To be honest I personally consider Honesuki to be one of the ugliest knives in the world :) It's just that weird looking. I have my share of Shichichi Watanabe knives including two nakiris, medium and small, sujihiki and honyaki gyuto from Shinichi are on their way, well, by now they're already here and well used. Plus, the small Ko-Deba. On top of that I have over two dozen high end kitchen knives, but there is never enough of knives in this life! After an experiment with Takeda Deba, which was used for boning a chicken and didn't work out that well(simply because thick blade of deba was never meant to be used for cleaning the meat from the bones, but to crush through the bones), it became clear that I had a reason (or excuse) to get another knife, this time it was very specialized knife, designed just for that, boning poultry. I was already having some other knife with Shinichi on order and added Honesuki to it. Considering that I don't really like this knife visually and I eat chicken once or twice a year, at least I cook it that often, I've decided to go with Honesuki, instead of the larger version called Garasuki.
Initial inspection- Honesuki came in with usual packaging for Japanese kitchen knives. A nice box with Watanabe logo on it and knife carefully secured inside the box. Visual inspection revealed no flaws or defects. Fit and finish is very good. This isn't kuro-uchi style knife, it's nicely finished satin finish blade, with rather simple ho wood handle (my choice) since I didn't care for it if I would sell the knife and if I'd' keep it then Stefan's handle would be on it anyway.
Blade- Hmm, not so sure how to describe this weird blade. There are several pictures of this oddball in the Watanabe Gallery on my site, so see it for yourself ;) The blade is 150mm long, 4.5mm thick at the handle and measures 42mm in width at the heel. I guess the geometry can be described as somewhat triangular shaped, reverse tanto point, recurved blade, phew. It sure does feature all that in one. And sure as hell it doesn't look pretty, but I like this knife anyway. As usual Watanabe knives come in different steels, however for the Honesuki and I assume Garasuki as well, he recommends Aogami 2 steel(or AoKo) for its increased toughness, compared to Aogami 1 and Shirogami steels or ShiroKo). For exact makeup and other info on those steels check the Kitchen Knife Steel FAQ
Out of the box this knife was one of the sharpest knives I have ever touched. That includes bunch of Japanese kitchen knives I've handles, several from Watanabe himself. It's a single bevel knife, that's one reason for its very high initial sharpness, but honestly, I haven't seen other single beveled knives that sharp either. Anyway, initial sharpness is important, but not crucial if you're good at sharpening and sharpen your knives yourself. The blade was sharpened close to 15° on the right side, mirror polished, convex edge. Left side of the edge was completely flat, 0°. Considering that I was going to use it to work with the bones, or to be precise to work in close contact with the bones and that I had no previous experience with this knife I've decided to increase the edge angle slightly and gave it ~3°-5° angle on the left side. Later, once I'm more used to it I'll lower the angle certainly. As usual, I've sharpened the edge all the way down to 0.25µm diamond paste loaded leather strop.
Handle- Original handle was well made and fitted. It's a ho wood with black horn ferule. Compared to other Watanabe knives and most of the other Japanese knives I've had or handled, Watanabe Honesuki has quite thick handle. Not so sure why, but works well and fits my hand perfectly. It's a standard D shaped handle typically found on Japanese kitchen knives. I've already mentioned that I'm not so fond of ho wood, so as I was writing this review Honesuki was headed to Dave Martel of Japanese Knife Sharpening for rehandling. As you can guess the new handle was made by Stefan Keller.
You can see the new handle on the icon attached at the top of this page. It's simply beautiful. I am not really fond of light colored handles, but when I saw that handle from Stefan, somehow I knew it'd look right on Honesuki. Later, when I got my honesuki back from Dave, I knew I was right. As for the details, the handle material, well the list of the materials used in this handle is as following: thuya burl, horn spacer and redwood burl. I keep forgetting to ask Stefan, what's what in that handle, i.e. which burl is ferule and which burl is the handle itself. Anyway, no matter what the burl distribution or composition is, handle is quite thick, I'd say stubby and works pretty much perfectly for the honesuki of this size. Can't say much about handle ergonomics, it's standard octagon handle, fairly typical for better Japanese kitchen knives. As fot he looks, you be the judge ;)
Usage- So far, I have used Honesuki for its designated purpose only once. I've had it for 2 months, as I write this review(12/2008). As mentioned above, Honesuki is specifically for boning poultry and I also mentioned above that I cook, or at least cut chicken once or twice a year. Other poultry, I only see in restaurants and other parties I attend and never have to work with it myself. So, not much of a use for this knife for me, which is a reason Honesuki got such a little use for its primary purpose.
Actually, it's quite a shame for me, to admit that I've misused Honesuki on its very first use. Considering how often I tell others to use the right tool for the job and how many times I wrote that in my knife reviews, that was rather an unforgivable sin to commit on my part :). Long story short, after getting a chicken and it was mainly to test the Honesuki I've more or less successfully disjointed it, removed extra skin, fat etc. All that was handled by this knife with flying colors. Then I had to cut the chicken in half and not so sure why, but I've decided to cut through the chest bone with Honesuki. Probably, because disjointing was so easy with it. Anyway, it was not a good idea. I've ended up with 4 chips and rolls on the blade, the biggest having 0.5mm in depth.
So, I screwed up pretty bad. This wasn't the job for the knife with the edge so thin. Deba or sheers would've done it faster and with no damage. One thing that surprised me was that the edge actually rolled in couple places, didn't chip away. For the steel that is 63-65HRC that's pretty surprising. I figure just like Debas, Honesukis are made on the lower end of the range, to keep toughness. On the other hand even that lower range is 63HRC, compare that to 56HRC onwestern chef's knives and slicers ;) As you can see that has a reason. While cleaning the meat from the bones, you simply might hit the bone accidentally, not on purpose as I did. Anyway, the end result was that I've spent around 30 minutes with fine abrasives(2 mic and lower) to straighten the edge, remove rolled parts and restore blunted sections. However, that wasn't sufficient to remove deeper chips. I guess when I get my Honesuki back, I'll have to spend couple hours, or so getting the pristine edge on it.
Another use, I found for Honesuki in my kitchen(and I can't claim I am all that original), is the utility use. Works quite well for small stuff, veggies and such. Because of its weird blade geometry, Honesuki is quite wide at the heel, mine has 42mm width at that point. That's pretty wide and it's good because it gives good clearance for your fingers when cutting. Thus, honesuki can be safely used for variety of tasks. I've tried various vegetables, meat, fruits, worked pretty well unless the items were fairly large. For rocking motion Honesuki is too small and forces the user to raise the shoulder too high, besides the blade isn't wide all the way, only at the heel, so your claw(guide) hand fingers holding/pushing the food under the edge are or can be at danger. On the other hand, for smaller items it worked very well. I've cut chiffonade and batonnet, minced garlic and radish, stemmed strawberries and other things. It's a really stout and quite versatile knife. In some cases can be used like a small gyuto if you're not into bigger ones. Honesuki point also has its uses not only for boning. I already mentioned stemming (or de-stemming) berries, for other fines works it does just as fine.
Conclusions- All in all, this is a very specialized knife, but can be used for variety of tasks, especially when relatively small or medium size knife is desired and finer cutting tasks are at hand. Obviously, it works very well for boning, but not for chopping though the bones, use meat cleaver, your favorite Busse or Deba for that, don't repeat my mistake.
- Blade - 150.00mm(5.91")
- Thickness - 4.15mm
- OAL - 290.00mm(11.42")
- Steel - Aogami 63-65HRC
- Handle - Magnolia Wood
- Weight - 136.00g(4.6oz)
- Acquired - 09/2008 Price - 192.00$
Last updated - 09/01/11