We recently received a TOG Elite Japanese Kitchen Chef Knife Santoku for testing. Bottom Line: This is one very nice knife that handles well, keeps its edge, and just plain looks good.
On the TOG website, there is a “Tech Specs” page that lists all the wonderful, interesting, and even nerdy things about the knives. I’ve decided that my review will focus around the claims on that page.
- “TOG blades are made from a special steel… to produce the ridiculously sharp blade and ensure that it stays sharp.”
- “Incredible cutting performance from a central layer of high-carbon (1%) steel. This core is made from… Acuto 440 that is similar to Western ‘440C’. This is hardened to Rockwell Hardness (HRC) 58-60…”
As an OCD sharpener, any claims to sharpness are always met with (rolled eyes or yawn) “Oh, yes, it is.” I then proceed to lick the entire edge of the blade – twice. :) The TOG blade, however, actually looked and felt surprisingly sharp upon checking the edge right out of the box – sharp enough for me to not employ the old tongue test. So I went straight to the paper cutting test, expecting a typical 240 grit with a buffed edge feel. I was shocked by my first cut, so much so that I took another slice into the paper just to make sure. This thing cut -no- SLICED through the paper in a way that was not the usual factory edge. This was much, much better. I was truly impressed. If I had to call the grit, I would say about 3K. Score 1 for TOG right out of the box.
Edge retention is always going to vary depending on the user and the tasks performed, but when I sharpened up the TOG to my usual angles and finish, it kept up as good as, if not a little better than my usual knives (RC57-58). The knives in the rotation were all freshly sharpened by me, and used in a professional kitchen over a 2 week period with no special treatment (believe me!), and were only adjusted with a sharpening steel by the sometimes brutish kitchen personnel.
Steel junkies say what you will about 440C, but the Acuto 440 steel in this blade is perfect at RC 58-60. IMO, RC 56-60 is the Goldilocks hardness zone for high quality, non-custom kitchen knives – hard enough to hold the edge so that it does not require steeling after every cut, and flexible enough so that the edge won’t chip out. RC 58-60 also makes maintenance on the edge easy and straight forward on just about any good quality sharpening equipment, be it a steel, stones or mechanized sharpeners. I used 220, 1K, and 4K sharpening stones and got a smooth edge with just enough bite. As a sharpener, I am quite satisfied with the quality.
As for the feel of the edge when in use, it actually felt more akin to VG-10 steel, and not even remotely close the soft mushy stuff that your 29-piece knife set in a woodblock has (usually RC ~52). The overall balance and handling of the knife was easy and light, and the thinness of the blade allowed for easy cutting and slicing.
So to sum it up, this is one very nice knife that handles well, keeps its edge, and just plain looks good.
Thank you to the fine people at TOG for the opportunity!