Initial Review: Kaneshige 175mm Blue 2 Nakiri

I’m a sucker for tall pro­files and yew and ichii ho han­dles. That’s a per­sonal weak­ness, and I know it. So when I bought a Kaneshige 175mm blue 2 damascus-clad nakiri for a very eco­nom­i­cal price, I was quite keen to give it a try. I have some ini­tial thoughts to share with you, but the prob­lem is that I don’t know how trans­ferrable this info is for you.

Here’s why: Kaneshige is Kono­suke Sakai, and they don’t make any knives them­selves. They are a brand house who sub­con­tracts every­thing out to dif­fer­ent Sakai crafts­men. There­fore, they use dif­fer­ent smiths and dif­fer­ent sharp­en­ers for dif­fer­ent prod­uct lines. It’s tough to say any­thing that would apply across the board for their dif­fer­ent knives and dif­fer­ent prod­uct lines because it’s really com­par­ing apples to oranges.

So what kind of orange did I get? This par­tic­u­lar knife is made begin­ning to end by a young crafts­man who appar­ently has really good poten­tial with his forg­ing but is still work­ing on his grinding.

I’d say that was pretty fair infor­ma­tion I was given up front. The store also rec­om­mended that I check out sev­eral sam­ples and choose one that I liked best because each was slightly dif­fer­ent from the other. No, not like Takeda where the pro­files are dif­fer­ent — lengths and heights — but the grind is gen­er­ally sim­i­lar across the board (for a given batch). In this case, the pro­files were all the same but the qual­ity of the grinds and the dis­tal taper­ing from fer­rule to “tip” were all different.

I chose one that had good dis­tal taper and which just bal­anced well in my hand. The grind along each face of the knife was not quite per­fect, because you could see a slight bit of wavi­ness in the sur­face as you looked “up” from spine to edge. Okay, fine. And I thought this one had an inter­est­ing cen­ter­line asym­me­try to its edge that almost gave it a single-bevel kind of “feel” to it when I looked from the choil forward.

Here are the high points of what I told the main man at the store:

  • The cladding is totally non-reactive. It ignores every­thing around it. If you told me it was stain­less clad, I’d say that seems about right. It’s not stain­less, and some folks have reported the cladding being super-crazy reac­tive, but it sure seems to ignore every­thing like stain­less for me! This is a very low-maintenance knife in that regard — per­fect for my wife who wants no-fuss no-muss. 
  • The hagane kicks up a burr super easy, but get­ting that edge fin­ished the way I want it took a lit­tle bit of time. Very toothy feel to the steel.
  • For my par­tic­u­lar one, it steers a bit to the right unless I com­pen­sate for it. It’s cen­ter­line is asym­met­ric off to the left when look­ing from choil, spine down. So that would account for its lik­ing to steer right.
  • The way the hagane just kicked up a burr instantly reminded me of the Watan­abe gyu­tos I’ve sharp­ened. The rest of the pro­gres­sion unfor­tu­nately wasn’t though.
  • It’s really easy to get a decent edge but at least on the stones I used that day it took a bit of doing to refine the edge.

So… what’s my ver­dict so far on it?

Sure, I got this knife for a very eco­nom­i­cal price, but it was still money. I’m def­i­nitely not fond of the sharp­en­ing expe­ri­ence on it. It gets started really well, but that core steel just doesn’t want to refine very eas­ily. Def­i­nite tooth­i­ness though, so I think that’s what the smith was aim­ing for. He wanted a steel that would be toothy but not super-refined. It’s just not how I nor­mally fin­ish my knives!

Remem­ber how I said the knife at the choil reminded me of a single-bevel the way it was just vis­i­bly off-center? Well, it’s like a single-bevel alright — but for left­ies. Frick, think about it: it’s off-center to the left when viewed from the choil, spine down. That means more mate­r­ial to the left side of the knife when edge down. I wasn’t think­ing when I saw it and thought it might be worth try­ing — this thing is unin­ten­tion­ally designed to suit lefties.

Although another seller out of his good heart put a D-handle on a new knife for me remem­ber­ing that I’m a lefty… unfor­tu­nately I’m a righty and not a lefty. (I had to pay to have a new han­dle put on that par­tic­u­lar knife — it’s too bad too because I really liked the high-quality ho han­dle the seller put on it but it wouldn’t fit the other way around.)

What am I going to do with this knife?

I’m going to give it a try another week. And then sharpen it again at the end of the week. If I’m still not a big fan of the knife, I’m going to sell it and openly state that it’s made for left­ies. That can actu­ally be a sell­ing point because those poor left­ies get left out a lot!

Any­how, remem­ber that these obser­va­tions don’t apply across the board to all Kaneshige knives or all Kaneshige nakiri. The nature of the hagane, forg­ing and grind only apply to those Kaneshige made by this par­tic­u­lar crafts­man … and unless you ask your retailer, you won’t know who the hell made the knife. In fact, unless the retailer has a close rela­tion­ship with the folks at Kono­suke, they prob­a­bly wouldn’t be able to tell you.

So I guess the real take­away for you is this: you get what you pay for. Knives that have eco­nom­i­cal prices have eco­nom­i­cal prices for a rea­son. Par­tic­u­larly when they’re hand­made knives. And now that I think about it… the price for this knife wasn’t that eco­nom­i­cal com­pared to other also hand­made and also eco­nom­i­cal knives. Those ones were bet­ter made and cost sig­nif­i­cantly less. Which are those other ones? My Tanakas.

This par­tic­u­lar knife doesn’t kick ass, and the young crafts­man who made it still has some way to go, but in the mean­time you can get out there to kick ass and have fun!

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