This thread wandered from the original question a bit, and in the course of its meandering acquired a lot of mis-information. Let's see if we can't dispel a few of the myths.
The term "high-carbon" when used by itself, is generally meant to distinguish the steel referenced from stainless steel. All steel contains carbon. In fact, the presence of carbon is mostly what distinguishes steel from iron. Carbon is partly what makes steel "hard." High carbon steels are steels with more than 0.5% but less than 2% carbon.
Stainless steels have a relatively high chromium content. Usually greater than 13%. Stainless steels can also be high carbon.
But be careful not to over-emphasize the importance of steel formulation because other manufacturing processes like heat treatment and powdering are as important when it comes the final working qualities of the metal.
One of the better net sources for Sabatier information is a fellow who's a regular contributor to this forum, buzzard
. If you have questions you could do worse than writing to him. Also, if you're interested take a look at the Sabatier article on Wikipedia. It's interesting.
Sabatier is alive and well. However, "Sabatier" is not the name of one company it's part of the name of a bunch of different companies. Some make great knives, some make good knives, some make bunk. The word "Sabatier" is not enough. Look for Elephant Sabatier aka Thiers-Issard, K Sabatier, Lion Sabatier, V Sabatier, and Mexeur et Cie Sabatier. **** Sabatier was also a very good variety, but they've become part of Elephant. IMO, "V," Elephant and "K" are the real class acts. Opinions differ. Good luck finding "V" Sabatier.
I own many carbon Sabatiers and a few stainless. In fact, of the eight knives in my everyday-use block, six are carbon Sabatiers, two modern and four "vintage" or "antique." Four are Elephant and two "K." My chef's knife is a "K" au carbone
from the sixties. For my purposes all of these knives are as good as anything available today at any price. In spades for the Chef's knife.
If Lee Valley sells any types of Sabatiers anymore, I couldn't find them following the link foodpump
IMO, the best source for Elephant is Sabatier Kitchen Knives at The Best Things
IMO, the best source for "K" is Kitchen Sabatier Knives : French cutlery from Thiers
Rots o Ruck finding V Sabatier
Rockwell Hardness aka the HRC number, is informative but not totally descriptive or predictive of the qualities of a knife. 10 - 20 years ago one would expect that knives with a low HRC number (say low 50s) would take an edge more easily than a knife with a higher number. OTOH, one expects a knife with a high HRC number (say 57 and above) to hold an edge longer, require less steeling, but chip more easily. However with advances in steel manufacturing and formulation that's not quite as true anymore.
Japanese chef's knives are generally more prone to chip than their European counterparts, partly as a matter of geometry, partly of tempering.
"German knives are typically 50-53." Not true. Top line German steel now runs around HRC 57-59. The increase is partly due to formulation changes, but mostly to a variety of hardening processes. I'm not going to go through the complete range of German manufacturers and all their lines but this includes all the up-market Henckels, Wusthofs, Victorinox, Messermeisters and Vikings. Most better German knives use more or less the same formulation, called "X50 Cr Mo" However, the big companies use special iron ore from Solingen, and each has its own proprietary heat (and/or cold) treatments.
Don't be confused by German names either. Henckels Twin Cernax are actually Japanese knives and their HRC is ~63. Victorinox is made by Forschner, a Swiss company, in a German factory with Solingen steel.
FWIW, the better stainless and carbon Sabatiers have HRCs in the 56-58 range.
Inexpensive Forschner Fibrox (and Rosewood) has an HRC of 55-56.
Kasumi makes several lines of knives. Their most popular line, "Sumingashi" is made with a type of steel called VG-10 which is one of the more common steels in mid-high Japanese knives. Not my personal favorite, but still a good steel. These Kasumis are as good as any other VG-10 of similar manufacture. Suminigashi means "ink pattern," which is what the Japanese call the Damascus look. That refers to the outside cladding. The knives are built as warikomi, that is a hard interior -- the hagane -- is surrounded by a softer cladding -- the jigane. Not my favorite design, in that I don't care for Japanese Damascus, but heap plenty knife.
The lines Chef Aaland mentions, Ryusen (presumably the Blazen line, but maybe their Damascus), Masamato (presumably the VG line, and Hirmoto (presumably Aogami Super) are different from one another and from the Kasumis. The Ryusen and Masamatos don't use a jigane.
Ryusen Blazens are made with a high speed, powder steel from Sweden, and are extremely hard and light. Despite their hardness, they don't chip easily, but do take an edge without too much trouble. Extremely high F & F as Japanese knives go.
Ryusen Damascus -- exactly the same blade as Hattori HD, same factory, etc., are much the same as Kasumi Suminiagashi. No real difference except handle geometry. Hattori HDs have the reputation for the best F & F, and Ryusen the worst of the three. You can throw Tojiro hon-Warikomi, Shuns and a few other knives in with this group too. VG is VG, 33 layer sumi is 33 layer sumi as far as I'm concerned. Look for a comfortable handle and a good price.
Of their western style knives, Masamato is more famous for their carbon knives, especially the HC series, than their stainless knives (ST and V series). Neither line makes use of jigane. The V is a little more upmarket than the ST, and uses VG-10 stainless. Good F & F, but too expensive for what they are. Ryusen Blazens and Misono UX-10 (to name two) are better stainless hagane at the price.
Hiromoto Aogami Super are among the best warikomi type knife at any price. No damascus, though. "Aogami" equates to Japanese "blue steel" which is one of the best varietal steels there is. It's a well made, but plain looking stainless knife with some nicely engraved kanji script. The whole thing is set off by the darker, carbon-steel edge peeking out of the stainless. If I were buying a non-Sabatier $200+ chef knife, it's what I'd get.
German knives have a different geometry from French knives. The German style is generally heavier, uses a different shape bolster. Geometires are slightly different through most of the shapes -- but are especially pronounced in the chef's knife. E.g, German knives are wider at the spine, and have deeper, more rounded bellies.
Japanese knives made according to European (yo) styles are made more in the French style than the German. In fact, compared to German, the differences are even more exaggerated.
Most up market European knives are forged, and have bolsters as an artifact of the process. German and French bolsters are different -- the German appearing more streamlined and are slightly more amenable to "wrong" grips. Whether forged or stamped, most Japanese knives do not have full bolsters. Their upmarket stamped knives have ferrules, though.
German knives tend to take abuse better and rock-chop better than French or Japanese knives. If you spend most of your prep time rock-mincing or , rough-chopping you're better off with a German. Ditto, if you use your chef's to whack through bones.
German chef's knives are generally sharpened to an edge angle of between 20 and 22 deg. Japanese to 15 degrees.
When it comes to knife-abuse tasks, you're better off with a "chef de chef," sharpened to a more obtuse angle. (I have a 12" "K" Massif, sharpened to around 26 degrees). They're also called "lobster crackers." A meat cleaver works. Anything heavy. Preferably from a flea market. The Japanese call this a yo-deba and charge a yo-fortune. If yo buy'n, yo a yo-suckah, yo.
French and Japanese knives are lighter and more agile than the Germans. They also have a straighter belly. The French pattern point is slightly different from the Japanese, which is more stylized and slightly dropped. The similarities are more important than the differences. The less abuse you put a knife to, and the more fine cutting (fine dice, julienne, batonet, brunoise, etc.) you do, the more you'll prefer a French shape.
Compared to a French chef's knife, a Japanese chef's knife is built with a slightly more acute angle. However, even though they were traditonally sharpened to just under 20 degrees, a good French chef's knife will support a 15 degree edge angle (30 degree included angle) almost as well as a Japanese knife -- especially if given frequent steeling. IMO a big consideration in purchasing a chef's knife is your sharpening regimen.
Hope this helps,