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Hands off the Ikon honey!

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I am thinking for my first knife to invest in the Wusthof Ikon Chefs Knife with Hardwood Handle. I suppose the care should not be rocket science.

I am almost tempted to forbid my wife from handling this prize tool. I just hate to see anything happen to it.

Any comments on the Wusthof Ikons would be appreciated. I am 55 and would like to be using it for another 40 years. I suppose I need to learn to use one of those sharpening sticks or rods you see the chefs use.

Is my newbie showing?
post #2 of 17
I consider the Ikon to greatly overpriced. At half the price it wouldn't be too bad. Many of us that are knifegeeks would rather steer you towards a Japanese knife, but for what it is the Ikon is alright, notwithstanding the price.

It would be a shame to have to bar your wife from using your new toy. Anything that has to be babied to that degree doesn't deserve a spot in your kitchen, IMO. A knife is meant to be used and enjoyed. If you want something to display buy a painting.;)
"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
Reply
post #3 of 17
Every word Phaedrus wrote was gold and worth rereading. Just a few words to flesh out some of what he said.

Knives:

Wusthof makes very nice knives, but there are better for the price. The Ikon series borrows some Japanese blade geometry and mixes it up with a very nice, ergonomic handle, and is made with beautiful fit and finish. Unfortunately, the steel alloy used to make the knife has a few strengths, but a lot of limitations.

Without unduly criticising a nice knife, it's fair to say there are much better for the money.

The knife I recommend most freely for home cooks moving up to their first good knife, or for pros moving up to their first Japanese knife is the MAC Pro. It's very comfortable, with a great handle; has the geomtery that Wusthof copied to make the Ikon, gets much sharper than any Wusthof, sharpens more easily, and stays sharper longer. As Japanese knives go, it is extremely stiff; and doesn't have much tendency to chip either. Unlike most good Japanese knife manufacturers, MAC has a strong US presence, offers great support and a 25 year guarantee. Shun and Global are good in those respects, but their chef's knifes just can't compare to the MAC Pros.

There are other good knives, and if you talk more about what you like, your level of skills, and so on, I can help you figure how what to look at, and where to find it.

Sharpening:

Sharpening is a related issue; so related that it's really the same issue. All knives get dull, and all dull knives are equal. It doesn't matter how expensive, or how comfortable the handle, nor how agile the geometry. Dull is dull, and dull sucks. Before investing over $125 in a knife, it's a good idea to know how you're going to sharpen it when it gets dull, and how you're going to maintain the edge while it's sharp.

Most knives respond well to "steels" or "rod hones," as a part of maintenance. A steel, used properly, "trues" edges which get bent -- mostly from contact with the board. With most knives, they prolong the useful life of the edge, so the knife doesn't need to be sharpened as often. There is one real standout "steel," for good knives in terms of combining performance and price. That's the Idahone "fine" ceramic, at either 10" or 12".

As useful as rod-hones are, they make very poor sharpening tools for good knives. For that, you'll need something else. The only really effective systems are freehand sharpening on whetstones (either oilstones or waterstones); jig and tool sharpeners -- especially the rod-guides -- most especially the Edge Pro Apex; and Chef's Choice electric sharpeners.

Unfortunately, freehand sharpening is a skill which needs mastering. It's not the most difficult thing in the world, but it does requre effort and practice. Also, a decent set of stones is not inexpensive.

Speaking of not inexpensive, that's very true of the Edge Pro (EP). Other than their expense, the downsides to the EP is that they require set up and take down, and they are a bit fussy in use.

I've been a freehand sharpener for more than four decades, do not own an EP, and have no plans to buy one. But, I'm starting to think that given the inherent flexibility of the EP system, the number of sharpening grits available, the availibility of very high quality "cut down" water stones that fit it, there may not be any practical necessity for freehanding anymore.

There's may be other good electric knife sharpeners for the home kitchen besides the Chef Choice machines; but I don't know what they are. The machines are actually reasonably priced compared to good stones or an EP with the right grits; are incredibly easy to use; and cannot be beat for convenience. But they do have their limitations. You'll never get the edge quality a good sharpener gets from stones, or a patient sharpener gets from an EP. But OMG the convenience. If you're the sort of person who will put off sharpening for months and months unless you have something as easy to use as a Chef's Choice, it's the best choice.

Somewhat less effective, and requiring a lot more effort to produce limited results, are "V" sticks and a few manual "slot guides" (most slot guides are junk). On the other hand, they are vastly less expensive.

Hope this helps,
BDL
post #4 of 17
I want to expand on one point; don't ever fall into the trap of prizing a knife too much to use it. I myself have done this in the past and cheated myself out of a lot of the pleasure to be had in owning & using fine knives. By all means, treat them with respect but don't be afraid to use them.

Sharpening. Yes, ultimately every knife will get dull. The only way to prevent it is to refrain from using it. As BDL says, all dull knives are basically equal. I'll qualify that a bit- a very thin dull knife will still cut better than a thick dull knife, but I'm quibbling. For starters you can get a good ceramic steel and spend a bit of time learning to use it; this you should do. Ultimately it just postpones the inevitable (ie sharpening) but it's a useful step.

I wish I could tell you there was a great shortcut to getting your knives sharp, but there isn't. There are gadgets you can use but most are useless. There are 2 great options, each with advantages and disadvantages, and at least one "okay" option. I'll start with the great ones:

Learn to freehand sharpen

Pros:
1) You can use any type of stone.
2) You can sharpen any edged implement.
3) You don't need a lot of equipment.
4) You can get a superb edge.

Cons:
1) There's a steep learning curve. Rubbing a knife on a rock will sharpen, but it takes a lot of practice to get really good.
2) It takes some coordination, not unlike playing an instrument or participating in a sport. Not everyone is equally "talented", and some will find it frustrating.
3) IMOHO, very few people every really get great at freehand sharpening.
4) Frustration can set in, causing you to abandon practicing.

Buy an Edge Pro or Gizmo

Pros:
1) Simplicity: A guided system removes one of the greatest obstacles to getting a good edge, namely the need to hold a steady angle.
2) Consistency: The EP will allow you to maintain a precise angle over the whole blade, and reproduce this every time you resharpen.
3) Shorter learning curve. Using an EP isn't like putting popcorn in the microwave and hitting START...you actually do have to know how to sharpen. But you'll find the learning curve is much shorter.
4) Superb results. You will get a screaming edge with a minimum of practice.

Cons:
1) Price: An EP will set you back a couple hundred bucks, and more for extra stones.
2) Limited stones: This isn't a major problem for most people for whom getting a good edge is more important than building a stone collection. While there are some aftermarket Shapton and Naniwa stones available they're more expensive. Most people will choose to live with the stock ones. Luckily there's also the glass tape blank...
3) Limited snob appeal: There are some who think if you aren't suffering, it ain't art. If you're one of those people, take a pass on the EP and get some wet rocks.

If you opt for a mass market knife from Wusthof or the like, there's one other "good" option: The Edgemaker Pro. I've used them for years on German knives, as well as sporting knives. They're the only pull-thru sharpening I'd recommend. They're pretty gentle and don't remove much metal and are easy to use. They're not the last word in sharp, and you won't mistake the edge for one fresh off a 10,000 grit synthetic waterstone, but you get a very serviceable edge. An EMP-sharpened blade will shave hair and fillet paper (assuming a decent knife), and is about as much trouble as I feel Germans are worth, no overt snobbery intended. The main virtues are price and simplicity; the entire set is $30 with free shipping and they're dead simple to use. They have some limitations, though. Some very thick blades won't work well, and the angle is basically preset. But used properly you'll get a good edge and maximize the life of your blade.
"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 #5 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks

Thanks for all the great information. I have been excited about cooking and spend about 10 hours a week in the kitchen after work and on weekends cooking for my wife and our 4 year old girl. I am just boning chicken now and cutting veggies for stock and various dishes.

I may lean more toward the Mac now after the good advice I have received. I dont know if I want to get into the hand sharpening as I dont have alot of extra time to devote and may get impatient. The last $30 option mentioned above would probably suit me.

For now I just need a decent knife and dont need a fancy wood handle Ikon. My knives have been bouncing around in drawers full of steel for 10 years so this is a big step.

A decent knife with decent care and I can move on to other needs in the kitchen.

I really appreciate your great replies.
post #6 of 17
Kevin, whichever knife you choose, two pieces of advice:

1. Don't worry about your wife. She'll take care of it if you tell her what's required.
2. Do not, repeat not, toss it in that knife drawer. Use a magnetic bar or knife block so that your knives (note the plural---after the first good one you'll get others) do not bang together.

Well, three:

3. Keep the **** thing out of the dishwasher!
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #7 of 17
Kevin,

The bad news is that you can't use the $30 Edgepro on a MAC to good effect. The sharpener's angles are far too obtuse, for one thing. And, with due respect to Phaedrus with whom I agree about most things, it's far too coarse for a knife of the MAC's quality. Using one on a MAC would be a crying shame.

Although they're very slow, you'd be better off with a MAC Rollsharp, a Minosharp, a Spyderco Sharpmaker, a Lansky "crockstick," an Idahone "crockstick," a Gatco rod-guide, a Lasky rod-guide, a Myerco, and anything else that won't actually harm the knife. Not recommending them, just sayin' is all.

BDL
post #8 of 17
I never said the Edgemaker Pro would be a good alternative for a MAC; I was referring to using the EMP to sharpen everything between a Fibrox and a Wusthof. Cheap though it is the EMP is pretty decent on Germans. If the steel is softish and the bevels are ground to that general 22.5 degree G-range it will generally put a serviceable edge on it. My dad clued me in to that little gadget years ago and I've used it to good effect on a vast array of knives. However, I've never even attempted to sharpen a J-knife with an Edgemaker Pro and I never will. That's what waterstones are for!;)

The EMP really shines with G-knives in the hands of people who otherwise would a) never sharpen their knife or b) run it thru the "sharpener" on the back of their electric can opener. In fact, it's about as effective as any electric sharpener I've seen (and by that I most pointedly don't mean to include belt grinders). The Blue Bevel Maker is really too coarse and rough on the edge but the finer ones work well. They do share a common disadvantage with the Spyderco Sharpmaker, though, namely that they're better for touch-ups than hard-core re-beveling.
"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 #9 of 17
I'd rather store my knives in a drawer than use a magnetic rack. Many Chef's carry their knives in a box which on average likely sees more abuse getting carried than a knife drawer. Magnetic racks make my toes curl like a cheap electric grinder.
While I like Wusthof I'm not a great fan of the Ikon. Having said that Kevin if you think they are just what the doctor ordered get one!
The Mac is a fine knife but it is thin, stamped and the handle is nothing like the Ikon. I think it's un-likely that Wusthof copied the Ikon design or geometry any more than Mac or many others have copied what they are making. All of the brands mentioned here are mass produced. I think this is worthy of mentioning as you should not leave with the impression that the Wusthof is just a knock off or of poor quality. The Ikon is a very respectable knife. One of the Chef's on this seasons Top Chef was using an Ikon.
If you lack the skill to sharpen and do not want to invest more than $30 in sharpening tools then IMO the MAC and the Ikon are the wrong tools for you. Pick a knife that you can maintain a serviceable edge on.
For the money you are about to spend on a Mac or an Ikon you could get a sharpener and a F.Dick, Forschner or perhaps a Wusthof LCB on close out for the same money and have a set up that may work out far better for you. If you lean towards a Japanese knife then this may be one of the rare times I suggest Shun since they will factory sharpen them for you (no charge) if you mail them in. Not a bad deal for a lot of home cooks and they offer a lot of options most of which can be had for a great price off Amazon.
No matter what you get have a realistic plan to maintain it. It's means nothing that one knife may be "better" than the other if you can not maintain the edge to a degree that the knife is actually capable of that performance.
Even though us knife nutz here don't always agree on every minor point you have a LOT of solid advice here to consider.
What ever you get don't worry about putting it in the drawer or being delicate with it. It's a tool. Use it and enjoy it! ;)
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 17
"I'd rather store my knives in a drawer than use a magnetic rack."

I don't understand that at all, Duckfat. Do you mean in an in-drawer, slotted block with a place for each knife, or what?

What are your objections to a magnetic bar?

Not trying to pick a fight! Just puzzled. :rolleyes:

Mike
travelling gourmand
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travelling gourmand
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post #11 of 17

Don't get too wrapped up in the name brand

I have two of them a pairing and a Santoku. Nothing like Japanese knives when it comes to sharpness and edge holding but they are easier to take care of. Kind of expensive considering the steel used, but the handles are put on well.
post #12 of 17
Hi Rum, Easier to take care of how?

Fantastic fit and finish all the way 'round on Ikons in particular, Wusthofs and all top line "German" knives in general. For sure.

I always feel a little weird saying Japanese knives are better, when the good European knives are really so good already. But, the truth is they are better -- mostly in the sharpness aspects you already mentioned.

BDL
post #13 of 17
What happens if you put your knives in a drawer with out a slotted block? Do they pick up some sort of disease or try to mate? Maybe I need to toss a Masamoto and a Wusthof in there over night and see what happens. :rolleyes: :lol:
I never understood why people get in such a twist about tossing a knife in a drawer. I toss mine in a tool box and have for many years and they see a lot more movement than a kitchen drawer. The only issue I see with the drawer is that over time a wooden drawer might take some abuse but that's another story. Now if you have steel drawers I can understand the concern.
Why don't I like magnetic knife racks? Because I've seen them fail and knives fall to the floor. I'm also not a fan of slapping my knives up against a magnet and no matter how gentle you are at some point the magnet pulls the blade on to the rack. For home owners this may be less of an issue but there is a reason many health departments have banned those things.
To each his own. To me a knife is a tool and I don't loose sleep if they get a scratch.
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 #14 of 17
Well I mean they sharpen quicker than the harder steels, no rust problems, and they are not as prone to fracture if dropped. I'm not a knife expert, and I just recently purchased my first Japanese Gyuto, but I can see the differences already.

My Japanese Gyuto that I purchased recently requires nothing but whet stones. I paid about the same as I did for the Wustoff's but got a much harder blade, Damascus finish, and a Mahogany handle. But that's not to say the Wustoff's are bad, they are very sharp too, especially when I tried my new whet-stones on them. My Gyuto is a different kind of sharp though. It freaked me out. This thing is almost too sharp to have in a home kitchen; it's very dangerous, I mean, it can probably take a finger off if it is in the way.
post #15 of 17
Phaedrus:

I don't like the Edgemaker Pro, or anything else as coarse and aggressive even for Forschners. Certainly not for Wusthof. If that sounds kind of censorious, it shouldn't. My general take on the subject is there's no right or wrong, just a range of "betters" for a given knife kit and individual. If you're happy, I'm happy for you; and am not about to call you wrong.

Rumrunner (Rummy?)

I asked because I don't find Wusthof or other knives made from the same or a similar alloy, heat treatment, hardening, etc., to be easier to sharpen than Japanese knives, at least not on waterstones.

That is, except in the limited sense that, at the coarse grits, oilstones seem to be more effective at moving a lot of steel on the Germans than waterstones. If I didn't know better, I'd be tempted to speculate that it's a matter of the knives' "toughness" (in its term-of-art, materials meaning), or maybe even their hardness. But that hypothesis comes acropper because other, equally tough steels (the famous French carbon) of lesser, similar and greater hardnesses sharpen faster on waterstones. So who knows? Maybe it's some other aspect of strength (term of art again) besides hardness.

Merry Eve,
BDL
post #16 of 17
I wonder which EMP you've tried, BDL? The yellow colored "handy honer" isn't coarse at all. In fact, if you run your fingernails over the sticks they feel completely smooth. Sure the blue one and the combo model (either red or black depending on where you get it) are fairly coarse but the yellow one sure isn't. A couple years ago I gave my brother an old stamped knife that I used early on in my culinary career; before doing so I reset the bevels and sharpened it on waterstones. I also gave him the yellow honer to keep it sharp. Over the last couple years I've offered to resharpen it for him but he insists the EMP is keeping it plenty sharp to suit him. While having dinner at his place this evening I examined that old chef's knife and it really is still in good shape. He uses the EMP pretty regularly, yet there's no significant wear that I would attribute to it. And it's free of the blemishes and marks you generally see with lesser pull thru "V" sharpeners, such as "chatter" and chipped up edges.

Obviously the EMP isn't the be-all-end-all for knife nuts, but it's at least good enough for casual users. I've seen knives that have been sharpened with nothing but an EMP for the last 16 years, and many are in surprisingly good shape. While I also don't want to try to say you're wrong, I wonder if we're both discussing the same tool?

One thing I should note: I definitely won't try to say the EMP is as good as sharpening on a stone. A knife that's pretty soft and sharpened exclusively on one will sometimes develop a faint "wave serration" pattern on the edge (for lack of a better description). At best I think the EMP is like a "steel on steroids." The best results will be had returning the knife to the stones at least every year or two to a full-on sharpening.
"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 #17 of 17
Altogether there are four grits. The coarsest one is blue. I've only used it a handful of times, and it's so coarse that it's rarely appropriate for a knife, but it's good for lawnmower blades. It's actually got "rings" on the sharpening rods, and can really chip up a hard edge. The "coarse" and "med fine" are mounted together side by side as a combo. This one is usually red/orange or black. The yellow is "extra fine" as feels completely smooth to the touch. It would take a very long time to get a dull knife sharp on just the yellow one; it's simply too fine to really sharpen a very dull one. The idea is to use 2 or 3 grits in a progression.

Note that no matter coarse the rods might be they're still more akin to crock sticks than your typical carbide-bladed "V" sharpener. This makes them quite a bit gentler on your edge.

I feel a bit silly devoting this many pixels to a $30 sharpening system, but I think the attention is warranted. There are very few simple systems out there that are as effective, albeit within narrow parameters and for limited applications, as the Edgemaker Pro. It's one of the very few sharpeners I'm aware of that will get average consumer-level knifes reasonably sharp with a negligible learning curve. People too intimidated to even attempt to use a stone can get good results with an EMP. Over the years I've given many of them away and I've never found anyone who couldn't make a knife "sharp" with one. I still keep a couple in my work roll for touching up house knives even though I use stones & diamonds for all my own knives. My dad, who sharpens professionally, even uses them on occasion (normally in the field for filet & hunting knives).

Are they as good as oilstones, waterstones or a belt grinder in skilled hands? Of course not. But they're a great tool for people who otherwise couldn't be bothered to even try to sharpen.

Merry Christmas to you, too! I had a great Xmas Eve but today is shaping up to be a letdown. Here in the midwest we've got maybe a couple feet of snow. When I open the door there's a drift 3 feet high. My folks are staying across town at my brothers but though he's normally less than 10 minutes away, he might as well be on the moon today. The city is paralyzed; the streets are impassable. At least I made sure to stock up on groceries knowing everything would be closed, and (knock on wood) we haven't experienced any power outages. Looks like my Xmas will be spent dinking around on the forums!: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
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
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