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Yet Another One of those "Which Knife?" Threads

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Hello All,

I have been lurking around these forums for several months now, reading a lot about various knives. I currently have a Forschner Victorinox 8" chef's knife that has served me well, but I'm looking to upgrade to something nicer that will last me for many years. I don't really want to go much beyond the $100 price range. For reference, I am a home cook and even if my knives were allowed to be put in the dishwasher, I never would put them there.

I have narrowed my choices so far down to the Mac MTH-80 and the Elephant **** Sabatier 8", however, I am open to suggestions of other knives. I am a little concerned about purchasing a knife without ever having handled it, but, unfortunately, there are no stores in the area that would carry these more obscure knives. I do have a Mac Professional paring knife that I got from a local store for a steal (unfortunately they sold their remaining Mac stock) and I really like the handle and the way the whole thing feels, so if that's any indication of how the Mac chef's knife would feel, please let me know.

Thank you for any and all suggestions.
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post #2 of 16
I would still make an effort to find someone with the knife you wish to purchase and make some test cuts. Most people want to help.

I was passing through a new kitchen two days ago, explained who I was, and asked the chef to see a representative knife. We had a nice conversation, and I believe that to be the norm.

Where did you get the first one? You might contact them again for additional information. But if you buy a 'pig in a poke,' be sure to ask your supplier about their return policy and something called "re-stocking charges."
post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 
Good advice. Perhaps the store still has some lying around. Usually they display all their knives, but it's worth a shot.
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post #4 of 16
Before getting serious about recommendations it would help if you'd answer some questions.

Do you pinch grip?

Would you consider carbon?

How do you sharpen now? Is this how you plan to sharpen your new knife? What sharpening tools do you use?

Do you require a stiff knife, or can you tolerate some flex (MACs below the Pro tend to be a bit thin and whippy)?

Any handle issues?

But in the meantime...

Since you're planning on using it for years you might want to adjust your price range a little to include the knife you really want. For a number of reasons, MAC Pro is almost always my first recommendation for a moderately priced quality knife. For knives in your price range, the knife with the fewest issues might be a Tojiro DP. I feel the MAC Pro is a better all-around knife, but it's a tad more than you said you wanted to spend.

If you can live with carbon, a ****Elephant is an excellent choice. ****Elephant Sabatier comes in two profiles, French and German. I much prefer the French profile. That said, stainless Sabs are good qualtiy European knives, but no more than that.

Finally, if you have a large enough board to manage a longer knife, I urge you to consider a 24cm, 10" or 27cm over an 8" (21cm). There is a learning curve to the extra length, but you get over it quickly and get a lot more productivity for it.

BDL
post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 
Do you pinch grip? Yes.

Would you consider carbon? Yes.

How do you sharpen now? Is this how you plan to sharpen your new knife? What sharpening tools do you use? Good question. I don't sharpen yet, but have been trying to figure out a basic set of moderately priced waterstones (from reading these forums, these seem to be the best options), or perhaps a Lansky sharpening system, that would be capable of sharpening a knife such as the MAC Pro or Elephant **** Sabatier (although, from what I've read, Sabatiers are comparatively easy to sharpen). Any suggestions on this front would be appreciated as well.

Do you require a stiff knife, or can you tolerate some flex (MACs below the Pro tend to be a bit thin and whippy)? I would prefer something stiffer versus something more flexible, but a slight amount of flex is fine. The MAC knife I was referring to in my post is actually the MAC Pro 8" with dimples (MTH-80, I think), which I found for $110 or so online, close enough to my price range. I apologize for any confusion.

Any handle issues? Not that I know of.



If you can live with carbon, a ****Elephant is an excellent choice. ****Elephant Sabatier comes in two profiles, French and German. I much prefer the French profile. That said, stainless Sabs are good qualtiy European knives, but no more than that.

If I want Sabatier I was definitely planning on the French carbon.

Finally, if you have a large enough board to manage a longer knife, I urge you to consider a 24cm, 10" or 27cm over an 8" (21cm). There is a learning curve to the extra length, but you get over it quickly and get a lot more productivity for it.

I had thought about going longer, but I don't think I really do enough prep work to justify the added expense. Mainly I'll be cooking for my relatively small family and occasional get-togethers, but I think I'd rather put the extra money into better stones/sharpening system.


Thanks for all the help so far!
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post #6 of 16
MAC Pro and ****Elephant are excellent knives. In fact, there are a number of other wonderful choices in that price area, but no need to make things more complicated.

I'm not a big fan of kullenschiffen (the scallops in scallopped edges). They have to make a heavier knife to support them, and they don't actually provide much positive benefit. But if you like them, you like them; and there's nothing I can say.

When you buy a Sabatier carbon you're sacrificing a little bit of performance (there are better carbon steels) for some history, a great handle, a perfect profile, a knife that wants to be pinch gripped and an excellent performer. Over the past few years, ****Elephant has been known for good overall fit and finish, but sloppy sharpening. Be prepared to reprofile the knife.

I mentioned that there are other, better performing carbons in more or less the same price range as the Sabatiers. One that really jumps out is the Misono Sweden. Good F&F, as far as Japanese carbons go, an excellent handle very good for small hands and great for large, and an excellent steel blade (steel from Sandvik in Sweden). It's a great modern, knife. Additionally, Misonos come with an engraved design. The 8" has flowers, while the 24cm has a dragon. Here's a link: Sweden Steel Series Japanese Knife,Japanese Kitchen Knife,Japanese Cutlery,Japanese Chef's Knives.Com (scroll down to the gyutos, they're the chef knives).

I'm a carbon fan, so as much as I like MAC Pro, my choice would be between the Sab and the Misono.

You can sharpen Sabatiers pretty easily on old fashioned "oil stones" (quotes because a lot of modern sharpeners, including me, don't use oil). Quality Crystolon (sllicon carbide), India (aluminum carbide) and Arkansas (novaculite) are all relatively inexpensive compared to quality water stones. FYI, Crystolon and India are Norton trademarks; similar stones are available from other manufactuers but Nortons are the best.

The MAC and Misono Sweden have a little too much surface hardness for easy sharpening on oil stones. Not that you can't do it, but it takes a lot of time and work; and the extra time translates into increased opportunities to "screw it up" for a beginner. So either Japanese knife is going to require more investment to sharpen -- assuming a quality kit.

That said, water stones are so much faster than oil stones, it's hard not to recommend than over oil stones to anyone who isn't consciously trying to maintain a nostalgic link to the past. True for me anyway; and I am an oilstone user.

We'll figure out some sharpening recommendations once we've nailed down your knife choices.
post #7 of 16
I'm surprised Togiharu knives don't come into your recommendations, BDL. The INOX 24cm is spot-on at $100 through Amazon. I haven't used one, but when I did a little survey of the hard-core gang at Fred's for what they thought was the best moderately-priced gyuto, Togiharu came up aces, beating out Tojiro handily. I have heard good things about INOX steel as well (they do offer other options, including carbon, but most of them are more expensive).
post #8 of 16
Chris,

I haven't had any direct experience with the Togiharu Inox or Moly lines -- and very little with the Virgin Steel and G-1 Molybdenum lines. The G-1 Moly is a nice knife. As a more or less obvious clone of the Masamoto VG, it's not quite as nice but enough cheaper to make up for it. You can say pretty much the same thing of the Virgin Steel as compared to Masamoto CT. Like you, I've head good things about the Togiharu Inox from people I respect; and obviously we share some of these folks. On the basis of their reviews I'm including Togiharu Inox in my recommendations for culinary student and entry level pro knives.

In this case though, Pazzo the OP seems to desire the next level of quality up from the Inox and has manifested interest in two very nice lines. Not only that, but he's interested in investigating (at least) carbon. JCK is selling Misono Sweden at an excellent price -- significantly less expensive than the price at which a Togiharu Virgin Steel can be had.

All things considered it took a lot of will power on my part not to mention K-Sabatier au carbone - Vintage, and "Nogent" Sabatier (from ****Elephant), both of which I prefer to new production ****Elephant. In retrospect it was a mistake not to offer a fuller analysis of what's available and the distinctions. So little is written about carbon at this level of quality -- a sweetspot if ever there was one -- it certainly bears discussion. My bad.

Dying to hear more about your trip,
BDL
______________

Piccolo pazzo myself
post #9 of 16
Was it? I dunno. I was just curious, and now I understand.
Who, me? Trip? :crazy:

(and welcome back from wherever, too!)
post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 
If the only negative is a slight bit of extra weight, I won't be put off by them. While I won't seek them out specifically, if the best knife choice happens to have them, so be it.

That might be a problem to start off with since I have never sharpened, let a lone re-profiled, a knife before.



It might seem like a silly point, but the aesthetics of the knife have a role in my use of the knife and, while the engraved design is interesting, I am actually a bit put off by it. However, I will have to research that specific knife and would love to hear more about it because, if it is a significantly better performer, I could easily be swayed.





The ease of sharpening is a very good point. If the Sab's are THAT much easier to sharpen, then they will be sharp more often than the perhaps originally sharper MAC or Misono, since I will be able to sharpen them more easily and frequently on my own.


I would love to hear more about the older (pre-war forged?) Sab's. From what I have read about the Nogent line from Elephant, while they are supposed to be very good knives, they are front heavy and seem to lack a full tang (perhaps that's why they're front heavy). Having never used a knife like that before, I am a little wary of making such a commitment. Is the Au Carbone - Vintage line from K-Sabatier better than the Nogent line from Elephant?

Looking at the K-Sab website, it seems that the A.C. - Vintage line has a finger guard, which I have heard makes sharpening trickier. Additionally, while I know that price is by no means a definite indicator of quality, I can get a 10" A.C. - Vintage chef's knife for over $30 less than the 8" MAC Pro.


Do you have any opinion about K-Sabatier versus **** Elephant? It seems I should eliminate one of these brands first before moving on to the Sab vs. MAC vs. Misono decision.


Thank you again for all your help. You are an amazing wealth of information!
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post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 
Upon further inspection, it seems that all the Sab's from both **** Elephant and K-Sab have the finger guards.
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post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 
All right, I've made my decision.

I was able to go into the store near me where I got my MAC Pro paring knife and they did, in fact, have the chef's knives in stock, just not displayed up front. After holding the knife in my hand, I was convinced. When I first picked it up I was taken aback by how well made and solid it felt, despite being so much lighter than other "high quality" knives I've used.

Maybe one day the siren call of the vintage Sabatier carbons will beckon me to them, but for now it's the MAC Pro 8" chef's knife that will do the trick.

So...sharpening suggestions? Keep in mind that I've never done this before. I have a Forschner's chef knife to "practice" on, not that I want to destroy that either, but it's better than hurting the MAC.
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post #13 of 16

Sharpening Suggestions

If you can afford them, I highly recommend the Naniwa Superstones (with bases), sold by Tools for Working Wood for beginners. Although not the cheapest, the stones are very easy to prep and maintain, and provide a lot of feedback. For an experienced sharpener, the plastic bases get are more in the way than they are helpful. But they'll tell a newer sharpener when he's using too much pressure in no uncertain terms. That is, they flex.

Again, if you can afford it, I recommend the 400#, the 1000# and the 5000#. If you can only afford two, and you'll mostly be sharpening knives in good repair get the 1000# and the 5000#. If you're going to be restoring some badly damaged knives, than get the 400# and the 1000#.

However long it takes you to learn to use the 1000#, plan on the same amount of time after learning it to use the 5000#. It's a good idea to stay away from coarse stones like the 400# until you can hold a constant angle and have mastered the magic marker trick. Otherwise, you can do a fair bit of damage in very little time.

A lot of new sharpeners like to save money by buying a combination stone. Normally, they aren't a good choice because they wear quickly, one side wears more quickly than the other, and the two grits have a tendency to fall apart. But even so, they can be an excellent choice for beginners. One thing, by the time you've worn away the 1000# side you've developed the skill set to use a variety of stones and the knowledge base to make some educated choices.

In combi stones I like Naniwa 800#/5000# a little better than the Norton 1000#/4000#. I like both mucvh better than the King.

You're not ready for Shaptons yet.

You're going to need a strategy for flattening right away. I like to use a full sheet of drywall screen on a piece of glass, ceramic tile, or other reference float (held by a few drops of water). It's inexpensive and because of its size makes flattening easy. Most people seem to prefer flattening stones. If you want to start out with a stone, you could do worse than the Norton, which is nicely inexpensive. You can also flatten on a flat piece of cement in the driveway, patio or wherever. Lots of people start that way. Just have a plan before you buy the stones -- you can't sharpen on a dished stone.

By the way, a MAC Pro is a hugely good choice. Congratulations!

BDL
post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thank you again for another one of your informative and detailed posts!

I think that I'm going to go for the Norton combination 1000/4000 to start with. Since I'll only be sharpening maybe three knives every couple of months without doing and reprofiling yet, about how long do you think this combination stone will last? If it's a decent amount of time, I'll definitely start with the combination stone because, even if it wears out quicker than other stones, by the time I wear it out, I might be able to justify spending the extra money on the Naniwa stones.

I'll surely have more questions once I actually receive my knife and stone, but, off the top of my head, do you know what angle the stamped Forschner chef's knives should/could be sharpened to? Also, the MAC Pro line has a 15/15 degree edge correct?

Thanks again!
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post #15 of 16
Nortons are very good stones if not as good as the Naniwas. A combination stone can be a very good choice for someone new to waterstones. All in all, it's a very good choice and there's no need to worry about it. In fact, the Norton 1000/4000 was the stone I recommended most often for people new to waterstones.

Although they're old-tech, Nortons are very well made. Better than almost all of the Kings (except for Ice Bear). They use a mud-based matrix which makes them very soft. The good news is that they're pretty responsive, at least as waterstones go. The bad news is they require a fair amount of soaking before using, and a lot of flattening too -- the 1000# especially.

Combination waterstones are on the fragile side. If you drop them or otherwise abuse them the layers can separate. The most used side wears very quickly compared to the less used side -- especially so if the most used side is the lower grit (lower grits are softer). This is mostly because of the tendency to dish and the need for flattening.

The high rate of wear is actually a positive for most beginners. By the time the 1000# is worn down, you'll know how to sharpen and maintain your stones. The need to replace tends to coincide with a much better idea of what to look for in the replacement.

If you want to become a good sharpener, you'll need to practice more often than your proposed schedule promises. You can expect anywhere from 1-1/2 years to 3 years of useful life if you don't do a lot of practicing. If you do, you'll wear the stone down inside a year.

If you don't already know how to pull a wire (aka a burr), what it feels like, how to deburr, etc., expect your first 15 or 20 sharpenings on the 1000# to be problematic. If you follow a decent system, it's likely you'll improve a dull edge but you won't get anything like actually sharp. Don't bother moving up to the 4000# until you can actually sharpen a good bevel, pull a wire, chase it, and deburr. That takes most people about one or two dozen sharpenings. And, FWIW, I strongly suggest using the "magic marker" trick to make sure you're actually sharpening down to the edge.

Unless they've already got experience with medium-high or high grit stones, most people cannot use the 4000# side effectively for a long time. The tendency, when first moving up, is actually to dull by rounding over, rather than actually sharpening/polishing. It takes a while, be patient. You'll get it.

Forschners are ground to approximately 20*. They are most effectively sharpened to a double bevel of about 17* over 11* -- which is what I use on my package opening, string cutting, etc., knife. They can take a 15* angle but it rolls pretty easily and will require frequent steeling or retouching -- that's what I use for my wife's sheep's foot parer.

I believe the MAC Pro comes from the factory with a 50/50 symmetry, both sides sharpened to a flat bevel 15* edge angle. But to be sure, you should check with MAC USA. However, the knife will perform better -- at the same level as a Misono UX-10 -- if thinned to 10*, with an edge angle of 15*. Like Forschners, the knife likes a double bevel. Also, asymmetric geometry tends to act a little sharper than a 50/50 bevel, but you don't want to get much past 60/40 or you won't be able to use a steel.

Hope this helps,
BDL
post #16 of 16
Frankly, I am not ready for Shaptons yet. Let me explain.

I'm a good tinker, but I am not a polisher and I am not Dwade Hawley (who polishes hospital microtomes).

Anytime any of us need something 5 to 10K we can get that level using traditional stones and glass/paste. I even have a 12K 3x9 stones I use primarily for the obverse sides of Japanese asymmetrical slicing knives. (Sorry for the generality, BDL, I was more interested in a "word picture.")

In the trade it's known as a "yanagiba," or even a yanagibahocho. Also a great name for a heavy metal rock band that only knows one song...

My personal belief is that if a "guy" cannot sharpen an edge with traditional stones he's either providing tools for the medical industry or really reaching for bragging rights.

However I do know a guy who sells quality 30K stones for EPs and Gizmos. I've saving my pennies now to buy his 8K stones.
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