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To Carbon of not to Carbon

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

 

Hey guys,

 

I'm going to buy a new japanese chef's knife and am doubting whether I should go carbon (Masamoto HC 270mm) or not.

 

First of all, what a great forum this is! I've been reading TONS of topics over the last two weeks and you guys have so much knowledge and put in all the time and effort to pass this on to others. BDL, i've learned SO much from you! Chris and the others. You guys are absolutely fantastic!

 

=== Background info ===

 

I think I should give a little intro first  i'm an 26 year old engineer and hobbyist cook. I bought my first knife (Wusthof Ikon) immediately when I moved into my own place as I like to have good tools. But since i'm now considering moving in with my significant other I like to have a good set (want a petty, parer and eventually a slicer as well). As I want to make an educated decision i've been reading here in the last two weeks and learned a lot already but still have a few questions I couldn't find the answers to.

 

As i'm looking for a knife that is sharper and holds it's edge better I want a Japanese knife. I started looking at stainless (Kagayaki VG-10, Masamoto VG, Hattori FD (love the looks)). But after reading I found out that carbon have better sharpness than stainless and almost everybody really serious with knifes  uses carbon. As i'm a lefty and she's a righty I think it's best if we stick to Yo handles. And since the HC is "arguably, the best mass-produced, western-style chef’s knife at any price" and "a masamoto is a masamoto" I don't think I can find a better knife (in quality and suitability) in this price range. 

 

So carbon and the HC should be the way to go if you don't mind the extra maintenance, but this is where my questions start as I've never used a carbon steel knife before.

 

I don't mind using stones, in fact I really enjoy it. I've already got a set of chosera 400, 800, 2k, 5k and a ss 10k (which I also use for honing my chisels/planes, although i've got a guide for that). I'm freehanding my knives and although i'm certainly no expert, I get my wusty to cut through paper without effort. 

 

=== To carbon, or not to carbon? ===

 

"Carbon needs attention right away". I don't mind wiping my knife after i've cut some onions or lemons. But what happens when you forget about this? You've made a nice diner, are enjoying your food, and then an hour later come back in the kitchen to realize you forgot to clean your knife. Is this big of a deal? Has it started to rust / form heavy patina? If so, can you fix it, or do you have to buy a new one?

 

Also if your sharpening, and in the beginning when opening the knife up this takes more effort, especially if you're not pro yet, do you have to limit the time sharpening because of the knife being wet all the time? Maybe i'm way too scared for the effects, but since i've never used a carbon knife i'm not sure what to expect.

 

I've also read BDL rubs his knifes with baking soda, is this only in the beginning? Do you keep doing this? Or do you only need to do this when you forget about your knife? Or when the natural patina has not started to form?

 

Also forcing a patina, is that recommended? I love the way my guitars age naturally, get scratches, buts etc, so I think i'll love the way the knife ages over time as well.

 

The bottom line is i'm afraid carbon might not be for me as I (or her) might, although very seldom, forget about the knife, although we really intent to look after the knife properly. But I don't want to ruin the knife if that happens once.

 

Sorry for the length of the post, but I thought I'd better give a good explanation than just asking "should I got carbon or not?". As I learned here knifes are so personal you need some extra information to give a good answer. I'm hoping somebody will have the time to answers my questions, it's really appreciated!

 

Thanks!

Joost

 

 

PS: I'm open to any other knife recommendations, my budget is around $200, or a little more if you get a better knife (like the HC).

 

PPS: I know the Masamoto is 70/30 ground, so this a not optimal for me (although it is for her), but i'm planning on moving the edge to 50/50 over time as suggested.

post #2 of 9

You're a good reader of BDL (and those of us who don't re-invent the wheel on this forum often are!)

 

And it seems you have the questions/answers rather under control. But I'll again attempt to tell you what you already know, so maybe it'll be reassuring: 

 

- "an hour later come back in the kitchen to realize you forgot to clean your knife. Is this big of a deal? Has it started to rust / form heavy patina? If so, can you fix it, or do you have to buy a new one?"

 

If rust begins, and it may or may not,  you catch it early and you scrub it out.  You can get a "rust eraser" or use Barkeepers Friend (which is acidic, so this is to followed by baking soda which neutralizes acids).  If it's just left wet and ignored till the next day, you might have a problem.  Still not "throw it out" though until that's happened WAY too often.  You can have a knife that starts to pit.  Also, if the edge rusts, it'll need sharpening again soon. Now.  But really, it's unlikely you'll destroy the knife unless your negligence is gross indeed.  Just get into good wipe-down habits, or get stainless, or get low-stain carbon.

 

 

- "Also if your sharpening, and in the beginning when opening the knife up this takes more effort, especially if you're not pro yet, do you have to limit the time sharpening because of the knife being wet all the time?"

 

You can sharpen carbon on waterstones just fine.  If you're really worried about it, wipe down the knife every five mins or so.  Gotta have towels when you sharpen.  You have to look at the edge super frequently anyway, so when you look to see what you're doing, whether you're getting the bevel right... wipe it down.  But generally carbon sharpens more easily, and takes less time, too. (I use waterstones on Sabatier carbons and on a low-stain carbon, which are supremely easy compared to my stainless gyuto).

 

- "I've also read BDL rubs his knifes with baking soda, is this only in the beginning? Do you keep doing this? Or do you only need to do this when you forget about your knife? Or when the natural patina has not started to form?"

 

It's just a very fine abrasive (so gentler than Ajax and the like), and it neutralizes acid, so ought to stop corrosion, slow patina a lot.

 

- "Also forcing a patina, is that recommended? I love the way my guitars age naturally, get scratches, buts etc, so I think i'll love the way the knife ages over time as well."

 

Some people recommend.  I've never done it.  Some people are crazy-good ARTISTS with it, even.  But it's often not my aesthetic, so in practical terms... (to repeat myself) ... I've never done it.  You sound like you'd rather let it get its "natural" patina anyway.  Even very good carbons may blacken the occasional onion-quarter or sweet-potato slice before a patina, though.  So it depends.  A forced patina will rub off (any patina will, maybe) when you sharpen or over-scrub the knife, though.  I think a slower-formed, natural patina will be "better" in that regard, but still... if you have to rub out a rust spot, e.g., you'll be taking off patina in that spot. (small circular motions with the scotchbrite/BKF or the rust eraser, just on the rust spots, and don't over scrub.  Especially if you use a rust eraser, because it will wear away metal if you're overzealous).

 

I've never used the Masamoto HC.  But if I didn't have Sabatier carbon, I'd consider it (just based on the same things you've read, no doubt).  And none of this tells you if you "should" get a carbon-steel knife.  I think you know the usual suspects for stainless, if you'd rather have the less-immediate-maintenance option though (Masamoto VG for the profile, Mac Pro for most other aspects of the knife (unless you want a less stiff knife).... and other lower-cost options.  Primarily the recommendation is JCK's CarboNext  or one of the Fujiwaras (even lower cost than CarboNext).  I haven't used Fujiwara; the CN is good bang for the buck, easy to sharpen, will *need* sharpening when you get it. The CN is carbon, but low-stain, can be treated like 75% stainless (in terms of neglect).  Scientific study getting me to 75%.  True story.

 

I'm sure there are others I'm leaving out.  I've got some French carbons, as I 've said.  My first gyuto (that I purchased) was the CarboNext, sight-unseen.  It was cheaper and the steel more intriguing at the time that a Mac Pro, which I had used and loved.  But my next was a stainless gyuto.  Now I don't need three chef's knives, but that's what I got.... and I can't pick a favorite, actually.  I think I'm giving the CarboNext to my parents, who need a good knife, while I try to steal and get refurbished their ancient (and tragically, horribly, heartbreakingly, repugnantly, badly abused) carbon-steel Sab.  I'd buy another CN for myself, maybe.... but give them mine since I've sharpened it, and then decide if I miss it given my other knives, or just don't look back, Ingrid Bergman style.

 

Anyway, the answer isn't here to what you "should" do.  I sort of think Carbons are better "beginners" knives in general IF that includes "beginning and concerned sharpener".  'Cause they really are easier.  But they're also better for people who won't "forget the knife" for an hour while they eat. Trade-offs everywhere in knife choices, steel-choices.

 

I think I'm being inadequate a bit when answering the baking soda vs. patina part.  But it's after 3a.m. and I'm getting blurry, so -- as with any further or contrary recommendations or teaching, or subtler nuance of what's been offered so far --  I'll defer to BDL (hopefully) or someone else.

 

 


Edited by Wagstaff - 8/28/11 at 3:39am
post #3 of 9
Wag covered most everything.

Sounds like you're a very good candidate for an HC. One of the great things about it is it's superb shape. As you adjust your action to it, it will spoil you for darn near anything else.

If you're interested in semi-stainless you might be a good candidate for the CarboNext. In many way's it's the poor-man's Kikuichi TKC. The Kikuichi is better designed, better made, and better finished than the Carbo-Next, and very much the wa-gyuto du jour. Since it's in your price range, you should take a look at that as well. If price doesn't matter that much, the Kikuichi is well worth the ifference. As good as it is, I prefer the HC for its Masamotoness, but there are a great many good things to be said about semi-stainless in general and the Kikuichi in particular.

Full disclosure: My two current go-tos are semi-stainless Konosuke HD. Let me add: They're "lasers;" are consequently problematic as a first, good Japanese knife (unless you guys already have excellent skills); and I'm NOT recommending them to you.

A "wa" handle is as good for righty/lefty households as a "yo." If you guys are interested in a wa-gyuto, you might as well take a look. Wa or yo, the trick is going to be finding the right degree of symmetry. If one of you has much better skills than the other, go with the weaker person's bias. For instance, if your lady the righty has better skills, sharpen 60/40 lefty. If that doesn't make sense to you we can talk about it.

About those stones of yours... If anything Choseras are too good. eek.gif... Kidding. They're great stones, and well beyond fine for any kitchen knives. We'll see how you do sharpening a 27cm gyuto on that SS 10K. The SS is so soft and gouges sooo easily, you might find freehanding a long blade to be quite challenging. I'm thinking of replacing my worn out SS 8K with something harder for just that reason. FWIW, 10K is a lot of polish for a gyuto -- especially if it's going to get steeled. Have I said too much? Don't worry, your Chosera 5K will be a fine final stone for now.

Also not to worry about sharpening your carbon(s) on water stones. They're absolutely the right way to go. You want have any trouble -- just rinse between stones, which you have to do anyway (if you're doing a lot of knives on each stone you'll want to dry as well); and rinse, polish and dry after sharpening. If you go with a patina, you probably won't polish -- but if you use a forced patina, you might want to freshen it after sharpening.

When I talk about "neediness" and RIGHT NOW, I mean don't leave a dirty knife on the board during dinner.

You probably won't see rust after a few hours, even after cutting onions or citrus -- but heavy staining, yes. Rust is more an all day or an overnight thing. Either way, you can take staining and light rust out with baking soda.

BKF is formulated for stainless, not carbon -- and there are issues. If you use BKF the oxalic acid in it will cause your knife to start a patina within minutes -- but it does go after stains and rusts a little more aggressively than baking soda. So, as Wag said, just chase the BKF with soda, and you'll be jake.

To force a patina or not to force? Depends on the knife. Masamoto HCs aren't terribly reactive, so like a carbon Sabatier you can keep your HC the sort of dull-but-glowing silver you already associate with well-maintained steel tools by cleaning it with baking soda and a Scotch-Brite every week or so (and of course, every sharpening). In between baking soda treatments, rinse and wipe-down frequently during prep. Afterwards, wash, lightly scrubbing with your Scotch-Brite, wipe-down, finally allow a few minutes of air drying before storing.

You can also force a patina if you like. I like baking-soda grey, but mustard patinas aren't bad. If you're interested we can talk about the how of it.

You'll want to use a steel. I recommend a 12" Idahone "fine" (CKTG calls "fine" "1200").

When you're ready to buy make sure you tell your retailer you want really good F&F and for him to pay particular care inspecting the handles. There was a period -- which is supposedly over -- when there were issues. Over or not, it doesn't hurt to have the retailer choose the best looking knife from stock.

I probably forgot a bunch of stuff. Just remind me.

BDL
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post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 

 

Thanks a lot for the great write-ups guys! It's really helped me make a good decision :)

 

I now understand the aging process and the use of the baking soda (to neutralize the acids and thus slow the patina forming down).

 

You both reassured me that carbon is the way to go. As we are very aware of the immediate needs of carbon I don't think we'll ever forget, but in case it does happen it's not the immediate end of the sword! I'm very happy with this as I really started to like the Masamoto, and now see no obstruction to getting it :).

 

@BDL: I read about your Konosuke HD as well, sounds like a very good knife! But as you point out as well as it's a 'laser' and I think this is something for the future when we have improved our knife skills and can properly and naturally handle the extra length and sharpness of the Masamoto. But if we want something new in the future it's definitely something to look into!

 

I'll be sure to get some baking soda, and some rust remover (just in case).

 

Lol @ the chosera's :D I'm using them for woodworking as well and am really pleased with them, but i'll use them up unto the 5K for now on the knives. I have not got a single chip out of the SS10K myself yet, although my dad, who tried the SS once got a chip immediately, so I know what you mean. (Although the spot is gone already due to normal wear, flattening (on plateglass w/sandpaper) and the nagura).

 

Regarding the patina, I think i'll go with the natural way, using the baking soda often in the beginning and after sharpening until the natural patina has been formed after which I can slowly start to use it less often.

 

The Idahone is something i'll definitely be getting as well (and possibly the HandMade American in the future as well). As I currently only got a no-name steel which is too short for a 270mm anyway.

 

So I'll be ordering the Masamoto HC Gyuto and Petty (150mm, for the smaller stuff and occasional boning), making sure the F&F is really good. In the future i'll probably pick up a K-Sab slicing knife, as I won't use it nearly as much as the Gyuto and Petty and they're only about 1/3 of the price and are very nice as well (as I read here).

 

I do have 1 question about the Scoth-Brite though, do you use the green or yellow side? I assume the yellow side as I expect getting a lot of scratches when using the green side.

 

Thanks again guys! :)

post #5 of 9
ScotchBrite for knives: 3M (who makes all the Scotch brand products) makes several types of ScotchBrites. The two most common include the one you talked about, a ScotchBrite scrubber glued to a yellow spongs, and ScotchBrite cloths (which come in several sizes and packs of various number).. I'm talking about the plain ScotchBrite cloths. I buy the larger size, cut them in half and use them for a variety of scouring and polishing chores. That way, each cloth lasts about a week.

In addition, Sctoch-Brite cloths come in several abrasive levels. Just buy the ungraded "regular," which is probably all you can find anyway, and you'll be fine.

ScotchBrite cloths are coarse enough to lightly scratch a carbon knife, and will leave a matte -- rather than a mirror -- finish. Great. What I want anyway. If you want to keep clear shine, you'll have to work with sponges and towels.

BDL
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post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks BDL, i'm going to pick some of those cloths up :)

post #7 of 9

BDL, are these the Scotch Brite  cloths you are referring to?

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #8 of 9

The original scotchbrite pads were the circles taken out of commercial  floor waxer machines. They came in different coarseness to. Red, Black and Green.  They were free

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #9 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteMcCracken View Post

BDL, are these the Scotch Brite  cloths you are referring to?


Yep Pete. Dem is dose.

BDL
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