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Assembling a set of knives, need a heavy piece

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone! I'm new to the forums but this seemed like quite the knowledgeable and sensible place so I figure I'll ask here.

I'm a home cook. For a few years now I've been using my roommate's knives. I figured it's about time I got my own set to maintain and use properly. Right now I have my eyes set on a Tojiro DP gyutou 240mm as my main knife. I haven't handled it yet (I will in a few days after I swing by Korin!), but from my testing out of Global and Shun knives I know I'll want something else to compliment it for heavy work. Can anybody make any suggestions for this? Something cheap and reliable would be awfully nice.

Much thanks!
post #2 of 10
The primary requisite in a heavy duty knife is stoutness. You want something that will not only hold up to but thrive on what would be massive abuse to any other knife in your set. You want something heavy, tough, and which can seem reasonably sharp when sharpened to obtuse angles.

What you want most is tough and easy to sharpen. Hardness is counter-productive.

There are a few schools of thought.

The Western Deba


I've never met one I thought was any good that was at all affordable. You don't don't need a lot of hardness, you don't need a blade alloy that will take a great edge. Fortunately that lets the expensive knives out of the running.

You spend time in Japan and have access to all sorts of knives not usually available in the US, so maybe you know of a reasonable quality yo-deba at a good price. I don't.

The Old or Cheap Mongo Chef's


If you're only splitting chicken, portioning ribs, and the like you can use a 12" chef's effectively. Almost any 12" chef's will perform well enough as long as you sharpen it appropriately; which, by the way, is fairly obtuse, and none too polished. A double bevel is good if you can do it.

New, cheaper knives to consider include, the 12" Dexter Sani-Tuff, the 12" Forschner and even the 14" Old Hickory butcher's (that one's a beast to sharpen, though).

If you can find a used, forged, German or American -- whether F. Dick, Henckels, Lamson, Messermeister, Sabatier (even of dubious heritage) Wusthof or whatever -- those are great. Weight counts more than quality. Keep your eyes on e-bay.

When you're at the flea market, remember (it's worth repeating) weight counts more than quality. If it's long, heavy, cheap, not too chipped or bent, the handle's in good shape, and you think you can sharpen it -- you've found a winner.

I use a 12" K-Sab au carbone, sharpened to a 25*/17* double bevel (sharpened freehand to an approximation of that anyway -- freehand numbers are sort of wishful estimates). Double bevels are stronger than singles.

Chef de Chef

These are European chef's knives expressly made for the purpose. They're a lot like yo-debas -- are probably the prototype for them in fact. Oddly, yo-debas of similar quality are more expensive. That's probably because they use more expensive alloys -- which are wasted for this purpose.

Speaking of expensive, Forschner makes a rather expensive heavy-duty chef's which is a very good knife. Recommended if you can find it sufficiently discounted. Don't go over $130 for it.

There are a couple of carbon Sabatiers, sold as "chef de chef" running about which would be ideal. Google the term, and you'll find The Best Things, but some other places too. All things considered, those are fairly reasonable. Go figure.

The Meat Cleaver


By meat cleaver, I mean meat cleaver and not a Chinese cleaver, Chinese chopper or Chinese chef's knife. Those are all much lighter and relatively easily damaged.

There are some excellent, heavy duty cleavers around for under $40. They're tough. You can pound on the spine with a hammer if you need to. You can use the flat for flattening. They're usually hard to sharpen. They're usually too short. Shortness more than anything has driven them out of favor.

I own a great, mid-sixties, carbon Chicago Cutlery cleaver and almost never use it -- instead almost always going for the big Sab.

Good luck,
BDL
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post #3 of 10
I'd opt for a 10" wide heavy knife like the Wusthof. Since the OP mentioned Global here is a spine shot of a standard Wusthof, a Wide Heavy Wusthof (middle) and a Global gyuto (right).
There are other brands that offer wide heavy chefs knives.
The sani-safe, dexter and standard forschners are all pretty thin and lack weight.


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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.
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post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the detailed suggestions!

I ended up picking up a 210mm Togiharu Moly at Korin. Stood at the counter and went through all the possible cutting motions, and came to the conclusion 240mm is just too unwieldy for me. Somehow I don't think people actually ask for the "Togiharu Molybdenum", since the guy at the counter stared and asked me to repeat quite a few times. I ended up just saying "the cheapest Togiharu gyutou" :lol:.

My roommate has a meat cleaver and I agree it's too short. The Sabatiers on The Best Things weren't too bad, but I'm leery taking care of true carbon steel knives, so I also looked up Wusthof wide heavies and found two on Amazon, the Wusthof wide and the Wusthof Heavy. The wide doesn't seem... heavy, and the heavy costs far too much... or am I looking at the wrong knives?

Picking up a Wusthof, or any heavy European knife, would mean abandoning my original plan of sharpening with a cheap Chef's Choice (I want to be lazy and low-cost) and going down the road of whetstones... however would a set of whetstones for Japanese knives work on European knives?
post #5 of 10
Akilae,

The Tog seems like a good choice. Let us know how it goes. You may want to sharpen your "Western deba" to more obtuse angles than the factory 15* or the 15* "Asian angle" Chef's Choice manual. Also, a "European angle" Chef's Choice manual is way too slow to change the edge profile to something more suitable; although the CC double or "trizor" bevels are great for the purpose.

Yes. One caveat though. I'd buy a coarse oilstone (use it without oil) for profiling and reparing the Euros. Don't worry, they're very cheap. They're a little slower than waterstones, but they require a lot less maintenance and nearly no flattening. Dishing -- which requires flattening to repair -- is a huge issue with tough European knife steel on coarse, soft waterstones. A Norton coarse India is an excellent choice.

BDL
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post #6 of 10
Why not a Tojiro Western Deba? Mark at ChefKnivesToGo has 3 of 'em in stock IIRC. A very burly knife at a good price.
"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 #7 of 10
Thread Starter 
The Togiharu gyutou is actually meant to be my main knife, in case that wasn't clear, so I'll keep it at 15 degrees. I'll probably look into getting something like a Wusthof wide for those lobster-splitting or fish-beheading days. Amazon has the Wide Wusthof Classic 8" for $120, so I'm sure I can find cheaper if I hunt around. The Tojiro deba that Phaedrus costs a tad more...

Would I need to get two steels due to having two different types of knives?
post #8 of 10
Good luck with the Tog as your main knife. It's a good start as a first quality knife.

Two steels? No. Get an Idahone fine. If you're going to keep the rest of your knives as short as your go-to gyuto, you can get away with a 10" rod.

If you're going to spend that kind of money on a heavy-duty knife, consider the Forschner. It's a beast and will laugh (laugh, do you hear me) at the rudest abuse. Forschner Rosewood 13-in. Lobster/Bone Splitter: Extra Heavy - Forschner Chef's Knives. I don't think many home cooks need anything that stout, but if stout is what you want...

BDL
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post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 
I'm going to look around flea markets and goodwill stores for a few months before I really commit to a heavy blade that's more expensive than my main but will only see maybe 10% of the use :lol:

Scarce as NYC is for good used kitchenware (took me half a year to spot one cast iron pan, but what a wonderful vintage cast iron pan it was!), you never know what may pop up. I'm sure somewhere in the city somebody is thinking "Man, grandma's ol heavy 12" Sabatier is a pain..."

Thanks for all the helpful suggestions!
post #10 of 10
You may want to watch eBay for a used 8 or 10" Wusthof. They pop up every now and then as people buy then not knowing that they were buying the wrong tool and then sell them because they are too heavy. :lol:
Both of these are better options than the Forschner (IMO) as that one is 13" long. Keep looking around as others do make wide heavy knives as well.
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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