Ever read a proper kitchen knife review? They’re usually found on specialist discussion forums, places that regular people with an interest in food rarely visit. Those forums are subsets of knife-as-weapon forums and crossover with gun forums. And in them lie a whole world of crazy. I’m not into all that, I’m only really interested in kitchen knives and have been for a long time. This Takeda knife was bought over 10 years ago. So it’s probably time to review it. I think this timescale is a reasonable user testing period.
This occurred to me when I thinned out the edge for the first time last week. Which, considering this is the knife I use and sharpen the most, is pretty incredible.
“Thinning out the edge” is necessary when regular sharpening becomes less effective because you’ve ground the edge up to where the bevel is thicker. You have to thin the whole bevel, grinding a new profile so that a nice thin edge is possible again. Questions below if you want to know more.
Most, probably all, knife reviews are done by a pretty excited bloke who has just received their latest hard earned gift to themselves. New knives are shiny and generally the sharpest they’ll be in their lifetimes (unless you know how to sharpen properly). But a good knife should really be judged on a lifetime’s worth of use and falling short of that then 10 years is just about adequate.
Takeda AS Gyutuo 21 cm (designated 小 small) is a hand made Japanese knife I bought direct from the maker. The black kurouchi hammered finish gives a rustic wabi-sabi beauty to the blade that hasn’t diminished over the years. The blue steel Aogami Steel (AS) core is laminated with softer carbon steel. From around 2012-13 Takeda stopped doing this AS finish and started their stainless clad NAS blades. The NAS knives have a much smoother less hammered looking kurouchi finish which is less aesthetically pleasing. The change from AS to NAS was in order to adapt to a surge in demand from Western cooks. Takeda knives are fitted with a traditional but unexciting octagonal rosewood handle and pakkawood ferrule. The epoxy filler where the tang joins the handle still looks fresh and flawless.
The hammering on the AS is so pronounced that there is a hollow in the middle of blade. The slight concavity of the blade and the kurouchi helps with food release. Anyone cutting cucumbers with their shiny new chefs knives knows this can be super annoying. Just above the edge, the hamon is quite uneven. A negative point especially after thinning the edge as it shows up as an unevenness in the hamon line.
The shape of the gyutuo is not traditional. The tall profile and point that bends down makes this more like a santoku which is why it’s the knife I turn to for any task. It’s the most versatile knife I own. At 21cm it’s long enough for most slicing tasks and short enough to be nimble. The point is particularly good for micro-brunoise garlic. It’s the only knife I own that can slice impossibly long thin films of lardo.
It’s the thinness of the blade and the edge that really makes this knife. Don’t worry about the aogami blue super steel because if you’ve read this far then you already know that it’s probably the best carbon steel for knife making. Great edge retention and sharpness. Let’s instead concentrate on how this third generation knife maker is perfecting his knife geometry. He has the confidence to forge, hammer and grind a profile so thin that it doesn’t really have a primary or secondary bevel. The bevel tapers to a natural edge, I call it a zero-bevel!
The edge has never chipped though in all fairness this knife rarely goes outside my home kitchen. On the other hand I cook a lot at home. When it has gone out of my kitchen, those who have handled the knife are amazed by the lightness and sharpness of it. It then gets back into my hands pretty quickly.
It is the geometry of the knife that sets it apart. Even when the edge isn’t all that sharp, it still handles like a sharp knife because of the thinness. That it has taken 10 years until I’ve felt the need to thin it, is testament to this. Maybe in another 10 years I’ll do another review after the next thinning. If I were rating knives this would be a nine out of ten. A point off for the uneven hamon and less than heart stopping handle. But then only weirdos review knives.