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Need help on picking a good chefs knife

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 



First I would like to say this is a awesome community and glad that ive joined,


Getting to the point I am a apprentice chef from Australia and made a promise of upgrading my knifes after my first year. I need a good chefs knife and looking to spend upto $300 (Australian dollars) I'm not really sure which way to go, I've been looking at the Wusthof Classic Cooks Knife (http://www.kingofknives.com/Cutlery/Kitchen-Knives/Loose-Knives/Chefs---Cooks/Wusthof-Classic-Cooks-Knife-20cm.html), Shun Classic Cooks Knife (http://www.kingofknives.com/Cutlery/Kitchen-Knives/Loose-Knives/Chefs---Cooks/Shun-Cooks-Knife-20cm.html) and a Tojiro Flash (http://www.kingofknives.com/Cutlery/Kitchen-Knives/Loose-Knives/Chefs---Cooks/Tojiro-Flash-Chefs-180mm.html) If anyone has any feedback on them. Or  could pick another on this list that may work out better for me? (http://www.kingofknives.com/Cutlery/Kitchen-Knives/Loose-Knives/Chefs---Cooks/)




Edited by DaveS - 6/13/10 at 5:31am
post #2 of 12

None of your choices are very good.  That said, none of them are so bad they'll prevent you from cooking a great meal.  There are much better knives in your price range, at least in the U.S.  I don't know much about what's available in Oz, especially not by cost.


The best of the bunch is probably the Tojiro Flash.


Tojiro Flash:  Decent profile (French).  Can be made very sharp, but not easy to sharpen.  Holds an edge well. Mediocre handle.  The 63 layer "Damascus" cladding (jigane) is cosmetic only.  It is not part of the actual core (hagane) which gets sharpened.  Expensive for the performance.


Shun Classic:  German profile with a high tip -- possibly the world's worst profile on any popular chef's knife.  Also, thick at the heel.  Heel aside, pretty good edge characteristics.  "D" handle, some like them, some don't; be aware they're either right or left handed, and not at all ambidextrous.  Same story on the "Damascus."  All show and no go. 


Wusthof Classic:  German profile, not as agile as French.  Heavy.  Fantastic handle.  Gets sharp relatively quickly, but just sharp enough to be usable -- never very sharp.  Needs frequent steeling.  If you must buy "German," buy Messermeister which has everything that's good in a Wusthof, made from a slightly better alloy, much better profile, and no finger-guard to complicate sharpening, ie., "the same but better." Or Forschner Fibrox or Rosewood which is similar performance and significantly cheaper.  


The Wusthof, Shun and Tojiro Flash are very different knives in terms of weight, stiffness, handle shape, blade geometry, edge characteristics and so on.  How is it that all three are on your list?


Your best bet is probably something like the Kakayagi VG-10 (available online from JCK). 


Try asking your question at Fred's Cutlery Forum on the Foodie Forums, there are a few Ozzies and Kiwis there who know antipodian sources, prices and choices better.  Limit yourself to describing your situation (1 year of professional experience), your price range, your knife style preferences.  Avoid talking about your short list, unless your brother-in-law owns the store and you're actually limited to those few, bad choices.



post #3 of 12

I second everything BDL just said. In short, you've got a good budget and can do way, way better than any of the knives you've listed. If you're going to drop this kind of money, you want something that you will really adore. Those knives exist, but you haven't listed them -- and thus probably don't know about them. Fred's is a terrific place to ask for extensive advice on this subject, because there are so many people there who are so deeply knowledgeable. It's also friendly, like ChefTalk, which is not the case with every knife forum online.


For example, the Masamoto VG-10 right-handed 270mm gyuto is well within your price range in the US. What does it cost in Terra Australis Incognita? Don't know (incognita -- see?). But there are guys at Fred's who do know. Check it out: www.foodieforums.com

post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the suggestions,


Only reason I listed that website is because it's the closest place otherwise I will have to order online. I picked those 3 as people I've worked with have used them, I'm open to different choices of knife styles I've only used german knives during my experience that's why I was looking at the wushthof even though I know Japenese knives are better. I don't know much about sharpening also so was hoping there is a good knife that is relitively easy to sharpen.




post #5 of 12

Im gonna 3rd what Bdl just said,


Tojiro DP - Aussie retailer



Otherwise JCK (japanesechefsknife.com)

Take advantage of the US$7 shipping, I do (NZer here)


And second what Chris said

Masamoto VG line (I love these), I have a 210 guyto, 2x 240 guyto and a 270 slicer, Beautiful knives

post #6 of 12

Assuming we're looking at "upper middle," the short list of excellent, stainless, pro knives includes, but is not necessarily limited to:  Hiromoto G3, JCK Kakayagi VG-10, MAC Pro, Masamoto VG, Masahiro MV-H, Sakai Takayuki Grand Cheff (plain -- not hammered or "Damascus" blade, black -- not "wood colored" -- handles), and Togiharu G-1.  


What sets these knives apart from the competition is excellent edge characteristics, good geometry at least, and good (by Japanese standards anyway) fit and finish.


I think almost everyone would find any of these wonderful.  So, when we make comparisons we are (to quote an old friend) picking fly [poop] out of pepper. 


Edge characteristics are among the most important things with any knife. These use a variety of alloys, and hardening levels (within the tight range of 58-60), and all of them will require sharpening on decent quality waterstones. 


As long as they are sharpened fairly symmetrically all of these knives can be maintained on a "steel."  The Masahiro comes out of the box (OOTB) with a fairly asymmetric bevel (70/30 as I recall) which would require alteration to something more even.  The Masahiro is probably the sharpest OOTB, though. 


Each of the other knives ship with a fairly rudimentary edge and should ideally be "opened" by someone competent fairly soon after purchase.  Ideally is not the same as necessarily.  Don't let it put you off.  


Of these, JCK Kakayagi VG-10 is the value leader.  It is a well made VG-10 knife, with all the benefits VG-10 conveys.  My only caveats are:

(1) The handle is smallish, and quite a few people are negatively affected by such things;

(2) The brand is both and OEM, hasn't been around for very long.  It probably will not be well supported should something go wrong down the line -- for instance a handle scale falls off; and

(3)  Kakayagi handles are on the smallish side.  That is or is not an issue depending on your hand size and grip. 


For what it's worth, Hiromoto and Togiharu also have small handles.


In my opinion the two best choices are the MAC and the Masamoto. 


Both are probably VG-5 (neither company says).  In any case, they both use an excellent blade alloy which is well balanced between tough and strong, takes an edge easily, holds it well, and can be maintained on an appropriate "steel." 


The MAC Pro is the knife I recommend most often to people buying their first quality knife.  It's stiffer than almost any other Japanese made knife -- almost as stiff as a European. 


It's got the best handle in the business.  Misono is a very close second, with Masamoto just behind Misono.  To give that some context, I'd put Masamoto on a par with Wusthof in terms of handle ergonomics, MAC with K-Sabatier (tied for best), and Misono in between.   After that, we talk shades of decent. 


MAC Pro has a very good blade profile (in terms of agility).


MAC Pro has excellent F&F (as Japanese knives go).  They are also well supported, so if you do get a bad one -- which occasionally happens MAC will replace it.  I believe the guarantee is 25 years -- not quite Henckles but as good Japanese knives go, that's pretty darn good.


Masamoto is my personal favorite.  I just love the way Masamotos feel in the hand and on the board.  You pick one up and stop thinking about it one way or the other.  If you can cut, a Masamoto will absolutely not get in your way.  Their most outstanding characteristic is that they really don't have an oustanding characteristic, they just don't do anything wrong.  Still, I think most westerners would take the MAC for its stiffness -- the Masamoto is a bit whippy -- for MAC's (usually) better F&F, for the MAC handle and for MAC's support.


There have been some issues regarding the F&F of western handled Masamotos shipped to the western countries.  If you do decide to order any western-handled Masamoto from an online e-tailer, I suggest communicating with the seller and being very definite about your high expectations regarding good F&F, especially your need for handle scales which fit evenly and without gaps.  From the e-tailer's standpoint this usually means choosing the best from among a half-dozen to a dozen or so knives -- and that should be more than adequate. 


Finally, when it comes to specific manufacturers you're likely to ask about, the knowledge base around here is fairly extensive -- so go ahead and ask.  By all means bring whatever questions you have, and do not be shy.  There aren't that many of us familiar with the range of better Japanese knives, but I feel you're likely to get clear answers which aren't clouded by people who are trying to validate their own decisions or merely repeating the CW of a particular board.  If you want more input I recommend Fred's Cutlery Forum (on Foodie Forums), then lastly the Knife Forum over any other boards with which I'm familiar.



Edited by boar_d_laze - 6/15/10 at 10:18am
post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 

Well today I decided to try a few of the options out. First was a masamoto that my friend recently got. I was sold right away it is the best knife i've ever used before (wish I had tried earlier), but before deciding I went and tried the others and all that I mentioned just felt wrong after the masamoto. So I'm going to order the masamoto online. I'll also need some sharpening stones so can anyone help me what type and how much grit will be needed ?




post #8 of 12

Love at first chop is not uncommon with a Masamoto.  Great choice.


Knife Lore, E-Tailers, Ordering:


By the way, it's a "VG," and not a "VG-10."  Masamoto used to engrave the blades with "...cobalt steel," (i.e., VG-10) but since "discovering" they were not using cobalt steel afterall, changed the engraving to "hyper molybdenum" (don't worry, it's in Japanese and looks cool), which is more than likely VG-5 (another excellent Takefu alloy). 


While it's true Korin still calls them VG-10, Korin is (a) wrong; and (b) is responsible for a lot of other BS.  Despite that they are an excellent brick and mortar and e-tailer.  It's just that a lot of the information they transmit with great assurance and authority is, shall we say, not bankable.


Three excellent e-tailers:  Chef's Knives to Go, JapaneseChefKnives, and Korin.  They're all very good,  At the moment I favor CK2Go for their incredibly good customer service (owner's name is Mark) and for the likelihood of getting a knife with good F&F.  


Remember to communicate the importance of good "fit and finish" especially as that concerns the handle.  Say that you've heard that sometimes Masamoto ships some really bad handles and you Insist on handle scales that fit well.  This may actually be a lot less of an issue since Masamoto switched from magnolia "stamina wood" to "Duracon" (POM) handles, but bring it up anyway.  At the least, the e-tailer will search through his or her




As a preliminary to sharpening, we might as well get the issue of a "steel" out of the way.  There's a lot of propaganda on the web about never steeling a Japanese made knife.  More BS.


Some knives actually cannot(or at least should not) be steeled because they are too hard (rebound hardness), or profiled too asymmetrically.  Many of these knives are, in fact, Japanese.  Unless you choose to create a highly asymmetric edge, a Masamoto VG is not among them.


Masamoto not only manufactures excellent steels, they include them with their professional western type knife sets. 


Anyway, I think the Idahone fine ceramic is among the best rod hones available and very inexpensive.  It's the way to go unless you want to get hyper into it, and own a ridiculously expensive two hone system.  In that case, you want the Idahone AND a HandAmerican borosilicate rod (if you can find one).  


If your largest knife is 8" get the 10" hone.  Otherwise, get the 12".




All things considered, you're probably choosing between two disparate systems, freehand on stones and EdgePro (excellent rod guided jig and tool).


If you're not already a competent freehander, and you can afford it, the EP makes a lot of sense.  As a long term freehander (forever) who doesn't think it's freehanding is all that difficult to learn, and who has taught a bunch of people, I'm wrestling with the idea that the EP may be the option which make the most sense by far for noobies with enough cash.  But I'm not there yet.


You can use the EP produce very good results with a lot less learning than freehanding.  Also, I think that EP tapes (their standard abrasives are called tapes) do well enough on the type of alloys used in Japanese knives and the types used in ordinary western made knives that they're at least "good enough" for both, if not optimal.


On the other hand, you can get into freehanding with a much lower initial investment; have a much wider choice of stones; and it's not really all that hard to master.  It's not eye surgery.  


I'm a freehander, have been forever, and am currently using two complete sets of stones.  The oilstones (two manmade Norton Indias for the coarser grits, two Arkansas for the finer), works better and more efficiently on common "German" type stainless than my very expensive and very carefully chosen (okay, I fell into some great deals) waterstone kit.   


A very common recommendation is to begin with an inexpensive, 1K/6K King (or other manufacturer) combination stone.  It's cheap,not a bad platform for learning, just adequate for typical maintenance, less polish than the knife should have, not up to bevel flattening (once a year or so) or other profiling -- including opening the knife -- and totally inadequate for repair. 


A cheap combi is one thing for an inexpensive entry level knife, but quite another for a knife like your new Masamoto.   You should buy better if you can.


I highly recommend starting out with Naniwa 10mm SS stones (from Sharpening Supplies), either beginning with or building toward putting together a 4 stone kit as fast as you can afford it.  Even if the knife left scorch marks on your credit card, a couple of 10mm stones (1K and 3 or 5K) won't cost much more than a King combi, and they are much, much better.  A a 400#, which is up to the heavy-duty work is also cheap.  It's only the polishing grits, 8K or 10K that will set you back.  You really should have one though, because the knife will actually perform better with that level of polish.


An optimal 4 stone set (400, 1K, 5K, 10K) runs $170 at Sharpening Supplies.  A 400, 1K and 5K would be about $110, while the 1K and 5K alone would cost $100 (you lose some discounts).  On the other hand, an EdgePro "Kit 3" goes for $200 at Chef's Knives To Go.


Let me know what you think,


post #9 of 12

BDL makes excellent points, as usual. My opinion on stones, for what it's worth, is that you should start with the $110 3-stone set he recommends and skip the 10k for a while. There are several reasons for this.


  1. It's expensive enough without adding more.
  2. A 10k stone is hard to use, and the Naniwa SS, if not especially difficult, is certainly not easy.
  3. There is a tremendous temptation, as a new sharpener, to keep running upward on grit levels because you have the option. This is not, on the whole, a good idea. You really have to be sure you've finished with one stone effectively before you move on.


Basically what I'd like to see you do is learn to sharpen almost exclusively on the 1k stone, only dropping down to the 400 when you genuinely screw up, which won't be often -- a quality 1k stone like this isn't going to damage a good knife easily. Once you can reliably and consistently get a good 1k edge -- which will not take too long if you have decent hand-eye coordination and can be passably disciplined about what you're doing -- you take that edge and start over with the 5k stone. There's a small learning curve there too, but not much. Suddenly you will love this knife even more than you already did, and that's saying something. Eventually, down the line, you think, "hey, I've got a little cash, I think I'll invest in a decent 10k stone," and you do that, and suddenly you fall in love all over again.

post #10 of 12

What Chris said about what I said... +1



post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 

I was able to get a good deal on the Naniwa superstone set from online aussie store 400 grit "arato" 1k grit  "nakato" and a 3k grit "shiageto" and will have money left for larger grit stones when I am ready to move on.




post #12 of 12

Congratulations.  You're off to a good start.



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