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Watanabe Custom Sabaki 150.00mm(5.91")
Japanese Kitchen Knife Review

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Watanabe Custom Sabaki 150.00mm(5.91")

The story of the origin of this custom sabaki knife is rather curious. Back in October/November 2009 I was working on expanding the Japanese knife styles and type database with KF's Bishamon, who helped a great deal with that project. At some point when discussing Sabaki entry, this photo came up as an example of that type of the knife. Chronologically, that was exactly on 10/27/2009. I really liked it's looks and few days later I have contacted Shinichi Watanabe once again, asking him about that knife. Turned out, the knife on the photo wasn't a pure sabaki, which is more of a boning knife, the one on the photo was a custom knife made more in the fashion of yanagiba/gyuto hybrid. I had my own ideas about that knife and asked Watanabe if he'd make a knife based on that design, but incorporate some changes, based on my design. Well, design is a strong word here, I just sent the crude drawing and dimensions. However, last time we did that it worked out remarkably well, I am referring to the 330mm Kintaro Ame Kensaki yanagiba knife here. The sabaki knife was ready in ~3 weeks. And it worked out much better than I have imagined this time as well :) What can I say, Shinichi over-achieves and over-delivers every time. Have to note, it isn't that easy or that often when Japanese makers, especially famous ones agree on customizations, that is if you get them to reply at all. And this time I got a present from Shinichi too. He liked the final knife himself, and decided to install octagonal handle and do togidashi style sharpening for free. Togidashi can add considerable amount to the final price, and octagonal handle he made is the nicest ho wood handle I have ever seen. As he said, that was my Christmas present, along with the nice towel for the knife.

General

- When I was designing the knife, I wanted a relatively small(compared to most of my 2009 knives which were 270mm as a minimum) single grind(chisel) edge knife, which would be used primarily as a boning/meat cleaning small knife. So, basic geometry was the same as you see on the original photo from Watanabe, but I've opted for the straight edge, not tapered one. Length was chosen as 150mm, and the width I specified at 23mm, which Shinichi followed very accurately, the knife is 23.18mm wide :) As usual, I planned to replace the handle later with a custom piece, so I took whatever the default handle option was. As stated above, the knife arrived in about 4 weeks to me, (making + shipping times). Unlike all other knives from Watanabe, this one was packed in a white, glossy box, but without the usual Watanabe logo. Other than that it was pretty much standard knife box from him. Inspection of the blade was done right away, as I was waiting it very impatiently. I already knew about the handle upgrade and Togidashi sharpening, so that wasn't a surprise. That really was a big surprise was the smoothness and the feel of the simple ho wood handle, which I never liked before and I never keep ho wood handles on my knives, but this sabaki might be just that exception. As for the rest, fit and finish are very good. The blade is perfectly straight, no chips, nicks or any other blemishes. Togidashi sharpening job it top notch and surface finish in general is very nice.

Blade

- Custom sabaki features 150.00mm(5.91") long, 23mm wide, straight, single grind blade with concaved back, a.k.a. urasuki. Considering that I was planning on, and designing this knife for light boning type use, I've decided on a medium thickness blade, but the word medium is a relative term here, because this 150mm long blade, also is 3mm thick exactly, and some of my 270mm gyutos are same or close to that thickness. Well, boning one way or another, means some sort of bone contact and I hay have to exert more force than with gyutos, or twist a knife, may be an accidental slip, so I wanted some lateral strength, but at that length, width and thickness it will take a lot. Togidashi style sharpened edge is beyond razor sharp and, it's closer to 15°, and I am not planning on changing that until I use it for actual boning works to see how it performs, or to be more precise to see how I will perform with that knife, and if I won't chip it then it's good, if I chop it, then I'll try to be more careful next time, and later will probably get a higher angle if I can't help it.

Handle

- Watanabe custom sabaki has an octagonal handle, which as I already noted is made from Ho (Magnolia) wood. As far as the wood itself goes, it has been used in Japan for kitchen knives and all sorts of hand tools as a handle material for centuries. Ho wood has its merits, more or less resists moisture, light, cheap. I personally never liked it and stated that fact many times in my reviews. However, this ho wood handle is an exception. I actually like it. Slim, slender, octagon and more importantly it's surface finish is very nice, not rough on most of the ho wood handles I have seen. Even the ho wood handles on Shigefusa knives were never that smooth and well done. So, in my opinion, for the knife of that size and its use, the handle is perfect. And fit/finish are also exceptionally good.

Usage

- So far (12/2009) none. But, there's Christmas and New Years Eve coming up, which means lots of (hopefully) partying, lots of potential for cooking, cutting, cleaning... I'll try my best to give this one at least some workout and, in 2010, once I get over my hangover I'll try to post an update.

Custom Sabaki Image Gallery

Specifications:

  • Blade - 150.00mm(5.91")
  • Thickness - 3.00mm
  • Width - 23.18mm
  • OAL - 290.00mm(11.42")
  • Steel - Aogami 1 steel at 63-65HRC
  • Handle - Ho Wood
  • Weight - 76.50g(2.59oz)
  • Acquired - 11/2009 Price - 250.00$

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Last updated - 09/01/11