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Info needed on left handed high carbon steel knives

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I have looked through all the topics trying to get info but there is nothing that applies to my situation so I am posting a new thread. 


My husband and I are both avid cooks. We have had a lot of different knives over the years and are not happy with any of them.  We are both left handed and have never had left handed knives. I think that is at least part of the problem. I grew up in a household with a butcher and am used to the old time carbon knives. I gave my Dad's butcher knives to my chef son and he loves them.


I would like to have an all around chef knife for chopping and then a good paring knife and slicer. We do a lot of slicing for Chinese meals both meat and vegetables. We also do lots of chopping of herbs etc. 


Any suggestions would be very much appreciated. I have looked at several web sites for carbon knives that are Japanese  Fujiwara and there were some knives from WY...can't find the name now..that were suggested on a thread. Thanks in advance. Caroline

post #2 of 8
Hi Caroline,

Lots of questions for you.

Let me see if I have this right. You want a chef's knife, a slicer, and a paring knife, all to be "carbon" and not stainless. And you want them left-handed? Is that it?

In order to convert iron into steel, some carbon must be added. So by definition, all steel alloys include some carbon, and -- again, by definition -- a "high carbon" steel is any steel which contains more than 0.50% carbon by weight. Do you know that there are a great many stainless steel knives which are also "high carbon?"

I'm a huge fan of carbon myself, including using and collecting carbon Sabatiers (not exclusively, though). Still, I wonder if there's any reason you don't want stainless other than sentiment and obsolete "knowledge." Good modern stainless takes and holds an edge about as well as all but a very few of the best carbons. And the difference is something experienced only by very good sharpeners.

There's perhaps another ambiguity which could be clarified. While there are kinda, sorta, such things as "left-handed" knives, most western style knives are sharpened so as to be ambidextrous. Furthermore, any competent sharpener can easily convert them to a left-hand bias by sharpening them asymmetrically. Since you're both lefties, there's no reason your knives shouldn't be lefty-biased. Everything else being equal they'll seem a bit sharper and their edges will last a bit longer. But just a bit. Unfortunately, they won't be any more comfortable or accurate than normal, ambidextrous knives.

Any special issues I should know about? Arthritis, for instance? Love of teeny-weeinie handles? Love of great-big-enormous handles?

Can you sharpen? Can your husband? How well? What sort of sharpening set up (if any) do you have? How often do you use it?

What kind of steel do you use, i.e., is it diamond? Medium? Fine? Polished? How often do you steel your current knives? What about your old carbon butchers' knives?

Price range for the three knives?

Price range for EVERYTHING if you need sharpening equipment a new board as well?

Off the top of my head, and assuming you actually do want carbons, I'm inclined to recommend carbon Sabatiers -- at least for the chef's and slicer -- on the basis of durability, profile, the fact that they get every bit as sharp as darn near anything else, and are somewhat easier to maintain than most carbons... But... BUT... would like to hear a great deal more from you. So, lots more questions.

I know they were recommended by a woman as having some magical properties which specially adapted them to her petite hands and could be kept very sharp with very little effort by even her hapless and loving husband. Unfortunately, the "WY" knives are actually quite crude and not the revolutionary improvement in cutlery their owner thought. Moreover, despite her femininity, most of her "threshold" assumptions about knives were wrong. For instance a small handle and short knife aren't better for a smaller person -- at least not one who knows how to hold a knife. However she loves hers, and that's plenty good enough. If those knives are what you want, we can resurrect the thread and find the maker.

The Fujiwaras are very much "entry-level" Japanese knives and have quite a few of their own issues, including a reactive alloy which will not only discolor but stink every time it cuts onions or meat for months. But again, if that's what you want, it's easy enough to hook you up with a retailer.

If you must have Japanese knives, and if you can afford to spend more than Fujiwara, I think the Kikuichi Elites, Masamoto CT, Masamoto HC, and Misono Swedens (in alphabetical order) are all significantly better than the the knives you listed.

The Masamoto HC is one of the best mass-produced, western-style cook's knives on the planet. The Misono Sweden is also excellent and has a very striking engraving of a dragon on the side of the blade, but it requires a little additional care compared to the other three. The others are very good as well. I'm sure you'd be happy with any of them -- as would any lover of carbons. As a sort of rough and ready evaluation, I'd put the Masamoto HCs at the top of the heap, the Misono and Sabatiers just a half step below that, and the Masamoto CT and Kikuichi another heartbeat behind.

A good to great chef's knife is one thing, and well worth some expenditure -- as long as you can and will keep it sharp. But everything else is something else. Paring knives, especially. While some paring knives are better than others, I strongly recommend against high-end small knives for most people. It is in the nature of their best use to be abused, broken and sharpened into toothpicks in no time.

How long a slicer did you have in mind? Will you use it to trim and portion, or solely to slice and carve? Will you use it table-side, or only in the kitchen? I use my slicer(s) quite a bit, but that's not terribly common, even for cooks with a pro background. And in my case it includes using them for all sorts of things most people don't (and probably shouldn't). What do you envision using yours for? Why wouldn't you use your chef's knife for the same things? How much of your knife budget are you willing to devote to it?

Would you consider "a petty" instead of a slicer and parer? That's a slicer/paring shape in an between length (say 5" - 8") which can be used as a "utility," boning knife, parer, bar-knife, and you name it.

If you do a fair bit of citrus, I strongly recommend at least one stainless knife in your "frequently used" block. Like the small parer, it doesn't have to be expensive.

Sorry about the length of the post. If you take anything at all away from it, let it be this: The only knives which never need sharpening are knives which aren't worth sharpening. Knives are always all about the sharpening. All knives get dull; and no matter how beautiful, how expensive, and how good,it was when it was sharp, any dull knife is a dull knife.

Edited by boar_d_laze - 8/25/11 at 4:38pm
post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hey . Thank you for such a complete response. I want carbon...sorry about the " high" carbon thing. Some of the knife websites used that term...i had never heard  it used so should have stuck with what I  know. I like the looks of carbon and know how to take care of a carbon. It will remind me of my dad and his love of a good knife.


I was reading on here about the best sharpeners. Edge Pro Apex ? I believe that is the one suggested. At present we use my Dad's old steel. It is a beauty. My chef son, he is at The Red Hen in Lexington VA ( if you want to see the things he and his wife do :) ) , has a stone and can sharpen for me when needed. His is a simple set up not the expense of the Apex for sure. My husband has watched the videos and wants to learn how to do it. He will have my son show him and practice with him when we get our own stone/s. So yes we are going to learn to do the knives correctly.


By biased you do mean a lefty knife ? I believe I read that you are a lefty also. Yes we want left-handed if possible. And yes to one of the Japanese knives you mentioned. I have looked at Masamoto and Kikuichi and Misono...so I guess I was on the right track all along !  


No knife longer than 10". Yes to a petty for sure , I wasn't sure what that was but that sounds perfect. My son also uses his slicer for almost everything too...so what do we slice and dice ???   Baked chickens served at the table and roast turkey. Cutting up raw chicken and pork for stir fry....my husband does LOTS of that. Slicing and dicing for stir fry. I do a lot of slicing and dicing of vegs and herbs for other cuisines. Will take your advice on an inexpensive paring knife...my son said the same thing. He got a very good Henkel parer at BB&B...bright red plastic handle and slightly serrated...that thing can cut !  So the reason for a specific slicer and a chef knife and a petty is that there are 2 of us cooking all the time and it would be nice to have a choice of knives and not have to wait. Also no issues at all with hands/eyes etc...I have large strong hands so we can use the same size knives. 


Does this help ?  What else can I tell you ?  Thank you again for your thoughtful reply. Caroline

post #4 of 8
The way to make a knife left-handed is to sharpen its left side (which is your left as you hold the knife by the handle), until the sharpening bevel is wider than the right side. The degree of asymmetry can be expressed as a percentage, for instance 70/30, or as a ratio, for instance 2:1. It's actually pretty important to realize that functionally, those two are really the same thing if you're talking to anyone who might ever sharpen your knife.

If you take your knives beyond the 2:1 point you won't be able to use a steel for maintenance. Something else happens at the same point.

It's not uncommon for sharpeners to put a right-hand bias on a knife unintentionally or incidentally. A skilled left-handed user shouldn't have too much trouble with a right handed bevel -- as long as the degree of asymmetry isn't much greater than 2:1. The most ,skill is the grip. The worse the grip, the more likely a wrong-handed knife is to steer. Also, with a really high degree of asymmetry the knife pushes away from the guiding "claw" so much that it's hard to aim fine cuts. Conversely, the benefit of a correct-handed bevel is not in agility or accuracy but in actual and perceived sharpness.

As you've noted, I am a south paw, but my wife is not. I've always sharpened our common knives at 2:1 right-handed, and that's never been much of a problem for me -- even cutting very fine. There's a lot of idiosyncracy and "it depends" involved with all of this -- so being able to sharpen the knives the way it best suits your particular needs is a real benefit.

As I said, I think you'll be happy with any of the carbon knives mentioned. I'm not sure the list needs much more explanation. For what it's worth, Misono Sweden has the roomiest handle, both Masamotos have truly wonderful shapes (like Sabatiers), and the Masamoto HC is made with the most prestigious steel.

What do you want to know about sharpening with an Edge Pro vs sharpening "freehand" on stones?

post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the response. After thinking about it and reading some more my husband and i came to the same conclusion as to the need for a specifically left handed knife...also the 50% up charge is a discouragement !   I think we will get a couple stones in different grits and learn the way of it. The price for the Edge pro is just so high. 


We are going to look at the Sabatier also and the Masamoto HC, BTW that is where I got the " high carbon " description as they use it. Thank you for confirming what I had already thought. It really helps to have a pro's advice. I appreciate it. Will post back when we get some new knives. c

post #6 of 8
50% upcharge... Hmmm. Sounds like someone's been online window shopping at Korin. Definitely not worth having them do it. There are other retailers and other people who will do a custom edge/conversion at a better price.

EPs ARE expensive. Compared to a good four stone set, they're competitive. Compared to a good three stone set -- which is a good start -- they're back to expensive. There's another thread here discussing an excellent three stone set, currently on sale at $130 at CKTG, including the Beston 500#, Bester 1200# and Suehiro Rika (nominally 5000#) stones. It's a great set, perfect for any knife on your list. If you decide to buy Sabatiers, you could get along fine with a mixed set of India and Arkansas stones -- not that it would save you any money. Moral of the story: Spend much less and you losing significant quality and convenience.

There are three manufacturers of Sabatier carbons more or less commonly available in the United States. They are Thiers-Issard, K-Sabatier, and Mexeur et Cie. T-I and K-Sab are not widely sold in brick and mortar stores. You can find Mexeur a little, but only a very little, more easily. T-I and K-Sab each also distribute out-of-production and/or antique knives they may or may not have made.

K-Sabatier has its own website.

The Best Things is the best source for all Thiers-Issard Sabatier knives -- including the "antique" Nogents. If you're at all interested in those, take a look at this. TBT represents three T-I carbon lines, all of them quite good -- but I want to steer you away from the "Massif" chef de chefs. Some things regarding them (and the Nogents as well) are a little misleading. In particular, chef de chefs are very, very heavy and not really appropriate as an everyday cook's knife.

You can find Mexeur et Cie at Fantes, as well as a few other places.

I have carbon knives from K-Sab and T-I, including "modern" K-Sabs, Canadian K-Sabs, modern T-I **** Elephant, and Nogent -- and love them. If it matters, I've had carbon K-Sabs -- both Canadian and modern -- for decades. Over the years, Sab carbons have been the core of my "most frequently used" block, with a brief and misguided stop during the mid-seventies at Henckels. However, over the past year or so I've switched to semi-stainless, Japanese handled, Konosuke HD for my core set.

post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 

No never heard of Korin. When I search for the Masamoto HC the only place they come up is at japanesechefsknives.com. They show on their web site a 50% up charge for left handed knives and have an explanation page as to why they charge more. Do you know of anywhere else that carries them  ? I used to get to NYC all the time, my brother is there, but not lately. May get up there in the Spring though. 


You have given me a LOT to read. I had looked at the Sab site a long time ago and wasn't sure about them. I don't want a knife that has to be " muscled " back to being straight !  Too much worry for me. 


Will take a look at the Konosuke HD that you mention. Lots to read. We are not ever going to be collectors of knives . I only have one left hand :)  We need three knives...I have 2 bread knives already and am a baker at heart. We slice and dice and carve a little poultry. That's it. I saw the thread about the stones and that has a lot of great info. 


So now I need to read and read some more and then get some money together. Fixed income retired is a bummer . Thank you again. c

post #8 of 8
Ooops. My bad. I wasn't recommending the Konosuke for you guys. It needs too much babying to be a first, good knife. Let's stick with something you can at least use a steel on.

If you don't mind dropping the dough, you might want to think about a Kikuichi TKC as a chef's knife. It's also semi-stainless (like the Konosuke HD), but with a western style ("yo" handle). It's very agile and thin, without the prima-donna issues of a "laser" like the Konosuke. But... expensive.

Like Korin's, JCK's sharpening charges are too high. You shouldn't have to spend more than $50 or so to have just about any wa-gyuto (Japanese, western-handled, cook's knife) "opened" to extreme sharpness, AND shifted to a lefty bias. Considering what you've said about your son's sharpening skills you'd probably be fine letting him sharpen it (primarily on the left side) the first few times while you and/or your husband gets your skills up. Just keep starting on the left side until you get a burr, then sharpen the right side only as much as needed to chase the burr, and the bias will gradually move sharpening by sharpening. After the fourth or fifth time on the stones, you'll have a definite lefty asymmetry.

At this stage of the game, I'm not saying you should do one or the other but only sorting through your options. FWIW, you grasp and evaluate things so quickly and so well, other than warning you off the Konosukes, I probably won't ever give you a "should."

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