One of the largest differences between western style knives and traditional Japanese knives is the bevel. While western style knives are sharpened at an angle on both sides creating a V, Japanese knives are sharpened at an angle on only one side, more like a chisel レ.
Where a double bevel knife pushes the food away from both sides as you slice, a single bevel only pushes the food away from one side. This can be useful when trying to create a consistent cut, either with proteins like fish or vegetables like a daikon radish.
Each style may have their place in your kitchen. A double bevel can be useful when cutting through large vegetables, whereas a single bevel blade may break the larger vegetable apart. Where the material is more malleable or thinner cuts are being created, such as for sashimi slices or peeling a daikon radish, a single bevel knife can get you very thin, consistent cuts.
Single bevel knives are similar to Japanese wood working chisels, and the flat side of the blade is actually concave. This shape is formed right after the forging by hammering the newly formed blade on an anvil with a slight rounding to it. This concave shape is important to the design during the sharpening of a single bevel blade.
Another difference between single and double beveled blades is what happens during the sharpening. When a single bevel blade is sharpened, you start on the side with the angle and mimic the existing angel, pushing it down flat. Then after you have sharpened that side there will be a slight burr on the flat side so you flip the blade over and remove the burr on the flat side. This is where the concave shape has an added value, because when you remove metal from the flat side you only need to remove metal from the outside edge vs the entire blade if it was completely flat. This makes the sharpening process much more efficient.
Single Bevel Knives:
- Shobu & Takohiki – Slicer for sashimi
- Usuba & Kamagata Usuba – Japanese vegetable knives
- Deba – Butchery, heavier blade
Double Bevel Knives:
- Sujihiki – Slicer for sashimi or other meats
- Gyuto – Japanese chef’s knife, multipurpose
- Santoku – Multipurpose
- Nakiri – Japanese vegetable knife
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