The Gyuto Knife Anatomy
The Gyuto Knife translates as the “Cow Knife” and much like a cow it works daily as one of the broader utility knives in anyone’s collection. The Gyuto is the Japanese knife that comes close to the western “Chefs Knife.” The main differences between a gyuto and chefs knife are that most Gyuto knives will be tipped with a harder steel (addition of carbon in the core) and also lighter in weight (mainly due to the the single tan described below). If you only have one knife in the kitchen go with the Gyuto knife.
The Gyuto Knife Handle
1. The Handle / E
Like most Japanese knives the Gyuto Knife has a half tang handle or a "wa" handle which makes it light in weight relative to the blade. This helps move the balancing point further down the blade making the pinching grip the grip to use to give the wielder complete control of the knife. Japanese are all a little smaller than the Europeans who created the french chef knives and smaller hands typically lead to slightly smaller handles.
2. The Handle Butt / Ejiri
The butt of the handle is often used to tap in the half tang into the blade. As a result, a 45-degree angle at the butt of the knife is relatively uncommon. We have chosen an angled base both for the lightweight and intricacy of the handle as well as the simple reason - it looks magnificent on the wall or in the hand.
3. The Handle Steel Section / Tang
The tang section of traditional Japanese knife, such as the Gyuto knife, is contained within the handle - not sticking in between the two handle pieces as seen on a full tang. This type of handle allows us to use a single piece of unique fused wood or burl. Once again there is a utility perspective - lighter weight, however much of it is created for beauty - a single piece of treasured wood.
4. Collar / Kakumaki
You will notice the collar on the photographed knife tapers toward the blade. Again this is relatively uncommon - as it takes a little longer to make. The tapering is the favored shape for many as it makes it a little more comfortable for our pinch hold to glide up and down the blade as we undertake different cuts. If we are doing intricate work such as peeling or coring fruit we can slide our fingers closer to the destination. If we are chopping we can move back. The gentle camber on the collar makes it very easy to relocate your fingers are required.
The Gyuto Knife Blade
5. Heel / Ago
The Gyuto knife is built with a 90-degree angle on the heel. A small curve and a drop-down at 90 degrees mean we are able to use the heel of the blade for chopping when dealing with anything that's hard (pumpkin, potato, watermelon, chicken, etc). If you want to come down with force with any knife it's comfortable to use the heel. You will often use two hands where you hold the knife in your favored hand and use the other hand to push down on the spine of the knife that sits above the heel.
6. Spine / Muni
The spine of the Gyuto knife is slimmer than a bone chopper like the Deba knife or meat cleaver but marginally thicker than a vegetable chopper like the Nakiri knife. As a utility knife it deliberately sits in the middle. Typically the spine will be at about 2.5mm in its thinkest point. That said, it deliberately tapers off as you approach the knife tip to allow you to perform intricate chopping or slicing. The spine is beautifully balanced and part of the reason this is the most popular knife.
7. Belly / Tsura
Once again the belly of the Gyuto blade sits in the middle of a broad knife selection. In designing our Gyuto we have lengthened the belly a little closer to the tip which makes it easier to chop vegetables (and anything that is calling for the chopping movement). Whilst the final strokes when preparing a meal should be slices (heel to tip slicing in one motion) chopping is much faster than slicing so it can be used in preparing onions, cabbage, etc. “Not too skinny, not too fat the Gyuto belly is where it is at” - boom-cha :)
8. Tip / Kissaki
The Gyuto Knife is often used for intricate cutting (we could use a Petty knife but why force yourself to have to wash to when one knife hits the bill). In designing our Gyuto knife we’ve made some subtle variations. We have raised the spine and tip height like a rearing horse so you may find the tip a little easier to use (we like it and hence we did it that way). Whatever way you use your knife the tip is a critical point and the point most likely to be bent. If you drop your knife from a high height our knife should invert and hit the handle rather than the point so most of the time you should be ok. If you need to shave the tip see your favorite sharpener or give us a call (depending on where you are on the planet, we may be able to assist).
9. Edge / Hassaki
The cutting edge (the Hassaki) on the Gyuto knife is longer than most allowing you to perform the productive movements of slicing a cabbage or chopping the chit out of a potato. The blade length allows you to move across a large potato or tomato fairly easily. The blade length we look for is normally around 8 to 9 inches to balance intricate control with ability to shoulder a large pile of chopping and slicing required.
10. Cutting Edge / Kireha
As we approach the tip we enter the region known as the cutting edge. This is actually the part of the Gyuto who cops the most use. If you peer through a microscope after a month of use you’ll start to see this is the area does most of the load and therefore requires consistent honing (straightening but not removing the steel at the knives edge) and relatively frequent stoning (removing the steel on the blade edge).
More Gyuto Knife components to consider....
11. Double Bevel blade
The Gyuto Knife is one of the few knives that is commonly used both in the east and the west. One of the main reasons is the western double-beveled approach (i.e camber down both sides of the blade). This means that the skills learned in cutting with a chef's knife can be directly re-applied and the use of this Japanese knife is a simple transition.
The handle being half tang with a resin-infused wooden handle we are able to produce a very lightweight Gyuto knife which supports lots of work with less lifting. My wife is also happier with a Gyuto than chefs knife for this very reason - happy wife = happy life :)
Lastly, what leads you to the Gyuto...
The Gyuto looks nice, cuts everything and is a simple transition if you are considering sampling a Japanese kitchen toolbox.