Picking a favourite knife is hard. Harder than picking my favourite child. This is especially true since my knives don’t throw tantrums, draw on the walls, or leave LEGO landmines around my living room. I like different things about different knives, the weight, balance, curve of the blade, how sharp I can make it, how often I have to sharpen it, and cool aesthetics all shape my overall opinion of each knife. One knife that has been consistently in my top three for years, and gets used more than any other knife I own, is my HAP40 Mugen 240mm gyuto.
I received my Mugen a couple of years ago for Christmas and I’ve pretty much never had to sharpen it; I’ve only polished it on a 8000 grit stone once since opening the box. These knives are made with some of the hardest steels knifemakers can get their hands on. Clad in a slick Damascus-style stainless steel, your options for core steel when choosing a Mugen are two super hard steels. The harder the steel, the sharper the knife and the better it’ll retain that sharpness.
It’s nearly impossible to find either of these hard steels in stainless Damascus cladding, which makes these knives ultra-unique. While I didn’t mention it earlier, I have to admit, it’s uniqueness is another factor in how much I love this line.
Mugen knives are perfect for someone who loves Japanese steel but prefers the heft of a western style knife. The western handle has a full tang. While some people associate a full tang with a high quality knife, really it just means it’s heavier. (High quality Japanese knives generally have a lighter handle with less steel inside.) I went through culinary school and the first few years of my kitchen career using a big ol’ European blade. Sometimes you just want to hold onto a knife that weighs a little bit more. In my opinion heavier doesn’t mean bad, it just means heavier.
I find that the weight combined with the Mugen’s edge profile adds a little forward momentum when I’m doing a lot of rock-chopping. As for build quality, the fit and finish of the welded bolster is super smooth because of that smoothness I’m able to pinch grip the knife by the blade without rubbing the inside of my finger raw, which isn’t something I can do with every western-handled knife.
Since that fateful Christmas years ago when I was given my Mugen gyuto, I’ve also bought myself a 150mm petty made with Aogami Super. I think it is the perfect shape for a small knife. Usually, when I’m describing the utility of a petty to a customer in the shop, I compare it to a mini chef’s knife; in contrast, the Mugen petty feels more like a mini slicer. It’s perfect for carving a roasted chicken or trimming a roast, while still being perfect for normal petty knife tasks such as cutting up an apple. It sits perfectly in my hand and, because of that super hard steel, requires minimal honing.
Now that I think of it, I may like the petty more than the gyuto but I haven’t made up my mind yet. Like I said, picking a favourite knife ishard.