One of the more unusual knifes in my collection. I've seen Chinese cleavers before, mainly
in the movies. Although, never considered them for my own use. Later, in 2008, when I started upgrading my kitchen knives and experimenting with new styles as well, I've decided to
try it out. That was the reason I got into this cleaver thingy. For the most people Chinese cleaver looks like a good, old western meat cleaver, except it isn't. Despite of its
looks, this one is mainly for vegetable cutting. All in all, Chinese have over 2000 years of cooking experience and as far as I know, for last 1500 years they have been using
cleavers of this type for food preparation. Frankly, I still have no idea how one can use only this knife in the kitchen, but from what I hear some Chefs manage with only cleavers.
I am nowhere near that. Besides, what's the fun of using only one knife anyway? I'd rather cut salad with 4 different knives :)
So, first step as usual was to do some research. Mainly on knifeforums.com. There, in the kitchen knives section, is a thread dedicated to Chinese cleavers exclusively. Based on that thread I've stopped my choice on Shosui Takeda's Chuka Bocho, which is what Japanese call Chinese cleavers. Ironically enough, it is them, Japanese who make the best Chinese Cleavers in the world. I already had a Deba from Mr. Takeda and he's got quite some reputation amongst knife aficionados, so that was an easy pick.
Initial inspection- As most of the high end Japanese knives, Chuka Bocho from Takeda came in with a nice box, well packaged. Blade came in scary sharp, with a very nice, polished convex edge on it. Fit and finish were perfect, for what it was. Considering that it's a kuro-uchi finished knife I can't say a whole lot more about the finish :) Overall, it's a rustic knife and there's nothing fancy about it. Well built, well centered handle. No blemishes, neither on the handle, nor on the blade. Balance is obviously blade heavy. With the blade of that size you'd have to use lead or Tungsten for the handle to even it out. Just, there's no need for that. Besides, because the blade is so thin, it's not overly blade heavy to become annoying or anything problematic in use.
Blade- Almost rectangular, very wide(for a knife) blade measures 210mm in length, ~89mm wide at the handle and ~86mm at the tip. In general Takeda is known for his relatively thin knives and this Chuka Bocho is no exception too. To my great satisfaction I must add, since I really appreciate thin blades in the kitchen. Blade is distal tapered. Blade spine thickness at the handle is 3.21mm and it narrows down to 1.65mm at the tip. Edge thickness is only 0.65mm at 2mm distance from the edge. As usual, it's made using traditional Japanse san-mai technology. I.e. hard core is wrapped by softer outer layer.
As for the geometry, I've already described it as a rectangle. Therefore, it has a long, straight edge, except at the very tip, where it rounds slightly. You can see it all on the pictures linked in this review. Pretty simple geometry, which works amazingly well for vegetable cutting and some other stuff, but I still can't wrap my brains around how to use that monster for such kitchen tasks as boning, or why use cleaver for meat slicing. Anyway, more details about usage below.
Takeda, as far as I can tell almost exclusively uses Hitachis' Aogami(Blue) Super steel. That one has added elements for better hardenability and Tungsten(W) for increased wear resistance and larger carbide matrix. Somehow, I don't know that many Japanese makers using Aogami Super. Aogami and Aogami II are much more popular along with the Shirogami I, II. Although, on the paper Aogami Super is a better steel in terms of the wearresistance, but more brittle. Actually it's a better steel in real life too, but given that those steels were all properly heat treated it'd be hard to tell the difference, especially in the kitchen. Watanabe for example told me that there is no difference, and forging/heat treating is more important. To which I agree, but to the certain extent. More detailed info and makep of the popular cutlery steels can be found in Kitchen Knife Steel FAQ.
Takeda's blades as usual are heat treated to 61-62HRC. That stands true for his Chuka Bocho and Debas well. Which is strange, because most of the Japanese makers I know make debas 1-2 points softer, since it's designed to chop through the bones. So far I haven't felt that my Chuka Bocho was not hard enough metal, but with vegetables as main cutting medium I clearly wouldn't mind higher hardness. Although, that's my wishful thinking, in reality I don't know if Aogami Super can take higher hardness. Logically, it should, because I have AoKo II blades at 65HRC. If Aogami Super was made with better hardenability in mind perhaps it could get harder than that, or at least 65HRC. Well, hardness isn't everything in the heat treatment, but it's very important no matter what way you put it.