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Takeda Kuro-Uchi Gyuto 280mm(11")
Japanese Kitchen Knife Review

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Takeda Kuro-Uchi Gyuto 280mm(11")

After getting about a dozen different gyutos in my kitchen knives collection, I've sort of run out of interesting ones to buy and switched to other types of knives to explore. Well, that and the custom knife block Dave the boardsmith made for me was full. I still need a new one. Anyway, in Jan 2011, friend of mine bought the new Takeda 270mm gyuto, which just appeared at Takeda knives section of chefsknivestogo. I did consider and pondered about getting a Takeda gyuto about two years ago, in 2009 I think. At that time, I've decided not to go with it, even though I have two other Takeda knives in my possession. Mainly because of the blade geometry. Takedas are way too tall or wide to my taste, the widest gyuto I own is 60mm wide, but Takedas stuff is even wider than that. I have no problem using Chukabochos, or Chinese cleavers, which are much wider, but they're not as long, at least not 270mm(11"). Besides, Takeda typically runs his gyutos at 61-62HRC and I expect or I'd like Hitachi Aogami Super steel considerably harder in purely cutting optimized knife such as gyuto. Those are the reasons I skipped on Takeda back then, even though his gyutos have quite large following amongst Japanese knives cognoscenti. Well, my friend isn't as picky as I am about steel and hardness, and besides, this gyuto is a special version for chefknivestogo. I don't know how Mark, the owner of the chefknivestogo convinced Takeda, may be it wasn't difficult after all, I never asked Takeda myself. Anyway, it's more normal gyuto, 52-54 mm wide, which is far more common and easier to handle, at least I feel that way.

General

- Unlike many other loaner knives reviewed here, I got Takeda Kuro Uchi gyuto brand new, in the box. The packaging was familiar, same Takeda style box as with the previous knives I got from him. The packaging itself is pretty good, securing the knife in the box, so it doesn't get damaged in overseas shipping. Obviously, the very first thing to do, to examine the knife. Now, granted this gyuto is a Kuro Uchi finish knife, I wasn't expecting something eye catching, it's a rough, rustic finish, designed for workhorse knives and lowers production costs too. Even so, there are a few grindmarks here and there, that definitely do not belong on that knife, I have two other knives from Takeda, both are kuro uchi finished too, but neither has those grind marks. Well, no biggie, I wouldn't notice them either, if I wasn't specifically looking for blemishes. Doesn't add or take anything from the looks of the knife. One thing kuro uchi is good at, hiding those small imperfections. Other than those grindmarks, there were no other details that I'd consider an imperfection, and may be I'm being too picky about them, grindmarks, just a couple, on a kuro uchi knife, but it'd be definitely better if they weren't there. The knife is surprisingly light - 204.00g(6.9oz), of all the 270mm gyutos I have only Tadatsuna shirogami gyuto is lighter than that, and for the record, Tadatsuna is 2mm thick at the heel, while Takeda is almost 3.5mm, which makes the feat even more impressive. One thing I noticed immediately, the very thin edge, and figured it's cutting ability would be very high, I'll discuss that in details below, in blade section. Jumping ahead, I can honestly say, cutting ability of the Takeda special gyuto is really amazing. Other than that, it's quite typical Japanese gyuto, blade geometry, WA type handle, all the goodies are there.

Blade

- Officially, Takeda special gyuto is 270mm, but when I measured it the blade came out exactly 280mm(11.02") long. As I mentioned above, the word special in the context of this gyuto meant the narrower blade profile, and by mark's specs that should be within 52-54mm range, measured using digital calipers, mine came out 53mm wide. As for the width, 3.48mm at the heel, but the blade tapers towards the tip and obviously towards the edge. Tapering in the vertical plane is quite steep, at midsection it's already a little over 1mm. just by looking at the edge and blade taper I could tell it was a thin edge, but after I measured it using two different methods, the edge angle came out 10° per side at most, and average was closer to 9° per side. That's 18° inclusive angle, which very often is what western chef's knives have per side! Needless to say, this gyuto can cut like there is no tomorrow. I do have other kitchen knives, with even lower angles, Watanebe honyaki gyuto for example is 7° per side, but that's a knife that was custom made for me, and it's a honyaki, and it was 5x the price. At any rate, seeing even a semi-custom knife, sold in online store with the edge that thin was both, surprising and exciting. Personally, I view that as a positive trend and a sign that people may be are learning the benefits of thin, sharp edged knives vs. good old thick and heavy German steel. Edge finish was somewhere in the 6000-8000 grit vicinity. That's based on the satin finish looks it had. Although, it's pretty hard to judge, I can get similar finish with lower grit too. Edge was quite aggressive out of the box, which is why I think it was higher grit. either way, I like my knives sharper, but unfortunately, I didn't have time to work on it with stones and because of that I've decided to give a quick session with 0.30µ aluminum oxide microabrasive and 0.25µ diamond loaded strop, followed by stropping on the plain leather. The result was noticeable, both, visually and by tactile feedback, as in running my finger very carefully along the edge ;) Visually, the edge took very nice mirror polish. Slicing through free hanging paper or shaving in opposite direction was no challenge, the hair would pop as the blade touched it. The good thing about thin edges, they are very easy to sharpen, maintain and restore, all that besides their ability to cut so well. Well, there's a downside too, if you are not careful, or don't know what you are doing, they(the thin edges) are also very easy to screw up real bad too. Keep that in mind, just a friendly reminder ;)

Handle

- One rather standard element of the "special" kuro uchi gyuto is the handle. That's a typical Takeda style handle for you, and the handles he puts on his knives are very good in terms of craftsmanship, i.e. precisely made WA handles, smooth finish, exact angles, straight lines, etc. On top of that, his handles are rock solid. No gaps between the tang and the handle, epoxy fills everything real right. In fact, both Dave Martell and Stefan Keller mentioned how much trouble it was to remove Takeda handles. Good news if you are not looking for a replacement, and not so good news if you want to install a custom handle, which I did want to do for a Takeda Kuro-Uchi Ryodeba. It's still doable, I mean the removal and installation of the new handle, but more difficult than on the other knives. I just decided I'd keep the original handle. Almost forgot, standard handle material is the Rosewood. As far as I am concerned, Takeda doesn't even offer other options. On its own, rosewood really good handle material. I've had two other Takedas quite extensively used in my kitchen, especially Takeda Kuro Uchi Chukabocho, and after couple years of use both handles are doing fine, no signs of any degradation. I do take care of my knives, but can't say maintaining those rosewood handles required any extra effort from me, wash it, wipe it dry and that's it. Whenever I remember, once in a few months, I use mineral oil to treat the handles, but a lot of people don't do that either, just clean the handle and keep it dry. Like I said, it's an octagonal, typical Japanese style handle and I personally like them a lot for the kitchen knives. Very comfortable and allows for all the different grips and holds I need in the kitchen cutting works.

Usage (Initial edge)

- First session with Takeda Special kuro uchi gyuto lasted about 2.5 hours and the job, which became rather standard for me, was to cut about 20 different types of vegetables, total processed green mass was about 13.5lbs, and the initial mass obviously was greater than that, I had to clean veggies, cut off roots, etc. For any kitchen knife that is quite strenuous job. The list included Broccoli, Asparagus, Celery, Eggplant, Brussels Sprouts, Italian Parsley, Bell pepper, red radish and bunch of other items. Actually, the exact list and sequence can be found in other reviews, e.g. Henckels Miyabi Morimoto Edition Gyuto review, or Nenohi Nenox S-1 Honyaki Gyuto 270mm review. I didn't keep the precise test log at this time, because I already knew, Aogami Super steel, even at 61HRC can go through the whole process without loosing the ability to cut those cherry tomatoes using its own weight. I just tested the knife after all the cutting was done and the blade still could cut cherry tomato in half using just its own weight, which I already stated, is very light. About 2" movement was sufficient to make a cut, with either belly, midsection or the heel part of the blade. And based on the past experience, I can tell, it'll stay that way for next 3-4 sessions. All of the vegetables used for this test, and other tests in the past, were either minced or shredded, basil, collard greens and carrots were chiffonaded. That's for the cutting details. Now about the knife itself.

As I described in the blade section, I did do minor sharpening job on the knife, before actually cutting anything. 0.30µm and 0.25µm abrasives, plus stropping on the plain leather. Even though I've spent under 5 minutes doing all that, still, the edge sharpness and aggressiveness were improved noticeably, consequently the cutting ability improved. If you are not a pro cook, cutting things for two, two and a half hours straight can be a very demanding job, especially if your knife is not up to the level. I can attest to that based on personal experience, because more than once, I was unable to go through the whole test using basic or even mid range knives, especially with western knives sporting thick edges. I'm not a cook, and perhaps my technique is not perfect, well, surely I can improve, but I think I'm a little more experienced than average knife user, and still, after an hour or so, my palm was getting really tired with some of the knives, because they couldn't keep the edge sharp enough, because they had thick edges, thanks to soft metal in them, handles were awkward, etc. At that point, I just give up, the test for me is failed and I pick up a good knife to finish the work. As far as Takeda special gyuto performance and ease of use are concerned, both were extremely high. Neither carrots, not broccoli stems posed any challenge, Brussels sprouts were also super easy. The end result, after I was done, 2.5 hours later, I didn't have cramps in my right palm, and I didn't feel tired and irritated :) Plus, what's more important, I never had to stop during the cutting session to steel or strop te blade to restore the sharpness. And I have to do that with inferior knives more than once during those sessions. In other words, light blade, with a thin edge makes cuting almost effortless, much faster, and less fatiguing. I don't really know what more arguments one would need to be convinced to switch from thick blade/thick edged kitchen knives to thin ones :)

Overall, I'd rate Takeda special gyuto very high in sheer cutting performance, user friendliness and use comfort. If you are ok with using 270-280mm long blade in the kitchen, then this knife will be real easy to use. Light weight makes this 280mm long blade knife surprisingly nimble and maneuverable. Narrower width, compared to the standard Takeda option for the gyuto knives, makes it also more user friendly. Well, at least that's my opinion. There are enough folks out there who like super wide chef's knives and gyutos, and for then, Takeda's original gyutos are the ticket, but for most of the people, 50-56mm is the more acceptable width range. Long blade was an advantage for both, slicing and chopping. Handle width is slightly on the slimmer side, at least compared to other octagonal handles I have, but like I said, it was very comfortable, I never felt my hand was getting tired. Obviously, very high cutting ability positively affects all use aspects, simply because I had to use a lot less force to make a cut, and I could focus on the speed and precision, not having to struggle with cutting. Edge retention of the knife is very high. it's not the highest I have had or seen, but compared to most of the kitchen knives, it's levels above. Like I said, personally, I'd prefer its steel - Aogami Super at higher hardness, 64-65HRC, but that's just me. Even at 61-62HRC it has plenty of edge holding ability to keep most of the users happy, and obviously, 62HRC steel is easier to sharpen than 65HRC, and less prone to chipping, although, I have been using Moritaka Kuro Uchi chukabocho for over a year and a half, which is also made from the Aogami Super steel, can't say it's too difficult to sharpen, or that I ever had chipping problems with it. On the other hand, people who are new to hard steel Japanese knives, might experience chipping problems. It all depends how the knife is used. Next, when I have time, I plan to sharpen the knife on the 10000 grit Naniwa Chosera super finishing waterstone. And then repeat steps with microabrasives, well, I'll definitely add 0.50µ in the mix. Basically, the usual sequence. The edge is really thin, so all that won't take more than half an hour I think. It should increase edge sharpness a little further. I'll see how much of a difference that will make. But more polished bevels will at least reduce the drag slightly. I'll update the review as the new data comes in.

Conclusions

- Very good knife, even for its price. I can't call 240$ knife a budget or cheap knife, but considering its performance, i.e. cutting ability, edge holding, comfort, etc, I consider it a very good buy. There's quite a few kitchen knives at comparable prices, that don't can't come near Takeda special gyuto neither in cutting ability, nor in edge holding. I guess, one of the deciding factors for many will be the finish, and Kuro Uchi definitely is not a fancy one, although to me and bunch of other knife enthusiasts it still has its own appeal, and for a true working knife looks don't mater that much. That's not to say I don't appreciate a good looking damascus pattern myself, but I do like kuro uchi rustic look too, and it's less hassle to maintain. Just a word of caution - if you are new to Japanese knives, or alternatively put, hard steel knives, be extra careful, the edge is very thin and very sharp. I already discussed pros and cons above in the details, but again, besides all the benefits, thin edge is easier to damage when abused or misused. Use it for designed cutting jobs and you'll enjoy superb cutting performance for a long time to come.

Specs:

  • Blade - 280.00mm(11.02")
  • Thickness - 3.48mm
  • Width - 53.00mm
  • OAL - 420.00mm(16.54")
  • Steel - Aogami Super Steel 61HRC
  • Handle - Rosewood
  • Weight - 204.00g(6.9oz)
  • Acquired - 01/2011 Price - 240.00$

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Last updated - 08/27/13