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MAC Pro vs MAC Ultimate

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
I'm an at home cook looking to upgrade from a Wusthof Classic set (9" bread knife, 8" chef, 5" paring, 9" slicing) that my wife and I got for our wedding a few years ago. The Wusthofs are not bad knives, but I'm looking for something better.

After reading these forums, a couple things are pretty plain and clear. I'm not an executive chef, so I don't need 20 different knives at $800 a pop. I also need to consider sharpening and upkeep as part of the equation.

So I've set my eye on the MAC line. It seems they offer key advantages for me, the at home cook. They rate high in performance and value, and they offer western style knives as a Japanese maker that can be maintained like a Western made knife.

Can anyone offer any insight on the relative merits of the Pro line versus the Ultimate line? There is a significant jump in price, but I'm unsure of what advantages there would be. I can get the 9" ultimate chef for $220 as well as the 10.25" ultimate slicer for the same price. That doesn't sound unreasonable to me for a high quality knife, although I'd be more than pleased to spend the 120 each for the pro line if anyone thinks there is little difference.

As far as sharpening goes, it sounds like the MAC line uses a regular V shaped blade instead of a one side sharp, one side flat of other Japanese lines. I currently have a Lansky diamond sharpening system. Essentially, a jig that lets me hold a constant angle for the blade while I sharpen using the diamond hone. I'm not that good at freehand yet although I can learn. Can I use this for the MAC line???

If this is not recommended, please recommend a sharpening system that I may use, as well as something to regularly hone the edge (perhaps a ceramic rod?).

I also am looking for a good set of steak knives, I could go get the Wusthofs, but I am unsure what to look for in this category (serrated or not, brands). Any help would be appreciated.
post #2 of 26
The Ultimate is advertised as using superior steel to the Professional, but in fact it's a small difference. The Ultimate's bevel shows a lot more handwork than the Professional, but at the end of the day the knife will carry the edge you put on it.

I think there was a thread on this forum (but it may have been on one of the knife forums I participate in) where the owner changed the factory edge on his MAC Pro to a 10*/15* double bevel (with 50/50 symmetry) and pushed the Pro's performance to the Misono UX-10 level -- which is as good as the Ultimate.

The Ultimate has better cosmetics, with inscribed Kanji script.

Otherwise, I don't feel there's a lot of difference between the Ultimate and the Pro. I'm a big fan of MACs personally; and feel the Pro, although not without worthy competitors, is a great choice for a home or pro cook. Especially one who's looking for a lot of stiffness in the blade.

In our PM discussion I wrote a darn treatise on sharpening stone sets without really answering your question. Rod guides are good systems, and you certainly don't need to learn to freehand -- although freehanding has its benefits. The most important of those kind of evaporate if all your knives are sharpened to the same profile. I don't know how your new MACs are going to fit within the context of the rest of current and future set -- so that's open.

More specifically the Lansky deluxe diamond kit is at least a good start. The MAC can benefit from a higher polish than the Lansky gives. As rod-guide systems go, the Lansky is mid level. The next step up is the Apex Edge Pro (system 2), which is a big step in terms of both quality and price.

The Idahone fine ceramic hone seems to be the current best "steel" on the market for overall value. The 12" runs under $30. Such a deal.

BTW, the MAC 10" bread knife is one of the two best at any price (the other costs 4 times as much), even though it's not in the Professional series. Buy it, you'll have it forever.

Another knife line you might want to look at is Sakai Takayuki Grand Chef. IIRC, I gave you a link to their catalog. If I didn't: ???????????. Their very much in line with MACs, slightly lighter and more flexible than the Pros, and made with a wonder steel (AEB-L) which takes an amazing edge. Similar incredbily good ergonomics, and a complete range of lengths and profiles if you want matching knives. I know four guys who have them and nothing but raves. The closest thing to a complaint I've heard is from one guy who's a sharpening maven, got fancy with re-profiling, and doesn't like his profile as much as liked the factory's. I've heard finer whines. The only way I know to actually buy one online is to order through Seito Trading, just tell them which model numbers you want and they'll give you a price, then get them from Japan for you. The Grand Chefs are priced comparably to MAC Professionals. Here's a link to Seito, Japanese Knives And Restaurant Supplies: Japanese Knives The person you'll correspond with there is Pam; as people go, she's one of the good ones.

BDL
post #3 of 26
Thread Starter 
Thanks very much for both the post and the PM. I found both very informative. My main concern with sharpening systems is the choice of abrasive. Not being a knife conneuiseur (spell check), I'd be wary about taking a diamond hone to an expensive knife I"m not familiar with. The Wusthof handles it pretty good, but these Japanese knives make me cautious, as I've never owned one.

One thing I've learned about sharpening is that its a science unto itself. It will take me a little while to digest all the choices you provided, and I have done some research on the options provided at the websites provided. Thanks for providing a range of cost options, most just say "get this" and leave it at that.
post #4 of 26
Sharpening isn't that big a deal. You need two stones to start and a couple of old knives for practice. Information on how it's done is available all over the place and you will find your own individual technique.

BDLs recommendation regarding the Mac Bread Knife (SB-105) should be taken seriously. Put that one in the "get this" category.

Also, I have a couple of Takayuki Grand Cheff Petties of which BDL spoke and I think it may be the best steel ever for home cooks. I've been beating one up chopping like crazy and the edge doesn't seem to want to chip. I usually keep my edges going as long as possible with a strop but for the last week or so I've been using a ceramic steel when the edge loses its "bite". The edge comes right back. I'm very impressed and have a Japanese handled Gyuto on special order with Seito. Seito has more in stock than is shown on their site. Call Pam Otomo and ask.

Buzz
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
post #5 of 26
Thread Starter 
Regarding the recommendation of the Sakai Takayuki, can you help me understand their offerings a little better? I'm going off the link provided by BDL.

They have 3 types of cook's knives (regular, thick and very thick). They also list the regular cook's knife twice, with different model numbers (one way down and one at the very top), which I find confusing as they overlap in length's listed. Is your recommendation any of those 3 types or only for a specific thickness? Coming from a Wusthof, I would imagine that a thick or very thick would have the same feel since Japanese knives are comparatively thinner.

Also, I'm assuming that what they have labled as utility knife can be used as a paring knife. They list 2 utility knife sections, again with overlapping lengths, confusing to me.

Thanks for your help, I would've never even seen this line of offerings.
post #6 of 26
I have the Mac Pro 9.5 inch Chefs knife, and it's a great blade, You wont be dissappointed.


So tell me guys, whats so good about the Mac bread knife?
post #7 of 26
Good steel. MAC handle (and you know what that means). Nice angle (better than an offset). Reverse set on the teeth.

BDL
post #8 of 26
The top one, 10011 - 10016. It is the thinnest and you probably do not want to get anything more thick. As you said, with the thicker ones you'd be headed back toward German geometry and thin is one of the reasons Japanese Gyutos perform so well in the first place. Less friction. The thicker knives aren't explained well on the Takayuki site. Without having seen one, I would hazard a guess that they are Deba shaped with an edge more designed for fish bones and hard skinned fruit and vegetables. Call Pam at Seito and ask her. I would think she should know.

The #10001 90mm (3.54") utility knife should make a good parer. The rest are too long, at least for me.
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
post #9 of 26
About 4 years ago I went to the headquarters for MAC knives USA. I spent a couple of hours with Harold Arimoto (the owner and hands on man in charge), talking and trying knives in all their different lines (including professional and ultimate). We even chopped vegies, sliced, diced, made tomato roses, etc. etc. etc. All in all, a most informative and enlightening session. I purchased a couple of knives in the professional line, a dimpled chef's knife and a santoku. They have been in continuous use in professional kitchens ever since and I am still extremely happy with them. As to sharpening them, Harold recommended a rollsharp and nothing else. I was very skeptical having used stones for 30 years, but figured that I could give his recommendation a shot. Same thing as knives, extremely satisfied.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #10 of 26
Thread Starter 
buzzard - Thanks so much for the clarification.

cheflayne - I appreciate your insight. It seems the race has widened, MAC Pro vs Takayuki! I don't think I've seen anything so far that would justify the extra money spent on an Ultimate line knife. I could put it towards better stones or a nice steel.
post #11 of 26
Thread Starter 
Would anyone care to comment on the Damascus steel offerings of Takayuki? Would this "decorative" steel be a simple looks choice or are there any performance differences up or down? I was just looking through their website again and my wife fell in love with the look.
post #12 of 26
I'd be happy to comment. The damascus "look" is for looks only and there is no effect on performance. All it usually does is raise the price.

Secondly, and more importantly, the reason the Takayuki Grand Cheff models were recommended was because of the steel from which they are made, Swedish Uddeholm AEB-L razor blade steel. The damascus clad knives are made from something else. I've never looked into it as the only thing that attracted me to Takayuki in the first place was the AEB-L availability. There aren't many knives outside the custom world made of that stuff.

Buzz
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
post #13 of 26
Thread Starter 
Excellent, thank you. We did look up the price of the Damascus and its *quite* a large jump. My wife said its not worth that to her if we can get a great knife for cheaper.
post #14 of 26
If you want to turn a non damascus knife into a showpiece you can have a custom handle put on it later on. For the time being, you merely need to get a quality knife into your kitchen and learn how to care for it. Knives like this bring great pleasure. I would hardly ever cook if it weren't for the fun I have with my cutlery. ;)

Buzz
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
post #15 of 26
Thread Starter 
Well, after a lot of research, I'm still undecided. I'm fairly certain I'd be happy with either the Takayuki or the MAC Pro line. If only I had a need for 100 knives...

After reading ALL the other knife threads on the board, I've come up with this as what I'm leaning towards:

240mm Cook's Knife - Takayuki Grand Cheff
150mm Utility/Paring Knife - Takayuki Grand Cheff
270mm Slicer - Takayuki Grand Cheff
10.5" MAC bread/cake knife

The reason I'm leaning this way is as follows:

1. Takayuki seems to have the finest steel available at a great price (Swedish razor steel).
2. The MAC bread knife is universally hailed.
3. BDL provided the "basic" appropriate sizes for a budding chef in another thread.
4. Performance/ergonomics seem to be a wash at a similar price
5. Both seem to be easy to care for (ie not carbon) and hold a great edge.
6. My wife prefers the the look of the Takayuki, although the only obvious difference is the blade "art", I'm sure build quality is similar and great.

It sounds like both blades are double beveled on the profile?? Or are these single?? I won't reprofile until I'm fairly confident of my freehand skills. I'm also looking at getting a set of Shapton GS stones to start working on my freehand, sounds like I can't go wrong with them and possibly won't outgrow their capability to suit my needs.

If anyone has final comments/obvious rebuttals to my logic, let me know, it'll be Turkey Day the earliest before I start ordering this stuff.
post #16 of 26
Thread Starter 
I should also add I will pick up the Hand American borosilicate rod as well.
post #17 of 26
A great core set of knives. Can't go wrong with Shapton GS either. Nice pick on the boroslicate rod.

The Sakai Takayuki Grand Chef has a single, flat (as opposed to convex), ~15* bevel on each side. IIRC, The factory symmetry is loaded towards the right handed cook -- although Buzz would know for sure. The blade steel, AEB-L, at the particular level of hardening Takayuki employs, HrC 58-59, makes them very easy to sharpen, and similarly easy to profile -- if, for instance you want to sharpen them to 50/50 symmetry.

I have a friend who "thinned" a Grand Chef 240mm chef's knife and says the original, factory bevel worked better. Personally, I'd stick with the 15* edge angle for the first four or five sharpenings, then layer a 10* angle underneath, with a 15* angle on top -- on each side. That profile, which splits the difference between serious "thinning" and a double bevel, should last for at least a couple of years, and make the 15* angle very easy to maintain.

(Many people call the compound angles a "double bevel" with the 10* angle the "secondary bevel," and the 15* edge angle the "primary bevel." Although terminology differs -- so make sure you know what the other person means when you have the sharpening discussion. Sharpening jargon is, alas, not standardized.)

BDL
post #18 of 26
Thread Starter 
I wanted to ask one more thing related to flexibility. I've seen on numerous forums that the MAC is stiffer than the Takayuki. Is flexibility to be desired? Is there a big difference in the two that would change the "feel" or "usability" to the user? I would imagine for skinning fish and stuff like that, its at a premium for such a specialty knife. I'm not so certain that the same quality would apply to a chef's or slicing knife.

I'm not particularly worried, but I thought I should ask. My wife conjures up imagery of a hacksaw being stuck in metal or wood and twisting and yanking to no avail, just bending the blade. I don't think the effect is that dramatic when you medium is food and the knife so sharp relative to the the medium.
post #19 of 26

my daily driver is a takayuki grand cheff 240 and while i am enthralled with its cutting abilities, i would like something wider and more stiff as in heavy duty, it gets quite a bit of abuse in the kitchen.  so i have ordered a mac ultimate 10 1/4" gyuto since it seems like it has a bit of heft.  for those of you who have experience with both these knives, what can i expect? 

post #20 of 26

The MAC Ultimate is wider, stiffer, heavier, better made and has better cosmetics than a Grand Cheff.  It's made from a harder alloy, will not take quite as good as an edge (assuming you can sharpen up to the knives' abilities to take an edge), is a little more brittle and a little trickier to steel.  It's not exactly a "drawer queen," but it's the type of knife which is purchased more often as a gift, or commemorating a move up to exec chef, than it is the sort of purchase people would make for a line knife, or even for a home kitchen.

 

I'm not sure whether or not it adds much either as a substitute for companion to the Grand Cheff.  While it's certainly agile enough to do a good job on brunoise, chives, etc., I'm not sure if its sufficiently "mighty" to cut the backbones out of chicken.  (In this case "not sure," means "not sure," as opposed to "I doubt.")  I have to say that I've never been a big fan of the Ultimate, as I always thought it was overpriced and overweight, and have consistently recommended other choices when asked.   

 

In terms of something similar, which may or may not be an alternative...  I just bought a Richmond Carbon Ultimatum to fill the "do it all" niche filled by my K-Sabatier au carbone chef's. 

 

I'll be reviewing the Ultimatum in some depth after I've had a chance to use it more.  By way of a preview, thickness and heaviness are very similar to the K-Sab's, and the profile is a near clone -- which is a very good thing.  A 10" Sab weights 10oz, an Ultimatum weighs a bit more than 7oz.  But because the Sab carries more weight in the tang, it feels more "balanced," which results in experiencing the same weight in the hand.  As you'd expect from the similar profiles, and sensation of weight, agility is about equal -- also a very good thing.  The Ultimate's 52100 alloy is hugely better than Sabatiers' European alloy.  Similar toughness, similar edge taking, much better strength, much higher hardness, much better edge holding, 

 

The Ultimate's "fit" is very good, and so is "finish," at least discounting tool marks on the blade which go entirely to cosmetics and not at all to performance -- at least not as far as I can tell; on the plus side, the OOTB edge is extremely good, and the spine and back crowns are nicely rounded.  The better Sabatiers -- T-I, K-Sabatier, Mexeur et Cie -- have much better cosmetics on the blade, slightly less good overall fit and finish, no rounding, and usually come with poor factory edges. 

 

The Richmond Ultimatum doesn't really compare to a Masamoto KS -- which is a damn near perfect light-duty knife.  Even though the profiles are very similar the knives are intended to perform different functions and it's not fair to either to try and choose one over the other without considering their purposes . 

 

Since my 10" K-Sabatier au carbone has reached the end of its useful knife, the Ultimatum works very well within my kitchen's context which already includes a  Konosuke gyuto (which fulfills the same function as a KS).

 

Let us know how your MAC Ultimate performs. 

 

BDL

post #21 of 26

it arrived a few days ago, and one of my cooks already nicked their finger on it, lol.  'i didn't think it would go through so fast!'

 

certainly is a beastly knife, in fact i think it's too big for line use.  i will be sticking with 240s.  quite satisfied with its performance however, f&f is exquisite and indeed i did not have to put a new edge on it out of box, hell of a knife!  only wish it were slightly thinner/lighter and less of a belly, i prefer the nearly flat grand cheff profile. 

agree that it's overpriced, why i opted for factory second even tho it has no flaws what so ever, just missing the pretty box.  at $200 shipped, which is the max i will ever spend on a knife i figure was worth a shot.  the best part of ultimate for me is its handle, absolutely love it.

 

do you think the 9.5" mac pro would be a more suitable alternative seeing as it's stiff as well?  although i would be disappointed if it is more than a few mm shorter, i like a wider blade than the grand cheff.

 

i'm also considering a carbonext but that's not exactly a do it all knife either, would be more the same as grand cheff i'd imagine, but still interested in it, wouldn't mind giving semi-stainless a try.

 

i can't have any carbon knives in the kitchen, don't want to deal with all the maintenance, especially when it can go nearly half hour without it being clean/dry during peak times.  or staining, that would be too irritating.

post #22 of 26

The MAC Pro is an excellent line knife.  So is the CarboNext.  At current prices, the CN is a lot more bang for the buck.  The MAC has better F&F, a better factory edge (which shouldn't make much difference considering that you're a pro), better handle, is somewhat stiffer, has a warranty and hugely better factory and US support.  The CN has better edge taking and edge holding properties. 

 

If you're seriously thinking about a MAC Pro, you should also consider a Masamoto VG for its better profile.  The Masamoto handles better than either the CN or MAC. 

 

The CN, MAC and Masamoto are all somewhat harder than the Grand Cheff and don't need steeling quite as frequently.  While the CN has the best edge taking properties, it's close enough to the others that its slight superiority probably won't alter your sharpening schedule.  That is, if you steel the GC three times a night, you may only steel the CN once a night, and the MAC and Masamoto twice a night.  If you sharpen the GC every other day, you'll sharpen the others every other day as well. 

 

BDL

post #23 of 26

i was under the impression that the masamoto is not stiff?  and isn't VG steel a bit harder to sharpen than the other steels?  or am i completely misinformed?  i hate sharpening and only do it once a week or every other week.  factory second mac pro 9.5 is only $130 so actually cost less than CN, to be honest not worried about best value so long as its affordable, only concerned with finding that perfect knife for my uses.  masamoto's profile does look ideal, and its thickness is nice too at 2.45mm 

 

i only steel the GC once prior to service and strop on cardboard once or twice.  currently use a 1000 grit wusthof ceramic steel, would the mac 2000 grit steel be a better tool?  not willing to get glass rod.

 

maximum sharpness is not a priority of mine, but edge retention certainly is.  however, if the differences is not drastic, then other factors become the deciding factor such as action and comfort.


Edited by panda - 1/2/13 at 7:27am
post #24 of 26
There might be some confusion about the Wüsthof ceramic rod grits. The blue one, F360 is equivalent to the Japanese 800. The white one, F1000, is equivalent to the J3000.
The F is a European standard.
post #25 of 26

ahh so the wusthof white is actually finer than mac rod?

 

boar, do you know the blade heights of mac pro, cn, and masamoto?  i prefer tall/wide.  i can adjust to profiles so long as there is enough flat area.  it's more and more likely i will go with the mac pro unless masamoto is stiff enough to withstand heavier use like butchering chickens, chopping up squash, etc.

 

havent sharpened the GC yet (factory edge is super sharp, but doesnt hold for a full day of use), only sharpen 50/50 and have no experience doing asymmetry on the stones, only concerned with durability so will most likely stick with 50/50, but perhaps thinning then piggy back a 15deg micro bevel could be a possibility.

 

sliced up 20lbs of corned beef with the ultimate last night and it's still good to go, but man were my hands sore after.

post #26 of 26
I've went ahead and ordered the mac pro 9.5" and said might as well try the bread knife, currently use a lamson offset with small teeth which I don't enjoy using because it just tears everything.

masamoto is very interesting but I'm just afraid it would be too whippy. who knows maybe I'll get one later on down the road when I need something 'new'. But for agile wouldn't konosuke hh be better? Or is that even more flimsy?
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