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Choosing my first chef's knife, and sharpening methods

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 

Hi there! I'm 17 and this year I have taken a great interest in cooking. A few years ago my parents bought a bunch of Farberware Pro knives, and after some research as well as personal experience I realize they're junk. We don't take care of the knives either: we put them in the dishwasher, leave them laying around with food or water on them, and hardly ever sharpen them (and one of us decides to try to sharpen them, we use one of these guys and are unsuccessful). I feel like it's not worth it to maintain them considering Cook's Illustrated said in their review of our chef's knife, "forget slicing—we could only "bruise" onions."

My parents aren't in the financial position to buy knives and they don't really mind using the ones we have, so I've decided to start my own collection. Considering my lack of experience and the fact that I don't know exactly what I want in a knife, I don't want to pay much more than $50 for a chef's knife. Superior quality isn't a priority, I just want a decent knife I can care for and use to develop my cutting and sharpening skills.

The Victorinox Fibrox Chef's Knife looks like a great option but I don't really like the handle. I'm afraid I might come to rely on the grip and I don't like the way it looks. From the small amount of lurking I've done here, I also would prefer a forged knife which the Victorinox isn't. Alton Brown (the chef I see most as a role model) in his Gear For Your Kitchen book says that taper-ground edges, more commonly found on forged knives, are more difficult to sharpen but hold their edge longer than the hollow-ground edges more common on stamped knives. For this reason I lean heavily toward forged knives. I'd also like to have a bolster but I can be swayed. I should also add I am looking at mostly 8-inch models because the aforementioned Farberware chef's knife I have is eight inches and is almost too big more most of what I do.

 

After a little research I've so far come up with two options:

 

J.A. Henckels International Classic Chef's Knife: There seems to be a durability issue with the handle, but I think it's probably due to abuse. It says it's "stain-resistant carbon steel," and I was thinking stainless steel would be better for me (again I can be swayed). I think "stain-resistant carbon steel" might mean "high-carbon stainless steel" because amazon says in its review that it's stainless steel.

 

Tramontina Professional Series Cook's Knife: I've heard this is the best value on the market. This one is made of "high-carbon chrome molybdenum [stainless] steel" which seems better than carbon steel.

 

I'd love to hear some feed back about these knives, as well as some more options in the $50 range. I really like the look of the three-riveted handles with the neb at the end, but looks are secondary.

 


 

Now we talk about sharpening... My dad says the sharpener we have is decent but I don't buy it. To me the three options are electric knife sharpeners, taking them to a professional sharpener, and using a stone. I'll summarize my impressions of these options below:

 

Electric knife sharpener: This seems like an easy option but I've heard they remove more of the edge than is necessary. Is this true? If so does it matter? How much more is removed by these things than using a stone? Another issue is I'm not really prepared to drop $150+ on a nice electric sharpener.

 

Professional sharpening services: AB says this is the only way to go, but I've heard the same business about sharpening wheels removing more steel than you would with a stone. It also seems like a bit of a pain (especially for a youngster like me) to take my knives to a professional every six to twelve months. Over the course of five years I've probably pay more than $150 in sharpening fees so would it make more sense to get an electric sharpener?

 

Sharpening stones: People say it takes a lot of skill and patience to get a decent edge form a stone, but I'm eager to learn how to use a stone. It also seems to me that with a stone or series of stones you can get a knife a lot sharper than you could any other way. Plus it doesn't remove too much steel which means my knives would last longer. The only true con is that it takes a lot of time, which is something I am usually short on. How long does it usually take to restore a blade to extreme sharpness? Come to think of it, I don't know anything about sharpening stones at all. I don't know the differences between whetstones, oilstones, waterstones, and diamond plates. Which types of stones to people look to for culinary knife sharpening? Which brands to chefs buy? How many stones do you need? Do people tend to buy sets of stones?

 

If electric sharpeners and/or professional services are a viable option because they don't take too much off the blade, I might consider getting a fine stone to get my knives scary sharp after running them through the sharpener. Opinions?

 


 

Thanks so much for reading this. So you don't have to go back through my post and extract the stuff to respond to, I'll list my qualms and questions here:

 

  • I'm looking for a decent chef's knife in the $30-$60 ballpark.
  • I'd prefer a 8-inch taper-ground forged stainless steel knife with a bolster and classic three-riveted handle but I can be swayed on any one of those things. I know I'm being picky about the handle.
  • I am looking into the pros and cons of electric sharpeners, professional sharpening services, and sharpening stones.
  • I am clueless about sharpening stones and would like to learn at least the basics.
  • I am open to suggestions for sharpening stones.

 

Thanks again for reading this and I hope you can provide some insight!

 

Malch


Edited by Malch - 7/27/10 at 10:05pm
post #2 of 25

Hi Malch,

 

Fantastic post.  Lots of great questions there.  You've obviously done a lot of homework but some of your sources aren't the greatest.

 

AB has a lot going for him, but he's just not very good on knives.  You don't need to disagree with everything he says.  It's more of a take it for what it's worth sort of thing, and it ain't worth much.

 

Let's start with Forschner Fibrox.  Other than the handles, Forschner Fibrox and Rosewood are the same knives.  The Fibrox were designed for a professional environment so where they'd be used wet by cheaply gloved hands, and washed in a commerical dishwasher.  The Rosewood require more care, but in my opinion are far more comfortable and surer in bare hands.  That said, there's no reason you'd become addicited to Fibrox nor would it influence your grip once you learn one.

 

A users grip is just one aspect the much broader subject of knife skills.  Even without developing your skills you can certainly do better than Farberware.  But you'll miss most of the benefits of climbing the quality ladder unless you make an effort to improve your cutting and sharpening techniques.  Leaving the Farberware behind is a good start, but only a start.

 

Forschner Fibrox and Rosewood are stamped and not forged.  The old "conventional wisdom" was that stamped knives were inherently inferior to forged.  If it was ever true, it certainly isn't anymore.  One of the things that makes the inexpensive Forschners so good is how thin their blades are made.  This allows them to take a much better edge than other knives made from the same alloy, and to act sharper longer even as the edge begins to wear.

 

A related untruth is that a heavy knife is better than a light one. No.  A sharp knife is better than a dull one.  It's true that a heavy, dull knife takes a little less effort to use than a light, dull knife, but if you're planning on working with dull knives, just stick with the Farberwares.  Sharp, heavy knives are more useful for a few things only -- portioning spare ribs, splitting chicken breasts and backs, breaking down pineapples, etc. -- but otherwise they're slower and more fatiguing than a sharp, light knife. 

 

The modern trend among professionals is towards Japanese manufactured knives because they're lighter, have much better edge characteristics and for the chef's knives French profiles.

 

The only decent Japanese knives I know of in your price range are bottom of the line non-stainless (and very non-stainless at that) Kanemasas, Fujiwaras and the like.  It doesn't sound like a non-stainless knife would do well in your household, and these cheapies bring a lot of extra issues with them.

 

French profile chef's knives aren't happening in your price range either.  Sorry.   

 

but let's break down Forschner's edge taking and holding characteristics, just for fun.  It's fair to say they take a good but not great edge easily, wear slowly, but also go out of true easily.  The edge waves are easily corrected by steeling, i.e., the knives steel very well.

 

The alloy itself, very common in mid and high-end German knives is X50CrMoV15.  As you can see from its designation, the alloy includes chromium, molybdenum and vanadium, in addition to the iron and carbon that all steel has by definition.  I mention this not to stake any claim to wondrous quality but to debunk advertising which includes terms like "chrome-moly."  Dude, it's no big deal, it's expected.   

 

I don't know Tramontina well enough to comment. 

 

Henckels International should be avoided.  They will not take a fine edge, and they dull farily quickly.

 

I think the best low priced alternative to Forschner, especially if you're looking for a forged knife is Mundial.  An entry or student level knife, they're worth sharpening when they (quickly) dull.   They do have that classic, three-rivet look you want though and are very low priced.  I'd rate them at about the same level as Mercer another cooking school favorite.

 

Anyway, I strongly urge you to reconsider your take on a Forschner Fibrox or Rosewood chef's knife.  They really are the class of the field in your price range.  If you absolutely, positively must have an inexpensive, forged, German profiled knife -- Mundial and Mercer are your best bets.

 

Let's do sharpening and edge profiles in another post.  By the way, "taper ground" is sort of bogus terminology, in that it's not normal knife jargon.  Stuff like that usually means someone's trying to sell you something, more a warning than anything else.

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 7/27/10 at 10:15pm
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post #3 of 25
Thread Starter 

I realize the Forschners will stay sharper longer than other knives in my price range, but my impression (uneducated though it is) is that there is still some value in having a forged knife with a bolster. Is sharpening a forged blade at all different from sharpening a stamped one? The Mundial knives look very nice but you do say they dull quickly. How often would I have to sharpen them? How often would I have to sharpen a Forschner? If I am learning to use a whetstone perhaps a bit more sharpening wouldn't be an issue. My choice in chef's knife is closely related to the sharpening method, so I'll wait to hear what you have to say about that. What you have said so far has been immensely helpful.

 

Oh yeah, and what's the difference between a Fench profiled knife and a German profiled knife? Why do professionals tend toward the French ones?

post #4 of 25

Malch, BDLs advice is spot on. I would stay away from the forged knives as a beginner as they are more difficult to sharpen. A Forschner is a great first knife and will give you an opportunity to develop your sharpening skills if and when you decide to progress to a more expensive knife.

If you do not like the fibrox the rosewood is pretty nice especially for the price and the 8" version will fit your budget and size requirements. You will also need a couple of stones and the Norton India combo medium & fine is a good start to learn freehand sharpening and adding a soft and hard Arkansas is all you will need when you get your technique down as far as keeping your knife in optimum condition. A good steel is quite necessary with these knives as the edge rolls frequently and with regular use you gotta keep them up on the stones but this is a good thing for a beginner as you will need to sharpen more frequently and that is the only way you can perfect your technique is through time spent rubbing the rock.

Keep cookin, Doug................

 

 


 

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post #5 of 25

 

Wonderful post, as BDL says. And I agree with most everything BDL says, as usual. A few points of clarification:

 

1. What precisely do you mean by "bolster"? The term is thrown around in a number of contexts and ways, and doesn't always mean the same thing. Rather than get technical, let's find out what you mean -- and why you want one -- and then we can comment.

 

2. French and German profiles: If you look at the edge, from the heelmost part all the way to the very tip, you will notice that most knives (including all chef's knives) have a curve. The deepest point of this curve is called the "belly" of the knife. The German profile has a deeper belly than the French -- that's it. It's just a more curved knife. If you go to a kitchen shop and look at knives under glass, look at Wusthof, Henckels, Forschner, Victorinox, etc. -- and they all have this deep belly. A French-profiled knife has a fairly shallow belly. In the end, the move toward French profiles in recent years is really a move to Japanese-made knives, because Japanese-made chef's knives are almost universally made with a French profile. At this stage of the game, I do not think it will make a whole lot of difference to you. Both profiles are good, with some rather subtle differences in what they're best at.

 

3. Sharpening, Honing, and Alton Brown. I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again. AB's problem, in many instances, is his tendency -- probably a result of working in TV -- to oversimplify. He's excellent at producing a sort of soundbite version of technical information, as a conclusion of this or that explanation. But taken too strongly, some of those soundbites are grossly misleading. Here is what I like to think AB really meant to say, as opposed to what he actually did say in that infamous tomato episode where he gets the grinder in a van....:

 

"As a home cook, you do not need to sharpen knives yourself. Many, perhaps most professional chefs in the US have their knives professionally ground, and so can you."

 

In other words, professional grinding from a competent service will do a perfectly respectable job, and there is no need to feel that you must learn to sharpen. There are exceptions to this, but not with the kind of knives you are currently looking at. However, you can learn to sharpen, and it is not especially difficult to do.

 

With knives like you are considering, I think the principal difference is when you spend the money --- now or over time. Paying a service means paying in installments forever. Eventually, the cost of the service will outrun the cost of the sharpening equipment (stones, etc.). That happens more quickly the more knives you have to sharpen, for obvious reasons. The problem is that decent sharpening equipment, on top of everything else, will destroy your budget. Stones aren't free!

 

In my opinion, you should start by focusing on the knife, its use and basic care. That means a knife and a honing rod or "steel". Have your knife sharpened by a good sharpening service. If you're not sure who's good, ask for testimonials, references, whatever: a good sharpening service has regular customers, and they should be happy to have you look into them. You should be able to talk to the actual sharpener(s), not just someone at the hardware store counter. If you're having trouble finding someone, try a woodworker's supply store: woodworkers can be truly crazy about sharpness, and the services that serve them are often outstanding, if sometimes a little pricier. Make sure you do a little comparison shopping, so you feel confident and happy about what you're getting. Your knife will probably come pretty sharp, and you'll be honing it regularly, so you probably won't need the service for 6 months to a year. Repeat.

 

Eventually, however, you are going to want to upgrade your knife, and when you do that you may want to upgrade to your own sharpening. In the meantime, ask around, chat with people. You'd be surprised: there are an awful lot of folks who have decent "oilstones" in the pantry or workshop or wherever, and many of them haven't used the things in a decade. You may be able to get a standard Norton combi-stone or the like for nothing, or for helping someone with some chores, or whatever.

 

But you MUST have a reasonably decent honing rod and a decent idea of how to use it. BDL is the guy to advise you here. Honing is not sharpening: it's keeping the edge you've got for as long as possible. It's important, if you are going to get your money's worth with this knife, that you hone it.

post #6 of 25

Ready for more?

 

Alton Brown (the chef I see most as a role model) in his Gear For Your Kitchen book says that taper-ground edges, more commonly found on forged knives, are more difficult to sharpen but hold their edge longer than the hollow-ground edges more common on stamped knives. For this reason I lean heavily toward forged knives. I'd also like to have a bolster but I can be swayed. I should also add I am looking at mostly 8-inch models because the aforementioned Farberware chef's knife I have is eight inches and is almost too big more most of what I do.

 

Alton Brown, Devil or Saint?

There's no such thing as "taper ground edges."  There are convex, concave (aka hollow ground), chisel, hamaguri, mulitple, double and flat bevels to name a few.  No tapers.  No tapirs either.

 

Presumably AB is referring to plain ol' flat bevels when he talks tapers. 

 

Terminology is woefully inconsistent when it comes to knives and sharpening.  For instance, even the term "hollow ground" has a couple of unrelated meanings.  Sometimes it refers to knives with dimples, and sometimes concave edge geometry.  When you're having a conversation it's a good idea to get your terms straight.

 

No matter how the knife was made to begin with, edge geometry is whatever you make it.  If you end up sharpening on bench stones chances are you'll sharpen a flat (aka tapered) bevel.  Most Chef's Choice electric sharpeners will give you a double or triple bevel.  Double, multiple and concave bevels are generally more robust than flat bevels, but they're more difficult to sharpen and don't get the same absolute, initial sharpness.

 

You just can't trust Alton Brown on knives.  So, devil.  Sorry.

 

What's 8" More or Less?

The reason 8" seems almost too long for you is that you have no skills.  Learn to hold the knife correctly and work on an adequately sized board and 10" is not a problem.  Should you buy a 10" knife even though it will be awkward until you learn to hold it?  If you want to learn good skills, yes. 

 

On the other hand a longer knife won't make anything else longer.  There's nothing unmanly about an 8" chef's.

 

Electric Knife Sharpener vs Professional Service vs Edge Pro vs Bench Stones:

Electrics:  There's one good electric system, and that's Chef's Choice.  They're not perfect, but they surmount almost all the objections usually levelled at electrics.  You can buy one perfectly adequate for your purposes for around $80.  At your age and high level of enthusiasm, you don't need the extra convenience, nor is it worth settling for CC's limitations.

 

Knife Services:  Costs a fortune over time.  You don't have your knife while it's out.  Many, if not most, professional services are lousy.  You're lucky if they just run the knife through a Tru-Hone and charge you $7.50 for the privilege.  I'm unsure as to which audience Alton Brown offers this advice, but it's TERRIBLE for you.   

 

Edge Pro and Other Manual Systems:  It's a "rod guide" tool and jig system.  Works great, but you can't afford it.  Other rod guides like Gatco and Lasky are really too small to do a good job on kitchen knives.  

 

There are some other gimmicks that may work out for you, one is the Spyderco Sharpmaker, which employs a base to hold ceramic sticks in a "V."  It's adequate if you're not too demanding.  Not cheap, though. 

 

Forget any of the carbide wheel pull and "V" gap pull throughs.  They'll rip up your knives.  On the other hand, something like that might be the best way to put a rough edge on those Farberwares.  They won't last long, but they'll by God cut.

 

Stones:  Start with an 8" Norton combination India, either the IC-8 or IB-8.  Don't get anything shorter.  As soon as you can afford it, add a Hall's "Hard" Arkanasas stone.  Alternatively, order one of the "professional" style "tri-hones" from Hall's ProEdge.  These will work equally well.

 

If you decide to follow this path, get in touch with me and we'll go into detail.  The first surprise is that you shouldn't use honing oil.

 

Rod Hones aka Steels:

You'll be using it almost every time you cook.  Good news, very good hones aren't very expensive.  If you use a 10" chef's you'll want a 12" rod.  If you use an 8" chef's, you can get by with a 10" rod.  You want a "fine" rod, not one coarse enough to serve double duty as a "sharpener" (and which you shouldn't use). 

 

Ceramic rods are both very good and very high value.   I like the Idahone fine Ceramic best (under $30).  The DMT CS2 is almost as good, doesn't cost any more, and is nearly unbreakable.  There only a few metal rods that fit in your tight budget.  Of those I like the Forschner "polish" steel.

 

Forged vs Stamped:

Unless you like weight for its own sake, there's no extra value in the forged knives you're talking about. If you know you like the "feel" of a forged more than you like the edge benefits which come from a Forschner, you should buy one.  Otherwise, you're just buying a bunch of BS from people who aren't really connected to the world of good knives.

 

Sharp is better.  Agile is better.  Forged is not better.  Heavy is useful for a few things; but, as long you allow for splitting chickens and the like as well as differences in taste, it's worse.

 

If You Take Away One Thing From This Thread, It Should Be This: 

Sharp trumps everything else.

 

BDL

 

PS.  So what DO you mean by "bolster?"

PPS.  I forgot to h/t the other guys' excellent points -- some of which I repeated.


Edited by boar_d_laze - 7/28/10 at 8:15pm
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post #7 of 25

I must disagree with BDL about one thing: professional sharpening services.

 

Basically, professional sharpening services come in three main types: cheap junk for housewives, serious services for restaurants, and lunatics (woodworkers, Japanese-style services, maniac engineers, whatever). You can't afford the last, and they're not on the whole interested in knives like you can afford, so let's ignore them.

 

The crucial question is how to distinguish the first from the second.

 

You can't do it on price. There are serious services that profit largely on volume, and as a result are happy to do a great job on your knife so long as somebody else does the delivery. To them, it's just another knife. There are also craptacular housewife boutique services that charge an arm and a leg in order to attract the attention of the fathead home cooks who think if they buy the most expensive Shun it'll make them Iron Chef.

 

The only really good way to distinguish is to send a knife and see how it comes back, but there are ways to get a good impression.

 

First, will they talk to you? Are they convincing and coherent, able to explain what they're doing in terms meaningful to you? If you throw them questions you got here, like "I think I want a symmetrical grind, 50/50, but I'm thinking that maybe a secondary bevel kind of thing, like 17/14, would be good, what do you think?" do they know what you're talking about (may take a little explanation) and can they respond coherently and effectively? If so, chances are you're talking about a pretty good service.

 

Second, do a little research. What do these people do for a living? Sharpen knives, or is that a side thing? What sorts of equipment do they use? What do their longstanding customers say about them, and why?

 

Your ideal service --- and they really do exist, I promise --- is one that wants to put itself out of business. See, the ideal service is a guy or two who's really, really into this, and just loves yapping about grinding and stone grits and all that stuff. And he just adores the idea of having a customer who can talk to him about this stuff, instead of just boring his wife, and he'd love to drag you into the workshop and show you everything, because my goodness, isn't it just fascinating the way this grit and that grit and this belt and that belt and this steel and that steel and on and on until you think you're going to throw up. This is the guy you want. See, he's just hoping and praying that he can do enough business to stay in business, because he thinks about the most fun there is to be had in the world is grinding metal in weird, complicated ways, and he loves the idea that he can make just enough money to keep doing that forever. When he finds what looks to be maybe a kindred spirit, he unloads. That's why websites are full of lunatics screaming about grit levels and hardness and alloys --- these guys exist, and lots of them.

 

If you get a guy like that as your service, and he charges anything remotely reasonable, you'll get a fabulous edge and learn a heck of a lot. You'll also have found a great friend to keep in touch with as you develop onward and upward in the cooking world of your personal kitchen.

 

Fortunately, the knife you get out of the box will last you pretty decently for, oh, let's say 3-6 months, with good honing practices. Spend the time finding this lunatic I've just described. He's around, unless you're in the boonies, and quite possibly in the boonies you'll find three of these guys competing over who's crazier. Trust me --- these guys collect around knives but also guns, so there's never a shortage in the USA. When you find the right guy for you, stick to him, learn everything you can, and enjoy.

 

BDL, you're obviously so over-educated that you just don't get it.

post #8 of 25

you know i bought one of those cheap hand sharpeners you pull your knife through and it certainly does the job on my cheap knives. interestingly enough, MAC recommends the rollsharp to maintain their knives and i have heard much positive feedback from it. on cheap knives, my local restaurant supply does  a killer job... but for japanese knives, you really need a stone to maintain it. even one of those diehard old sharpener guys in the business for 40 years couldn't do a good job on my Japanese knives.

post #9 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Huy Bui View Post

you know i bought one of those cheap hand sharpeners you pull your knife through and it certainly does the job on my cheap knives. interestingly enough, MAC recommends the rollsharp to maintain their knives and i have heard much positive feedback from it. on cheap knives, my local restaurant supply does  a killer job... but for japanese knives, you really need a stone to maintain it. even one of those diehard old sharpener guys in the business for 40 years couldn't do a good job on my Japanese knives.

I would stay away from those pull through carbide cutters(knife destroyers). At your age and from what seems a hi level of enthusiasm I would learn and develop the craft of knife sharpening. I had a dinner cook once who purchased one of those things and in about 2 months he had chewed off more steel than a couple of years worth of sharpening on  the rock.I rarely run into people (in the real world , not here) who still sharpen by hand and the local knife shop does a booming business on chefs knives  although not Japanese knives though as people who spend that much for a knife usually take care of it themselves.

Also the sense of accomplishment is quite rewarding in knowing you could sharpen a piece of steel with just about any abrasive out there.

My opinion is that learning to sharpen and steel a knife are more important than the brand of knife cause it just dont matter if the knife is dull. Good luck.........

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post #10 of 25

 


Chris wrote,

BDL, you're obviously so over-educated that you just don't get it.

 

Well, maybe.  I think there are some excellent services and some shops do a great job -- especially on the types of knives we're discussing in this thread. 

 

The problem with the good services are finding one, turn around time, and cost over time.   I think even after most people have found one they liked the other two things keep them from using the service as often as their knives want.  And, that for most knives and most people who do not want to do their own sharpening a Chef's Choice is a more economical, more convenient, and just plain better overall solution. 

 

In this thread, we're talking about a young guy who seems perfectly capable of rubbing a knife on a rock. The beginner's sets in question shouldn't cost more than $50.  It's an obvious choice.  

 

I should add that Chris and I quibble and niggle as an expression of too many grad schools; not because of any major disagreements.  If it seems like there is one, it's the result of a misunderstanding because I expressed myself especially poorly or he wrote before coffee, it seemed important at the time, and because that's how Talmud sausage gets made. 

 

Otherwise, I completely agree with Chefboy.  [Rimshot!]

 

It may be unclear in this thread, but it's my understanding based on previous posts is that Huy Bui owns and buys Japanese knives, his go-to gyuto is a MAC Pro, and that he sharpens his own knives on a set of waterstones.   I'm not sure if he's actually endorsing Accu-Sharp types or not.

 

FWIW, lower-end MACs are very flexible and a lot of people have trouble sharpening them on bench stones.  Hence, Harold at MAC USA's recommendation of the roll-sharp.  It's obvious, but worth mentioning that a coarse abrasive like a roll sharp (or a carbide pull through for that matter) will leave a coarse edge.  If that's what you want -- fine. 

 

It's not what I like, but plenty of good cooks are completely happy.  Who am I to say no?

 

So there.

BDL

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post #11 of 25
Thread Starter 

Wow, so much info to process!

 

Other than that "taper-ground" nonsense, there are a few reasons I originally leaned toward forged knives (by now you guys have me pretty much convinced the Forschner would be a better choice so I'm playing devil's advocate). What I call the bolster is the thicker portion of steel between the handle and blade. My Farberware knives are forged and with my current grip the bolster gives me leverage. I realize a lot of the expensive Japanese gyutos either don't have bolsters or the bolsters (or whatever they're  called) don't extend to the heel of the blade like mine does. Should I change my grip if I semi-rely on the extra security I get from the thicker heel? Chefboy said that forged knives are more difficult to sharpen, but this could be a reason to get one. If sharpening forged knives is different from sharpening stamped knives, wouldn't it be better to learn to sharpen a forged knife from the get-go?

 

Chris, I don't really like the idea of upgrading my sharpening as I upgrade my knife. When I get a more expensive knife I'd rather already know the ins and outs of sharpening, whichever method I choose. That said, if I can find a good sharpening service it would still be an option. I live in Concord, MA and I can see you live in Quincy... Can you recommend a sharpening service in the Boston area?

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

 

Edge Pro and Other Manual Systems:  It's a "rod guide" tool and jig system.  Works great, but you can't afford it.  Other rod guides like Gatco and Lasky are really too small to do a good job on kitchen knives.  

 

There are some other gimmicks that may work out for you, one is the Spyderco Sharpmaker, which employs a base to hold ceramic sticks in a "V."  It's adequate if you're not too demanding.  Not cheap, though.

 

Something I should clarify: my budget isn't all that tight. I don't want to spend a lot on my first knife mainly because I don't know what I would want in a high-end knife, and even if I did I wouldn't be able to reap the benefits. I might consider investing in an Edge Pro or similar system but that would mean I wouldn't learn to sharpen by hand. Other than the price are there any disadvantages/limitations to the Edge Pro? Could I get a Edge Pro vs. sharpening stone comparison?

 

Rod Hones aka Steels:

You'll be using it almost every time you cook.  Good news, very good hones aren't very expensive.  If you use a 10" chef's you'll want a 12" rod.  If you use an 8" chef's, you can get by with a 10" rod.  You want a "fine" rod, not one coarse enough to serve double duty as a "sharpener" (and which you shouldn't use). 

 

Ceramic rods are both very good and very high value.   I like the Idahone fine Ceramic best (under $30).  The DMT CS2 is almost as good, doesn't cost any more, and is nearly unbreakable.  There only a few metal rods that fit in your tight budget.  Of those I like the Forschner "polish" steel.

 

I do have a 10" metal rod in my drawer but I don't know if it's good or not. Is there any way to tell? I definitely don't want to get a decent knife without making sure I have a decent steel. I'm sold on the 10" chef's knife so I should probably get a 12" rod anyway.

 

Thanks everyone for your input!

post #12 of 25

What I call the bolster is the thicker portion of steel between the handle and blade. My Farberware knives are forged and with my current grip the bolster gives me leverage.

 

There are bolsters and then there are bolsters.  It's one of those loose terms that can mean several things.  Some bolsters are independently forged, then forged onto the knives.  Others are forged and sintered.  Still others are cast or rolled and sintered.  Some are heavy, some are light.  Some have finger guards which extend all the way from the handle to the knife's chin, some don't have finger guards at all, while others are entirely finger guards.

 

We're really asking two questions.  Do you really, really want finger guards?  And, whether you can live without any bolster at all -- as with a Forschner. 

 

Bolsters do look good.  They also help a little to keep gunk from getting between the handle scales and the tang.  However, not much -- and simply cleaning the knife does all that's necessary.

 

Finger guards are very nice if you use a baseball grip or if you pinch and jam your middle finger against the back of the blade.  If the backs of your blades aren't rounded off so as to be safe and comfortable to touch -- that's something you should do (it's easy) yourself.  And, while you're at it, ease the spine.

 

Fingerguards They do make sharpening, especially over the long term, and/or when it comes to keeping the heel thin, a little more challenging. 

 

My chef's knives -- all carbon Sabatiers -- have finger guards.  On balance, I think you're better off without them. 

 

If you properly pinch grip a sharp knife, a bolster don't serve much purpose.  A sharp knife doesn't need leverage -- the edge does the work.  Sharpening and grip are two of the most important knife skills -- and two of the easiest. 

 

Personally, I prefer knives with bolsters, but giving everything you're trying to accomplish with this "first, good knife," and on how much money, in your shoes I'd live with the Forschner because of its edge characteristics. 

 

If you were willing to flirt with $100 for the knife, I'd make a different recommendation and suggest a Misono Moly.  They do have bolsters, but no finger guards. 

 

I don't want to get too deeply into this type of option, but should add that there's no free lunch.  A Misono Moly will have a much better profile and much better sharpening characteristics than a Forschner Rosewood, but won't do well splitting chicken backs and other heavy-duty stuff.  

 

I might consider investing in an Edge Pro or similar system but that would mean I wouldn't learn to sharpen by hand. Other than the price are there any disadvantages/limitations to the Edge Pro? Could I get a Edge Pro vs. sharpening stone comparison?

 

The Edge Pro is expensive -- especially as an initial outlay.  On the other hand, if you become seriously interested in sharpening, you'll probably invest that much in stones. 

 

Freehanding is offers some flexibility and adaptability that you're not going to get on an Edge Pro.  EPs come in two models, and the less expensive Apex is a little bit flimsy.  I find EPs somewhat fussy to set up and put away.  Not that waterstones are a walk in the park.

 

EPs will not do a good job on Japanese style chisel edges -- especially variations like hamaguri.

 

The EP has practically no learning curve.  You'll be doing a great job after a few hours and a few trys.  Freehanding takes awhile.  It's not hugely complicated, but you have to develop some muscle memory, some touch, learn to interpret sensory information you get from the "tests," and a lot more.  In addition, most learners try a few different basic styles before they really lock down on one.  

 

If your interest in sharpening is kitchen knives; if your kitchen knives will be sharpened on both sides; if your interest in kitchen knives is about use as opposed to collecting; and if you can afford the initila outlay, the EP makes a tremondous amount of sense. 

 

If you want to sharpen carpentry tools, axes, and just whatever; you use or own oddly shaped pocket and sheath knives; you want to collect kitchen knives; you want to own traditional Japanese knives; you're interested in cooking as a career, etc., learn to freehand.

 

No law says you can't do both.

 

I'm sold on the 10" chef's knife so I should probably get a 12" rod anyway.

 

Good idea.

 

Hope this helps,

BDL

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post #13 of 25

Quote:

Originally Posted by chefboy2160 View Post



I would stay away from those pull through carbide cutters(knife destroyers). At your age and from what seems a hi level of enthusiasm I would learn and develop the craft of knife sharpening. I had a dinner cook once who purchased one of those things and in about 2 months he had chewed off more steel than a couple of years worth of sharpening on  the rock.I rarely run into people (in the real world , not here) who still sharpen by hand and the local knife shop does a booming business on chefs knives  although not Japanese knives though as people who spend that much for a knife usually take care of it themselves.

Also the sense of accomplishment is quite rewarding in knowing you could sharpen a piece of steel with just about any abrasive out there.

My opinion is that learning to sharpen and steel a knife are more important than the brand of knife cause it just dont matter if the knife is dull. Good luck.........


actually the one i got is ceramic. i use it on my cheap knives i could care less about. and i did it to find out first hand how it was. it works fine, puts on a decent edge. you would only complain if you knew better. now i didn't try any of the more expensive ones out there, but minosharp has multiple grit stones for their roll through sharpeners so you can sharpen and polish it up nicely.

 

that said, i do own stones and japanese knives, which i do sharpen myself. i have added a miyabi fusion 600D morimoto edition to my work kit as my go-to, replacing the Mac... and i have added a moritaka kiritsuke to my collection as well. probably not using that one for work though.

 

anyways, i am not endorsing anything, except to keep your knives sharp... and i know that many do not have the time or care to sharpen on stones or even send them out, so i am offering another more practical method. (that is also cheap)

post #14 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Huy Bui View Post

Quote:


actually the one i got is ceramic. i use it on my cheap knives i could care less about. and i did it to find out first hand how it was. it works fine, puts on a decent edge. you would only complain if you knew better. now i didn't try any of the more expensive ones out there, but minosharp has multiple grit stones for their roll through sharpeners so you can sharpen and polish it up nicely.

 

that said, i do own stones and japanese knives, which i do sharpen myself. i have added a miyabi fusion 600D morimoto edition to my work kit as my go-to, replacing the Mac... and i have added a moritaka kiritsuke to my collection as well. probably not using that one for work though.

 

anyways, i am not endorsing anything, except to keep your knives sharp... and i know that many do not have the time or care to sharpen on stones or even send them out, so i am offering another more practical method. (that is also cheap)

Huy Bui , sorry about the carbide cutter reply as what you posted brought back that horrible memory. Now (thank you) I remember seeing some of those ceramic rod pull through sharpeners in some of the knife shops and sporting goods stores. They gotta work much better than that knife ripper I witnessed before!

I am not to the Japanese knife or water stone level yet as I have to to many Western knives
Forschner /Dexter / Sabatier / and Old Chicago Cutelry with the oil stones (used dry) to care for them. Its really cool to see a young person so interested in this topic though because what you see in most kitchens is dull knives and thats just  wrong..................

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post #15 of 25

i don't know how young i am, i am almost 30... which makes me older than my exec chef and most everyone in the kitchen. there may be 1 or 2 older than me, but im not sure as i have not asked...

post #16 of 25
Thread Starter 

I think he was talking to me? lol.

 

Anyway I've thought long and hard and I've decided to use a sharpening stone at least for now. Let's say I get:

 

  • Forschner Redwood 10" Chef's Knife
  • Idahone 12" Fine Ceramic Rod (or the DMT if it's much easier to get)
  • Norton IB-8 India Stone (couldn't find IC-8)

 

Anything else I need? I've seen some "erasers" designed to clean ceramic rods. Do these actually do anything? If I need to keep track of those things I might consider a metal honing rod instead. Also wondering about the roles of India stones vs. Arkansas stones. BLD, I'll send you a message so we can talk about sharpening. Thanks again everyone!

post #17 of 25


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Malch View Post

I think he was talking to me? lol.

 

Anyway I've thought long and hard and I've decided to use a sharpening stone at least for now. Let's say I get:

 

  • Forschner Redwood 10" Chef's Knife
  • Idahone 12" Fine Ceramic Rod (or the DMT if it's much easier to get)
  • Norton IB-8 India Stone (couldn't find IC-8)

 

Anything else I need? I've seen some "erasers" designed to clean ceramic rods. Do these actually do anything? If I need to keep track of those things I might consider a metal honing rod instead. Also wondering about the roles of India stones vs. Arkansas stones. BLD, I'll send you a message so we can talk about sharpening. Thanks again everyone!

Yes you are the young one I was speaking of. IB8 is Course / Fine which is what I use and I think IC8 is a Medium / Fine. I am cool with mine but I think BDL prefers the Medium / Fine.

both good rocks for that knife. For my ceramic rod I just use a cheap pack of big school erasers which do just fine. Here is a good read. http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?/topic/26036-knife-maintenance-and-sharpening/

Watch out though because once you cross over to the sharp side there is no turning back!

Enjoy, Doug.............


 

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post #18 of 25

IB-8 and IC-8 are both Coarse/Fine India.  The coarse India is equivalent to the medium Crystolon, at least in terms of grit "screen,"  which may be causing the confusion.

 

The IB-8 is 1" thick, the IC-8 is 3/4" thick -- and that's the difference between them.  IMO, the IB-8 is a marginally better bargain.  The Indias are also available as separates and in 3" widths, too.  Norton makes an 11" India combi, which by virtue of the extra 3" works faster and better; but it's such a PITA to store, I usually don't even mention it.

 

A fine India is not as fine a finish as you should have.  See if you can't scare up a Hall's ProEdge Hard Arkansas.  If I were a betting man, I'd put money you could find one by linking here.  If you really want to max fineness on oilstones, instead of the hard get both a soft and a surgical black from Hall's. 

 

Continuing on the subjects of Hall's and Arkansas stones, it's well worth calling Hall's and talking to the owner.  He knows more sharpening on Arks than anyone else you're likely to find who will actually talk to you -- especially when it comes to his own stones.

 

BDL

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post #19 of 25

I'm just a foodie, not a chef.  So I figured I wanted a good knife, but like you did not want to mortage my home for a knife.  I bought the Victorinox Fibrox Chef's Knife well over a dozen years ago. 

 

Here is where I am going to get some heat.  I use a Firestone opposing wheel electric sharpener, then a fine opposing wheel hand sharpener before using a rough steel, then a fine steel.  I do this, and can shave with the knife afterward.  I owned a Chef's Choice, and gave it to my friend after using it about a month, it just seemed to take to long to bring the knife up to shaving sharp (and for me it never did, maybe I couldn't develop the right touch.).   I use this procedure on my Victorinox Fibrox Chef's Knife, also skinning knives.  On butchering, fish fillet, and boning knives I use a set of four cross stick sharpeners to achieve a beveled edge.  I want a beveled edge so that the edge doesn't curl if I scrape against a bone.

 

There is no question that an opposing wheel sharpener will take a blade down faster then anything else, but I am old, and lazy, hate using stones, and don't care if it eats my Fibrox up.  I'll get another.  $50 I can handle, not $200.  You being a young guy, interested in maybe becoming a chef should learn to do it the right way.  

 

My 2 cents.., which may not be worth that either.

post #20 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
A fine India is not as fine a finish as you should have.  See if you can't scare up a Hall's ProEdge Hard Arkansas.  If I were a betting man, I'd put money you could find one by linking here.  If you really want to max fineness on oilstones, instead of the hard get both a soft and a surgical black from Hall's.

 

I may be making an incorrect assumption, but from reading a bunch of threads here I've gathered that certain finer grit stones aren't beneficial until you're competent at sharpening. If this applies to Arkansas stones, I see no reason to buy them now. If it doesn't make sense to have the Norton coarse/fine stone without a finer Ark, I'll probably go with just the hard stone because I plan on *eventually* upgrading to Japanese knives (which would mean a new set of waterstones).

 

I'm also starting to consider getting a cheaper metal steel like the Forschner BDL mentioned, and eventually upgrading to an F. Dick or other expensive steel. I couldn't be arsed to put my reasons for this in paragraph form so here's what's been going through my head:

 

  • I couldn't find a way to get the Idahone for less than $40 due to high shipping costs.
  • Ceramic rods require extra maintenance (another assumption; correct me if I'm wrong) — shouldn't be much of a factor, but I'm a very negligent person.
  • Idahones aren't the best of the best, and I'm reluctant to spend $40 on something I might replace for not much more.

 

I encourage you to comment on my thoughts; I also have a few questions: Are there any major disadvantages to an inexpensive metal steel other than overall performance? How significant is this decrease in performance? Can they still be used with Japanese knives? Also not sure exactly which one is the Forschner polish steel that BDL mentioned. Any of these? Perhaps a 12" smooth Forschner steel is harder to come by than the Idahone.

 

Another thing I should mention is that there won't be a place in my parents' knife block for my new knife, so I was going to make a sheath for it out of cardboard (another Alton Brown tip). Is this acceptable?

 

Also, Doug that was a very helpful article! Really helped put things in perspective.

 

Lastly, I should apologize for my overly analytical and indecisive approach to a seemingly insignificant purchase, and thank you for putting up with it.

post #21 of 25

 

You're better off developing some consistency with a medium-coarse stone before moving on to the medium-fine.  That shouldn't take too long, though.  If convenience and/or shipping costs count, better to get them both out of the way at once.

 

The Norton India combination stone has two surfaces, but one of them is very coarse and should be reserved until (a) you can hold an angle well enough to not terminally scratch up the face of ethe knife, and (b) can figure out how to grind a straight, flat bevel which goes all or nearly all the way to the edge. 

 

You might as well wait to buy the polishing stone until you can use the coarse India -- because there's no point polishing a bevel which isn't pretty darn flat. Polishing stones tend to be expensive, and it's good procrastination practice to put off pain as long as possible.  

 

Neither the soft or hard Arkansas are really polishing stones -- the'yre both mediums and fit within the "second stone" idea discussed.   In fact, the soft Arkansas is nominally very close to the fine India, almost as easy to use,  produces a much finer edge. 

 

The soft is a stone worth having to make a step worth taking if you're going to move on to an actual polishing stone, like a black, a translucent, a coticule, etc.  If you want some tooth left on your edge, or don't feel your knives won't hold or aren't worth a polish -- then get a hard Ark.  But remember, both the soft and hard are "sharpeners" and not "polishers."

 

FYI, grit size doesn't actually apply to Arkansas stones.  They're all the same grit.  If you see a chart comparing an Arkansas with other stones based on grit sizes, it's only a stab in the dark at comparing speed and fineness levels.  Arks generally cut slower and polish finer than the charts would have you believe.

 

Rich

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post #22 of 25
Thread Starter 

Got my IB8 India stone today. Looks quite nifty. I should be getting my chef's knife soon as well. Found some good deals on ebay. I'll order the rest of the stuff soon.

 

There is a gripe that I have though. My bench stone came pre-oiled and I think I read somewhere that if you use oil once, you should keep using it. Is there anything I can do to sufficiently remove the oil so I can use it bare?

 

Before I take my Farberwares to the stone I could use a little guidance. BDL, I saw in a different thread you gave some instruction on how to use a waterstone. I'm guessing it's the same for oilstones except I don't soak them?

 

You also recommended some videos on japanesechefsknife.com but I have been unable to locate them. There's a tutorial here which I could make due with but no videos. Am I missing something? Any other good videos? I like videos.


Edited by Malch - 8/12/10 at 10:54pm
post #23 of 25

Here are some YouTube videos of Dave Martell of Japanese Knife Sharpening aka D&R sharpening. 

 

Watch them mostly for the motions he uses:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MezIEKGk9T0&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSyK67mqXEI&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtkwvoYaus4&feature=related

 

Dave is one of the very best freehand sharpeners in the country.  In this series, which was apparently recorded by an attendee, he seems to be talking to a group of advanced-beginners and intermediates. 

 

Remember that you're only watching to see the way he moves the knife on the stones.  Otherwise, the words and a few of the specifics could well be confusing, especially as they specifically regard the nakiri he's sharpening or his stone choices. 

 

Most of it isn't terribly relevant to you, obviously, but if "clicking in" makes sense, you can try it.  Also, he does talk about using different pressures.  You should stay with something moderate -- somewhere in the 3 - 4 range is probably good for a chef's knife. 

 

There are a LOT of different motions you can use which will work just fine.  As it happens, Dave's are very similar to what I'm currently using, but I use a succession of shorter back and forth strokes to work my way up and down the stone, and also go much faster. 

 

For the time being, keep your tempo moderate, your pressure steady and feel free to mess around with the shape of the strokes.

 

Not covered in this video is how to sharpen around the tip.  You'll have to lift the handle of the knife slightly in order for the entire edge bevel around the tip to make flat contact with the stone.  That may be confusing reading, but should be much clearer with a stone on the bench and a knife in your hand.  If not, we can talk more. 

 

Here's a video of someone using the magic marker trick:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvl-Y5bZwtw

 

Don't worry about his wedge stone holder.  It has its uses for very short knives, but is a lot more trouble than its worth for kitchen knives. 

 

One of the most important things you'll learn during the first, awkward period when nothing goes right is how to hold a the knife steady at the desired angle. 

 

You can use the magic marker trick or "click in" to help you determine the edge angle at which the knife was lest set.  I recommend one or the other for beginners whose knives are already profiled at the correct angle.  I also highly recommend the magic marker trick for beginners so they can track their progress visually.

 

In your case, part of me wants you to learn to draw a burr (sometimes called "pulling a wire") and the other basics of sharpening first at the factory angle.  It's a gentler learning curve, even though it will take longer. 

 

However, the dominant part of me wants to say just go ahead and sharpen your knives to 15*.  I think the extra repetition it requires, even though it's a little frustrating the first few sessions, won't take very long before they're very worthwhile.  More important, since you're just learning to hold an angle, you might as well learn to the hold right one.  It doesn't make sense to add "adaptability" to the skills you have to master -- at least not yet.

 

Norton Indias do come pre-oiled.  You can clean the oil out at any time by running them through the dishwasher, or setting them on a rack in a pan (or anything that will keep them from direct contact with the bottom of the pan) with a little dry dishwasher detergent, and boiling them for five minutes or so -- turning occasionally .  If they're very oily from years of sharpening on oil, you may have to run them through the dishwasher three or four times.  Any oilstone worth keeping can be converted to water or dry sharpening, in this way.  Cheap Chinese stones might crumble -- but no loss. 

 

You don't have to get rid of the oil to use the new stone.

 

You do have to keep the stone clean.  Before or after every sharpening session, clean the stone with scouring powder and a stiff brush to get as much crud and swarf off as you can.

 

Keep asking questions as they come up,

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 8/13/10 at 8:47am
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post #24 of 25

Hi Malch:

 

You're getting a lot of good advice, so I hope I'm adding a little.

 

As far as the Forschner, for 29 bucks it's a terrific knife...as good as most knives twice the price.  It's comfortable in the hand, and takes a nice edge very easily.  The quality and toughness of the steel is unusually good at that price level.  It doesn't hold an edge as long as a $100 knife, but responds well to regular honing.  It's very easy to sharpen.  Actually, it's an easier profile for sharpening than, say, an old warhorse Wusthof classic that's forged, and has about 10 lbs of bolster....also, better on an onion.

 

As far as sharpening, if you find the right person at the right price it can be fine, but there are a lot of frogs to kiss out there.  The Japanese knife fanatics will do a beautiful job for you, and each sharpening will cost about as much as your knife.  The commercial guys will give you a nice edge, but you'll have a toothpick in a year.  They really like to take off the metal in chunks.  The consumer sharpeners *can* be good, but you've got probably a 10% chance of finding the good one.  The hardware store will massacre your knife.  The local knife or kitchen shop (unless you're lucky) is probably using a Chef's Choice anyway.

 

If you're willing to learn your own sharpening, now's the time to get it under your belt.  It puts you in control of your edge, and like (I think BDL) said, it's all about the edge.  A Forschner is a great knife to learn on, both because it's inexpensive, and because you'll find it very responsive to your work...more so than most stainless knives.

 

Good luck!

post #25 of 25
Thread Starter 

Helpful as always, BDL. Also nice to hear from someone else, Mike.

 

My Forschner came today and I really like the handle. What an improvement! I've already sharpened my Farberware 8" chef's and 5" utility/petty to 20 degrees (I cut out some cardboard wedges to check my angle). I didn't think they'd be able to take on a 15° edge well if at all. Only using the fine India surface, I noticed an improvement. From looking at marker on the edge I realized there were a ton of nicks and dings on both of the knives that I had to grind off. Also because of this it was hard to see if I was sharpening at the factory angle, but I think 20° was the same or a bit more acute.

 

The factory edge on my new Forschner is sharper than the Farberwares I sharpened, but I think that may be due to the quality of the knives. Will sharpening my Forschner on a fine India make it sharper than the factory edge?

 

I was able to draw a burr on both of the knives I sharpened and deburred on a piece of wood. I think I can learn to sharpen to 15° at this point because I already sharpened to 20° without much guidance from the previous edge (don't know how good of a job I did though).

 

Still haven't ordered the Idahone yet because I'm getting cold feet. Which is pretty bad since I shouldn't be using my new knife without a decent steel. I've all but convinced myself it's the best choice, but I would be paying around $43 for the rod and the eraser, which is more than I paid for my knife and my stone combined...

 

P.S. Made your Caesar salad recipe today, BDL. Superb.

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