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Initial Thoughts on the Hezhen Yanagiba

110 Layers Coreless Retro Series Sashimi Knife

My search for high-quality Deba, Yanagiba, or other specialized Japanese knives made in China has been somewhat disappointing. To put it bluntly, most of the knives I’ve encountered have fallen short in various aspects. They often lack the right anatomy, feel awkward in hand and during usage, have steel that performs worse than I expect, and suffer from bad finishing which also affects the anatomy. In one case, the knife even degraded the quality of the raw fish I was working with. I even had my former colleagues give it a go, and they were ready to ditch it after just one slice.

Hezhen Yanagiba Retro Series 270mm - 110 Layers Coreless Damascus
Hezhen Yanagiba Retro Series 270mm – 110 Layers Coreless Damascus

Hezhen Yanagiba Review Sample

So, when Xinzuo contacted me and proposed that I test their knives including the Yanagiba from the Hezhen line, I was cautious. I told them about my prior experiences with specialized Chinese knives that had not left a positive impression. However, Xinzuo seemed confident in their product, highlighting their attention to detail in the blade grind and overall design. They were genuinely interested in my honest feedback and review.

Impressive Choil Finish
Impressive Choil Finish

If you’re interested in my unfiltered reaction when I first got my hands on this knife, you can check out the video linked above this article. In short, my initial impression is quite positive, and it appears that Xinzuo has indeed paid attention to the details.

Hezhen Yanagiba Retro Choil Shot
Hezhen Yanagiba Retro Choil Shot

Hezhen Yanagiba Anatomy

The knife is constructed from quality materials, and from what I can tell, it seems to be anatomically designed correctly. One standout feature is the blade grind, particularly the well-defined Shinogi line.

The Shinogi looks very nice!
The Shinogi looks very nice!

I’m pleased to report that, based on my initial experiences, the Hezhen Yanagiba from the Retro Series shows promise. However, for a comprehensive evaluation of its performance, I’ll need to put it to the test by slicing fish fillets. Stay tuned for the full review, where I’ll provide a deeper dive into how this knife handles its intended purpose.

Premium Handle Materials
Premium Handle Materials

If you want to know more about Xinzuo you can read the Q&A here that I did with the Co-Founder of Xinzuo by clicking here.

Santoku Zhen Series

Hezhen 270mm Yanagiba – 110 Layers Coreless Retro Series Sashimi Knife

Xinzuo Official Amazon Store:
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NOTES: Coupon code ”ChefPanko” for 10% off is only usable on the Xinzuo Official Website.
PS: Import taxes may apply if you order on the Xinzuo Official webshop.

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Hi, I'm ChefPanko, I have worked for multiple restaurants and have decided to share my experience with you guys. I will share recipes and techniques that I have learned, taken, and improved from the French, Japanese restaurants that I have worked for. I will also explore other cuisines with you guys.

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  1. I agree with you in any point but this where they are cutting corners. Own the knife for year or two like me and use it daily, I have had all those three for 3 years already. I have experience of stabilizing and drying wood from age 12 so I actually know what I’m talking about.
    I do not know what they are actually using as a core but comparing to Japanese originals ( Japan actually learned their knife and sword techniques from China) then they do not keep their edge as well, basically like they are using AUS8 instead of DC53 in stainless steel world.
    The knives are good, the steel part is really good, you will get best bang for the buck, you have to be prepared some annoyances after couple of years by either changing the handle or fixing it again.
    Wood has cracked and shrink in home environment and this is main clue that they are not using 5 to 15 years stabilized wood but more like something straight from forrest to wood dryer abd then to handle.
    Regular home environment is 35 to 65% moisture in here with 20 to 30 degrees Celsius temperature.

    1. I will pass it on as I have also spoken with other manufacturers including Xinzuo when I was at the Ambiente event in Germany Frankfurt.

      The brand I have spoken to regarding wood told me that they aim to dry at a low temperature of 80 degrees celsius and aim to reduce the water content of the wood to 12 to 7% on their Oak and Walnut wood. The drying process takes about 1+ week. They always aim to stabilize the wood this way before adding the next steps of cutting, sanding, and adding a thin layer of lacquer.

      This will minimize the shrinking, cracking, and expansion of the oak and American walnut wood that they use. But won’t eliminate it but the percentage of that happening is extremely low especially if you add quality control.

      But will pass it on to Xinzuo/Hezhen, they might need to find a new wood supplier.

        1. That will be helpful!

          You can use the contact form on the website to reach out to me. I’m currently replying to the emails, there is no option to submit the photos through the contact form but once I reply you will have my email.

          Appreciate it thanks 🙂

            1. Thank you for sharing, the pictures show the Zen series, and if I’m correct the top and bottom where the cracks developed are made from buffalo horns. Those need to be conditioned and not be exposed to high temperatures. Also interesting to see the shrinkage on those parts.

              Since we were discussing wood I was surprised to see the cracks there.

              That being said it indeed raises concerns with those series and future series that use that material. I will pass it on!

              Thank you for sharing!

  2. I have it. After one year the handle developed cracks so for cheapnes they are not using stabilized wood. Fixed it with epoxy. Half year later wood has shrinked and you can feel metal standing out from rest of the handle.
    Overall, the steel is good. This handle criticize actually goes for all their knives from same series. Santoku for example started to loosen from handle, again some epoxy fixed it.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience and input.

      Have you asked them about the warranty before coming up with your own solution?

      While stabilizing wood can improve its durability and reduce cracking, it’s not a guaranteed solution.

      Some types of wood can be stabilized better than others, while some don’t stabilize well naturally due to density and natural oils. Stabilizing porous wood that’s unsuitable in its natural form is a good idea as it reduces cracking. However, if the wood doesn’t stabilize well and only the surface area is treated (meaning it doesn’t penetrate well into the wood), the benefits may be lost after the handle is ground down.

      Additionally, it’s recommended to use mineral oil occasionally on wooden handles for maintenance as that adds surface coating. Keep in mind that natural wood can shrink and expand due to humidity conditions; stabilizing wood can reduce the effect but does not eliminate them. Manufacturers will need to reduce the moisture content before it’s ground into a product and it will also stabilize better if the water content is low, as that reduces shrinking or expanding. Therefore, I do recommend surface coating with mineral oil from time to time as it is still a natural product. Unless they make the entire handle plastic defeating the purpose of the feel of wood.

      Other materials that won’t shrink, expand, or crack include G10 but it will not give you the feel of a wooden handle.

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