Please refer to photo, left to right:
Kai Seki Magoroku nakiri
Shun Kaji santoku
Shun dual core santoku
Miyabi birchwood guyoto
The nakiri is a home cook standard from Japan about thirty years ago. It is intended primarily for vegetables--safe, and easy to use. The other three are updates. The Shun knives change the profile to be more multi-purpose. The Miyabi is the Japanese version of the Western Chef knife. All three newer knives also feature updates to improve user comfort and performance.
Handle: The nakiri handle is 3/4 width full tang construction--wood, with an oval handle. The bolster is merely a metal ring around the wood, with no easy transition of fingers to slide from handle to blade. The Shun Kaji is full width full tang with a machined half bolster that affords an easy transition to a blade pinch grip. The Shun dual core handle feels like a traditional Japanese artisan knife with it's wooden octagonal handle and partial tang--but it has a great wide machined half bolster for continuity to the blade.
Profile: the Shun Kaji and dual core have a nearly identical profile with a belly that allows both traditional Japanese push cutting, rocking movements, and chopping--facilitated with a longer handle. The narrower, longer Miyabi birchwood has a straighter profile better focused on push cutting.
Balance point: The nakiri, dual core, and birchwood all have balance points just beyond the bolster. The Kaji has a balance point on the blade side of the bolster.
Weight: The nakiri feels to be the lightest, but not much lighter than either the birchwood or the dual core. The Kaji is noticeably heavier.
Blade materials: The nakiri has a thin unimetal blade that has maintained its sharpness with very limited maintenance for 30 years. The other three are made of multiple metals. The Kaji and the birchwood have a powder steel core surrounded on either side by a layered pair of complementary steels that have been processed to reveal patterns. The dual core knife has only two complementary steels that have been layered and folded to form a pattern. It has no core.
Impressions after cutting up a variety of vegetables of various densities and textures:
Dr. H was most comfortable using the dual core on all vegetables, but it was not always judged to be the most effective.
The birchwood was judged the sharpest--equally effective for most tasks--but seemed better suited for softer materials--maybe even sushi. The nakiri seemed least harmful, but required more effort.
I found all of the knives to be effective for most tasks, but did not see as much of an advantage for the dual core over the other knives. The knife I found most convenient and all purpose was the Kaji--because I felt I could most easily move up and down the handle to get best leverage: going pinch grip forward to get precision control, and back on the handle to chop or do a German style back slice. All the knives handled even the densest vegetables--like the acorn squash---but not with equal ease. The Kaji did it best for me.
=Grip and stroke: Dr. H held all of the knives at the very top of the handle--but never on the blade itself. He then guided the blade with great confidence with various push cuts.
I moved around the handle--especially appreciated a long handle--and sometimes used a pinch grip on the blade with a push cut, and other times back on the handle with a chop.
Conclusion: The dual core is perfect for Dr. H, bur I would not appreciate it enough to justify the price.
nakiri, santoku, dual core, guyoto
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