How much does a good Japanese knife cost?
Japanese knives are becoming more and more popular, which is why they have flourished in many shops. Unfortunately with the increase in demand it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between good and bad knives. Here is a short article to help you find a good Japanese knife within your means.
What is a good Japanese knife?
To know the price of a good knife, you have to define what a good knife is. There are 3 essential elements to know if a knife is of quality:
- the steel it is made of
- the method of manufacture
- the material(s) that make up the handle
I will detail each of these points below.
The composition of the steel
The reputation of Japanese knives comes from their incomparable sharpness. This sharpness comes largely from the composition of their blade. The blades of these knives are traditionally made of steel. Although there are Japanese knives with ceramic blades, I prefer not to mention them in this article.
Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon. The higher the carbon content of a steel the harder it is and the sharper it will be. The carbon content of Japanese blades ranges from 0.45% to just over 1%. The carbon content of steels is measured by Rockwell degrees.
The amount of carbon in a blade will have a big impact on the price of the knife. Example of prices:
|Carbon rate||Rockwell degrees||Price of steel per kilo|
|0,4 % à 0,5 %||53 à 56°||3,00 $|
|0,6 % à 0,7 %||55 à 57°||7,50 $|
|0,8 %||56 à 58°||9,50 $|
|0,90%||58 à 60°||18,50 $|
|1,0 %||60 à 62°||40,00 $|
The price can therefore be 13 times more expensive just with the quality of the steel. Then other treatments of the blade can increase the price further(Damascus steel, VG10 steel, vanadium steel or other).
The method of manufacture
There are two methods of handcrafting in Japan. The first one is called “Honyaki”, the blades are forged with only steel (iron + carbon). This technique requires a lot of time and is therefore more expensive. But the knives are of a higher quality with an unequalled sharpness.
The second forging method, “Kasumi”, creates blades containing mainly iron, and steel only on the edge. This technique reduces the cost of production but also the quality of the blade.
Materials used for the handle
The handle of a Japanese knife is an essential part for the comfort of cutting. To choose it, you will need to look at the quality and properties of the material used to make it.
Most often the handle is made of wood and horn. Many woods can be used, for example
- Magnolia (Honoki)
- Resins (e.g. micarta => resin + linen, pakkawood => wood strips + compressed resin)
- Tree bark
It is important to find out about the durability and characteristics of the handle material.
The handle of these knives is D-shaped, with a rounded side and a flatter side. This asymmetry makes the knife more comfortable. However, be careful to choose a knife that is adapted to your preferred hand (there are right-handed knives and left-handed knives depending on the orientation of the blade and the handle).
How to set a budget?
The budget for a quality Japanese knife varies greatly: from around 100€ to over 1,000€. You should therefore choose according to 3 criteria: your needs, your means and your use of the knife.
Plan a budget according to my needs
Depending on my needs in the kitchen, it will be easier to set a budget for my knife:
- If I am an amateur, my budget will be rather low
- If I am a professional, my budget will be higher
- If I am a great chef, my budget will be much higher
This is a basis for reflection, then the other parameters, such as my means and my use will be used to refine my budget.
Setting a budget according to my means
Now I can also think in terms of my means. The question to ask yourself is: How much am I prepared to spend on a good knife? Do I have €100, €200, €500 or more? In this envelope you could also think about including the price of a sharpening stone. Example:
I have a budget of 500€, I can allow 300€ for my knife and 200€ for a stone with two grain thicknesses.
Choose a budget according to my use
Depending on how often I use my knife, my budget will not be the same. The same applies to the wear and tear of my knife. The more often I use my knife, the more I will need a high quality knife. This will allow me to keep it for a very long time, even if I use it every day.
- If I am a hobbyist and cook occasionally with my knife, I will not need a high quality knife.
- If I am a professional, using the knife very regularly, I will need a knife from a professional range.
- If I am a great sushi master, I will need a very high quality knife, made by a renowned artisan.
These examples should be adapted to your situation. You may well be an amateur who uses his knife infrequently but has very large means. In this case you can take a high quality knife to please yourself. It’s up to you to see what you need in relation to these different elements. This will give you an idea of how to establish a budget.
What are the price ranges?
There are generally 4 price ranges among knife manufacturers and sellers:
- entry-level: inexpensive knives, very good for starting out and making a first purchase (around 50 to 150€)
- mid-range: reasonably priced knives, intended for amateurs or people who already have a good affinity with these knives or have more important needs (150€ to 300€)
- top of the range: knives at high prices, dedicated to professionals, they will last several decades (300€ to 500€)
- master knives: exceptional knives, with costs commensurate with their quality and rarity (500€ to more than 1 000€, for this kind of knives, there is not really a high range)
These ranges are simply a guide to help you. They do not constitute a divine word. Depending on the brand and the craftsman, prices may vary.
Low cost knives
There are more and more low cost knives available for less than 50€. These knives are not necessarily bad, but they are often very far from real Japanese knives. My first knife, for example, came from a famous Swedish brand. I paid about 10€ for it at the time. It works well for the purpose I had in mind, but there is nothing Japanese about it. Its blade is sharpened in a V-shape like western knives and its handle is made of plastic with rivets. Its blade is stainless steel, which is rarely the case with Japanese knives.
This knife cuts very well, but it is not a Japanese knife. Only the shape of the blade, reminiscent of the Santoku, reminds one of Japanese knives.
Japanese knives for amateurs
If you are a lover of cooking or of Japanese knives, you will need to look for medium or high quality knives. Knives that you can keep for many years and that will offer you a very good experience and a remarkable cutting quality. To find out more about the different types of Japanese knives that exist, read our article.
Top Haiku Home knives :
Professional knives need to be very strong with a high cutting quality. Because of their intensive use, you should not skimp on the price. It is best to test these knives to be sure of the comfort of the handle and the balance of the knife.
Top Kasumi Damascus knives :
Knives for top chefs
Knives for top chefs are usually made to order. These renowned chefs, whether Japanese or not, want the best to offer their guests the finest dishes. To obtain knives with perfect sharpness and ergonomics, it is therefore necessary to turn to a master blacksmith. He will make a custom knife for the chef who orders it. This knife will be exceptionally sharp and will fit the hand of its owner perfectly.
Top Haiku Kurouchi knives (hand forged) :
We have covered the important points to know and understand what is the right price for a quality Japanese knife. I hope this article has helped you. If so, please share it with your friends and family who are passionate about cooking and Japanese blades! To choose the right knife for the dish you are making, click on the previous link.