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Ken Onion, Masamoto HC or Konosuke?

Mon Jul 22, 2013 5:26 am


I am about ready to buy a nice 8 inch Chef Knife...my current candidates are a few select models from Shun+Ken Onion, Masamoto, and Konsuke. The Masamoto HC Carbon Steel 210mm Gyuto really appeals to me as I like the Western handle over Eastern. I like the VG as well, but would prefer a known carbon steel. So here are my questions...

1) how good is the HC series compared to models other makers put out?
2) should I look at any other brands in particular?


Re: Ken Onion, Masamoto HC or Konosuke?

Mon Jul 22, 2013 5:29 am

Hi Zac,

I like to step back and ask you some stuff first. It will help me zero in on a knife since we have a mind numbing selection.

Are you right handed?
Home use or Pro use?
Do you know how to sharpen on stones?
Price range for a knife?
Carbon preferred from your email.
Western handle preferred from your email.

Re: Ken Onion, Masamoto HC or Konosuke?

Mon Jul 22, 2013 10:45 am

Hi Mark...you are going to regret asking...!

I am right handed.
For home usage.
I can sharpen on bench stones, a SharpMaker, or my EdgePro (preferred for anything more than touchup)...I also strop all my blades with a 2-stage of a short strop with a stopping paste and a long strop that is bare, both horse leather mounted on a wooden panel.
I was hoping to stay under $200, but I'll consider options that are higher or lower...I only use 3 knives and two of them take up 99% of the usage, so I'd rather go for quality rather than quantity.
Steel-wise I would prefer carbon steel (possibly HSS depending on what it is), certain damascus, or a powder stainless like S35VN, which my Chris Reeves are made from...I'm not interested in ceramic, titanium, or any of the hybrid materials. An air-hardened/nitrogen-hardened steel would be OK as well. I'm not worried if the blade scratches or develops a patina with usage, my top concern is toughness, second is edge retention, third is ease of sharpening, forth is cost, and everything else is a lot less important. But I must admit, I really like damusus steel, steel that shows forging marks and folding layers, and steel that shows composite layers...to me, that gives a blade multiple dimensions and a lot of character given it will be unique from every other piece, so that is something I would love to have.

Handle-wise I like the Western style of having a finger guard on the front and rear of the handle, but would consider traditional Eastern as I constantly hear people say after using it a few months they come to like them a LOT more. I currently have a few Wustoff pieces from the Classic White Micarta collection and I just do not really like them...I originally got it because everyone always says Wustoff is 'the best' and didn't bother to do much research...then you come to realize that's not the case. It's OK, but it is ridiculously thick, unusually heavy, so/so in ergonomics, lackluster in edge retention, and not well-suited to cutting more fragile vegetables. The blade geometry leaves me disappointed, and the steel not being very hard has kept me from doing an edge reset because if I put a paper thin edge on it I know it's going to need to be sharpened virtually every time it is used. I'd like a knife in the 8 inch range that I could use for everything except what I would use a paring knife for and a bread, tomato, and cheese knife for, so I feel a thin blade with really tough steel will be best. So I've started looking at a lot of the Eastern models which have thinner blades and cut with better edge geometry than brute force, as Wustoffs massacre fragile vegetables and softer foods.

I replaced the Wustoff paring knife with a Global GS-38 (Japan origin) which I am very happy with. For the money, I find it to be great and I bought over 5 paring knives before finding the one I liked, which was this.

Looks-wise, I admit I do like pretty knives. I really like damascus and so the Shun Ken Onions and Shun Premier have really caught my eye. I like nice wood. I would probably want to get some sort of display case/rack designed to display the knife and make it easier for access as I use those things daily. I don't put nice knives in the dishwasher and I don't mind if they need to be treated with a food-grade preservative occasionally. While the style has led me to love the Shun Ken Onion and the Premier, I am constantly hearing people who are hardcore into cooking and chef knives saying Konosuke is the knife you can use for everything and that Shun simply does not perform as well nor can it be used as heavily as a Konosuke without fear of damage (especially tip damage)...so my love of looks is great, but my love of quality and performance is greater. Yoshihiro also seems to be popular and I like many of their styles.

So here is what has thus far interested me (note not all are the exact size I want but just to illustrate)...
[*]SR-1 Stain-resistant steel Gyuto Chef Knife (I like this because the handle matches my Liberty Flatware Pinehurst set, which is really unusual) - http://www.echefknife.com/sr-1-stain-re ... 180mm.html
[*]VG-10 Hammered Damascus Gyuto - http://www.echefknife.com/hammered-dama ... 180mm.html
[*]Brieto 63 Layers Damascus Gyuto - http://www.echefknife.com/brieto-63-lay ... gyuto.html
[*]Nickel Damascus 33 Layers Gyuto Chef Knife - http://www.echefknife.com/nickel-damasc ... knife.html
[*]Misono UX10 Gyuto - http://www.echefknife.com/misono-ux10-gyuto.html
[*]High-Speed Powdered Steel (FUNMATSU HAISU) Gyuto Chef knife - http://www.echefknife.com/high-speed-po ... 240mm.html

Shun (I think both of these knives with the unusual blades and woods are simply beautiful)
[*]Premier - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003B6 ... GZGHL8F7T8
[*]Ken Onion - http://www.amazon.com/Shun-DM0500W-8-In ... onion+shun

Chris Reeve (as a HUGE CRK fan, this really interests me as Reeve doesn't do anything second-class...but at this price, it's competing with some of the finest Japanese knives on the market so it has some serious competition)
[*]Sikayo - http://www.chrisreeve.com/Sikayo

[*]HD2, HH, #2, and whatever else I can afford
The wood and finish on the Honyaki Wa-Gyuto is IMO one of the prettiest knives I have ever seen and I absolutely love it...I love the SKD blade but the handle is a little plain...I absolutely love the Kono Ginsan and HD2 with the Corian finish is nice as well)

Masamoto (I love their knives but I did not buy them as I've read they recently changed steels and wanted to see what you had to say...)
[*]Anything I can afford...I really like the HC and CT series

Devin Thomas

[*]I like what they make and love the SwissTool...but I doubt they have anything in this class

[*]They make a new knife set which I like the styling of, but know little about - http://www.andythornal.com/products/ben ... OgodT3AA6g - I like their knives a lot and I like the style, but it's 440C which, while nothing is wrong with it, is a significantly lower steel than the others mentioned

Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to give you as much information as possible...I'll consider any other brand as well, provided it was made in the US, Japan, the EU, or other countries known for high quality steel products and high quality cutlery workmanship. Thank you so much!

Re: Ken Onion, Masamoto HC or Konosuke?

Mon Jul 22, 2013 4:34 pm

Of those knives you listed, I've seen and/or used most of them minus:

Benchmade kitchen knives
You didn't list a specific DT knife, but I've used/owned several different knives
SR-1, and that Powdered steel number. I've used what I believe to be clones of many of those knives you list from Yoshiro....so I'm assuming somewhat on the rest.

So, with those that are left:

Skip the Sikayo....not a good kitchen knife design
Misono UX10, the VG10 hammered, Brieto, nickel damascus, Shun offerings, and Victornix all have their place but aren't exceptional in any way.

What we're left with is:

Konosuke variety of knives - All outstandingly made knives...never seen a bad knife made by Konosuke. You'd have to narrow in on a particular series to get an exact run down though. The HD, the White #2 series, and everything Fujiyama are my favorites. None of these are western handled though.

Masamoto makes some good western handled knives. The HC uses something akin to a simple carbon....most likely a Hitachi SK, or perhaps a Yellow steel. It's a good steel, but nothing special. The same holds true for the CT knives.

If you can find a DT knife....buy it. I won't really add much, cause not much to add. He's my freaking hero....him and Butch Harner.

Re: Ken Onion, Masamoto HC or Konosuke?

Mon Jul 22, 2013 6:52 pm

Thanks for the info Adam! :)

The other brand I wanted to mention was Hiromoto (http://www.chefknivestogo.com/higy21.html)...I've heard they are good as well.

From what you are saying, it sounds like Konosuke is arguably the industry standard...the people who own Shuns often tell me how Shun is the best, but the people who had/have Shuns and then got a Konosuke say how it's a better knife and by a pretty substantial margin. From what you are saying, I am really feeling Konosuke. Is it hard to adapt to the Eastern Handle?

If I got a Konosuke, I would go for around 210mm/8 inch length, preferably with a blade that is similar in height (give or take) to a Wustoff Classic...but a heck of a lot thinner with a steel that doesn't roll and dull as fast as the Wustoff...and preferably the steel should be able to handle a very thin edge...I'd prefer a hardness around 60-62 and while I really like blades that show the layers in a forging process, if a single-fold carbon blade is going to perform better, I'll take performance over looks any day.

--Konosuke Tsuchime 210mm Gyuto -- http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kots21gy.html -- I really, really LOVE this knife but it is a little over the planned budget...if it went on sale it may be within budget, but I doubt Konosuke goes on sale much if at all given production costs must be significant given all the work each blade gets. It looks great and 65 hardness would be amazing...
--Konosuke HD Gyuto 210mm Corian -$250- http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kohdgy21co.html -- I must say, while a little less traditional, I really like this. The handle looks like a compromise between Western and Eastern and I do like the coloration a lot.
**--Konosuke 210mm White #2 Gyuto -- http://www.chefknivestogo.com/konosuke1.html -- I like the price at $177 and the steel is really good even if it is their entry model...can I get used to the handle?
**--Konosuke HH Stainless Wa-Gyuto 210mm -- http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kogy24.html --
**--Konosuke HD Ho Wa-Gyuto 210mm -- http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kohd21wa.html -- same question as above?
** The three models with an ** next to them is because they all look very similar and use what appears to be similar parts with a few differences...is there a major difference between this and the White #2 Gyuto listed above, which is around 50 bucks less??? What are the real-world performance differences?

My favorite would be the Tsuchime SKD 210...with the Gyuto 210mm Corian high up on the list as well, but I like the styling of the others as well. It's just the Tsuchime shows a lot more character between the forging lines and wood.

Any thoughts? Thank you so much!

Re: Ken Onion, Masamoto HC or Konosuke?

Mon Jul 22, 2013 9:36 pm

As visually attractive as something like the Ken Onion Shun is, it's not an impressive performer in the kitchen compared even to mid-range Japanese knives.

If you're used to a Western-style handle on a European-style blade, you'll probably find that the 240 mm Japanese gyuto are much more agile than a 9" chef's knife. Go to a "laser" (like the Konosuke HD or White #2 lines) and the 240 will be dancing in your hands. I think you'll find a 210 mm easily outgrown.

I think one of those Wushof Classic 8" chef's knives is around 250-260 g -- A Konosuke 240 is around 150 g, nearly half the weight of what you are used to.

I don't have any problems with the Japanese-style handles -- with a well balanced knife, you aren't gripping it like a baseball bat, but guiding it to do your will. Grab a cheap ($25-30) Forshner/Victorinox 10" chef's knife for the few things that need muscle.

I can't say enough good things about the Konosuke gyuto I have (or the 210 petty, for that matter). I prefer the "funayuki" cut which flattens the belly and makes the tip a bit more acute compared to the more traditional shape. I don't think you'd get much argument that with a Konosuke HD or White #2 you are in the top tier of performance, especially if you aren't a professional sharpener.

The Konosuke Fujiyama series are world-class knives -- they are a little thicker than the HD/White #2 lines, forged by a different blacksmith, but are killer in their own way. I've found the workmanship beautiful on all of them. If you're looking for a Konosuke to impress, it probably isn't going to be in the flashiness of the blade -- they are tools and are build lovingly, but putting the effort into what makes a difference to a chef instead of what attracts attention. I'd check out the handle and saya makers here and you can get some incredible shoes and boots for your new knife.

I haven't used one, but have handled them, and they get great kudos here as well -- the Masakage Yuki and Shimo lines. One is san mai (three layers), the other is single-steel construction.

Re: Ken Onion, Masamoto HC or Konosuke?

Mon Jul 22, 2013 11:20 pm

I'm going to stay true to form and recommend my 2 favorite knives.

First, the Tanaka Sekiso gyuto series. Blue #2 core steel with carbon damascus (layered) cladding. Not a laser, but a nice, solid midweight gyuto that performs very well. Phenomenal grind on the knives leaves the area behind the edge very very thin (laser thin), but with a good amount of stiffness and weight to the knife. Cuts awesomely and with little effort. It has a Wa handle on it (buffalo horn and Ho wood) that is nicely done. Spine and choil need a little rounding, but that it common on many Japanese knives. Hands down my favorite gyuto. I own the 240mm gyuto, 165mm Nakiri and 150mm petty in this series. All have awesome grinds, very thin behind the edge and take and hold a wicked edge. Great bang for the buck, too! Looks wicked when the blade is acid etched, too.

Next up is the Richmond AS Laser. I have the 240mm and the nakiri. The spine thickness throws everyone off a bit when they see 3 or 4mm. This is the measurement out of the handle and it quickly tapers down to around 2mm and then less as you go down the blade towards the tip. These are Aogami Super steel clad in Stainless and with Wa handles. Spine and choil need some work, too. These are wickedly thin behind the edge (maybe a hair thinner than my Tanaka's) and take and hold a very nice edge. Cutting performance is very nice OOTB, but can be enhanced by a simple thing. The blades are bead blasted to give the knife a Kasumi look to it where the cladding above the core is a matte look (hazy) and the core steel shows up nice and shiny. The bead blasting adds a little extra friction to the cut, so I used the Green, Maroon and Grey Scotchbrite pads to smooth out the surface. It still has the same Kasumi look, but the pads reduce the surface roughness from the bead blasting and it slides thru food much easier. Above that bead blasting line, I noticed something a little different. I thought there was a slight bulge there, but then I saw what it really is. The blade is ground slightly hollow towards the spine, starting a little in front of the heel. From the choil shot, it looks like a much thicker knife because you don't see the taper/hollow grind that is there like 1cm before the heel. This helps with a few things. First, there is a nice convexing to the blade and the convexing helps push food away. The slight hollow grind towards the spine reduces weight and resistance while cutting and helps food not stick to the sides as much since there is a hollow there. The hollow above the grind is found on some knives like Kurouchi knives, Takeda's and others. When cutting foods, you can actually see food being pushed away from the blade as it cuts through. The food is pushed away lower on the blade than the Tanaka, so on harder foods, there is slightly more friction than on softer foods (potatoes cut with little effort, sweet potatoes take a touch more force and may split more) and harder foods may split more since the food is being forced apart lower on the blade. The Tanaka is slightly better at cutting harder foods and about the same on softer foods. The AS Laser has slightly better edge retention.

I have pics and video of these knives in my subform under Tim Johnson in the Knife Makers section.

Re: Ken Onion, Masamoto HC or Konosuke?

Tue Jul 23, 2013 4:14 am

ZAC <> There are too many tangents for me to address w/the time I have; I can tell this is already going to take longer then I should alot.

You talk about a $200 knife, but you reference quite a few above; I'm staying close to your original budget.

You reference a Shun Onion... please, just erase the thought.  That is the most offensive profile I have ever lain my hand on.  It is an insult to kitchen cutlery, and now that the marketing hype is over... that garbage has finally gone away.

Furthermore, your first post indicates you'd prefer carbon?

People who say Shuns are the best, are just exaggerating that they're better than the soft German benchmark blades... because that's all they know.  And let us also remember "best" is an absolute, there are no absolutes in opinion based topics.  Soft steel has its place, and one man's trash is another's treasure.  The truth is, the majority of sheeple chip their Shuns within a month; for them, a Wusthof IS "better".

Another limit here is you prefer Yo-handles, and you mention you like finger guards.  I can't think of any JK with a finger guard... thank g-d.  Do you use a pinch grip, or do you hold a knife like a bat?  A Wa-handle is easy to acclimate to & if you already use a pinch, it's a piece of cake, but let's not confuse your original request.

You mention Hiromoto.  Their stainless-clad Gyuto is at your price point, Yo-handled,  is in Blue Super Steel at a tough Hrc, has very respectable grind/F&F.  Another MOD here, KNIFE FANATIC, can thin one out for you to improve its performance for a small fee will which  bring your cost right to $200. Bear in mind, this knife is San-Mai, will be a bit stiff, and is not quite laser thin.

Speaking of which, you mention you want a thin knife, but you start off looking at a Shun Onion.  I can't imagine you have handled one because they are far from thin.  Even a clad Hiromoto is thinner.

You mention you like the Western  Kono HD with the Corian grip.  BUY IT, and be done if you will pay over $200.  HD steel is a gift from the g-ds... period.  Gets, for all practical purposes, as sharp as carbon, as easily as carbon, as pleasurably as carbon, has better edge retention (at equivocal Hrc), and is basically stainless though the HSS will slowly develop a mild patina.  If my memory serves me correctly, the Western HD's are a bit thicker than the Wa's, but still lasers & most likely like nothing you've ever handled.

Side note: The Kono white#2 is no "entry level" knife; it's one badass laser, but Wa only so in efforts of keeping this streamlined I will cease talking about it.

You reference the Kono SKD, but you prefer Yo, it's much harder than you prefer, and it's over budget so I'll stop right there.

Another great performer that fits in your parameters, is the Kikuichi TKC.  Another Yo-handled HSS Gyuto.  If you don't want to go over budget with the Kono HD & want to stick with a lively mono-steel  construction, this is an awesome option.

In closing given your original parameters, these are the closest matches: 
    Western Konosuke HD
    Kikuichi TKC
    Hiromoto AS (thinned by Shaun)

Re: Ken Onion, Masamoto HC or Konosuke?

Tue Jul 23, 2013 7:13 am

Hard to adapt to a wa handle.....I didn't find it so. I use both interchangeably. This is especially true if you use a pinch grip.

I'm going to simply restate Mel's closing statement:

In closing given your original parameters, these are the closest matches:
Western Konosuke HD
Kikuichi TKC
Hiromoto AS (thinned by Shaun)

It's wonderful advice.

Re: Ken Onion, Masamoto HC or Konosuke?

Tue Jul 23, 2013 7:37 am

Extremely easy to go to a wa-handle. If you use a pinch grip, you'll barely notice it and -- far more likely than not -- you'll find the differences positive. If you don't pinch and never will, stick with a yo.

Konosuke HD if you can afford it. 210 is very short, and way too short for a laser. The main thing about any laser is that it's a laser. That degree of thin is its own universe. You'll either like it or not. The Gesshin Ginga and Tadatsuna are the only other yo-lasers. They're in the same league as Kono generally; but neither is made from an alloy as good as Kono's HD. Edge to Kono.

Masamoto HC is an excellent knife. With respect, I believe it's made from Takefu V2. It is certainly not "yellow" steel. I think the Masamoto CT -- a good knife in its own right -- is made from V1. Getting back to the HC: A comfortable knife with an exceptionally good, Sabatier-like profile.

Years ago, I was thinking about moving my carbon Sabs out and replacing them with something modern and Japanese, and came close to pulling the trigger on a few HCs; but bought Hiromoto AS instead -- to my sorrow.

If you're doing Japanese made yo-carbon, almost as good as the HC is the Misono Sweden. Actually it's as good as the Masamoto except it's more reactive (something easy addressed) and the profile isn't quite as sweet as Masamoto's. On the other hand, Misono handles are better than Masamoto's, better than good; industry standard, really. And, of course, there's the dragon. HC and Sweden are extremely easy recommendations.

Both the Masamoto HC and Misono Sweden are excellent yo-gyuto and both SIGNIFICANTLY better than the Hiromoto AS.

Hiromoto is a good way to get a prestige alloy at a reasonable price, but is not a great knife unless you rate prestige alloys and edge properties significantly above ergonomics and handling. I don't care how thin you make it, it's got a narrow handle and a mediocre profile. Also, san-mai; not a drawback to most people but anathema to some.

Kikuichi TKC is what the Hiromoto AS should have been. It's pretty near the top of the best, first really good knife list. Some other knives on that list are: MAC Pro, Masamoto HC, Masamoto VG, Misono Sweden, and Sakai Takayuki Grand Cheff (which is also available as a really nice wa-gyuto).

Also, with respect, I think the Misono UX10 is an exceptional knife in its own way, but not everything which makes it "exceptional" is good. Good alloy, 19C27; great handle; exceptional styling; but too streamlined to be comfortable for anyone who's pinch grip doesn't come over the top. No pinch grip? Fuhgeddaboudid. It was one of the first "super knives" imported into the US which really kicked Shun and Global ass; but it's time has pretty much passed. So... maybe not so exceptional after all.

Shun? What Mealmpus said.

I'd like to put in a good word for the Richmond AEB-L Laser, and Richmond Ultimatum which are both outstanding performers and outstanding values in their own rights; but neither is pretty. While they're very different knives, I like my 51200 Ultimatum as much as my Konosuke HD.

My 2 yen,
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