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 Post subject: Kurosaki R2 Western
PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 9:14 pm 

Joined: Thu May 24, 2012 6:20 am
Posts: 2756
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:

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 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: 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:


Cody's hanywork:


The whole shebang:


 Post subject: Re: Kurosaki R2 Western
PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2015 6:59 am 

Joined: Tue May 27, 2014 2:24 am
Posts: 515
Location: Texas
Great review, as always. Hope you get to feeling better.

 Post subject: Re: Kurosaki R2 Western
PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2015 7:53 pm 

Joined: Sun Oct 13, 2013 9:37 pm
Posts: 415
Nice write-up Ryan. I have to be honest, considering your dislike for weighty westerns and the limited time you had the knife, I really thought you weren't going to like the knife that much. Glad you enjoyed it.

You mentioned a few things I too didn't side with from the brass bolster to the lack of distal taper towards the tip, which I feel should really be addressed. I've messaged with a few Kurosaki knife owners, and we shared the same thoughts on that front. Hopefully, Mark can work the strings to have Kurosaki-San taper them more towards the tip in the future. A laser-like tip would be killer. Again, thanks for sharing.

Here are a few more detailed pictures of the sayas.


The tapered interior housing is a nice touch. Not sure if this is standard practice for custom sayas or not, but I like it. :D


Cody really rounded out the edges on the Kurosaki saya. NICE!


 Post subject: Re: Kurosaki R2 Western
PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2015 3:41 pm 

Joined: Sun Dec 30, 2012 11:01 pm
Posts: 599
Location: ATL
I had the pleasure of using Charlemagne’s knife this past week and I’m very appreciative of his generosity, thank you. I thought I’d focus my comments
on how she behaved in a home cook setting as the one knife for all prep session. I’ll comment and add on briefly to Cedar’s thorough review,
but plan to focus on how she cuts food since that’s why we buy these wonderful sharp shiny things.

I really enjoyed the flattish profile and the height was right in my wheelhouse for my preferred push cuts and light chopping action.
The overall weight of the knife felt a bit off for some reason. I don’t mean the balance point, but it was almost like it should have weighed more than it did.
Possibly due to the weightiness of the handle, but I expected more mass to the blade. None of this translated negatively in use though, it was just an observation.
In comparison, the Toshi-Hiro Wakui that’s being passed around arrived a couple days ago and my immediate comment was WOW this thing is heavy. It’s all blade
with a basic chestnut handle, so maybe the substantial handle on the Kurosaki does hide some of the blade heft as it’s sure smack dab in the middleweight category.

A little more on the handle, I’m not a fan of micarta so the handle was a bit too hard and cold for my tastes. If the scales had been wood I would have loved it.
Otherwise the handle is very nice, I like the shape and attention to detail that went into it and in general I’m not opposed to this type of western style full tang handle.
After saying all that, what I learned was I would like to revisit this knife with a nice Japanese octagonal wood handle and see what the change in weight does to it.

The custom saya is beautiful and I still have no idea where the seams are on the thing. It’s very well done and Cody can be proud of his handy work on it.



So enough with all the nit picking and philosophical pontificating, the real question is how did the knife perform when she was put to work?
Well the short answer is she was very well behaved and ate up pretty much whatever I threw at her. She really shined with softer ingredients
and dicing veggies like bell peppers. The girl got caught up once or twice on the vertical cuts in onion, but I’m willing to accept operator error
rather than blame her.

Where she really put a smile on my face was cubing a 3 lb chuck roast for the stew. The young lass made me feel like a surgeon the way she took
to that hunk of meat. I mean it was effortless and pure joy.

She did struggle a few times on breaking down a medium sized butternut, but again we can look at the operator here because she really likes to slice
and the few times she balked I noticed I was doing less slicing and more pushing. So in reality she was telling me how she likes to be handled.
She’ll go hard, but just don’t push on her. In the end the squash was no match, but it was the only ingredient that stuck to the blade
below the hammer marks and stuck pretty tightly.


When it was all said and done we accomplished the task set out in front of her, and that was to prep the entire meal with one knife
and see where the gaps may be. There wasn’t a single task where I thought, hmm I wish I had X knife to do this.
In the end you can do most anything you need with this gal and she hang with you through it all.
I’d liken this knife to a female soccer player; athletic, doesn’t mind getting dirty and a bit rough and tumble,
but in the end don’t forget that she is still a lady because if you do she’ll be sure to remind you.


 Post subject: Re: Kurosaki R2 Western
PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2015 4:25 pm 

Joined: Fri Jun 06, 2014 11:21 am
Posts: 332
Location: Long Island, NY
Ryan, Thanks very much for this post. Very well written as usual. I especially appreciated the section on the handle. It's helping me immensely.

As I think I may have mentioned I'm the present owner of the Takagi Honyaki you referenced: (review here: takagi-honyaki-gyuto-t8407.html). From the first time I used the Takagi I started thinking about changing that handle and in my head I started sketching out something very similar to what's shown on the Kurosaki.

Something about these flat profile push cutters, from a balance standpoint, just seems to beg for the weight to be shifted to the back of the knife. Yet with a shortish blade height it would be a tricky proposition to increase the grip diameter too much. Knuckles + board contact = Bad.

Thank you again for the review. It's helps reconfirm some of the stuff I have in my head for the Takagi project.


Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing when and if to put it in a fruit salad.
 Post subject: Re: Kurosaki R2 Western
PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2015 8:30 pm 

Joined: Thu May 24, 2012 6:20 am
Posts: 2756
snipes, nice review....that stew looks awesome. I love the pics of all the products before and after prep. Those sorts of things really get my mouth watering.

Rob, no problem. I agree about the handle diameter. The shortish knives I have used that I liked all had smallish handles to accommodate my meaty hands.

 Post subject: Re: Kurosaki R2 Western
PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2015 10:33 pm 

Joined: Sat Mar 14, 2015 9:29 pm
Posts: 46
those saya are gorgeous....

Thanks for the review, it has given me some ideas on my first jk.

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