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Bang for buck Chefs Knife $150-$200 + minimum upkeep tools?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

Hi all, just joined this great forum. I would like to upgrade to my first good chef's knife. I'm no professional, still learning technique and this will be used for home cooking duties.

 

I don't really care so much about brand name or looks, it's a tool to me and I was hoping that maybe there are knife recommendations for something that is somewhat easier to maintain (relatively speaking of course).

 

Would it make sense to buy something like a Mac Pro if it's not meticulously cared after? Some of the maintenance tools seem to cost up to three times the price of the knife.

 

What maintenance tools would be advised if I was to buy a Mac Pro (seems to be generally recommended around these parts) for example?

 

I personally have zero experience with sharpening. I don't want to build a shrine for the knife, just wondering what the minimal upkeep tools are suggested. Would it be blasphemy to buy a Mac Pro and then use an automatic sharpener? Am I better off just buying a much cheaper knife?

 

post #2 of 18

I'd suggest looking at this thread: http://www.cheftalk.com/t/52218/mac-rollsharp#post_363498

 

Especially post 3 then more especially post 9.  If you still have questions about reasonable sharpening options after looking at that, maybe there'll be more specific help to be had.

 

There are very good less expesnive knives, if your budget will be stretched by whatever  you decide to do about sharpening. The Mac Pro line is really special, though.

post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 

As I was searching the forum I actually bookmarked that thread. In terms of regular maintenance, I guess honing is what you'd want to do more frequently and that would help lengthen the time between sharpening.  I'm thinking maybe a Mac Pro and then learning to hone with something like an Idahone. Until I'm ready to really learn sharpening, I can take it in to a shop. Would this make for a decent plan of action?

post #4 of 18
The MAC Pro is an excellent all-round knife. I'm a big fan, have been recommending them here since joining CT, have recommended them to many other people, blah blah blah. I also give them as gifts to good cooks I care about, and actually, just bought two more for my daughter.

OK. They're good knives. What makes them so good? Well, without getting too deeply into the qualities you seem to have assimilated -- one of those things is their edge taking ability, and a big part of that is their ability to take and hold a polished, fine edge.

A fine edge is not a toothy edge. Fine edges glide through the cut. Everything else being equal, they also hold up better and tend to chip less than toothy edges.

Sharpening is a physical process which obeys the laws of the physical universe. Taking a few of those laws together we're left with the irreducible truth that a sharpening surface will either slow, coarse or both. Now there's some variation in there depending on materials and construction comparison -- some coarse sharpeners are faster than others; some relatively fast sharpeners cut relatively fine. But still, there's no getting around that basic truth.

Which takes us to the Rollsharp and any other single-stage sharpener. Coarse and/or slow. The Rollsharp itself kind of sits in the middle. It's not the slowest, it's not the coarsest. From the standpoint of sharpening the MAC Pro, it's too coarse to bring out anything at all like the knife's potential performance. The context for that performance is ordinary, carrots and onions, not transparent slices of sashimi.

Yes, a Rollsharp will get a MAC Pro usably sharp, but it's not a good choice. And if it is your choice of sharpeners, you should ask yourself why you're spending so much on a knife.

If you absolutely, positively must use a manual pull-through get a two or three stage Minos.

As with all pull-throughs, (whether Minos, Rollsharp, CC machines, et al) the sharpening angle is preset. Use an "Asian set" pull-through and you're sharpening at 15* (ish), whether or not that's the best angle for any given knife. So, you'll need a separate pull-through, or a combi like the CC 1520, unless you want everything at the same angle.

On top of that, if you're repairing or need to re-profile, the better manual pull-throughs are slooooooooooow.

A really good three water stone set will run you somewhere in the neighborhood of $140. And, you don't need to reserve their use for your gyuto only. Of course, the best stones aren't any better than the least expensive if you don't know how to sharpen. There's a learning curve to freehand sharpening. It's not insurmountable by any means, in fact it's not even all that steep, but it is there.

A good rod-guide, like the Edge Pro Apex, has a much flatter learning curve but costs significantly more.

As with most things, you get what you pay for and there's no free lunch.

Sharpness is the most important quality of almost any knife (the only real exceptions being things like butter and palette knives). This isn't a test you have to pass; and you certainly don't have to meet my standards. But if money means anything to you, think three times before buying an expensive knife if you can't or won't sharpen it properly.

BDL

PS. The MAC Rollsharp is the same as the Fiskars other than rebranding; in fact, made by Fiskars.
post #5 of 18

 

EDIT -- ah, BDL posted while I was still typing.  What he said.


Edited by Wagstaff - 9/17/11 at 11:22am
post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post


As with most things, you get what you pay for and there's no free lunch.

Sharpness is the most important quality of almost any knife (the only real exceptions being things like butter and palette knives). This isn't a test you have to pass; and you certainly don't have to meet my standards. But if money means anything to you, think three times before buying an expensive knife if you can't or won't sharpen it properly.

BDL

PS. The MAC Rollsharp is the same as the Fiskars other than rebranding; in fact, made by Fiskars.


Thank you for that explanation and your statement about thinking three times makes complete sense. I'm going to obtain the CIA DVD on knife care for now and take a look at what I would need to get into should I choose to buy an expensive knife.

 

post #7 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spencer Tracy View Post

As I was searching the forum I actually bookmarked that thread. In terms of regular maintenance, I guess honing is what you'd want to do more frequently and that would help lengthen the time between sharpening.  I'm thinking maybe a Mac Pro and then learning to hone with something like an Idahone. Until I'm ready to really learn sharpening, I can take it in to a shop. Would this make for a decent plan of action?


Depends on the shop. Many professional sharpeners are still not prepared to do a good job on better Japanese knives. By and large professionals run customers' knives through a sharpening machine. At the end of the day, it usually depends on the machine. You have to ask. Do they set the bevels at 15*? Do they finish the knife to 2000# or above. If so, you're good to go. If not, you might as well buy a Chef's Choice 316 for the meantime.

Worth knowing: If you can use a rod skillfully, you won't find stones too difficult. The most difficult skill to master on the stones is holding a steady handle; one you really need for the rod too.

A big part of learning to sharpen well is adjusting to the fact that it's not any sort of intellectual challenge, and the physical part just takes listening to a little bit of good advice, time and practice. Well... maybe the most difficult part of learning to sharpen is learning how to identify and filter out the bad advice.

BDL
post #8 of 18
Thread Starter 

I am considering the Apex Edge Pro though it does seem like cheating. Kind of like using a rabbit to open a bottle of wine, takes some joy out of it but it gets the job done.

 

If I was buying only a Mac Pro, would a lower cost Edge Pro system be enough? I know the more expensive ones allow for a wider range of angles.

 

I guess even with the Edge Pro, the blade needs to be steady and requires some practice, especially as you move towards the upper part of the blade where it starts to get thinner.

 

 

Anyone tried the KME system or heard of it? Seems you can clamp the knife down also.

 

http://www.kmesharp.com/kmeknshsy.html

post #9 of 18
No actual experience with the KME, but -- alas, no free lunch -- it's too small for kitchen knives. If you know any trig (or just the Pythagorean Theorem), you'll realize that a short distance between mast and knife means the sharpening angle will change as the mast pivots and the jib (the arm with the stone) length from mast/jib intersection to stone/edge contact point increases. Also, you don't want to clamp the knife, you want to slide laterally after sharpening each section to minimize angle error. The Lasky and Gatco have the same problems. OK for pocket knives.

If, by "lower cost Edge Pro" you mean one of the Apex kits instead of one of the Professionals -- an Apex is well beyond good enough. For one thing, you certainly don't need to thin a MAC Pro more acute than 10*; and for another, you can sharpen at a more acute angle than 10* by putting a shim under the knife. If you think you're going to do very acute angles, complicated multi-bevels involving great exactitude, and/or use a variety of stones -- buy an angle cube and a collet as well as the basic machine.

BDL
post #10 of 18
Thread Starter 

Ah, that makes sense, especially since I teach math:)  Well I thank you for all your advice and I'm hoping you can help me figure out this one last part, which kit?

 

Apex 1 kit

Apex Model Edge Pro Sharpening system,  220 & 320 Grit Water stones, Manual, Cloth, Water bottle, & Carrying case.

 

Apex 2 kit

Apex Model Edge Pro Sharpening System, 220, 320 Grit Water stones, 8" Ceramic Hone, DVD, Manual, Water bottle, & Carrying Case.

 

Apex 3 kit

Apex Model Edge Pro Sharpening System, 120, 220, 320, 600, 1000 Grit stones, 8" Ceramic Hone, Manual, DVD, & Carrying case.

 

Apex 4 kit

Apex Model Edge Pro Sharpening system, 120, 220, 320, 600, 1000 Grit Water stones, 2000 & 3000 Grit Polish tapes, 2- Polish tape mounting blanks, 8" 1200 Grit Ceramic Hone, DVD,  Manual, Cloth, & Water bottle, & Carrying case.

 

Being a newbie, cooking at home (for two people most of the time), just wanting to keep up regular maintenance, would the Apex 2 kit be just about right? Would I require anything outside the given Apex kit?

post #11 of 18

Try Chef Knives To Go and look at the custom Chosera kit they do. I had mine delivered 2 days ago and think it's great value.

post #12 of 18
You really want a little more polish for a MAC Pro than the Apex 2 provides. The solution might be to purchase one or two stones or polishing tapes ala carte rather than jumping to the next kit. On the other hand...

The Apex Chosera kit from CKTG is currently on sale for $285. I ordered one myself, and it was delivered today, but haven't had the chance to set it up and give it a try.

$285 is a lot of money.

BDL
post #13 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

$285 is a lot of money.

BDL

I only had to pay half of it. A nice birthday pressie from the old man!
post #14 of 18
wink.gif

BDL
post #15 of 18

I think you'd be very pleased with Apex & Chocera stone kit.  I have an EP Professional, but I had an Apex once upon a time.  The OEM stones will do the job but the Chocera stones leave them for dead.  I'm a real EP "propeller-head" and I have a lot of stones, including every Chocera except the 600, almost every Shapton Pro, a smattering of stones I  had custom cut and a dozen Japanese naturals.  Overall the Choceras are the ones I use the most.  They do a great job on pretty much every steel I've ever tried.

 

Having used the OEM/stock stones for years before the upgrade stones were available I would absolutely recommend just starting out with the best if you can afford it.  If not, get the cheaper set and add a few Choceras as you can afford it.  I'd first get the 1k, then probably the 5k.  Save the 10k for last- it's awe inspiring.  Maybe the single best synthetic I've ever used.

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
post #16 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spencer Tracy View Post

A

 

Being a newbie, cooking at home (for two people most of the time), just wanting to keep up regular maintenance, would the Apex 2 kit be just about right? Would I require anything outside the given Apex kit?



If you're just keeping your own knives sharp at home, I'd consider this kit from CKtG:  http://www.chefknivestogo.com/edgeproapex3.html .  It has enough stones to do a great job on any knife.  If you branch out into other knives you can always add stone.  CKtG is an authorized reseller for EP and offers great service.  Of course, Ben at EP always give great service as well.  You can't go wrong either way.

 

I highly recommend the upgraded package with Chocera stones for the true "geek", but I'll concede it may be overkill for the home cook wanting to keep the old Wusthof sharp.

 

 

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
post #17 of 18
Phaedrus knows much more about the Apex than almost anyone else, certainly me. However (knew that was coming, didn't you?) he may not know that CKTG has the Apex/Chosera kit so closely priced to the Apex Kit 3, the Kit 3 doesn't make a lot of sense. If you're starting from scratch, Kit 1 is so spartan and requires immediate additions (rod hone, finer stones), I'm not sure it does either.

There's no way to make the EP universe low priced.

I gave the different kits a lot of thought, including EP Professional vs EP Apex generally, as well as every possible stock and OEM permutation. I'm fortunate to be in the position of affording any of them equally, but (unfortunately) don't like to waste. The Professional added very little I wanted, nothing at all I needed, and would have cost considerably more. The word from nearly everyone is that the EP stones and tapes are effective, but the Choseras feel so much better to use they're well worth the extra bucks. And, at only $30 more than the comparable Kit 3, why would you not buy the Apex/Chosera?

If you're going EP, and price doesn't absolutely shut you out of anything more expensive than Apex Kit 1, CKTG's Apex/Chosera kit looms large.

BDL
post #18 of 18

No, I agree with you BDL- it's certainly worth the extra money.  And yeah, I saw CKtG has a great deal on it.  Even just for personal knives at home it's worth it.  But you can always make a case for the "next step" up, slippery slopes and all!biggrin.gif

 

I would absolutely recommend getting $285 upgrade kit before Mark comes to his senses and raises the price!  Just the full set of Choceras for the EP (mounted) is around $200.  So the kit is a screaming deal.  And there's very little that you can't do with this setup.  I know a guy who's used an Apex to sharpen martial arts swords!  I've done a 14" chef's knife on an Apex with no difficulty.  The one thing that might cause some problems would be an extremely large cleaver- with a blade over 4" tall you may run out of room to move the guide down the blade table.  By removing it altogether I think you could accomodate a 6" tall blade, give or take.

 

BDL- I'll be very eager to hear your impressions once you've had a chance to use the Apex for awhile.  But I wonder how you'll bear the ribbing you're gonna take from KCMA!biggrin.gif

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
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