As part of the first Chowhound Knife Passaround (that I know of), I recently tried out Chemicalkinetic’s carbonext santoku for a couple weeks. The only real ground rule was that I couldn’t reprofile the blade.
Here is the initial thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/785892
Let me get one thing out of the way right off the bat. I’m not enamored of santokus. I don’t hate em or anything. I just prefer a longer gyuto for all-around use and prefer a nakiri or Chinese cleaver as a more specialized vegetable/fun knife. The following is my review:
First impressions/ fit and finish:
First off – Eiron did a fine job sharpening the knife. Nice, clean ~15 degree bevels, very smooth edge (I’m gonna guess you took it up to a ~6k stone and spent some time there, Eiron?), shaved cleanly throughout the length of the blade.
The profile has a little curve to it as Chem pointed out. I could see this appealing to a broad range of people, since it was still easy to push cut with, but also transitioned quite easily to rocking. Balance point is right at the end of the bolster. Good feel to the handle – similar to the Tojiro DP handle but a little less boxy. Handle is slightly smallish, but that’s expected in a shorter knife. Nice distal taper – maybe a bit better than the Tojiro DP and pretty similar to my Hiromoto AS. The spine was in the range of 2 mm thick over the heel, and it tapered down respectably behind the edge – not to the same degree as a ‘laser’ (konosuke, yusuke, suisin, etc) but a nice balance of thinness and strength for an all-around blade. Actually, pretty similar to my Hiromoto AFTER I thinned the Hiromoto to my liking. No misground spots or overground spots. So basically, the factory grind is quite good for an all-around knife.
I had no major qualms with the fit and finish. The blade looked nice. Nothing sloppy. Handle was well fitted and smooth. Spine could have been a bit more rounded, but I seldom see a well rounded spine on a knife in the CarboNext’s price range. I didn’t get to experience the factory edge, obviously. No high polish or elaborate pattern, but certainly nothing to complain about either.
As I’ve said above, it transitioned easily between a pushing cut and a rocking cut. The tip was thin, precise, and by virtue of the knife being fairly short it was quite easy to do fine precise work with it. It was a little prone to accordion cuts when chopping quickly straight up and down, but could handle small items that way. The knife has an ever-so-slight righty bias, but food release was on par with other knives in the price range and style. It’s a santoku, so it didn’t have quite the all around versatility of a gyuto or the blazing efficiency of say a Chinese cleaver. But it did what I think santokus are supposed to do and did it very well – it was an exceptionally easy knife to use and to adjust to. No learning curve.
I sharpened it soon after I got it in the mail (no offense Eiron – sharpening is an important part of how I evaluate a knife) and again soon before I sent it back to Chem. I used what’s become my most standard progression – 800 King, 2k superstone, 8k superstone, newspaper stropping. Compared to my knives and the knives I sharpen for others, what stood out the most is that the Carbonext seemed to be a little trickier in terms of burr removal. I would build up a nice burr, weaken it a bit, and then remove it (soft wood) – and found myself left with a surprisingly ragged edge that needed more passes on the stone and sometimes another burr removal. So sharpening took a bit longer than I have grown accustomed to for most knives. On the upside, the edge eventually got nice and sharp.
I finished with a steep, one sided microbevel applied on the 8k stone only (right hand side) – that’s a move I stole from J Broida, btw, and I’ve been liking the technique quite a bit, especially when sharpening for line cooks, so thanks. I was left with a very nice edge that push cut very well, still had some bite (from that 2-8k jump) but also had very nice edge retention.
I used that edge for a solid week and tried to put it through its paces – made a big batch of kimchi, a lot of prep-heavy dinners. No touch ups. At the end of the week, the edge still shaved, but didn’t pop hairs. One section of the middle of the edge didn’t shave very well at all. 30 seconds stropping on chrome ox loaded leather fixed that, and brought the edge back into ‘scary’ territory. I did notice on VERY small chip in the middle of the blade after that week. Very small – came out within just a couple minutes on the 800 stone. One tiny chip probably isn’t enough to even be significant – it doesn’t really tell me anything.
It’s hard to really measure the edge retention with only a week and a half of solid use. It seems to be roughly on par with my Hiromoto, maybe a bit better. Not quite the extreme improvement some of the knife forums guys have made it out to be. But more than respectable, especially for the price.
This is a good all around knife and I can see why it’s popular. It seems to be most often compared with the Hirmoto due to similarity in price, edge retention, all-around usage, and profile. Functionally, it seems to have more in common with stainless steel than carbon in terms of reactivity, which makes it a good choice for just about anyone. Excellent edge retention (though maybe not as amazing as I had hoped), easy usage, and a nice high-performance grind that still sports some durability make this knife and presumably the Carbonext series a great choice for people who just want a great knife. I can see why this series is popular with line cooks.
For home cooks, it is still a great option. For me personally as a home cook and kitchen knife enthusiast, that little extra bit of stainlessness and marginal improvement in edge retention over other knives in the price range is nice, but not strictly necessary. For me, the look and ease of sharpening of the Hiromoto AS is preferable, even though there are a few areas where the Carbonext seems to outshine it (stainlessness, edge retention, factory grind, maybe F&F).
Still, in its price range, it would be on my short list of recommendations.
Thanks again to Chem. I’ll post a couple pics shortly.