A confession: my head has not been in the game for a few weeks now. Life, she's a bitch...
Anyway, a few weeks ago Charlemagne PMed to ask if I wanted to play with his Kurosaki R2 western: http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kurosakir21.html
I am still a little befuddled why he posed it as a question, he could have just told me it was on the way, no permission needed.
So before moving on, Thanks Charlemagne!
Early reviews of this knife left me expecting a lot. This knife delivered...it is exquisite in every regard. I will repeat that because my reviews sometimes come off as something less than complimentary: this knife is exquisite in every way. I won't much bother to enumerate how it is that it excels; the grind, aesthetic, fit and finish, etc, etc are all exceptional. Instead I am going to try to describe what makes the knife unique, because the knife does not fall into any of my preconstructed archetypes.
Lets start with the handle. I have not used a western handle this well crafted before. The fit and finish are, like everything else on this knife, awesome. The shape is an ergonomic, "coke bottle" shape that was quite comfortable for my use but might be more exceptional for someone that uses a racquet grip, I use a pinch. The two silver colored pins and one mosaic pin were very attractive, if a touch blingy for my tastes. Besides my violent allergy to western handles, an allergy that was not cured by this knife, my only quip with the handle was the use of the brass bolster. With the exception of brass wind instruments, I generally find yellow metals to feel dingy and dated. The contrast between the brass bolster and the beautiful, shiny finish on the blade seemed to accentuate that one aesthetic offnote for me.
One odd note about the handle, the handle turns down from the spine like the grip of a muzzle loading, black powder pistol. It is a peculiar aesthetic element that had no practical effect on my handling of the knife, but it was something that struck me over and over as I reached for the knife.
The Kurosaki is a bit on the hefty side in no small part thanks to the western handle and while I wouldn't call it thick, it is not a thin knife either. The grind however is outstanding. Rather like the Kato, which Chip lent me (review here: post80031.html#p80031
), the Kurosaki baffles me with just how well it cuts for its girth. It is a truism that thinner knives cut better and feel sharper than thicker knives, but this knife lays waste to that truism. The result is a knife that falls through product with authority. It is a true joy to cut with. Now there is a price to pay in the dexterity of the knife. The heft does make the knife better at traveling in straight lines then bouncing and flipping about the cutting board lightly and nimbly, but then doing it all is a hard trick to pull off.
The profile is short and flat with little height change from the heel to the belly of the knife. The result is a profile very similar to the Takagi honyaki (review here: takagi-honyaki-gyuto-t8407.html
). Though I generally prefer taller blades, this style of profile really appeals to me. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I primarily use a draw cut. The flat profile make good board contact while the blade is a natural with my very linear cutting motion.
The R2 steel kept its edge very well. I did take it to the stones once partly to get a better feel for the steel and partly because I wanted to get back that extra 1-2 percentage points I had lost since I got the knife. This proved a very illuminating exercise as I observed several things. First, there is a very mild overgrind on the right side of the blade toward the heel. I would not have noticed except when I was doing my initial inspection of the edge I noticed there was a slight inconsistency in the bevel width there. It had no effect on the performance of the knife and these seem pretty common even in high end, handmade, Japanese cutlery. Second, R2 takes a screaming edge with very little work. Third, despite how sharp R2 gets, it is far from my favorite steel to sharpen. R2 does not form a burr readily so there is little tactile feedback when you reach the edge. I was trying to use a light touch so I was testing my edge frequently using several techniques but burr formation was not a very useful gauge. On the stones too, the steel had a dead feel to it. Much like the Mel's description of the Shapton Glass stones, it was like sex with a robot. So while the steel does its core mission of getting sharp, staying sharp, and cutting well, I am not sure this knife is a sharpeners dream.
Finally, if there is one thing I really wanted in the knife which it just didn't have, it would be a distal taper. After using the Masamoto KS (review here: masamoto-ks-t9142.html
) I realized I love a good distal taper in a knife. Part of my love affair with a distal taper is the versatility of a beefier knife at the heel and a nimble dexterous knife at the tip. For this beefcake, a bit of nimble at the tip would have been welcome. The second reason I like a distal taper is because of my draw cut style. With a distal taper and a draw cut, you pull the knife from the thick of the grind to the thin of it, making the cutting action feel amazing. In this knife, the blade thickness was very consistent without even much taper at the tip from the grind. It made the knife feel less adaptable than I wanted it to be.
So back to my head not being in the game, I really want to love this knife. Objectively it does so much so well. Even the idiosyncrasies I have listed are not so much knocks on the blade as design choices. Changing one design element would introduce a different set of performance compromises, not necessarily a better or worse knife. So when I say to the knife, "It's me, not you." I really do I mean it...I'm just not in a place to fall in love right now.
Post Script: I am currently in possession of two custom sayas by Cody Paul, AKA the Ginger Ninja. You can see Charlemagne's WIP youtube video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vq41-YOkPgc
. The saya pictured with the knife is his creation. I am not a great judge of sayas because I have only seen a few and a majority of the sayas I have seen are of the Kono mass produced variety. With that caveat, these sayas are the nicest I have seen. Very beautiful materials and exceptional craftsmanship.
Anryu on left, Kurosaki on right. These were the most similar in grind and spine thickness. Note Anryu is thicker at the handle, but similar in width through much of the length of the blade:
Anryu left, Kurosaki right. Not terribly similar, but the Kurosaki is pretty unique in the grind department:
The whole shebang: