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First knife

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

So I'm going to be moving into my own apartment and outfitting a kitchen and while I've done a bit of reading (including the thread further down the page about nearly the same thing) it seems hard to pin down anything specific. From reading it does seem like Japanese style knives are almost strictly superior to Western ones, but that could just have been bias in here I was reading.


As far as experience goes, I've done a fair bit of cooking but always with communal (read: crap) knives, pretty much someone went out and grabbed the cheapest knife block, painfully dull. I've never personally owned knives and as such have zero experience with sharpening and other maintenance but I'm certainly willing to learn.


Right now I'm looking to pick up a nice chef's knife and perhaps a nice paring knife, I don't forsee the need for much else. There's no fixed budget since I do believe in long term investing but my understanding is that beginner attempts at honing/sharpening tend to do bad things to knives and as such, perhaps something cheaper is better. I assume I'll also need some sort of sharpening kit.


I read around and the Tojiro DP seems to be quite good price/value but is a bit pricy considering that I'm not sure if I'll destroy it while attempting to sharpen. The Victorinox 40520 Fibrox was recommended as a good cheap knife. I had a cooking instructor who swore by his shun knives, but those things are seriously pricy.


All in all, I'd like a nice knife, I welcome any recommendations or advice you might have.


tldr: First kitchen, first knife, no sharpening experience, suggestions?


post #2 of 15

Mac Professional will come sharp out of the box.  Get a longer knife than you might, thougtlessly, want.  They're light and easy to "learn" and more efficient, less quickly dulled, should you have enough space for something between 9 1/2 and 10 1/2 " long.


Mac knives can be kept "adequate" with a rollsharp sharpener.  They have great handles, good steel, good profiles.


If you're willing to put in the work to get competent with water-stones, sharpening yourself, then other recommendations come very easily.  But the Mac will "wait" for you to get there.


That said, my own experience says Yoshihiro, stainless, from Japanese Knife Imports.  That is after experience with both the Macs and a JCK CarboNext.  The Yoshiro is a bit harder to sharpen than the CarboNext, but came with a better grind on the original knife.  A wa-handle is lighter.  And the advantages of stainless are noticeable, as are some disadvantages.


I paid more for a 4-hour sharpening lesson than I did for the knife.  If you're not into putting that kind of up-front investment into it, the Mac Professional is the way to go.  Again, you can sharpen with a rollsharp, and get a good functional edge, until you're ready to learn to put a lot more into it.


Dealing with the Forschner/fibrox recommendation you got... yes, if you want to spend a whole lot less and have a good functional knife.  Unless you're dealing with frequently greasy hands, you might do better to get the Forchner/Victorinox Rosewood in place of the Fibrox handles.  They're more comfortable and more attractive, and only a tiny bit more money.


These knives will take a good edge, while not retaining it as well as a Mac or various Japanese knives.  They have an "ok" profile, more belly than the Japanese knives but nowhere near the most.


I'm throwing out there more than I should in semi-definite terms. Others can ask better questions to get you zeroed in on what's best for you at this particular time.  But I hope to have given some food for thought at least, in the meantime, for better questions.


Just going with the minimal answer to "First kitchen, first knife, no sharpening experience, suggestions?" I'd recommend a Mac Professional, at least the 9 1/2" chef's, and a rollsharp with an open attitude to better sharpening experience.  That, especially if for you the originally outlay of cash isn't problematic.


Edited by Wagstaff - 8/4/11 at 6:52am
post #3 of 15

What Wagstaff said.


Let me fill in a few blanks. 


The drawback of taking a Rollsharp to a MAC Pro is that a Rollsharp doesn't leave anywhere near as fine an edge as the MAC should have.  But it does leave an acceptably sharp edge, which is a very good thing.  Score it, "glass 2/3 full."


There are other sharpening systems which will do a better edge and also have fairly flat learning curves. But they're more expensive.  You may be exactly the sort of person who can benefit from a Chef's Choice machine, for instance.  Or not.  Let's talk some more.


I suggest avoiding Shun chef knives like the plague.  If you've fallen in love with a Shun at the store, we can discuss what you like and why I think they're better left for other people. 


When it comes to Japanese vs. European, it's not a question of superiority so much as "horses for courses."  Japanese made knives tend to be lighter, take a better edge, and hold it longer than even the very best mass-produced European knives.  Also, Japanese chef's knives are most often "French" profile, which compliments good knife skills better than the "German" profile used on most (non-French) European and U.S. made chefs knives.


On the other hand, high-end European and U.S. knives are frequently more abuse-tolerant, and (typically) better fit and finish.  Their handles are usually better adapted to a variety of hand sizes.


But notice how I've caveated the comparison with terms like "tend," and "frequently," while avoiding absolutes.  What's generally true isn't always true.


Victorinox's R. H. Forschner lines, Fibrox and Rosewood, represent a LOT of value.  They're very good beginners' knives.  And an excellent choice for someone whose plan includes learning to sharpen freehand, or someone who wants to keep the budget tight.  Because they're thinner than most Euros, and use the same steel alloy as some of the very best western manufactured knives they actually take a better edge than nearly all of them, but hold it just as well. 


There are two major ways to make knife blanks, and Forschners are stamped and not "forged," the less expensive method.  People who don't know knives very well, see that as a drawback and downgrade any stamped knife as inferior.  But we've learned over the years that isn't true; and in the case of Forschners makes the advantages of thin and light possible.


Regardless of almost every other consideration, any sharp knife will perform better than any dull one.  Figuring out sharpening should be your first priority.  There are several good ways to sharpen, and it won't be too hard to find one which suits you.


Anyway, you've got a lot of wonderful choices discussed in this thread, and can't go wrong with any of them.  If you like we can narrow things down further.  All it takes is a few more specific questions on your part.



post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 

MAC pros look like a pretty solid choice and it's nice that they can be kept adequate with a rollsharp, but I definitely want to learn how to hard sharpen knives and honestly, I don't think I can justify 1. practicing on one of those and 2. spending so much on both knives and sharpening lessons. The yoshiro is slightly cheaper but I have the same concern that I'm just going to destroy whatever knife I get first and as such should spring for a cheapish and durable knife.


It sounds like the the Forschner Rosewood would be a pretty solid choice for those two criteria, though I'm not sure how much the sharpening skills translate to Japanese style knives.


I really would like to learn how to hand sharpen knives because from what I read, it seems like it takes a very good machine to equal an adequate hand sharpening job. I'm willing to put in the time and effort here, so why not?

post #5 of 15

of course money is a concern.


I mentioned the Yoshihiro to talk about my path (so far) -- but I got talked OUT of a laser by the proprietor of Japanese Knife Imports; and I got talked out of it in part beacause I needed something less expensive first, and something less "delicate", at least until I learned to sharpen by hand and know what I'm getting myself into.  I LOVE the Yoshihiro -- and it's better than my previous "knife du jour" choice, the Kagayaki CarboNext, in various ways.  I was attached to Carbon, because my prior knives were (are) Sabatier Nogent, carbon steel knives.  So I thought CarboNext based on all the favorable comparisons to some other low-stain carbons.  But it had an overgrind issue that I didn't know enough to spot before a long sharpening lesson.  So that's a "flavor du jour" mistake.  It's still a pretty damn great knife, actually. 


The Mac won't have those issues.  Whether you can justify  practicing with one of those isn't for me to say... I got talked out of practicing on a "beater" but that was easy for me -- I'd already scheduled a lesson from someone who knew what he's doing.  If you're really just going it alone, with online videos and such, I think the Forschner/Victorinox is a fine choice.  And the sharpening skills will translate just fine.  If my own experience is any guide, you'll have to learn to relax and give LIGHT pressure to minimize wobble, and you'll have to learn to get around the curve up to the tip without making it ugly.  The latter lesson I'm still learning... but there's very little you can't fix if you get it wrong.  Harder steels will be  more difficult, so that's where the lesson doesn't entirely translate, but... it really shouldn't matter too much.  You need to learn to relax and use light-enough pressure and minimize wobble. On whatever.  The stone choice will matter a bit, the steel choice will matter a  bit, but paying attention will matter the most on whatever kind of knife you use.


If you want to save some money up front and practice, I think the Forschner/Victorinox is a great first choice.  If you get the fever (which I still  have as a total beginner) you'll want some Japanese knives before you're done.  But even after the Japanese knives, I wouldn't mind having a 10" Forschner/Victorinox chef's to use and to work varying sharpening practices with.  In other words, you'll end up with more than one, either way.  Because it's all so interesting.  Do you want to start with something that translates largely, or do you want to start with the "real thing" and take chances of making it less than beautiful?  Either way works just fine.


And I'd avoid the plague more than Shun knives.  But I'm just being literal.  I'd avoid both, provided the Shun aren't free.  (The plague I wouldn't pay for, either).

post #6 of 15

By "hand sharpening," presumably you're talking about freehand sharpening on bench stones.  At the end of the day, it's probably the best way to get a truly superior edge on a difficult blade.  Beyond that -- speaking, perhaps not ex cathedra, but as someone who is a good freehander, and has been for decades -- I'm not so sure.  It seems to me that for everything but a few styles of knives that the Edge Pro and the Wicked Edge (by reputation, I've never used the WEPS), can do excellent work with a far flatter learning curve.


Not that I'm trying to talk you out of learning to freehand.  I'm all for it.


There are a lot of ways to approach sharpening.  The most powerful and best is the burr - deburr method.  E-Gullet has a good FAQ by Chad Ward describing how to do it.  Steve Bottorff has a website.  Chef Knives To Go has an excellent (and free!) series of videos posted.  Perhaps the two best books on the subject are Razor Edge Sharpening by John Jurantich and An Edge in the Kitchen by Chad Ward.  You might also want to poke around the sharpening article at CookFoodGood.


Considering where you are in your journey you may want to buy Ward's book.  There's a lot there which will help you get a clearer look at the lay of the land before you start spending serious coin (if you ever do).  Jurantich's book might be better borrowed.  As it John only discusses the sort of stones which aren't fast enough for the sort of hardened blades which represent today's best.  But, read it if you can.  Most of what I understand about the practical aspects of sharpening originated with things learned from John.


Although I've learned important things from all of those guys (and many more), I don't sharpen exactly like any of them, or -- except for the basics -- much like any of them.   But at least they'll give you an appreciation of some of the possibilities and a powerful way of looking at the process.  I see that as:  Shaping, raising a burr, chasing the burr, deburring, and (possibly) polishing.  It's not the only way of understanding the subject, but it's probably the best and most powerful especially where western style edges, i.e., bevelled on both sides, are concerned.  It's also the easiest way to learn and improve.


A very important lesson to be gleaned from these sources is that everyone -- at least anyone who's any good -- sharpens at least a little differently.  At some point, you'll have to find what works best for you.


At $40, a 10" Forschner chefs has a lot of good things going for it.  It's light for a European type knife, comfortable, gets sharp, is easy to maintain on a steel, and is well finished.  On the downside it goes out of true very easily (good thing it's so easy to steel), dulls quickly, and is not very agile.


A better, although more expensive choice might be something like a Fujiwara FKM or Tojiro DP -- each around $80 for a 24cm blade.  Not that either doesn't have its own issues, but they're entry-level, good gyutos (Japanese made chefs knife) and better in almost every way than a Forschner -- the exception being fit and finish and perhaps some handle issues.  I think you'd get more out of starting with one of them than a Forschner, much as I like Forschner.  They get sharper, cut better, and you'll enjoy your knife more.


Now, I actually own, use and like a few Forschners but no inexpensive gyutos.  This is a "do as I say and not as I do" sort of recommendation, and I don't know how you feel about that.  Chalk it up to our very different histories and current circumstances.


A lot of people learn to sharpen on beaters.  I didn't, but that doesn't mean it isn't a good idea for some people.  The most important thing is that you're comfortable and not distracted by extraneous circumstances.  It's not very complicated.  Mostly you have to learn to listen to and use your body.  The less your head is filled with thoughts the better the whole thing will go.


Sharpening lessons aren't a bad idea -- depending on the teacher's approach and skill level.  If you're going to pay, don't pay much.  Also, if you are going to take a class, I don't want to get any more specific about sharpening recommendations so as not to conflict with your teacher. 



post #7 of 15

I think the pricing has gone up on Tojiro at least since BDL last checked.  Or else BDL has better sources than I know about.  A 240mm Tojiro DP gyuto looks to be $100.  Still less than a Mac or various other choices, but around 20% more than $80.


Again, maybe there are less expensive sources I don't know about.

post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 

The real question is whether you'd take a shun if it came with a free plague?


I definitely just have a tendency to avoid buying anything nice until I feel at least somewhat confident I'm not going to go ruin it. That might just be me, but it means I'm probably not going for a MAC pro, at least not to start with.


Thanks for the sharpening resources, I'll definitely look those over later.


I'll definitely consider getting the two Japanese knives you recommended. Tojiro DPs look to be about 100 for the 240, but the Fujiwara FKM is about 80. Is there a significant difference there?

post #9 of 15

Oh well.  At $100 they're still cheaper than a MAC Pro, but not very attractive compared to a Fujiwara FKM as an entry-level.



post #10 of 15



I'm looking for a bday gift for my husband and I came across your post regarding Miyabi Kaizen chef's knife at SLT and I love how that knife looks!

How does Fujiware compare to Miyabi Kaizen?


Budget is not really the issue but we're both not experienced and don't know how to sharpen. I just don't want to spend hundreds of dollars for something we won't be able to get the benefit from.

I don't mind learning how to sharpen but video would really help more than reading (english is not my first language).






Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

Oh well.  At $100 they're still cheaper than a MAC Pro, but not very attractive compared to a Fujiwara FKM as an entry-level.





post #11 of 15

The Kaizen are a different kettle of fish than the Fujiwara.  Miyabi is wholly owned by Zwillings (aka Henckels), and while Kaizens are very much Japanese knives, they're also Zwillings with all the fit and finish and factory support that implies.  A Fujiwara is a high performance knife at a good price, but can't compete with Miyabi at what  Zwillings does best. 


There's so much individual taste involved it's hard to say which knife someone will like best, but because Fujiwaras are a little rougher and a little more entry-level, I don't really see them as gift-like as the Miyabis.


There are a lot of good ways to keep a knife sharp.  Sharpening freehand on bench stones is one of them, but only one.  I suspect a Chef's Choice electric machine might suit you better.  It's not perfect, but it's convenient enough to get used when needed and that means a lot.  I'd hate to see you spend a lot of money on a knife you won't keep sharp.  You're looking at about $80, for one of their "Asian," two stage, electric machines.  There are cheaper ways to go about it, but none of them nearly as fast and convenient. 


Please ask any questions you have,


post #12 of 15



Can you elaborate more on this: "A Fujiwara is a high performance knife at a good price, but can't compete with Miyabi at what  Zwillings does best."

I'm a newbie when it comes to knives and I know nothing what Zwillings does best. I'm assuming since they are bigger company, the support I'll get is better?


I really don't mind learning how to sharpen the knife freehand on bench stones. I just need to probably see a video to make sure I follow the instruction correctly.

I've read your recommendation and Bester 1200 is something I can afford. I'm still not clear on whether that is the only stone I'd need for sharpening or if I need a 2nd stone.


I've checked out the Chef's Choice and they have several 2 stage electric machine. Can you help point me to the model you're referring to?


At this point, I'm leaning towards Miyabi as it looks awesome as a gift. Do you have other options to recommend? I was considering a Kagayaki VG-10 Gyuto 240mm as well.

As much as I can stretch the budget a bit more, I still can't justify spending too much money while our cooking skills are not that good :)

Fyi, I will be using the knife as well as I cook more than he does. Lol.



Thanks for your help,


post #13 of 15

I would suggest reading the resources recommended and maximize your existing knives by learning how to sharpen and various knife cutting techniques. I believe the Edge Pro is one of the more easier sharpening systems to learn and there are sources on the internet on how to use your kitchen knives.


I started with Jurantich's book almost 20 years ago and still use the same techniques but implement them differently. I now use a $40 1 x 30 inch belt sander to do the tough job of the Secondary edge (Relief edge) and a stone for the Primary. It took me a while to get to where I am now and I don't enjoy sharpening like I use to thus the belt sander works great for what I want to accomplish.


I recently traded a $12 sharpened Update International 8 inch Chef's knife for a dull 10 inch Forshner. Hopefully I can find someone that has a dull Fujiwara FKM or Tojiro that wants my now razor sharp 10 inch Forshner :>





post #14 of 15

The Chef's Choice model 316 would probably be your best choice for all of your 15 degree edges.  It costs about $80, and is available from Amazon and numerous retailers.


It will take the place of a sharpener and a steel.  If you're going to use it for western made knives, the machine will convert their angles -- probably 20* or 22* -- to 15*.  That's not necessarily a bad or good thing.  It depends on the knives.


Another issue with Chef's Choice is cleaning.  They do load up and do need regular cleaning.


John R is right.  Edge Pros are excellent sharpeners.  They're more versatile than Chef's Choice machines in the sense that you can set almost any angle.  You can certainly create a more refined edge. While they're easy to learn, they're not as easy as a CC.  They're also substantially less convenient and more than twice the price. 


There are a number of good ways to sharpen.  Three of the best are free-hand sharpening on bench stones, a tool and jig like the Edge Pro, and Chef's Choice machines.  I'm trying to help you find a system that not only works, but will work well for you.  It seems like you've read some of what I've read, and you probably know that I use bench stones, and have for years.  But just as the particular knives I choose for myself aren't necessarily best for you, so it is with sharpening. 


If it seems like I'm pushing the CC, I'm really not.  I'm doing a lot of reading between the lines to try and figure out what would work best in your kitchen -- but that doesn't mean I pegged you correctly.  It's a question of "horses for courses," and the first consideration is choosing something which will not only give you a good edge, but which you'll actually use frequently. 



Edited by boar_d_laze - 8/21/11 at 7:13am
post #15 of 15

There are many excellent choices for your first knives and sharpening systems.  The traditional German style knives are heavier, with thicker blades and full bolsters.  Lines like Wusthof Classic or Henckels Professional (Pro) "S" are big sellers on the high end.  They are somewhat more forgiving in that the steel is slightly softer than most Japanese knives, and less likely to be damaged by a novice user. 


I have not met a modern Japanese high end knife I did not like.  Mac, Global, Shun, Henckels Twin Cermax are a few I have used.  They are generally super sharp right out of the box.  Much of what you will like comes down to how it feels in your hand or how big your hand is.  I strongly recommend a trip to a retailer like Williams and Sonoma that stocks a variety of quality cutlery, to take a "test drive".     


My experimentation with sharpening systems has me settled on Japanese waterstones to hand sharpen all my knives.  There are some videos on YouTube that can help you get started.  I would suggest starting with a medium grit stone or combination of medium and fine. 


You can get some good buys on Ebay.  I also like to shop with online retailer Cutlery and More.  Do look at the clearance section.  There are some Henckels Twin Cermax utility knives there now that are an absolute steal.    

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