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Yoshikane Tamamoku 300mm(4¾") Yanagiba
Japanese Kitchen Knife Review

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Yoshikane Tamamoku 300mm(4¾") Yanagiba

One more knife that I got to sharpen, use and test which, was not mine. Initially it was a present. My friend's birthday was coming up and I was tasked with picking a present, since we decided that the present would be a knife, and being the only knife collector among the friends, I got to pick the knife. Knowing my friends knife habits and use, and having some ideas what did he like in my fairly large kitchen knives collection, I've decided on Yanagiba. Perhaps, Sujihiki would've been more prudent, as former is a chisel grind edge, and later is normal V grind, not requiring learning time, but I also knew the recipient of the present liked Yanagibas better, and that became the deciding factor. After that I've simply went to Takeshi's Aframes Tokyo and picked one, out of quite large selection of Yanagibas. I've skipped Aritsugu yanagibas, due to their very high hardness and wear resistance. But on the other hand, I didn't want something too soft either, since I knew the new owner would use it strictly for soft protein cutting. Eventually, I've picked Yoshikane Tamamoku yanagiba, and within a week or so I've had it in my possession. Then I've touched up the edge and did some testing, and then touched up the edge again. After all that the knife ended up with the new owner, and year later came back to me for sharpening.

General

- Yoshikane knives are made by Tsuneo Yoshida, as I understand, bladesmith at Yoshikane Cutlery Co. Not sure what his title is, but he's the maker and the master who deserves the credit for the knife. Yoshikane Tamamoku Yanagiba package included nice box with Yoshikane logo, the knife itself and a nice saya. Box was large enough to fit the knife in the saya. Strange, but several other knives I've received don't fit in the box when the knife is in the saya. Packaging was nice, and I've proceeded with the initial inspection. Very nice made knife, craftsmanship, fit and finish are very good. I couldn't complain about anything. Kiriba and shinogi are well defined and their flow is very smooth. As for the tamamoku itself, that's a combination of two words, "tama" - dot pattern, and "moku" - grain. Not sure how accurate the description is, but the pattern is very nice, rather subtle, but overall quite elegant. Blade finish is very smooth, no imperfections, scratches, messed up patter spots. Like I said, very well made knife. The handle and the blade fit well, no gaps neither between the blade and the handle, nor between the handle and ferule. The only thing that was not up to the quality of the rest of the knife was the edge. On its own, the edge was really sharp, but for that knife I'd rather have something like mirror polished, high gri finish and all that. However, considering that authentic Japanese knives come with no edge from Japan, I figured it was lucky to have something at all. Like I said, I've sharpened the knife, but it took little time.

Blade

- Yanagibas are one of the most popular collectable knives in Japan(Nozaki says so in his book, and I take his word for it), and yes, their willow leaf shaped blade is the beauty. Yoshikane Tamamoku Yanagiba has 300mm(12") long blade, which is 5mm thick at the heel and the width is 37mm at the same spot. Cutting edge measures exactly 290.00mm(11.5"). The blade is made using traditional Japanese Ni-Mai awase cladding technique. Hagane, or the hard core is made out of the Takefu V2 high carbon steel, which has about 0.95-1.05% Carbon, and is somewhat similar with Hitachi Shirogami II steel. Although, Shirogami steel is mainly known for its purity, and V2 has higher tolerances for Sulfur and Phosphorus compared to Shirogami series. Also, V2 contains trace amounts of Chromium and Nickel, but not in the amounts to make the steel stain resistant. It(Cr) can improve carbide content, hardenability, etc, but 0.5% Chromium is not anything to consider in terms of stain resistance. And to be thorough, for curious minds, here Hitachi Shirogami 2 steel vs. Takefu V2 steel composition comparison. At high hardness, which is 63-64HRC, carbon steels with polished, thin edges do very well, especially for protein cutting. The information about hardness is courtesy of Takeshi. I was bombarding him with emails about the knife and details about it, he was kind as usual and answered all of my questions(again), for which I am very grateful. Urasuki, or the back side of the blade is slightly concave, as it should be, reducing the drag and making sharpening very easy, that is is you know how to and have a flat stone to work with. The concave area is very even on the entire blade, it's very visible on a sharpened blade, i.e. the polished bevels are very even. Just another indicator of good craftsmanship. Almost forgot, the jigane, or cladding layer is apparently made of the wrought iron, judging by its reactivity. Initial edge was around 15° inclusive, which obviously is quite thin and very sharp. If it was my own knife, I'd lower the edge to 10°, but granted that it was not my knife and the owner is not as careful with the knives as I am, I've decided to keep the 15° edge, just sharpen it a bit. 15° inclusive edge is still a very thin edge and by no means it is insufficient for 99% of the users. And I have to admit here, after test use, I was trying to experiment with kiriba polishing, and failed miserably. Later on I got fingerstones to fix the issue.

Handle

- The handle on the Yoshikane tamamoku yanagiba is quite standard wa type handle, ho wood, octagonal shape. Even though the ho wood is relatively simple material, it is very nicely finished, and has a pretty good feel to it. On my own knives I do prefer more fancy, preferably black, denser wood handles, but I do have a few knives in ho wood, which can be very good if it is properly done :) In this case it is. The ferule is black horn, and does a good job protecting the wood in the handle from moisture and food acids. Other than that there is nothing special about the handle. Overall, it is a solid, very user friendly handle, in all possible grips used in the kitchen. I have it on various types of knives, starting from small paring knives and ending with large ones like gyutos and yanagibas. Wa handles work like charm every time. Well, they do for me, and I am pretty sure they'll do for you as well. If not, then I suspect you are in a tight spot, yanagibas predominantly have wa handles.

Next - Usage and Conclusions

Last updated - 05/26/12