The Japanese Deba Knife

The Japanese Deba Knife

Posted by Ramon Elzinga on

The Japanese Deba Knife

The Deba Knife Anatomy

The Deba knife is one of the first knives created by the worlds elite Samurai community. The knife was originally created as a tobacco chopper for Portuguese exporters however it evolved to become one of the most commonly used multi purpose knives in the Japanese knife collection. 

The Deba knife which does multiple functions - chopping anything including fish and poultry bone, boning with the intricate tip and chopping with the substantial belly and weight in the blade. 

Whilst the Deba knife is mainly associated preparing fish, it has many more functions, and in Japan is the key knife to improving the dinner experience for its creator just as much as the eaters.

The Deba Knife Handle

The Deba Knife Handle

1. The Handle / E

Given this is a half tang handle or a "wa" handle it is 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.

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 light weight 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 is contained with thin 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 favoured shape for both Shannon and i as it makes it a little more comfortable for our pinch hold to glide up and down the blade as we undertake different cuts. A bone chop we hold a little higher on the blade where when we are doing intricate boing we creep our fingers toward the target (actually in between the fish or poultry bone). It also looks nice :)

The Deba Knife Blade

The Deba Knife Blade

5. Heel / Ago

The heel of the Deba knife is a fairly classic. A small curve and a drop down at 90 degrees means we are able to use the heel of the blade for chopping when dealing with anything that's hard (pumpkin peeling, poultry boing, chopping off a fishes head so it can be used in stock or curry etc). If you want to come down with force with any knife it's comfortable to use the heel. Often times it's heel meet heel. Assuming you hold the knife with the right hand you can push down on the heel with the heel of the left hand.  

6. Spine / Muni

The spine of the Deba knife is thick (up to 5mm at the spine located above the heel right down through the belly). This hefty added weight is what makes the Deba knife such a powerful and useful weapon. Unlike a meat cleaver the Deba knife spine has a dramatic sharpening as you approach the tip to allow the use of the tip to be far more diverse. The spine of the Deba knife makes this a spectacular blade.

7. Belly / Tsura

The Deba knife belly is fat. Very fat. Great for chopping fat fish, chickens and even vegetables. The middle section of the Deba knife means you can push down on the middle of the spine with the left hand whilst rolling the blade with the right. Again, this is a unique but highly effective blade shape that works like no other. 

8. Tip / Kissaki

The Deba tip is strong and short. If you don't have a Honesuki this part of the blade can be used for detailed boing on chicken.

9. Edge / Hassaki

As we approach the tip the Deba knife has a fairly steep and sharp curve that brings you quickly to the tip. This curvature allows roll chopping and also ensures significant weight near the end of your blade. This means that you have a very powerful tip.

10. Cutting Edge / Kireha

The cutting edge of the Deba knife is that thick part of the blade nearer the handle which is used for powerful cutting strokes such as removing the head of a fish on cutting through a chicken bone. The wide spine above this part of the blade gives it far superior power when compared with a chefs knife or gyuto knife.

The Deba Knife Cutting Strawberry

More Deba Knife components to consider....

11. Single Bevel blade

The Deba has a classic single bevel approach. This means that only one side is beveled with the inside of the Deba actually having concave curvature. This means the width of the blade at the point can be half that of a classic western chefs knife 15-17%. The curved inside on the blade also means that very little steel is in actual contact with whatever it's cutting. For first time users a single bevel blade can be tricky to handle, however once you can control the blade this does many tricks that a many double bevelled knives (all western knives) cannot.

12. Weight

When trying to ship a Deba you will soon realize they are much heavier than most other Japanese knives (even with a half tang which reduces the weight of the whole knife). 

Lastly, what leads you to the Deba...

If you love fish, if you love poultry and if you love something that feels like a weapon in the hand the Deba might be a knife for you. It's a timeless utility knife that prefers those of you who love the sea. 

The Deba / Fish Knife

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