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Just starting out...

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

So...I've caught the bug, and now I'm obsessed.  I'm sure you all can relate!


A little background:  I'm a late-20's professional with relatively little cooking experience.  My girlfriend and I take turns making dinner each night, but nothing especially fancy.  Anyway, a friend recently started selling Cutco, and I let her give me her presentation for practice.  I didn't know much about knives (I just have cheap block sets), but I knew enough not to fall for the sales pitch for these overpriced knives.  I wanted to contradict her on the marvels of their surgical stainless steel and Double-D cuts, but I was a good friend and kept my mouth shut.  Still, the presentation got me interested in upgrading my knives, and I haven't stopped reading about them since (online and Chad Ward's book).


So now, after a lot of research, it's time for a decision on that first Gyuto.  I just ordered the Tojiro ITK Shirogami 210 gyuto and 120 Petty because they seemed like such a good deal, but I'd also like to pick up another stainless (or semi) gyuto as my primary knife.


I'm torn between getting something cheap for practicing cutting & sharpening, and jumping right to something more expensive.


Option 1: Fujikara FKM 240 - $80

A good reasonably-priced starting gyuto by all accounts.  I know it will last me quite a while, but I'm worried I might get the itch for something better soon.


Option 2: Mac Pro or Richmond Addict 2 - $170

The Mac Pro gets tons of praise (especially from BDL) so it's hard to ignore this option.  It comes with a good edge so I could practice sharpening on my Tojiro ITKs in the meantime so I'm ready to sharpen it when it does dull.  However, I really like the look of wa-gyutos and the Addict looks like really good value.  If I went with the Addict I'd want to get professional sharpening for the initial edge, then try my hand at keep it sharp later.


Option 3: Go big!  ~$250

There are a ton of other attractive options (Hattori HD/FH, and lasers like Gesshin Ginga, Konosuke, etc..).  I probably wouldn't want to do this yet because I don't have the sharpening or cutting skills, and I haven't handled enough knives to really understand what preferences I have in a knife.  Still, I have the money, and it's an option if anyone has a strong recommendation for a more expensive starter knife...  Again, I'll have the Tojiro ITK's for backup.


Does anyone have any advice or other recommendations?  I think I'm leaning towards the Addict 2, but I'd like to feel how the wa D-handle of the ITK feels first.


As for maintenance, I'm definitely picking up an Idahone ceramic.  I'm considering some stones, but I think I'll probably end up getting an EdgePro Apex.  Quality and consistent results are more important to me than learning the art of freehand sharpening (although that is something I may explore in the future).






post #2 of 7

You've read enough probably to know what I'm likely to push toward... but caveats (I haven't used all of the knives you're looking at, and I have some preferences that are based on what few I have used as well as random adopted-prejudices from reading, as you have done).


I love the Mac (Pro line) knives.  But nowadays I also love Wa-handles.  I wish I had an RIchmond Addict so I really knew what to say.  Those who have much more experience than I have pimped them pretty hard. I don't like th looks of them so much.  I like the look sof the Richmond Remedy more, but they're a big chunk more expensive and only yo-handled.


SO... I'd say look at the Macs very seriously.  I'm a big fan of the  Yoshihiro stainless.  I have a bigger  Yoshihiro gyuto that is crazy-good.  I think the profile is truly excellent (if a smidgeon flatter than some others that have been described as "ideal" here, but only a smidgeon and I like that little bit flatter more than that little-bit more belly).  The downside is they're come single-beveled out of the box; or very close to it.  And the steel is hard enoug that it takes a bit more work than some others to re-profile to 50-50, or something closer to it, for a beginner. But then, it's not *that* hard to do, and you might not want to do that anyway.  VERY good steel, amazing profile, very light, very thin but not laser-thin.  They're a great first wa-handled knife, IMO.


I have Gesshin Ginga petty, which you also mention.  I *would* have a GG stainless wa-Gyuto if I had the bucks to spend.  Crazy great knife.  CRAZY greaty.  Seriously.  I don't know how to compare th edge retention, or the edge-taking, with the Konosuke HD.  My guess is that the difference matters, but only once you really know what you're doing with sharpening.  The thing to consider there, which you're already considering... is whether you need something less thin, less-laserlike, as a "beginner". And I don't know.  I do think something that thin, in a gyuto, will force you to learn to square up better to the board, and better to the product being cut, and just be more decisive in your cuts.  But something a tiny bit more robust is more forgiving, and still way sharper and lighter than Euro knives (I'm talking Yoshihiro again, here).  Thinking you'll want a laser and something slightly more robust, both, in the long run.... start with the more robust knife.  Till you feel better about both cutting skills and sharpening skills.  And besides.... you're more likely to GET both if you start with a more robust knife.  Be honest, you really want both anyway.


At least that's what I did.  Take that for what it's worth.


Bang-for-buck, a good carbon Sabatier (a la the Nogents, or the K-Sabs) is still a wildly good purchase, too.  I'm still very attached to mine.  But if you want the J-knife experience, that's not the way to go.


Yoshihiro stainless in a light but not laser-thin gyuto, Gesshin Ginga for stainless laser, Konosuke HD for semi-stainless laser.  Mac for stainless, thin-enough, certain enough, if you want a western handle and good customer-relations/warranty sort of things.  ALL of those are just such freakin' great knives.


I'm sure the Hattori and the Addict are much better knives than anything you've (likely) messed with before, but I can't compare to those I'm already discussing, really.  I'm less interested in them, but .... I have less experience with them, too, and am very willling to be wrong.

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks a lot for the reply Wagstaff!


The more I look at the Mac Pro, the more the colorful "Mac Mighty" logo on the blade bugs me.  I'm sure it's a fantastic knife, but if I'm spending that much money, I want something a little more "authentic" (Japanese-looking, not Western).  I think if I go for a western-handle knife, I'd now be more inclined to get a Kikuichi TKC (which I forgot to mention in my original post).


The Yoshihiro is a great looking knife that I hadn't checked out before.  It's definitely a strong contender, but I'm a little concerned about the single-bevel edge.  I'm sure with some practice I can make a decent edge on a knife, but how difficult is it to go from a single-bevel to 50/50?  I assume I'd start with a coarse grit on the flat side?  Is there a good way to check if it's 50/50, or do you just need to eyeball it?  I'd be worried that I'd end up with a 60/40 or 70/30, but I guess that's not a big deal.


I think you're right about the lasers.  This is my first gyuto, but it most certainly will not be my last.  I'm sure I'll get a really thin knife some point down the road, but for now I'd like to have something more robust that can stand up to whatever I need it for.


In addition to knife selection, I also have a couple other questions:


1) Can anyone recommend any good resources (online, or DVD/book) for developing good cutting skills?  I've read up on it some, but I'm a visual learner, especially for understanding things like properly squaring up to the board.


2) Any recommendations for knife storage?  I don't think I have a good place to put a magnetic strip, and I'm not a huge fan of countertop knife blocks.  I'm thinking I'd like to get something like the JK Adams Wave knife tray.  Does anyone have any experience with this or comparisons with the cheaper in-drawer holders on CKTG (Totally Bamboo, Wusthof, ...)?  Any other recommendations?



post #4 of 7

My understanding is the logo on the Macs scrubs off after relatively little time.  Should that play into your decision.  They do have great handles.  OTOH, I really like the wa-handles now (mostly because they're lighter).  the Yoshi has an octagonal handle, so not like the "D" shape you already like, should this also play into your decision.


If you're going to go the Edgepro route, I don't see any issues whatsoever in terms of making a 50-50 bevel.  This from someone who has not used an Edgepro, but I think I get the idea.  Plenty of youtube vids with the thing, and posts here.  And you were talking about getting a pro edge first if you went the Richmond or Hattori route... if you wanted to get a pro sharpener to put the double bevel on the Yoshihiro, too, no biggie.  And finally if you were to do it yourself... well, I did.  I had expert guidance, but seriously...  hmmm... how to say?  OK:


the general (and good) advice if you're freehanding is to use a medium-coarse (circa 1000 grit, but depending, 1200 or 2000 maybe) stone until you feel ok about keeping a consistent angle.  Which is just muscle memory and takes a bit of time.  I'm not super-good at it (in part for lack of long experience, but also because) I have some nerve damage that makes it tougher to eliminate wobble.  And I can do it.  So I think "anybody can".  It will be a pain to set a new bevel on the off-side of the knife with the medium-coarse. Just because it cuts metal away more slowly.  But this is also what stops you from creating more work for yourself (i.e., doing some damage to the edge) by using a coarser stone less skillfully.  I think after a sharpening session or two you'll probably be ok with the angle holding and can go to the coarse stone.  At least if your sharpening sessions last as long as my first couple/few did! (I'm still stupidly slow, by the way). 


So there you have it.


And I don't mean to push you away from the other choices I've discussed less.  I really haven't handled them, and I have some particular-to-me prejudices which.... which may well be reversed with more experience.  And you will develop your own.


Cutting skills: the overview you need is here: http://www.cookfoodgood.com/?cat=223 .  That's BDL's blog.  I'd suggest reading the second article first, then the first article.  Then the third if you're not a vegetarian.  Actually, maybe even FIRST you should read BDL's article here: http://www.cookfoodgood.com/?p=399 . That is not, on the surface, a skills article.  But it is, or it will be relevant to the other resources I'm going to talk about in the next paragraph.


Then there are books.  I think the skills section of the Chad Ward book is excellent, actually.  But perhaps not quite as visual as you want.  But to a large extent (and maybe least of all with the Ward book), all of the books dedicated to knife skills (and the website I'm about to mention) have a bias toward German profile knives, which does make some difference in technique.  That is, they push a bit heavily toward "tip down" work, because it suits their preferred knives, and also most of them have a bit too much horizontal action ("glide") in part because the Euro stainless knives won't be as sharp.  This might seem like a lot of detail, but it's not.  The POINT is... you have to adjust your own technique to be a bit different from what you'll see in the skills books and website if you get any of the knives you're contemplating.  But I think the adjustments are fairly obvious.  (What do I know? I might be adjusting inadequately... but it seems pretty obvious).


So you have three dedicated skills books that I know of.  The Norman Weinstein book comes with a short DVD, which would be an advantage, except you can see his videos on  youtube.  So look at them.  (He uses Wusthof classic -- a big bellied knife, so you'll see right away what I'm talking about with the adjustments).  But I think he's a good teacher.  A better teacher than lots of folks who have videos demonstating (arguably) considerably superior skills.  The book itself is not a bad choice -- it'd be my second if I had to choose -- but again, with the prejudices toward Euro-stainless, and his sharpening section is not the best.  It's ok, but you'll have to figure out why not to use oil stones.  His section on steeling is just bad for your purposes.  (You might not want to steel at all, depending on the knife, too....)  But keeping in mind the adjustments for the profile, which (again) I think are so simple as to be almost automatic once you have the food on the board and the knife in hand.... it's got lots of good "cut here first, in this direction, then do this...." for lots and lots of different kinds of food.  All the books are the SAME in this regard.


THere's the Hertzman book.  Which is ok, but line drawings instead of photos, all the same info doubled-up for right hand and then left (so it's shorter than it looks) and a bit small, less visual.


Of these three, I like the Henckels "complete" book the best, because it's less a coffee-table book than the Weinstein, it has a spiral binding which makes it easy to keep on a counter or table near the board while you're actually cutting, and the photos are large and clear.  It has a bunch of ad space up front for Henckels knives, but really that's just about the only thing that sux about it.  (Again, same caveats about adjusting for different profile and degree of sharpness).


And like I said, the Ward book has a good percentage of the same info, to my mind better presented, though less photographically rich than two of the others.


Whatever you choose, watch the Norman Weinstein videos on youtube first. If you get something other than Weinstein's book (and don't have his DVD, in other words).


And websites -- stellaculinary.com has a whole bunch of knife skills videos, most of them "how to cut x or y piece of food" but some other basics as well.  Like using the off-hand and such. But mostly how to cut a particular piece of food, western-kitchen style.  Those are all here:  http://www.stellaculinary.com/knife-skill-video-techniques-hd .  They're like the books, only more so.... they're using German profile knives which are not very sharp, and they "saw" a bit excessively.  So you really have to adjust.  So while it's not "great", it's the best online/video resource I've seen for knife skills.  If you make use of it, just be sure to revisit the cookfoodgood.com articles periodically.  Often.  They'll make more sense to you as practice cutting with the "worse" (but more specific) advice from the videos or books.


Storage.... I got nothin'.  I have a block that I'm fine with, which was cheap.  And it is not deep enough for my longer knife, which is kept in a saya.  (If you keep your knife in a saya, make sure it's always really clean and dry before putting it away.  If you get the saya gunked up, you'll be pushing the blade into gunk every time you put it away).  I have never seen or used the JK Adams tray, so can't help your consideration with that. On the surface, looks like a good thing.  If your counter space is at more of a premium than your drawer space, it looks particuarly good.  Both, for me, are at an issue.  Knife block seemed easier. (I also live in an old apartment with ridiculously narrow kitchen drawers.  Stupidly narrow.  So that device is more dicey.  But it seems like... a knife block for a drawer).

Edited by Wagstaff - 12/3/11 at 9:32pm
post #5 of 7

The MAC logo gets less annoying over time.  Getting it off isn't terribly difficult either. 


The MAC has a lot of things going for it which make it a very comfortable fit for that first, good Japanese knife.  It's got a great handle, is stiff, is rugged, comes sharp out of the box (many Japanese knives don't), the profile isn't too extreme, it has a very good warranty, and the US support (through MAC USA) is incredible.  The edge holding and taking properties are very good for a Japanese knife, and excellent compared to just about any Western knife.  Anyway, that's why I recommend them so frequently; all of which doesn't make a MAC a great choice for you. 


There are plenty of fish in the sea.  There's no reason you shouldn't have a knife with looks you love. Kikuichi TKC might be just the ticket.


The first thing to look at is your sharpening skills; and if you need to develop them, how far you're willing to go to do so.  There are always trade offs, and if you don't and won't have great sharpening skills it's silly to spend a lot of money to get something which trades profile or even looks for the nth degree of potential sharpness. 


Knife skills are important.  Assuming you're using sharp knives, the most important skill is probably a soft grip; because with too strong a grip it's extremely difficult to avoid torquing and binding the knife, and to make, even straight cuts.  Yes a good pinch with a good action suited to the blade makes chopping a lot easier, but the benefits of a soft hand are true for all sorts of grips and not just the pinch.


I'm not sure if it's fair to say than an uber thin knife gets sharper than most of the more normal ones, but they sure act that way. You lose all the benefits of anorexic thinness if you allow the blade to torque.  The twisting (across one or both of the long axes) problem comes with sloppy technique and a too tight grip; and that's why I think people without good skills in a professional situation should avoid them.  What I've come to learn though, is that it's less of a problem for home cooks -- especially those who are willing to develop skills -- because they're under a lot less pressure to produce.  That's not a recommendation, it's a "just is." 


The duller your knife, the more power you tend to bring from a tight grip and the choice of an arced blade -- hence, the importance of sharpening as a knife skill.


Wagstaff is right about everything.



post #6 of 7

A few thoughts...


1.  So you just ordered a Tojiro ITK and you're already looking to upgrade?  Are you going to send back the Tojiro?  If not, why not give the Tojiro some time, like at least 6 months to see if you like it.  I think often in situations like these people get upgrade-itis, meaning, you buy a $60 knife, then a $80 Fuji, then a $150 Mac, then something else for $230.  It can be a big waste of money.



2.  I'm with you on aesthetics.  Some folks are professional chefs and they are more concerned with function of appearance.  Some folks are sharpening nuts and they want something they can put some extreme angles on, super hard materials, etc...  I think for most home cooks, a good sharp knife is a good sharp knife - they all will work for whatever you want to cook.  So a big part of the equation can be the prestige factor, does your knife increase your cooking satisfaction?  Is it a conversation piece when you entertain?  Or do you not care about that, do you just want a good knife to make great meals.  I bought a carbonext recently and honestly, I sort of don't like it.  I don't like the aesthetics.  But it's a nice knife, it sharpens easy and I like the size, feel, profile, etc... so I'll probably keep it for a while... maybe even a long, long time.  Or else maybe I should just go big and spend like $300 or maybe even more and just have my ultimate knife for the next 30 years :)

post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the responses everyone!


I'll definitely check out the links and videos you mentioned Wagstaff, and I'll refer back to the Ward book as well.


I'm still debating the choice, and strongly considering the Kikuichi and Yoshihiro.  But haven't ruled out the Mac Pro entirely.  My girlfriend will probably be using it as well, so maybe the more Western look is a good thing, as is the fully stainless nature of it (she can be somewhat neglectful at times...).  I'll let it mull around a bit more in my head before I pull the trigger on anything.


racineboxer: I'm definitely with you on everything.  I want a knife that looks nice, performs well, and will last me a long time.  I bought the Tojiro's because they were a great price and were "limited quantity" items.  I just recently received them, and I like them, but I definitely want a good stainless knife as my go-to knife, which is why I'm still looking into other options.


By the way, I know you aren't thrilled with the aesthetics of your Carbonext, but aside from that you're happy with it?  I'm considering a Kikuichi TKC which is the same/similar metal, so I was curious just how stainless it is in practice (it's only advertised as semi-stainless).


Thanks again,


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