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"Western" semi-stainless

Sun Jul 29, 2012 7:54 am

I'm interested in a new semi-stainless knife. I'm open to Wa handles, but I'm also interested in a Western option. I'm wondering if the KonoHD is ever going to be available as a 240 Western again. I'm also curious how people would compare this knife to the Kikuichi TKC 240 or the Kikuichi Damascus (I would be interested in other clad knives, although I'd prefer them to be nice and thin and not prone to chipping). I know the Kono is loved by many (and is the trendier of the two), but I'm less interested in "the knife of the moment" and more interested in great geometry and a durable edge. I don't sharpen to extreme angles, but I do like a thin, sharp blade that will hold its edge for a nice long time in the HOME kitchen. I tend to hit the board a little hard and occasionally cut through hard seeds or stems since I'm still developing my technique or want to work quickly, so something that can take a little abuse in this fashion is a plus.

I've also looked at/considered the Richmond Remedy, which seems like a fantastic knife but is out-of-stock and maybe a bit too thin at the expensive of versatility for me. Unfortunately, the Ultimatum seems a bit long (I'd actually prefer a knife that is under 240, such as the 235 Kono). I haven't given up on the laser, although I think I'd prefer the semi-stainless options to the AEB-L.

Any thoughts are welcome (including recommendations), but please base them on personal experience with these blades.

Re: "Western" semi-stainless

Sun Jul 29, 2012 8:17 am

There aren't many semi stainless choices out there right now. The Konosuke HD and TKC are two, the third is the Carbonext, which is like the TKC from what I have heard, but with a smaller handle. The Kikuichi Damascus I believe is VG-10 core and stainless damascus on the outside.

What about a clad blade with a carbon core and stainless cladding? Only the exposed carbon steel will patina and the rest will remain shiny. The Hiromoto AS and Kanehiro's are like this.

Re: "Western" semi-stainless

Sun Jul 29, 2012 8:39 am

Thanks, taz. I do mention that I'm open to clad options, and am aware of the VG-10 core on the damascus Kikuichi. Most of these seem more "exotic" than I need (i.e., paying for looks more than performance). However, I am aware of the Hiromoto as a possible option, and am now aware of the Kanehiro. My sense is these knives (well, at least the Hiromoto) is perhaps not quite the geometry/balance that I am looking for, but that is based on reading some reviews of it (and not my personal experience). I admit that I am little concerned about the reputation such blades have for chipping (it seems like some of these "core" blades are made extra hard or extra thin behind the edge, and are thus very delicate despite feeling heavier and heftier than "lasers"). However, if you have some experience with these and can back up their performance, I'm all ears!

I am not at all concerned about discoloration, but am concerned about rust or harmful corrosion on the edge. I take good care of my knives, but I live in a humid climate and sometimes a knife may not get used for a week or more while I'm away from home.

I should add that my biggest concern about the handle is sanitary—working at home in a smaller space, my knife is often (accidentally) set down in the midst of meat or veggie juice, etc., and I feel like a Wa handle would not appreciate such company!

Re: "Western" semi-stainless

Sun Jul 29, 2012 9:16 am

Yeah, thinner steels sometimes can't take the very shallow edge angles. VG-10 has a reputation for chipping; I haven't seen it, but I also don't abuse my knives and I keep the edges a bit thicker. The chipping seems to happen when people go crazy trying to get super thin edges. A lower rockwell hardness and a slightly thicker edge will help reduce chipping. The Hiromoto blades are a tad beefier than other non clad blades. My mom and aunt both have Hiro AS Santoku's for several years, no chipping. Maybe an Addict 2 with a new handle work work? It's a 240mm blade though; to get under 240mm, you usually have to drop down to a 210mm or get a Wa handled 240 where the 240 is the tip to handle/machi measurement rather than the heel to tip measurement.

Sanitary handles are easy. Have the Wa or Western rehandled with a synthetic material like Micarta or one of the laminates I make. They won't be phased by any juices or anything. I have beat on my laminates with a hammer with just some minor surface scuffing showing. I finally broke a layered piece using a 6 ton shop press. It was burlap layered up, so there were lots of areas where there isn't much fabric due to the open weave and the openings is where it cracked finally. Under normal use, the laminates I make won't be able to be broken by normal use! If they get dirty, wash clean and keep going!

The AEBL steel used in the Richmond Laser, Artifex and some other knives feels more like carbon in terms of sharpening and how the actual edge feels. I prefer carbon blades, but the AEBL is a very nice stainless and it's not too hard to sharpen.

Many of the Konosuke's are out of stock; they are incredibly popular!

Re: "Western" semi-stainless

Sun Jul 29, 2012 10:06 am

Again, a very informative post—thanks! The synthetic Wa is a very interesting proposition (something I hadn't thought of before). The truth is, I'm a bit let down by the weight balance of my current 210 Masamoto (VG stainless)—it feels too handle-heavy, even when the edge is at its sharpest. Also, the blade feels short despite being the longest knife that I have ever used regularly. I expect a 240 western will move the balance point further forward. Also, I don't mind a little extra weight: it is more about the sense of whether the point of the knife feels "floaty" versus it feeling like a point that is an extension of my wrist (the first is what I have, the second is what I want). That said, the extra ounce between the horimoto vs. the TKC would be a negative against the former assuming that performance was similar. I expect that I would really like the balance of a Wa handle for this reason, but – again – I expect I would get plenty of this with the longer 240 length and thicker/heavier blade in a western handle.

Are your synthetics expensive? And do they weigh nearly the same as standard Wa handles? Is this something that I could order through Mark, or would I have to order the knife and then send it to you separately? I imagine that, in this case, I'd go for a Konosuke HD, once the next batch comes in, and consider having it re-handled immediately or, perhaps, after a few weeks of use.

Since you make handles, perhaps you could answer this, too: do Wa handles have a life-expectancy? By this I mean, since they are held together by dowel and glue, do they tend to wear out with age in a way that rivets don't?

Finally, I like the profile of my masamoto, and think the addict may not be my style. I do think that the higher position of a Wa handle might be nice, though (it seems as if Wa handles add a little more clearance or height in the grip without adding steal or belly to the over-all profile of the knife, given that they are usually set above the top edge of the knife and using a thinner tang—perhaps I'm wrong about this, though).

Again, thanks for the informative posts!

Re: "Western" semi-stainless

Sun Jul 29, 2012 10:33 am

Each Western is different. I have run into some (Hiromoto AS) that have nearly solid bolsters; there is a little opening between the bolster and the tang that is hidden by the handle material. Others, like a Kanetsune and possibly a Kikuichi or maybe Tojiro (can't remember which) have hollow bolsters where the bolster is only around 2mm thick or so. This makes the knife a ton lighter! Also, there can be a lot of difference between a 210 and 240mm gyuto even in the same brand! The 240mm will often have a wider handle tang and a longer handle, which can shift the balance as well. I rehandled a Hiro AS 210 and 240 for Mark at CKTG and was surprised at how they varied in the feel/weight.

Most Wa handles knives are blade heavy. The Wa handles are fairly light weight. They usually use a tenon method to construct the handle. The lighter color Ho wood handle extends all the way under the ferrule. The ferrule is fitted to slip over the tenon from the Ho wood and reinforce the handle to prevent splitting. Traditional Wa handles are designed to be replaced once they wear out. The Ho wood grain raises when it's wet and gives more traction, yet many people sand and oil the handles to eliminate this. The Wa handles are simple because they are going to be replaced.

The synthetics vary in price. Regular factory made Micarta isn't too expensive; it's around $10-$15 or so for the handle material, but you are limited pretty much to black and white or what I can find in a thick enough block. The Laminates I make run $35-$50 for the material, depending on the size, types of fabric used, and if it is a 1 piece (solid material) or two piece handle (ferrule/bolster and then the longer handle portion). I can also use a synthetic like black Micarta for the ferrule and a laminate I make for the handle. The synthetic handles tend to be heavier than a Wa handle since it is a handle made from compressed fabric soaked in epoxy. I also use aluminum tubing to join the pieces together instead of a tenon joint. My Wa handles aren't designed to be replaced; I JB Quik Weld the handle to the tang and make sure the handle is fully sealed around the tang. For a handle to be redone with one of my Laminates, it's usually around $100 or so with the labor and return shipping added in. Factory Micarta will be a bit less since the material itself is less costly. I can also rehandle Western style knives with the synthetics, too.

Re: "Western" semi-stainless

Sun Jul 29, 2012 10:48 am

This is extremely helpful. I've been shopping for this new knife for a while (travel, moving, and my girlfriend have slowed me down by months, not to mention the changing konosuke inventory of CKTG!), but I hope to commit to something in the next month or so. Your advice and detailed description of the replacement-handle option is extremely helpful and widens my options/criteria considerably. Hopefully I'll get a few more responses to my questions about the blades themselves, which will also help (your info on the blades is helpful as well). Either way, I'm impressed by the handles you've done for Mark, and would feel entirely comfortable sending something to you if I go for the Wa option—the price seems more than reasonable given the product.

Many thanks, and feel free to add additional comments if something comes to mind.

Re: "Western" semi-stainless

Sun Jul 29, 2012 10:58 am

Thanks! Another option is a burl wood handle. These are slightly heavier than a Wa handle, but the wood has been stabilized with acrylics, so it is stable in water. They generally run around the same as the synthetics price wise, but they. I can also make a 1 piece Wa style handle with wood or synthetic scales. I can make a groove in the handles for the tang to sit in and epoxy them together. The blue burl handled Nakiri was done like this that's in the photo section.
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