Kitchen knife nerds- why basic carbons?

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GarageBoy
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Kitchen knife nerds- why basic carbons?

Postby GarageBoy » Thu Oct 15, 2020 10:56 am

Why is basic carbon steel and low alloy so popular with japanese kitchen knives

All the chef knife nerds seems to agree hard carbon steel > soft gummy stainless with poor edge retention like Wusthof (btw: what's the property of cheap stainless that makes it gummy when sharpening?) It gets sharp easily, but everyone treats their white/blue - #1/#2 like they're made of glass. Is there a lesser used, higher alloy steel with good edge stability, and good strength so that when you hit a chicken bone, you don't get a giant chip? (Is that contradictory?)

Spyderco uses Super Blue and BD1N for the murray carter collaborations, and I know Triple B handmade and others have made 10V kitchen knives (but is the strength from 10V from being high alloy, or being able to be run harder?)

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Re: Kitchen knife nerds- why basic carbons?

Postby dj moonbat » Thu Oct 15, 2020 1:34 pm

If I were making kitchen knives, I think I would use different steels for knives that didn’t have to slam into a wooden board hundreds of times a day. Chef’s knives, which DO need to slam repeatedly into a board, probably shouldn’t be heavily alloyed, because the carbide chunks detract from edge stability. But a lot of the other blades don’t present that problem.

I am thrilled with my Yaxell knives, which are BD1N that Yaxell says is @ 63 HRC. That’s a couple points higher than the readings I’ve seen in the HRC Database thread for Spyderco knives, but who knows? Maybe Yaxell is lying. Anyway, they’re much harder than Henckels or Wusthof’s steels, which are close relatives of 440C, I think, and which they run @ something like 56. I’ve also had some great VG10 kitchen knives.

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Re: Kitchen knife nerds- why basic carbons?

Postby JRinFL » Thu Oct 15, 2020 1:49 pm

A large part of Japanese culture is maintaining tradition and that extends to cutlery and cooking. Style of blade, type of steel, method of use, and the stones used to maintain the blades are all part of the larger tradition. If you only look at any one piece here in the 21C, it will make little sense, so you have to view it as a whole. A whole that goes back decades or centuries.
Used to be JR in CT with a much earlier join date. :rolleyes: :spyder: Native in 440v was my gateway Spyderco! :spyder: Wharnie for the whin! Friends call me Jim. As do my foes.

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Re: Kitchen knife nerds- why basic carbons?

Postby qwkzotc » Thu Oct 15, 2020 2:29 pm

All of my Japanese slicers (razers) are SG2/R2. Anything that gets near a bone such as a Honesuki is a good blue/white carbon. I also have a full rack of Traditional/Spyderco kitchen knives and a 1 1/2lb full tang carbon Cleaver. Just like EDC, I think it is good to have a full range of steels, sizes and shapes available to choose from when you are ready to use them.
Last edited by qwkzotc on Fri Oct 16, 2020 3:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Kitchen knife nerds- why basic carbons?

Postby JohnDoe99 » Thu Oct 15, 2020 2:55 pm

GarageBoy wrote:
Thu Oct 15, 2020 10:56 am
Why is basic carbon steel and low alloy so popular with japanese kitchen knives

All the chef knife nerds seems to agree hard carbon steel > soft gummy stainless with poor edge retention like Wusthof (btw: what's the property of cheap stainless that makes it gummy when sharpening?) It gets sharp easily, but everyone treats their white/blue - #1/#2 like they're made of glass. Is there a lesser used, higher alloy steel with good edge stability, and good strength so that when you hit a chicken bone, you don't get a giant chip? (Is that contradictory?)

Spyderco uses Super Blue and BD1N for the murray carter collaborations, and I know Triple B handmade and others have made 10V kitchen knives (but is the strength from 10V from being high alloy, or being able to be run harder?)
Push Cutting.

It is far, far easier and faster to put a fine polish, keen edge on these steels compared to s110v for example, and in that industry you have to move fast. Plus, it's cheaper.

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Re: Kitchen knife nerds- why basic carbons?

Postby Cambertree » Thu Oct 15, 2020 8:09 pm

Tradition mainly, and partly edge fineness and finish at high levels of sharpening refinement.

I actually prefer stainlesses like VG10 and AEB-L on my kitchen knives. Spyderco’s MBS26 also performs very well in acute edge angles and refined finishes.

But I do have a pair of lefty Shirakis in Shirogami 1 - a yanagiba and a deba.

If you watch a Japanese itamae at work, they often do a little touch up sharpening on a shiageto (fine finishing) stone as they work, and before they do critical slices.

So they use knives in that upper echelon of sharpness, and it’s easy to keep carbon steels up there.

If you look at a CATRA edge retention graph line or some BESS readings, all steels drop off from that freshly sharpened level quite quickly.

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Re: Kitchen knife nerds- why basic carbons?

Postby Bill1170 » Thu Oct 15, 2020 11:02 pm

Good low alloy carbon steels are affordable, reasonably durable when ground thin, and easy to sharpen. That said, I only own one non-stainless kitchen knife because it was a gift and it cuts like a demon, but I prefer the easier maintenance and low odor of stainless steel in the kitchen.

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Re: Kitchen knife nerds- why basic carbons?

Postby GarageBoy » Fri Oct 16, 2020 6:52 am

I understand tradition, and the demand for high polish edges, but old school western chef knives were sharpened on a Norton India at best (and I guess steeling helps)

It just seems like everyone on reddit r/chefknives and kitchenknifeforums are all carbon = best (with some who are getting into SG2/R2/ZDP)

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Re: Kitchen knife nerds- why basic carbons?

Postby Evil D » Fri Oct 16, 2020 7:16 am

GarageBoy wrote:
Fri Oct 16, 2020 6:52 am
I understand tradition, and the demand for high polish edges, but old school western chef knives were sharpened on a Norton India at best (and I guess steeling helps)

It just seems like everyone on reddit r/chefknives and kitchenknifeforums are all carbon = best (with some who are getting into SG2/R2/ZDP)


You have to also consider they may just not know any better and/or they're repeating what they've always heard.


Traditions aside think of the typical stones being used (of they're even using stones and not some garbage pull through sharpener). Nobody wants to sharpen Rex 121 on an Arkansas stone. Carbon steels typically sharpen easily and take a keen edge without a lot of effort. How much edge retention do you really need when you're slicing veggies or sushi all day? For a knife that's getting used constantly I would opt for the steel that's easier to touch up quickly. Seems to me a high level of sharpness is more important than working edges in food prep.
SHARPEN IT LIKE YOU LOVE IT, USE IT LIKE YOU HATE IT
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Re: Kitchen knife nerds- why basic carbons?

Postby Granoo Fink » Fri Oct 16, 2020 8:06 am

If you are talking about western style kitchen cutlery made in Japan, there will be no reason not to use any high(er) alloy steel.
If you value the esthetic appeal and use of a carefully crafted Kasumi knife, well...

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Re: Kitchen knife nerds- why basic carbons?

Postby GarageBoy » Fri Oct 16, 2020 8:07 am

The kitchen knife nerds are all about high end waterstones (shapton glass, chosera, Suehrio Cerax, etc) - I guess those don't do well with higher carbide steels

I was thinking since edge durability is a thing, would something like K390 help? Or at kitchen knife thinness, it won't do better than, say Super Blue

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Re: Kitchen knife nerds- why basic carbons?

Postby Granoo Fink » Fri Oct 16, 2020 8:36 am

The race isn't over with shaptons, some will end up with ridiculous expensive chunks of Japanese mountains, which have silicates (even softer than alumina) as abrasive.
But, man, V-Toku responds so we'll to an ohira...

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Re: Kitchen knife nerds- why basic carbons?

Postby Pokey » Fri Oct 16, 2020 9:23 am

Two of the kitchen knives I have that would probably compare head to head for blade profile and cutting ability would be the Itamae Petty (Super Blue) and the plain ol' 4.5" Utility Knife (MBS-26).

I did have an issue with the Petty and trying to sharpen it. It seems that despite using the diamond, brown and white Tri-Angles it acted like I wasn't touching the very edge. It took a long time on the brown and white Tri-Angles to remove the sparkly little glinting off the edge. Maybe I was just working to re-profile it to match the 15°angle of the Tri-Angles. I've got it to the point where the edge is now getting sharper on the Petty, but it's not quite at the point where I can do a push cut on a ripe tomato, it still wants to crush the tomato. Once I pierce the skin it cuts very well. The Utility Knife won't slide across the skin on the tomato, it slices into it as soon as I start pushing. It also feels like it's cutting very smooth, no grittiness. Right now the Utility Knife does the best job for me.

Two other knives I've tried have been an Endura (VG-10, Saber ground) and a PM 2 (52100, CE). The Endura will want to twist in your hand and make an uneven cut if you let it, and nothing has a chance under the PM 2; will cut anything with that CE. The 52100 steel will give off a noticeable metallic odor, though. The Endura and PM 2 would work well if you were camping and wanted to carry one knife and leave the expensive kitchen knives at home.

I'd like to try a 3.5"-4.5" (~8.9-11.5 cm) kitchen knife with a plain edge in 52100 or K390.

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Re: Kitchen knife nerds- why basic carbons?

Postby prog_knife » Fri Oct 16, 2020 10:15 am

I'm dumb about kitchen knives myself, but can contribute two points of secondhand, anecdotal knowledge:

1. I used to work as a host in a high-end (Michelin-starred, ~$150 8-course kaiseki prix fixe, frequent bills of $1k+ with drinks) Japanese restaurant here in NYC. The head chef would give his knives a vigorous sharpening on traditional bench stones every single night after the customers left. I think basic carbon steels are favorable for this kind of routine due to the ease of sharpening.

2. My best buddy is also Japanese and a chef (working in a western restaurant), and favors finer-grained steels for cooking. He uses stainless like VG-10 and Sandvik steels in his knives at work, but I think the common denominator with your basic carbon steels is the ease of maintaining a very sharp, non-toothy edge.
He EDCs a Para 3 in S30V and loves it though :D
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Re: Kitchen knife nerds- why basic carbons?

Postby Cambertree » Fri Oct 16, 2020 5:23 pm

Pokey wrote:
Fri Oct 16, 2020 9:23 am
Two of the kitchen knives I have that would probably compare head to head for blade profile and cutting ability would be the Itamae Petty (Super Blue) and the plain ol' 4.5" Utility Knife (MBS-26).

I did have an issue with the Petty and trying to sharpen it. It seems that despite using the diamond, brown and white Tri-Angles it acted like I wasn't touching the very edge. It took a long time on the brown and white Tri-Angles to remove the sparkly little glinting off the edge. Maybe I was just working to re-profile it to match the 15°angle of the Tri-Angles. I've got it to the point where the edge is now getting sharper on the Petty, but it's not quite at the point where I can do a push cut on a ripe tomato, it still wants to crush the tomato. Once I pierce the skin it cuts very well. The Utility Knife won't slide across the skin on the tomato, it slices into it as soon as I start pushing. It also feels like it's cutting very smooth, no grittiness. Right now the Utility Knife does the best job for me.

Two other knives I've tried have been an Endura (VG-10, Saber ground) and a PM 2 (52100, CE). The Endura will want to twist in your hand and make an uneven cut if you let it, and nothing has a chance under the PM 2; will cut anything with that CE. The 52100 steel will give off a noticeable metallic odor, though. The Endura and PM 2 would work well if you were camping and wanted to carry one knife and leave the expensive kitchen knives at home.

I'd like to try a 3.5"-4.5" (~8.9-11.5 cm) kitchen knife with a plain edge in 52100 or K390.
Pokey, it sounds like you still haven’t quite apexed that Petty yet. Do you have any benchstones? Feel free to PM me if you want a recommendation for a guy in Kyoto I deal with. I like the Naniwa Choseras for low alloy carbon steels. Those knives will also perform well at angles lower than 15 dps, and can easily take it.

I also like using the VG10 Endura as a kitchen utility knife, and it was my camp food prep knife for a few years too. Does yours always want to ‘steer’ to the same side when you slice through thick foodstuffs? The edge angle may be uneven on one side.

I just put mine on the goniometer and it’s around 10dps. It’s a convexed edge, so it doesn’t give an exact reading. But it doesn’t steer off course, or twist in the hand.

You have some nice knives. I’ll be interested to hear more as you keep refining the edge on that Petty.

That CE 52100 PM2 is a beast of a cutter, hey? I love the precision of the fine PE tip too.

I’d also be interested in K390 in a kitchen knife. And 52100 would also be great in an inexpensive slicer.

I wonder if Spyderco might consider a 52100 sprintrun in the Z-Cuts out of Golden one day?

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Re: Kitchen knife nerds- why basic carbons?

Postby zhyla » Fri Oct 16, 2020 6:07 pm

I know that there are fantastic stainless steels that are superior to traditional carbon steels. And the stainless aspect is nice.

However.

You can’t just buy any $50 santoku with stainless steel and trust that it will hold an edge. At that price range stainless steel is generally a disaster in the kitchen. You’re lucky to get something like 8CrMoV13. Plain carbon steel is a much safer bet.

For high end stuff where the material cost is less important, sure, the new whiz bang steel makes sense.

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Re: Kitchen knife nerds- why basic carbons?

Postby Cambertree » Fri Oct 16, 2020 6:19 pm

GarageBoy wrote:
Fri Oct 16, 2020 6:52 am
I understand tradition, and the demand for high polish edges, but old school western chef knives were sharpened on a Norton India at best (and I guess steeling helps)

It just seems like everyone on reddit r/chefknives and kitchenknifeforums are all carbon = best (with some who are getting into SG2/R2/ZDP)
Thanks for starting this thread GarageBoy, there’s been some very interesting discussion.

I think you’re right in that the stones used will have a bearing on the steel development and processing techniques.

Until relatively recently, natural stones were the standard in both Japan and the West. In Japan, they still are in many places.

A bladesmith in Sanjo who specialised in kamisori (straight razors) told me that the high level of refinement of Japanese blade culture was actually strongly influenced by the very fine natural sharpening stones available to them. As you sharpen to more acute angles and greater levels of refinement, any flaws in the steel or heat treat will become more apparent. Over time, this will result in more advanced methods of steelmaking and processing.

White Steel No. 1 is basically a modern version of Tamahagane, or the ‘Jewel Steel’ of Japanese blade lore.

I understand that good sharpening stones sometimes had names and were passed down from father to son. As they got smaller and smaller, the pieces continued to be used, until they ended up as ‘finger stones’, used for polishing operations under a fingertip, and sometimes ended up as small as a grain of rice.

Another thing to consider is the way the knives are made.

There are probably thousands of bladesmiths in Japan, and the vast majority of them are forging their knives in a fairly traditional manner. Basic carbon steels and low alloy steels like the Blue Paper series are what work for them with these techniques.

Their whole knowledge base and skill set and tooling set up is based around this. They’re not suddenly changing to making stock removal knives in high carbide tool steels any more than, say GM would change overnight to making all electric cars.

The makers in and around Seki City are an interesting case, in that there are a combination of traditional forgers and factories and makers that use modern machining techniques to make knives.

But the usual way to make a knife or edged tool across much of Japan would be to forge it out of a White or Blue Paper steel.

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Re: Kitchen knife nerds- why basic carbons?

Postby bbturbodad » Fri Oct 16, 2020 6:46 pm

Hap40 takes a great edge and when run hard, I think the knife I have is ~67 HRC, stays screaming sharp and is easily maintained on a ceramic rod. I don't do anything crazy with it but I don't baby it and it's never chipped.

ZDP-189 chips if I look at it funny and is a lot more reactive in my experience.

I use a swedish stainless honesuki for breaking down chickens.
-Turbo

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Re: Kitchen knife nerds- why basic carbons?

Postby Enactive » Fri Oct 16, 2020 6:57 pm

Cambertree wrote:
Fri Oct 16, 2020 6:19 pm
GarageBoy wrote:
Fri Oct 16, 2020 6:52 am
I understand tradition, and the demand for high polish edges, but old school western chef knives were sharpened on a Norton India at best (and I guess steeling helps)

It just seems like everyone on reddit r/chefknives and kitchenknifeforums are all carbon = best (with some who are getting into SG2/R2/ZDP)
Thanks for starting this thread GarageBoy, there’s been some very interesting discussion.

I think you’re right in that the stones used will have a bearing on the steel development and processing techniques.

Until relatively recently, natural stones were the standard in both Japan and the West. In Japan, they still are in many places.

A bladesmith in Sanjo who specialised in kamisori (straight razors) told me that the high level of refinement of Japanese blade culture was actually strongly influenced by the very fine natural sharpening stones available to them. As you sharpen to more acute angles and greater levels of refinement, any flaws in the steel or heat treat will become more apparent. Over time, this will result in more advanced methods of steelmaking and processing.

White Steel No. 1 is basically a modern version of Tamahagane, or the ‘Jewel Steel’ of Japanese blade lore.

I understand that good sharpening stones sometimes had names and were passed down from father to son. As they got smaller and smaller, the pieces continued to be used, until they ended up as ‘finger stones’, used for polishing operations under a fingertip, and sometimes ended up as small as a grain of rice.

Another thing to consider is the way the knives are made.

There are probably thousands of bladesmiths in Japan, and the vast majority of them are forging their knives in a fairly traditional manner. Basic carbon steels and low alloy steels like the Blue Paper series are what work for them with these techniques.

Their whole knowledge base and skill set and tooling set up is based around this. They’re not suddenly changing to making stock removal knives in high carbide tool steels any more than, say GM would change overnight to making all electric cars.

The makers in and around Seki City are an interesting case, in that there are a combination of traditional forgers and factories and makers that use modern machining techniques to make knives.

But the usual way to make a knife or edged tool across much of Japan would be to forge it out of a White or Blue Paper steel.
Cambertree droppin knowledge in this thread like... BOOM. Thanks for sharing, bro! :cool:

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Re: Kitchen knife nerds- why basic carbons?

Postby Baron Mind » Fri Oct 16, 2020 7:17 pm

Tradition aside, fine edge taking and fine edge holding, plus edge stability. I would say steels like Nitro V, LC200N, or even Vanax are probably better choices.


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