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Knife Selection for an Amateur at Home

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
Hello everyone, apologies in advance for the lengthy post!

I’ve recently decided to step up from my set of Henckles Fine Edge Pro knives to something of better quality. My plan is to start with a 10” Chef as that will allow me to perform 90% of what I need to do in the kitchen. Initially I was locked in on the Shun Classic line, but decided to do some research before pulling the trigger on the purchase. After finding this forum I was quickly sucked into the vortex of knife knowledge that exists here. Needless to say I am now considering other brands beyond Shun.

In the course of browsing existing threads, I found my way over to the post "New with a Question" on Foodie Forums where Blwchef recommended the following list of knives to someone in a similar situation as myself:

(sorry for the lack of any links, I haven't met my 5 post quota yet)
Fujiwara FKM
Honsho Kanemasa E series
Togiharu Moly
Misono Sweedish Steel
MAC Pro
Tojiro DP

For price and aesthetic reasons I’ve narrowed that list down to the Fujiwara FKM, the Honsho Kanemasa E series, the Togiharu Moly, and the Tojiro DP. If I am correct in thinking that since the Honsho is “high carbon” it will need the TLC of a carbon knife it can come off that list. Any insight you can offer on these choices to help me narrow down to one would be appreciated!

Also, I’ve seen enough people linking to JapaneseChefsKnife.com, Japan-Blades.com, Korin.com, & EpicureanEdge.com in their posts to assume that they are all reputable and safe to order from, but if anyone has a differing opinion please let me know.

Finally for sharpening – I’ve seen BDL recommend the Naniwa Super Stone 1000# & 5000# enough times to beginners that I’ve gone ahead and made those my stones of choice. Unfortunately, I’m having a hard time finding a store that sells them. Any suggestions on where to look?

Thanks in advance for the input and advice :peace:
post #2 of 24
Yes, the Kanemasa E Series is carbon steel and will need 'TLC', as you put it, although you should form a habit of attending to needs of your knife no matter what material it is made from. I've no personal experience with any of the rest, so I'm not much help there.

They are all reputable businesses, differing only in the merchandise they carry. Korin and EpicureanEdge are located in the US, while JCK and Japan-Blades are in Japan. You can also add Chef Knives to go to your list.

As I recall, BDL's recommendation was for the thin Super Stones mounted on a base. Try Sharpening Supplies for the 1000 grit and Tools for Working Wood for the 5000 grit.
post #3 of 24
Mark at ChefKnivesToGo has the naniwa Superstones as well as the Chosera line. One caveat- while I haven't used the SS's myself a couple of pro sharpeners have told me they're very soft. If you're new to sharpening by hand your apt to gouge them up a bit while you learn.
"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
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"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
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post #4 of 24
Plus 1, to Phaedrus and Pensacola.

Include the Misono Moly on your short list; it's a lot of knife for the money.

If you're looking to dip a toe, you're looking at the right knives; but if you're looking for a lifetime companion, and can afford to step up to the next level -- it's worth it to do it now. Chances are high, you'll want to try something "better" than what's on your current short list in fairly short order.

Any questions -- ask. We're the kind of nice guys who want to help. Any evolution of thought -- share. We're the kind of nosy, unsuitable expletives who want to know.

BDL
post #5 of 24
Mark does not sell the SS on a base. Honestly I just don't know why any one would want one mounted on the base when you can get them from un-mounted from Chefknivestogo. The SS's are very soft but you are not going to gouge them unless you are very hard on them. The SS's are a bit of a PITA so I wouldn't suggest them over the Chosera unless you are pressed for cash or buying 5k or finer. Under 5k the Chosera is very affordable and a better stone. Any scratches in the SS come out toot sweet with a flattener and you will need one immediately with a SS.
One other thing a noob may may top consider is a guide. They only run about $12 and are a worthy investment for some one just starting out.


Tojiro Sharpening Guide
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #6 of 24
Hmm...

Someone on a budget.

Someone looking for a grit lower than 1000.

Someone who wants to experiment with different stones.

Someone just starting to sharpen who needs to develop proper technique.

Certainly for someone who knows that they want a Super Stone, an unmounted 20mm stone is a better deal than a 10mm mounted one for 2/3rds of the price.
post #7 of 24
As I noted I would not suggest a SS under 5k unless you are pressed for cash. To me that's the same as being on a budget. That's about the only reason to chose a SS over a Chosera under 5k. Buying a mounted super stone to save $ seems a bit short sighted unless you are going to do very little sharpening.
The lower the grit the less sense it makes to pick a SS over a Chosera as the price disparity is significantly less on the lower grits. Not sure how that applies to mounted Vs un-mounted.
My guess is that not many are going to buy a SS to experiment with as they are very soft. Even so how would your experimentation be better on a mounted stone? You can't flatten the bottom nor can you use both sides of a mounted stone.
Since the SS's are VERY soft IMO it can be a bit harder to learn as they need a LOT of attention. I'm at a loss as to why a mounted SS would be easier to learn on.
From my perspective the un-mounted SS's are a much better deal and then only for 5k and over unless the chosera is out of your budget.
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #8 of 24
From your perspective, I agree completely. From the perspective of a first-time sharpener, who may not share the idea that spending as much or more for sharpening stones than the knife that will be sharpened on them, the less expensive option may be better. Apples and oranges.
post #9 of 24
The 1k mounted SS is $35 plus freight at tools for working wood (has any one here actually bought any thing from them?). A un-mounted SS is $45 at Chef knives to go. The 5k SS mounted $50 and the un-mounted $75. Total at tools for working wood (if they actually have them in stock) is $93.11
Say the magic word at check over out at Chefknivestogo and you save another 5% plus shipping is free. Total $112. If less than $20 is apples and oranges it might be time to re-think the whole concept of getting a J-knife.
Add another $25 before the discount to up grade to the chosera 1k and you have a much nicer set up. It only takes a few minutes on a chosera to appreciate the upgrade from a SS.
Either way the OP will still need to factor $15 or so for a flattener.
That's about as cheap as it gets unless you go for a combo stone. Personally I don't think the OP needs a 5k stone at this juncture if cost is that big of a factor.
1k and 3k would take the average user a long ways.
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #10 of 24
Hmmm...I didn't notice the OP specifying he wanted it mounted on a base. Personally I don't think a base adds anything; if you need one buy a $15 stone holder that can hold any stone. The advantage of not having a base is that you can flatten and use both sides of the stone. If you really want the Naniwa SS 400 stone Mark can probably get it for you but why bother? The Chosera is better and not really much more expensive, especially when you factor in the fact that it's a full inch thick vs the 20mm SS. The SS's sold by ToolsForWorkingWood are even thinner @ 10mm...at $28 for 10mm it's actually more expensive per mm than the Chosera at CKtG. Of course, anyone is free to buy what they want. The low price of purchase is nice if you're strapped for cash or need a bunch of stones (a full set of Chocera's would be pretty steep!).

Overall I'm not impressed with combo stones. Most of the better stones aren't available as combos, and those are rarely good deals. Most of the time you can get a full grit Arato (coarse) or Nakato (med-coarse) & a Shiageto (fine/polish) for the cost of a combo, and you'll get double the stone. A combo coarse stone particularly doesn't strike me as a very good deal since you'll burn thru that much faster than the fine side. Of course, by then you might be skilled enough at sharpening to be ready to upgrade, anyways.
"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
Reply
"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
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post #11 of 24
This is slightly OT, but yeah- I've made numerous orders from ToolsForWorkingWood. The service is always great and they carry a wide variety of stuff. I've bought waterstones from them but the main things I've pruchased is 3m abrasives on film (they have a lot of grits and great pricing).

Just posting this in case it helps. Incidentally the only vendor mentioned in this thread I've never ordered from is Epicurean Edge, but I've heard enough good things about them that I wouldn't hesitate to do so.
"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
Reply
"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
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post #12 of 24
I'm the one who recommended Naniwa SS on bases, and had good reasons for doing so.

The Super stone series has excellent feedback -- not only in terms of having good feel, and being an easy stone to "click" on an established bevel; but also in that its softness punishes too steep angle with a very distinctive feel -- grabbing the edge and making it skip and chatter. Boing, boing, boing.

Yes the SS series is more likely to gouge than Chosera, especially the 10,000#. But that's a special stone and special grit level neither of which is suitable to a beginner. The other SS aren't particularly likely to gouge compared to most other waterstones -- especially mud bound stones like King, Norton, and the various synthetic aotos.

I recommend the use of the stones glued to bases sold by T4WW for beginners because the attached bases flex in a visibly tactilly obvious way when the sharpener uses too much pressure. The lessons I've learned as a sharpening teacher include having the sharpener learn to maintain a controlled pressure by sticking with a light touch for the first year or so. After he's mastered consistency, other choices open up -- or he can stick with that.

Some other reasons for liking T4WW's SS are: 1) The stones on bases are less likely to break during flattening; 2) They're thinner and wear out quicker -- by the time the user is ready to move on, the stones are nearly finished anyway; 3) The base is a reference when flattening upside down on sand paper or drywall screen; and 4) They're cheaper.

Opinions vary, but even though they're wonderful stones and about as easy to use as waterstones get, I don't consider Choseras a suitable choice for beginning sharpeners -- they're simply too expensive. To my mind, it's a better choice to learn to sharpen on a minimal set of good quality, affordable stones rather than buy a full kit of the best and/or most expensive money can buy.

Nortons used to be my first choice for beginners, for many of the same reasons I now recommend Naniwa SS; but even though the SS a little more expensive, they're faster stones AND better teachers.

While I like SS, I don't use them -- in fact I don't use waterstones at all at this time. If I were to expand my knife set to the point where I needed to repalce my waterstone kit, the only SS it would conceivably include is the 10,000# and the only Chosera would be the 400#; but that's me. I don't need or exepct my own choices to be anyone else's -- I'm not a beginner, have been lucky to try a lot of stones, and have my own reasons for liking some more than others. Those reasons don't constitute a recommendation for anyone else, nor are they judgment on other choices.

My belief is that the recommendation ought to be suited to the person receiving it, and that's what I try to do.

BDL
post #13 of 24
Instead of relying on a super soft stone to help a noob with angle feed back I think a knife guide is a better choice.
A Chosera under 5k is not exactly a hard or difficult stone to use and in the 1k range the price difference is minimal. If you struggle on a Chosera under 5k you will likely struggle on many other stones. In short a SS is not easier to use save for the fact that it doesn't need to be soaked.
The notion of using a mounted stone for feedback in regards to excessive pressure may have some merit but I just don't see the need on a Naniwa SS. The SS is so soft that if you press too hard the stone almost immediately smears and scratches.
To me SS's lack feedback, they clog and are bit of a pain. When you look at stones over 5k it's not hard to understand their popularity based on price alone.
I tend to look at cost in the long run and IMO there is nothing cheap about saving a few bucks up front and spending more in the future because of your initial choices.
If you do start with SS's the un-mounted stones are thicker so they are more cost effective in the end and perhaps more stable as well.
It's just my two cents adjusted for inflation. I'm not suggesting any other method is wrong. I just think it's worth noting that there are other viable options for a noob. Especially since T4WW seems to lack inventory.
Then again I don't think stones 5k and up even need to be discussed in a thread for most beginners.
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #14 of 24
Now, back to the OP's question:

I can't speak to T4WW's inventory or lack thereof, but Sharpening Supplies does have stock and ships via Priority Mail. I ordered one (to see what Super Stones were all about) on Thursday, and it was delivered Monday.
post #15 of 24
How is the SS? Which one did you get?

Some good advice, BDL. FWIW my first waterstones were Nortons but I don't particularly like them now. They're cheap and therefore accessible to sharpeners on a budget but I think most people will quickly be ready for something better.
"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
Reply
"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
Reply
post #16 of 24
I picked up the 220 grit, because I needed something to profile some old knives I inherited from my father that was more aggressive than the 800 grit stone I have. I was interested in the SS because it doesn't need soaking. I'd been considering a Shapton GS, but BDL has described Shaptons as "demon stones from ****" in other threads, and since the price was virtually the same, I opted for the SS.

DuckFat is right in that it is a thin stone, but all I wanted was to try one out, and 10mm is fine for that. I had to use the DMT XXC to remove the stickum from the label on the stone, but it was pretty well flat OOTB.

It didn't take very long to get a good bevel on an old carbon carving knife, and the SS felt like the 800 grit I have, only rougher. As advertised, it only needed a few spritzes of water from a spray bottle to get going, and a couple more during the process. Not a lot of swarf built up. The scratch pattern under a 10x loupe looked pretty prominent, but i was able to jump to a 1200 grit with no problem.

So now I have a stone for chip repair/reprofiling when I need it, and based on its performance, I'll probably try a higher grit SS. I'd love to get a set of Choseras, but the budget won't allow it at the moment.

BDL, thanks for suggesting the Super Stones. I am curious though, to hear more on why you dislike Shaptons.
post #17 of 24
Back to the OT,
Check out www.Chefknivestogo.com I ordered stones from mark earlier this year. I ordered on a sunday and had a tracking number the same day. Every thing was here in two days and well packaged. The free freight over $60 really helps the cost. You may want to search before you order as they always seem to have a code for 5% off. This month the code word is.....shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
November. :thumb:
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #18 of 24
Thread Starter 
Lots to digest here, thanks for all the feedback! Since there have been a few comments regarding a budget (which I acknowledge I did not provide) I can address that here -

I don't have a firm dollar figure that I need to stay under. It's more psychological in that I'd prefer to not buy more knife/stone than my skill will allow me to appreciate. Naturally skill will improve given time, but I've found with purchases I've made in the past that it's possible to drive yourself insane trying to achieve that perfect ratio of cost vs. growth potential, what I call "Value Nirvana".

To bring it back to specifics, if a mounted SS provides the optimal learning experience with the added benefit of a lower initial cost it seems like the right choice for my situation. The fact that I will have to purchase new stones sooner bothers me less as I will be better equipped to appreciate them.

With respect to BDL's comment earlier -

I'd like to explore this a bit more. Given my initial list (FKM, Tojiro, Togiharu), the Togiharu Moly was where I was leaning. It fit a very nice sweet-spot in that it has been positively received as far as I can tell and that I can get a 240mm gyutou for under $100 from Korin. Right or wrong (and at the risk of equating price with quality) I formed a mental ceiling in my head where I classified knives over $100 as "too much knife for my skill".

In your experience, what are the things that most beginners become frustrated with in their entry-level knives? I suspect it will be edge retention and fit/finish, but would certainly like to hear what you folks have to say. If by spending a bit more avoiding that frustration becomes possible it's definitely something I need to consider.
post #19 of 24
Their ability to sharpen. Which is related to edge retention, but they'll probably blame their inability to get it sharp more than they recognize the interrelationship of learning how to sharpen and enjoying that edge in better steel and geometry.

If you know how to sharpen, you can go a LONG way with very economical knives.

Note that most of the hard-core posters in this sub forum are knife enthusiasts. There are plenty of knife competent members for whom this intense analysis of incremental knife differences isn't that important.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #20 of 24
I own two Mac knives and one Misono knife.

I would recommend them both, in a heartbeat.
post #21 of 24
Why did you drop the Mac Pro from the list? It's pretty much right at your price point with the discount.


MAC Professional 8" Chef's Knife With Dimples
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
post #22 of 24
I doubt you'd be frustrated by the performance or edge retention of any of the knives on your list. Especially if you're trying to learn to sharpen. In a sense, edge retention is not incredibly important for a home user; so long as you don't mistreat a knife (eg that is to say, always use a cutting board, don't use it as a screwdriver, don't let it sit dirty, don't put it in the dishwasher, etc) most decent blades will retain an edge for a good while at home. Pro's tend to need edges that last a long time under heavy use a lot more than a home cook.

Fit and finish is a bigger deal. It won't necessarily affect performance but it's demoralizing to make a highly anticipated purchase only to find it cheap looking or poorly fitted.
"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
Reply
"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
Reply
post #23 of 24
Thread Starter 
I was planning on purchasing a 240mm or 270mm gyutou, which put the MAC knives slightly over my price point.

I'll ask the question, given a Togiharu Moly 240mm gyutou at $80 and a MAC Pro 240mm at $140, is there enough of a difference that the average home user would appreciate the 60% price increase?

This is a key point. I cook at home and my knives will never be used in a professional capacity.

Very well put. In the reviews I've read, the Togiharu seems to have slightly better F&F over the Tojiro which is what pushed me in that direction. If I were to consider entering the MAC Pro price point, should I also be considering the other Togiharu stainless options (INOX or G-1)?
post #24 of 24
I think the link I posted was for the 240. It's on sale so it should be about $105 with the code I posted. I can't help with the Togiharu as I haven't handled one but it's un-likely you will ever want more at home as an average user than the Mac. At a $25 difference I think the Mac is an easy choice. At a $60 difference it becomes more subjective.
I tend to favor WA gyutos becuse I want a traditional style knife and the WA's in general seem to have a better fit and finish. It takes me to my happy place just picking one up. If your not of the same persuasion about such things then spending less may be a better choice. I'm sure BDL or one of the other guys that have handled both knives will be able to give a more precise answer.
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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