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Workhorse Knife on the Line (Wusthof Le Cordon Bleu?)

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Hey all, I've been reading through this forum for the past few days and finally decided to sign up and type up a post to see if what I've gleaned so far is leading me to the right decision.

I'm currently just a home cook, and I've been using the Forschner 8 inch Rosewood Chef's knife for about a year. As I've cooked more, it's gotten to feel far too light, flimsy, and short. Additionally, I may be starting kitchen work some time in the next few months, and I imagine that they'll have me doing a whole lot of chopping and prep work before I even lay a hand on a pan. So, I'd like to pick up a workhorse knife that won't break the bank and will get the job done well, and I'd like to learn how to sharpen and care for it, before then. I'm leaning toward the Wusthof Le Cordon Bleu 10 inch Chef's simply because it seems like a steal at $80, which I've seen it going for on at least one site.

Is there a significantly better knife for the job at this price point? I'd like to spend no more than $100. I've done my best to research the many Japanese options, but there are so many in each price bracket that I'm having a hard time coming to any definitive conclusions there. For that price, a friend suggested going with a gyoto from the Togiharu Molybdenum line. How would that compare in terms of performance and characteristics (besides the fact that it would be prone to stains, and has an asymmetrical edge)?

Finally, if I were to go with the Wusthof, what would be a suitable combination of wet stones and honing rods to pick up and learn with? I've been considering an Edge Pro, but I think I ought to just bite the bullet and learn how to sharpen by hand.

Thanks,
Gennaro
post #2 of 9
Hi Gennaro,

You wrote,

I'm currently just a home cook, and I've been using the Forschner 8 inch Rosewood Chef's knife for about a year. As I've cooked more, it's gotten to feel far too light, flimsy, and short. Additionally, I may be starting kitchen work some time in the next few months, and I imagine that they'll have me doing a whole lot of chopping and prep work before I even lay a hand on a pan. So, I'd like to pick up a workhorse knife that won't break the bank and will get the job done well, and I'd like to learn how to sharpen and care for it, before then.

Too short is easy to fix.  Too light and too flimsy is a different matter.  A Forschner Fibrox/Rosewood IS a workhorse knife.  There's very little it won't do as well as any of the heavy, forged, German style knives.  And very few, if any, Japanese made are going to be heavier or stiffer.

A big part of your dissatisfaction lies in the fact that you don't know how to sharpen.  You have a sort of golden opportunity to take care of that now -- before you decide on which 10" to buy.

I'm leaning toward the Wusthof Le Cordon Bleu 10 inch Chef's simply because it seems like a steal at $80, which I've seen it going for on at least one site.


Wusthof discontinued Le Cordon Bleu a couple of years ago.  LCB was their attempt to manufacture a sort of French / German / Japanese hybrid.  Like all top line Wusthof, they are beautifully made.  But, also like all top line Wusthof (and your Forschner), they're made with the X50CrMo15.   

They are forged, and will feel slightly stouter than a Forschner -- but they aren't really any stronger.

Most people with good skills and experience with both German and French / Japanese profiled chef's knives prefer the French -- finding it more agile, lighter and less fatiguing.  It requires less handle action.  

At $80 It IS a bargain, at least compared to the Ikon that replaced it.  But you have to realize it's a bargain because the line is discontinued.  There are probably a still a few knives around being sold by other e-tailers, but as far as I know Wusthof is dumping all of their old NOS through Cutlery and More which is a very good store by the way.  

If you absolutely, positively want a sort of Japanese styled Wusthof, the LCB is a great deal.  If you want an actual Japanese knife, the LCB is not even a good choice because the alloy is so frustrating.  Again, we come to sharpening.  Even at the factory angle, an LCB will wave very easily, thus requiring a lot of steeling; and it won't support an edge angle much less than 18* for very long without running the risk of "collapsing."  

Ironically, you can get away with a more acute angle on a Forschner because it's (a) a thinner knife to begin with, and (b) different hardening. 

Compared to the alloys used in Japanese made knives (many of them Swedish, FWIW), there's no way to make X50CrMoV15 as sharp, and even with the limits of as sharp as it can get, it won't stay sharp for long.  

On the other hand, if you keep the edge bevels acute you're less likely to damage a German than a Japanese by splitting chickens or lobster tails, or performing other acts of knife abuse.  But you shouldn't.  If you do a lot of that sort of work, you need a knife (or cleaver) made or at least sharpened for it. 

Is there a significantly better knife for the job at this price point? I'd like to spend no more than $100. I've done my best to research the many Japanese options, but there are so many in each price bracket that I'm having a hard time coming to any definitive conclusions there.

It depends what you mean by better.  There are knives which will get sharper and stay sharper longer.  There's nothing with the same level of fit and finish.

For that price, a friend suggested going with a gyoto from the Togiharu Molybdenum line. How would that compare in terms of performance and characteristics (besides the fact that it would be prone to stains, and has an asymmetrical edge)?

Gyuto shmyuto.  Don't worry about "gyuto."  Or at least don't ascribe a great deal of significance to the word.  Gyuto is just another name for chef's knife, there's nothing different about them.

Togiharu  "Moly" steel is every bit as stainless as German stainless, so you don't have to worry about stains.  Similarly, the knife will take whatever type of symmetry you choose to sharpen -- you can make it 50/50 if you like. 

In terms of "performance," a Tog Moly would get sharper (assuming you learn to sharpen) and stay sharper longer.  It would be lighter than the LCB, slightly more balance forward, and lack the same F&F.  It's essentially a "student" of "first pro" level knife.

For a few dollars more you could do substantially better with a Togaharu Inox and better than that with a Kakayagi VG-10.

Finally, if I were to go with the Wusthof, what would be a suitable combination of wet stones and honing rods to pick up and learn with? I've been considering an Edge Pro, but I think I ought to just bite the bullet and learn how to sharpen by hand.

Easy to recommend the right rod hones:  Either an Idahone fine ceramic 12" or a DMT CS2 (also a 12" ceramic).  Get the Idahone if the rod is going to stay in one place, and the DMT if you're going to carry it around a lot -- it's much harder to break.  Either is less than $30.

You CAN sharpen German steel on oilstones fairly efficiently.  Everything else being equal (which it isn't) they're slightly cheaper.  On the other hand, waterstones are more versatile and substantially faster at the middle and higher grits.  Whether oil or water your particular choices are going to depend on your budget more than anything else.  You can keep it under $50 if you're willing to restrict yourself to something to learn on but that you'll want to replace pretty quickly.  You can get a decent "soup to nuts" kit that will last you a few years for less than $150.  A really nice set of waterstones will run pretty close to $300.   

An Edge Pro is an outstanding choice, and better than freehanding for most people.

BDL
Edited by boar_d_laze - 3/16/10 at 8:18am
post #3 of 9
For my straight razors and kitchen knives I use the Norton waterstones.  For straight razors, the 4000 and 8000 grit followed by a short stint on an approximately 12000 grit ceramic stone.  For kitchen knives, I use the Norton 1000 and 4000 grit.  Prior to use all the waterstones go through a flattening process.

It does take a bit of practice and the procedure is different for both types of edges.  For one thing, the straight razors are much more delicate.

Rich
post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks for that thorough reply BDL.

You're right that the real issue here is sharpening. Given that, I think I'm going to defer buying a new knife, and instead invest in some water stones and begin practicing with my Forschner, so that by the time I'm ready to decide on a knife (I'm still oddly drawn to the LCB, though my reason is telling me that I really ought to spring for the Togaharu Inox) I actually know how to bring out its full potential.

Should I go for a combo of 1000/4000 grit stones? Would it make sense to get an 8000 grit to finish with as well, or is that overkill?

Edit: What about this?
post #5 of 9
When it comes to clay binder stones, Norton betters King (except Ice Bear) for consistency, King is cheaper.  Otherwise they're much the same. 

In the case of the particular kit -- the price is very good.  I like combination stones for beginners, partly for their price and partly because by the time the most used stone wears out (which will be the 1000#), sharpening skills are sufficiently developed for good stones.  For what it's worth, my first waterstones were Nortons. 

However, resin binder stones are faster and easier than clay binders -- and usually don't dish as quickly, thus needing less frequent flattening.

A set of three or four Naniwa 10mm Super Stones would be better in all those respects, but more expensive.  You'd be at the $150+ level for four stones.  On the other hand, anything more than 5000# or so is a total waste on a Forschner's X50CrMo15.  So, let's see, 400#, 1000#, 5000#, would run just under $110 with free shipping from Sharpening Supplies. 

One nice thing about the Naniwa SS series is that they're all "splash and go."  That means you just need to get them wet before sharpening.  The Nortons need to soak about 30 minutes before they're ready to use.   

Another nice thing about those particular Naniwa stones is that the 400# and 5000# stones fit your Forschner better than the 220# and 4000/8000.  Indeed, a 400# is a better fit in most culinary sets than a 220# which is generally more about woodworking.

If you went Naniwa,you could buy an inexpensive flattening stone for around $25, or flatten on dry wall screen -- about $15 for a two year supply. 

Lifetime on the Norton and Naniwa 1000# would probably be around two years.  Because the Naniwa set isn't made from combi-stones, you can replace one stone at a time.  Either going for something different (I use a Bester 1200#) or stepping up to the 20mm thickness.  And if and when you buy a knife that can take a lot of polish, it's an easy step to a 10000# or 12000# from the 5000#

By the way, the Naniwa 400# is good as coarse stones go (bearing in mind that to a large degree all coarse stones suck), the 1000# is excellent and the 5000# is simply outstanding.    

BDL
post #6 of 9
Practicing your sharpening is a good idea, but be aware that you'll probably "hit a wall" working on your Forshcner.  It will only get so sharp and won't keep that edge for long.  It's like driving a go-kart to practice for Indy car racing; a good idea, but eventually you'll hit the point where you won't get any better til you step up to a better instrument.
"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 #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks again BDL. I'm going to go with with #400, #1000, and #5000 Naniwa Super Stones, as well as a flattening stone and either the Idahone or the DMT CS2.

A final question (at least for now): I've been searching through the forums for a go-to sharpening guide with videos and the like, but haven't found anything definitive yet. Any suggestions? I'm also considering picking up Chad Ward's book, unless there's an alternative you'd suggest.

And thanks Phaedrus -- I figured about as much, and my hope is to have a handle on sharpening the Forschner by the time this semester is over (between work and classes, I probably won't be able to devote hours at a time to it) and then I'll order a few much better knives.
post #8 of 9
Chad Ward wrote a piece for E-Gullet that's just a little less developed, complete and refined than his book -- but free.  Ward is an exponent of a school of sharpening which uses the processes of "drawing a burr" (sometimes called "pulling a wire), then deburring to do most of the actual sharpening.  Here's a link.  

Steve Bottorf has some good information up as well.  He uses the burr in much the same way as Ward, but he uses an angle guide.  Take a look.

Joe Talmadge's Sharpening FAQ is certainly worth reading.  You'll find parts I, II, and III.  The rest of the FAQ is sort of "beyond the scope," but Joe writes well enough that you'll want to read it all.  You can find it here.

Japanese Chef Knife has some good pictures that conform to the Murray Carter style of sharpening which uses a defined number of repetitive strokes rather than using a burr to mark progress.  You can see JCK's sharpening page here.

Some of the best advice on sharpening can be found in John Jurantich's book, The Razor Edge Book of Sharpening.  Japanese Knife Sharpening (Dave Martell) and Murray Carter both have excellent DVDs on sharpening thatare very good -- but expensive.

I've been putting off writing my own sharpening guide for far too long.  I hope to have it done and on my website sometime in late April or early May.  In the meantime you may find this interesting

For my part, I use and recommend a sort of hybrid method which falls somewhere between the three styles I've linked you to.  That is I use the Carter type "W" action for pulling the burr, and the swiping action for deburring and polishing.  I recommend that you do NOT use an angle guide (like Bottorf and Juranitch do).  And DO recommend that you use the burr/ deburr process unlike Murray Carter.

I suggest that instead of an angle guide you use a protractor or graph paper to draw some large wedges or right triangles which illustrate your desired angle and place them on both sides of your stone.  That visual reinforcement should be enough to help you set the initial angle.  After that you're just going to have to concentrate on holding it steady. 

Also, I recommend that you only use the 1000# stone until you can reliably create a good edge on it, before moving on to the 5000#. 

Unless and until you can hold a very consistent angle, you'll find that the higher grit stones tend to dull more than they sharpen and polish. 

When you're consistent enough to actually polish the bevel, you're also consistent enough to profile a knife without scratching it (much), so after you learn the 5000# you can start using the 400#.  

You don't ever want to use any profile/repair grit (like your 400#) too often -- you save it for very dull or damaged knives; for "opening" new knives; and for re-profiling old knives which weren't correctly opened to begin with. 

I'm intentionally using unexplained technical language (aka jargon) which will raise questions with you.  Please ask the questions.

BDL
post #9 of 9
Excellent advice, BDL.  When I sharpen on my EP I attempt to create little to no burr when but when I freehand I find the burr is inevitable.  I'm a fan of Dave Martell's practice of using rock hard felt to deburr after you've done the basics on the stones.  I'm anxious for him to create that long-promised follow up DVD that expands on his first.  I do have his first one and it's well worth the money.
"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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