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Need new knives, "grippy handles"??, recommendations please

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

I started a quest recently to find some new knives after cutting myself while using a REALLY dull OXO paring knife. 


What we have now...


Knockoff  Chicago Cutlery Wally World special steak knives - dullest knives in the universe

Several OXO knives - were all dull, but wife likes them for their grippy handles, especially good for cutting mangoes

Henkel 8" chefs knife (Spain) - disappeared, but reappeared after I started reading online.

Kiwis - for $4-7 and they are by far the sharpest knives I've ever used, bought them local to use until I find something decent, mom in law uses them in Thailand


Wife (5ft tall - Thai) had an unmarked double sided Chinese stone, but I really doubt she used it.  Both sides are really rough.  I got a pull through Fiskars at Ikea, if I use low pressure it does sharpen OXOs, but they're still dull compared to the Kiwis.  I read online about wheels and belts, got a Harbor Freight 1" belt sander and a good assortment of quality belts from Lee Valley, haven't used it yet, maybe this weekend.  I also have a 4 sided diamond block from HF, put a fairly good edge on a OXO after using the pull through.


What we need...

1) stainless knives, we will wash/wipe once after finished, rack dry, so carbon is likely out

2) grippy handles, I am actually worried more about this, wife cuts a lot of fruit (mangoes now) that can make her hands slippery

3) something quality that will last a very long time


We have an ok bread knife here, need a good 210mm chefs knife, perhaps a smaller santoku for wife, some smaller petty/paring knives for fruit and stuff.  Use the Henkel for meat only???  I'm trying to find ideas that make sense on how to utilize new/old knives or toss them out.  We have 2 nice big Ikea LÄMPLIG wood cutting boards.


I read a LOT on various forums, so much that I got tired of reading and had to stop for a while.  I read a fantastic post from BDL, seen below, but it was from 2009.  Is there an updated version around?  I do like to cook, but I'm a geek by profession, cooking is a hobby.  Can ya'all offer some help/suggestions please.  I'm not opposed to spending some money on them as long as they are good knives.



More than You Ever Wanted to Know

Hiromoto has two lines, AS and G3 within their top Western style line, Tenmi Jyuraku. They ship with varying symmetry from 50/50 to around 70/30 right-handedness. It doesn't seem likely that it's entirely by accident in that I've never heard of them shipping a left-handed knife.

The entire issue of handedness is overblown here. Any competent sharpener can move the bevel over on almost any gyuto or chef's knife without any real difficulty. Some alloys are very hard to profile, but we don't have to worry about anything more difficult than the Hiromoto AS which isn't all that difficult. I've profiled and sharpened several Hiro AS in less than 45 minutes each on India and Arkansas stones.

Getting back to the Hiromotos. Both the AS and G3 are very good knives. I owned four AS, and liked them but was sufficiently unimpressed that I moved them on and kept my old Sabs. In my opinion the Sabatiers had better geometry and agility and more comfortable handles. Still, the AS are very good knives.

Moreover, it turns out that I don't like "cladded" knives, especially of the san-mai aka warikomi type because they lack a liveliness in the cut and on the board. More than anything else, that was the deal breaker for me. While several other people have said the same thing, to be fair, it's a very uncommon reaction.

All in all, I prefer the G3 to the AS, not for their stain resistance (which doesn't matter to me one way or the other), but for their liveliness. All in all though, as good as the Hiros are, there are a bunch of knives in the same price range which I like better.

Japanese Carbon:

Before getting into the individual knives, they're all a bit thin and whippy compared to a Sabatier carbon. I wouldn't use any of them without having something heavy duty for things like portioning spare ribs, cutting gourds, splitting chickens, etc. Also, all of these run around HrC. And, to cut to the chase, the Masamoto HC is the real standout.

  • Kanemasa "E" -- Value leader. Some fit and finish issues, like a sharp spine and back -- but these can be fixed by the user. Decent handle and geometry. Very reactive steel which doesn't exhibit visible corrosion so much as smell funny until it ultimately settles down. Again, the user can do things to prevent the reaction.
  • Kikuichi Elite (carbon) -- Excellent all around knife. Good value. Me likee.
  • Masamoto HC -- One of the two or three best knives I've ever used. There are some F&F issues which can be resolved by communicating with the seller before purchase. However, they're probably more than you're willing to spend. Excellent comfort, agility, edge taking, and edge holding characteristics, etc. You name it, the HC does it well. The outstanding feature of Masamotos generally is not what they do right, but that they do everything right and nothing at all wrong; and the HC is the quintessential in that way. The HC heads the class of "arguably, the best mass-produced, western-style chef's knife at any price." If you can live with carbon, and you're willing to pay the price -- this is the knife.
  • Masamoto CT -- Without going too much into the details of what makes the HC alloy different from the CT alloy they're very, very similar. Not quite as good in terms of edge characteristics, but it's a difference only an extremely good sharpener using a very good kit would notice.
  • Misono Sweden -- Excellent knife with excellent ergonomics and edge characteristics. However, it's about the most reactive (corrosion prone) carbon steel I've ever used. The knife requires a patina or frequent cleaning with a corrosion inhibitor like baking soda.
  • Togiharu Virgin -- A sort of clone of the Masamoto HC and CT, with a slightly less good handle and geometry. Probably the same alloy as the HC, and in that sense, a value. Being slightly less good than a Masamoto means being very good, indeed. To whatever extent I sound less than enthusiastic, it's misleading. Good value.
French Carbon:

The three modern French carbons, K-Sabatier au carbone, Mexeur et Cie Sabatier au carbone and Thiers Issard **** Elephant Sabatier (“TI” from now on) carbon share very similar blade and handle geometry. The K-Sabs and Mexeurs both have POM handles, while the TIs have stabilized wood. The Mexeurs are hardened a little less, and I don’t like their edge characteristics as much as I like the K-Sabs and the TIs. I mention them only for completeness.

Of the older knives, the “Canadians” and the “Massifs” appear to be the from the same stock, and share the same construction. That is, the only bolster is the finger guard, which is itself a “true bolster,” and the product of martinet forging. The Nogents are an older style based on a rat-tail tang with a somewhat blocky ebony handle.

Almost all of these knives have incredibly good ergonomics, with the exception of Massif “chef de chefs” which aren’t, properly speaking, chef’s knives. Otherwise, you can rate them all “the best” along with the Masamaoto HC. The carbon blades take a very good edge, far better than European stainless, but not quite as good as any of the Japanese carbon or stainless knives. They are subject to waving and rolling, but fortunately can be trued on a steel very easily. The alloys are very tough and it’s very difficult to chip or tear them. These knives are tough enough to split the occasional chicken or trim the odd rack of ribs – but they’re not really heavy enough to do those things on a regular basis. That not only requires something a little more persuasive, but with a more obtuse edge angle as well.

Anyway, here are the Sabs:
  • K-Sabiatier au carbone – My personal favorite, if only for the practicality of a POM handle.
  • K-Sabatier "Canadian" – Very nice knives, but plain looking.
  • Thiers-Issard carbon – Like all TIs, OOTB sharpening issues are frequent. They’re easily rectified by any competent sharpener when the knife is “opened up.” Very attractive knives.
  • Thiers-Issard "Massif" – Originally made for the Canadian market, just like the K-Sabatier Canadians. Despite TI’s marketing, they’re probably the same stock and most likely made in the fifties, rather than just after WWI.
  • Thiers-Issard "Nogent" – Classics. Thinner blades (a good thing) than modern Sabatiers. Pre WWII steel of good purity. Handles are old fashioned, but incredibly comfortable. If you’re into the history of cooking and you want to touch a piece of it every time you cook – these are the way to go. Just like the modern carbons, expect OOTB sharpening issues.
If you’re interested in carbon you’re going to have to make up your mind between French and Japanese knives. They are very different. The French knives are more robust, and with the exception of the Masamotos have better geometry than the Japanese knives.

The Japanese knives get and stay sharper, but the French knives sharpen more easily. You can sharpen French knives effectively on oilstones (but don’t use oil!), but you can’t get the best out of Japanese knives without good waterstones. None of the Japanese knives are built with finger guards, but all of the French knives are. Some people find them a serious obstacle to sharpening, but I don’t.

Almost all of my knives, including all of the important ones, are French carbons. There are a few Japanese knives I’d consider swapping my Sabs for, but of those, only the Masamoto HC are on this list.

And now for something completely different...

Japanese Stainless:
  • Hiromoto AS – Nice knife, warikomi construction with stainless jigane and AS hagane. Surprise! The knife (mostly) has AS edge characteristics. Not particularly easy to sharpen, can be made very sharp, holds the edge well. Use of a steel is iffy, but the AS doesn’t go out of true very easily. AS isn’t stainless, it’s carbon; but corrosion on the edge isn’t much of an issue with the Hiro AS. Mediocre handle, too narrow. Okay but not great geometry. Some people just love them, but in my opinion they’re just one of a number of good knives in the price range and don’t really stand out. Part of that may be because I’ve never met a warikomi knife I’ve really liked.
  • Hiromoto G3. Nice knife, made form a single piece of Hitachi’s excellent G3 stainless. Shares the AS handle and geometry. In my opinion, its “single steel” construction make it a better knife than the AS. It’s less expensive too.
  • MAC Pro – Great handle, good ergonomics, good geometry, excellent stiffness, good but not excellent edge characteristics. Okay, it’s not the best blade alloy money can buy, but only a very proficient sharpener using a top of the line kit could tell the difference – and if the edge geometry is altered to a 15/10 double bevel, it gets as sharp as anything else. The alloy is probably VG-2. A great first Japanese knife, first high quality knife, or a professional kitchen knife. Very robust by Japanese standards. Also, MAC USA provides a good guaranty and excellent support – things that don’t often go with Japanese knives. This is the knife I most often recommend.
  • Misono Moly -- Misono's bottom of their stainless line. Good entry level knife. Good but not great F&F. Get fairly sharp, fairly easily and stay fairly sharp for a fairly long time. Very reasonably priced.
  • MAC Ultimate – Change the goods of the MAC Pro to excellent. Expensive. “Arguably the best mass produced, western stainless chef’s knife at any price. Probably VG-5.
  • Masamoto VG – My personal favorite among all the Japanese stainless knives I’ve tried. Note: The blade is not made from VG-10, and is probably VG-2 or VG-5. It’s more flexible than the MAC, and not as well supported or widely sold. Those reasons are why I don’t recommend it as often.
  • Misono UX-10 – People love its streamlined geometry and great handle. Very sharp OOTB, and a relatively easy knife to sharpen as long as you stick to the factory geometry. Whatever alloy Misono uses is tough to move around, so not an easy knife to profile. Flexible. Expensive.
  • Sakai Takayuki Grand Cheff (yes, with two fs) – Very comfortable knife. A little wide (not thick, thickness describes edge geometry – width is the distance from spine to edge ) at the heel for my tastes. Uses a really nice Swedish alloy called AEB-L, which is the same as Sandvik 13C26, hardened to 58HrC. These are excellent knives, and I’d recommend them more highly but they’re a little tough to get and are essentially unsupported by any American dealer. “Paul’s” in Canada deals them for Canadians, and he has a very good reputation – if you’re Canadian.
  • Togiharu G-1 – Great deal on a VG-10 knife. Ergonomics and geometry similar to the Masamoto, only slightly less good. Korin’s house brand. Probably an OEM effort of some hamono or other that makes a lot of Masamotos.
  • Togiharu Inox -- Same idea as the Misono Moly, but better all around. Attractively priced. Not as good as the other knives listed.
European Stainless:

Some very nice, very expensive customs. But there's nothing in the class of the Japanese stainless discussed in this post. Almost but not quite a total waste.
  • Forschner Fibrox and Rosewoos -- Good for the price, sharpen very easily to "sort of" sharp. Lose their edge even more quickly. They accept steeling well, which is a good thing because they need it constantly. Value leader. Very tough, and not a bad choice for someone who's forced to abuse her knife.
Personally, I’d narrow the stainless field to the MAC Pro and the Masamoto VG, and the carbon field to the K-Sab au carbone, Masamoto HC, Masamoto CT and TI Nogent. But those are personal choices and a lot of the factors driving them probably don’t apply to you.

In any case, this should be enough information to give you an overview.

Hope this helps,
post #2 of 5

No update, yet.  May get around to it, maybe not, never know. 


Victorinox / Forschner Fibrox (Fibrox is their non-slip handle) line seems like it would be ideal for you guys straight across.  You can certainly spend more money on better knives, but I don't think your knife skills, sharpening, and other knife maintenance habits are there yet.  We can talk about which "profiles" and lengths will suit the two of you best if and when you like.


The Forschners won't be as sharp out of the box as the disposable, nor probably will you ever be able to get them that sharp.  It's mostly a function of their relative thicknesses.  However, you can keep Forschners pretty darn sharp for a lifetime.  They're easy to sharpen, and will sharpen quickly and well on a variety of different sharpeners.   


You'll tear up your knives with a belt sharpener.  There's almost no way to avoid rapid destruction -- and no way for a beginner.  So, if you care about preserving your knives and sharpening a truly sharp, fine edge, you'll need to find some other way to sharpen.  We can talk about that too if you like.  But to cut to the chase, for Forschners I recommend an inexpensive set of stones along with a fine steel, or one of the "Chef's Choice" electric sharpeners.


Hope this helps,


post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the feedback BDL.


We are not knife fanatics, nor will we ever be.  Just looking for something better to work with.  If you want to talk about building a mean computer or server setup, programming, I'm all over it.  lol.gif


I'm familiar with the Victorinox / Forschner Fibrox, just wanted something a little better quality.  Are all the Japanese knives handles smooth?   It looks like it.  The Kiwis handles are large, somewhat rough/grippy wood, so they sorta work ok.  We can deal with smooth as long as it is larger and easy to hold, grips well (we both do a pinch grip).  For lengths, my wife can't handle anything larger than 210mm at all, nor is it really necessary for what we do, meat trimming, lots of veggie slicing&dicing, etc.  She almost always uses smaller knives for everything, maybe a 4" blade, don't know why.


I have a good eye, light touch, hopefully some of the finer belts will work ok, or even the polishing leather belt.  If it doesn't work out at all on my "practice knives", I may send them out for sharpening, or just get a better stone(s), not sure.  Here in south Florida, there really doesn't seem to be anyone else to sharpen stuff.



post #4 of 5

The best quality knives are those you can get the sharpest and with which you will be comfortable.  So yes, ergonomics are in the equation but are way south of sharpness.  Your list of priorities started with "grippy" handles, and that's part of the reason I went to the Fibrox knives for you.


As Euro knives Forschners are quite thin and consequently can be made very sharp.  They also take an edge fairly easily.  Where they fall down in terms of performance is their edge holding which is just mediocre.  If they get used a lot, they need a lot of sharpening.  Also, they're very plain-Jane, and not  aesthetically pleasing in the way better knives are.  That's a legitimate concern.  There's no reason you shouldn't have knives you like..


There are lots of Japanese knives (all of them more expensive than the Forschners) which can be made somewhat sharper and will hold their edges quite a bit longer.  The threshold problem is the skill needed to sharpen them -- which you don't have or we wouldn't be talking about belts.  I don't want to recommend something expensive which will only be "better" until the factory edge wears off.


The security of the handle and the length of the blade (for a given profile) is usually more grip dependent than anything else.  A number of Japanese made knives have short handles which may be uncomfortable in large hands -- even with a good pinch (not all pinch grips are equal); and I suppose there are some so large as to handicap someone with small hands, although I've never run into one.


If we're talking about a complete new knife and sharpening kit, I'm going to suggest that you and your wife get your own individual chef's knives (gyutos), and add a slicer, bread, petty, parer and sharpening kit (probably consisting of a combi water stone and fine, ceramic "steel").  Taken with the petty, the parer is a bit redundant but parers are (a) cheap -- even the disposables are fine, and (b) useful for tasks like cutting string, opening packages, thus protecting your petty from generic household use -- so wotthehell.  Besides, everyone should have a few cheap knives.


8" is somewhat limiting for a gyuto.  But if that's the longest knife length with which your wife is comfortable I'm not going to try and sell her on longer.  That said, comfort "pointing" larger knives and using them to do delicate work has far more to do with grip and posture than hand size or stature.  Small women should have no problems with 10" knives (or even longer), but I'm not going to try and sell your wife on that.  You can if you want to, but not me.  I am trying to sell you, though.  How am I doing?


Something else to consider is the size of your cutting board.  If you have a small kitchen with small boards, you won't really be able to make use of a long knife.  Furthermore, bad boards dull knives quickly.  You may want to consider adding a good quality, large board do your list.


You should invest budget more money for the gyutos than the other knives.  That's good generic advice unless you do a lot of specialized work like portioning lots of spare ribs, or you do tons of fish prep, in which case you might want to re-prioritize your budget and/or add a few specialty profiles.


By the way, I own many expensive and/or collectable knives and still use a few Forschners for this and that.  Don't let the low prices fool you.  They are very good knives.


The next thing is to talk about how much you're willing to spend on your entire kit, and on your respective chefs knives in particular; and whether you want the generic kit I recommended or whether you think some specialty profiles will make your time in the kitchen more fun and productive.  Once we have some idea of budget, we'll be able to narrow the territory down to a few brands.





post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 

Yeah, I'm 6' 2", large hands, and worry about getting a knife with a tiny round handle I can't grip well too.  Our Ikea cutting boards are 18x21 each, lipped on the front to hold them in place on the counter top, I think they are beech.  We have 2 Ikea boards (in addition to a bunch of teeny, tiny plastic/glass/other knife wreckers that need to go bye bye) but only using one Ikea board currently although we've have plenty of space for them side by side if we'd do a little counter cleanup and rearranging.  Fresh mangoes are taking priority of space now it seems, don't mind it though.  Her daily smoothies are incredibly delicious!!!


Counter height is tough for her, I've watched and her elbows are literally at counter height so it makes it hard for her to do stuff.  She prefers to use smaller height adjustable tables if she's making a lot of dumplings, slicing up a lot of mangoes to freeze, etc., and lowers them down to work from.


I do want a ceramic "steel", was just putting it off and hoping to buy a few knives at the same time.  Our package openers are a couple utility knives, kitchen knives are safe.


I have a old knife block, but also got one of these to put in drawers, haven't used it yet though.



Price isn't all that critical...$200 for a really chefs knife is ok.  I can see where a larger knife would be useful when I dice up a pile of onion and tomato for salsa, but I can easily get by with a 210mm knife too, use this size now anyway.  Meat use here is usually limited to cutting up boneless meats in smaller quantities, only for 2 people, slicing chicken, pork, cutting a piece of fish in half.  Tomorrow is pizza from scratch day, tons o' mushrooms, onions, peppers, spicy turkey sausage.


Grrrr, maybe I should just give up on the Japanese knife idea and just get some cotton picking Forschners.  My original thought was get one good chefs knife, maybe a smaller version (santouku?) for her, and perhaps 2 pettys & parers.  Heck, I could even buy a lot of disposable $6 Kiwis and never re-sharpen them at all, but HATE being wasteful though.  I've spent far to much time reading about knives, now you know how I found your post from 2009, not to mention the other forums I read.


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