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Very picky, first big-boy knife

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

Hi all,


Thanks in advance.


I've stumbled across the forum a number of times. I particularly seem to frequent threads heavily populated by boar_d_laze (BDL). I must admit I'm hoping he'll chime in here, if he's not sick of reading noob posts.


I'm a physicist who fell in love with cooking. I'm even considering a stage at a local resturant. One of my specialties is materials science, so blade crafting has a real warm spot in my heart.


All I've been using for some time now is a block of Hampton Forge knives from Costco. I find the steel too soft and it doesn't hold an edge well. The 10" chef is too heavy and thick and I almost never use it. I have good knife technique with a pinch grip and hand-guide, but I do consider myself still learning. I want a knife that will grow with me as I perfect my knife handling and sharpening technique.


I've just ordered a nice block of Sanelli knives from ( as work horses, but I want to get my first big-boy chef's knife.


Since customs is terrible in Canada, my best options for buying online are   (Basically just Shun and Wusthof)



I'm definitely thinking Japanese style. I appreciate the elegance to the design, the balance and I'm not affraid of sharp knives. I appreciate the challenge of learning to sharpen, so I would lean slightly towards a longer lasting edge than sharpening ease. I'm right handed and definitely looking in the 9.5"-10" range. I can go shorter, but I'm not interested in anything longer without a good reason. I lean towards lighter and thinner, but what's really important is control and agility. I like the idea of a knife that rewards good technique.


I'm looking at value more than I am price. I'd like to keep it between $100-$250, but I'm not going to let price keep me from getting what I want. That said, my knife collection will be a life-long evolution, so I don't mind buying with it in mind that in a few years it will get second billing.


Current items I'm comparing (in order roughly of preference) are:




Comments, suggestions or any other knives I should be looking at? I'm particularly interested in a comparison of the Messermeister and the Sakai Takayuki Grand Chef. I love the look of the huge dimples, but do they really perform better? I do hate it when my slices stick to the side of my knife.


Thanks so much! I'm sorry for the long story!

post #2 of 21

I've heard that the dimples have minimal, if any effect at all. 


I'm not entirely sure, but I think you can order from CKtG which has a huge range of Japanese knives at great prices from what I've seen.


You'll probably get recommended the MAC Pro my BDL

post #3 of 21

Of all the knives on your list, the Sakai Takayuki "Grand Chef" is the cream of the crop, and a good to very good knife in all respects.  The alloy is AEB-L (which gets very sharp and holds a good edge); unfortunately it could be hardened a bit better, so the knife will need fairly frequent steeling. 


FWIW, I like MAC Pros quite a bit, but not the ones with dimples.  The knife I most frequently recommend for people who are asking the same sort of questions as you, and seeking their first very good knife (or first, good Japanese knife) is the fine edged MAC Pro at either 240 or 270mm.  I also recommend the Masamoto VG (same lengths).  Both the MAC and Masamoto are in the same class -- pretty much -- as the Grand Chef; and you don't win or gain much by choosing one of the three over the other two.


That said, my thoughts about "best first good knife" are evolving.  I talk to a lot of home cooks who buy (fairly) high-end "lasers," as their first and find them more than suitable.   


There are several US retailers who do a lot of business with Canada; and if you see a knife you particularly like at CKtG, EE (Epicurean Edge), or JKI which isn't available from a Canadian source, at least e-mail and see what they can do for you.  


Also, consider buying directly from Japan, from JCK in particular.  They are very [ahem] adept at keeping custom costs WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY down.,


Understand that there's an underlying consideration at work here.  No good knife will perform well without good sharpening.  You really want to figure out the near and mid-term what and hows of sharpening as part of your new knife plans.  There are a few good ways to proceed, and they may (but probably won't) influence your knife decision. 


It's fun talking to someone with a physics mind-set, and I'd be more than happy to go into detail about any of this stuff.  Ask questions.



post #4 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks so much for being so generous with your experience. It's just amazing how much experience you have. I also appreciate that you draw a clear line between your experiences and what you've heard from others. That's rare on forums these days.


I've been reading more about the MACs. I'm very curious about the stamped knives. Do you know off hand how the MACs compare to a Global?


You mention with the MAC Pro, that you don't like the ones with dimples. I'm looking  on the MAC Canadian site ( and I don't see a Japanese style knife with no dimples. In fact, the only Japanese style knif I see is the MTH-80 Mighty Chef 8½", which has the dimples. The other two chefs knives are French.


In your experience do the dimples work? I don't find they help much on my Santoku knife.


How might my experience vary between the MAC Pro and the Grand "Cheff" (did they really make a spelling mistake on the silk screen?). I have to say that the Grand Chef looks amazing, but I don't want to pay a lot for looks.


I have the two steels that came with my Hampton forge sets. Should I buy a new steel or would those be okay?


I don't mind honing my edge before each use, but I'm still leaning towards the MAC. I have a kitchen supply place near buy which can get them, and I'm going to call to see if they have them in the show room. I'd really like to see before I buy.


What do you think about the Sanelli's green handles as work horses?


Probably more questions to come. Probably some detailed ones as I start reading about the alloys.


Thanks again, so much!

post #5 of 21

I'm relatively new to better knives, but I think my experience may be helpful to you as you make your choices.

Before I began, I was using mostly Henckels 4-star knives and stainless steel Chinese cleavers, and sharpening with a Crock Stick (a thingie that holds two ceramic rods in a “V” arrangement).

The first big eye-opener to me was buying a carbon steel Chinese cleaver for $2 at a thrift store and realizing that is both was easier to sharpen than any of my other knives and got sharper.

This lead me to do some research on steels and sharpening. To be sure, there are lots of kinds of steels, and lots of different ways to sharpen knives!

As far as stainless steels go, you've got the cheapo stuff (440 and worse), then the German stuff (mostly X45CrMo), then the better stainless (VG-10 etc.), then the really high-end stuff like AEB-L, CPM154.

Similarly, with “carbon” steel- you've got the vanilla-grade, the pretty good (1095 etc.), and the high-end stuff (52100, Hitachi white/blue/blue super). These vary not only due to the alloy, but also the level of freedom from contaminants in the steel.

In my limited experience, even the vanilla-grade carbon steel gets sharper than German stainless, and at any given price range, you'll generally get more sharpness for your buck if you go carbon rather than stainless.

Now, the alloy of steel is only one factor. How the steel is tempered and then how the resulting knife are ground are also very important. But some of the lower grades of stainless are just no fun to sharpen no matter what you do.

Also very important is what you plan to do for sharpening. You can buy machines, but in my experience, freehand sharpening on waterstones isn't too difficult, and it is very satisfying to put your own sharp edge on a knife.

I'd say return the block set to Costco and take that money to apply to something you'll want to keep.

If you've got $200 from the block set, plus $100-$250 for the balance, then that leaves you with $300-$450 to spend. Here's what you might get:

$50 for a medium waterstone

$50 for a finer waterstone

$30 or so for a Forschner bread knife (or a MAC if you cut a lot of bread)

$20 for a couple of Forschner paring knives

$200 or so for a nice 240mm gyoto

Keep the clunky Hampton Forge chef knife for the heavy-duty stuff.

That's $350. The upgrade path could be a nice petty, a course waterstone for profiling and removing chips, and an Idahone for steeling.

In my case, I'm more of a cleaver fan, so I went with the original thrift store carbon cleaver (Chinese #2) for heavy-duty stuff, a CCK 1303 slicer/cleaver for general use, a Tojiro ITK 130mm petty, and a Fujiwara FKM 150mm petty (for citrus, and for my wife to use). I kept the paring knife from my old Henckels stuff. For sharpening, I got the set from Chef's Knives To Go- Beston 500, Bester 1200, Suehiro Rika 5000, with an Idahone for steeling. I'm a vegetarian home cook, so no need for a slicer or any sort of fish knife.

My upgrade path is going to be either a gyuto or a nicer cleaver. I'm looking closely at the Masamoto HC, Richmond Ultimatum in 52100, and the Konosuke White #2 as far as gyutos, or the Richmond Fanatic cleaver in 52100. And then maybe a foray into stropping compounds on balsa wood.


As far as vendors, you might well call to see how shipping to Canada works out- otherwise you're looking at a very limited selection.
Hope this helps!

post #6 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks so much for your post. I have considered carbon steel, but upon reflecting realistically about my long term willingness to care for the blade properly, I grew concerned. I do want to have a stainless steel workhorse before venturing into the carbon steel world.


In fact, that's why I want the Sanellis. They are rubber handled, so I can just toss them into the dishwasher. Obviously, I won't be doing that with this one. I will be making it very clear to my wife that MY knives don't go into the washer.


Thanks again.

post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks KingOfKings, you were right :)

post #8 of 21

OK. As for dimples (Granton edge) ... we're talking OPINIONS here, so any disagreement between anyone is just conversation, nothing more. 



I like them. Here's why. Stuff doesn't stick the same way as with other knives in the same categories. At least in my experience anyway. I get real hinkey about cutting nice pieces, without any "sawing" involved. I like to cut pieces with one(1) slice. Now sure, if your good high-quality knife is properly sharp we're talking about a moo* point. Some stuff, no matter what kinda knife you are using, is gonna stick. I hate that. All things being equal, I like dimples better in these cases. That's me. 



   default.jpg     Moo Point

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.


"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

post #9 of 21
Thread Starter 
t Hi BDL,

I just took a trip to a local supply place and they have the standard stuff, but incredibly (for around here) they carry MAC (the reason I went) and Miyabi. The fella there (a retired chef) did a good job convincing me to switch from Sanelli to the yellow handle Henckels Twin Masters.

He also suggested that I consider a Miyabi rather than a MAC. Specifically a damascus steel blade. I was hoping for your opinion. Everything I've read about Miyabi knives (including some of your opinions) suggests they are good knives, but hard to find.

Given that I have access to these knives, what do you think compared to the MAC?

Have you used the yellow handle Henckels Twin Masters? The fella said they are the same blade as the higher end stuff he showed me, he just said they aren't balanced and don't look pretty. I'm fine with that, especially since the balance wasn't too bad on the shorter blades (less than 9.5"). The price seems great (less than $40 for most) and this way I don't have to suffer knives I don't need that I was getting in the Sanelli block.

What is also good is that for warranty service, I apparently have the Canadian Henckels distributor near by, so it's dead easy.

Am I slipping off the mark?
post #10 of 21
Thread Starter 

I'm back on track. BDL, I saw your posting today to someone asking if they should settle for a Miyabi or Shun, and it struck me that you held them in the same class and simply replied 'no'. I'm going back to MAC.


I did want to run one more thing by everyone. Has anyone heard of Haruyuki SRS15 knives?


I ask because they have a 240 mm Gyuto, which MAC doesn't have.


That seller seems interesting and is a Canadian seller. They seem to have an incredible collection.

post #11 of 21

I have never heard of Haruyuki knives, personally, but MAC does make a 9.5" knife, the MBK-95.

post #12 of 21

Who is who in the Japanese knife making game can be very difficult.  Most knife "making" companies -- that is the people with the brand name -- don't actually make the name but farm out all of the sourcing and manufacturing to OEM companies in the same area.


Haruyuki is Akifusa's new name.  I've never had one, or even had one pass through so I can't do much more than pass along the gossip conventional wisdom -- which is that they're good knives and that they don't suffer from the problems you used to associate with high-hardness powder metallurgicals.  That is, they aren't real chip prone. 


Their principle appeal is probably their uber-hardness, and while strength (in the technical, "materials" sense) and hardening are extremely important blade characteristics; indentation hardness -- which is primarily useful as a metaphor for strength tend to be poorly understood and highly overrated by most users.    


By reputation, they're worthy competitors to the Ryusen Bu-ry-zens sold by Epicurean Edge.


Chef Smith is right about MAC have a 9.5" in their series.  Actually they make two, my suggestion is to stay away from the dimples (which is frequently discounted for good reason if you ask me).


There are Miyabis and Miyabis, just as there are Shuns and Shuns.  Not all are equal.  Both companies provide fantastic F&F and manufacturer support.  I prefer Miyabi chef's knives over Shuns for their better profile.  What I almost never like is san-mai (three layer laminate) construction for the damped feel it gives in the cut and on the board; and that's a deal breaker for me.  But it isn't something most people, feel let alone care about -- about 25%, I think.  My "no" to the other poster was more in the way of "don't settle and give up looking for a knife you'll really enjoy."


I also don't care for the tarted-up aesthetics that both companies provide.  Miyabis tend -- if anything -- to be even worse than Shun. 


Context, context, context.  All of that stuff, even Shun's obnoxious German, high-tip profile are matters of taste.  My feeling is that when people want knife advice -- from me at least -- they want to learn something about what their options are and what their choices mean, as opposed to "buy this."  That's why, for example, I try and get prospective "first good knife" purchasers to focus on a commitment to sharpening as part of using good knives. 


It's only cutting onions.



Edited by boar_d_laze - 7/9/12 at 6:58am
post #13 of 21

Lots of good advice!  One thing I'd add is that you might want to look at the Tojiro ITK line at CKtG.  I don't remember if Mark ships to Canada but I don't see why he wouldn't.  The ITKs are White #2; in addition to taking a very good edge I've never found a knife so easy to sharpen.  A 240mm is well under $100.


Welcome to Forums, and best of luck on your journey!

"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
"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
post #14 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thank you so much! I'm sorry for the late reply. I actually am really interested in the Tojiro lines, but they are a bit more expensive here than there, but are still competitively priced. Its just because good knives in general are expensive in Canada.

post #15 of 21
Thread Starter 



I took back all of my Sanelli's because the block came cracked. In the mean time, I went to a restaurant supply with reasonable prices and bought a full set of knives from the Henckels Twin Masters and Kolor ID, and Vicrorinox. These form my backbone of work horses, and for under $200.00, I got very good value.


Now, back to the big-boy knife, I went with everyone's advice telling me to go with MAC. I got addicted to the MAC Pro line and got an MBK-95 (French style 9.5" chef), the 10.5 in slicer, a 5" utility and a JU-65 (6.5" usuba).


I LOVE them, but now comes time to take care of them. I'll be starting a post asking opinions on how to open the MACs. (Open isn't the right word, but you know what I mean)


Thank you everybody!

post #16 of 21

MACs were a gateway-drug to several J-knife freaks I know.


I don't actually know what you mean by "open", truth be told.  In the "trad" sense of opening a knife, the Macs are pre-opened. They come with a good OOTB edge usually.  No question a good sharpener can make it better by another 25% or so.  (Damn, I don't mean to sound that precise about something that's not so precise.  I just mean it's definitely more than "halfway there" but there is some room for improvement).


I read about Macs in the back of a cookbook.  And I got to use some at a friend's when was visiting.  And I already had carbon Sabs... so of course I found this site.  Then other knife forums.  And now my "tastes" (such as they are -- or at least my curiosity) far outruns my bank balance!

post #17 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks :)


Sorry, to be clear, by open, I just mean how to go about the first sharpening. I know I've heard people talk about reprofiling the MACs to a double bevel, and so to sharpen the first few times at one angle, and then layer on another bevel. I think BDL wrote something to that effect, but I've read others on the forum too.

post #18 of 21

Double and "micro bevels" (pretty much the same thing) are useful for knives which have a tendency to go out of true and/or need a lot of sharpening.  A multi-bevel gives you a more robust cutting edge, which both stays true and takes to steeling, while retaining the non-wedging advantages of a thinner edge; and a "micro bevel" will do the trick.


When it comes to sharpening, as long as you only "touch up" the cutting bevel, you don't need to re-profile as often as the edge angles naturally become more obtuse -- but you need a true double bevel, as opposed to a "micro."   


Convex bevels work in the same ways to create the same advantages.  Big caveat though -- most people who claim they know how to sharpen convex bevels and want to share the "secret" are full of crap.  Most of those who claim it's some sort of secret they learned from their Dad and which they couldn't possibly explain to you, are full of even more crap.  Convexing is relatively easy with a belt, or by stropping using "Mousepad Trick."  Not to go too far off in a tangent or anything, but some amount of convexing is an inherent part of sharpening freehand as a result of wobble. 


Getting back to double bevels...  Unless the difference in the angles are at least 10*,  I think a micro bevel established with a few strokes on the second to final stone, and finished on the final stone is probably the best strategy for most sharpeners who want to establish some sort of double bevel freehand.  If you want a full on double bevel you're better off using some sort of accurate tool and jig; e.g., an EP.  


Whether you're establishing or re-sharpening a micro-bevel, "micro" or not, you need to make sure that you raise enough of a burr to chase and deburr to create a fine, fresh-metal edge.  


In terms of my own sharpening journey, I almost never bother with multi-bevels except on my "heavy duty" knives.     



post #19 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks BDL, that's very interesting.

I think I'll try to put a convex edge on some of my cheaper knives to get the hang of it. So simply stropping on leather can give you a convex grind? Do I need to roll my wrist at all to try to round the shoulder on the bevel?

As for a micro bevel, I remember you saying that half the time they tend to dull the knife. I assume that's if it isn't done properly.

So, would you say I might sharpen to 10* and then on my 4000x stone, do a quick 20* and finish it on 8000x?

I'll try to find the reference, but I heard somebody say that they sometimes only put the micro bevel only on the non-dominant side of the knife, and that gives them some asymmetry. I'm a righty, so I'd sharpen the knife to a 10* bevel (both sides), and then on the right side of the knife (the farthest side from me when I cut), I would do a quick 20-30* on highest stone, and this gives me an asymmettric micro bevel. What do you think of that? Does anyone have any experience with that?

Found it:

post #20 of 21

Simply stropping on leather?  Probably not.  It depends on the leather and if and how it was charged.  You need to do more than strop to create a convex edge, you also need to remove material.  As a rule, you're going to get some degree of convexity by simply dragging the knife off the end of the strop, because you'll roll the knife unconsciously.  Now that you know, file the information away for later.  It's not something you want to try for awhile.   


If I were profiling a knife for a double bevel, I'd create the first and most acute bevel using my coarsest stone; go through the stone progression until I'd sharpened a good edge with the second from finest stone I was going to use; use that stone to create the cutting bevel and edge; then very gently polish out the scratches -- trying not to pull another burr -- but planning to deburr and lightly polish again if I did.  Once the edge was polished and without a detectable burr, I'd still run it through a cork or felt block before calling it quits.  


As a practical matter, don't strop kitchen knives on a belt, like a barber strops a razor.  It rolls the edge and makes things worse.  When you strop kitchen knives (or carpentry tools, for that matter) you want your strop backed by something hard and flat.  If you're considering adding stropping to your bag of tricks, remember that stropping tends to make wire edges which must be deburred to be durable. 


As long as you raise a burr (or wire) and deburr to create a fine, fresh metal edge you're making the knife sharper.  If you don't know how to detect a burr, chase it, deburr, and "feel" the new edge, but instead rely on techniques like "dissolving the burr" on a strop, chances are -- just like belt stropping -- you'll make things worse.


Let's start with the basics and get to the point where you can sharpen a "V" edge to frighteningly sharp, consistently.  The next step is a double bevel of some sort, if you're interested.  After you've done that a few times, if you want to move on to convexing, okay.  But one step at a time. 


I hope this isn't too confusing,


post #21 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks BDL,


Not confusing at all. Usually I strop with leather on a wooden back. On one side, I tend to charge with green honing compound. So, does this actually round the shoulder creating a convex edge? I always thought I was just adding a mirror finish for better slicing.


A typical V is no problem for me. I can put a razer edge on my German knives without thinking twice. I must just be acting a bit of a noob because I'm so nervous about these Japanese knives, so please  DO treat me as such. I won't take offense.


For sharpening, I have at my disposal

10" DiaSharp® Stone, 220x

10" 600x/1200x DuoSharp® Bench Stone

Norton 4000x/8000x Combo. Water Stone

Henckels Honing Steel Rockwell 65

MAC Ceramic honing rod.


Anything else you would recommend I get?


My usual technique is to feel for the angle where the knife bites the stone, back off a bit and lock my wrist at that angle (although I do have a feel for a 15-20 degree angle in muscle memory). I chase the burr and work my way up in grits. I finish by stroping, pulling the burr off on a 2x4 and steeling.


I assume I don't take a steel to the MACs after sharpening. Will the ceramic hone do as well in that capacity? Or do I even need it when I go up to the high grits?


My JU-65 has a strip on the blade above the cutting edge where the metal has a brushed texture, presumably for reducing friction. Is there a way to maintain that?


What did you think of that micro bevel on one side thing?

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