As you might know, I fond of unusual knives and partial toward Japanese traditional construction.
So when I last visited JKC in order to finally use my old credit there, it is a little wonder I have ended up with the strangest wa-gyuto I have ever seen.
Other then its name, Takefu, and the length (210mm) I know very little about this knife. It is definitely carbon steel (it stains!), came wickedly sharp out of the box and that's about it... I got is because it was the only wa-gyuto they had and being a bit of an odd ball only made it more attractive in my eyes.
The knife is heavy, almost as heavy as the longer 9" Wusthof. It is extremely blade heavy for such a size, about 40mm in frin if the heel. No doubt, this in part due to the handle which rather small and short, D shaped, wooden thing - probably Maccasar Ebony but not sure - it is lighter and leaning more to the brown then most Maccasar Ebony I have seen but is not out of the natural variation for the species.
The handle hardly tapers - maybe 2mm difference front to end. Another odd thing - the ferrule does not look like horn and resembles the Shun's Paka wood more then everything else but I cannot imagine anyone making a ferrule from that – or am I wrong?
There is a hidden copper coloured metal ferrule inside the external blackish ferrule and between that ferrule and the blade there is a filling of some light coloured material. Did I say odd...???
The blade is as odd as the handle. Looking carefully, one can see that it is a layered construction. Contrary to other Suminagashi knives where the layers alternate between two types of steel and the blade is etched with acid in order to expose the layers, the layers are hardly visible and appear to be from one type of metal. They also appear to be the metal used for the core - the blade is bright throughout its width.
Having made gyoza for dinner was a good chance to compare this knife with the similar sized Shun ai-deba and the Suisin funayuki deba. Just see the sacrifice I make for the sake of science - I had to wash three knives instead on one...
The Shun is a heavy thing, weighting, at 210mm more then the 25mm Wusthof. It is also, even after sharpening, not as sharp as the other two carbon steel knives though it is definitely sharper now then when new. Whether that's down to my sharpening skills or down to the differences between steel types I cannot say. The shun is the toughest of the three and inspiring more confident for those big jobs such as halving a pineapple, or in this case, a cabbage.
The first task was very fine shredded cabbage, and the finer the better. The funayuki, weighting just slightly more then a typical gyuto together with its extreme sharpness and single bevel construction was a clear winner. It was followed by the Takefu but being a double, convex bevelled, it was just not as good. Also, as this task was somewhere between slicing and chopping, the weight and balance of the Takefu contributing to it being less suitable. The Shun, being the heaviest (though better balanced then the Takefo - only about 20mm in front of the bolster) and less sharp then the other came third.
Finely chopping spring onions and julienning ginger, I came with same results: Suisin, then Takefu and then Shun. However, in two handed fine dicing of the ginger (and garlic) where the left hand is supporting the spine of the knife and the right handed is rocking the knife up and down the order was different. Here the Takefu came first, Having just the right weight to task combined with its extreme sharpness and curvier belly, especially toward the back of the blade, made it the perfect knife for the job. The shun was also able to put its weight to a good use here while the funauki, being lighter and almost flat in the last third of the blade did not fare as good in this task. It also feels the most delicate of the three so I just did not feel as confident in a task that involves continuously hitting the board.
I have tried to make a comparative picture of the three but realised I need day light for that. Under the artifical light everything gets awfully yellow with reflections that are impossible to control (without a tent).
I will post the pics including the requested close up of my Watanabe tomorrow.