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Do you look for the 'union label...'?

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 
In my brief time here, I've had a blast in lurking through your various departments. One thread caught my eye, and that's how the status of "chef" is earned/awarded to members of this community.

In that spirit, how do you chefs choose an individual to service your cutting tools? (And I chose those words very carefully.) Let me demonstrate.

Even within my community I take heat for defining myself as a 'tinker.' Like it or not, that's the correct title. If you seek out that definition in a dictionary, you'll find that a tinker is an individual that repairs kitchenware. That's what I do. I tighten loose fasteners on pots and pans, I polish copper pan bottoms, I sharpen your culinary shears, etc.

I do not limit my services to sharpening, but I have no credentials in sword polishing. Now granted, a Japanese sword polisher would recognize numerous tools and products in my kits. A nagura stone works for me as it does for a polisher.

I do rely upon modern fixtures and procedures. Many knives which appear to be traditional shapes are made from modern steels. I have to get better because our materials have gotten better.

So let me ask you, as a professional chef, just who is a "sharpener"?
post #2 of 43
i have absolutely no idea what you are asking but it seems like an interesting conversation to have. can you be a bit more clear?
post #3 of 43
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post #4 of 43
Thread Starter 
Fair enough. Here's my slant.

I'm sure that you would agree that not everyone with a soup spoon and a gravy-stained apron is a "chef." I applaud this forum's focus on a professional slant.

In that manner, a tinker or sharpener is a service agent for a chef. And professional knives can run anywhere from 400 to 3,000 dollars per each.

I believe you have to study hard, do research, learn differing materials and work in the community as you would any other apprentice to excel in the world of sharpening. It is my position that "sharpening is not easy." It's not simply the application of a wet rock and dirty fingernails.

But where's the line? There is a world of difference between the Japanese trained craft of togi-shi and ol' Jedd Clampett's granite wheel.

When you hand your prized knife (and tool of your livelihood) to a sharpening craftsman, what do you look for? To you, just who is--and is not--a "sharpener"?
post #5 of 43
1) A "Chef" is just a title, meaning "boss", "Manager". It is NOT earned, indeed, there are many terrible chefs, just as there are many terrible politicians. It is just a title.

How do I judge who is good enough to trust my knives to?

Same way I judge who is good enough to become an employee-- I watch them do the daily routine.

With knives, I usually give one or two "not so cherished" pieces to a new sharpener, pay the agreed price and pick them up at the agreed time. Then I look, very closely....

1) Mirror polish on the blade, no scratch marks? If yes, good

2) Does the blade have any "dead" spots, that is, flat areas where the blade won't rock. If no, good.

3) Does the blade have any "hollows"? You can cut, say a carrot, and even if your knife makes good contact with the board, the carrot still won't be severed--the knife has a hollow on the belly of the blade and it is impossible to cut something entirely in half. If no hollows, good.

4) How much has the blade "shrunk"? Face it, sharpening requires abrasives, and abrasives remove metal. Each time you sharpen, your blade will shrink somewhat-especially if you break off the tip and have it re-gound. A good sharpener will remove the absolute minimum of metal needed to get the job done. Minimum amount of shrinkage=good.

5) Black or green honing compound residue on the blade. If this is present, good. It means that the blade went through a rubber or leather wheel charged with honing cmpound, which is around 8,000 grit--enough to give a decent smooth finish and mirror shine.

6) Knives ready at agreed time? Price is as agreed upon? If so, good.

If the knives have passed all of this criteria, the sharpener will get my endorsement and I wil instruct my emploees to send them thier of knives.

In Europe is it common fo the employer to pay for employees knives to e sharpened. Many employers have accounts with sharpeners or the sharpener will come around every few months.

Oh, that thingee about "union label"......

Ummmm........in the hospitality industry, Unions have a habit of not doing anything, they just ganishee union dues from paycheques, and other than that they don't exist. For virtually every hospitality worker (and management....)"union" does NOT guarantee anything--has nothing to do with better workmanship or training or eduction. It means nothing--other than you get a chunk of your paycheque removed before you even get the cheque.......

Hope this helps
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #6 of 43
Thread Starter 
Foodpump, I agree with most of your treatise, except the portion about polishing compounds on the blade. I do not use any form of mechanized equipment. Additionally, I don't recommend that mechanized equipment should ever be used on laminated steel.

As for this black and green variety, I'm more a fan of nagura pumice, glass and paste. I put a mirror edge on everything, with the exception of knives used to cube semi-thawed meat, as for stew. Some cooks find a knife with a "toothy" edge cubes better.

However, I have seen a sous-chef block out an entire leg (including silver) with a mirror polished butakiri.

I will end with this. The art of sharpening at its best is a sincere relationship between craft and chef. If the chef vocalizes his precise needs or wants, and the craftsman meets or exceeds those criteria, then they will enjoy a long successful term.

And this is the relationship I seek with all of my clients.
post #7 of 43
Even if you do like to know the sharpening used compound, it would be a pretty sorry thing if s/he was too sloppy to wipe the residue off your blade before returning it!:suprise::lol: While your points are valid, I think Chico is discussing a more rarified level of performance. All those things you outline are the rock bottom level of competence- anyone who doesn't meet those minimum standards shouldn't even be charging money.

As for "union label" I live in a 'Right to Work' state- unionization is almost nonexistent here. Meat packers and of course the usual professions (eg teachers, etc) are unionized but I've never heard of a unionized kitchen here, let alone a Sharpeners Union.

Now, to the actual question: I guess my standards aren't really practical. My time at FF & KF have forever changed my notion of what sharp is. It also depends on what I want sharpened. If I was looking for someone to do the house knives, I'd be satisfied to simply let him/her test sharpen a few of them. I'd apply a standard similar to Foodpumps- did s/he get the knife "sharp" considering what it is? Can I still feel a burr or dead spot? Did s/he de-temper the blade by overheating it? Does the edge last or is it a weak or wire edge that fades after an hour of use? If I handed her a Chef's Knife did she hand me back a suji/slicer (ie remove way too much metal)? And lastly, price and quality of service (eg promptness, professionalism, etc) would be important.

For a personal knife...well, there's no one around here I'd rather have do it than myself. Hypothetically I'd want someone with credentials, that can provide me some recommendations and/or testimonials. It would be better still if those testimonials came from someone I myself knew and trusted. That person would have to be experienced and possess a voluminous knowledge of techniques and materials. In short, someone like yourself, Chico- or Dave M, DWayde, etc etc.

In my kitchen I'm "The Knife Guy." The guys that bring their own knives cringe when I mention I just sharpened one of mine, do you want to try it? One guy was a bit crestfallen when he found his brand spankin' new Wustie isn't even close to as sharp as my "beater" J-knives. The Chef is considering having the house knives sent out to be sharpened...the Sous told me he was considering just asking me. That gives me pause for several reasons. While I'd considered offering to do so gratis, I wouldn't do it forever for free. And charging opens a whole can of worms. The house knives are Fibrox; not awful but not great. I could spiff 'em up pretty quickly and easily on my belt grinder- I have lots of good belts made for the purpose. But I fear the standard would be the level of sharpness of my personal knives, and that's simply impossible for a Fibrox to hold. Mine are V-Gold 10, Super Gold 2, whatever-the-****-Tojiro-really-uses, etc etc.

I don't know if I answered your question, but I hope I danced around it enough to satisfy you.:lol:
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
post #8 of 43
Hey, that's OK. Sharpening is a very personal thing. How you get to a good edge doesn't really matter in terms of technique or abrasives, just as long as you get there.

For personal knives--at home, I don't care how expensive or elaborate you get, you quoted "Anywhere from $400-$3,000 per knife". Enjoy the knife, but leave it at home. Please.

At the workplace-as an employer, if an employee brought such a knife to work, I'd insist he/she to bring it back home. Why?

If an employee wore a Rolex and left it in his locker while at work, I'd ask the same, or a wallet full of cash, or fancy expensive personal electronics.

Many kitchens are busy places, with people coming and going, not only staff, but delivery drivers, sales reps, and people from other depts. Good knives "grow feet" or dissapear every now and then, and when that hapens all he88 breaks loose.

Last thing an employer needs is theft of employees personal property, or percieved theft (many knives get tossed inadvertantly in the garbage can.) , neither do they need the lost time (paid company time) to go look for the knife, or trouble in the locker room about how they felt so-and-so was responsible for the knife's dissapearance.

The other thing I'm trying to say is that, when someone forks out $400 and up for a single knife, they should be at a skill level where they are knowledgeable and comfortable enough to do their own sharpening.

I'm of the opinion that no one should go "cold turkey" from a Ginzu to a $500 knife overnight. You have to grow into it, use good workhorses and learn from then before you graduate to more expensive knifes, and appreciate the differences (which you can't do if you don't experience workhorse knives),and sharpening skills come with this transition. Kinda of like going from a cheap 125 cc bike to a 300, then a 500, and then a mind blowing racing bike. Does this analogy make sense?

Then again, if you wish to earn a living sharpening knives, remember that workhorses make up the majority of cook's knives, and the reason why people want you to sharpen is because they don't know how or don't have the time.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #9 of 43
Thread Starter 
Oh, you make perfect sense. I agree. I have an Hattori in my home and it takes me as much time to clean it as it does the entire remaining sinkful of dishes! :lol:

But, oh, the horrors I have seen!

There are many top-flight chefs that treat good cutlery like can-openers. One chef wanted a good sashimi knife. After a few weeks, he called me to the restaurant to work. I asked where the knives where, and a sous-chef told me "in the sink."

The sashimi was buried under other tools and plates, bits of food, standing water...

One 400 dollar gyuto was "returned" because the chef didn't care for the cut. It had also been bounced off a cement floor. It took me several days to repair the chips.

I have an opinion on this. When a serious chef begins to become a celebrity, a stellar attraction for the restaurant and makes +200K dollars, I think his opinion of cutlery drops to zero. It becomes "just a knife." The payments on his Porche are more than an entire roll of high-end laminates.

And of course, I become "a plumber." You know, one of those gnarly trades people that unplug sinks, haul trash and sharpen those whatevers.

And ya' know, in my heart I sort of agree. I find working in a lively kitchen a blast! Some places have deafening music, everybody is flying around trying to make deadlines. Something is always forgotten. And I'm shoveling with both hands as the death threats fly..! I love the environment.

True story. In one dining club they had two kitchens. One in the basement where the majority of the food was prepared, and another on the third floor--kind of a showplace. The fancy flambeau meals were prepared there, the individual beef slices trimmed to the client's wishes, etc.

Right before opening time, the main kitchen emptied out. I was instantly standing alone in an empty room that seconds before had been a bustling hub-bub.

I prefer the commotion. For that, you have to pay the freight and repair chipped knives.
post #10 of 43
When did you stop using the Edgepro you were using a few years back?
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #11 of 43
Thread Starter 
Oh, I still use it! In fact, I bought a second one. Ben Dale and I talk on the telephone quite often. I test prototypes for him, and he even makes custom fixtures for me.

I think the Edge Pro system(s) is the best product out there to repair damaged edges and make the bevel on a new knife uniform front to back, and then left to right.

But I steal from everyone and anyone. If most sharpeners saw the menagerie of obscure and varied tools I use they would think they had stumbled onto a junkman's yard sale!

And I'm not done yet! I read Japanese sword polishing books, I read everything that Dwade Hawley writes. I even tried whitening toothpaste to see if I could polish an edge better.

I do get criticized for this very approach--and I do not understand it, for the most part. You would think that refining an edge on a metal blank would be a rather mundane topic. Yikes! Some forum exchanges turn into screaming matches.

One day I mentioned that I often toss damaged knives, and a specialized hunting knife used in 'caping' into a home freezer. I stated openly that I didn't know why it worked, but my edges got better.

I was immediately renounced by every metallurgist, convex edge worshipper and blacksmith in the western hemisphere.

Polishing edges can be a very passionate pursuit. To this day I often use Mothers Mag Wheel Polish and Mothers Billet Paste on Japanese laminate knives to great success.

Mothers products are used to polish motorcycles.
post #12 of 43
Thread Starter 
This is a small sample of my non-Edge-Pro tools and pastes I use to perfect my edges. I also use them in non-standard combinations to provide superior tools.

For example, the tool with the gauge on it is designed for sharpening chisels. We all know that the 12,000 grit 3x9 Japanese stone to the right is probably used more often for fine kitchen knives. No apparent connection, right?

Well, there is a knife called a 'Razel.' The 'point' is chisel-like and perdendicular to the edge. If refined, that type of edge is good to carefully scrape off stuck on labels from glass.

I sharpen the chisel front of this knife as I would a carpenter's wood chisel, and then polish it as I would a Hattori gyuto. Voila.

There are chefs and food hobbyists in my area enjoying superior laminate knives with a mirror finished edge provided by the same paste a biker uses to buff his chrome. :lol:

post #13 of 43
I've seen the Razels. Never appealed to me.

I'll admit I am a fan of convex edges personally.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #14 of 43
Tourist -

you have without question mucho more experience in terms of qty of knives sharpened than I do. I just have some knives and sharpen them at home meself....

but one thing has stuck out -


okay, I'm using a set of Wuesthofs - not zactly what one could consider brittle.

but in 20+ years, not never yet seen "a chipped" blade. now... my pre-teen kid used a paring knife as a pry bar and broke off the tip - had to coarse stone reshape .... yeah - I was hopping mad.

but a "chipped knife edge" ... ? .... is that common outside the billion dollar per knife Japanese crowd?
post #15 of 43
Thread Starter 
Well, let's get this over with...

I am not a fan nor a detractor of convex edges. They are simply another style of edge that can be utiilized in cutting. Among my needs and the needs of my niche clients, I use differing methods.

Yikes, you'll never believe how that simple statement has gotten me into more trouble (and branded me a heretic) than you can imagine.

But I am in a unique situation. I can re-sharpen a knife anytime I choose or require. For example, a convex user might point out that his knife can cut rope. So does mine, a Myerchin folder with a more refined non-serrated blade.

It's simple. I prefer thinned and razor like edges. I never break an edge down to be completely dull, so a few smudges of paste on a milar tape mounted on glass and my folders can do surgery.

But I don't camp, or chop wood. No convex edges are needed.

And, yes, that simple position makes me a pariah and heretic in convex edge circles.
post #16 of 43
That's the difference between, say, glass and PlayDoh.;) The very soft steel of a Wusthof doesn't chip- it simply deforms, flattens or rolls. Harder steels will chip. Price is irrelevant- the knife doesn't know how much it costs. It mostly comes down to hardness, carbide size and how ductile the metal is. An $80 Tojiro will chip where a $150 Henckels probably won't.
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
post #17 of 43
No, the analogy was regarding going from nothing to an expensive knife overnight--without going through a few decent workhorses before the expenisve ones. Hence the analogy from going from a 125cc bike to racing machine.

Horrors I have seen regarding knives?

Fistfights and name calling 'cause "X" won't let "Y" use his knife.
Dumpster diving, slashing open bags of trash to look for the missing boning knife. Random breaking in of lockers to see if "so and so" actually has MY missing knife in his locker. And the H.R. (human resources) nightmares that go with all this schtufff.

And then there was Jen, who had just bought 3 "Gold Hamster" knives. Wouldn't shut up about them, wouldn't let anyone near them. One day she was working alone in the pastry corner when she lets out a scream:

"Who stole my Gold Hamster paring knife?!

Death threats, threats of amputation and castration ensued to the person or persons who "stole" her knife. As she was ranting on, we all smelled it: That acrid smell when plastic melts and metal gets hot. Her face turns white and she yanks open the oven door--only to find her precious Goldhamster paring knife on the sheetpan in a puddle of melted plastic next to the flan she was working on.

Owner came rushing into the kitchen to see why we were laughing so hard.....

My two cents?

A knife is just a tool. Keep it sharp and well tuned, treat it with respect, but remember the expertise is in your hands and eye-hand coordination. There is no magic in a hunk of steel.....
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #18 of 43
well, there's a thread here (I think...) about a well known USA brand that "I must have twisted it it while chopping vegetables" - which resulted in a chip in the knife.

sorry, but as an engineer and a home cook, if I can take a divot out of the knife blade while chopping vegetables, either the knife is defective or it's the wrong tool for the job.

the chipee was advised to contact the maker; I don't recall seeing any good/bad resolution to the issue.

there's no doubt in my mind, if I waltz down to my local plate glass shop and put up enough money, they'll make a chef's knife of pure glass.

from a science of materials standpoint, the crystalline structure of glass will permit a really super duper cutting edge, versus - for example - (any kind) of steel. cuts great, look at it cockeyed and it breaks. is that "value" ? is that a "realistic use" tool ?

this is where I have major issues with the more harder is more better mantra.

a cutting implement (e.g. "knife") that _breaks_ when executing simple tasks is not an appropriate tool.
if you buy a clever - regardless of cost - and it cracks in half when you whack a bone, is that an appropriate tool?

methinks the whole harder is better because it holds an edge longer is hogwash. when the hard knife breaks cutting vegetables on a wooden or plastic cutting board is a simple indication the tool is not suited to the task. whether it's machine or hand sharpened, polished to a two micro edge or not, it is an implement not suitable for routine use.

if such fine implements are only intended for the century long trained chef so as to not cause chip failure, well - that's super-snob country - in my opinion. nothing wrong with the theory, it's just that the manufacturer must demand birth certificate proof to ensure the purchaser is at least centuries old to provide the possibility the purchaser is "qualified" to use such an implement.
post #19 of 43
Interesting, Dilbert.

All the magic with metallurgy is in the manufacturing areas--machining metal parts, cutter heads for CNC's etc. The technology has trickled down to knives for one and only one reason:

If there's a market for glass or play-doh knives, we'll make them. Ceramic knives, anyone?

Something robust and decent for a 10" Chef's knife shouldn't cost more than a hundred bucks. True, it won't hold an edge as longs as carbide or Rc 65 brittle metals, but it is robust and fairly easy to sharpen.

Problem is, "sharpening" is a dirty word. The general public doesn't really know how to do it. We are weaned on the disposable concept, when it doesn't work anyomore you throw it away--or get an expert to do it. So the trend for many mnfctrs is to avoid sharpening as much as possible--at the price of having brittle metals that chip easily.

The hype is with newer and better materials that aren't neccesarily ideal for kitchen knives. Media hypes it up, and with the hype you have market demand, and with market demand if you don't react, some other guy will, and eat your lunch.

Oh well, back to work.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #20 of 43
fp -

I worked in the metal industry for many years - anti-friction rolling bearings. ball bearings, roller bearings, taper roller ... thrust, miniature, aerospace.... yadda yadda you name it.

I'm not a metallurgist, but I've worked with many of them-there-sorts on process control for heat treat and annealing and. . . .and . . .

Rockwell 60-65 is _peanuts_ in that industry. you want hard? go for finished bearing steel.

too much of a good thing is not by definition beneficial.

see: knife, chipped

>>dullness regarding "sharpening" - indeed, marketeering at it's finest.
total hogwash, but really good marketeering.
post #21 of 43
Indeed, some knives are the wrong tool for some jobs. You'd be a fool to use a thinned Aogami gyuto to cut frozen chicken- that's a job for a cleaver or a Wustie. Same as taking a wood saw and attempting to cut roofing tin, then complaining it's a crappy saw. Even an extremely well made eyeglass screwdriver isn't going to help you run a 3" deck screw into a 4x4.

And even the job it was created for requires the correct technique. Twisting a knife as you hit the board is poor technique and can damage the edge. You can criticize the tool if you like, or you could learn to cut correctly. Or of course, you can choose a different tool. Different strokes and all that.

You're right- hardness is misunderstood, both by fans and critics of certain knives. All else being equal harder is generally better...but all else is never equal. All choices of materials involve a tradeoff, an understanding that there may be several qualities that you desire are that are mutually exclusive. Really the same goes for construction & geometry. If you want a knife that won't wedge it generally has to be thin. A thin knife will usually cut better than a thick knife, sometimes even when the thicker on is sharper. But a thin edge can never be a strong as a thicker one (given the same material). Likewise, a very radical bevel angle will cut like crazy. A good example is a straight razor- it's extremely sharp but if you tried to chop thru chicken bones you're going to have some problems.

A hard edge is nice, a hard and durable edge is even better. Some advanced powdered steels have more of the attributes we want, but there's still a trade off...there always is.

Ultimately it's about your philosophy. I'm content to have a Pakkawood-handled lightsaber, even if I can't chop coconuts in half with impunity. Most of my blades are sharpened more conservatively, but of course I try to match the edge with the purpose. A suji that will cut prime or raw, boneless proteins can safely be sharpening to a radial degree. A gyuto I'll let my fellow line cooks use will probably wear bevels of about 30*. IMO a Wusthof will lots of things adequately but nothing superbly. I'd rather have a tool that works superbly for my purpose, even if it involves having lots of 'em. Heck, as a knife geek, the more the better!:lol: I just need an excuse.:D Of course, not everyone feels the same, and I think that's fine. Not for no reason are there hundreds or even thousands of different cutlery companies.

And there's the rub- not everything I use a knife for falls under your likely definition of routine use.:lol: My routine may be different than yours.;)
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
post #22 of 43
Thread Starter 
As you point out, most damage is the result of abuse or simple accidents, like dropping the knife.

I use my toys, but I never abuse them. And prying is the most common form of abuse out there.

If it's any comfort, a four dollar paring knife is prone to the same hazards as a 2,200 dollar Hattori gyuto. The harder you pound both knives the faster they age.

Knives are made for slicing. Use them outside of that parameter and you should expect damage. Keep them clean, steel them often, sharpen them before they go dead flat and wrap your tinker in a blizzard of fifty dollar bills and gushing praise and your knives will last for decades.
post #23 of 43
Thread Starter 
BTW, I am a big fan of using "uber-steels" in the making Japanese knives.

Yes, I agree that knives are tools, and I never meant anything more than perhaps light levity. However the newer line of Crucible CPM alloys are fantastic. They have even fine tuned their particle process to diminish large(r) carbides, as in their CPM-154CM.

Of course, you can get into a real pickle of a debate in comparing and contrasting stainless steels and the traditional white* and blue* Japanese steels configured in both 'clad' and 'hammered and folded.'

But we all know that satisfying "feeling" in taking a freshly polished edge and making that first smooth slice and cleave.

I know what knives cost, but I have a 50 buck Yaxell Ran, made with 69 layers and polished like a chrome bumper, and it slices like the big boys.

Of course, then we have to debate cost, edge retention, Japanese history...

* the terms 'white' and 'blue' do not refer to the color of the steels themselves. It refers to the color of the paper in which the original knives were wrapped.
post #24 of 43
Jeepers, Chico -- I see what you mean! Couple remarks:

1. Chipped edges. I came home from a year in Japan, found my Wusthofs dull and somewhat chipped. I do not believe that my renters went to a lot of trouble to produce this result, but they did it anyway. Yes, Wusties chip. Yes, they're softER than Japanese steel, but that's not to say they're tissue-paper.

2. Hardness. Harder steel holds an edge longer, full stop. Problem: it can chip more easily. Solution: technique. If you like a more rough-and-ready, brutal technique, you don't want hard, thin edges. Let's all just get over this, okay? A Wusthof, Messermeister, Thiers-Izzard Sabatier, whatever, ground appropriately and used with good technique, can be very sharp and hold that edge a good long time, and when it does dull a bit you just whisk it on the steel and you're back in business. Japanese knives act differently, cut differently, sharpen differently. For those who like very light, thin knives, razor edges (literally), and similar phenomena, those Japanese knives are better, but they do require a somewhat different approach in terms of technique.

3. The Magical Gyuto. Some of you don't want to hear this, but a gyuto is basically a down-market knife. No top Japanese knife-maker I am familiar with promotes the gyuto seriously. Yes, it's useful, but so is a paring knife and you don't hear a lot from Wusthof about how paring knives are the best thing ever. What they push is single-beveled knives, especially yanagiba but not only those. Chico mentions $400, but a serious professional yanagiba starts around that kind of price and climbs rapidly. So let's all just get over it and recognize that many of us are enthusiastic about a knife that basically does not interest its makers, which is why we can find bargain prices like $250.

4. A knife is a knife is a knife. A great knife can cost a fortune, and can be worth it. But anyone who buys a great knife -- I mean something on the order of $2,000 by the way, not "ooh, I dropped $200 on this super-awesome-Japanese-steel-wow-thing" -- and makes a fuss about it is a twerp who doesn't know what he's doing. That kind of ultra-top-end knife (I know of pricier and better ones, too!) belongs in the hands of someone who cares about and knows how to use it, period. But you can certainly graduate from a Forschner POS to a good Japanese (or French) knife in a single jump: you just have to have the kind of maturity that says, "this is a serious tool, not a POS, and I need to learn to use it and respect it as it deserves." And when you outgrow it, you need to treat your new knives the same way. And if you become rich and famous and start maltreating your tools, you were an a**hole all along: you haven't changed, you just never really cared about your tools and were just faking it well enough to get a profitable contract.

5. Sharpening. I don't give a darn whether you sharpen yourself or send them out. We had a battle about this a month or so ago, and the other guy never seemed to understand what I was saying. I'll rephrase. If you are serious about knives, you want them treated very well. If you cannot do this yourself, you send them out to a professional you trust, and it's not simple to figure out who that is -- thus Chico's questions. But chances are, if you're really serious about knives, you will learn to treat them well yourself. That doesn't mean you have the time to do it yourself, but you will know what you're looking for in a highly technical way. You'll have very technical conversations with your sharpener, and you might even decide "this guy is no good" on the basis of his seeming clueless in such a conversation. But if you're ready to handle knives like this, you really ought to be able to sharpen them yourself, and not be buying into the nonsense that you can't do it because it's a long-lost super-special ultra-secret hush-hush art passed down from father to son among (non-celibate) monks in Tibet. BS. Whether you do it yourself or not is another matter, but anyone who is moderately intelligent and has decent hand-eye coordination can learn to sharpen extremely well.
post #25 of 43
I think this was touched on at >>another forum<< (perhaps by you, now that I think about it). It's got a lot to do with the types of food the culture venerates and the type of cutting done. The single beveled beauties are fantastic for slicing, useless for chopping. It was also pointed out (again, probably by you, Chris) that until pretty recently, the Japanese diet wasn't chocked full o' beef, so the "cow sword" wasn't a fixture of daily cooking.

Of course, this era of technology-induced culinary multiculturalism sees us gaijin weilding yanagibas and usubas, not always correctly or for the purpose for which they were intended. We've probably moved to fetishise J-knives based on thinness and hardness a bit more than for the alien 'otherness' of their traditional pattern. Hey, my first J' was a Shun Chef not a Aritsugu Yanagi or a Kiritsuke from Korin. But over time I think the elegance of those patterns starts to sink in if you let it.
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
post #26 of 43
Thread Starter 
Well, guys, we did a good job here tonight. We did the thing I like best--discuss great knives with good folks--we wasted a ton of bandwidth and accomplished very little.:lol:

And that's the wonderful thing about debating knives. Oh, I learn a lot. For example my current EDCs are knives I didn't know even existed a few years ago. Now I can't live without them.

Same with kitchen knives and their manner of sharpening.

First the pricing issue. Yes, I often use the figure "400 bucks" is discussing upscale kitchen knives. That's a good baseline figure in the world of professional edged tools. Yes, I see a lot of ten-dollar junk knives in many fine restaurants, that will always happen. But I'll bet you a chocolate chip cookie that Wolfgang Puck has more than a few 3,000 dollar Morimotos in his roll.

I have a tad more respect for the gyuto than most of you. I find it more useful for my average client. I'll admit I am more baffled by the use and praise heaped on the santuko. I'll be honest here, when I first heard the hype I blamed Rachael Ray.

Oh, and another facet of this debate we should include is length of the blade. The two most used knives in my wife's kitchen is a 6-inch Hattori and a five-inch Yaxell Ran. Lots of chefs use a ten-inch gyuto--and that translates into lots of cole slaw. We should also include the ideas of personal style and demand of the individual chef.

Next stop? Well, it could be the increasing use of the Chinese cleaver in the chef's arsonal...
post #27 of 43
>>we wasted a ton of bandwidth and accomplished very little.

actually, I think alot got done. reading the thread it appears to me that everyone is more or less in agreement. there are harder knives and there are softer knives and the two are different - neither being the end all of knife technology.

I completely support the concept that thinner, acuter angles, specific geometries, etc. etc make accomplishing specific tasks easier or even in cases "possible" - my own opinion is that the average home cook probably does not reap much benefit over the "plain ole double bevel" - primarily because the "need" generated by such specialty tasks is absent in the "average" home setting.

and everyone seems to agree that harder blades hold their edge longer than softer blades. there is however a reality check required...
what does that _mean_ in real life? a professional logs more knife hours than the average home cook. they will cause their knives to be sharpened "as needed" - do they need multiple sets of softer stainless knives just to get through a shift?
what is the reality of the non-foodie-serious home cook? how often do they send their knives out for sharpening? will harder = longer actually make any difference given a knife that has not been sharpened in 5 years?

and then there's experts like this one - who sharpens her knife at a 90' included angle but she does sharpen it prior to every use. wonder why....

YouTube - How to Use Cooking Knives : How to Sharpen a Knife

(for lurkers, do _not_ follow any of the advice given in the above video link)
post #28 of 43
Thread Starter 

Oh, well, at least the tinker in her town gets a lot of repair work. (45 degrees?)

My opinion on edges, life expectancy (edge retention) and a sharpening schedule are probably dictated more by use (and abuse) and the needs of the user. For example, there are undoubtedly knives in my home that have never been sharpened. To contrast this, I'll bet the favorite sashimi knife of a fugu chef gets royal attention.

I am glad to see attempts to comment on honing steels.
post #29 of 43
>> (45 degrees?)

yup. that's what she says and that's what she demonstrates. frightening....
post #30 of 43
Thread Starter 
We might have fun criticizing the video, but how many folks really have access to superior blades and professional sharpening?

I met a young man in our local coffee shop who was a barista putting himself through culinary school. For those who know me, I seek kharma wherever I can find it, and I gave him a rather mundane blue steel knife for his classes.

A few years later he was working as a chef, and doing catering on the side. His roll now had many impressive knives--but he also had that old blue steel whizbang. He characterized it as "the first decent knife he worked with."

But let's be honest here, if you took a poll of our members, isn't that the story for us all? Weren't we all driven by some search for excellence? Didn't we all have some defining moment that changed our view of our craft?

So I guess it's easy for us to view the video now. But most people don't work in the places we go, have the superior tools we take for granted, or be able to call a sharpener on his home phone.

You could sit in my kitchen and tell jokes while I made you a latte' or a cappuccino, polished two of your knives amid mocking the latest politics. And in just over an hour or two, more money in steel and services would change hands than some people pay for rent.

Sometimes it's good to remember my first apartment when I flatten a stone...
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