The following is a comparison of the physical attributes of three quite different, but very comparable, Konosuke knives. I have used the two “Funayuki-Gyuto” style knives listed below enough for evaluation on performance, but not the Ginsan, so I will withhold most comments on performance for a later review. (I also own a “regular” gyuto HD, so my comments about profile include my knowledge of the “standard” qyuto profile by this maker.) My impression is that many users will find this type of physical comparison to be a useful reference when shopping for a new gyuto with the following limited span of characteristics:
-shorter to medium heel height
-relatively flat profile that still provides for efficient mincing and dicing (short rocking)
-very thin behind the edge
-high-quality handle and install
-high-quality fit and finish, including rounded spine and choil
-relatively neutral balance despite 240 length and ho handle
-And, perhaps most significantly, those trying to decide between the “laser” quality of Kono’s HD and HH lines verses the heftier but still delicate edges of the hand-forged Fujiyama style knives.
The general measurements of the knives in question are as follows:
Konosuke Funayuki-Gyuto, HD2, 240mm (232x49.? mm actual) — 179.5 grams, ebony handle
Konosuke Fujiyama Funayuki-Gyuto, Blue #2, 240mm (231x49.? mm actual) — 211 grams, ebony handle
Konosuke 240mm Gyuto, Ginsan (227x48.? mm actual) — 155 grams, yew handle
I do not own calipers, but I can say based on the standard thickness of the HD knife at the choil (est. 2.3mm), the Fujiyama is thicker, and the Ginsan is potentially thinner. Unlike some other hand-made knives, neither of the latter two knives features a noticeably thicker tang and, as to be expected, the Fujiyama, being the thickest, has the most significant and immediate distal taper.
The first images provide a general sense of what we’re dealing with. Note that only the Ginsan has Kanji on both sides of the blade. Note as well the nearly identical profile of the HD and Blue #2 knives. A trace and/or side-by-side comparison illustrates that these knives are EXTREMELY close in profile. The similarities are more remarkable when you consider the Fujiyama is hand cut (the HD almost certainly isn’t), and that the standard Fujiyama gyuto profile has been known to vary rather dramatically among the various steels. Significantly, the Fujiyama does have slightly less of a dead “flat” stop at the heel, which facilitates rocking by keeping the knife lively through the whole rocking motion. It also has a perceptively flatter arch in the belly when cutting, but only just. These differences are fractions of a millimeter to the eye, but are easily perceivable on the board. I would compare these to the notorious “KS” or “Sab” profile by highlighting that the “flatter” profile I refer to is not a dead flat spot of several inches of board contact at the heel of the blade, but more of a triangle shape that provides minimal belly throughout a very large span of the mid portion of the blade (rather than a flat grind starting at the heel).
Also note that the Funayukis feature pointed tips; the Ginsan, meanwhile, has more of a rounded, downward arch. The Ginsan also features the largest primary bevel.
This image traces the profile of the Ginsan and Blue #2 knifes specifically. While the Ginsan is advertised as a standard Gyuto, you can see here that it is shorter, with a shorter heel, and is FLATTER than the Funayuki overall. In fact, the Ginsan is a remarkably short “240”—this makes its flat profile all the more remarkable, given that 270s tend to have larger flat spots than 240, as 240 to 210s, etc. While it is difficult to see in the image, the Ginsan starts above the heel of the Blue #2 in the drawing (being shorter in height), only to overtake the Blue #2 in the belly, becoming the bottom line in the illustration—this highlights that it is flatter throughout the mid and upper third portions of the blade. Like the Blue #2, however, the Ginsan still has a “lively” heel: it does not feature a dead flat spot like the HD, and it is a slightly better mincer/shallow rocker (at least in theory) for this reason. Note as well that the Ginsan has a steeper downward arch and a lower tip than the Funayuki, which may sacrifice tip performance when coring objects. This is all counter-intuitive, since, by definition, the Funayuki term is usually applied to knives that have a steeper downward angle from the top or spine of a blade to create a more defined tip and a flatter edge, but it is the non-Funayuki Ginsan that exhibits these characteristics more than any other blade here.
Here, I took choil shots of the HD, Ginsan, and Blue #2, respectively (thinnest to thickest). I kept the knives balanced side-by-side for added effect. The differences are very clear. There is no mistaking the performance advantages of the laser profile on the HD, at least at the heel of the knife. Oddly, the Blue #2 is not only the thickest (and heaviest) knife, but the thickest point of its entire exposed blade is just above the primary bevel—it is actually thicker here than at the spine! Although I lack calipers, one can easily feel that the knife bubbles in the middle – just at the heel, and just by a hair – which actually increases wedging at the very back of the blade. This also increases heft, the comfort of the pinch grip, and perceived performance due to added weight, grip, and fulcrum balance, while keeping the rest of the grind further up the knife thinner and lighter. Meanwhile, the Ginsan has a more forward balance point, which adds to perceived performance. Nonetheless, even with the added forward balance, the Ginsan does not have the same heft and aggression of the Blue #2 in the hand when cutting (this despite the heavier handle of the Blue #2).
The differences in “still” balance points are what one would expect given the design and handles of the blades. (I balanced each knife on a hexagonal pencil to give a more accurate representation of where the balance point lies; you can assume the balance point is right along the center axis of the pencil.) The HD has the most rearward balance, the Ginsan, the most forward. Also, the similarity in profile and handle materials suggests that the extra 30 or so grams that separate the HD and the Blue #2 are purposely designed to be near the choil area, as the balance-point differences between these two knives are geometrically minimal, but the added weight of the Blue #2 blade and similarity of the handle materials suggests that the manufacturer compensated aspects of each blade to achieve the similarly neutral balance points. Hence, the comparisons may attest to a preference by Konosuke to balance their knives very near the choil when using higher-grade handle materials. (Regardless of personal preferences, the cost and finish of Kono’s ebony handles undoubtedly signal that these are considered the “premiere” handle type by the manufacturer, and the fact that gyutos with these handles in the 240 size tend to all be near-neutral despite considerable differences in metals and weights attests to this fact.)
Interestingly, the shifting weight one feels while cutting dramatically affects the sense of “real” balance. Put another way, if you put a fulcrum at the center of a very light and narrow teeter-totter, it will flutter back and forth; if you put a fulcrum at the center of a wide and heavy teeter-totter, it will balance evenly, but it will quickly and aggressively settle in one direction or the other when minimal force is applied. This is what I mean by the “aggressive” feel of the Blue #2: while it has a rather neutral balance (making it feel nimble), when the cut action is applied, the weight shift quickly aids food penetration…considerably more so than the HD, and even more so than the “blade heavy” Ginsan, at least upon first impressions.
Finally, on fit and finish. These knives are all wonderfully finished. Despite the rather “bland” presentation of most Konos, the Blue #2 has enough idiosyncrasies to develop a personal attachment very quickly. Of the bunch it is the least straight (a slight arch to the right, with a slight curve to the left at the tip), and the usual issues of thickness and distal taper described above show remarkable thought and expertise in crafting the blade, at least in terms of the balance and grip (obviously, someone who uses the heel of the blade often would see the slight bulge above the grind as a negative). The HD is the most consistent here, and this line is one of the most quantitatively consistent high-quality production knives out there, from what I understand. The Ginsan is almost machine-made in its straightness and perfection. It is so thin, with such a large bevel, and so straight (just the slightest preference to the left) that it belies the notion that it is crafted from two different metals, fire, and a hammer.
I hope that this description of these blades helps potential shoppers. While the HD line of knives is quite consistent, the different handles dramatically affect the balance point of the HD and HH knives and their general feel in the hand. And since the Fujiyama line is all handmade and each steel features slightly different profiles and bevels, I figure the more than can be said about any and all individual knives, the better. Lastly, little has been written about the Kono Ginsan line, but my first impressions of this knife are very, very good. I can easily see that, with more inquiries, this could become one of the most sought-after knives by Konosuke. Despite my desire to own many other makers of knives, I’m already extremely curious about the qualities and handling of the larger, 270 version.
As I said above, I hope to do a performance comparison between the Blue #2 and Ginsan soon. Despite the cosmetic similarities, these are two very different knives in the hand, if not also on the board…I can only add at this point that, if it seems odd that someone should own three knives that seem so similar when there is so much else out there, the easy answer is this: they are all so good at what they do best that it is difficult to imagine another blade performing better in the same capacity. But just as each one outperforms the other for certain techniques and styles of cutting, so to will other knives prove all-around better choices for many, many users. Put another way, even as I acquire more knives, I imagine all of these will be very hard to let go of.