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Aritsugu Fugubiki 270mm(10.6")
Japanese Kitchen Knife Review

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Aritsugu Fugubiki 270mm(10.6")

My third knife from Aritsugu, or to be precise, produced by Aritsugu and acquired from Takeshi - aframestokyo.com. I got the 270mm fugubiki together with the Aritsugu A-Type gyuto. Although, instead of the mysterious gokinko steel used in A-Type knives, all of the Aritsugu Yanagibas and Fugubikis I have seen are made out of Hitachi Aogami(blue) 1 steel, and hardness is at the max as usual, 65HRC+. Fugubiki, also often called fuguhiki, is thinner and lighter version of yanagiba. Fugu is a blowfish in Japanese, and to cut raw, thin slices, you do need extremely sharp knife. I already had a 300mm yanagiba from Aritsugu, and I was very happy with its performance, and Fugubiki was a new knife for me, so I figured, Aritsugu was a good candidate for it. Fugubiki is designed for extreme sharpness and delicate cutting, thus super hard high end steel is just what the good doctor prescribed. I already knew, Aritsugu doesn't offer much of the options for the handle customization, and whatever they offer, is way more expensive than what Stefan Keller can do, and Stefan's work looks a lot better by any standard. I've skipped all that, deciding to order a new handle from Stefan. That was pretty much it, and then I got the knife...

General

- Aritsugu 270mm fugubiki came in packed in a box with Aritsugu logo stamped on it. The knife was wrapped in plastic packaging. Initial inspection was completed visually and then with a magnifying glass. No visible defects were found. The blade was perfectly straight, and given the fact that fugubikis are notoriously hard to make, that's an achievement for 270mm long knife. Although, 270.00mm(10.63") long fugubikis aren't very rare, longer ones are really hard to find and much more expensive too. Fit and finish were very good. As usual Aritsugu knives do have good quality, but every once in a while, people to get a lemon. This isn't really a good news for anyone, especially given its price and how hard they are to get sometimes. That's why it is important to have reputable dealer who can replace a bad knife, should it happen to you. Fugubiki, being a slicer, even if a highly specialized one, is still a knife that needs length to perform accordingly. It's not a small knife in other words. Overall length is 425.00mm(16.73") and blade as stated is 270.00mm(10.63"). Like I said, Fugubikis are narrower, so this one is 27mm wide, vs. 34-37mm wide yanagibas you'd find typically. The knife weighs just 142.00g(4.8oz), which considering its length is probably feather light. Plus the handle from dense wood is good part of the weight. One more thing I do have to mention, the edge, or the absence of such. Like other Aritsugus, it came with unground bevel and I had all the pleasure of putting initial bevel on the 65HRC+ steel :) Honba-Tsuke, or a process of grinding initial bevel is a common practice in Japan, but there every cutlery store selling those knives has a master sharpener who will do it for you, in a way you'd like it. In western world that's not the case, and removing that amount of very hard steel from a really long knife is no easy work, even for the experienced in knife sharpening.

Blade

- 270.00mm(10.63") long, slender blade, is only 2.71mm thick at them heel, where it is 27mm wide. Because fugubikis are basically, specialized yanagibas, it's obvious the blade has single grind edge. Back side of the blade is slightly concave, which is called Urasuki in Japanese terminology. Reduces the drag when cutting. Not being a honyaki, obviously the knife is made using Warikomi awase cladding, which as you might already know, means soft cladding (Jigane) over the hard core(Hagane). Initial edge as I said was nonexistent, so I had to sharpen it myself. I won't bore you with sharpening details, went through the whole cycle, starting with 120 grit DMT D8XX and ending with 0.25µm diamond loaded strops. Overall, things went much faster compared to 300mm Aritsugu yanagiba, I was done in about 2 hours total. It may seem a lot for a single knife, but if you have ever attempted to do honba-tsuke yourself on a brand new Aritsugu knife, or any other 65HRC knife with the blade over 10", then you know it was a very good result ;) Resulting edge is highly polished, about 15° angle edge. Cutting ability is exceptionally high, well that's how it is supposed to be for fugubikis.

Handle

- Like I said above, handle options from Aritsugu are not exactly rich or cost effective. The original handle was D shaped ho wood. here's the photo of the original handle of the fugubiki. Later on, I've asked Stefan to make a new handle for it. I prefer octagonal handles over D shaped ones, and that's what the new handle was gonna be. The handle material, ferrule, spacer and buttcap were all selected by Stefan. I just told him that I wanted black, dense wood and colored spacer. The wood is ebony and the ferrule is blackwood. Spacer is also wood, box elder burl, to be precise, died in chemicals. To be honest, I have no idea what that wood is, but sure looks very elegant on that handle :) The new handle is of course heavier than the original one, and obviously, it altered the balance of the knife, but I'm not so picky about the balance and I like it as it is now. Besides, the new handle is a lot better looking, and has a lot better materials too. It's more like what an elegant knife like a fugubiki would deserve.

Usage

- As much as I like to repeat, use the right knife for the job, I've never really used this knife for its designed use :) As it is, blowfish, of Fugu is troublesome enough even for experienced chefs. Fugu sushi can be lethally poisonous if not prepared and cut properly. Tetrodotoxin a.k.a. tetrodox, a.k.a. TTX is in its liver, skin, and ovaries. I am not sure I can even tell where the liver is in the fish, let alone ovaries. Chef's in Japan undergo 3 year long apprenticeship and then the licensing test, which involves eating their own prepared fugu sushi. I don't feel like doing any of it, and I am not all that crazy about sushi anyway. Therefore, no fugu and no sushi cutting in general for me, and consequently for this knife either. I did cut a lot of meat and some vegetables for testing with the fugubiki.

For cutting soft meat and proteins in general, the knife worked very well. Well, that's obvious, the blade is thin, with really thin edge, urasuki also helps with drag, and light weight makes it easy to handle. Ironically enough, I never cut fish with it. I did have fish prepared few times when I've had fugubikis at home, but every time I did fish preparation I was testing one of the deba knives, or miroshi knives or Watanabe sakekiri, or whatever else. I didn't specifically avoid using fugubiki on those occasions, just preparing the whole fish requires a lot more than cutting thin slices from the fillets. Like I said, I don't make sushi at home. Other than meat and chicken, fugubiki had no other proteins to cut, and I suspect that's how it's gonna be in the future.

Another type of cutting medium or ingredients I've cut with the Aritsugu fugubiki was the veggies I mentioned above. I didn't use fugubiki to prepare a few kilos of greens like I do with gyuto or cleaver tests, just wanted to get the feel of it, and how it'd work for various vegetables. Overall, it can work, but the blade is too narrow for a lot of vegetables, so gyuto works much better. May be my experience was also an issue. One thing this knife excels in, cutting translucent slices of anything. That's obvious right :) Mincing is more difficult, because of the narrow blade, there is not enough of the blade to use for guide hand knuckles. I don't feel comfortable cutting without sufficient blade width, so I had to work slower. On the other hand, I know a lot of people who mince their parsley or whatever else with their 100mm long, 20mm wide utility knives, talk about personal preferences. I don't think those shorties can ever come close to a good gyuto in overall speed end efficiency, but different strokes for different folks :)

Conclusions

- High end knife, with narrow specialization. However, for its designed use it is superb performer. I don't necessarily have to cut poisonous raw fish to make that conclusion. Cutting ability is cutting ability, whatever you cut with the knife. I can attest to its high cutting performance, and edge holding was very good for the edge so thin. Aogami steel is a very good on eon its own, and 65HRC hardness is really helping the thin edge when used on soft mediums. So, if you are looking for general purpose knife, you can skip the fugubiki easily. It is too specialized for that. However, if you want a high performance slicer, for sushi or whatever other proteins, it is definitely worth considering. Just make sure you can sharpen it, and better yet, have the dealer grind the initial edge for you, it's very easy to maintain after that.

Specifications:

  • Blade - 270.00mm(10.63")
  • Thickness - 2.71mm
  • Width - 27.00mm
  • OAL - 425.00mm(16.73")
  • Steel - Aogami 1 65+HRC
  • Handle - Select grade Ebony Handle, box elder burl spacer and buttcap
  • Weight - 142.00g(4.8oz)
  • Acquired - 09/2008 Price - 280.00$

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Last updated - 09/01/11