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Buying a kitchen knife - a crash course

With so many shapes, sizes, steels and finishes it can be overwhelming knowing what to look for in a Japanese knife - don't worry, here's our helpful guide.

Choosing a kitchen knife is not as hard you might think, it just seems like it because of all the choices available.

The cost and the fear of getting it wrong can be stressful but don't worry, we're here to help you figure it all out and get you a knife so sharp your onions will cry in fear.

Our promise - All our knives are great

Let's cover one the biggest fears first - a good knife can cost a lot of money and it's sometimes scary hovering over that "buy now" button. When you buy a Japanese knife, you're buying something you should be able to use for the rest of your life if you look after it.

When we decide what to sell on the site, we look at knives we'd only be happy using ourselves and would personally recommend. It's why we don't have hundreds of ranges.

Everything on the site is of a quality we love and stand by so you can be assured that any of the knives you like the look of are of a high standard and if for any reason you're not happy after your purchase, we also offer a 30 day money back promise

Can your current kitchen knife do this?

It's not the most efficient way to prepare a tomato but it's a great demonstration of the sharpness of Japanese knives. If your current knife can't manage this, it might be time for you to think about upgrading to something more awesome ...


This is one of our Moonlit Waves range but all our knives are capable of this slightly unorthodox food prep technique.

Choosing your knife

We often get asked for a recommendation and we nearly always give the same answer if a customer doesn't have a specific style in mind or they're after a general use chef knife and that's to buy something from the Masakage Yuki range. They have it all - beauty, sharpness, a quality edge and hard wearing carbon steel and an excellent price tag. 

Gallery Masakage Yuki Gyuto 210Mm

The Masakage Yuki Gyuto 210mm - One of our favourites, if you're not sure what to go for the Yuki range is a great starting place.

If you're after a little more then we recommend heading to the homepage and browsing all our ranges where we've written about and reviewed each knife and and there's a good selection to choose from to cater to all tastes and budgets. 

Don't hesitate too long

It's worth bearing in mind that because nearly all of the knives on the site are handmade in small forges by one or two blacksmiths and as such supply is not guaranteed and when a knife has sold out it can sometimes take months to restock. 

If you're keen on a particular knife don't leave it too long to buy it because it might be gone and in the case of some ranges for several months or more.

How to choose the best kitchen knife for you

What style of kitchen knife do I need?

Start with one good kitchen knife and build your knife set/collection from that.

We typically recommend a "Santoku" or "Gyuto" knife as a first purchase if you're looking for an all rounder with a blade usually around 6-7 inches long, it's not too big or small and so is usually the one knife type you'll use daily.

Gallery VG10 Santoku L

A santoku knife is the perfect all rounder if you're not sure what you need - this one is from our VG-10 damascus range.

We have a whole page devoted to which knives you really need but in short the order you should be buying are Chef, Paring and optionally a Santoku (that's pronounced "san-too-koo", it's a Japanese style of knife and pretty handy at chopping veg and meat), carving and bread knife. 

Learn more about the various styles of knives.

Looks

How a knife looks should be the last thing you buy a knife for, but that being said, a good looking knife is a real treat. As we've picked only awesome knives feel free to pick a pretty one and buy it safe in the knowledge it will be a great performer.

Gallery Masakage Koishi Gyuto 180Mm 1

A traditional Japanese style Masakage Koishi "Gyuto 180mm" combines a stunning handcrafted blade and shape with a high quality handle. 

If you want some inspiration, take a look at the beautiful cloud patterns on the Kumo range, or the gorgeous Koishi blades.

If you want a knife that is the perfect blend of East meets West then check out our Moonlit Waves range which feature a Western handle with a Japanese blade. One of our introductory ranges these are great value for money whilst still maintaining our insistence on only selling quality knives.

Gallery Sakai Takayuki Santoku 1

Our Moonlit Waves range are the perfect blend of East and West.

How sharp is Japanese knife steel?

We've all owned a "supermarket special" kitchen knife in our life, the one that stays sharp for about two meals. Don't judge all knives by these, real kitchen knives are in a completely different league.

Knife steel has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, the new steels are simply amazing for making knives and we really mean it, they really will make you say "holy sh*t" when you first use them.

Ones to look out for are VG-10, Powder Steel and High Carbon steels. Why are they so good? They take and hold an edge better and simply put, we are all lazy at heart, we don't want to keep sharpening knives every time we use them. The newer steels are made from super hard steel that simply does not blunt as fast, you can go months between sharpening your knives.

Perfect for us lazy home cooks who already have too much on our plates. These steels simply stay really sharp for much longer, that's why we sell them.

Learn more about the types of steel

Ease of care and protection

Let us make this easy. No kitchen knife should be put in the dish washer. Wipe them clean, dry and store them after each use. Simple.

When it comes to storing and protecting your knife, we suggest a magnetic wooden knife rack. We're exclusive suppliers in the UK of Magblok knife racks which are handmade in the US and come in a range of sizes and woods to compliment your kitchen.

If you're travelling or want to store your knife in a draw - we'd recommend a wooden saya to protect not only the blade but your fingers when you reach for it. 

Learn more about ease of care

Knife weight

If you use a knife all day every day then you want a light knife to reduce fatigue. Light knives are a joy to use and so nimble. If you are not a professional though then knife weight really is not an issue, you simply won't be using them long enough to get fatigued in the first place.

If in doubt pick one you like the look of and that will do. Remember we only sell great knives so the choice is easy.

Blade length/size

This relates mostly to Chef's knives. This topic is the one that probably gets the most discussion and the most disagreement. As a result we can't really give you a definitive answer.

At the end of the day it comes down to personal preference. How often do you get to try out a selection of the same knife in different sizes to make your mind up? If you're in doubt for your first knife or just a good all rounder, we recommend a middle ground of a 6.5" to 8" inch chef's knife (a "Santoku" or a "Gyuto" typically) which will cover 95% of kitchen jobs.

If in doubt follow this route. However if you are a bit more adventurous we would say it is worth trying a longer knife especially if you hold it the right way using a pinch grip. 

Handles

There are two main styles to choose from. The traditional Western style we typically know or the Japanese "wa" handle.

Western are the style most of us will be familiar with, full tang (where the blade goes all the way through the handle), often riveted and pretty damn sturdy. You feel like you could fell a tree with one.

Gallery Masakage Kumo Nakiri

The beautiful rosewood handle on Masakage's Kumo range of knives

The Japanese "wa" handle is light weight and as a result feels like it is barely there. This is a centuries old design and typically when combined with a half tang makes the knife feel significantly lighter and more nimble in your hand.

Tang

Knife Tang

Japanese handles use a half tang (the blade only goes half way or less into the handle) and as a result are lighter but no less robust for the task in hand, it's a kitchen knife at the end of the day not an axe.

So there you go, that's just about all you need to know. Remember the knives we sell on this site are not mass produced rubbish you might have used in the past. These really will change the way you think about knives, the way you cook and will certainly give you that "Where have you been all my life?" moment that will make you want to tell your friends about.

Read more about Helpful Information.

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