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MAC Professional VS. Misono UX10 VS. Wusthof Ikon

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

 

 

 

Ok, so I'm in the market for some new knives, mainly a chef's knife (9 or 10). I am currently using Messermeister and Henkel. both I am not happy with. My main complaint is the poor balance of the knives. I really need to step it up here, so I have narrowed it down to these choices.

 

 

 

1. MAC Professional: I have heard great things everywhere about these knives, but I have been told so many times (by professionals) that stamped knives are not the way to go. I am by no means a professional chef, or an expert in the craft of knife manufacturing, so is this true?

 

2. Misono UX10:  Again, I have heard nothing but good things about these knives, except they are a bit "whippy" and too flexible. Is this true? Is it a better choice than a MAC if I went Japanese? Are they as balanced as the MACs? Is this an all around good choice for a chef's knife, or is it more of a specialty knife that should be used for special, delicate tasks? Of course, I have the same concern with the stamped blade.

 

3. Wusthof Ikon: I like these for the balance. It's also a forged knife, the best, so "THEY" say. The guy that taught my last knife skills class had one, he loved it, same guy that said forged is the way to go.

 

4. Anything else you recommend: Maybe you would recommend one of the 3 choices above, but if you have any other suggestions, please let me hear them. I have heard "Sabatiers" are great, but that is really not a brand, it's a type of knife, right? How can you tell a good Sab from a bad one?

 

Any advice you can give would be great, thanks!
 

post #2 of 7

Hi jp,

 

I wrote you a very long reply last night, but before it was done accidentally back-paged (easy to do on a laptop) and the post was lost.  The combination of CT's software and Mozilla won't do recovery.  It's not entirely a bad thing, which is why it's worth any mention it at all.  Rereading your post, it's clear that balance is your most important consideration.

 

So, my first question is, "What do you mean by by balance?"

 

All of the western ("yo") handled knives you've listed, German or Japanese, and including the ones you don't like, share a similar design and tend to balance in very much the same way.  

 

That is, they have full tangs and handle scales counter-balancing the weight of the blade.  The blades and tangs are distal tapered to which moves the  BP (balance point) towards their junction.  A solid bolster is sintered at the junction, also moving the BP to the junction. 

 

All knives of that type of construction, in your specified range of lengths have a more or less neutral BP falling at the bolster or just in front of it at the "pinch point." 

 

There are a few knife lines which make their knives back heavy by using a counter balance at the end of the handle.  The only one I can think of that's any good is Viking (made by Gude in Germany).  Global knives are made to have dead neutral balance by filling each knife's individual hollow handle with a measured amount of sand before sealing it.

 

It's obviously just a matter of taste, but many (probably most) good cutters don't care much about balance.  We accept it as a fact of life with old, pre WWII rat-tail tang knives, Japanese wa-handled (also rat tail) knives, "Chinese chef's knives" aka (Chinese choppers or light cleavers), and longer knives in general. 

 

You can search for a tool which exactly suits, or adapt your technique (and expectations) to get the best use from a range of tools.  What you say about this will go a long way not only towards determining which knives we talk about -- but whether there's anything you can confidently buy without at least testing it in a store. 

 

More, I don't want to waste a lot of time writing about knives you won't like because they don't balance in the hand the way you'd like them to. 

 

For the time being, I'll only make a couple more observations.

 

In your general price range, a good stamped knife is as good as a good forged knife.  Period.  Fact.  Not opinion.  Your "experts" are repeating old dogma which is long disproved. 

 

There are trade offs between one knife and another, but if they're at all related to the general type of manufacture they can be modified by more sophisticated individual manufacture.  By way of one example, forged knives are generally considered to be stiffer than stamped; but the MAC Pro is among the very stiffest of mass-produced Japanese knives.  For another example, "light" and "thin" are the hallmarks of stamped knives, but the entire class of the lightest and thinnest chef's knives, nicknamed "lasers" and "Kate Moss knives," is made up entirely by forged knives.

 

It turns out that the commonly associated traits aren't the exclusive property of one type of manufacture or another, but merely are -- or at least were -- respectively a little cheaper or more expensive to build in or keep out.

 

In addition, there are reasons why particular properties become linked in the public mind with the way the knives are made.  Marketing is the strongest.  For instance, the makers of full-tang, forged knives want you to believe that heavier is better; so they make a virtue out of what was necessity.  Another is the very human tendency to make the logical fallacy of assigning results to things which weren't necessarily causes. 

 

For a very few tasks, like splitting chickens, heavier is better.  However for almost everything else, sharper beats heavier every time.  Japanese made knives are made lighter and with better alloys that can be made much sharper and hold an edge much longer than their European brethren. 

 

Before going any farther, it would help if you could answer a few questions:

  • What do you mean by "balance?" 
  • Where is the ideal BP for your chef's knife? Handle heavy?  Neutral?  Blade heavy? Remember, the knives you DON'T like are pretty darn neutral.
  • What's your price range? 
  • Do you sharpen your own knives or send them out?
  • How often do you sharpen your knives (in some other way than on a steel)?
  • How much time are you willing to invest to improve your sharpening? 
  • How much money?

 

BTW, the Misono UX-10 is a stamped and NOT a forged knife; and, other than the handle, cosmetics and Messermeister's very slightly superior alloy, the Wusthof Ikon is a lot like the Messer.  Same knife practically. 

 

There's a brief introduction to a number of Japanese made, western-handled knives in your general price range in this blog post.  Take a look at it.

 

Looking forward to reading your take on all this,

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 9/23/10 at 8:49am
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post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

First of all, I just want to say you ROCK! I’m not sure if this is your forum, or you are just very passionate about knives, maybe both. In any case, your feedback and time is greatly appreciated!

Ok, on to the knives and your questions.

 

Q: What do you mean by "balance?" 

 

A:Maybe I am not using the term “balance”, as it’s meant to be used when talking about knives, but a balanced knife to me is when I can hold it in the palm of my hand and it does not fall right out. My Messer 10’ chef knife falls out of my hand when I do this, it feels very blade heavy, no weight in the handle at all. Same thing happens with my Henkel. When I pick up an IKON for example, that thing just stays right in my hand. I’m going to try out some Mac Pros tomorrow, so I’m not sure how these will feel. I can’t try out The Misono UX10 before I buy it (mail order from Korin in NY, I’m in SF). If we are on the same page with the definition of “balance”, it sounds like it’s not that BIG of a consideration. So I guess my question would be what should my BIG consideration be?

 

Q: Where is the ideal BP for your chef's knife? Handle heavy?  Neutral?  Blade heavy?

 

A:I think I already answered this one, but my Messer and Henkel are very blade heavy, a bit too blade heavy IMO. Maybe I just have one of the “cheaper” models, I’m not sure (they were my father’s knives) and at least 15yrs old.

 

Comment: Remember, the knives you DON'T like are pretty darn neutral.

 

Response: Yeah, maybe I’m pretty caught with the balance, maybe the IKON is just “handle heavy”. Is handle heavy good, bad, or just preference? The weighted handle might feel good when I hold it, but I guess that doesn’t mean that it will perform better. Do you have any thoughts?

 

Q: What's your price range? 

A:I just want a GREAT chef knife. I use my current chef knife for almost everything, so I would rather put my money into one really great knife, rather than a bunch of mediocre knives. So, I guess my long winded answer is, price doesn’t matter all that much. I think $200-$300 for a chef knife is good. Anything into the $300-$400 range would be hard to justify.

 

Q: Do you sharpen your own knives or send them out?

A:I send them out. Bernal Cutlery (Great place for all you SF folks! http://www.bernalcutlery.com/)

 

Q: How often do you sharpen your knives (in some other way than on a steel)?

 

A: Maybe once every 3-4wks.

 

Q: How much time are you willing to invest to improve your sharpening? 

 

A:I am actually taking more of an interest in my tools these days. I have always loved to cook and cook often, but never really bothered, or cared to get good tools until a couple yrs ago. Good tools & equipment just makes things easier. I would like to learn how to sharpen well, I it’s a great skill to have. That said, one of the appealing things about the hard steel knives 59-60, is they retain an edge better and you do not have to steel them with each use (So I have been told). I do like that. My only concern now with the harder steel knives is chipping and durability. I guess I’m not really hung up on the stamped blade anymore.

 

Q: How much money?

 

A:I already answered this question earlier; $200-$300 is about right for a 9-10 inch chef knife.

 

All that said. Any more thoughts on the three brands I’m thinking about? I checked out the K-Sabatier online, but have not found them in any stores. Do you think I might be better off with a MAC, or Misono, instead of a Sabatier? I guess I should not rule out the IKON, but I must say that being able to pick it up in any store in America is a turn off. What’s the fun is that? What can I say…I’m not really into the Trendiest thing at William Sonoma. Maybe that is why I have not even mentioned Shun or Global. I’m sure these companies make some great products, but I guess I like to buck the trends.

 

Thanks in advance!

 

JP

post #4 of 7

Your praise makes me feel so good, I think I'd rather just bask in it than answer your questions.  I'm not connected with Chef Talk except as a member.  Somehow and for whatever reasons I became one of the knife guys, then the most active one.  It's ironic in that up until the last couple of years of participating here, I've always considered myself as more of a cook than a knife "expert," and defintiely see them as a way of efficiently accomplishing cooking tasks rather than as collectors objects.  

 

Balance: 

 

There's no gettng around it, balance and weight are strictly matters of taste. There's no right or wrong.  When I talk about "most good cutters," or my own choices, you have to look in them in that context. 

 

Still, there are reasons why most good cutters don't see balance as an issue one way or the other and seek very light knives. 

 

That you say the big thing about balance is the security of your grip, and that you find the Ikon very comfortable raises questions about your grip and grip mechanics.  You don't need to hold the knife any tighter or more securely than is necessary to keep it from falling out of your grasp.  It shouldn't feel secure -- but not feel insecure either.  It shouldn't be an issue.  

 

Here's a picture of my grip taken from underneath:IMG00078.jpg

I think you can see that my back three fingers aren't wrapped all the way around the bottom and that they're not applying enough force to the bottom of the handle, to push the top hard into my palm. 

 

This works for me in a couple of ways.  It keeps my knuckles well off the board, which is a very good thing indeed.  It also allows my pinch to focus as a pivot point allowing the knife a little bit of extra up and down action. 

 

It's a very versatile grip which will let you use almost any chef's knife comfortably, at least so long as it's sharp.  The greatest weakness of the "soft pinch grip" is its lack of power.  

 

You're sending your knives to a good pro sharpener every four weeks -- so, unless you're a working pro, they should be very sharp and well maintained.  On the other hand, if you're turning five full shifts a week doing prep and on the line, that's not nearly enough sharpening.  That would go a long way to explaining why you're having the balance issue.  I should have asked before, but forgot. 

 

There's a lot of guess in this, but I think your identifying weight and handle issues as "balance," that you're also more than usually sensitive to handle shape -- possibly as a function of your grip.     

 

Misono UX-10:

Outside of styling, the most striking factor of this knife is its agility. 

 

It's one of the first really high-zoot Japanese made yo-knives.  It was designed to blow Shun and Global out of the water and it certainly did.  However, it's been around for a long time and has plenty of competition.

 

My feeling is that the knife is too streamlined -- that it's too narrow between spine and heel; and that it's overpriced compared to the MAC Pro and Masamoto VG which are just as good.  It does have a GREAT handle, though.   

 

Misono uses a secret Swedish alloy -- almost certainly 19C27 -- hardened to somewhere around 59RCH.  The knives can be made very sharp and hold an edge quite well.  But it's nothing remarkable.  It's certainly no better than either the MAC Pro or the Masamoto VG.  Some people complain that it's hard to move a lot of metal on the knife and it's consequently difficult to re-profile.  I've thinned a couple and didn't have that experience, but don't discount it either.  Probably not an issue for you, since you don't sharpen your own knives.

 

Considering how sensitive you are to "feel," I wouldn't consider ordering without at least holding one; no matter who recommended it.  That is at least not until you've identified those things which make knives feel or good or bad.

 

MAC Pro: 

I recommend MAC Pros to more people more often than any other knife.  It's the easiest transition into high-end western style Japanese knives because the blades are so stiff and the handle is so incredibly good.  It also has a very nice edge profile -- if not quite as nice as the Masamoto. 

 

Best handle in the business.

 

MAC is another company that doesn't release the identity of the alloys it uses.  I used to think VG-5 was a pretty strong guess, but it turned out that I was mixing up two Takefu stainless alloy series and a lot of the "feedback" I was getting had actually originated with me.  Now I think VG-1 is more likely than VG-5, but not incredibly sure it's either.  It doesn't really matter.  The Pro has very good edge characteristics.  Every bit as good as the UX-10 and the MAC VG.

 

Other Japanese Knives: 

After trying out the MAC and one or two other Japanese made knives we should get a feeling for whether their lightness takes care of the balance problem.  Ditto for the combination of the MAC handle and weight. 

 

If it turns out you can be confident enough to buy a knife on line we can start talking about a few other high-end possibilities like the Hattori FH, Kikuichi TKC, and the already mentioned Masamoto VG.

 

It runs agains my generic advice, but until we've nailed down those factors which make a knife feel unacceptable to you it doesn't make sense to buy without at least waving the knife around a little.  My guess is that you're just the wrong guy for a heavy German -- but let's wait for some confirmation.  In the meantime, I'm predicting great thing from your MAC Pro test.

 

And, if worst comes to worst, you know you like the Ikon.  That's not a bad thing by any means.

 

BDL

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post #5 of 7

Frankly, I think you're spending WAY too much having someone else sharpen your knives. With a 10" knife, you're paying $10 a throw, some $125 a year give or take. Per knife! For that money, you could get a very good sharpening kit and do it yourself, and it'll pay for itself very quickly. If you are indeed getting into your tools more lately, doing your own sharpening is a great way to get excited about this. And if you've been using Bernal Cutlery this often for a while, I'll bet Josh Bernal would be happy to give you a discounted rate on a getting-started-sharpening class. Sharpening people are like that.

 

On the subject of the knives, I think the weight-balance problem you're having is probably not precisely a grip issue, as BDL thinks. I'm a home cook, like you; BDL is a former professional. My suspicion is that you're allowing your grip to drift around to compensate for a heavy knife's weight --- a 10" Messermeister is one heavy knife, after all. If you were a pro working a prep line, you'd develop muscles and grip and such to deal with this, but a home cook just doesn't cut enough to have it happen smoothly. One result is that you grip too hard, and that the knife feels very blade-heavy. I suspect that if you shift to a light knife, you'll find that it appears to balance well back of where your current knives balance. In fact, that's an illusion: these knives are all pretty close to neutral balance. But I betcha that's what's going on. With a light knife, the "balance" problem will evaporate and you can concentrate on a more consistent, effective grip.

 

My feeling is that in the price range you've got in mind, Masamoto VG or MAC Pro are the way to go. The Masamoto has the better blade, the MAC the better handle. Frankly, the handle isn't going to matter much once you have that light knife and stop gripping so hard, but some people care more about this than others. Besides, at this level of quality you're really completely changing the nature of the debate. Comparing blades and handles here is kind of like changing the debate about acceleration, speed, and handling from discussing Toyota Celica vs. Honda Accord to discussing the latest Porsche and BMW entries on the Neuberg Ring. Sounds like the same question, but really it's not.

 

If you can't decide --- and assuming I'm right about the balance thing --- I suggest throwing darts. You're going to love this knife, whichever you buy, and you'll wonder how on earth you ever cut with that massive slab. Honestly, I still giggle a bit whenever I pick up my wife's 6" Wusthof Trident and notice that it's heavier than my 11" Masamoto.

post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 

 

Thanks for the feedback guys! BDL, many thanks for the very thorough breakdown of everything, once again, much appreciated!

 

So, I did my homework. I actually went into Bernal Cutlery and checked out the MAC Pro and the Kikuichi. They had both the stainless steel and full carbon models for the Kikuichi. I already know that I want stainless, just easier to deal with. I’m sure full carbon has many great things about it; it’s just not for me. That said I have thrown the Kikuichi Stainless model into the mix. What are your thoughts on this knife? Both the MAC Pro and the Kikuichi felt great! I did notice the stainless Kikuichi was a little heavier than the MAC, but not that much difference.

 

I can now say that I’m trying to decide between two chef knives, the Masamoto VG10 or the Kikuichi Stainless. BDL, I know you mentioned the Masamoto VG10, how does it compare with the Kikuichi? At this point, I would be very happy with either one, as they both seem like great knives. I would just like to get some thoughts on the differences between the two knives. Is one lighter than the other? Is one blade more flexible or less durable than the other?

 

As to the balance thing, I stand corrected. When held properly (as in BDL’s photo), my knives, the MACs and the Kikuichi are all very well balanced.

 

New thoughts on the IKON

In this case I would almost say that theIKON is a bit too heavy in the handle. I now know that the IKON is not the knife for me.

 

New thoughts about the Misono UX10

Let me preface this by saying that I’m not an expert, just MHO. After doing a bunch of reading and talking to Josh at Bernal Cutlery, the Misono UX10 sounds a bit too overrated. People talk about this knife in their reviews like it’s the Sword in the Stone, or something. I mean really, every knife that has been mentioned, if maintained well, is pretty darn sharp. When choosing one of these knives, I think I would focus more on fit, durability and over-all craftsmanship. So the Misono UX10 is out for now.

 

Thoughts on the Hattori FH

Thanks for the heads up on this one BDL. This is indeed a very beautiful knife. The fact that they are hard to come by, no warranty, is reason enough for me not to buy. If I was a real knife collector, maybe, but I’m not. I also read in a lot of forums and reviews that they can be more prone to chipping.  I’m not sure if that is true, or not. In any case, I’ll pass on this one.

 

About the MAC

These knives are great. They feel great, great customer service and they seem like they would be a workhorse in the kitchen. I will most likely be adding a few of these to my set of tools, but I’m still pretty set on the Masamoto VG10 or The Kikuichi for my chef knife.

 

So there it is. If you could give a little feedback on these two knives, Masamoto VG10 and  Kikuichi stainless steel line, that would make my decision that much easier.

 

Thanks!

 

JP

 

P.S.: Yes learning how to sharpen my own knives is something I plan on doing.

 

 

post #7 of 7

Hi JP,

 

I'm with you and Josh on the Misono UX-10.  It's a very good knife, but it's by no means the only one in it's price range anymore.  The profile's a little too narrow and streamlined for my tastes.  GREAT looker, though.

 

Kikuichi makes several stainless steel knives.  The V-Gold (VG-10 hagane) is cladded, so I don't like it.  That doesn't mean you shouldn't.  It's not a particularly highly regarded knife in the knife fora.  It's sister carbon knife, the Kikuichi Elite is a very good knife and seems to get its share of props; and the antipathy to cladding is hardly common.  So quien sabe?

 

The Kikuichi Moly are good, well priced knives; but you seem to be looking in the next class up.

 

If I were buying a stainless knife in that price class, it would be the Masamoto VG.  But I recommend the MAC Pro far more often.  One knife isn't better than the other, it's just a question of matching the right knife to the cook. 

 

The real sticking point on moving into upper end knives is sharpening; and you seem to have found a very good (if expensive) solution.  It's a relief not to have deal with it, believe me. 

 

But, in any case the MAC and Masamoto sharpen identically.  The Masamoto feels a lot like a Sabatier in the hand and on the board, but it's a bit whippy.  The MAC has an incredibly good handle, best in the business (no slight to the Masamoto's which is also good), which you already know you like; is almost as stiff as a western knife; and has a profile that, while not quite as good as the Masamoto's, is pretty darn good.  MAC has an excellent guarantee and US support, and more reliable QC to boot (not a problem if you're picking your own knife).  Considering the MAC's strengths, handle, stiffness and support, it's a little friendlier as "the first, good, Japanese knife."  But not much.  You pickem.

 

Considering what we're learning about you and "bad balance," I very much doubt it's going to be a problem with any of the better Japanese knives with good or better handles, i.e., those which are large enough without being boxy.  Fool around a little more and see if you don't feel confident enough to order sight unseen from an e-tailer. 

 

Anyway, in the next class up you should think about the Hattori FH (I know what you said), the Ikkanshi Tadatsuna G3 western, and the Kikuichi TKC (formerly the Ichimonji TKC).   The Hattori is pretty, thin, extremely well made and finished, and makes the best use of VG-10.  The buzz is that whatever fragility and chipping issues it ever had are now resolved -- and were very likely confined to a few knives (and owners) from the first run. 

 

I finally got to play with one; the Tadatsuna is thinner still, very good handle, nice profile (still not a Masamoto) and really maxxes out the good qualities of G3.  Workmanship is as good as the Hattori's, which is amazing.  The knife is no-visuals, pure peformance, and outstanding.  If any unadorned, yo-gyuto is worth a price so high, this is it.

 

The TKC, which I've never actually tried, has an excellent reputation -- especially for its an ability to take a durable edge.  With Kikuichi and Chef Knives To Go standing behind it, that makes it even more attractive.  If you're specifically looking for a tool steel yo-gyuto, I'd take a chance on this before buying either of its main competitors -- Aritsugu A and Yoshikane. 

 

Hope this helps,

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 9/27/10 at 8:58am
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