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Stainless Elephant Sabatier

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
I've got my eye on a Elephant Sabatier 10" chefs knife with the germanic pattern from the thebestthings.com. I initially wanted it's carbon counterpart but I considered the environment I'd be using it in (home) and thought it might be less stressful to "share" a stainless knife. We're already in the habit of washing and drying the knives (from a $20 block set) after each meal. But hey, let's be honest, no one's gonna care about it as much as I do. So in a sense—and I could be really wrong here—going stainless seems like less risk in the end.


So my question is:
Are the stainless Elephant Sabatiers a big step down?

Mostly I'm concerned about it's ability to hold a sharp edge as I understand it's a softer metal. If there are other things aside from edge that I should be worried about feel free to inform me.

Thanks.
post #2 of 16
“Elephant Sabatier” is a very old brand, but several decades ago it was bought by another very old Sabatier, Thiers-Issard (TI) and was subsequently rebranded as Quatre Etoile Elephant after TI acquired ****. One way or the other, they’ve been making French profile knives since the beginning of the nineteenth century. It’s worth adding that the name “Sabatier,” doesn’t carry a lot of meaning anymore. Many companies manufacture under the Sabatier name, not all of them French, and several are real stinkers. That said, there are some really good Sabatiers, and TI is definitely one of them.

The knives you’re interested in are TI’s stainless, German profiles. One difference between German and French profiles is the shape and weight of the bolster. Otherwise, German and French profiles can be similar or different depending on the particular knife. The largest differences are in the chef’s knife shapes. Generally, French chef’s knives are lighter and more agile than the German designs. They have a lower heel, less belly, and less arc to the edge. That’s certainly true for TI knives as well as the rest of the better Sabatiers.

TI stainless Germans aren’t much different or any better than a number of other traditionally handled knives made by other “German” manufacturers. (I put “German” in quotes because the group includes Swiss and American (Lamson Sharp) companies – not to mention Spanish, Portuguese and maybe some others. The German knives are made from one of two types of steel, and the French stainless from a third. If you put a gun to my head and said name the best steel of the three, I’d go with one of the German types (X50CrMoV), but really there’s not much difference between the three. As a practical/performance matter, there’s none. In short, whether you buy LamsonSharp, Victorinox Forged, Wusthof, Henckles, or Elephant Sabatier – you’re going to get pretty much the same knife.

I'm tempted to say "Everything else being equal most cooks with good knife skills prefer a French profile chef's knife to a German profile." But everything else isn't equal. To the extent the statement is true, its truth is propelled by the movement away from European and towards Japanese knives among professional cooks.

French carbon has better “edge taking” and “edge holding” qualities than any of the stainless knives we’re talking about – but not all stainless. “Edge taking” which refers to how sharp an edge can be put on, as well as how easily it is to do it has almost nothing to do with “hardness,” especially “surface” or “Rockwell” hardness . If anything, the ease component is inversely related.

Similarly “edge holding” doesn’t have as much to do with hardness as you might think. Typically a hard knife is more resistant to rolling and waving, but will chip more easily. Abrasion (wear) resistance is a very complex subject and otherwise I’m just going to leave it at that.

If you absolutely must have a Sabatier you’ll get a lot more performance out of a carbon than stainless knives. Not just performance, but better contact with history and more emotional satisfaction as well. Considering you're fairly good workhabits carbon isn't going to be that much of a challenge anyway. Of course, you won't be able to keep carbon all shiny-silver and new looking without a lot of trouble but you can keep them very well indeed without a lot of trouble. After all, people used carbon steel knives for hundreds of years and didn't find it much bother.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for the most stainless knife for the money you’re looking on the wrong continent. You should be looking at Japanese knives. While I'm not saying you should like a Hattori G3 more than a Wusthof Classic or Ikon as a matter of taste, after all taste varies and I certainly donh't mean to dis anyone else's knives. But when it comes to the crucial qualites of edge taking and holding, the Wusties simply can't compete. It's an objective fact.

In the interests of full disclosure, all of my knives are either old or antique, carbon Sabatiers. I truly love them. My wife, Linda, came to me after (most of) the knives and she's learned to like them almost as much as I do -- and to give them the respect they deserve and require.

Luckily, I've had the chance to fool around with a lot of knives. Until last year I would have said that I could get my French carbons as sharp or sharper than any German or Japanese stainless. Recent experiences changed my mind regarding the best stainless steels used in Japanes knives (some of it's Swedish!). Stainless, European knives just don't compare yet

Hope this helps,
BDL
post #3 of 16
All of my 'elephants' are over 30 years old and made of the old carbon steel, marked by surface pitting easily seen when scrutinized. A few years ago I got a 'newly' made elephant carbon steel and it just didn't take an edge when applied to sharpening stone unlike its older counterpart. Nowadays I wouldn't even consider getting a newly made Sabatier because its metallurgy doesn't stack up to the older stuff.

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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post #4 of 16
I've had a couple of new Elephants (passed one on, still have one) and a couple of old Elephants -- and I've got to say that a too-high percentage of the new ones don't come properly profiled from the factory. That means that without a lot of grinding and shaping you'll never really get a good edege. My guess is that's what's going on here. I'd also guess that the last 1/4" to 1/2" of the edge as it runs into the finger guard at the heel is (a) very thick, and (b) pretty much unsharpened.

The bad factory profiling in turn means either giving the knife up to someone who knows how to profile, or learning to profile yourself and getting the stones to do it. In the case of most European kitchen knives that means creating a very flat, even bevel from heel to tip, either at the desired edge angle or perhaps 5* or so more acute. But once profiled, the new ones get every bit as sharp as the old ones. Not only that, both new and old Elephants can easily hold a 15* edge angle without collapsing. I sharpen all but two of my French carbon knives to a straight 15*. One of the exceptions is a (newish) Elephant desosseur (boning) which I sharpen to 15* over 10*.

The bad profiling isn't just true of the new Elephants. One of the Nogents I purchased a couple of years ago, a "petty," had exactly the same problems -- bad profile and difficulty sharpening. That's not a new knife, at least not in the meaningful sense. It was forged in the thirties (or maybe earler, according to TI). The blade was made in the thirties, but that isn't when it was sharpened. That was only a few years ago -- by TI. In fact, even after resetting the profile I still had problems which I couldn't figure out. Now I think a carbide crystal was stuck in the edge which wouldn't get sharp until the crystal was broken off by frequent, frustrated sharpening. All of a sudden the knife "opened" and ever since it's been one of my two most frequently used blades.

So it goes,
BDL
post #5 of 16
The overall metallurgy of the new ones isn't quite the same as in the older ones. The newer ones sharpen way differently, and they feel much harder when it comes to laying an edge or even a new bevel.

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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post #6 of 16
koko -- I wrote a very long, detailed post but it was way too longl, way too combative, and way too much about me. Nevertheless, I do disagree strongly as to differences in sharpening. And as something of a Sabatier "buff," I'm interested in "overall metallurgy" changes. What can you tell me?

hank -- Carbon Sabatiers are great knives, but they aren't for everyone. The fact that they're carbon isn't the only reason either. If you're looking for the best blade steel for the money, or the best blade steels in western handled kitchen knives across the broad price spectrum -- they're Japanese knives.

There are other important differences between French and Japanese knives and between the knives of one manufacturer and another. For instance there are issues fit and finish, handle size and shape, and so on. And there are sharpening difference too. You can sharpen French knives pretty easily on an Arkansas stone set (like I use) which would be way too slow for good Japanese knives -- they need more expensive and higher maintenance waterstones.

If I were buying the best (western handled) knives for me, at anything approaching a reasonable price, from a single line -- that line would be Masamoto HC (Japanese manufacturer, extremely pure carbon steel). And I'd buy a new sharpening set for several hundred bucks to do it.

Before going too deeply into which specific model by which manufacturer will best suit your needs it would be nice to know how you sharpen (or plan to sharpen), and whether you have good knife skills or not.

The most important thing to realize about buying a new knife is the importance of sharpening. No matter how expensive, well designed or anything else, all dull knives are essentially equal.

BDL
post #7 of 16
<<...koko -- I wrote a very long, detailed post but it was way too longl, way too combative, and way too much about me. Nevertheless, I do disagree strongly as to differences in sharpening. And as something of a Sabatier "buff," I'm interested in "overall metallurgy" changes. What can you tell me? ...>>

Simply by observation, the older carbon steel Sabatiers are marked by more surface pitting, stain more easily and seem much easier to sharpen than the newer carbon steel Sabatiers - all based on my observations and experience. The sharpening stones that I use are made by Norton and by Carborundum.

EDIT: Please note that the metal I'm addressing is carbon and not stainless steel although the latter is what titles this thread.

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 
I planed on getting a couple whetstones (you listed some in another thread) and a decent steel. I'm not trained in knife handling and know no special tricks, just stuff picked up along the way, so I'm not sure if I can answer sufficiently. I can tell you however, that the last time I sharpened a knife on a stone was in boy scouts 16 years ago.

What tasks should I expect to perform to maintain a nice looking carbon blade. I think I know a couple of things:
- hand washing/drying
- keeping a damp towel handy for wiping between (at least acidic) foods

After that I don't know. I have heard something about mineral oil but not sure how or when.

At the end of the day I am looking for a good knife, not necessarily the best. Something that will hold an edge so if I get an Elephant Sabatier and need to get it ground, how much does that go for and who would I take it too.

Thanks to both of you for the helpful insight thus far.
post #9 of 16
Hanktray:

Do NOT purchase any product labeled as 'sharpening' or 'honing oil'. It's usually rebadged and therefore glorified mineral oil (baby oil is scented mineral oil) which can be purchased at any tack and feed (horse) store for around $12 a gallon. And as far as cleaning my sharpening stones is concerned, I use kerosene liberally.

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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post #10 of 16
To maintain carbon steel knives, the crucial thing is DRY!!!! Wipe your knife between ingredients, especially acidic ones. Wash in hot water. I like to scrub gently with a ScotchBrite pad coated liberally with soap and minimal water; press the knife flat to the board and scrub the surface, then flip it over and repeat. Rinse in hot water. Then dry, and then dry again with a very dry towel, then let it "rest" out of the block for about half an hour in an inaccessible place. That way any surface moisture evaporates off before you trap it in the block.
post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 
10-4 i just bought a pint at CVS maybe two weeks ago for $5 bucks. Once that runs out I'll hit the feed store.

so no damp towel at workstation? Just dry?
post #12 of 16
Equipment's changed since then. Japanese waterstones have pretty much made the old oilstones most of used to use redundant. They need some maintenance but they cut so much faster there aren't as many opportunities to make mistakes. In that way, they're more forgiving. There are other good methods, too. We'll get more specific about stones and methods once you've chosen a knife or two and established a budget for a sharpening kit.

Yes; a damp towel and/or frequent rinsing.

That's just long term storage. Don't worry about it.

You have to make one of three choices with carbon -- whether to force a patina, allow a patina, or keep the knife (sort of) polished. Not to worry. None of these choices are irrevocable. Personally, I keep my knives polished with frequent use of a Scotch Brite, and occasional but regular use of baking soda. These knives don't polish to "bright and shiny just like new," but to the dull gleam of well used tools.

There are a few types of forced patinas. A couple of them, e.g., mustard, are quite attractive.

Not a problem. Neither one of us can afford the best knife. Let's try for something that will give a quite a few years of satisfaction, though.

Hmm. I'm trying to push you away from European stainless -- especially the German shapes -- but it doesn't seem to be working. As this type of European knife goes, Sabatier Elephant is a decent deal, but you can buy a higher performing, Japanese manufactured, stainless knife like a MAC (from the Chef's series) or a Togaharu (from their bottom line series) for a similar price. This is especially true when it comes to edge holding.

If you can jump up to $150 or so for a 10" chef's knife the options open considerably.

Not to be disputatious and with all due respect to kokopuffs; based on my experience with French carbons -- both new and old -- as well as the experiences of many others whom I trust, I wouldn't shy away from currently manufactured French carbons based on putative "metallurgical" changes. That experience says modern Elephant ****Sabatiers, K-Sabatier and Mexeur et Cie can be made sharper than a Wusthoff Classic or any other stainless knife of its type. Moreover, those modern French carbons can hold a 15* edge angle without collapsing -- something very few other (if any) European or American mass produced kitchen knives can do (they're sharpened to 20* or greater) -- about as well as old and antique French carbons.

I sure wish Buzzard was still hanging around this forum. He's also something of a Sabatier maven and would tell you the same thing.

Good question. You take it to someone, anyone, who's a good sharpener. Sometimes that's a knife service. Sometimes it's a butcher. Sometimes it's a knife hobbyist (like me). Quite often it's a cabinet maker. You can expect to pay between $5 and $15, depending.

If you can't find anyone you trust, you can send it to Dave at "Japanese Knife Sharpening." He charges around $30.

If I were to do it, I'd expect it to take between thirty and forty minutes of hand work on my slow stones for a knife which needed a lot of grinding. Plus, I'd teach you to profile and sharpen at the same time. I wouldn't charge, but would expect lunch with beer. What are friends for?

Bottom Line:

Although I own and use French carbon knives, I strongly recommend better Japanese knives over any mass-produced European or American knife -- no matter how high up the ladder. Even the cheap Japanese knives use much better steel than their western counterparts. Consequently, they get very sharp a lot easier and maintain a high degree of sharpness a lot longer. Heck, even wheh they dull the Japanese knives act sharper (because they're much thinner near the edge). In addition, they're much ligher and handle better.

FWIW, I'm not advocating Shun or Global. If you're looking for highest performance in the $130 - $175 for a 10" chef's range, some of the best choices are: Masamoto VG (Masamoto quality, VG-10 steel, maybe a bit on the whippy side); Sakai Takayuki Grand Cheff (AEB-L steel, sharpens very easily, great ergonomics); Hiromoto G3 (G3 steel, handle's a bit narrow -- but still comfortable for big hands); Togiharu G-1 (slightly less expensive clone of the Masamoto VG, POM handles instead of wood); and MAC Pro (The edge qualities of the blade steel are excellent, but maybe not quite as good as the others, however the blade is the stiffest, most robust, and European feeling, and it has a truly great handle).

Would I put my own knives in the same class as those good Japanese knives? Yes, pretty much so. It's true that my knives need a lot more steeling, sharpening, putting-away quickly and so on -- but I don't mind. My knives are light and agile compared to the German types -- but not as light and agile as better Japanese knives -- I've been using Sabs for a loooooooooooooong time, and they're pretty much invisible to me. But mostly it's the emotional affinity I have for "French" cooking; and my own personal history with Sabatiers.

BDL
post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 
Sounds good BDL and thanks for the grammar corrections as well;)

From the start I wanted a carbon Sabatier. When I created the thread I was hoping to talk myself into a stainless knife. It seems like there is some work involved with carbon, but less than I thought. I'm fine with maintenance esp. if it means a really sharp knife.


It's too bad I don't live in the LA area anymore or I'd swing by with Lunch and a beer to learn the ancient ways of knife grinding then sharpening.
post #14 of 16
No, damp towel is a good idea. I mean that once you're done or taking a significant pause in cutting, you must make sure the blade is bone dry or you may get flecks of rust. You'd be amazed at how fast this can happen. If your blade is fairly well patina'ed, it will take considerably longer, but this isn't something to rely on.

If this sounds like a minor point -- how big a deal is drying a knife? -- you'd perhaps be surprised at how many people want to put down a knife as soon as they're done with it and just forget about it until washing-up time. If that's how you work, you've got to get stainless. It's not so much that carbon takes more work as that it must be done immediately, no messing around.
post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 
10-4 That considered carbon still makes sense.
post #16 of 16
The ulitmate in cleaning carbon steel knives is to sprinkle dutch cleanser onto the blade and rub it firmly with a wet wine cork.

And since I own oilstones, I really don't feel like making the transition to waterstones although I'm well aware of their advantages and disadvantages.

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
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