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Looking for some knives (yes another beginner knife thread)

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

Hi all,

Am looking at purchasing my first "real" knives.

I've narrowed down my selection somewhat but am still overwhelmed by the amount of choice out there and after some guidance.


Here is some of my criteria for choosing knives:

- I'm looking to spend around $300-400 in total.

- Must be made from Damascus steel. I know this might mean in inferior knife, but I absolutely adore the look!

- Japanese knife - I much prefer the lightness of the Japanese knives

- Western handle - I prefer the feel of a slightly contoured handle.

- 50/50 blade with "universal" handle... I'm right handed and my missus is left handed, so we both need to be able to use the knives with ease.

- I have a nice large 45cm x 30cm end wood chopping board.

- I am new to sharpening but keen to learn and will read up more on whetstones when I get the chance.

- The knives will be looked after (hand cleaned and wiped after each use).


I'm thinking i'll need 3 knives, partially so the missus and I can both cut things at the same time.

- 8" Gyuto

- 7" Santoku

- 4-6" Petty


Some knives i've bee looking at:

- Hattori HD / Ittosai Kotetsu / Maruyoshi - VG10, all appear to be the same and get decent reviews

- Tojiro DP Damascus - appears to be a great budget / first timers knife

- Kagayaki Aogami Super - Not VG10, more expensive

- Tamahagane San Damascus - SUS410 outer, VG5 core

- Kanetsu Blue - VG10

- Tenmi Jyuraku Damascus - VG10, Look fantastic!! slightly more expensive - same as Hattori KD?

- Kanetsugu Saiun - VG10

- Myabi Kaizen - VG10, seem very reasonably priced


I could go on and on...

Currently i'm leaning towards the Tenmi Jyurku Damascus because they look incredible, but king of out of my budget.

Am open to suggestions or someone to knock some sense into me :P


Thanks in advance.


post #2 of 17

As a homecook I also love damascus steel knives. I own a few of the ones you mentioned.

Hattori HD are incredibly fantastic knives! Can be sharpened to totally scary results!! The Hattori HD santoku is the best selling knife by JCK since years, month after month.

I acquired a Kanetsugu Saiun 210mm slicer and the 90mm parer. Both dimensions/styles don't seem to be widely available with Japanese suppliers but they are both very popular dimensions/styles in Europese kitchens. Both are excellent.. after sharpening. There is an issue with the handle; the ferrules on both sides are not aligned properly. It's a minor thing, but it's there. They do have the biggest (micarta) handle I have ever seen on a western style Japanese knife. Here are the HattoriHD240 and both Saiuns.




You forgot the Gekko available by JCK (look in the specials section. They are VG10 and a total delight to work with. Best quality/price ratio ever!! I would recommend these to anyone!

Here the Hattori 240 again and the 210 Gekko. (I prefer 210s to work with, but that's merely a personal choise)




Four thing maybe for your information;

1. Your damascus blades will get scratched when sharpening. I already polished the Saiun parer to get rid of sharpening marks.

2. VG10 is a very hard steel which also implies somewhat brittle steel. Abusing VG10 knives with trying to cut far too tough ingredients like lobstershells can chip them.

3. All VG10 knives from any supplier need 2-3 sharpening sessions to perform at their peak! Don't know why, but it's a fact.

4. VG10s are notoriously difficult to sharpen properly since the steel is very hard.

post #3 of 17

+1 to Chrisbelgium, good advice.


I would also offer that a 7" santuko is probley a bit redundant if your also going to buy an 8" gyuto.The gyuto's will do everything a Santuko will do and generally better once you get used to the knife. Perhaps a Suji would round out your collection and offer a bit more flexibility.

post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks for your reply Chris - those knives do look great!

I've just found out a mate has ordered one of the Shiki damascus knives and has offered to let me try it when it arrives - will take him up on that.


I must admit that I don't particularly like the hammered look, otherwise you're right those Gekko ones would be great value for money.

I'm also quite particular about fit and finish, so maybe the Kanetsugu isn't for me.


The more Damascus layers, the more the knife seems to appeal to me - I just think they look better..

EG: Tenmi Jyuraku Damascus and JCK Athros specials look amazing.

The price does hike a bit.


Can I assume that the performance of these will be much the same as any other VG10 knife? Essentially we're cutting with the same steel.


I guess the knives that interest me more are the Tamahagane San Damascus, as they can be had locally very cheap (about $200 for all 3)

and the Myabi Kaizen  because they can be had for about $300 for 3 knives online.

All of the others seem to be considerably more.


I guess i'm after the best value for money damascus steel knives without sacrificing on looks.

Hah, I realise my priorities are wrong but i'm weird like that :)



post #5 of 17
Originally Posted by fury View Post

....Can I assume that the performance of these will be much the same as any other VG10 knife? Essentially we're cutting with the same steel.


.....I guess the knives that interest me more are the Tamahagane San Damascus, as they can be had locally very cheap (about $200 for all 3)


....I guess i'm after the best value for money damascus steel knives without sacrificing on looks.

Hah, I realise my priorities are wrong but i'm weird like that :)


The performance of a knife has much to do with how thin they are overall and especially in the region of the blade following immediately behind the cutting edge and of course how well it's sharpened. So, all knives are made different and will work differently even when they are constructed from the same material. The tempering of the knife is also a big factor. My own experience is that the best performing one I know off is the Hattori HD followed by the Gekko. (I'm only speaking of knives I own and use of course).


I believe you are talking about the Tamahaganes made by Brieto. I have this "bird beak" parer. Longest handle for a bird beak ever seen. Difficult to sharpen due to the shape of the knife.


Finally, I also always went my own way when buying knives and I don't regret it. And there's certainly nothing weird about having your very own priorities.


Picture; Tamagahane bird beak. The other one is a HiromotoAS santoku.



post #6 of 17

I have about 5 different brands of knives and love them all, but my personal favorite is a chef knife I received as a gift that was handmade by a small firm called Salter Fine Cutlery.  They use Japanese blades.  I have a chef knife made from a steel called ZDP-189 and a Santoku with a damascus style Vg-10 blade and love them both.  Also, they stay sharp, but then I just give them a couple strops with a ceramic rod sharpener after every use.  I'm just a home cook, so no expert knife sharpener and need knives that are easy for me to maintain.

post #7 of 17

Good Afternoon Everyone!  I'm a total novice in the kitchen but since meeting a person who works in the kitchen (line cook) and worked for some of the best restaurants in Seattle, this person has increased my knowledge in the kitchen from equipment to cooking techniques.  Unfortunately we lost contact and I'm totally on my own, however my thirst for knowledge has not ceased and I find myself watching countless hours of the Food Channel and just a bit of the Food Network.  Needless to say I've purchased a few Shun knives and cooking equipment on my journey into the culinary arts (I have not taken the plunge in enrolling into a culinary school). 


I want to increase my knive set, I have a 8" chef's knife, a 6" chef's knife, and 4" paring knife.  My question is what other type of knive(s) do I need to have a complete a set of knives for a home cook? (I want to cook any and all kinds of cuisine from different regions of the world).


Can anyone point me in the right direction?

post #8 of 17
Probably the best things you can do for yourself are learn a soft pinch and practice it until both the grip and placing the tip with your eyes (like steering a bicycle) are completely intuitive; learn to use your "claw" to gauge cuts; and learn to sharpen really well.

Good knives are all about the sharpening.

As to other knives, you don't need anything else. Just about any sharp knife can handle just about any knife task. If there are issues, "not enough profiles" probably isn't at the top of the list.

If you're serious about improving your knife kit, I'd consider adding a good, 10.5" bread knife -- either a Forschner or a MAC Superior; adding a slicer/suji, 10" or longer; and changing your 8" Shun for something 9-1/2" - 10-1/2" with a better, "French profile." I'm not sure which is more important.

Down the line, add a 6" - 8" knife with a parer/slicer profile to use as a "petty." That begs the question of, what do you use your 6" chef's knife for?

Learn to sharpen.

In the greater scheme of quality cutlery, Shuns -- especially their chef's knives -- are not very good. Whether it's worth the effort and expense to replace yours with something better is an open question, which partly depends on how much effort and expense you're willing to put out. Indeed, if your knife suits you well, no matter what I think about it, there's no need at all to replace it.

There aren't many places which have knife shops with truly good knives, but you're lucky to live in one of them. Get your butt and your open-mind down to Epicurean Edge.

Edited by boar_d_laze - 9/5/11 at 1:06pm
post #9 of 17
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

Probably the best things you can do for yourself are learn a soft pinch and practice it until both the grip and placing the tip with your eyes (like steering a bicycle) are completely intuitive; learn to use your "claw" to gauge cuts; and learn to sharpen really well.

Good knives are all about the sharpening.

As to other knives, you don't need anything else.

Learn to sharpen.


Yes, yes, yes.  If you want "help" spending money because you're  just an acquisitive knife addict, just ask.  But SERIOUSLY getting cutting skills together and getting sharpening together will be most important. BDL has your best interests at heart, so listen to him. 


I totally agree that 8" is short for the main cook's knife... and *especially* given the big-belly on the shuns. Makes the straight(er) portion of the knife super short.  But ... you can cut well with that profile, too, I suppose.   If I were buying a new knife, I'd start there.  That's a replacement rather than an addition, like the bread knife, though.  If you cut a whole lot of bread then of course go there; or if you don't keep knives sharp and cut a lot of tomatoes, maybe. Or have another need for a scalloped edge.


I see a 6" "chef's" as a petty with a less than ideal profile, so I'd replace that next.  But now I'm talking you into spending money on replacements rather than just "more knives" so you feel complete.


This is knife-crazed talk, btw, and CLEARLY the knife skills and the sharpening are both more important overall and more immediately practical than either adding or replacing knives. Spending money on sharpening equipment might be where to go with dollars sooner than new knives. Hell, maybe a cookbook or knife-skills book, even, given your overall interests.


post #10 of 17

Thanks for the information Boar_D_Laze and Wagstaff, I really appreciate the advice and direction provided; apart from increasing my knive set I especially want to improve my cutting skills, I do find myself cutting alot of onions, shallots, garlic, squash, and tomatoes. 


I know if I were ever to venture into working in a kitchen I would be considered too slow, but in watching the Food Channel I do know how to chop an onion and my favorite is smashing garlic with my knive; as well as pressing really hard on my knife as I smash the garlic into the cutting board to creat a paste texture.  I'm slowly getting used to using the claw method whereas my skills prior were a self amputation of digits waiting to happen.  Terminology is another another world for me BUT I do know what mis en place and mirepoix mean and thats it lol!


I love my 6" knive because I have a small hand plus I'm petite so it's a perfect fit for lil ol'me.  Can you guys advise me of what more I need to do to improve my cutting skills?  Sharpening will be another creature that I'll get to another time. 



post #11 of 17
It sounds like you're really enjoying yourself!

Just as an FYI, a short knife doesn't suit a petite cook or hand better than a long knife. Knives aren't golf clubs (thank God) and it's not important to match knife size to cook size. There are no special "women's knives" with pink handles (well there are, but that's another story). The problem isn't your hand size but your grip. Most naive and/or tight grips make aiming and controlling the knife difficult. Similarly, a duller edge usually results in a tighter grip -- and that exacerbates the problem.

If you want to use a 10" knife as comfortably as you use your 6" -- in fact, more comfortably -- it's not very hard. You can do it with a little bit of instruction and a little bit of practice. It will make you more efficient and allow you to make more cuts, more precisely and quicker.

But, you'll also have to have to find some way of sharpening. Knives are all about sharpness. All knives dull eventually. It doesn't matter how expensive, or how otherwise perfect a knife was before it got dull; any dull knife is a dull knife. And really, until you experience a truly sharp knife -- by which I mean sharper than they come from the factory -- you have no idea of what you're missing or what you're capable of as a knife technician. Chopping onions won't make you cry, things go faster, but mostly prepping is more fun.

The basic set is a cook's knife, slicer, bread knife and petty (which serves multiple duties as a paring knife, utility knife, and boning knife). The most common lengths are around 10" for the cook's, slicer and bread; and 6" for the petty. Of course, you're free to enjoy whatever you enjoy for whatever reasons. There are no rights or wrongs, I'm just telling you what works best for most people as they develop good skills.

You also need some sort of efficient sharpening kit, good enough to bring out the best in your knives; but not so complicated you're afraid or disinclined to use it; and an appropriate rod hone (often called a sharpening steel).

Let's talk about all this stuff before you fire up your credit card. What do you say?

post #12 of 17

I am a third generation meat cutter and I agree with boar_d_Laze on a sharp knife and its ability to make things go much faster, not to mention safer. I have used and tested knives from every end of the gamut from cheapos, to high buck. I have found some of the best knives for boning and slices meat all day long, don't have to be so expensive you need to get a bank loan.


One thing you don't want to skimp on though is a good set of sharpening stones. I have tested lots of those too; oil bath stones, ceramic crock sticks, hand held lansky sharpeners the list goes on. I personally will not use a knife unless i can shave with it. And yes, I can shave with my knives after sharpening. Not only is a sharp knife safer than a dull knife as you exert far less pressure to make the cut with a sharp knife, but it will help prevent fatigue in your arms and shoulder as well.


The one set of stones I use daily is the Razors Edge set (no, I am not a paid spokes person for the company, simply a happy user of the product). There are a few different sizes/sets you can purchase. The higher end comes with a nice custom wooden case to house the stones. Pretty albeit, but not really needed as the next set "down" comes with a nice vinyl carrying cast that does the job just fine.


Another great feature that comes with this sharpening set are the "guides"that clamp on the blades. These guides will help the novice knife sharpener as well as more experienced get the near perfect edge each time you sharpen your knives. In addition to helping the person sharpening a knife get the right angle on the blade, the guides will help insure one utilizes the full surface of the stone, resulting in a longer life for the stones.


I have a set of stones from Razors Edge I have been using for the past 18 years and they look near new to this day...even with daily use.


AS far as knife choice, I have found that when boning a lot, a 5 inch blade is great for me. I am a big guy with large hands and my wife is a petite 5 footer with tiny hands. The 5 inch blade works great for both of us. Perhaps preference, but again, I have tested all lengths of knives for boning and the 5 inch is perfect. I have a few brands I recommend, again not as a paid spokesperson, rather a happy consumer. I will be glad to share my thoughts with you if you would like.


I hope this helps. I will be glad to answer any question you may have feel free to email me.

post #13 of 17
Originally Posted by iixxrr View Post
[snip]  Can you guys advise me of what more I need to do to improve my cutting skills?  [\snip]


I'd suggest looking up the cookfoodgood.com blog articles on knife technique here:  http://www.cookfoodgood.com/?cat=223 .  I think maybe read the middle article first (on a good pinch grip) and then the first article (on cutting motion).  Different knives will push you into certain different specifics (i.e., how flat or curved the profile is, how high the tip is, will change how "tip down" on the board you are and the degree of "handle pumping" vs "gliding") -- I think that's pretty easy to figure out.


From there, I think a pretty good set of knife skills videos (with the same annoying intro to each one) can be found at:  http://www.stellaculinary.com/knife-skill-video-techniques-hd

The articles suggested first, though, will help with specifics of grip and motion and stance that maybe the videos don't quite cover as well.

post #14 of 17

WHAT PINK HANDLES???  Now I gotta have that set and hopefully with flowers etched into the metal!!!...??? Yeah um I'm kidding though... 


Once again thanks guys I will be checking out the website and vids Wagstaff recommended.  I do have a wet stone but I'm afraid of it because I have a knife my lost contact left at my place (I thinks its a Wusthoff - spelled wrong) and I can totally see that the center is worn down more, its kinda weird.  I do have a steel but I only use it on my cheap knives (Chicago Cutlery which was the set I was using prior to being somewhat enlightened).  I can tell my 6" is getting dull and I haven't sharpened it since I purchased it; does any kinda of steel rod matter? (meaning a steel rod is a steel rod regardless of who makes it)  I know I'm probably using the steel rod wrong and not holding the right angle on the knife (I hold the steel rod still and run the blade of the knife at an angle and drag it across the rod - right????).   


I have been to the Epicurean Edge in Kirkland which is close by to where I reside, I find myself very intimidated by the selection (its a very nice shop and just about across the street from Sur La Table (over rated & over priced in my opinion), I guess a visit in the near future is in the cards; I've been going to the Seattle Restaurant Supply company (Shoreline, WA) to purchase my cooking equipment but never asked them whether or not they sharpen knives there...


@ Marty P:  How much would a sharpening "guide" run for?  That's another thing I need to improve on is boning, which I just so happen to be defrosting a 5 lbs chicken thats waiting to be deboned, my trussing skills are ok but the only thing I've trussed is a chicken....


None the less I really enjoy reading all of your opinions and appreciate all of the information/advice given!  =.)


Have a good evening all!

post #15 of 17
Originally Posted by Wagstaff View Post

I think a pretty good set of knife skills videos (with the same annoying intro to each one) can be found at:  http://www.stellaculinary.com/knife-skill-video-techniques-hd


That's a great resource Wag, thanks a lot!


Regarding the sharpening guide, they go for a little less than $10 on Chef Knives To Go. You can check out how they work here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2mSqkcx-xE&feature=youtu.be&t=3m55s


If you want to see a great intro on sharpening I can recommend watching (at least) the 2 top video's on the Chef Knives To Go sharpening tutorial videos, you can find them http://www.chefknivestogo.com/knife-sharpening-tutorials.html and they're a great resource on learning how to sharpen on a stone. These video's show the basics on how to use your stone and can definitely help you on your way if you want to pick up the sharpening.

post #16 of 17
Again, I use the Razor's Edge guides. I believe they are like $20. There is a guide for knives under 6" and one for knives over 6".

As far as your whetstone, having the stones with the middle wore down more than the ends is quite common. Simply put, whoever is sharpening the knife is not using the whole stone from end to end.

I have used oil bath stones, stones that were to be moistened with watr prior to use you name it. Here is what i found: any stone in which oil or water is being used as a "lubricant" will cause the pores of the stone to clog. I had an oil bath tri-stone (coarse, medium and fine) i paid over $200 for that only lasted one month at my meat shop becasue the stones surface "plugged" with bits of the stone, metal from the knives and of course the oil.

The razor's edge stones I have been using for near 20 years are as I mentioned like new to this day (barring a small chip in one frm someone other than myself dropping it on the floor). The kit I have comes with a medium coarse and a fine stone, two guides (one for short knives and one for knives over 6"), an awesome pocket steel and allen wrenches for adjusting and tightening guides to blades. It was reasonably priced at $99 plus shipping to your front door.

My advice to you is to not be afraid of your stones, they are, in my opinion, the best way to sharpen your knives. Unlike the motorized sharpeners that can ruin the temper of your blades by overheating them, a good set of stones will not ruin the temper of your blades.

Get out your cheap knives and practice sharpening with those. Perfect practice makes perfect afterall.

In regards to Chicago cutlery, I have a few older CC knives and I have to say those buggers hold an edge like few others. The ones I have are high carbon steel with hickory handles. Ugly, albeit, but darn dependable. One downside to high carbon steel knives is they are prone to rust. I always hand wash my knives and never run them through a dishwasher. This way, when I am done washing, I dry them immediately and lightly coat them with a food grade oil. This prevents them from rusting.

The big factor here is to make sure your knives are sharpened properly...the guides will help with that. Again, as I mentioned in my last post, I won't use a knife unless I can shave with it first. A sharp knife is far safer than a dull one.

Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions, I will be glad to help.
post #17 of 17
Chicago Cutlery stopped making professional butchers' knives in the mid seventies, after a change of ownership. For a few years they continued to make some good knives (and some bad ones as well), but now make nothing but garbage. Stay away.

All of the stones to which Marty refers appear to be what are called "oil stones." They're called oil stones, because old school sharpeners used honing oil as a medium to float away swarf on that type of dense, insoluble stone. Swarf is a mix of metal filings from the knife itself, and whatever else comes off the stone. Nowadays, people use a variety of liquids including honing oil, water, soapy water, etc., or sharpen dry.

The purpose of a liquid is float the swarf off the stone and keep it from clogging up the stone's pores. It is not to "lubricate them" in the sense of reducing friction; indeed, reducing friction would be counter-productive.

Using oil stones dry -- including but not limited to those sold by The Razor's Edge -- makes them faster and more efficient; but they require more frequent cleaning as well. Oil stones used with appropriate liquids actually load more slowly than those used dried; but the clogging is more pernicious.

Well meaning people often put cooking oil in the "bath" which is part of an oil-stone "sharpening station." Cooking oils turn to glue and make the stones very difficult to clean. Some people cut their honing oil with mineral spirits, making it very light and easy to clean. In any case, if you use a brass brush, scouring powder, and own a dishwasher -- you can get just about anything clean as new.

Japanese type water stones are generally faster and more efficient than any oil stone, but it depends on the knife alloy. Speed (e.g., "faster") is a big deal with stones, especially for beginners -- as more strokes ("slower") means a greater probability for rounding over, high spots, and other forms of error.

If the middle of the stone doesn't see more action than the very ends, you're not sharpening correctly. With enough use, all stones dish (hollow in the middle) eventually. A very flat surface is very important, so eventually all stones will need flattening. But some stones dish quicker than others. A good, hard, oil stone may take a decade or two or even three, while some very good but very soft water stones benefit from flattening before every sharpening.

Flattening isn't particularly difficult, but it's a good idea to know what you're getting into. If your knives will sharpen well on either type of stone, the extra maintenance of flattening water stones may lead you to oil stones; or the extra maintenance involved with cleaning oil stones, may take you to water stones. Generally though, your knives will make the choice.

We can talk about the geometry if you like, but edge guides are inherently very problematic for long knives. Consequently I don't encourage their use for kitchen knives at all, and feel its better to learn to hold an angle "freehand." But I'm not the god of sharpening. Some people like them quite a bit, and my opinion doesn't make them wrong.

If you find the idea of "freehanding" frightening, there are other methods just as or almost as good; perhaps one or several would be better for you. I can't say. Understanding there is no "best" way, you try to choose one which will work for you.

John Juranitch, the Razor Edge guy, was a huge influence in my almost fifty year long sharpening journey; and I still (mostly) sharpen dry when I use my oil stone kit (one of four complete sharpening kits). By all means read his book if you have an interest in old-school sharpening and knives, but be aware the craft and the equipment to do it has evolved quite a bit over the years. If you want to see some of the equipment Marty's writing about, as well as other Juranitch related stuff, visit Razor Edge Systems for a click-about.

Edited by boar_d_laze - 10/3/11 at 2:39pm
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