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Identifying and possibly refurbing old Sabatier knives?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I'm just a modest home cook interested in improvement. Given I have to fund my kitchen on a reasonably tight budget, I've "upgraded" my knives over time and most of my favorites are Forschners. However, I have a a few Sabatier knives I inherited from my grandfather (a Chef). The ones in best shape are a chef 10 and chef 12.  Both show evidence of hard use over the years with wear to the handles and pitting on the blades (the 12 has suffered more). Given the wear,as best I can tell, they bear a the stamp "Sabatier", "Made in France" and "K". My best guess is the knives were purchased in the 50s or 60s.

 

The 12 has pretty significant pitting that encroaches on the edge in the first 2 inches or so of the tip. The 10 has much less wear and with an hour or so on my Lanskey set it's now sharp enough that I was unaware I cut myself during the process until seeing a pool of blood on the table.

 

My Forshner Santoku has become my "go-to" knife for chopping veggies by virtue of blade thinness, but the 10 in. Sabatier is great for dealing with meat or when I need a "stupid sharp" blade.  I'd like to improve my technique and if the Sabatiers are worth it, I'd like to put them to better use. Is pitting a death knell to these? Is it possible to have them refurbished? Who can do this? Are they worth it? They'll certainly take an edge like nothing else I own (the 10 at least).

 

Thanks,

 

Doug


Edited by Phreon - 12/23/10 at 8:35pm
post #2 of 7

It depends on how extensive & how deep the pitting is.  Any chance of getting a few pictures, even if just cell phone snaps?

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

I took a snap with my cell phone, including my 7 in. Forschner Santoku as a control.  The Sabatiers are an 8 an 10 in. by the way; I don't know what I was thinking in my first post.

 

Both were in rough shape when I took possession of them: I scrubbed them with 00 steel wool, cleaned, dried, seasoned with a bit of shortening and then took to sharpening.  The 10 is the one I worry about the most, the pitting (dark blob from tip to belly) is extensive and can be felt with a fingernail. The mottling on the 8 is little more than cosmetic.  On both, the worse side is shown.

 

IMG_20101226_103425.jpg

 

IMG_20101226_110202.jpg

 

Looking at the above, I'm thinking the 10 in. is shot or repairs are at least beyond what the knife is worth (sentimental attachments aside).

 

Thanks,

 

Doug


Edited by Phreon - 12/26/10 at 8:13am
post #4 of 7

The knives look fine. All you need to do is gently clean them with a little lemon juice, salt and baking soda - just enough to extract some of the oxidation(rust) that is still living in the micro-pits. Rinse and dry well and coat them with some food grade mineral oil. (That can be found at your local drug store, for cheap) You can use mineral oil on the handle as well as the knife steel.

 

Since you really plan to use them - and that's great by the way - Go ahead and sharpen them whichever way you are comfortable - maybe reset the tips, so they are back to 100%.

 

I reset rounded tips on a stone, pushing the back-strap of the knife in such a motion that I can blend the contour of the spine very evenly into the new tip. If you lived in AZ I would do it for you.

 

Anyway - Yes, your knives are old. But they are still knives. If the cut and the handles are good - your Grandfather would be very proud to know he is always part of what's going on with your work. This is the same reason I love old cast iron - every time I use it, I have to imagine how many mothers, grandmothers, thanksgiving dinners, etc... went through the same pan.

 

Your grandpa fed his family, by feeding others with that knife in his hand. I could not imagine doing anything BUT using them!  

 

Believe me - They are FINE. There is nothing wrong with them. If you encounter a small rust pit on the cutting edge, just consider it like a small nick - that happens on regular knives all the time. My Minsono has a small nick on it that will probably take three weeks of use to "wear through" - but it's a tool, not a diamond ring - nicks are expected.

 

You have a great set of knives there. Congradulations. I hope you post some pics of you working with them and feeding your family!

Do or Do not - There is no Try. - Yoda
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Do or Do not - There is no Try. - Yoda
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post #5 of 7

Yeah, those look quite good to me. If you're quite sure the 10" is shot, I'd be willing to be a Good Samaritan and take it off your hands.... lol.gif

post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the encouraging words.  I was worried about the 10 because the pitting seems deep to me (is easily felt) and is sure to lead to a weird, though perhaps not terrible edge.The handles are pretty grayed and there's a bit of green corrosion around the rivets on the 10, but I'm thinking some 0 or 00 steel wool taken to the handle followed by mineral oil might spruce them up.

 

I was horrified to find those knives had spent time sitting in dish-water *and* in a dish washer while in the hands of their previous trustee, but in the balance, I can't stay mad since she gave birth to me.

 

I'm working to improve my sharpening skills and have plenty of questions  (another post or five), so I'm not quite comfortable attempting to reshape knives that mean something to me. Know anyone in or near Ohio who could help? I'm willing to pay/ship to have these cleaned up, but I wouldn't know who to trust since I've always sharpened my own knives.

 

Thanks,

 

Doug


Edited by Phreon - 1/21/11 at 4:00pm
post #7 of 7

You're in good shape, Doug.

 

From looking around this site (I'm new here also) - Seems like there are lots of reputable folks on here that would be happy to tune your knives. I just picked up three "Old rusty knives" from an antique store in Yuma, AZ this weekend. I thought of your post when I elected to buy them. Two are 12" and one is an 8" - all carbon steel, French-style, pitted and damaged much worse than the one you posted.

 

My process for recovery jobs like this has more to do with returning them to service and less to do with protecting any "antique/collector" value.

For YOU: I suggest asking one of the forum Pros to do it right. You will be happy and your knife will be subject to minimum pain and maximum benefit.

 

For me... I would do that too, if it was a knife that really had personal value to me. But everything else gets the redneck garage treatment: Aggresive but effective:

 

I start by cleaning each knife - scrubbing them down well with baking soda, sea/Kosher salt and lemon juice. Scrub the crap out of them with green scratch pads - handles, knife, everything.

 

Wash them well in hot soapy water - really hot, so they dry-out faster. Wipe them as dry as possible after rinse.

 

Coat them with food-safe mineral oil - just to keep any rust at bay during the refurb process.

 

Now the fun part: I have a belt sander with about 220-grit paper on it. The sander has a perfectly flat, steel "runway" that the paper glides over. The flat surface makes a good working platform for what happens next. (Keep in mind, we're talking about knives that have been abused, poorly sharpened and have zero edge symmetry or uniformity... that's why this is an OPTIONAL but sometimes needed step. Your knife doesn't look to need this step....)

 

I trigger and lock the belt sander "ON", and place it up-side-down on a newspaper to stablize it. Then I hold the knife like I would on a cutting board, and GENTLY glide heel-to-tip, using that flat runway surface as my simulated cutting board, and completely remove the old edge - until I have a very smooth, uniform result. This is where you set how the knife "lands" - I take it off frequently and place it flat on my work surface to check for wobble - To make sure it lands solid on the counter, with no air-space under the blade, and no rocking - just a nice flat landing position. It should then easily transition to the forward radius, as if you were slicing something - So the whole of the knife profile will uniformly and nicely rock from heel to tip, but keep that nice, solid landing position, without an obvious "breaking feel" as you go from flat to tip. I hope that makes sense. If you have ever used a knife that had "break points" in it's forward/backward action, you understand what we're correcting here.

 

After the knife edge is uniform and the action is nice and smooth - the knife is also safe enough to work on. I don't remove the scales and rivets if I can avoid it. But you can sand and clean the handles, make sure that they handles, rivets and tang of the knife are all flush and perfectly fitted. Make sure the wood-to-bolster is also smooth, aligned and fitted.

 

Then, if needed, even-out the metal on the bolster. I see a lot of knives where the bolster isn't perfectly bilateral, or where sharpening or grinding/filing-away metal on each side is apparent. You want to smooth these sides out and recondition/re-uniform the bolster.

 

Then sand-down the backstrap(spine) of the knife, to remove dings, rust divots and crud. This is also where you can gently slope-in a new tip. I'd rather deal with a broken tip than a bent tip. If it is too bent, I will just profile-in a new tip and get rid of the defect - Makes the knife 1/4" shorter maybe, but is worth just dealing with the issue.

 

Now it is sanding time. I hand-sand the knife metal instead of using a sander. Start with 220 grit, but be gentile. Then 400, until it is looking like brushed steel - You will really be able to see the pits and defects at that point. Then go to 600 grit.You can stop there, or go 800, 1000, 1200, 1500, 2000 . . . But 600-800 grit is as good as you need with carbon steel. Lets be realistic here.

 

Now your handle, bolster, spine, tip, edge and body have all been "stripped and repaired".

 

Do your fine sanding on the handle, dip it in mineral oil and let it soak in. Wipe it down well. You could treat it, seal it, use food safe stain, whatever you want. I have been OK with just using mineral oil and bees wax on all my wood stuff. Just maintain it.

 

Now the fun (or dreaded) part... Taking that (now up to 1/16th inch wide and flat) edge and putting a new, perfectly profiled, perfectly angled, perfectly sharp edge on it.

 

Since the real knife guys will already shoot me for the way I have gone thus far with my restore... They can educate on putting a new edge on. I'd say now is not the time to use a stone.

 

I don't have the type of belt sander or wheels used by professional sharpeners to put a new edge on, and maintain heat control. I just setup my Lansky and stone a new edge on from Extra Coarse (black/70 grit), Coarse (Red/120 grit), Medium (Green/280 Grit), Fine (Blue/600 Grit).

 

They have agressive diamond profiling stones, I just use the black stone to set the profile.

 

Once you get the edge to about medium or fine - you can finish the job on a real stone (flat/water stone) - or whatever you have. You can use the Lansky Ultra Fine (Yellow/1000 Grit) stone if you want - but this is why I don't go that far...

 

The Lansky is great for what it does - reprofile and set an edge bevel. BUT It is a pain to always have to set the guide in the same place and secure it to the knife every time, if you used it as a primary sharpening/maintenance tool. I set-in my back-bevel at this stage, and then use my SpyderCo or a waterstone to set the primary bevel I'll actually want. Makes life easy that way.

 

Now that your edge is set, your blade is sharp and your knife is at 100% again - you need to get back to cooking!

 

I just do my shade tree refurbish of old knives as a hobby - and to give them away to people who want to cook, but have crappy knives as an excuse NOT to cook. It's just fun for me.

Maybe some day I will invest in the proper equipment for full knife repair at the professional level. But as long as the guys on this and knife forums are alive and well - I'll leave the expert stuff to them. ; )

 

 

 

Do or Do not - There is no Try. - Yoda
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