Knife Sizes

For questions/topics that don't fit into the other, more specific forums.
Post Reply
DanielB
Posts: 15
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2018 3:42 pm

Knife Sizes

Post by DanielB » Thu Jun 14, 2018 4:16 pm

Something I've been curious about for a while: does anyone know how knife sizes became standardized, more or less? Why are Japanese blades, for example, almost always 210 mm or 240 mm, instead of what to my mind would be a perfect compromise at 225 mm? Chad Ward, in his An Edge in the Kitchen, asks a similar question about Western style chef knives, when they go from 8" to 10" when 9" feels just right. Anyone know anything about this?

Kalaeb
Posts: 2105
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2017 8:59 pm
Location: Baltimore, MD

Re: Knife Sizes

Post by Kalaeb » Thu Jun 14, 2018 4:20 pm

I don't know how it got to the standard 240 and 210, but 225 is my favorite size.

240 is just a tad long for me, 210 just a tad short....225 is perfect.

Lepus
Posts: 4431
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2017 10:06 pm
Location: Durham, NC

Re: Knife Sizes

Post by Lepus » Thu Jun 14, 2018 5:00 pm

In Japanese there is an archaic measurement of length, the sun, that measures just a hair over 3cm. 7 sun is 212mm and 8 sun is 242mm. The 30mm jump is a standard; 5 sun is a 150mm petty, 6 sun is a 180mm usuba or nakiri. A shaku, 10 sun, is 303mm, which is a pretty good length for a yanagiba. I haven't read anything suggesting these measurements and the standard lengths of knife are related, but I would be shocked if it were a coincidence.

I can't claim much credit for this because Murray Carter measures his knives in suns.
Last edited by Lepus on Thu Jun 14, 2018 5:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.

J david
Posts: 851
Joined: Sun Jan 29, 2017 5:07 pm

Re: Knife Sizes

Post by J david » Thu Jun 14, 2018 5:05 pm

I've been told that the in between sizes are readily available from many blacksmiths if requested. It just may not make a lot of sense for the retailers trying to stock an entire line of knives to have 6 gyuto sizes.

Sakai gyutos are measured from the handle typically so a 240 is closer to 230 on the edge. Maybe something like that may be worth looking into.

RamenMonster69
Posts: 8
Joined: Tue Jan 09, 2018 10:21 pm

Re: Knife Sizes

Post by RamenMonster69 » Thu Jun 14, 2018 7:03 pm

Isn't most of the US market, including from larger japanese producers like Shun, Global, and the Zwilling Kramer/Miyabi lines, still measured by western sizes in inches? For my first gyuto I thought I was buying a 10 inch japanese chef knife, what I got was a 240 mm gyuto. I would guess for the home kitchen market, the US is where its at for producers, given that while the EU and Japan are comparably wealthy, the size of their houses (and kitchens) tends to be much smaller.

Gyutos as I understand it are mostly a product of interaction with western culinary preferences and styles. I'm not exactly sure how popular the Gyuto is in Japan vs more traditional knives or even western influenced nakiris and santokus, but it seems like a lot of demand is the result of demand for japanese steel in the West. When I lived there as a kid in the 1980s and 90s, Japanese kitchens were pretty small. I don't think they were swinging around 240s and 270s. While Tokyo has some great western style restaurants, those certainly are nowhere near the majority of the Japanese professional market either. It would stand to reason those sizes would be influenced by the European chef knife sizes probably a lot more than the domestic Japanese market.

User avatar
Jeff B
Posts: 9689
Joined: Fri Jan 27, 2017 5:59 pm
Location: Kentucky

Re: Knife Sizes

Post by Jeff B » Thu Jun 14, 2018 7:44 pm

Lepus wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 5:00 pm
In Japanese there is an archaic measurement of length, the sun, that measures just a hair over 3cm. 7 sun is 212mm and 8 sun is 242mm. The 30mm jump is a standard; 5 sun is a 150mm petty, 6 sun is a 180mm usuba or nakiri. A shaku, 10 sun, is 303mm, which is a pretty good length for a yanagiba. I haven't read anything suggesting these measurements and the standard lengths of knife are related, but I would be shocked if it were a coincidence.

I can't claim much credit for this because Murray Carter measures his knives in suns.
Don't remember the source but remember reading something very similar to this Lepus. The 30mm increments are what is key here. All the most popular sizes of J-knives you see are in increments of 30mm. 90, 120, 150, 180, 210, 240, 270, 300, 330, not a coincidence.
Last edited by Jeff B on Thu Jun 14, 2018 7:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
If God wanted me to be a vegetarian he wouldn't have made animals taste so good.

Seattle_Ben
Posts: 62
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2018 9:56 am
Location: Seattle

Re: Knife Sizes

Post by Seattle_Ben » Thu Jun 14, 2018 7:48 pm

One of my favorite knives for a long time was an Akifusa that was a scant nine inches long that was advertised as a ten inch knife.

User avatar
Kit Craft
Posts: 4630
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2017 8:57 pm
Location: Pennsylvania

Re: Knife Sizes

Post by Kit Craft » Thu Jun 14, 2018 7:54 pm

The increment thing is interest and I have noticed that without really taking it into account before. However, more than a few vendors, brokers and smiths mention the 165mm size as being quite popular in Japan. I suppose this is a compromise between the 180 and the 150 as it is the averaged size but I wonder how that became one of the more popular tweener sizes.

cedarhouse
Posts: 4551
Joined: Fri Jan 27, 2017 7:12 am

Re: Knife Sizes

Post by cedarhouse » Thu Jun 14, 2018 10:20 pm

In some alternate universe, where 225mm gyutos dominate, some thread was just started, "Hey anyone know why it is hard to find a 210mm or 240mm...I mean why 225mm?"

DanielB
Posts: 15
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2018 3:42 pm

Re: Knife Sizes

Post by DanielB » Fri Jun 15, 2018 9:40 am

Lepus wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 5:00 pm
In Japanese there is an archaic measurement of length, the sun, that measures just a hair over 3cm. 7 sun is 212mm and 8 sun is 242mm. The 30mm jump is a standard; 5 sun is a 150mm petty, 6 sun is a 180mm usuba or nakiri. A shaku, 10 sun, is 303mm, which is a pretty good length for a yanagiba. I haven't read anything suggesting these measurements and the standard lengths of knife are related, but I would be shocked if it were a coincidence.

I can't claim much credit for this because Murray Carter measures his knives in suns.
Interesting. I think you're on to something, so I went to my dictionaries (I read Japanese and Chinese for my profession). The old Chinese cun 寸 is said to be 2.25 cm in my reference works, but you're right that the Japanese sun (same character) is said to be 3.03 cm. So increments of 30 mm do make sense. It hadn't occurred to me they might be using this older standard. Thanks. That said, I'd still like a 225 mm gyuto, haha.

User avatar
jbart65
Posts: 2488
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2017 9:18 pm

Re: Knife Sizes

Post by jbart65 » Fri Jun 15, 2018 9:59 am

I have adapted readily to different sizes of knives. Japanese 240s are no problem to handle if they are light enough and have a good balance point as basically all of them do.

Still, I do prefer knives ranging from 220 mm to 235 mm. My only German knife is a 9-inch Messer. I gave my son a Wusthof Classic 8-inch for his first knife and he brought it home last week. Seems too short to me now. The 10-inch classic, on the other hand, felt like a monster. Damn thin was heavy. None of my Japanese 240s feel that way at all, however.
Jeffry B

ashy2classy
Posts: 419
Joined: Sun Jan 29, 2017 7:47 pm

Re: Knife Sizes

Post by ashy2classy » Fri Jun 15, 2018 10:11 am

Lepus wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 5:00 pm
In Japanese there is an archaic measurement of length, the sun, that measures just a hair over 3cm. 7 sun is 212mm and 8 sun is 242mm. The 30mm jump is a standard; 5 sun is a 150mm petty, 6 sun is a 180mm usuba or nakiri. A shaku, 10 sun, is 303mm, which is a pretty good length for a yanagiba. I haven't read anything suggesting these measurements and the standard lengths of knife are related, but I would be shocked if it were a coincidence.

I can't claim much credit for this because Murray Carter measures his knives in suns.
Very cool. I never knew that. And I now understand the titles of M. Carter's knives. :)

User avatar
Kit Craft
Posts: 4630
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2017 8:57 pm
Location: Pennsylvania

Re: Knife Sizes

Post by Kit Craft » Fri Jun 15, 2018 10:12 am

You know, I used to only like small knives 165-180 but now I like all knives. :D But I still have a soft spot for the 165 and 180 sizes. In fact I just got a Zakuri Tosagata Bocho 165mm. :) (I much nicer knife than I was expecting.)

Oh and as ashy just said above, I am glad to understand Carters measurements now as well!

ashy2classy
Posts: 419
Joined: Sun Jan 29, 2017 7:47 pm

Re: Knife Sizes

Post by ashy2classy » Fri Jun 15, 2018 10:16 am

FYI, I ordered a 225 Maboroshi from TF and just sent funds to order a custom 225 from Watanabe. And as previously mentioned, Sakai blades are generally short so those 240s might work for us "tweeners". I think I'm in the process of replacing all my 210s with 225s or short 240s. LOL! UGH! :roll:

User avatar
Jeff B
Posts: 9689
Joined: Fri Jan 27, 2017 5:59 pm
Location: Kentucky

Re: Knife Sizes

Post by Jeff B » Fri Jun 15, 2018 12:49 pm

All of my 240s run true or long up to 255mm except for my HD2 that's about 232mm. I've been contemplating getting something in that 220-230 range for my next knife to expand my "length" selection. I've got petties in 150, 165, 180 and 210, now need to add to the variety in length of my gyutos.
If God wanted me to be a vegetarian he wouldn't have made animals taste so good.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Carter and 14 guests