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knives for present

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Hi,

I'm aware there have been quite a few posts about knives, but having gone through them I still had some questions. I'm considering buying a 2 knife set (chef's + small knife) as a christmas present for my mum. She just cooks at home, but enjoys cooking quite a lot, and has one of these 14 knife sets which isn't much good (don't think she has a sharpener either).

First of all, I'm not sure to what extent a good knife will make a difference (as opposed to sharpening bad knives often). Are they worth the money for an amateur cook? (hard question, I know, thought I'd ask anyway..)

In any case, if I did get them, the main options I've seen recommended are:

Henckels 4 star: £62
Mac (the cheapest line): £70
Togiharu moly: £70

Prices are for a chef's knife and a small pairing knife. I'm buying in the uk, which makes it harder (the mac and togiharu are from US stores, but they seem to deliver), and the prices are on the upper end of what I'd want to pay. Realistically, I'd want to pay less, given I still need to factor in a sharpener. Cheaper options I've read about are Mundial Elegance (£40-50?) and Forschner (haven't found them in a uk store though). In any case, any thoughts on the options?

What about sharpeners? What is the easiest method (with good results) for sharpening these knives? I'm considering buying a sharpener myself (for my crappy knives, as a first step before buying a decent knife in the future). Will the same sharpener work for all knives?

As a short aside, I find the kasumi titanium knives incredibly beautiful (and they're marginally more expensive than the options above). Are they actually any good?

Thanks!
post #2 of 9
if there is no inclination, proclivity, attempt, desire, wish to . . . .
keep any given knife - regardless of brand, quality or cost - sharp, then buy the cheapest one, toss it when it gets dull, buy a new one.

it's just that simple.

ceramic knives are extremely hard and will keep an edge almost forever - but they are brittle. that said, for an all purpose kitchen cutting tool in a granny flat, ceramic would very likely work out just fine.

any knife made from metal, any flavor or kind, will require routine maintenance - i.e. sharpening. how often do you visit?
post #3 of 9
Does anyone here believe in the tradition of giving a penny along with the gift knife? It's supposed to be given by the recipient back to the gift giver as a symbolic "payment" for the knife.
This stems from the belief that giving a "weapon" as a gift confers bad luck to the recipient. The "payment" of the penny is supposed to ward off the bad luck.

I give knives as gifts quite often, but always tape a penny to the knife, just in case there is something to this superstition.;)

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post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
Hiya. Yes, I'm aware that a blunt knife is always a blunt knife, regardless of the cost. I just imagine that once she starts using a knife that actually cuts properly, she won't go back. What other advantages does a good knife have, for the amateur cook, other than keeping its sharpness better? I know that they are also sharper, is this very noticeable when using it? I know they're quite naive question, but not having used one, it's a bit hard to know what to expect! Say, between a just sharpened crappy knife, mundial, and mac, how does the increase in price translate when using?
As far as sharpening is concerned, I dont go back too often, but to be fair, my dad's handier than me, so he should be fine with sharpening. They're not a frail old couple quite yet! :) Having said that, I was looking for a fairly simple sharpening method (that applies to me too!)

And btw, the penny idea's not bad..especially if it avoids losing a finger further along the line...
post #5 of 9
>>What other advantages does a good knife have, for the amateur cook, other than keeping its sharpness better?<<

misleading concept. the blade material is one component of how long a knife will "hold its edge" - quite frankly, my opinion is the care the cook shows in using the knife is way more important.

carbon steel knives are reputed to keep their edge longer. but they "stain" vs. for example stainless steel.

the advantages of a sharp knife are plentiful: cuts accurately and without undue force. more people get cut by forcing a dull knife to "do something" than get injured by a sharp knife cleanly cutting <whatever> with minimal force.

is sharper noticeable? absolutely; in spades; not a single questionable issue in that discussion.

sharp can cut thin slices
sharp can cut mooshy stuff without squeezing it all over the countertop
sharp knives do not take unanticipated detours through the to-be-cut object

I am personally a fan of a plain old sharpening stone - medium and fine "grit" - with 'free hand' sharpening. there are systems, gizmos and gadgets galore - but a few minutes of thought and an intelligent approach out-do them all in terms of performance - what really counts - and also price.

see: Sharpening Made Easy - Steve's Knife Sharpening Site - Knife, Scissor Sharpening
for a primer.

I touch up my knives twice a year on a fine stone; I use a steel regularly - read: daily - I've been doing that routine on the same knives for 20+ years and they perform quite nicely.

as your mum sounds like the average home cook I'd personally shy away from the fancy / expensive knives - they are pretty, but it may not get the TLC required to keep it in peak condition.
post #6 of 9
Of your choices, Henckels Four Star, MAC Original, and Togiharu -- The Henckels are outclassed by far by the other knives. The MAC Originals are very flexible and fairly difficult to sharpen. The Togiharus are your best choice by far.

One other possibility is carbon knives from one of the better Sabatiers -- K-Sabatier in particular. Truly excellent knives, very easy to maintain on a steel, and sharpen on stones. However, carbon might be too old fashioned and too care-intensive for your mother. It all depends on her work habits in the kitchen.

If you learn how to sharpen freehand, you can sharpen your old beaters as well as Mum's new Japanese knife with a fairly inexpensive combi-stone and another fairly inexpensive coarse India stone (for fixing your old knives -- Mum's won't need it). Sharpening is not difficult to learn, but it isn't easy to get good at either. It takes about 20 edges before you can reliably improve a blade that doesn't need much and about 500 before you start developing real competence. By that time, you'll have about 200 pounds into your stones.

There are alternatives. One is a "rod guide" system such as the Lansky, Gatco or Apex Edgepro (the best). These are fairly easy to learn and you'll be doing a decent job in no time. They're a bit tedious though. Considering what you've said so far, something like the Lansky Deluxe Diamond ought to be fine -- and in your price range as well.

Then there's the Chef's Choice machines. These do a fairly good job, not quite as good as but they're not inexpensive. Another disadvantage is their lack of versatility. All but one model is made to create a single edge profile on any given knife. There's one which is good for both Japanese and European profiles, but it's quite expensive. If it were anything but a present, it might be worth considering buying a machine and just sharpening your mother's knife. Not much of a present for her, is it?

BDL
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post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
Hi,
thanks for the replies so far! Regardless of the present, I'm interested in improving my (pretty awful) knife situation, so all the information is really useful.

Still undecided about the present (and you raise good points, Dillbert). However, I still feel that $60 (with p&p) for a good knife that you'll use every day must be a good investment. Plus, if all it takes is sharpening twice a year, I could even do it for her (saves me buying to sharpening kits too! :)). If I do get one (even for myself!) it seems that the togiharu is a pretty good choice for the price.

The crux, I guess, is sharpening. I take it that I would need a sharpening kit + a steel? Having looked at the different options, it seems that the prices build up to pretty much as much as the knives themselves, or am I looking in the wrong places? The lansky deluxe diamond, and the spyderco sharpmaker both clock up to over £50 it seems.

Just getting two stones (a coarse, and a two sided medium/fine would do the trick?) for myself, and sharpening my mum's knives would seem like the more sensible option. I would have 6 months to practice with crap knives before I had to do hers. Any ideas on brands? (I would be getting the togiharu from japanese-knives, they have a fairly inexpensive king's two-sided stone..any good?)
For free-hand sharpening, cant you just use any everyday object as a guide (once you work out the height for the appropriate angle)? Dunno, maybe I'm underestimating the task, but it seems like doing a decent job would be doable.

Thanks again for the help so far!
L
post #8 of 9
I know this wasn't the original question... but I have heard this. Further, I have heard that the delivery of a sword or knife is a declaration of war. So, yes, when I give a knife as a gift, I wrap the blade with a $1.

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Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

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post #9 of 9
It is. Anything that helps make an everyday task fun is investing in yourself -- always the best investment.

If you keep your knives between very sharp and sharp, and cook daily, you'll probably sharpen every 6 to 8 weeks.

Togiharu offers excellent knives for the money. They seem to be very much the sort of knives you're looking for. So... yes.

Yes.

More expensive than I would have thought, given their prices here and the exchange rate. Duty?

Yes.

Less. After you've sharpened five or six edges, you'll have some idea of how to make knives sharper than they started -- the hurdles are speed and consistency. You'll make mistakes and have to sharpen over them repeatedly as you learn. A little frustrating, but the only real loss is time.

Many ideas on brands. What's available in the UK (or at least in Europe)?

The King stones are alright, but just alright. They cut slowly (as waterstones go), wear quickly, and need a lot of maintenance (you'll need a flattening stone as well). If you're going the waterstone route (and you should), Norton are better than King, and not much more expensive. By the time you wear out a Norton, you'll be a good enough sharpener to make use of a better stone.

It's very doable. It takes time and practice to do it consistently well, though. I've been doing it for 45 years and am still learning and improving.

A pleasure,
BDL
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