I spent nearly two weeks with Chip’s knife in my block, although I didn’t use on a daily basis. As a bonus, I also recently received a new purchase of my own: a Kono Fujiyama W#1 Kiritsuke-Gyuto with a custom handle by Tim. So, in using the HD K-G, I often stopped to compare it to my own, and vise-versa. This led to using Chip’s knife a little less, but to gaining some perspective on its merits and shortcomings through the comparison as well. Much of the following review refers to the performance of both knives, but it is meant to focus on the HD version.
1) Physical attributes
The HD had a very similar profile and design as my Fujiyama: both are an adapted pattern of the traditional kiritsuke, so much so that I would avoid calling either a “real” kiritsuke and insist on using the abbreviation K-G for kiritsuke-gyuto (or typing it all out). The differences are significant: from what I understand, a “real” kiritsuke has a flatter profile, a single bevel, is usually thicker at the spine, and due to these properties, has a two-tier bevel design at the tip, where the tip is beveled both from the spine forward (from the thick spine to the thinner front edge, like an eel knife), and from the spine downward (at the edge). The Konos lack ALL of these features.
Image: Three Konos, Two Konos. Note handle differences, profile differences, and profile similarities between the two K-Gs.
What they share with the pattern is the general shape, a thicker spine from heel to tip (but not as thick), a bit more weight than a gyuto design, especially toward the front end, and, correspondingly, a shorter, more consistent height and grind from heel to tip. Thus, in comparison to a “true” Kiritsuke, the Konos have a much more rounded profile, are thinner, lighter, with a thinner spine, have no “front” edge or bevel at the tip, are double-beveled, and feature more convexing in the grind (rather than the sharper, more angular wedge design of so many single-bevel yanagibas and true kiritsukes).
In addition, the HD had a semi-custom handle from Mark (wenge ferrule, maple handle). It was a bit too small and light for my tastes on this particular knife—enough to affect the grip negatively, but not so much as to upset the balance or performance on the board.
In comparing the two knives, the Fujiyama uses considerably more steel, with a significantly thicker spine and a more pronounced grind. This is obvious from the corresponding pictures, and from the weight. Even accounting for the different handles, the 80 gram difference (139 versus 219) is very significant, especially since the Fujiyama is even more blade-heavy (which suggests that the added weight is more an attribute of the different blade than the different handle). What is less obvious is that the differences are far more pronounced than they would be with a gyuto, as there is a significant amount of extra steel from heel to tip in the K-G pattern, meaning the Fujiyama was not only heavier, but exhibited a much more blade-heavy bias toward the tip of the knife. The same is true of the HD K-G versus an HD gyuto.
Image: Choil shots of K-Gs. Note that the Fujiyama appears to feature a heavily asymmetric grind and a thicker “wedge” grind in the middle of the blade that is much closer to the traditional knives the kiritsuke design is supposed to blend.
Image: Tip shots of K-Gs. Here, one can see the mid-point “bump” or wedge of the Fujiyama extends all the way to the tip; similarly, the HD has a virtually identical grind height and contour at the tip as it does at the heel. These can be seen in the light reflections in the above profile images, too.
The physical attributes directly relate to performance in virtually every regard. The tips are not as versatile as on a gyuto, although they do perform better for some specific tasks. In general, they are great for separation, but they are not good for any kind of curving or coring technique. I found the extra weight at the tip enhanced the ability to guide and slice evenly and with accuracy. In fact, to me, the main purpose of these knives is for hybrid slicing tasks, especially when you want to cut at an angle relative to the board or when you want to “push-slice” with the tip on the board, such as when cutting something 1/4 inch tall or less. These motions benefit from the consistent height of the K-G profile from heel to tip, where the wrist and arm work less in such motion to get the same height of the board or lateral contact in the slice. The difference – when compared to a gyuto – is quite noticeable, especially when mincing or very-shallow chopping (herbs, julienne scallions) with the tip on the board.
In addition, the edge isn’t all that flat. In fact, I found the “gyuto” curve to be magnificent for shallow mincing and rocking. This is magnified by the extra weight at the front end of the blade: despite the fact that I don’t like rock chopping at all for anything taller than a 1/4”, I found myself wanting to leave the tip of the board more and more often. When I did, it balanced and guided the cut better than a gyuto, although even in these cases, I wasn’t “chopping” so much as mincing or shallow-cutting with a forward push cut with the tip on the board.
To reiterate, I do not think the Kono design is better for “flat push-cutting” because it is a “kiritsuke.” In fact, I feel the opposite. The added weight at the tip and the profile make it feel better for certain chopping tasks, and worse (than a gyuto) for others. What I appreciate more than the mythical “flat spot” is the shorter, more consistent height throughout the blade. It is easier to get over all ingredients, it slices better, it has less to stick to, and it still performs like a laser (on the HD—not at all true for the Fujiyama) due to its thinness at the spine—this despite the shorter, more exaggerated grind throughout the knife, as well as the heavier, more substantial feel from heel to tip.
Finally, the profile of the knife – including the consistent height from heel to tip – means that a more vertical chop from the wrist works better. Whereas I chop using the front third of flatter gyutos, leaving the handle at an angle to the board, the K-G profile works better if the handle stays more parallel to the board, perhaps with more of a cleaver action. I imagine this would work exceptionally well with hammer grips.
I’ve already written too much, but so I’ll just mention a few more summary things. The HD featured the usual grind, steel, and quality you’d expect from a Kono HD (minus the Kono handle and install—Mark’s installs are often better and the ferrule-handle junction is smoother, but the quality and feel of the materials, the balance, the taper, and the design do not seem to fit the knife as well, in my opinion; this makes Mark’s design admittably better for those whom obsess about F&F in visual terms, but not in functional ones, at least based on the handles I’ve used). The biggest difference, again, was the amount of steel: the grind extended right through to the tip, and one could feel the added heft and spine…even on a 139 gram knife. The knife will probably be easier to sharpen than a gyuto given the profile and grind (my Fujiyama certainly is). And one final thought: despite my slight preference for 240mm gyutos, the 240 K-G feels small. Noticeably so. I can imagine, for the first time ever, wanting a 270mm knife in this pattern for home use…but that’s also because I think of it as primarily a slicer or shallow mincer/rocker with the tip on the board, and not as a lift-chop gyuto pattern.
Look for more comments about the K-G profile in the coming weeks, when I review my Fujiyama version!
Thanks for the pass-around opportunity!