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help picking out knife for Sister

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Ok, new to this forum but have lurked for some time.  I am trying to decide which chef/gyoto to get my sister for a present.  Her knives are horrendous.  These are the criteria that I have come up with:  1) stainless steel...she would not be into the upkeep of the others.  2) western handle 3) she likes chef knives on the shorter side with 8" sort of being the max length 4) she would not be sharpening them herself except for a quick swipe on the steel (whether steel or ceramic) she would have to send them out to be sharpened. 5) she is not an avid cook but really enjoys working with good items whether it be a saucier or fry pan-she will notice the difference. 6) with the fact she will be sending out the knife to be sharpened, I should also not that she lives abroad in thailand and does not have readily available local knife sharpeners. (In fact, she took her wusthoffs somewhere and the sharpened the wrong side and completely changed the line of it so it was more of a hook--they use that for vegetables!)  7) as to knife skills, she doesn't exactly have a firm grip on that yet but is willing to learn.  She uses the pinch grip properly but does wedge things sometimes but I suspect that is more due to the knife than the operator. this equates to not getting a super fragile knife.


I started out looking at the Ken Onion Shun as she had seen it and really liked it...but she did not demo it.  But then she has mostly german knives so I looked at the wusthoff ikon classic as she has a couple of these; and the schaaf.  As for the japanese knives western handle I was looking at the Mac Pro with dimples, Hattori HD 7", or the misuno ux10 7".  (she thinks 8" is large.) Finally I got overwhelmed and decided to post. :)


Any thoughts pros or cons of the above knives given the parameters?  spending range 100-160. thanks!

post #2 of 9
Thread Starter 


post #3 of 9

I'd go MAC Pro without the dimples, 8". Not Shun, please --- you can do so much better for less.


For sharpening, she's not looking in the right places. Does she speak the language?

post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks Chris--I was leaning towards the Mac Pro--it seemed to have all of the attributes she was looking for but since I haven't used one yet I wasn't sure about whether it would be too brittle ie chip very easy.  Any particular reason no dimples?  I have read about the reasoning behind them and also the issues with sharpening over time.  just wondering what you thought about it as well.


And yes, she is fluent in Thai.  Any suggestions for where to look for people who know how to properly sharpen knives?  The wusthof are completely ruined non-fixable I am afraid so I don't want any new knives going down that road again.  I get my knives sharpened by Dave at D&R sharpening in PA but that would be pretty difficult for her to do.  THANKS so much for any advise in advance.  I really do appreciate it!!!

post #5 of 9

A chef's knife shorter than 8" as the "go to" is of questionable utility, even for someone with poor knife skills.  If for no other reason, of the knives you listed, the MAC is the best -- but there are other reasons which put it at the top as well.  However, the "dimples" are more annoying than effective.  The smooth edge is the better knife and worth the extra few dollars. 


While I'm no fan of santokus they're as easy to control and point as any shoft knife, and because of the extra width near the tip are probably more useful than a small chef's.  A santoku, MAC Pro or otherwise, might be a better choice than a chef's.  They're more intuitive and easier to use without making the effort to learn skills.  


It doesn't really matter who sharpens the knive as long as the knife is maintained sharp.



post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks for your responses!  I realize the shorter "chef" knife is not very popular/multi-useful; but she really doesn't like large long knives.  Would any of the other knives at an 8" length top that mac pro?  I do know she has bought a new santuko already so I didn't want to replicate.  As far as sharpening, ohhhhhhh you would be surprised how her knives came back....In fact if I can get her to take a picture I will post it.  mutilated is an apt description.  I have never seen knives "sharpened" (and I use that term loosely) the way hers were. Literally the paring knife was ground down on both sides and into a sort of hook shape.  quite interesting really and rather dull at that.  Thanks again for your assistance.

post #7 of 9

For sharpening, get her a Chef's Choice. Although not optimal, it will do an adequate job of sharpening. When I owned Wushofs, it was what I used. If you get her a Mac, then get the model made for Asian knives, I think it's a '316'. 

post #8 of 9

"Better" is a slippery concept.  You can get better values, you can get better performers, you can't get a better handle, better stiffness (a good thing for people used to western blades) or a better warranty for a Japanese knife -- but that may not meach mean in Thailand. 


I recommend MAC Pro more often than anything else for the first good, Japanese, stainless, Chef's knife.  There's so much to like about them.  If I were buying a knife of that type and in that price range for myself, it would be a Masamoto VG because I value the slightly better blade profile over the other things.  There are still other Japanese knives in more or less the same class which offer more or less the same set of qualities but with this a little better and that perhaps not quite so good.  Tadatsuna, Kikuichi, Misono Moly and 440, Hiromoto G3, Sakai Takayuki Grand Cheff, Togiharu Inox, etc., make wonderful chef's knifes each with its own strengths and weaknesses and each of which would no doubt work very well for your sister. 


Considering her level of knife skills the differences between them probably wouldn't mean as much as they would to someone else.  It would probably be more confusing than helpful for me to break down them all down for you; nor do I have much interest in doing it right now.  And for now, all you really want is a knife that's good enough not to get enough in her way.  MAC fills that bill perfectly. 


But, as long as we're starting to make comparisons...


Kagayaki is an OEM brand specific to JCK.  The Kagayaki VG-10 fits nicely in the group of knives I've mentioned and along with Togiharu is one of the real value leaders.  The only criticisms I have of the VG-10 are related to sharpening and handle size.  I doubt either will be an issue for your sister.  You can save a few dollars compared to the MAC, and she'd probably like either equally.


JCK is located in Japan so the knife would be shipped directly from Japan which would probably reduce your shipping costs as well.


Although most of the guys who haunt internet knife forums are horrified by electric sharpeners, Chef's Choice machines (but not the manual pull throughs) might be a very good idea for your sister.  They don't give you the world's greatest edge, nor do they last forever, but they're so convenient they promote frequent sharpening which makes up for a lot of sins.  Some of the models even have a stage which makes using a steel unnecessary.   They're perfect for people who would otherwise send their knives out only every year or so and rely on a steel, a pull-through, or set of crock-sticks in between. 


I recommend them all the time, and think Pensecola Tiger made a great call by doing so to you -- although the 315S might be a better choice than the 316.   Comparing a CC to her current sharpener is difficult.  What it would cost to get a CC to Thailand I have no idea, nor do I know how much it costs or how inconvenient it is to get her knives competently sharpened there.  I'd guess not much to cost, but skill could be an issue.  If she's already found someone competent the matter is mooted.  The point is to actually sharpen the knife well four or five times a year -- not to mention if and whenever it gets damaged.  


Decent sharpening at appropriate intervals makes for a much better knife than any of the differences between good and very good knives.



post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 

Once again thanks for the responses.  I think I will go with the recommended Mac Pro; it appears to be a knife she can "grow" into as her knife skills develop and the warranty/customer service available is quite a bonus.  Thank you again for your help in ending my indecision.  The Chef's Choice suggestion is also a great one as she really has not found anyone competent to sharpen her knives there.  Thanks!

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