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Shibata Kotetsu Bunka Review – SG2/R2 Takayuki Shibata 180mm

The Shibata Kotetsu Bunka has an SG2 also called R2 core material and comes with an outer softer stainless steel cladding. The blade comes with a brushed vertical finish, which helps break down water content from food to stick less on your blade. The knife comes with a half-tang octagonal rosewood handle, which means that the blade is partially glued into the handle.

Knife Rockwell Hardness and Core Material

The knife’s Rockwell hardness is specified with a Rockwell of 63. If used at home, you can get away with 8 to 9 months before needing a whetstone touch-up if you regularly hone your knife with a honing rod. The SG2, also called R2 powdered steel, has excellent rust and corrosion-resistant properties.

Shibata Kotetsu Bunka
Shibata Kotetsu Bunka

Since Japanese knives prioritize sharpness over durability, you need to keep in mind that you can not do the following things. It should not be used to slice through frozen food, bones, cheese, or hard bread, or force your way through other through food like chocolate or nuts, and you should not twist or pry the food open with the knife since that can cause chipping.

What is a Bunka Knife?

The Bunka is a cross between the Japanese Gyuto, Santoku, and Nakiri. The knife maintains the tip of a Gyuto while having a similar blade profile as the Santoku and the same width as a Nakiri.

Shibata Kotetsu Bunka Style

Blade aesthetic and food release

Since this is an SG2 or also called R2 powdered steel with a high Rockwell, he added a cladding to reinforce the blade. What makes the Shibata knife so special is the rough polish with deeper vertical scratch lines, which helps break down water content. It means that food will not resist your cut because it can’t use suction from the water content to cling onto the blade. Please don’t get me wrong food will still stick to the blade, but the majority of the cooks prefer that the blade goes smoothly without resistance.

Shibata Kotetsu Bunka aestatic
Shibata Kotetsu Bunka aestatic

Profile Tapering

The profile tapering is also very nicely done. It has a very thin cutting core that Shibata Takayuki sharpened at an angle of 12 degrees, which becomes slightly thicker. 

Choil Area

Blade profile 

The blade profile of his Bunka is the most interesting part of the complete knife. Shibata Takayuki went for a straighter profile than a Santoku, which will speak to people that prefer a straighter blade profile. If you find that the Santoku was too curved and you don’t like to rock, then the Shibata is a good alternative. If you missed the tip area on a Nakiri but want to maintain the width of the Nakiri for food transferring and the knuckle guide? Then a Bunka is an excellent solution. 

Shibata Kotetsu Bunka Blade Profile
Shibata Kotetsu Bunka Blade Profile

Blade Profile Function

The Bunka from Shibatata has a gentle curve, which means a smooth roll during each forward chopping while maintaining a slight curve for slicing so that the complete cutting core still makes contact with the cutting board. However, if you like a more rounded profile, then the Shibata knife is not your best option.

Knife balance point

When it comes to the Bunka, I want a balance point in the middle, so neither front nor back is heavy at the point where you pinch the knife. The Shibata Bunka is balanced in the middle, so there won’t be any strain or force resisting your motion so you are in total control.

Shibata Kotetsu Bunka Balance Middle Point
Shibata Kotetsu Bunka Balance Middle Point

Knife weight

The weight of a Bunka with a traditional handle is very light, with a weight of 140 grams. This blade has a half-tang, which means that the blade is partially glued into the handle. 

Shibata Kotetsu Bunka Weight
Shibata Kotetsu Bunka Weight

Knife Handle

The handle is an octagonal handle, which is a well-balanced design for comfort and grip. Your fingers will naturally wrap around the handle, which provides you the extra grip. The top part will wrap around your palm for extra comfort. Once the handle becomes a bit dry, add a thin layer of mineral oil. This will help to maintain your wooden handle and prevent it from drying out and splitting. 

Octagonal Handle
Octagonal Handle

Handle Collar

The traditional handle often comes with a different colored top part on the handle. The handle of the Shibata Bunka knife comes with a black top part, which has a thin layer of resin this will help prevent water damage on the rosewood handle. The downside of this kind of handle is the sturdiness, and a traditional handle is less impact-resistant since it is partially glued into the handle. However, a Japanese knife with a high Rockwell isn’t impacted resistant in the first place. Therefore I recommend the pinch grip at the blade. This will reduce the glued area’s impact, and you have sturdier control over your knife.

Shibata Kotetsu Bunka Collar
Shibata Kotetsu Bunka Collar

Spine finish

Let’s start with the spine; the polish of the spine and rounding is the best that I have seen. Not only did he round the spine, he thought about comfort. The decision for the rounded and highly polished spine is because this knife is extremely thin, and he still managed to add a taper on the spine. 

Shibata Kotetsu Bunka Spine
Shibata Kotetsu Bunka Spine

Distal spine tapering & Finish

The heel area has a thickness of 1.9mm, 1.8mm in the middle, and 1.7mm at the front. He rounded the spine area to keep the comfort and not have the thin blade digging into your index finger. It also held the same polishing across the spine, so there are no sharp edges at all. He also did not forget to give the knife a rounded polish at the choil. Even at the front, there are no sharp edges, and everything has been polished. There is also no noticeable flex during use. And you have enough knuckle clearance.

Shibata Kotetsu Bunka Distal Spine Taper
Shibata Kotetsu Bunka Distal Spine Taper

What makes Shibata Kotetsu Bunka unique? 

The Shibata knives come without all the fancy stuff like hammered Finish or Damascus layers. It is simple but highly functional; every decision he made to create this knife is also practical which every cook can appreciate.

Shibata Kotetsu Bunka vs Yu Kurosaki Shizuku

Maintenance and Care

Now on to the care and maintenance of this knife, it is not recommended to use a diamond honing rod or a coarse like an 800 grit ceramic rod. My recommendation is a ceramic honing rod with a minimum of 1000 grit. It is also inadvisable to use a bamboo cutting board since bamboo is quite hard and will dull the blade faster. You should always handwash and dry it after use since this prevents water damage on the blade and handle. It would be best if you also never used the abrasive side of the sponge or any abrasive material on the knife. It will destroy the polish of the knife, but you also remove the vertical lines that Shibata Takayuki added to break down water content from food.

Shibata Kotetsu Bunka Handwash!
Shibata Kotetsu Bunka Handwash!

The Shibata knives are only sold at select
few retailers in a select few countries

🛒S H O P:

Retailers: Shibata’s official retailers list

N O T E S:

I personally like Shibata knives since they are straighter than other bladesmiths.

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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 can see a bend form in the metal as I run the knife over high points in my leather strop. This knife is quite thin. At 12 degrees per side I wonder if this knife is too delicate for real work. Are there any knifes steels that hold at 10 degree edge well?

    1. That is strange, there should not be a visible bend if you use it on a leather strop. There might be some flex when you press down with some force on the blade itself.
      That being said, 12 degrees per side holds pretty well on this particular knife.

      However, I would have to say that Shibata’s Kotestsu line knives’ strength is also its downside.
      Due to the overall very thin laser-like anatomy of the blade, it is not beginners friendly.

      How smooth the knife glides on food comes due to the very thin overall anatomy of the blade.
      In order to add some ductility the softer outer layers (san-mai; 3 layers) prevent the core from exceeding its stress limits (preventing the knife to be split in half when you exceed its stress limits).
      Overall ductility is good as the cutting core is not breaking or chipping on normal tasks but being more conscious with the edge is recommended (good heat treatment).

      Other knife makers have different ductility limits, by making the overall knife thicker in design and thicker behind the cutting edge.
      This can be done with other types of grinds and adding a slight factory convex on the edge too to add ductility (steel choice etc).

      In terms of core steel, I will say that SG2 is one of the more durable steels compared to others like Shirogami white.
      On par or even better than the VG10 in terms of strength/ductility.

      12 degrees, is an angle I would only recommend for knives with a Rockwell hardness of 60 and above and is more recommended for knife enthusiasts or professionals. For most home cooks I recommend a 15-degree angle per side for a knife with a Rockwell of 60 or higher.
      If the knife Rockwell is lower than 60 I recommend a 15 to 17-degree angle for home cooks.

      For specialty knives 10 degrees is fine but they are used for one purpose and not multi purposes most Yanagiba’s have 10 degrees angles and they are only sharpened on one side.

      For Double bevel knives, 10 degrees will be 20 degrees total (not recommended unless it has the sole purpose of doing delicate tasks).
      For bone Cleavers, I would even say to go for a 40/50 degree per side.

      Hope that this answers a part of your questions since the reality is there will always be sacrifices made for the task the end user uses it for.

  2. Good day

    Chef panko,

    Hi i am jerik from the philippines, and i am a fan of your youtube channel it help me choose my first Japanese knife and i got r2 shibata bunka 180mm.

    But ever since a got it i am very hesitant to using it because i might scratch it. so chef may i ask your advice on knife care when it comes to scratches and are the food grade coating to prevent it?

    thank you

    1. I would not worry about scratches, it is normal, and you can grind them away by polishing them.
      But all knives will eventually get some scratches over time.
      This has to do with the cladding, which is softer than the core.

      The same with phones. No matter how hard the glass, if something harder touches the glass, it will scratch.

      As long as you don’t use the sponge’s scrubby side, you should be fine most of the time, and SG2 does not need any protection since it is very rust-resistant.
      A coating will not help either. Just use the knife. Even if it scratches, it won’t affect the knife performance.
      If you want to maintain a certain look, you can polish it. (I don’t know if they offer it in the Philippines, but some knife shops offer polishing/scratch removal to look like it is brand new again).

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