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cheap but sharp and durable....

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

hello,

 

this is my first post on this forum... anyways, I am a high schooler who started out with baking, then jumped into cooking. So far I've done:

-basic french bread

-kare-pan (curry bread)

-kare-pan v2 (same thing with croissant dough)

-panna cotta

-molecular gastronomy

and some other stuff

 

anyways, I am currently using a Henkel's knife that our family own, and I was considering getting my own since the knife is having difficulty performing the simplest tasks like some vegetables.

 

Anyways, I am looking for a knife that is easy to sharpen, but capable of holding a sharp edge for quite a long time but won't cost too much to empty me of my college savings (more like anything past 80$, I don't need a ridiculous expensive knife as I don't think I'm going to cook professionally). 

 

Also, I am looking for a good manual sharpener, probably not a whetstone since most are pretty expensive for a fine grit, and a manual sharpener is alot simpler to use

post #2 of 13
I suspect the Henckels is very, very dull and that all might be well with it once its sharpened. There are a lot of "it depends" though, what can you tell me about the knife and how it's maintained?

Are you in the U.S.?
What's your budget for knife and sharpener?

A good pull through sharpener or a decent electric will cost about the same as a good oil stone kit. That is, around $80. If you're going to keep the price fairly tight on the knife, you're probably looking at a knife (and/or set of knives) which will sharpen very well on oil stones.

I think we should talk about sharpening and knife skills; cutting boards; rod hones, and maybe a few other things before you start spending money -- just so you know what's involved. However -- just so you can google and dream, half the fun afterall! -- my two generic recommendations for decent knives which don't cost too much are the R. H. Forschner and Richmond Artifex. They both represent huge performance for their bucks.

The Artifex will get sharper, and stay sharper longer, and it has a MUCH better profile than any German style knife (including the Forschner), but it's going to require a heavy duty back up (like the family Henckels) for thinks like splitting chicken backs. The Forschner is more rugged and knock about, but requires more maintenance, effort and because of its shape and weight is more fatiguing.

As you may have already inferred I suggest thinking of knives as part of a prep system which includes the rest of the knives in your kit, your sharpening kit, and your board. You might or might not want to prepare yourself for the extra expense it's going to take to put together everything you need to make cutting easier -- including a 10" chef's knife, a 5" or so "petty" (big paring knife), and a bread knife as well as the already mentioned board and sharpening kit.

BDL
post #3 of 13

You're in for a treat with how much improvement you can get for very little cash. I think the vast majority of American kitchens fall into two categories: one, they buy cheap serrated knives from the grocery store and replace them a few years after they get dull, and two, they've upgraded to some German knives, but they've got a sub-optimal method of sharpening them, if they sharpen them at all.

First, are you cutting on a wood cutting board? Soft plastic? Either of those are OK, but anything harder (glass, hard plastic, stone etc.) will dull whatever knives you have in no time.

I got along for years with a crock stick sharpener, a cheap stainless Chinese cleaver, and some hand-me-down Henckels stuff from my parents. It was only recently that I got into carbon steel knives and Japanese water stones. It was a really nice eye-opener, that's for sure. It started when I picked up a carbon steel cleaver for $2 at a thrift store. Lo and behold, it sharpened easier and got sharper than either my stainless cleaver or any of the Henckels stuff.

I've since gotten a CCK 1303 cleaver, a Tojiro ITK 120mm petty, an Idahone 1200 ceramic steel, and a three-stone waterstone set (500, 1200, 5000) from chef'sknivestogo.com. All that runs a bit over $250, and I've probably got more sharpening stuff than my current knives and sharpening skills require. Also, as you can tell, I'm a cleaver fan. Just so you know where I'm coming from...

I think you could get a nice chunk of improvement from what you've got for less. I've only used what I've listed above, so some of the advice below is based on the experience of others or educated guesses. I jumped over combination stones and alternative stropping methods (newspaper, balsa etc.).

Cheapest option: get a Norton combination India stone and use that to sharpen the Henckels. This makes sense if the Henckels you are using is a chef's knife, although I've got to say, I had a 6” Henckels chef's knife that I got from my parents, and I liked even the cheap Chinese stainless cleaver better. Maybe the bigger Henckels are better, but I found the 6” was neither fish nor fowl- too clumsy for detail work, not enough knuckle clearance, and not enough reach to be efficient. Anyway, it sounds like the knives you currently use are dull, dull, dull, so the Norton should be an improvement. $20 or so.

Second cheapest option: buy a carbon steel Chinese cleaver (either at your local chinatown grocery, if you have one, or maybe the carbon steel vegetable slicer one at wokshop.com, and either the Norton combination stone, or some sort of combination water stone. Add a Forschner paring knife. You're looking at about $50 to $80 or so here, depending on which stone.

Moving up the ladder:
CCK small slicer/cleaver, Forschner paring knife, combination water stone, or maybe the 1.2k Bester.

Moving up the ladder more:
Sub the Richmond Artifex gyuto for the CCK cleaver. Add a finer water stone and a Idahone.
John 
Boulder, CO

post #4 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

I suspect the Henckels is very, very dull and that all might be well with it once its sharpened. There are a lot of "it depends" though, what can you tell me about the knife and how it's maintained?
Are you in the U.S.?
What's your budget for knife and sharpener?
A good pull through sharpener or a decent electric will cost about the same as a good oil stone kit. That is, around $80. If you're going to keep the price fairly tight on the knife, you're probably looking at a knife (and/or set of knives) which will sharpen very well on oil stones.
I think we should talk about sharpening and knife skills; cutting boards; rod hones, and maybe a few other things before you start spending money -- just so you know what's involved. However -- just so you can google and dream, half the fun afterall! -- my two generic recommendations for decent knives which don't cost too much are the R. H. Forschner and Richmond Artifex. They both represent huge performance for their bucks.
The Artifex will get sharper, and stay sharper longer, and it has a MUCH better profile than any German style knife (including the Forschner), but it's going to require a heavy duty back up (like the family Henckels) for thinks like splitting chicken backs. The Forschner is more rugged and knock about, but requires more maintenance, effort and because of its shape and weight is more fatiguing.
As you may have already inferred I suggest thinking of knives as part of a prep system which includes the rest of the knives in your kit, your sharpening kit, and your board. You might or might not want to prepare yourself for the extra expense it's going to take to put together everything you need to make cutting easier -- including a 10" chef's knife, a 5" or so "petty" (big paring knife), and a bread knife as well as the already mentioned board and sharpening kit.
BDL

 

Would the Artifex get your vote over the Tojiro DP?

post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 

the artifex seems like a good choice for me... but I would like to spend less than 120$ total with the sharpening stone and knife

post #6 of 13

I would start with one of the BdeL sharpening suggestions, at around $80, and see if you can revive your Henckels.   Sharpening comes first!

post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 

had my henckels sharpened by a friend who sharpens her knives alot... I throw baby carrots and split them in half, so it's much better than before, but I'd prefer to have my own personal knife

post #8 of 13
I don't like san-mai construction for reasons which don't apply to many people, and almost certainly don't apply to you. I don't care for Tojiro DPs for that reason, and to a lesser extent because I don't like the handles. So, yes, I'd take an Artiflex or a Fujiwara FKM over a DP. But... that doesn't mean you should feel the same way.

Think of the Artiflex as an RH Forschner but even thinner and made from better alloy. Like a Forschner, it's an absolutely no BS knife and about as much value as you can get for the dough. Although it sounds great, it's not exactly to my tastes either (although yours may be different). I want my most used knives -- chef's knife in particular -- somewhat higher up the ladder and I'm willing to pay for it. But it bears repeating one more time, I'm not you.

99% of my wisdom -- such as it is -- is a framework for evaluating which types of knives will work best for you and how to make them work, rather than a specific "buy this because I like it" recommendation.

You've already taken the first step in your quest by learning the relative unimportance of OOTB (out of the box) sharpness compared to sharpening and maintenance. So, in addition to the knife you'll need a steel, some sort of sharpening kit, and the willingness to invest the time to learn them.

BDL
post #9 of 13

BDL, what knife do you use? What would you recommend, if money is no object as a chefs knife?

post #10 of 13
I REALLY like both my Konosuke HD 270mm wa-gyuto and 10" K-Sabatier au carbone chef's. Although of course they're quite different. On the other hand, they both get very sharp and both have near ideal profiles for my chopping action -- which besides their plain aesthetics describes why I like them.

I had some screwy reasons for buying the Konosuke, but what can you say? They worked out. The white steel Konosukes are really good, too. Konosuke has a new HH hardened to 61 which sounds interesting, but I haven't tried one yet

I've been using carbon Sabatiers since the late sixties, and continue to recommend them -- although they're certainly not for everyone.

I frequently use a 300mm Konosuke HD suji for general chef's knife duties, but while I like it I wouldn't recommend it as a chef's knife for very many people.

In the cost is no object category I also like the Tadatsuna "western style" gyutos (whether Inox or Shiro), and -- of course -- the Masamoto KS. I can't say whether I'd rather have a Shiro Tad, a Masamoto KS or my Kono HD. They're all great knives which suit me well.

That said, the fact that I use and like something shouldn't carry much weight in your choice.
Edited by boar_d_laze - 5/28/12 at 7:03am
post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 

anyways, what is a cheap sharpening stone (preferably a combo) under 80$, and what grit? the tojiro 1000/3000 and Norton 1000/4000 look good, any opinions? oh and I am looking at the Artifex or the Tojiro DP.

 

anyways, shopping at Mitsuwa and saw a bunch of Kyocera knives, and they were tempting XDDDD oh well

post #12 of 13
Combi stones have a lot of drawbacks. Among them: It's very unlikely the sides will wear evenly; which means that when you've gone too deeply into one side, you'll have to throw away the stone. They tend to run fragile in two senses -- they sometimes come apart at the join (glued together), and if one side breaks or the corner crumbles or whatever, the whole stone is wrecked. You end up doing FREQUENT flattening; because there's no "other side," you can't put it off. Whichever side you think is really great, the maker chose the other for its own reasons and not yours. Also, few manufacturers use their "top of the line" stones for either surface. Last, when it comes to those few, good combis, you just don't save enough to make the compromises worthwhile -- at least not in my opinion.

The best two stone set blanket recommendation I can think of is Bester 1200 + Suehiro Rika. The pair will run you around $80. Neither stone is without issues. The Bester is very hard and requires long soaking before use. The Rika dishes easily, and breaking the mud down fine enough to polish at the stone's nominal 5K# requires some learning. But still... They're excellent, long-lasting stones which are simultaneously easy to use and good enough for "experts." The Bester in particular is very fast, can handle a lot of scuff from even the coarsest stone, and leaves a surprising amount of polish. The Rika finish -- which can seem like anything between 3K and 5K depending on how you use the stone -- is excellent for kitchen knives. Additionally, the stone feels great and gives a lot of feedback.

No matter how much you spend, you won't beat them for speed or edge quality by much.

But, one size doesn't necessarily fit all. Whether those are the very best stones for you or your knife kit, I can't say.

FWIW, I own and use a Bester 1200, but not a Rika. My intermediate water stone is a Chosera 3K, which itself is a very good stone but too expensive for what it does. If I were putting together a new water stone kit from scratch, I'd probably replace both the Bester and Chosera with a Gesshin 2K, which is as fast as an aggressive 1K, but polishes as well as the Chosera 3K -- fine for most kitchen knives. The Gesshin 2K runs $95.

I'm very impressed with all of the Gesshins I've tried. Up to now, I've always used four-stone kits (one to profile, two to sharpen, one to polish), but if I were putting together a "cost is no object, ultimate" sharpening kit from scratch, I'd get the Gesshin 400, the Gesshin 2000, and either the Gesshin 6000 or 8000. Perhaps I should add that since I already have a Gesshin 8K, the 6K is only "presented for your consideration." Bottom line: Gesshins are very expensive, but unlike Choseras, they're enough better than the "common clay" to be worth it. Of course, opinions differ and some people swear by Choseras as "the best." I don't argue with that so much as see things a little differently.

Some Inside Baseball: The Gesshin 4K and 5K are very different from one another, and although the grit levels are very similar they assume completely different roles. The 5K is a good final stone, while the 4K is more of an intermediate step to a high polish. But since the 8K -- which is as high as I'd ever want to take a kitchen knife -- reaches the 2K without any problem, neither the 4K or 5K make any sense at least not within the context of my kit. While that may not apply to what you want to do it all, the relevance is the realization that putting the right stones in your kit pays off.

FWIW, the quality differences in Japanese style synthetic water stones are strongly related to the type of binder, the relative hardness/softness of the stone, the type of abrasive, and the relative concentration of abrasive in the binder.

Whatever stones you buy, don't forget to soak the stone well, flatten the top and bottom, and relieve all of the edges and corners before using.

BDL
Edited by boar_d_laze - 5/30/12 at 9:05am
post #13 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by aznfluteboy View Post

 the tojiro 1000/3000 and Norton 1000/4000 look good, any opinions?

 

 

Don't get too wrapped up in branding on a combination stone. 1K/3-4K is a good combo. JCK has a 1K/4K combo as well in your price range.

 

http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/WhetStonesForSale.html

 

Dave

I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
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