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!