Thank you to Mark and CKTG for making this knife available to the community. As always your support of the JK community is really outstanding and makes collecting, using, and sharing these knives a more fulfilling hobby. Also thank you to bigwoolymammoth for orchestrating this pass around. It is not a small task.
The knife we are looking at is the Toshihiro Wakui 210mm gyuto with the hairline finish (brushed steel) and a burnt chestnut handle with plastic ferrule. I forgot to take measurements but the 210mm seemed oversized for a 210mm. The knife is not currently available on CKTG but it will be soon.
The original pass around thread can be found here: new-passaround-toshi-hiro-wakui-t8876.html
The community review thread for this pass around is here: re-new-passaround-toshi-hiro-wakui-210-gyuto-t9097.html
I really struggled with how to make sense of this knife. It has SO MANY things I generally abhor in a knife, yet it was SO MUCH fun to use. Final answer: a biblically good knife...though not for everyone.
So at first blush the knife has a few knocks.
First, the handle is shit. Even if some people love burnt chestnut handles, no one loves plastic ferrules.
Second, the knife is a behemoth. We have, as a community, fetishized lasers and laser like performance to such a degree it poisons our open mindedness about knives. Even stunningly brilliant knives like the Teruyasu-Fujiwara and the Konosuke Fujiyama are often described as "thick, BUT excellent performers." As though we need to excuse the girth of a knife even when the performance is sublime. So pervasive is this bias even I, who likes beefier knives, have a strong negative visceral reaction to zaftig knives...and this is a zaftig knife.
Third, and this was based on the product pictures not my handling of the knife, brushed steel finishes are what idiots like me do to their knives with ScotchBrite pads when they have ruined the OEM finish. My expectations were not high.
But these initial impressions proved unjust...or at least out of context. After meditating on it while sitting on the bottom of my shower after a long run, I finally realized how to contextualize this knife and I realized this is a really excellent knife.
First off, the aesthetics:
The fit and finish on this knife is first rate. All the edges are contoured, not just eased. This was an incredibly comfortable knife to handle.
The brushed finish is not chitzy at all. It walks the hairline between handmade character and anesthetic industrial. The overall effect is clean and elegant but not cold and soulless.
The handle is crap and there is no excusing that but I will come back to this momentarily.
The knife is a heavy middleweight with a blade heavy balance. I meant to take a picture with the knife balanced for reference and I forgot...sorry. The weight and blade forward balance make the blade a very aggressive cutter. This thing drives itself through product. It is like a running back that craves and initiates contact rather than skirts it. Not all blades have good feel on the board but this one is at once satisfyingly stout and comfortably insulated even with fairly aggressive use. It really is a fun knife to hammer away with.
The weight is matched by a monstrous grind. It is a thick blade. The grind starts about one third back from the edge with a defined shoulder, this did not bode well. I get along ok with thicker knives...better than most, I think, but I cannot abide pronounced shoulders. You see, there are two modes of wedging. The first is when a knife just gets stuck in product. The second failure mode is when the resistance to the cut increases unexpectedly, often resulting in the knife wedging in failure mode #1. Thick knives are more prone to wedging in failure mode #1. Knives with defined shoulders are more guilty of mode #2 where resistance sneaks up and surprises you. A thick knife with shoulders....my god!
But this knife performed extremely well. The blade was certainly prone to wedging in some products. I would never use this knife on a gourde, for example, and thick, hard carrots were as likely to break as actually cut. However, resistance in the cut telegraphed very predictably and the knife moved through produce very smoothly, almost like it was lubricated. Coupled with the high overall weight and the blade forward balance, the blade never stopped in a cut for me. On smaller and softer ingredients, the blade dropped through them of its own volition.
While steel performance is almost impossible to assess in any meaningful way in such a short time, the edge got stupid sharp and held up pretty well given my tendency to chop more with this knife than is typically my habit.
So how did I finally contextualize this knife? If you imagine high performance knives lined up by weight class, you might start with Kono lasers, Takamuras, and Suisin Inox honyakis on one end; in the middle Kono Fujiyamas, Teruyasu-Fujiwaras, Takayuki Ginsans, and Sukenari ZDP-189s; and capping this progression, the Toshihiro Wakui. It would be easy to overpraise a knife merely by listing it in this company but the unifying feature of all these knife is two fold. First, these knives all outperform expectations relative to physical observation of the blade. Over and over again, any of these knives can be handed to a JK enthusiasts and be reliably counted on to wow. Second, all these knives have flawless aesthetics. The aesthetics may not appeal to all users but I defy you to point to a specific aesthetic element on any of these and tell me it is WRONG. By those criteria, I think this is a pretty special knife and should the early indications of a ~$200 price tag prove accurate, this knife is well worth full retail price PLUS the cost of a rehandle.
Of course, even in such rarefied company, not every knife appeals to every enthusiasts. If you DO NOT LIKE thick blades and it is not just crowd induced bias, you will hate this knife. If you DO NOT LIKE heavy knives or blade heavy knives, then these are not the droids you are looking for.
In closing, I couldn't help but imagine what I might do rehandle wise, if this knife were mine. I have two thoughts. First, if you want to go highclass, something in the vein of the Konosuke Fujiyama ebony handles. Something that will neutralize the balance a bit, put a Tux on this brute, all while retaining the muscle of the knife by the net addition of mass. Alternatively, something more like the Teruyasu-Fujiwara ho wood handle with buffalo horn. That handle is oversized with a pronounced taper. The result is a handle that feels as substantial as the knife, balancing the knife both in feel and appearance without significantly moving the center of mass back.
I did not take many photos of this knife. Mawgface has some really artsy shots of his here: new-passaround-toshi-hiro-wakui-t8876-10.html
. The choil shot does not look like the example I had. Steves photos are of the knife I sampled and of excellent quality: new-passaround-toshi-hiro-wakui-t8876-10.html
I did take one shot. This is a choil shot comparing the T-F, Toshihiro Wakui, and Masakage Shimo. These are this beefiest knives I own...as a point of comparison: