My Denka no Hoto Journey

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canuckknifeguy
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My Denka no Hoto Journey

Post by canuckknifeguy »

Hi Members

Newer member here, so if this is posted in the wrong section, please forgive. It's been quite a journey, the entry is long, thanks in advance for any member who reads it - I invite and appreciate any comments - I'm sure many here have such stories:

I'm pretty new to Japanese knives, having bought my first in Japan from Aritsugu in Kyoto just before the pandemic hit. The pandemic and some dietary restrictions drove me to seriously focus on cooking - while always a foodie, at 60 yrs I had cooked very little of any complexity and used only better brand name German knives.

Fast forward to wanting to move on from my old Henckels after touring Japan and using my Aritsugu, and as a former research company owner, I researched the heck out of Japanese knives (this forum and others, vendor sites, and numerous shops in southern ontario canada being key sources).

One day I was in a Toronto shop looking at everything with the patient owner who calmly answered all my newbyish questions.

Then I happened to pick up a 195mm TF Denka Gyuto with that notch and octagonal handle. It literally fell into my pinch grip and, unlike any knife I'd held to that point, felt like an extension of my arm and hand. I know that's a cliche, but I found myself looking down at my arm - hand - knife connection wondering how the knife 'did this' - the lines between instrument and body melted into one - I was momentarily mesmerized. It felt perfect and then I looked at the price $768 CDN! Geez... why I asked, okay Aogami Super, but still.

The shop owner said, it's a knife you'll give your grandchildren. The maker is 5th generation and came from samurai sword lineage and a couple other details about the knife - no hard sell, just some info. There were a couple other small knives I was interested in as well: Anryu #2 75mm Petty and a Kotetsu Petty 135mm Type 3. I was torn about the Denka only due to the price - about twice as much as the other two combined.

Everything else in the store including gyutos from other makers felt 'dead' in my hands - no connection to me - not the same balance - no extended arm feel - no primitive hand-hewn beauty like the Denka. I relented and bought all three with a discount of 10% on the petties and 5% on the Denka. At home, to test sharpness in the past, I had set up a piece of photcopy paper folded on its edge and cut down to see if it would slice through and how far before the paper folded over - the Denka went through at least half and more than any other knife I tried.

A day or two later, I took a knife sharpening course from a local Japanese knife shop; I searched the net for info on Denkas and found all the horror stories. Then, armed with more knowledge, looked closely at my Denka fearing the worst. I found some bad: the handle wasn't set centered on a handle facet, there was a small overgrind on the face of the heal about 3/8 sq. inch in diameter in the corner, the first 3/8" of the heal edge sat off the cutting board, and worse, the knife was slightly bent. I also read about grind issues upon later sharpenings, delaminations, the lemons, etc. I thought, if this is what I see now, what might come up later and that slight bend sickened me.

After some panic, I decided to show the knife to a trusted shop I bought another knife from. The vendor calmed me down and said yes there is a slight bend (I'm picky and neurotic with a past collecting vintage watches, and much earlier Asian antiques, so I have a decent eye) but he said he could fix it and didn't at all seem appalled or worried (like I was). Fix it? I asked if he had done this before. Answering in the affirmative, he reached behind the counter and produced a wooden slotted device specifically for the purpose. I was so worried, I couldn't even watch and literally turned away expecting to hear a horrible ping sound. When done, he called me over to look at the knife and pointed me to a board with a large carrot. It was perfectly straight with only the hammering surface showing very very slightly on one side when scoping down the blade, and it cut well without any bind (the previous bend was relatively slight, but seemed to bind slightly cutting down through a large carrot previously).

I thanked him and returned home. But it still bothered me. I called the shop I bought it from and then dropped by with it showing the faults and asking if I could return it - I was thinking analytically - $800+ and Im dealing with this nonsense? The woman in the shop called the owner as the knife was used in testing at the other shop and at my home, and had very light patina over a couple of inches of the core steel. In this age of google live or die reviews, he told her to give me my money back. I was relieved and felt I got away with a close call.

Over the next week or so, I did more research, visited more shops, looked at more knives and even bought a couple: a Shiro Kamo Super tall nakiri 165mm and a 210 mm Konosuki HD2 with rosewood. But, for over a week, I couldn't get that Denka out of my mind. It popped up over and over - when I looked at my magnetic knife bar, I actually felt sad, like a family member was missing, the head of the family; I beat myself up a bit, thinking about WHAT A KNIFE IS FOR: cutting, making food with passion, having the knife motivate you to cook more - the Denka excelled in these areas and I actually felt stupid that I let the internet and my neurosis decide what I wanted; I missed the artistry, the lineage history, and of course the feel in my hand and cutting performance. I also have a history with blades: Ive collected pocket knives and used to study Filipino Kombatan (Escrima) martial arts which involves knife offence and defence skills.

I became increasingly distraught and thought about going to buy it back if it was still there. And, I tried to rationalize to talk myself out of it. But the cost and the minor flaws melted away - I needed that knife!

In Toronto for another reason ( I live an hour away), I decided to call the shop - I noticed it was no longer on their site (as I had looked several times over the past days as if looking for a lost child) and feared the worst. I didn't know if I was going to buy it, but I needed to at least look at it again. Calling the shop from my car, the woman said they did have it and that it wasn't on the site as it was now B-stock and being sold for a discount: $700 CDN even. I felt relief and ecstasy at being able to confirm or deny this aching feeling that I needed that knife.

I drove right over - she had the knife ready for me - inspecting it, it felt like an old friend - the owner (who is Japanese) then happened in and gave me more info on the knife: he had ordered only 2 of the rarer Japanese-handled model; I also found in my research that most Denkas come with Western handles (in North America anyways). We talked about the flaws - that the 'lift' in the heel would come out or be reduced upon a sharpening or two, the nature of TF's style, and that steel and heat treating. We looked at a Denka Nakiri and Gyutos with western handles - they had flaws, one with a mild curve, worse than my Denka after the adjustment. Hefting it, 'shadow cutting', imaging using it, I was falling in love all over again. I decided to buy it - I was given a second chance and wasn't going to let it slip away again.

I felt serious relief after the purchase as he cashed me out, and that I had bonded not only with the knife, but with the owner, the shop, the universe. I felt a wholeness, a completeness and a sense of calm. As he was checking me out, the owner said under his breath, "it was waiting for you" - I felt a chill of truth overtaking me - he was right, he was so right. Driving home I was giddy: I couldn't believe the knife was in my car - I felt for the bag and knife box in it behind my seat - it was really there - no dream - more relief. When I arrived home, I played with it, then put it on my knife bar and felt the family is now all here - no need for more knife purchases for a while - there are no holes, I can relax, all is well...
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ronnie_suburban
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Re: My Denka no Hoto Journey

Post by ronnie_suburban »

Wow! That is a crazy story but one I suspect many of us can totally appreciate. It seems clear that you and this knife were meant to be together. I'm glad it worked out. Thanks, for sharing.
=R=

canuckknifeguy
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Re: My Denka no Hoto Journey

Post by canuckknifeguy »

thanks RS!

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Re: My Denka no Hoto Journey

Post by Kalaeb »

Just a few tweaks and this would be THE knife brand to beat...as is, just too many issues. Glad you found one that worked for you. Playing the TF lottery is out of my price range.

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Re: My Denka no Hoto Journey

Post by Renvers »

Thanks for sharing. TF’s aren’t for those searching for perfection and your story is yet another example how they continuously find happy users.

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Renvers
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Re: My Denka no Hoto Journey

Post by Renvers »

With the caveat of course of the few out there that genuinely suck... what’s life without a little risk??

canuckknifeguy
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Re: My Denka no Hoto Journey

Post by canuckknifeguy »

Renvers wrote:
Sat Sep 05, 2020 8:41 pm
Thanks for sharing. TF’s aren’t for those searching for perfection and your story is yet another example how they continuously find happy users.
Yes, its quite an enigma - how something so openly flawed can command so much love and loyalty - you find it elsewhere: in cars, with vintage British sports cars with poor Lucas electrics and some Porsches. I believe the Japanese have a word for it meaning beauty in disharmony or imperfection.

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Re: My Denka no Hoto Journey

Post by Miles »

Great confession. This feeling is what fuels classifieds and keeps Mark’s business going- The elusive search for the perfect knife. And when you find it- it’s fleeting...

Sweet blade. I’ve been curious about TF. There’s a lot of talk in the “other” forum about them. Something about the notch that’s intriguing.

Denka is out of my league but maybe a maboroshi... ugh the short list is getting longer...

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