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New here, could use some help.

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hey, complete noob here, I'm looking to buy a quality chef's knife, my first. I'm someone who is used to using a very crappy, unknown, likely from Walmart brand hand me down chef's knife.


I know everyone likely has there own criteria/qualities they look for in a chef's knife so I figure I'd cover that first. Basically I'm looking for an upgrade, something that will last me preferably a lifetime, one with a good reputation and warranty. Reading around there is a ton of information and I honestly find it all very interesting but that said, I'm not really looking to make too much of a hobby out of it, something to keep in mind I guess. I'm just looking for a good, easy to maintain, durable chef's knife that'll last and perform better than your average kitchen knife, given the proper maintenance of course. 


So far I've pretty much settled on a 9" - 10" Messermeister Meridian Elite. I figure I'd ask some questions I can't find answers to or I'm still searching for before making a move though, there'll likely be a lot but any and all help will be appreciated! 


While searching it seems many/most prefer japanese knives, from what I've read though, they are much more fragile as well. I've read lots of reviews from varies brands and it seems most sites have at least one or two reviewers whom end up with a chipped edge, a broken tip, things of that nature. This really goes back to durability for me, I would prefer a knife I can drop for example (though obviously not purposely) and not have break on me, chip and/or etc. The question is simply, are there any knives out there that while harder, would still be as durable as the softer Messermeister Meridian Elite I'm leaning towards? 


I've been looking into maintenance and have got a few questions about that as well. I've always been very good and steady with my hands so I'm looking to use sharpening stones however I know nothing about them. Naturally the first place I looked (given the knife I'm looking to most likely buy) was on Messermeisters site, however I'm not really sure which kind of stone and which grits to go with? What are the differences between wet and oil stones? Any other just as good/cheaper brand sharpening stones out there? 


Finally, I was thinking about Messermeisters 12" Fine Grit Steel-Germany or Messermeisters 12" Fine Grit Steel-France for use between sharpening, any other suggestions or would that work ok, also what are the differences between the two as their descriptions look identical? I do like how the guard is made of plastic, I noticed some made of metal which I would prefer against should I accidentally nip it with the knife on occasion. Lastly, I read somewhere that the Messermeister Meridian Elite Chef's knife actually has a convex edge, would a steel work on a convex edge as well or would a leather strop work better in this situation? 


Again, any and all help is appreciated!

post #2 of 8

I just deleted a long reply because... well, I don't know much to say about what kinds of stones (BDL is the resident Arkansas stone expert, among other things) or about those particularly honing rods you're asking about.  Idahone fine ceramic is often what's recommended around here, and probably the most versatile/best for most folks, but they will break if dropped.


On the knife itself? I actually like the Messermeister Meridian Elite for its type.  I have one.  But then... I'm sending it to my dad this week.  He lives with my mother, who is (as he says) "no respecter of knives".  He had an ancient and beautiful and beautifully thin carbon-steel Sabatier (of one stripe or other) which has been abused very badly, including a broken tip from being dropped.  That's being converted into a slicer by a friend who is refurbishing it the best he can.  SO... he gets the Messermeister because of things you're talking about.  It'll withstand abuse, and it's good in its class.  It is  sharpened to a steep angle than most of the classic German knives, which means it'll be sharper but probably need sharpening more frequently.  It's got a great handle, great fit and finish, and is otherwise just like every other Solingen knife I guess.  Except it has a short finger-guard, which is good for sharpening.  My father knows what he's doing with Arkansas stones, too.  (I myself only use waterstones, because I have knives that need them; they work great on the German knives, but I can't compare to the "oil"stones).


Maybe you'll do just as well with a Forschner/Victorinox? Depends on how much you like heft; but they are thinner and less expensive, while probably being robust enough for your purposes. They don't look as pretty as the Messermeister.  Or if you want to spend more money, I think the Mac Pro is likely to be plenty robust for your purposes, too.  That'll be a thinner/sharper knife with a "better" profile and exceedingly good fit and finish and warranty. ("Better" unless you prefer a more German profile).  It will be more expensive, too. And will get sharper. And come sharper.  And stay sharper longer.

post #3 of 8
Don't worry, I won't try and talk you into a Japanese knife.

Messermeisters are fine German knives. Like most of the high-end Germans the Elite is good but not great. They used to be the real value leader among high-end Germans but no longer. Zwilling and Wusthof have caught up, Victorinox Forged is there too, as are Lamson, Viking (Gude), and so on.

Zwilling (Henckels) has the best warranty and support, Wustie runs a close second. All tend to be very good. Still, it's best to buy from a retailer who will support the product as well.

Messer uses an alloy with a bit more carbon than most of the other companies'. That's X55CrMoV15 as opposed to X50CrMoV15 (or Zwilling's "secret" version which ain't very different or much of a secret).

Tips break. That's how it is. Messer's isn't better than anyone else's -- including Japanese knives.

No knife is better than your sharpening. A sharp German knife is preferable to the lightest, thinnest, most agile Japanese knife made from a super alloy.

Messer Elites have a bit more of a "French" profile than say a Wusthof Classic, which is one reason to like them; but they're still comparatively heavy and thick as compared to a typical Japanese yo-gyuto (western handled chef's knife).

In general, Japanese knives are lighter, more agile, get sharper, stay sharper, and can handle the same work and work load as a German -- unless you want to split chickens with your "go-to" chef's. If you do, you definitely want to stay Euro. Getting into the high-end of Japanese kitchen knives is a lot more expensive than getting into the high-end of European and American manufactured cutlery.

My choices aren't going to be yours, but just for perspective: I currently own French, Japanese and Swiss knives. I used to own and professionally used a bunch of Henckels (Zwilling) as well, which I bought in the mid-seventies to go "stainless." But after a few years I unpacked my Sabatiers, and realized how much I preferred the French knives to the Germans for their weight, agility, and edge properties. Good bye, Twins.

The Swiss knives, R. H. Forschners all, are specialty knives of one sort or another and don't signify in this conversation.

I like my French Sabatier carbons every bit as much as my very expensive Konosuke HDs, although the Konosukes are objectively better for almost everything -- they're only very slightly better. Everything is sharp, sharp, sharp. The moral of the story is you get to like what you like.

Getting back to your specifics, either of your honing steel possibilities is okay, but you can get better for less. And yes, I still recommend the Idahone Fine Ceramic as one of the very best overall rod hones you can buy at any price. And at the price, it's the obvious choice.

There is no difference between an oil stone and a wet stone. In fact, you've made a completely understandable homophone error, and there's no such thing as a wet stone. All sharpening stones, including oil stones, water stones, ceramics, etc., are whet stones; as "to whet" means "to sharpen." Ironically, oil stones work best without oil. Thus endeth the first lesson.

And so beginneth the second: Good oil stones, used appropriately, won't have any problem sharpening German stainless. They're a little less expensive than good water stones, but a little slower. Maintenance is different, but most good oil stones will require less work to keep working well than most good water stones. If you sharpen a lot of different edges, and/or just generally do a lot of sharpening, the extra speed and selection probably make Japanese made, synthetic water stones your best choice. For most people who aren't sharpening hard alloys, it's a push -- don't stress over it.

Etc., etc., etc. The more specific the questions, the more specific the answers.
  • What's your price range?
  • What are skills like? How much trouble will you go to improve them?
  • How well do you sharpen now? How much are you willing to work at sharpening? How much are you willing to spend on it?

By the way, I don't know as much as Wagstaff thinks I do.

Edited by boar_d_laze - 9/6/11 at 10:00am
post #4 of 8


Yes, he does.  OK, maybe he doesn't.  (Isn't this fun to talk about each other in the third person?)


Where I feel guilty is just saying "wait till BDL shows up" because I'm not in a position to obligate BDL to write anything or show up or anything else.  But here, to talk about honing rod choices, and to talk particularly about stones of the non-waterstone variety, I haven't seen anybody else post as knowledgeably. That's either here or on some other forums, by the way.  And very specifically about Arkansas stones.


I'm less knowledgeable about waterstones, too, than some others here; but I'd be more willing to put my current druthers/recommendations in for those,were we not talking about German knives particularly. That is, I've used at least a few different waterstones and have some sense of their differences.  There are always WAY more I haven't used, of course.


I'm not sure why you said this, though, BDL: "The Swiss knives, R. H. Forschners all, are specialty knives of one sort or another and don't signify in this conversation."


That is, the stamped chef's knives from Forschner/Victorinox (whether the oft-hyped "Forschner Fibrox" or the Rosewood) really are chef's knives with a German profile.  So why no signification?  They're less expensive than the Messermeister, too, if less lovely; even that might be debatable, or to different tastes.  (What am I thinking wrong here?)


Anyway, to the OP: BDL does have your interests more at heart than I and some others.  That is, we're more likely to encourage spending.  Or maybe just speaking for myself.... I am!  I'll tell you to get a longer knife than you want, and to get a French carbon AND a Japanese knife, and spend too much on cutting boards and sharpening accessories and and and and... oh well.


I liked the Messermeister Meridian Elite 9-inch chef's knife, particularly for some things, so now I'll stop making trouble.

Edited by Wagstaff - 9/6/11 at 10:14pm
post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 

Wow, thanks for all the help, lot of good information. I'm more used to german style profiles myself, with more of an arc, or belly I guess you'd call it. That said, I could see myself getting used to either so profile isn't really too high on my priority list, as long as it can cut food as well as the latter I'd be willing to learn. I don't have any experience sharpening but again, I've always done exceedingly well when it comes to such things so honestly I'm not too worried about it. I'm sure I would get the hang of it fairly quickly. As far as budget goes, I'd like to keep it under $200-$300 for everything, but please understand that I'm the type of person who sees paying this much for a knife as kinda ridiculous/overkill, as a hobby or a professional I could certainly understand but neither of those apply to me. Having a nice knife that'll likely last the rest of my life is really what got me into the idea of getting something like this. My grandmother for example has used one Wusthof for most all her life, I suppose I found the idea of that intriguing. If "tips break", then I really don't see the point for me personally to go out a buy such an expensive knife (note, I do realize they can be repaired to an extent should this occur, but regardless). To that point though (no pun intended), I'm guessing you were generalizing, though correct me if I'm wrong? If not then I just may go with something cheaper afterall, a Forschner/Victorinox or something along those lines for example, as was suggested already? I just figured a forged knife would be a bit more durable than a stamped, at least as far a longevity is concerned?


I looked more into stones and came to the conclusion that synthetic water stones will probably work best for me as well. I read that they wear much quicker though, but then I'm sure it wouldn't be to hard to find a way to flatten them out again so no worries there either. 1000 grit seems to be popular for German knives based on what little information I could find (one post to be exact, haha). Would this work as a final stage grit or should I go higher, lower? Thanks for clarifying whet vs wet/oil stones, that definitely kind confused me beforehand a bit. I looked up the Arkansas stones suggested and they seem to be natural stones, based again on what I've read, aren't your average natural stones generally going to be less consistent than synthetic? I was thinking about this one, ?

post #6 of 8

I'm not at all sure you're right that you want waterstones for basically one knife, or "regular" European knives. But really I'm just not sure.  IF waterstones, at the same price as that King, look at the oft-recommended Bester 1200x.  You'll want something higher grit, too, probably, for a more refined edge.  But maybe not immediately.  If you have a knife that gets very dull or gets some damage to the edge, even later you'll want a lower grit stone.  But that may or may not come up for you, and you want competence with something in that 1000-1200 -ish range so you can "get" how to keep a more or less consistent angle, raise a burr, all that.  I'm sure the King is fine; the Bester is the same price, though, and a good stone.  There are plenty of posts here "archived" that talk you through various waterstone choices and how to start.  There's also Chad Ward's excellent article on sharpening at e-gullet.


Any waterstone will need to be flattened. A "flattening stone" or one of the things used in that capacity can get still more spendy; some people use wet-dry sandpaper on a brick, or use drywall screen mounted on something to keep it perfectly flat.  I think the Ward article will talk you through those sorts of options as well. But these might not be issues at all if you decide "not" waterstones, too.  I say all this not to complicate your choices, but just to let you know there are complications.

post #7 of 8
Oh boy! The questions are more complicated than you think.

First, let me clear up some confusion. When I was talking about Forschners, I was talking about the position they occupy in my set; not about Forschners in general. Forschners are very good knives, great for the price, and -- irrespective of price -- I'd just as soon use one as a Wusthof or Messermeister, because they're lighter. Weight is a funny thing. When you "try" knives in the store, heft feels better. But when you use a knife for more than a few minutes, more weight means fatigue and awkwardness.

The extra "belly" of the German profile adds power, which is helpful with a dull knife. Otherwise, it reduces agility. The Japanese expect the user to maintain his knife's edges, consequently they design theirs with a French profile. The trend among skilled practitioner is towards Japanese knives and away from German; and meanwhile French knives -- carbons especially -- are enjoying a renaissance. Edge quality is important, and herd instinct as well; but I'd like to think profile plays a big part too. At the end of the day though, profile is a matter of taste. There's no objective best, and if you prefer German you prefer it -- and that's an end to it.

When all is said and done, since you don't plan to use your chef's knife for anything really heavy duty, I think you'd be better off with a Japanese knife because of superior handling, lightness and edge quality. But again... a matter of taste. And not my taste either.

When I said "tips break," I didn't mean it was inevitable; but it is a very common consequence of accidents or abuse. The tip is the both the weakest and most exposed part of the blade. Furthermore, if it bends by more than even a tiny bit, you'll want to grind a new tip.

Speaking of grinding...

If you want to use oil stones as your whet stones, (water stones are whet stones as well) for high-end, western manufactured knives, you're probably best off with a four surface set -- one Norton combination India Stone, and two Arkansas. A four surface set isn't a bad idea with water stones either. In any case, you'll quickly find you need three surfaces. The coarsest to profile and repair (which you'll do twice a year unless there are accidents); a "medium" to "draw a wire" (aka "pull a burr") and start chasing it; and a "fine" to pull a more refined burr, and chase that. You'll also need to deburr; for that you'll most likely end up using your medium and fine stones; perhaps your steel; and something like an old wine cork. It's a waste of time to polish German stainless on a fourth water stone, but not on a "surgical black" or translucent Arkansas. This has to do with the differences in scratch patterns left by synthetic and natural stones.

It's no doubt starting to dawn on you that the equipment makes a lot more sense once you understand the process. Although you're right -- if you're at all handy, you want find it hard to learn to do.

Water stones work by dissolving and releasing fresh abrasive from their substrate. Consequently they wear quickly, and as they wear they dish unevenly. An uneven surface doesn't sharpen well, so water stones need to be flattened; in addition, fine water stones need to be lapped after flattening. The most efficient inexpensive way to flatten is on drywall screen; and the most efficient inexpensive way to lap is by rubbing one stone against another. A lifetime supply of drywall screen will run you something like $15. The good alternatives to screen are a lapping plate, plus loose abrasive; and a coarse diamond plate. A good diamond plate runs around $75, the other is more of a DIY project and price varies wildly.

There is a lot of variation in Arkansas stones, but finding quality stones isn't difficult. If you decide you want to try Arks, you can just take my advice and buy from Hall's Pro Edge. You'll (a) be fine; and (b) buy the best for the least. There are some advantages to using natural stones in terms of edge quality and durability, but the Arks aren't as fast as synthetics; and speed is a big advantage when you're first learning. Faster means fewer strokes, and fewer strokes means fewer opportunities to screw up.

If you're sure you won't buy Japanese knives, I recommend oil stones (but not oil -- dry, water, and soapy water, each works better with oil stones than honing oil). Quality costs less, and they require less maintenance.

About that Norton 1000: 1000 grit is a good choice for the medium stone. And if you were to buy only a single surface, 1000ish would be the way to go. Keep reading, though. Norton water stones are very high quality, old fashioned clay substrate stones; but there have been a lot of advances in water stones since the Nortons came out, and there are so many resin and magnesia substrate stone which are better in every way than the Norton, the Norton is no longer a good choice.

As a "lifetime," three surface, water stone kit, I really like the Beston 500; Bester 1200; and Suehiro Rika 5000 -- but there are other possibilities which might suit you better and are cheaper as well -- but not quite so lifetime. As it happens you can get a deal on the three if you buy at the same time ($130, from CKTG); but if you were being conservative, you'd buy the 1200 and 5000 first, learn to use them, and not buy the coarse stone until you were already a consistent sharpener. Coarse stones have consequences.

post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 


Lot of great information, I appreciate all the help, especially everything on whetstones as I had a lot of things mixed up in my head, I'm sure I'll be referencing back a few times regardless. I'll definitely read through Chard Ward's Article as well. I'm admittedly still a little unsure about Japanese knives and their durability but I'll probably be reading around a bit more before making a decision.That said, a lot of my questions and confusions have already been cleared up so thanks again, I appreciate it! 


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