 hours a day, I feel that those style of handles are more comfortable. Every Konosuke I’ve ever purchased, I have used at work on the box edge with only stropping to bring it back after the days work, (all work is done on poly boards) for a week before I’ll go ahead and put my own edge on it, (same stones and strops are used for both knives) which is finished on a Kitayama 8-12k stone and final stropping done on a split leather loaded with .05 Colloidal silicas and makes for a spooky sharp edge, (much keener than just stainless since the addition of the carbon) But, even after pounding on poly boards for hours on end, at the end of the day alls that is needed it to be taken through my strops, (which starts with 3 mic diamond and either .1 diamond or the .05 depending on what I feel like) and the edge comes right back and ready for another day of work. Speaking of sharpening, it goes very easy. Taking the edge from my 400 grit stone to finish is about 10 minutes. When I first went to use it, I was already well used to my Konosuke white #2 gyuto, so using the HD was like a slightly beefier version, (the white is much thinner and even lighter) but it was like shaking hands with an old friend. The handle, balance point and over all feel was just how I like it. Taking down anything from cabbage, (which it does very well since how thin it is so it doesn’t wedge a ton) or mowing down onions of all shapes and cuts and I use it for taking down on the average 30 + pounds of strawberries a week as well as normally 80 kiwis, (which are also peeled with the same knife) and about 30 or more pineapples, (once again also peeled with the knife as well). There isn’t much in the way of veg or furit that I haven’t taken down. Also, I would like to note that the knife also has no problem going through a five pound bucket worth of butternut squash.  I would also like to note, that, as far as how fast this knife will develop a patina, well it’s really slow. After having and using it on a ton of fruit and vegetables, I can’t even really begin to see the patina developing. So, reaction is very low.

Pros:

• Thin and light weight • Nice out of the box edge • Two different handle styles • Ease of sharpening • Slow reactivity • Good edge retention and easy to bring back

Cons:

• Price is more than the TKC • Thinness isn’t for everyone if you prefer a heftier knife

Impressions of TKC:

When I had first purchased this knife, it was my first carbon/stainless knife, and since I do a ton of fruit which can have a funny reaction to carbon, (along with some smells) I figured that this would be the best of both worlds, the keenness of carbon and it’s edge retention, which the addition of the stainless would cut down on the rusting issues that carbons have.  Since that this knife wasn’t brand new, I can’t comment about its out of the box, but from what others have said, it’s your standard edge. So I took it right to the stones, (which is the same as the HD goes through) and I will say that the HD is easier to sharpen, (I think because of the thinness of it) but with only a little more work the TKC gets hair splittingly sharp. I will say that it is a bigger knife, not only in weight but in the handle which is only offered in a Western style, there being about a 52 gram difference in weight between the two. Now, it might not sound like a ton, but if you are using a knife for a very long time, that extra weight can make a difference in hand fatigue. Fit and finish are good, but the spin and choil aren’t really rounded a lot if any so it has some more sharp corners on it, and if you have smaller hands, than you might find the handle a little big. But if you want you can always do a little DIY and round it more and either replace the handle with your own or have someone else make it for you, (not that you couldn’t do so with the HD either on the handle) While I was doing the sharpening I decided to also lower it to 10 degrees preside, (as the edge is thick to me personally) so thinning it out did improve sharpness and penetration and the edge would last about a good week solid on poly boards, (the same fruits and veg were done with this knife as was the HD) The extra thickness does tend to lead to more wedging through things such as cabbage, carrots, squash or onions than the HD. But, I did and do find that the TKC edge lasting isn’t as good as the HD, but it will come back to very close to full sharpness when taken through the strops after a days worth of work. As with reactivity, it does develop a patina a lot faster than the HD, and was kind of odd when I lent it out to one of the cooks and he used it to dice some eggplant. When he was finished the blade was stained with spot. Now, he might haven’t wiped it off or such as much as I do, but I did find it a little odd, but it easily came off with a polishing of Turtle wax car polish and Flitz.

Pros:

• Less expensive than HD • Heavier if you are looking for a stout knife • Good retention and comes back from stropping easy

Cons:

• Thicker and heavier than HD • Not as good Fit and finish • Wedges more than HD • Only one handle choice • Patinas a lot faster than HD and can stain on some foods

Conclusion:

So, when all is said and done is there a winner for me personally? Yes. If you were to give me a choice between the HD and TKC, I would pick the HD any and every time. Now, that is just my preference because I do prefer a thinner and light weight knife, but if you have bigger hands and like a heavier knife then you’re really like the TKC. If you are looking for a semi stainless/carbon knife then either the Konosuke HD or TKC performance are two knives to look into.

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Sharp vs. Strong

Posted: November 12, 2011 in General Discussion

by:  Eamon Burke

A kitchen knife is supposed to be, first and foremost, sharp.

Right?

This is a common sense belief; one that is promoted by advertising, sharpening enthusiasts, and end users.  The world is full of dull knives and we are all impressed by a sharp knife, performing it’s task so effortlessly.  A sharp knife seems to say, “Hey, let me do that work for you, I’ll make an easy time of those old tomatoes and that butternut squash.”  It appeals to the part of our instincts that want to get as much as we can for as little investment as possible, and a dull knife is just unacceptable waste.  But is this the most important feature of a kitchen knife?   We need to go back to the beginning.

Some of the first tools man ever used are called “Oldowan tools”, and were blades fashioned from rocks for digging and cutting.   You have to stab the pig with the broken branch and hoist it over the fire to keep it from catching fire, and you have to have the sharp rock to get the legs off a cooked pig without dropping the pig in the dirt and having your buddies help pull them off.   So you go to find the pointiest stick in the wood, and the most acute piece of flint in the cave.  However, you soon find that the ultra-pointy stick will not survive the pig’s hide, and the thin rock will chip on every bone, causing more harm than good(paleolithic gastroenterologists were hard to come by).

No, you’d need more than a pointy object, it would have to withstand the rigors of real use.  So one day, you take some flint and bash it into a shape that still has an edge, but is bulky enough to survive impact.  You use it on the stick to hack down that pointy tip, and there you have it—the first edges.  Some of the first design improvements were “hand axes”, made out of  materials that are often quite treacherous in their own right(quartz, obsidian, flint), and were chipped away to create a usable edge, and altered in shape not to hone for sharpness, but to strengthen the tool and tame its brittle nature.

A knife, when you consider it’s role as a tool used to redirect force, is a series of increasingly less acute bevels.  The face, starting at the spine, is the most acute bevel on the entire knife, and if there were no edge bevels added, it would have to be extremely thin to come to an edge in a usable size.  Any time it needs to be sharpened, the entire faces of the blade would have to be abraded down precisely even, any overgrind at all would cause the edge to wave, and the amount of time and material wasted would be maximized.  The solution?  Add an edge bevel; significantly less steep than the face, making it both easier to manage, less time consuming to sharpen, and MUCH stronger, since there is more material immediately behind the cutting edge.  It is not uncommon to add more sets of bevels and microbevels, all less acute than the last.  A less acute edge is not going to be sharper, it is going to be stronger, because of the wider angle(and it helps remove wire edges, but that’s another can of worms).

The word ‘sharp’ itself only denotes that something “has an edge or point that is able to cut or pierce something”(as defined by Google), but the word ‘strong’ denotes something that is able “to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks”(also Google).  If we want a tool to cut or pierce something, we need a sharp edge.  If we want the tool to cut or pierce in spite of great opposition, we need a strong edge.

In the world of cutlery, there is nothing quite like a sword.  A giant hunk of metal had to be tamed into a weapon that is at once life-saving and life-threatening, with an edge strong enough to deflect a lethal blow, and sharp enough to inflict one.  If there is any other knife quite as demanding to be found, it is surely in the hands of a cook.  It is not a mistake that professional kitchens are depicted as steam- and stress-filled bunkers, where food is a beloved but war-torn homeland, and the line is the foxhole in the back keeping the diners at bay, only you are sweating, swearing and suffering to get them to stay.  The home cook is typically focused on getting to the meal, and the raw ingredients only stand in the way of impressing a first date or, worse yet, satisfying the roulette-wheel tastes of a toddler.  A great knife is going to get you through that prep time, so you can focus on the food.  The knife is your tool, but the enemy of the knife is it’s companion—the cutting board.

No other knife is designed to be so constantly battered as a kitchen knife.  We demand that they withstand acidic lemons and deboning chickens, hacking the board over and over through onion after onion, and yet still politely chiffonade basil for us.  A great board is nice to an edge, but there’s no two ways about it—a kitchen knife is designed to be bashed into a piece of hardwood, plastic, or rubber over and over and over.  We do not want another thing to keep up with in the house and in professional kitchens, a knife that stops working will ruin days and cost you money.  This is another reason the edge needs to be strong!

A strong edge will be durable, because there are only two ways a knife loses it’s edge—it either bends, or breaks.  The softer steels will bend and flop back and forth, being happily brought back to life with a careful hone on a rod, and the hard steels will cut for a long time until they get tiny little chips and dents that need a bit of stropping to cover up and/or replace.  But eventually, stropping won’t remove all the microscopic chipping, and honing with a rod will only flop that edge back and forth until snaps off like a tab on a soda can. By increasing the amount of steel directly behind the cutting edge, you are offering more heft to a softer steel(think a V8 tab), and a stronger structure on a hard steel(think mountains, not skyscrapers).  Your edge will be able to bash into that board a little while longer with some extra backing.

The reason this can be achieved—the real magic behind sharpening—is because sharp does not mean “acute”.  The given definition for sharp was simply “able” to cut or pierce, and no matter what the angle, this is a function of how well the two planes meet each other.  If you machine a square steel block down to perfect square, the edges would surely cut you, though they are bulky 90degree angles.  The edge that takes up such a tiny amount of space that it delivers all the weight and momentum onto a very tiny spot—so tiny that the object being cut just can’t help but to get out of the way.

There are, of course, exceptions to the “perfect edge” scenario, such as very elastic or temperamental foods like tomatoes, chicken skin, or Uramaki covered in cling wrap.  For this, you need sheer friction and grabbing power, as provided by edge teeth.  Teeth are enough of a subject to deserve an article to themselves, so I won’t bother to go into great detail here, but they deserve mentioning, because teeth do not offer a substitute for a strong, well-formed edge.  Teeth that are placed on an irregular edge are going to cause a world of trouble.  Imagine using a chain saw that had all different teeth on it, large and small, and pointing every direction; it would be suicide to use a machine like that, and though it won’t kill you, it doesn’t make any more sense to put a sloppy toothy edge on a kitchen knife and call it a day.

As hobbyists, it is easy to get caught up in the “perfect edge” race, trying to make a super acute cutting edge that will magically fall through food under it’s own dainty weight.  But these edges never last, and when you start to cook, grab a knife, and demand that it work, that kind of edge offers nothing extra in return for a much higher investment in putting it there.  The food we cut with our knives is not demanding—not when compared to things like cardboard, nylon rope, young tree branches, horns, and(at one time, anyways) chainmail.  We are taking something that was made of metals from around the globe into a space-age steel alloy, hammered and heated, cut and ground, painstakingly heated and cooled, ground some more, cleverly designed, finished and perfected, then personalized by ourselves on often rare and valued sharpening stones…and pushing it through a carrot.  It’s a no contest.

An edge bevel is not put there to make a knife sharp, it exists to make a knife strong.