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Suggestion on a new knife

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

Hi Everyone,


I've been reading this site a lot, and I'm not sure what knife to get.


Background: I currently have a Wusthof wide 10" chef's knife.  I used to be satisfied with it, but then I got an edge-pro and learned what  sharp knife feels like.  (15* relief bevel, 20* primary bevel).  It doesn't maintain its edge for very long, at least not super sharp for very long.  I want a french profiled knife, I get accordian cuts when chopping rapidly farther up the knife (like with mushrooms).


My other knife is a forschner 4" pairing knife.  It's okay, but the edge doesn't hold up well.  I use this one for boning chicken.  If I'm scraping the bone, then the edge rolls quickly and I find it hard to cut meat at that point.  It has a 15* single bevel on it.


So, I've been reading that Mac Pros are great, but I'm worried that I'll have issues with chipping or breaking.  I have gotten used to chopping everything (melons, herbs, veggies, etc).  I read about breakage when smashing garlic cloves with the side of the knife.


I've also been looking at getting a **** elephant sabatier carbon steel knife: cheaper, but requires more maintenance.  Will this knife stay sharper longer (with required steeling) than my wusthof?  Can this be used for melons, onions, broccoli, carrots, herbs, garlic, etc?


So, I'm looking at:

Mac Pro 10" (26cm or whatever it is)

sabatier 10" chef's


Petty/Deboning Chicken knife

Mac Pro 4 or 6" (which length would work well for this?)

Sabatier 4 or 6"


Any suggestions?





post #2 of 4

Cool.  Let's talk knives.


One very good thing is that if you do decide to go Japanese, your Wusthof will continue to serve for heavy duty jobs like splitting chickens, fabricationg pineapple, portioning spare ribs and so on.


You asked exactly the right questions by the way.  Are you smart or lucky? 


Another good thing is that you've got an Edge Pro, so we don't have to go through the whole sharpening spiel.  Same question.


Anyway, let's start with the chef's knives by clearing up some terminology and dealing with a few basics.  


The ****Elephant is really a Thiers-Issard ****Elephant Sabatier.  Thiers-Issard (aka TI). a long-time Sabatier company located in Thiers bought Quatre Etoile (**** or Four Stars) and Elephant and folded them into TI.  We'll just call the whole shebang TI for start.


MAC Professional Mighty Chef's come in three lengths.  You're probably most interested in the models 95 and 110.  They're respectively 9-1/2" and 11" and somewhat correspond to the normative Japanese lenghts of 8 and 9 suns which are pretty much 240mm and 270cm respectively.  If you're comfortable using a Wusthof wide 10" knife, you won't have any trouble with the 110 -- that is assuming you have a big enough board.


You've probably heard that carbon needs a lot of extra care.  That's misleading.  It doesn't need much extra care, but it does need a rinse and a wipe right away; or at least right away makes things a lot easier.  It also requires a little bit of extra care in cleaning.


Either knife will take a much better edge than your Wusthof.  It will hold up longer on the Sab but require regular steeling.  You can steel the MAC to get some extra time between trips to the stones (or the EP in your case), but it will require more sharpening than the Sab.


In my opinion, a good Sab is one of the few, best handling knives on the planet.  The only equal I can think of in western handled, mass produced knives, is are the Masamoto VG (stainless), ST (some sort of overpriced 440C stainless -- forget it) CT (good carbon) and HC (best carbon). 


The MAC is just a fraction of a step below in overall feel.  It's got a fantastic handle, but is a bit too wide to match the Sab's and Masamotos' agility.  But compared to the Masamoto VG, it's a bit stiffer.  Stiffness can mean a lot to western users -- especially in their first Japanese knife. 


Getting back to the MAC's handle, I can't tell you how truly excellent it is.  Generally people with really good grips don't care that much about the handle.  After all, 90% of the grip is the pinch.  But even we like the MAC.  And, if you don't have a great grip or great knife skills that MAC handle will help you a lot.


Still, you want to seriously consider the VG.  The VG, by the way, is probably made from the same alloy as the MAC Pro; probably VG-5.  That's a lot of probabys I know, but their educated guesses and I feel pretty good about them.  (Yes.  I'm also aware that Korin advertises the Masamoto VG as VG-10. But no.  It isn't.) 


The stiff vs whippy thing is a nice segue to your questions about usability.  The blade alloys in Japanese made knives are hardened to the point where they'll take a great edge and hold it a long time.  They're also made thinner than German knives so as not to wedge and to continue to act sharper even while the edge wears. 


I know your sensing a "but" coming.  Just as you expected, there's no free lunch.  The toll for all that extra hardness is a greater tendency to chip if the blade is abused.  That said, you may have to adapt some of your techniques or at least clean them up, but there's very little you can't do with a Japanese knife that you'd do with a western; that is short of chopping through bone or cartilage,  cutting through extremely tough and/or fibrous things, and/or slamming edge of the knife onto the board -- which is usually a consequnce of the other two.


A good board will make a lot of difference.


Assuming you decide on Japanese stainless:  Masamoto VG or MAC?  MAC for most people, but if you've got good skills and can live with the extra whippiness -- Masamoto. 


The Sabatiers' carbon alloy is a lot tougher but not as strong or hard as the carbon alloys used by the Japanese knife makers.  As I said, you'll want to use a rod hone (aka "steel") with any of the knives we're talking about; but it will be a much bigger part of your life with a TI (or any of the other good Sabs). 


I don't know what it is, but the best Sabs -- different eras, different handle materials, different bolsters notwithstanding -- share a quality of rightness that's almost impossible to describe. The best I can do is to say that when I pick up the knife it says, "let's go to work, boss." 


The TI ****Elephant carbon is one of those good Sabs.  A few others, also fairly easily available in the US, are the TI Nogent, TI "Massif," K-Sab Canadian, and K-Sab au carbone.


The flip side of the extra steeling associated with the Sabs is quite a bit of extra durability.  There are very few jobs you can't approach with one.


Besides "softness," there are a few other downsides to Sabs as compared to Japanese knives.  For one thing, you'll have to sharpen around the finger guard.  For another, the French knives are heavier.  


Sabs give great feel in the hand and on the blade.  Between their great handles and great profiles there are only a few equals.  A Masamoto is only a little different and just as good in those respects.  When it comes to blade alloys, the V2C in the HC is so much better, that If I were going to buy a new knife tomorrow to replace my Sabs, it would be a Masamoto HC -- assuming I could afford one.  HCs are expensive. 


Another carbon knife worth considering is the Misono Sweden series.  It's a very comfortable knife that can be made very sharp, and it's reasonably priced too.  The knock against it is that it's highly reactive and you need to either force a patina, or give it a lot of extra care for the first month until the passivation process settles down.  Sab or Sweden?  Too close to call.


A long paring knife -- used for paring, boning and general utility -- is called a petty.  To my mind that's anything over 5".  If you're going to use it for lots citrus, get a stainless knife.  The 5" MAC is very good.


If you're not going to show it a lot of acid, get the TI Nogent 6" slicer (I use one, if that matters).  It's very thin, "age hardened," gets beaucoup sharp and has a wonderful, ebony, full size handle (itty bitty handles make me nuts).  It also has a great history. 


Hope this helps,


post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 

That was quite useful.


You have abated my fears of a carbon-steel knife being really difficult to maintain.  The point about the handles not being as important when pinch gripping is interesting.  One of the things I really liked about the wusthof is how great the handle felt.  But I realize now that while it may feel nice, it's not as important as I once thought.  I think the increased durability of carbon steel is going to work better for me than the increased hardness of the japanese knives.  I.e. I see other people may occasionally use the knife and they may inadvertently damage it.





post #4 of 4


Sounds like a good choice for me.  Let me know how everything goes as you work your way through the process.  When you finally do get your knife, I'll be happy to teach you how to maintain it.


Of course you like Wusthof handles.  They're fantastic.  One of the things that Wusthof and all the top Germans do so very well.  Interesting that the alterntatives you named -- MAC and Sabatier -- are as good or even better.  And you'll notice that when I recommended other brands like Masamoto and Misono they also had good grips.


The important things about how knife skills -- including your grip -- effect knife purchasing is to be honest about how you use a knife and how you currently use one.  You won't make yourself an expert by buying a "for experts only" knife, instead you'll just make yourself frustrated as you don't do as good a job as you would have with something less expensive. 


Of course, the whole thing is academic if you're heading towards the Misono Sweden, one of the Masamotos or Sabs.  While they reward high skills they don't punish regular people either.  Really wonderful knives. 


You'll find the Sabatier edge is very durable, as those things go.  That doesn't mean it's indestructible.  Misono Sweden and Masamoto CT and HC are tougher than Japanese stainless -- but not as tough as the Germans. In any case, you'll make your edges will last much longer and be far less likely to chip if you use a hardwood cutting board.  Avoid nylon, plastic, or anything else (except Sani-Tuff). 


Some people keep their good knives away from friends who are helping in the kitchen, and even their spouses.  That's something I wouldn't presume to criticise, but I like your way much better. 


You will need to learn to use a rod-hone (aka "steel") and to purchase one, if you don't already have a good one.  If you own a  a knife 10" or over, the Idahone fine ceramic 12" is a great choice.  Reasonably priced too.  There are some tricks to steeling correctly, and most people don't know them. 



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