For last few years I've been cutting a lot of vegetables. Very beneficial for both, health and knife testing purposes, although I'm not a vegetarian and I eat quite a bit of meat too, which also serves well for testing slicing type knives like sujihiki and yanagiba. Vegetables, of which I cut about 15 lbs every weekend, do need some preparation when brought from the store. Wash, remove roots, cut small pieces here and there, rubber bands, other packaging, etc. Basically, that boils down to about 45 minutes of washing and cutting. I mentioned this aspect in a few other paring knives reviews. I also said that, even though I've been through a lot of paring knives during last several years, I couldn't really find a good one for this job, some seemed too small, others too big, and I kept thinking what type of the knife would I need to make that annoying work easier, or at least less annoying. Basically, I wanted to design my own, once again ;) Well, it was a good excuse, since I've examined/tested quite a few paring/peeling knives and none of them were satisfactory, and plus, to be honest, I had an itch for a new knife, which happens often to me. Obviously, for small prep works I needed small paring knife, and because I've already tested Calphalon parer knife in that role, I knew 115mm(4.53") was a little on the longer side for me, and all the parers I've tested and reviewed were rather narrow for what I wanted. That defined the blade length and width parameters. Next was the tip. Because I had to wash and cut at the same time, sharp, pointy tip became an issue, and I have to admit, I did manage to poke my fingers with different parers few times, so that resulted in sheepsfoot or kamagata type tip requirement. Finally, because there is no complicated cutting involved and I needed maximum sharpness, I went with the chisel bevel design. After that, the rest was easy, I've contacted Shinichi Watanabe, we hashed out the details in few emails, he was really helpful as usual, and I've had my knife few weeks later. Very close to the specs I had in the design.
General- Watanabe style kamagata paring knife, which can also qualify as a muki knife, is a small, but wide paring knife. Wide for a parer of that size. The knife came in packed in the box bearing Watanabe logo as usual. Well, there was another knife form Watanabe in the same package, but that's a different story, it wasn't my knife. Initial inspection didn't reveal any flaws in fit and finish, the knife was superbly well made and precisely crafted. Actually, I can say it was even better than earlier knives in the same class from Shinichi, he is improving his craft from what I can see. The handle, even though it was made from the plain ho wood, was very well finished, and the blade finish was also very nice, I'd say it was Shigefusa finesse level of completion. It's always good to see that level of attention to the small details, even on entry level handles, in fact the handle is so good and well made, I have hard time deciding whether or not to make a custom handle for it. Custom Sabaki knife made by Shinichi, has the same type ho wood handle, but octagonal one, and I can't make myself to replace that one either. The knife is really light, just 69.00g(2.33oz), small knife after all. Sharpening job out of the box was also very high quality, mirror polished, crazy sharp edge, and as usual I went with 0.30µm and 0.25µm abrasives at it, followed by stropping on the plain leather strop, but I can't say increase in sharpness was dramatic, barely noticeable. In short, very high initial sharpness. Now, all I had to do, just see if my design would work well for whatever I am doing as vegetable prep works.
Blade- As mentioned above, I went with kamagata style blade, because of the earlier troubles with pointy tips. I don't want to say, those small stabbing or poking accidents were unavoidable, sure they were, if I was careful enough. The thing with the accidents is, they happen anyway :) Besides, the prep work is no fun, not to me at least, plus water, washing things, etc, I'm always in a hurry to get it over with, and being extra careful with the knife simply slows things down, and rounded kamagata tip simply allows faster work and saves my time. The blade is 110mm from the tip to the handle, but actual cutting length is about 100mm. If you ask me that's about perfect for a paring knife, and for the veggie prep work I am doing. The width is 28mm, and the spine is ~3mm. The blade tapers evenly, immediately from the spine, all the way to the edge, which was designed to improve cutting performance. The knife is made out of Hitachi YSS Shirogami 1 steel. As usual, I prefer Aogami 1 steel that Shinichi uses, but for maximum sharpness and variety too, I went with Shirogami 1, or Shiroko 1.
I knew from the beginning, the knife would see a lot of wet ingredients, which does bring some concerns about corrosion resistance, but not enough to warrant a stainless steel knife. I still went with carbon steel, but clad with stainless, Ni-Mai Awase style. I did want the blade thin, and cladding actually makes the blade thicker, but going honyaki with such a small, experimental knife was overboard, so I've settled with the awase. As mentioned above, the kasumi finish on the blade is super nice. One of the best I have seen, period. The blade back side is standard urasuki style, slightly concave, makes cutting easier. Knife is sharpened from the urasuki side, same mirror polished bevels, and the bevel, or whatever that would be, the ground part which is flat, has uniform width throughout, which is one more indicator of high quality, dimensions are perfectly maintained, otherwise bevel width would differ. I've seen that before, on high end knives too, including Aritsugu Kamagata usuba. The edge angle was approximately 10° or so. I don't think I'll thin it down though, considering that 10° is a total angle and roots and packaging may not be very edge friendly, and as it is, the knife has very high cutting ability.
Handle- As usual, when buying Japanese knives, I plan on replacing handles, because most of the makers don't make complicated handles, don't have the wide array of handle materials to choose from, and so on. Some do offer custom handles, like Aritsugu, but the pricing is so high that I get the impression that it's more of a deterrent. So, when I was ordering paring knife from Watanabe, I've opted for the ho wood D-Type handle, which is an entry level style. It was a temporary solution, until I'd have a new handle made for it. As I said above, the handle is so nicely made, I have hard time deciding to replace it. Very smooth and nice texture. The only thing that really bothers me, is the D shape, which I personally hate. No real reason though, just that's how I feel about it. If it were octagonal, no way I'd replace it, but denser wood will be better, and octagonal handle is what I definitely prefer. Overall, besides makes quality, it's a good handle, in terms of size and comfort. Proportional with the blade and that's pretty much all you want form the handle, unless you are picky about the shape, like I am. Also, worth noting, the smooth finish and apparently some sort of protective layer do excellent job in preventing the handle from absorbing excessive amounts of water when working, and as I said, when using this knife I constantly work with the wet vegetables.
Usage- Watanabe kamagata paring knife is designated veggie prep knife. As I said, I cut quite a bit of them in one session, and I don't like getting interrupted for washing or cleaning when I am into 2 hour long cutting session, and besides dry veggies taste better(at least in a salad) and preserve better too. So, I prep them earlier. That includes various cutting tasks and I don't use this knife for anything else. Having over 40 knives in the kitchen, I sure can afford the luxury of dedicated knives. Absolute majority of the cutting is done off the board, with very few exceptions. One of the more demanding jobs(for the edge) is cutting of the ends of the Brussels sprouts. As usual about 35-40 of those. With the thin, 10° edge it's very easy, and even though the blade is rather wide for the paring knife, I feel it's working out just fine in paring knife grip. Cutting the leaves and tips from the red radish is also handy, using the same grip. One more job, and more difficult too, is cutting the ends of the broccoli stems. Damn things get too hard on occasion and the knife is small. Obviously, larger knife would do better, but this little puppy does fine using paring grip again. Even though kamagata tip isn't very pointy, it's still plenty enough to cut the broccoli leaves, and those sometimes are not that easy to reach. I've tried peeling an apple, just for testing, and while I managed to do it, I think dedicated parer works better.
There's two ingredients I constantly cut on the board - collard greens and Italian parsley. For parsley, I just put the bunch on the board and cut off the ends, or on occasion, I just do it in the air, over the garbage bin. As for the collard greens, I cut out the middle, hard section, using the pinch grip and mainly the tip of the knife. The knife is light and nimble enough to make precise cuts very easy. So, overall I am pretty happy with its performance.
There are few other small things I cut with Watanabe parer here and there, including plastic bags, rubber bands etc. I won't bore you with the details, custom knife, my own use choices... It's been a while since I have the knife, and so far it never needed a serious sharpening. Still the same original edge, so far the only maintenance it needed, stropping on the 0.25µm diamond crystal loaded strop and regular steeling on the borosilicate rod prior to every use, although that's nothing specific to this knife, I steel or strop all of the knives before I use them. In the end, I'm very glad I had this knife made for me. Small utility/paring knife, allows me to work faster and be more efficient when prepping the ingredients, the knife is very well made and holds its edge very well. Overall, I'm quite happy, one more of my designs works for me really well :)
- Blade - 110.00mm(4.33")
- Thickness - 3.15mm
- Width - 28.00mm
- OAL - 225.00mm(8.86")
- Steel - Shirogami 1 62-64HRC
- Handle - Ho Wood
- Weight - 69.00g(2.33oz)
- Acquired - 10/2010 Price - 200.00$