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Henckels 34378-240 Miyabi 5000MCD 240mm(10")
Birchwood Slicer(Sujuhiki)
Japanese Kitchen Knife Review

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Henckels 34378-240 Miyabi 5000MCD 240mm(10") Birchwood Slicer Knife

And one more borrowed knife in my house. As usual, coworker gave it for sharpening and evaluation. I was more than happy to evaluate a new knife, and especially this one, since it is yet another Sur La Table(SLT) exclusive Miyabi knife. Can't say I am too happy about all those exclusive knives, their price is relatively high, you can't find them anywhere, but one place, price stays flat, it won't come down for years, etc, etc. On the other hand, given the stiff competition from the online dealers, traditional brick and mortar stores don't really have too many options to choose from. So, what we have here is one more SLT exclusive knife, made for them by Henckels Miyabi division. I'm not quire sure who designed it, Morimoto, SLT or Miyabi themselves, but it's a good looking knife for sure. Interestingly, the knife says 5000MCD series on the blade, but it's not listed on the official Miyabi website. I mentioned Morimoto design, because the alloy used in this knife is Takefu SG2 steel, MC63 in Henckels steel naming classification. Earlier, Michael, nice guy from Henckels Japan mentioned the SG2 steel choice for other series of knives was based on iron chef Morimoto's recommendation. I'll cover that in details below, in the blade section. I had high expectations for this knife, since I was quite happy with another SLT exclusive, Henckels 34313-270 Miyabi 600D Fusion Gyuto. I can say I wasn't disappointed, but I have some reservations as well. Read below.

General

- Miyabi 5000MCD slicer would be more westernized name for the knife which is more of a Japanese sujihiki knife, than a western slicer. Actually, the only really western knife feature I can find in this knife is the bolster, but thanks to Miyabi and Japanese roots of the knife design, it is not a full bolster, just a partial one, so it's not gonna get in a way during sharpening. For a slicer, it's more of a medium length - 240.00mm(9.45"), and the width is relatively narrow for a knife of that size - 35mm, but it's dictated by sujihiki design. Miyabi 5000MCD sujihiki is really light, considering the overall length of 380.00mm(14.96"), it weights just 177.40g(6oz), and birchwood handle along with the thin blade is really helping in weight department.

I do not know what does the factory packaging looks like for this sujihiki, considering I got it in used condition, but given Miyabi and SLT involvement in its design and making, I am sure it is nice. Fit and finish on the knife are very good. Craftsmanship is really good, everything is fit very tight and precisely. There are no gaps or misaligned parts on the knife. Bolster/spacer/handle transition is smooth, and so is the bolster to blade transition. The edge is, or initial edge was quite nicely sharpened, I still could see initial polish on the edge, wherever it was not damaged and discolored. In short, A+ in quality and craftsmanship.

I have to comment on the SLT webpage describing this knife and perhaps warn you against some of it too. For some reason, unknown to me, SLT states on their 5000MCD Slicer web page that and I quite SLT here: This slicer is ideal for even the crustiest of breads. Very strange comment or advice. I have the knife in front of me, and I am looking at the deformed edge caused exactly by hard crust bread, and not the hardest crust out there either. According to the owner, it was used very few times to cut bread. You can examine the micrographs of the damaged Miyabi slicer edge too. On other occasion, I have seen, or to be precise, caused very severe damage to Mac Cutlery FKW10 10" Yanagiba by cutting hard crust bread. So, the bottom line is, do not take the advice literally and don't use it on all hard crust bread or anything similar. The steel in the 5000MCD knife is SG2 at 63HRC, which is very high hardness for the knife, yet it chipped and rolled. Hard crust bread can be very tough on the edge, and sujihikis or slicers as usual have very thin edges, so be careful. This isn't a deba knife. Another inconsistency on the same page is the assertion that the knife has true Hamon line. Hamon line is formed on differentially tampered honyaki knives, dividing differently hardened sections of the blade. The line on the SLT Miyabi slicer looks similar to hamon, in that it is wavy too, but that's it. The line is formed by two physically different layers of steel, not by differential tampering. Not so sure why the mistake is in there, but there it is.

Blade

- Miyabi 5000MCD series sujihiki has 240.00mm(9.45") long blade, which is 35mm wide at the heel and 2.05m thick in the same spot. The edge is about 15° per side, probably thinner. Miyabi logo, series name and few other things are etched on both sides on the blade. The blade itself is made using traditional Japanese Warikomi Awase technology. Jigane, or outer cladding is made out of the 50 layers of damascus stainless steel per side. Including the core, hagane layer, that'd make 101 layers total. The blade geometry is immediately recognizable as that of the traditional sujihiki. it isn't exactly the western slicer knife, but that's the closest equivalent of it. Slim, slender blade, with rather pointy tip and not much of the belly. Typically, sujihikis are narrower then comparable western slicers and that's the case with the Miyabi "slicer" too. Other than that, no other irregularities or details worth mentioning.

Now about the steel used to make this knife. Using Henckels classification, the knife is made out of the MC63 steel. In conventional naming, that translates into Takefu SG2 steel. This is the same steel used by Shun in their Elite line of the kitchen knives, like Shun SG0408 Elite Honesuki. Shun officially hardens their SG2 knives to 64HRC, although that was questioned a few times. Henckel choose a little more conservative 63HRC. On the other hand, 63HRC might be the median value and the actual range might be 62-64HRC, that's more realistic. As mentioned above, it was iron chef Morimoto's choice to go with Takefu SG2 steel for some of the MCD lines. Basically, as far as I can tell from their(Miyabi) website, MCD line is using micro carbide steel, just a different name for powder metallurgy alloys. So, the alloys used in the MCD series vary, from MC66 i.e. ZDP-189 and MC63 i.e. SG2. He felt it was better choice compared to Hitachi ZDP-189 steel. According to him, it was better for all around kitchen use, as it'd chip less. I don't necessarily agree with his choice, or argumentation though. I've used both steels and in the kitchen, ZDP-189 is not chippy at all. Although, I have seen a lot of quite a few reports about both, ZDP-189 and SG2 chipping, which is understandable, westerners are not necessarily used to ultra hard kitchen knives, and I suspect that was the deciding factor. Sure, ZDP-189 could be hardened to 63-64HRC, but that would be a waste of potential.

Handle

- The handle on the Miyabi 5000MCD slicer is made out of the Masur birchwood. Rather unusual choice for a knife handle. It is light and the finish is quite smooth, and birchwood does have very characteristic and unique feel to it. I am not so sure I like it for a knife handle in the kitchen though. I'd still take it over ho wood by the way :) However, it seems like birchwood tends to absorb moisture easier than denser woods do. Most of the custom handles I have are made from heavier woods and on top of that they all have one or more layers of coating. If you still want birchwood, then applying board was or mineral oil if you expect the handle to get wet/oily will definitely help.

Traditional D shape handle, complete with buttcap and bolster from either side. Handle features the thin, red spacers from both sides, nice touch, and as far as I can tell, those spacers are either Morimoto design feature, or SLT's. In other words, I haven't seen red spacers on the Miyabi handle for any other design but SLT exclusives, done by Morimoto. Anyway, birchwood is quite different from other types of wood. Not very dense, but it is quite grippy. So, in the grip security department, this sujihiki is just fine. (test wet and moisture absorption). Buttcap features Miyabi logo and on occasion it does serve as a garlic crusher. Although, the only time I did that when I was preparing stuffed meat, as in I was cleaning the piece with the Miyabi slicer and I needed some garlic to stuff in it. otherwise, I suspect you will not be reaching for this knife as a dedicated garlic crusher ;) By the way, that buttcap is quite thick, closer to 3mm thick, one of the thickest I have ever seen on a kitchen knife, and I am guessing, it is so thick to balance the knife, as in make up in weight what the lightweight birchwood lacks. Other than that, there's a decorative pin on both sides of the handle and that's all about the handle.

Usage

- Granted that it was a borrowed knife, and a sujihiki at that, I didn't have too many uses for this knife, at least not continuous ones. I did try lots of different types of cutting, since it was fun to play with. I already mentioned meat slicing above, and for that, the knife worked very well. Why would not it, thin, long blade, very sharp, thin edge. On its own, I'd rate it very high for a sujihiki, comparing with the two I have, 300mm Watanabe Sujihiki and another one, Watanabe 300mm Kintaro-Ame sujihiki, it's falling short, literally and figuratively. 300mm long blade for slicing is obviously a lot better than 240mm, the difference is more than just noticeable. Second, the steel. Watanabe sujihikis use one of the best alloys for those types of knives, Aogami 1 steel, in my experience they hold better edge compared to SG2 steel and take keener edge as well. Although, I can't say SG2 steel at 63HRC is a handicap by any stretch of imagination. Not for slicer knives. Just Aogami steel works better and so does the ZDP-189 steel.

I mentioned in other reviews, some cooking gurus use the same knife for all common knife works, sort of do it all knife. Sujihiki is one of the popular choices for that role. I'm nowhere near to that kind of the enlightenment, and I doubt, even if I was at that level, I'd still keep and use my 40+ knives in the kitchen, because it's a lot more fun, but so is the knife testing. Anyway, for proteins the knife worked very well, and all I had left to test was veggies. Being realistic, I wasn't expecting ~36mm wide knife to match the performance of the wider gyuto knives or chukabochos for vegetable cutting, but for bunch of things it still performed surprisingly well. The success was credited to the very sharp edge and the fact that many vegetables were cut in slicing motion or using push cutting. 15° per side, 100K polished edge does have its benefits for push cutting too besides slicing :) Where the Miyabi sujihiki came short in veggie cutting, the rocking motion. Not enough belly to be as efficient as Gyutos, but is still has some. There's another issue with this knife that makes it not so hot for vegetables, lack of knuckle space, because of the narrower blade. And again, to me that is an issue, but like I said, I've seen a lot of people mincing vegetables with even narrower knives. It is slower and not as convenient, and I am not trying to use one knife for everything, so why bother.

Conclusions

- I have sort of mixed feelings about this knife. I like a lot of things in its design, and if was asked how would I improve it, I'd wish for the octagonal handle from ebony or blackwood and ZDP-189 steel given Miyabi repertoire. Of course, if I was buying sujihiki for myself I'd go with nothing less than 300mm, but that's not exactly design aspect, in that the same design can be made in various blade lengths. Well made knife, no complaints whatsoever in quality control department and it works very well as a slicer. The price, in my opinion it is a little high, because of the exclusivity I guess, but compared to Nenox sujihiki it is a lot lower and has better steel compared to nenox. So, in the end, if you like the design and the price feels right, go for it, it won't disappoint you. I do have to warn you against cutting really hard crust bread with this knife, again! The carnage it can incur is documented and micrographed, link is above.

Specifications:

  • Blade - 240.00mm(9.45")
  • Thickness - 2.05mm
  • Width - 35.85mm
  • OAL - 380.00mm(14.96")
  • Steel - MC63(Takefu SG2) steel at 63HRC
  • Handle - Masur Birchwood
  • Weight - 177.40g(6oz)
  • Acquired - 08/2010 Price - 280.00$

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Last updated - 09/01/11