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Ready for an Upgrade

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

I have a passion for cooking and I'm Striving to improve my cutlery skills. I'm looking for suggestions for 3 knifes: 9"/10" Chef, 4" or so Petty/paring and a Bread knife (or others that you think will suite my needs better).

 

My wood cutting board is 18x 24 and I have a Magnetic Strip for knife storage.

Also getting stones but I asked about that this thread (post #37).

 

I currently am using a 8" Calphalon chef knife and a 5" Calphalon Santoku

 

Since I have been using the pinch grip more now (since reading some helpful tips) I feel I have much more control and always gravitate to the Chef rather then the Santoku. I might use the Santoku on mincing garlic but don't really use it that often and I have been using 4" serrated steak knifes as my petty- talk about living life on the edge :)

 

The Handles on the Chef and Santoku are similar to the Wusthof Classic line "yo" handle (yay! I learned a term) and I am not a fan of it, my hand is 3" wide and 6.5" from heel to fingertips, the handle is very square on top and it fatigues my hand- they hurt if I have a long prep time for a meal, maybe its a grip thing maybe the pressure of the square edge is hitting my hand weird, maybe the weight of the knife?

 

Technique: pinch grip most of the time. For mincing I hold the handle with my right hand (so I move back from the pinch) and my left hand flat and resting on the spine of the knife.

Cut style: the tip of the blade is usually on the cutting board and I use a Downward push movement, I rarely ever lift the blade to "chop" -still honing my skills here peeps.

I use the Chef to cube meat and butterfly. Cut Veggies- sticks, cubes, mincing. I do cut apples, butternut squash, acorn squash and watermelons.

 

Oh and I went to SLT to test drive some knives:

---Wusthof Classic 8" Chef: Boo! didn't like the feel of the handle as explained above.

---Shun Classic 8" Chef: Boo!  Didn't like the feel in my hands, it was far lighter then my Calphalon but something was not right about it.

---Global 8" Chef: it is in my top 3, light, felt okay in the pinch grip

---Miyabi Kaizen 8" Chef: Tie for first place. So comfortable in pinch grip, light in the hand. 

---Wusthof Ikon 8" Chef: Tie for first place. The handle was very comfortable in pinch grip, light in the hand.

---Shun Classic 9" Offset Bread knife: oddly enough, I really liked the knife seeing as I didn't like the Classic Chef Knife. knuckles didn't hit the board- thats a plus. Maybe it was a love of novelty?

 

Aesthetics- don't care what it looks like, sure its a bonus if it looks pretty sitting on the magnet bar in the kitchen but really I just want a knife that fits me and I can grow with.

Cost Ballpark: $100-$200 for Chef, $150 or below for Petty, $160 or so for the Bread.

 

 

I'm new to knife Brands so if you could offer more details about your selections that will be helpful. 

 

Thanks everybody, I cant wait to see what you suggest!

post #2 of 22

I wonder what the "something" not right about the Shun was -- or if it was the exaggerated belly, that was the problem.  But you also use primarily tip-down technique, which might be more suited to the bigger bellied knife (if I read you right).  You might do well to read BDL's article on knife profiles here:  http://www.cookfoodgood.com/?p=399 .  Mind you, his bias is toward a French profile knife, so be aware of any swaying he might do.  (I agree with him, but then... I had a set of French knives before I started researching all this; on other forums it seems the general preference is toward even flatter profiles, though this isn't anything like universal).

 

The Wusthof Ikon that you liked -- that has the ergonomic "bump" in the handle, yes?  Does the Miyabi Kaizen?  I really don't like those, myself, but you may -- I'm trying to learn if that's something the two knives had in common that you liked.

 

Finally, I'm not super attached to particular handle styles; I think a pinch grip makes it almost irrelevant to me, on a chef's knife at least (not 100% true -- some are overly blocky with sharper edges, or the ergo bump feels weird to me).  But it seems you might be, so I"m trying to learn what it is there to steer toward.  Are you open to a wa- handled knife?  I know that's not what you got to try out, so far.

 

All that said, there's something to be respected about your ability to hold a knife and see.  Those I'd know to recommend are things you're unlikely to ever get to touch before buying, so I'm very reticent to throw in my 2cents, here.  Besides, I'd just throw in the usual suspects from prior threads, probably, in an attempt to imitate what I've learned from BDL with an extra word thrown in for the Yoshihiro stainless as a possibility. (I could think of good reasons not get that one, too, btw... just depends on lots of things like handle preference and profile preference and plans for sharpening, both how- and when-).

 

Anyway, I apologize for throwing more questions out there when you want some answers!


Edited by Wagstaff - 9/26/11 at 8:17pm
post #3 of 22
Your gyuto/chef's is by far your most important knife. If you want one super-good knife, that's the one to spend the dough on. There's not much reason to spend more than $150. We'll talk a lot more about this knife, but I'll probably end up recommending the MAC Pro -- it makes more sense for more people than just about anything else in the class.

You use your petty as a short slicer to replace your boning and paring knives, and for "utility" tasks like opening packages, cutting string, you name it. Since it gets so much use you'd think a high-end knife would make sense here too. Not so much. Petties see a lot of abuse, and get a lot of sharpening and steeling to keep up. Consequently they get used up pretty quickly. My first recommendation is a 120mm or 150mm Fujiwara FKM. $35 ish. I have three petties, only one of which could be considered expensive. It's a Konosuke which retails for something well north of $100, and which I bought largely to keep my other Konosukes company. It's a great knife, but as a practical matter you can do just about as well for a lot less.

If you feel naked without a short parer, get a Forschner. Less than $15 with a rosewood handle. Disposable, serrated, plastic handled Forschner parers run around $6 each. You don't sharpen them, just throw them out when they start getting dull -- probably every 6 months or so.

You can't do better than a MAC Superior SB 105 (10.5" bread knife) bread knife. Around $80, if you want the very best. If you can settle for something almost as good, go with the Forschner 10.5" Rosewood bread knife. Around $35.

A slicer recommendation is a little more complicated. I have a few slicer/sujis, and use and misuse them frequently -- more frequently by far than most. Even if you only use your slicer for occasional carving, you want something that can take and hold a fine sharp edge. Your budget allows for that, and that's all to the good. But if a slicer isn't a big part of your arsenal, there's no sense in buying something more expensive than a Fujiwara ($80).

If it's an important knife for you, you want something really good like a Kikuichi Elite, Masamoto CT, Masamoto HC, Misono Sweden or a Sabatier carbon -- Prices run $125 for the Sab (such a deal) through $250 for a 12" Masamoto. Those are all carbon (non-stainless) knives by the way. Something else to discuss. Of course, you could pair whatever stainless knife you choose for a gyuto with it's suji stablemate; at the end of the day, not a bad decision.

If you do big meat, it's nice to have something with which to beat it into submission like a Forschner 10" Fibrox Cimeter. $35.

We're probably looking in the neighborhood of another $200 for a "soup to nuts," water stone, sharpening and maintenance kit. Unless... you end up choosing an Edge Pro, then we're looking at spending an additional $50 - $100.

BDL
post #4 of 22

For a bread knife, I think no better deal exists than the Tojiro bread knife made exclusively for CKtG:  http://www.chefknivestogo.com/toitkbrkn.html  . It has a gread serration pattern, is very light and razor sharp OOtB.  It's just over half the price of the MAC depending on where you shop.  I've had many different bread knives including a $200+ Shun Elite but the Tojiro trumps them all.

 

I'd agree with BDL that there's no need to spend anything like that much on a petty.  To be honest I don't use a petty all that much but I'm probably an aberration.  Over decades of cooking professionally I've developed the odd habit of using my chef's knife/ gyuto for 75-80% of all my work, switching to another knife just for specialized jobs (ie curved boning knife for trimming tenderloins, using a tourne knife for potatoes, etc).  The petty I use the most is an Hattori HD, but not because it's "the best knife" but because I bought it used for a very good price.  You can get by with anything that fits your hand.

 

Of the chef's knives you listed it sounds like the one you liked best happens to coincide with my view of the most ergonomic.  I really like the way the Wusthof Ikon feels in the hand.  But having used and frequently sharpened one for a coworker I can't say much about the steel they use- it's pretty pedestrian.  It doesn't get all that sharp and won't hold the edge for any great length of time.  Of course, I'm talking about use in a pro kitchen; at home it would last much longer.  I do like the fact it has no bolster, and I've stated repeatedly that I'll never again own a knife that has one.  It's hard to really suggest a gyuto for you.  If it has to be one that you can hold and use before buying that cuts down the options a lot.  The Ikon has a very idiosyncratic handle, unlike most others.  Off the top of my head I can't think of any other knife that duplicates the feeling of it.  The Shun Premier is fairly close, and is a pretty decent (if overpriced) choice.  My standard recommendation for a gyuto is the Kagayaki CarboNext from JCK.

 

FWIW I don't even own a "good" paring knife, so little do I use one.  I keep half a dozen cheap stamped Messermeister paring knives and tournes in the bottom of my work knife case for those odd occasions when I need one.

"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
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"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 #5 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wagstaff View Post

1) I wonder what the "something" not right about the Shun was -- or if it was the exaggerated belly, that was the problem.  

 

2) The Wusthof Ikon that you liked -- that has the ergonomic "bump" in the handle, yes?  Does the Miyabi Kaizen?  I really don't like those, myself, but you may -- I'm trying to learn if that's something the two knives had in common that you liked.

 

3) Are you open to a wa- handled knife?  I know that's not what you got to try out, so far.


1) Looking at the Profiles - it looks like the Wusthof Classic has the most belly, and the others are more "slim" toward a French style?
Wustof Classic.jpgshun classic.jpgGlobal .jpgwusthof ikon.jpgMiyabi kaizen.jpg
2
&3) the Wusthof Ikon has the bump which did feel comfortable surprisingly in both pinch and full handle grip- so I guess I like a modified yo handle that just isn't that sharp of a top edge, and the Miyabi is a "wa" handle. Maybe it was a bolster issue also with the Wusthof Classic?

 


Edited by bethca - 9/27/11 at 9:50am
post #6 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

1) gyuto/chef's: MAC Pro -- 
    petty: 120mm or 150mm Fujiwara FKM. $35 ish. 
    Bread: MAC Superior SB 105 (10.5" bread knife) bread knife. Around $80
    Slicer/Bread: ?
2) A slicer recommendation is a little more complicated. I have a few slicer/sujis, and use and misuse them frequently -- more frequently by far than most. Even if you only use your slicer for occasional carving, you want something that can take and hold a fine sharp edge. Your budget allows for that, and that's all to the good. But if a slicer isn't a big part of your arsenal, there's no sense in buying something more expensive than a Fujiwara ($80).

If it's an important knife for you, you want something really good like a Kikuichi Elite, Masamoto CT, Masamoto HC, Misono Sweden or a Sabatier carbon -- Prices run $125 for the Sab (such a deal) through $250 for a 12" Masamoto. Those are all carbon (non-stainless) knives by the way. Something else to discuss. Of course, you could pair whatever stainless knife you choose for a gyuto with it's suji stablemate; at the end of the day, not a bad decision.

If you do big meat, it's nice to have something with which to beat it into submission like a Forschner 10" Fibrox Cimeter. $35.

3) We're probably looking in the neighborhood of another $200 for a "soup to nuts," water stone, sharpening and maintenance kit. Unless... you end up choosing an Edge Pro, then we're looking at spending an additional $50 - $100.

BDL


1) Which MAC? MAC Pro Chef 8", MAC Mighty Chef 9 1/2", MAC Mighty Chef 10 3/4"

 

2) I don't really know what I'm missing out on if I gain a Slicer and relieve some of the tasks I put to the Chef other then cutting up the Thanksgiving Turkey. I looked up another of your reply's to this post  ... "a Slicer is better for portioning, trimming and carving." So I can see the benefit of more maneuverability and better control, but what about this Carbon? Is that where I have to put the baking soda paste on it for the patina and did I read somewhere that it has an off smell when its breaking in? oh and which Fujiwara? there seems to be a few series FKM, FKS, FKH and I don't know the difference as with the positives of the Carbons you suggested, could you expand your explanation?

 

3) Sounds like I need to start off with:

-- medium grit stone: 1,000 to 2,000

-- med-high grit stone: 4,000 to 6,000
What brand to choose?  Norton corse/fine India, Chosera, Bester, Rika, Halls soft/hard Arkansas, surgical black arkansas

Correct me if I'm wrong but it sounds like Norton's and Halls are comparable but I don't know where the others fall in.

-- honing rod (Idahone fine grit ceramic rod 12" or 10" depending on my knife length)

-- Flatten Stone tool (drywall screen or Diamond plate DMT xxc)

post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 

Phaedrus,

 

For a bread knife, I think no better deal exists than the Tojiro bread knife made exclusively for CKtG:  http://www.chefknivestogo.com/toitkbrkn.html

Looks great, and thanks for the quick link.


 

Over decades of cooking professionally I've developed the odd habit of using my chef's knife/ gyuto for 75-80% of all my work, switching to another knife just for specialized jobs (ie curved boning knife for trimming tenderloins, using a tourne knife for potatoes, etc).  

 

I've been doing the same, ha I love using my chef for everything, very rarely do I ever pick up my serrated steak knife ( my version of a petty) for anything but maybe removing the skin on a peach or apple. Then I came across a boiling and ice bath method and haven't really gone back. I was just throwing out a price- newbie here ;) But it would be nice to have for the just in case times.

 

Of the chef's knives you listed it sounds like the one you liked best happens to coincide with my view of the most ergonomic.  I really like the way the Wusthof Ikon feels in the hand.  But having used and frequently sharpened one for a coworker I can't say much about the steel they use- it's pretty pedestrian.  It doesn't get all that sharp and won't hold the edge for any great length of time.  Of course, I'm talking about use in a pro kitchen; at home it would last much longer.  I do like the fact it has no bolster, and I've stated repeatedly that I'll never again own a knife that has one.  It's hard to really suggest a gyuto for you.  If it has to be one that you can hold and use before buying that cuts down the options a lot.  The Ikon has a very idiosyncratic handle, unlike most others.  Off the top of my head I can't think of any other knife that duplicates the feeling of it.  The Shun Premier is fairly close, and is a pretty decent (if overpriced) choice.  My standard recommendation for a gyuto is the Kagayaki CarboNext from JCK.

 

Sounds like your on to something, it could be the ergonomics and bolster- I couldn't really articulate why I liked the Ikon and the Miyabi, but makes sense. I figured the steel was not ideal and I could get the guidance from ya'll here about that with the combination of the handles that I liked in the Brick and Mortars. 

 

 

So can we compare the MAC pro and the Kagayaki CarboNext? 

post #8 of 22

 

Well... my questions didn't help narrow it much. Indeed it looks like the Miyabi has wa-handle.  So does the Shun, which you didn't like, BUT that's a D-shaped handle, meant to be more "ergo" for right handers.  I also don't like that one.  But you liked the Wusthof Ikon, which has a different sort of "ergo" handle than the Miyabi... so that's not a requirement.  The Wusthof which you liked has a more German profile than the Miyabi, which you also liked; the Shun, however, also has a more German profile.  So it's a little hard to steer according to these preferences (and it makes perfect sense to me that you might like one handle of a particular style and not like another -- the important differences are often more subtle than categories).

What I'm trying to figure out is whether you're someone who really does prefer a German profile; you'll find the more common recommendations here lean toward the French profiles.  BDL already said he's likely to recommend the MAC Pro, based on most people's needs.  And that knife does have a pretty-much universally loved handle.  It's a  yo-handle and one without any overt "ergo" features.

 

If you prefer wa-handles, barring the D-shaped, then that might change all of the recommendations... Some wa-handles are D-shaped, some rounded, some octagonal, some a sort of hybrid.  And like yo-handles, different materials, and different thicknesses, and different degrees of roundedness where there are "edges" to it (as on the octagonal handles).

 

BTW, the most important bit of info so far came from BDL, regarding relative pricing, where to put your money in one knife vs another.  I meant to do that myself, but neglected to when trying to sort out your choices for a Chef's knife. (I should probably start a new thread asking for comparisons between the MAC and Tojiro... so won't get into those questions, here).

 

I'll point out two Messermeisters you might want to look at, too.  Same blades, different handles.  They have a German profile, but less so than the Wusthof (I think -- the Ikon might be closer than I can tell by the pictures).  They have a "classic" handle in the Meridian Elite line, and an "ergo" handle in the San Moritz Elite line.  Very similar to the Ikon -- steeper angle bevel, partial-bolster so you get the comfort of the fingerguard built in, but not a full guard which will interfere with sharpening.  It might be an even toss-up with the Wusthof Ikon, if indeed the Ikon has a better steel than their other lines (which I think is the case, but I'm not sure).  Anyway, Messermeister is not the price bargain it once was, and it's not really the direction I'd point you *except* that you might prefer the German profile. So take that in context.  Whole point is this is a German-leaning-slightly-French profile, in a slightly-better-than-usual German steel.  I like the handle a lot on the Meridian Elite; but that's a more "classic" handle; you might like the St Moritz "ergo". 

 

All that said, my own preferences are for  a French profile, and there are a host of  "usual suspects" you'll get pointed to if indeed the criteria I'm trying to sort out are not, in fact, the right ones!  Those would be
- the MAC Pro: excellent fit and finish, good profile, sharp out of the box, very stiff blade, excellent support
-  the Masamoto VG which is possibly less-well finished and slightly more flexible, but has a more ideal (French) profile than the MAC Pro -- of course only if you prefer a more ideal French profile;
- the Kagayaki CarboNEXT:  which won't come with as good an edge out of the box -- more immediate a sharpening project, in other words - but a hard-to-beat (low-stain carbon) steel for the price, supremely easy to sharpen, takes a good edge and keeps a good edge;
- the Kikuichi TKC, which is more expensive, better finished and prettier, otherwise super-close to the CarboNEXT;
- the Fujiwara FKM -- which is the current bang-for-buck leader in inexpensive knives;
- the Gekko (for price, and if you want a more decorative blade). 

 

(If you decide you definitely DO want a wa-handle, this changes things a bit).

 

I have experience with the MAC and the CarboNEXT from the above. Also with a different line in Wusthof (having held the Ikon in the store only), and the Messermeisters from more-above; the rest of that is a summary of what gets consistently recommended mostly by BDL and for reasons I'm repeating from his posts, with some other influence (Phaedrus is big on the CarboNEXT at its price point, as am I with some caveats; Chris Belgium has pointed out the Gekko a few times).  There's also some talk about "lasers" -- VERY thin-bladed knives, but that's often dis-recommended as a first Japanese knife because they're less robust, and the advantages don't really stand out unless you're a good sharpener.  Anyway, the previous paragraph is throwing out a bunch of things you'd get by reading older posts, and I hope saving BDL and Phaedrus and Chris some initial typing.  At least one step toward narrowing it down.

 

The recommendations also change a bit if you're open to carbon-steel. In both bang-for-buck and in absolute terms, the carbon-steel Sabatier knives from Thiers-Issard or Sabatier-K are top-notch. But their stainless, not so much. Japanese carbons are a whole new ball of wax.

 

And what's mentioned in a previous post that I have experience with and might recommend -- the Yoshihiro gyuto in stainless. BUT: that's wa-handled, it will not come particularly sharp new, so will need time on sharpening stones more immediately than most; and -- the biggest consideration, probably -- it has a a bit-flatter-than-French profile, which may not be to your taste.  It's a good steel -- takes a steep angle and holds the edge well; it's not a laser but it's still a pretty-thin blade with a good distal taper, it's very stiff, the wa-handle is nothing fancy but quite comfortable, the spine and choil are rounded for pinch-grip comfort.  I think it's pretty in its own very plain/basic way.  It's a good cutter.  Once sharp, I like it more than my CarboNEXT, but it's much more of a pain to sharpen.

 

The MAC are famously pretty-damn-sharp out of the box.  Some of the others need sharpening attention for different reasons.  The Yoshihiro comes only sort-of sharp, and has a single-sided (very small) bevel out of the box.  But the bevel that's there is fine.  My CarboNEXT came "sharper" but with a very sloppy sharpening job.  I paid for the "extra sharp" option, and it was done carelessly.  Inconsistent bevels on each side. (I don't mean the two sides are asymmetrical, which is fine and intentional, but that the bevel itself, on each side individually, was wildly inconsistent).

 

I'm not sure about the others... but generally speaking Japanese knives will come much less finished in terms of sharpness than Western knives; the MAC is the known exception.  It'll need sharpening soon enough anyway, which is why this is often not such a consideration... but it might be for you.

I haven't handled the Miyabi, but since that's a Henckels product, I'll bet it comes with a near-stellar sharpening job and in all respects fit and finish; much the same came be said for the Wusthof or even the otherwise-unloved Shun.  Certainly for the Messermeisters, too (another German knife).

So there's LOTS of knife-brands named, at least, with some considerations for each.  I'm leaving out an endless plenty.

 

The other post-ers here are older, wiser heads than I, in this game, even if I'm more wordy. So I hope as things get narrowed down, they'll steer more efficiently for you.


Edited by Wagstaff - 9/27/11 at 12:30pm
post #9 of 22
Lots to talk about.

Once you get into the realm of good and very good Japanese knives, you start making some very fine distinctions. It's easy to get carried away. Almost everything we're going to talk about is at least very good, and with far better edge and handling qualities than anything coming out of Germany. If you really like something and it's total crap (like a couple of the Shuns), we'll tell you. But chances are that anything you like, whether it's one of our favorites or not, would make you happy for a long time.

SLT: If you want me to break down the knives you tried at SLT I will. SLT's product selection is pretty good, but their knife choice isn't. None of their stuff is really what you'd call top-drawer or big bang for the buck.

Bread/Slicer: More about slicers later, but if you want to use a MAC SB 105, the CKTG special Tojiro, or even the 10.5" Forschner as a bread and a slicer, you could probably get away with it. I don't like serrated slicers for trimming or portioning any kind of meat, especially for fish; but you say you use something else anyway.

Handle Styles: Your selection of certain styles and rejection of others tells me you're holding the handle too tight. Pinch or no, you have to learn to relax your grip. Fortunately, when you start using very sharp knives, you'll find you don't need a strong grip to wrestle your way through an onion.

Fujiwara: Fujiwaras are "bargain-basement," "entry-level" products in the comparative high-end kitchen knives. Their blades are pretty good, but their handles and F&F are spotty. My recommendation is for FKM (stainless) only. The FKH is a particularly onbnoxious carbon; more if you want to know more.

Little paring knives: Why not? They're cheap. Little disposable serrated paring knives: Cheaper still.

Kagayaki CarboNext:
It pains me to say this because of my affection for Phaedrus (under whatever screen name) and respect for his opinions. The CarboNext is a decent to good knife which does not come with a good edge. You can pay the seller (JCK is the only one) extra for sharpening, but no one who's tried it has ever written anything positive. On the contrary, everyone who has purchased the service and written in Fred's or the KF has been disappointed. Otherwise, F&F is average, the handle narrow, good profile, excellent edge properties. But unless and until you're an excellent sharpener, the little bit of extra superiority compared to knives made with other alloys won't make a difference. Unless you know someone who will sharpen the knife properly as soon as it arrives, don't buy it.

MAC Pro gyuto recommendation:
In your case, the MAC Pro Mighty Chef's (MBK 95). As it happens, I just bought one from CKTG for my daughter's birthday. The MAC comes sharp, has a great warranty, outstanding manufacturer's support from MAC USA, and most -- if not all -- US dealers provide very good support as well. None of that is true for the Kagayaki or for just about any other Japanese made knife. It has an excellent handle, a very good profile, very good edge properties, and good F&F. Because it's one of the stiffest of the Japanese knives, it has the most "western" feel. And, if there's any problem whatsoever, several someones will be more than happy to take care of it immediately.

The MAC Pro, Masamoto VG, Sakai Takayuki Grand Cheff, Hiromoto AS, and a few others are good choices as the "first really good chef's knife." That is, they're excellent all-round knives in a given price range. Each has different strengths and weaknesses. You already know how I feel about the MAC, but maybe I should add that it would be my first choice in the category if I were shopping for a mass-produced, stainless, western-handled gyuto (which I wouldn't), I'd go for the Masamoto VG, because of it's excellent, profile which suits my French style action. Worth repeating that it was my first choice for my daughter.

There are quite a few very good knives for a little more or a little less money as well. But I get the feeling this is where you want to be. If it isn't, or you have any questions, say so.

Carbon vs Stainless, and Steel generally:It
All steel is an alloy of iron and carbon, so calling anything "carbon" is not exactly informative. Mostly though the term is used to differentiate "regular" steels from stainless and semi-stainless alloys.

"High carbon," by definition refers to any steel alloy with more than 0.50% carbon by weight -- except in Germany where the threshold is 0.45% in order to "grandfather in" a particular alloy used in low end German knives (X45CrMoV15).

When chromium is added to regular steel, stain and rust resistance increases. By definition, when you hit 13% chromium or higher in a steel alloy, it's said to be "stainless." You often hear the term "surgical stainless" used by unscrupulous knife and cookware manufacturers. It's totally uninformative, and usually used to mask insufficient hardness.

There are two really important materials properties for knife alloys, strength and toughness. "Hardness" is a function of "strength." A harder steel will hold an edge longer than a softer steel, but if the alloy is made to hard or not hardened properly it will become brittle and tend to break. Toughness is another way of saying "resistance to breaking." Softer alloys tend to be tougher than harder, but if the alloy is too soft the edge will deform easily and be difficult to sharpen. Generally speaking, there is no one best level for either quality, nor even any best balance. It's a little different for specific steels, some manufacturers can hit all the nails right on their little heads.

Until very recently, stainless alloys could not be made in the same sweet spot as carbon (little to no chromium) alloys. Most, if not all, of the best knives were carbon. Even today when there is no shortage of truly excellent stainless and semi-stainless alloys, many of the best knives are carbon.

The advantages of a carbon knife are edge properties, feel on the stones, and cost/value ratio. The disadvantage is that carbon steels are needy. It's not so much that they need a great deal of extra care, but they need care when they need it. Procrastination puts you in the "great deal of extra care" boat. Some people make a big deal out of forcing patinas, encouraging natural patinas, etc. But that stuff is actually pretty easy. A carbon knife is like any other knife pretty much. When cutting a lot of reactive food like citrus and onions, stainless and semi-stainless really come into their own; that's more important for a gyuto and petty than for a slicer.

Carbon isn't for everyone, but you're a knowledge sponge and it seemed worthwhile to open the subject. In your case, a knife with a lot of intrinsic interest like an old fashioned, 10", Sabatier "Nogent" 49
or Misono Sweden might be just the thing for those ceremonial occasions. The Sabatier runs $85; the Misono $243. Neither is much better than the other -- especially for your purposes.

Sharpening:
Let's hold off until you've narrowed down your knife choices. I don't want to overwhelm you with information.

BDL
Edited by boar_d_laze - 9/27/11 at 3:59pm
post #10 of 22

BDL- I so routinely bash the factory edge of the CN that I may have just assumed I did here, too.  If I missed saying it, yeah you're right...the factory edge is crappy.  I've only seen one good factory edge on a CN out of six specimens.  If you need a knife with a good edge OOtB I'd suggest a Shun or Tojiro.  Those are the only J-knives I can honestly say are always sharp when you buy them.  But in the long run that's like insisting on only buying a car with a full gas tank.  Over the years you'll refill the tank hundreds of times, and it's shortsighted to cross hundreds of cars off your list merely because they aren't sold with full tanks.  No matter what knife you buy eventually it will require sharpening (unless you don't use it).

 

That said, American consumers expect a product to ready right out of the box.  I can't fault them for it.  If you're not comfortable with sharpening a new knife before use the CN probably isn't for you.  It's a shame the ES option is better executed.

"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 #11 of 22

Bethca, I'm trying not to step into the stereotype proposals for all-round solutions. I'll try to suggest a few things that will suit your needs. However, as always, I only talk about knives I have personal experience with. That already implies there are many other suggestions, but, it also means that I know a few things from hands-on experience compared to other knives that I use.

 

One general tip; learn to sharpen the Calphalon knives you own right now and they will outperform most of the brandnew, virgin(=as in not being properly sharpened yet) knives that you're going to order... really! Once good quality German, French, Japanese knives are sharpened properly, there's only marginal difference in cutting capacity.

 

Quote Bethca; Cost Ballpark: $100-$200 for Chef, $150 or below for Petty, $160 or so for the Bread.

Personally I would re-distribute your budget. Spend a little more on a very good chef knife and less on the petty and much less on the bread knife.

 

Most breadknives work well for many years without having to sharpen them, it's the teeth. I have a simple cheap German 270mm breadknife that serves me for many years now. I sharpened it once, out of curiosity, not because it was needed, using a small strip of 600 grit waterproof sandpaper wrapped around a pencil. Works perfectly!

 

For any petty, there's only one key-word in my opinion; razorsharp (compared to any other knife you own). I keep my small knives (90mm- 120mm- 150mm) always perfectly sharpened at a lower angle than usual. Nothing worse than a dull petty. I love the HiromotosAS (bought them at JCK) for their ability to be sharpened to incredibly high results. Nothing cuts faster and better than these petties. I use the 120mm most frequently but also the small 165mm santoku for quickly chopping fresh herbs, just the one onion I forgot to prep, a shallot etc. Their 150mm petty is mostly used for deboning lambleg and such and butterflying, but I also use it as the sharpest mini slicer, like on chicken breast or pork loin.

 

I read you may have a problem with the handles of some knives to be used as chefknives. I would strongly suggest to look at the HattoriFH series at JCK. These knives are highly valued by many pro-chefs and home users. Most important for you; they have a unique "sculpted" handle that is shaped to fit the contours of your palm. They are also surprisingly light, perfectly balanced and agile. Not the cheapest, but you get a lot in return.

 

 

post #12 of 22

Great advice, Chris.  Have'nt see you around (or have I not been around?).  In any event it's good to see you here again.

"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 #13 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisBelgium View Post
...

For any petty, there's only one key-word in my opinion; razorsharp (compared to any other knife you own). I keep my small knives (90mm- 120mm- 150mm) always perfectly sharpened at a lower angle than usual. Nothing worse than a dull petty. ...

 

 


Why should a petty be kept sharper than a chef's knife?  Is that a matter of edge retention -- i.e., you want a less steep angle on the chef's so it "keeps"? Or it's just easier to do since it spends less time being pushed up against a cutting board? Or is it just that you can power through with a chef's knife in a way you can't with a petty? Or something else?  (My own petty is my sharpest -- or acts sharpest because it's the "laser" in the family; but I think I want my chef's knife just as sharp to the extent I can get it there, no?)

 

post #14 of 22
Thread Starter 

Not overwhelmed just yet BDL, just looking over all the suggestions. Almost all through CookFoodGood and bookmarked some recipes, yum.

 

Thanks Chris, I am going to work on sharpening the Calphalons, what do you think my friends are going to use when they come over (she chuckles hardily) because they are not going near my new babies- well at least not the chef/guyto. I have to say I was just tossing out numbers- I don't know any better- who am I kidding! I'm new to this and that is why I needed some guidance - ends up I got a better focus (thank you everyone) I can spend a lot less and get a lot more. Seems like $400-$500 actually can get a Chef/Guyto, petty, bread, slicer and paring knife and bonus... stones. Gotta love a bonus!

 

All fun aside I'm seeing the knife world in new eyes and soaking up this new language like a sponge oh and I'm a "look see learner" by the by so videos like what Mark did on CKTG are most helpful since I don't think there are any mentors near my location, if you know of good ones send 'em my way.

 

And I found a MAC store in the area that I'm going to check out ... I know your on the edge of your seat so stay tuned! Well at least humor me :)


Edited by bethca - 9/28/11 at 11:04pm
post #15 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wagstaff View Post

Why should a petty be kept sharper than a chef's knife?  Is that a matter of edge retention -- i.e., you want a less steep angle on the chef's so it "keeps"? Or it's just easier to do since it spends less time being pushed up against a cutting board? Or is it just that you can power through with a chef's knife in a way you can't with a petty? Or something else?  (My own petty is my sharpest -- or acts sharpest because it's the "laser" in the family; but I think I want my chef's knife just as sharp to the extent I can get it there, no?)

 



Well, you mentioned nearly all arguments why a petty should be screaming sharp. It simply works better. I even peel potatoes with a petty, nice fast and thin. Try to debone quale or pigeon with a dull petty and you know the difference.

And indeed, my gyotos are very sharp but never sharpened to such extremes like petties. A gyoto suffers more from the more extensive work it has to do. Sharpening gyotos to extremes will result in too extreme edges that dull in a too short time, sort of a vicious cercle. It's perfect however for people who like to sharpen every day. I usually (re)sharpen sporadicly with a 800 grit or 1000. More frequently I do touch-ups with a 4000 natural and very occasionally I end with a 8000 natural. We all have our individual approach. I do read about others who sharpen gyotos and slicers to very low angles and then perform a tiny higher angle to work around the sensibility of a too thin edge. If it works, that's fine by me too.

 

post #16 of 22

Thanks Chris -- my "mentions" were just trying to think it through.  I appreciate the clarification.

post #17 of 22
Thread Starter 

I got the MAC Pro chef in a 9.5 and the Superior Bread knife, I'm excited! I still have to decide on my petty, slicer, and paring oh and stones. 

post #18 of 22

Congratulations, Beth -- that's a beautiful knife.  I'm glad you went with something longer than 8", too.  Or, I expect you'd be disappointed you didn't, had you not.

 

On the paring...  the advice you've been given and will get repeated is that you want something cheap and disposable.  The Forschner/Victorinox plastic handled parers are good and inexpensive.  I've used the cheapest Henckels (maybe the international line?) which were almost indistinguishable.  This in part because the petty is such a versatile knife, you'll use it for most things you thought you wanted a parer for.  I learned this from this forum, and it turned out to be true (contra what's in the knife skllls books, where the recommendation is that a gyuto and parer are the basics, everything else extra).  The parers get abused, they cut a fair amount of packing tape and loose threads from clothing.  That said... I still use one to core strawberries.  The cheap plastic one.  And I have a Tojiro sheepsfoot parer that's about 4, maybe 4 1/2" long. I wouldn't buy it again, but now that I have it, it is handy for in-hand peeling and such.  And on the rare occasions where I'm cooking with someone, others seem to like it.  The sheepsfoot shape gives more usable length of edge for those tasks.  But again, I'm fine using a longer knife for that purpose.

 

But the petty is really used instead of a the parer almost always.  I think you've probably seen a bunch of recommendations for petties, so I won't rehearse any of them here.  I'm still learning how versatile mine are.  (For various reasons I have a couple different lengths; my most-used is long, 210mm; but that sometimes stands in where I'd probably be better off using a gyuto; I just LIKE mine a lot.  The 6" length is super versatile, too).

 

 

On sharpening:

 

For one knowledgeable person's bottom-line set of recommendations -- Look at BDL's Post #14 on this thread:  http://www.cheftalk.com/t/67301/mac-ultimate-v-zwillings-kramer-carbon-v-gyuto#post_362897

Slightly more elaborated, a thread with the standard "best-of" beginners stones is here:  http://www.cheftalk.com/t/67134/first-set-of-waterstones



 

A honing rod -- look at the Idahone fine grit ceramic rod.  If you get it, don't drop it. Get the 12".  It's only 3bucks more than the 10"; the rule of thumb is you want a rod that's at least 2" longer than your longest knife.


Flattening -- the expensive (and good) way is to get a DMT XXC (i.e., the Extra-extra-coarse) diamond stone.  The marginally better but more expensive way is the get the equivalent Atoma stone.  The good and much less expensive way is to get some drywall screen (about which BDL has written at some length, recently, on one of Luis' threads - here:  http://www.cheftalk.com/t/67399/quick-question-on-stone-flattening ).

 

I'd love to hear how the MAC is treating you, out of the box, though -- and what you think of the handle, given your reactions to various others so far.   I don't want to forget the bread knife, either. I'm still in sort-of-need of one of those!

 

 

post #19 of 22
Thread Starter 

Thanks Wagstaff, 

 

I tried the 8.5", 9.5", 8" with dimples, the 6.5" santoku and the Deba or 6.5" cleaver. I felt that the 8 and 8.5 were a little short and I was holding back if I got them, and I felt pretty confidant with the 9.5 (the handle was very comfortable - no hard edge or sharp corners) and most importantly I learned to let the knife do the work and loosen the grip! Duh! All smooth sailing from there- I demoed with a push cut a pull cut and a chop. It didn't bind up or wedge on the veggies I was cutting and for comparison the salesman had a few other brands to try to feel the difference of blades (since I didn't bring my own knife he had me use a Henckels 6" chef and OH what the difference- know wonder I bully my Calphalon) Oh and OOtB was very nice and sharp the salesman showed me the paper trick (always fun to play with a sharp knife in the air cutting paper).

 

Came right home and cut up Tomatoes, an onion, oregano, shallots, dried figs, parsley and made a marinara sauce and some focaccia bread. Then I got to use the bread knife :)

 

 

Read those posts and a few others, sounds like I need to hold off on the super course stones - or at least using them till I master the 1-1.2k, right? and start off with:

-- medium grit stone: 1,000 to 2,000

-- med-high grit stone: 4,000 to 6,000
What brand to choose?  Norton corse/fine India, Chosera, Bester, Rika, Halls soft/hard Arkansas, surgical black arkansas

-- honing rod Idahone fine grit ceramic rod 12" (I promise not to drop it and I will keep it safely hidden from my 3yr old that would think it is a mighty fine sword)

-- Flatten Stone tool (drywall screen or Diamond plate DMT xxc)


Edited by bethca - 9/30/11 at 6:58am
post #20 of 22

You indeed do take in lots of information quickly -- I like it! I hope BDL chimes in -- he knows those India and Arkansas stones very well; I don't know about oilstones with the MAC.  My first thought is "no", and that would remove the India and Arkansas.  But I'm not 100% sure.  (I think they're possible to use -- one of the higher-end Japanese knife makers, Jin, who makes beautifully finished blades, only uses oilstones. But he's a very old maverick).  My father uses those, but he uses those on tools and on a German knife.  The idea is that the harder steels really want waterstones because waterstones cut faster.  That said, I'll let someone who knows talk at more length about the oilstones if indeed they're ok for your purposes, and stick to waterstones in the following remarks.

 

Yes on the holding off on using coarse stones.  And since you have new and will have newer knives that don't need reprofiling, that's what you'd do anyway.  No doubt you've read the truth that it  takes a bit of practice to hold a steadier angle, and you want to practice on something finer than a coarse stone.  Yes on medium and med-high.  Except... you'll want a coarse stone eventually and might want to save money by buying the CKTG (Beston/Bester/Rika) set.  And eventually you'll want something with a higher polish, still, maybe. 

 

LIke with the coarse stone, you'll want to develop a consistent angle before using a high grit finishing stone.  With something in 8,000-and-up range, (rather than cutting away too much metal) you might end up rounding the edge, dulling the knife more than sharpening it.  Then there's argument as to how fine is actually helpful in the kitchen.  Some people like to bring edges to absurdly highly polished finishes, just because they can; some would tell you that's for straight razors, and losing all bite on the food is counterproductive.

 

So yes, 2 stones immediately, or the 1,000-2,000 grit stone immediately and the 4,000-6,000 soon.  If going for the set from CKTG, you'll get the coarse stone as well, and just hold off using it for little while.

 

There are other options, like you mentioned the Chosera.  People like them; you'll spend more.  And other ways to spend more. If you don't have the extreme luxury of being able to test stones in a local store, it's hard to recommend anything besides the Bester/Beston/Rika combo at the price, I think. Except if budget really doesn't allow, in which case you can get started on a less expensive combo stone.  It seems you're not stuck in that position, given your post, though.

 

Another consideration is whether you're ok with stones that take 30-40 minutes of soaking of whether you really need a "splash and go" set of stones (which do very well with 2 to 5 minutes of soaking, for the most part, though can be used as true splash-and go).

 

For flattening -- I think the DMT Extra-Extra Coarse plate is supremely convenient.  It's also far more expensive than the drywall screen, which does the same thing. That again depends on how spendy you're willing to get for convenience. (And again there are other even more expensive options which get mentioned here barely, or not at all... but I think throwing that info just gets more confusing and is relevant only to people who sharpen A LOT).

 

I myself got a cheap combination stone to start. Noticeably cheaper than the 3-stone set from CKTG.  It turned out ok to start with, and I wish I didn't get it but I'm living with it for the moment.  I've got it surrounded by pricier stones -- more expensive than what's in the 3-stone set from CKTG, and I'll retire the combination stone soon -- when I get a better 1,000-2,000 grit stone.  So my set jes' grew, like Topsy.  In retrospect, I'm thinking that 3-stone set is the most prudent way to go, if starting from scratch, unless you have a store that lets you try stones and coaches you through them a little as a beginner. Those stores are hen's teeth, though.  And variants of that if you're only wanting to buy one or two stones to start, but still the Bester 1200 unless you have a good reason to go more expensive (and I can't think what that reason would be without being able to get your hands wet and try stones).


Edited by Wagstaff - 9/30/11 at 7:44am
post #21 of 22
Not Norton, their time has passed. Not Arkansas stones either, they're not a particularly good choice for your knives -- too slow, especially for a beginner.

If you don't mind spending a little extra for stones you won't outgrow -- Bester 1200 and Takenoko (6K), or Bester 1200 and Suehiro Rika (5K).

The Bester is a very fast stone which cuts faster and leaves a finer scratch pattern (less work for the next stone) than just about anything at its nominal grit rating. It has some issues though. It's on the hard side; has good -- but not great feedback; and needs a long soak -- at least 30 minutes in the bucket -- before it begins to work right. While it's not inexpensive, it's not expensive enough to be frightened off. It's closest competitor, the Chosera is just too darn expensive.

The Takenoko (aka Arashiyama) is the 6K equivalent of the Bester 1200 -- fast and fine -- but without any real issues other than not being as beginner friendly as the Suehiro. I like it a lot more as a final stone, though. And if I were planning on a 3 stone sharpening set for your knife kit, it would be my choice as the final stone.

The Suehiro Rika is an excellent learner's stone. Soft; fast enough; relatively inexpensive, gives lots of feedback; makes mud easily; very beginner friendly. What I don't like about it is that it's really a lot more like a 3K than a 5K which is at the low end of "right level" of polish for a good cook's gyuto. The question of "right level" is complicated. So, by the way, is equating a Rika to a 3K. For instance, the Rika is more like a 3K if you're willing to spend the time breaking down the mud, which slows the stone down considerably.

At the moment, CKTG is selling a three stone set Beston 400, Bester 1200 and Suehiro Rika for $135. Good deal.

Yes to a 12" Idahone fine. CKTG calls them Idahone 1200, and sells them at a good price. Get the one with the wood handle, it not only looks better but feels better in your hand. You'll use it regularly, but not as often as you would on a Euro. Yes to choosing between a DMT XXC and drywall screen. H/t to Wagstaff for this and everything else he said.

Regarding some of the discussion here: Sharpness is basically a matter of how well and how often you sharpen. It has little to do with relatively small differences in bevel angle.

The best profile and bevel angles for any given knife are mostly functions of the knife itself. The sharpener decides how much extra maintenance -- mostly in the form of more frequent sharpening and/or steeling -- she's willing to perform to get the little bit of extra sharpness from a more acute but less robust angle. That's how it is, and not at all controversial.

The best finishing grit has to do with use; some tasks want more too than others. If your finest stone were a Suehiro Rika, you'd probably use it for all your knives. If it were a Takenoko, you might not polish your specialty meat knives (if you ever get one) that fine. We can talk about tooth, fineness, polish, what they are, what they're good for, and how to get them, if and when you're interested.

When you start out, sharpen your MAC to 15* (the factory angle) on each side with your first sharpening stone (the one close to 1K in your kit). 15* is an excellent beginner's angle for just about every Japanese knife you can think of -- including your (eventual) petty. After you learn to sharpen consistently with your 1.2K, then learn to step up and sharpen with your finer stone. For a beginner, the purpose of the finer stone is as much about revealing flaws in angle holding and pressure as it is about actually getting a polish. Once you learn to use fine and polishing stones confidently and consistently, you can start making some choices.

When you're interested -- which should be pretty soon -- we can talk about asymmetry, and multi-beveling (that could wait if you're feeling overloaded), and "convexing."

Is sharpening freehand on bench stones your final choice? Do you have any interest in exploring Edge Pro sharpening for yourself. It's about twice as expensive, faster, and much easier to learn.

BDL
post #22 of 22
Thread Starter 

 

I guess I'm open to the jig?- I was just going to go balls to the walls with free hand and if I struggled I would have made a cheating wedge out of wood so I could feel where the angle would be (I'm good with a chop saw and table saw). 

Looks like the Apex 3 and Apex 4 are currently on sale but I would still have to get the Rod and the Diamond plate so an additional $110 on top of the $235-$245 little too rich for my blood. 3stone set (Beston 500, Bester 1200 and Suehiro Rika 5k), the Idahone Rod and the Diamond plate are in a more manageable pricing zone of $239 for all I need- well currently given my newbie status. Might want to get a sink stone holder though- but that will be an afterthought, want to see how I handle things first with just a non-skid drawer liner/towel.


When you're interested -- which should be pretty soon -- we can talk about asymmetry, and multi-beveling (that could wait if you're feeling overloaded), and "convexing."


Ya- I'll need to try things out before we go diving into asymmetry. 

 

So what are the key things I'm looking for when holding the edge and sharpening? From Mark's CKTG videos there is a "sound" when burring the edge, should I also be focusing on the slurry/mud on the stone? --My experience with "slurry/mud" and what I would be comparing it to would be wet sanding between painting layers on our '62 dodge I restored with my dad, that also involved listening to the sound as you broke down the paint and repeatedly dribbling water over the surface to get some of the mud to wash off and then feeling the surface to make sure it was smooth and starting all over-- luckily my knife is only 9.5" rather then 17 feet of car but is this something similar?

 


Edited by bethca - 9/30/11 at 12:29pm
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