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My wife would like some new knives

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
My wife and I are untrained but enthusiastic home cooks. Our current set of knives were a wedding present... the standard set of henckel stamped steel knives. I use the 8" chef's knife 90% of the time and a 5" petty/paring knife for finer work. I use a carbide, two-groove, quicky sharpener to try to keep an edge on them, but they never stay sharp for long. I also have a combination (coarse/medium or medium/fine can't actually remember) waterstone that I use to sharpen chisels and plane blades in my workshop but I've never tried it for my kitchen knives.

Anyway... my wife commented recently that she'd like a nicer knife. I'm thinking it'll be a good christmas gift this year. I started researching to figure out what makes a knife "good" and had all but decided that a good step up without spending an outrageous amount of money would be a 24cm gyuto and a 12-15cm petty/paring/utility-type knife from the tojiro dp series.

Then I asked my wife what she wanted in a new knife and she started describing her sister's mass market santoku. I tried to explain that a chef's knife is probably a better buy but she said she's really not comfortable using our "big" chef's knife and she'd prefer something smaller for chopping. I'm not going to argue any further. It is after all intended to be a gift for her. That changes my calculus a little, though. Perhaps my wifey will get her 6 or 7" santoku and I can ask for a nice 10" slicer for christmas (and maybe a 6" petty for my birthday. smile.gif )

I'd hate to spend more than $100 on any single knife. I have some basic sharpening skills, but if there's a balance between ease of maintenance and performance I'd definitely lean towards the former.

Does anyone want to comment on the wisdom (or lack thereof) of my current train of thought?

For knives in these styles and in this price range can I do better than the tojiro dp series?

Thanks for having such a nice and informative forum.

-Carl
post #2 of 20

OK. I'm not the "expert" you're looking for, but I'll tell you this first. A $600 dull knife is only/still a dull knife, not so much better than any other knife. You need to learn how to sharpen. If nothing more, at least find someone or a service that you can use. If you can't do that, look into getting something better than what you are using. Here, I'll give you the two(2) regular recommended "sharpeners". These are not the absolute best way to go (proper stones), but much better than what you're doing. 

 

First off, maybe watch some of these:   Knife Sharpening Videos

 

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Chef's Choice 3-stage Model 110 Electric Knife Sharpeners

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Global 3-stage MinoSharp III Ceramic Water Stone Sharpeners

 

I could be wrong on the models, but I'm sure someone else will clear that up.

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post #3 of 20
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the reply. I'll take any advice anyone wants to give me. Of course I'm interested in what the knife geeks have to say, but I'd also like to hear from those of you who aren't as fanatical and can give advice regarding what "works well enough" from a practical standpoint if you know what I'm trying to get at.

 

I realize that my sharpening "regimen" :) is not up to snuff. But I'm not a complete noob when it comes to sharpening. I can put a very nice edge on my chisels and plane blades with the combo waterstone I've got in my workshop. I've got a stanley bench plane tuned up well enough to take off shavings you can see through. I haven't ever worked on my kitchen knives though. It just always seemed like more of an undertaking for two reasons. 1) The bevel is much shorter than what I'm used to. The bevels on my chisels are in the neighborhood of 3/8" long and on my plane blades are maybe 3/16". It's pretty easy to feel the "click-in". Seems like it'd be much more difficult to feel on the very fine bevel on a knife edge. I've got a nice system for my woodworking tools using a low-speed, waterstone wheel to grind down to a clean edge and to set the angle then a few quick strokes on each side of my waterstone and it's ready to go. I get a slightly hollowed out bevel with a very fine microbevel for the cutting edge. It works well, but it's not a system that would translate well for a long knife edge. Which brings me to point #2: There's just a lot more edge to take care of and it seems like it would be much more difficult to keep a consistent bevel and a straight edge for the whole length of a knife.

 

Regardless, if I get a nice knife I'll be sure to spend more time maintaining it.

 

One thing I'm interested in is a good (and INEXPENSIVE) solution for flattening my waterstone. To this point if it looked like it was getting bad, I would tape some 400 grit wet sandpaper to my table saw table and work it until I saw no evidence of a hollow, but it takes... so... long... Is there anything I can use that will work it down a little faster? under $30?

 

Finally, do I have the right impression that VG-10 steel and a low-angle bevel is a good way to go for someone in my position? Not looking for the utmost in performance, unwilling to spend much more than $100 on a knife, willing to do some sharpening by hand but would prefer to keep intervals between sharpening as long as possible, DO NOT want a carbon steel knife for an "every day" knife though I'd consider it for a nice slicer. Here I'll just say that [I]I[/i] can be anal about wiping a knife after each operation and keeping it clean and dry, but my wife just doesn't work that way.

 

Thanks again!

 

Carl

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by IceMan View Post

OK. I'm not the "expert" you're looking for, but I'll tell you this first. A $600 dull knife is only/still a dull knife, not so much better than any other knife. You need to learn how to sharpen. If nothing more, at least find someone or a service that you can use. If you can't do that, look into getting something better than what you are using. Here, I'll give you the two(2) regular recommended "sharpeners". These are not the absolute best way to go (proper stones), but much better than what you're doing. 

 

post #4 of 20

I would practice sharpening with the Henckels 8" chefs knife and since you know how to click in with your chisels you should pick up the feel on the knife pretty quickly. I would also lose the carbide pull through sharpener as it will wreck your knives pretty quick. For flattening your stones a lot of people here use drywall screen to do this. Good luck, Doug..............

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post #5 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by CLEngman View Post
. I've got a nice system for my woodworking tools using a low-speed, waterstone wheel to grind down to a clean edge and to set the angle then a few quick strokes on each side of my waterstone and it's ready to go.

 

 

Sounds like you have a Tormek or similar.

 

I run some knives just like you are doing the chisels and it works. Set the Tormek to 20 degrees for German knives and you are going to be golden.

 

 

Quote:
I would also lose the carbide pull through sharpener as it will wreck your knives pretty quick. For flattening your stones a lot of people here use drywall screen to do this.

 

Hear hear. Those carbide pull through sharpeners are far too aggressive.

 

Jim

post #6 of 20
Thread Starter 

Jim - Just looked up that tormek grinder. I guess what I have is similar like a corolla is similar to a porsche. :) Mine is just a craftsman-brand, water-cooled, utility grinder. I think it cost me about $30 at Sears. The blade support is not very sophisticated, but I can use a protractor to get the angle close and it works okay for me. I'll give it a shot with my kitchen knives and use my flat waterstone to true up and polish the edges. Sounds good. Thanks!
 

Doug - I just happen to have some drywall sanding screen laying around. I'll definitely try that out, too.

post #7 of 20

You've got about 93 issues.  Let's try and take a few and make some sense of them.

 

Jump Off:

The super cheap Henckels are very hard to sharpen under the best of circumstances.  Your carbide sharpener doesn't actually sharpen in the sense of creating or maintaining a fine edge.  Rather it rips a bunch of metal off the knife and leaves a very coarse edge which will dull quickly.  Your intuition that it's a good idea to up the knife quality and the sharpening quality is good.

 

Generic Sharpening:

If you can sharpen carpentry tools on bench stones you've got a pretty big head start compared to people who've never sharpened at all.  If you understand the process of raising a burr and deburring, and can accomplish them, you've got a huge head start.  

 

"Clicking in" is useful with kitchen knives, but nearly as much as it is with carpentry tools nor is it as easy because: (1) Kitchen knife bevels are more narrow than tool bevels; and (2) the natural tendency of the edge angle to become more obtuse if the bevel shoulders are not well defined (partly a function of their width), as the knife is repeatedly sharpened. 

 

But learning to hold an angle, thin, and all that other knife specific jazz isn't too much of a stretch.  You'll have to work at it, but not that hard. 

 

Both gags IceMan recommended work pretty well, but not as well as good bench stones. 

 

Let's hold of on comparing costs between gags and stones, and between the various stones, until you decide what kind of knives you're going to buy.

 

Flattening:

Yes to drywall screen.  Of all the inexpensive ways to flatten it's the fastest and best -- and I think it's your best current option.  However, it's not particularly fast or good and if you get serious you'll want better.  Unfortunately "better" enough to be "better" is something like a DMT XXC for $80ish.  

 

Santoku: 

If that's what your wife wants, get her one.   If you want a 10" chef's/gyuto, get one for yourself.  Will your wife fall in love with your knife?  Maybe.  

 

$100ish Santoku:

You have a range of options.  The minimum amount of money you can spend and still get a quality knife is probably a Forschner Fibrox or Rosewood.  Considering how you've described your wants and expectations the big downside with a Forschner or any knife made from a similar alloy is not sharpness so much as maintenance.  They need frequent (and competent) steeling. 

 

It sounds like your really asking about something the next step up and Japanese.  Fujiwara FKM, Kagayaki VG-10, MAC Superior, and Tojiro DP santokus are all within your price range and all at a fairly similar level of quality. 

 

Without getting too deeply into the specific plusses and minuses of VG-10 versus anything else, the Kagayaki is "mono-steel"
VG-10, while the Tojiro DP is a triple layer laminate (san-mai) with a VG-10 core (hagane) to do the cutting clad between softer outer layers (jigane). 

 

They're all pretty good, but none of them great. 

 

I hope this helps, and please feel free to ask more questions,

BDL

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post #8 of 20

Hi man...

 

I gave knife to my mum not so long ago, and I remember that she liked how sharp are my knives but she finds the size (24 Cm) too intimidating. I got her a Mac professional 21 cms and she's very happy, occasionally my sister uses it too and the size fits them very well, for me is a short knife but still very good for home cooking where productivity or volume chopping is not neccesary.

That particular knife is a bit over your budget, but just like other respected members suggested you, the Tojiro DP can be a good choice, I have no experience with it but it was recommended to me when I was looking for knives under 100 bucks for professional use and abuse (My kitchen staff) take a look at that post and you'll get some good ideas by people with more experience than me. http://www.cheftalk.com/t/68590/best-under-100-bucks-professional-knife#post_373384

 

The santoku is a knife that you'll find too small for you, no doubt. I have one but it has very specific tasks to perform and it works great in my kitchen, but it's very far from being a good prep knife. But if your wife wants it... Resistance is futile wink.gif get her one and buy a big knife for yourself!biggrin.gif

 

For the flattening, I was using sandpaper and it was ok, but every single time that I was flattening, I had to dump the whole piece and had to rinse it several times in the process bc it was getting clogged with the "mud", but it was somehow acceptable. On my last trip to the U.S. I went to a hardware store to buy the drywall screen that BDL suggested me, and it made a big difference. I've flattened my stones maybe 10 times and I'm still using the same piece,  the package came with something like 10 pieces (I don't remember) , so I have a stock of flattening stuff enough for a couple of years under $20 and it works great.

 

Best regards and good luck with your new knives.

Luis

post #9 of 20
Thread Starter 

Thanks guys.

 

BDL: 1) Regarding clicking in and the bevel shoulder geometry. What's the method for setting an angle and creating that well-defined shoulder? 

 

        2) A knife for myself: I'd definitely like one. I figured that I could like with my cheapo chef's knife for rough work and coarse chopping, and the santoku I'll be getting for my wife for work that takes a little more finesse. One thing I feel like I'm missing is a nice knife for portioning or for trimming and slicing large pieces of meat. I thought maybe instead of an additional chef's knife I might go for a 10" sujihiki or maybe the K-sabatier au carbone slicer like I've seen you recommend to others. I thought that I might even get familiar enough with it to use it as more of an everyday knife. Of course a good chef's would be better than what I'm using now for all those things, but just curious. Any reason that plan might be a bad one?

 

        3) VG-10 is the "good stainless" that I see referred to most often. I'd love to get your thoughts on pluses and minuses of this steel relative to other alloys for knifes in the same price range.

 

Thanks again for the advice.

 

Luis - Yes, I'm learning that it's best to make my case once and leave it alone. Like BDL said, she may or may not come around, but it's hardly of any grand consequence. :)

 

I will definitely be using the drywall screen to flatten my stone. Do you usually put the screen on a sanding block and work it over the stone or afix the screen to a flat table and work the stone over the screen? I have some double-sided tape that worked okay to hold sandpaper down on my table saw, but it wouldn't work for the drywall screen.

post #10 of 20

1.  The best way to develop very consistent angle holding -- which is how you get even, well defined, bevel shoulders -- is to use "Magic Marker trick" until you've developed a good feel for the angle(s) you want to hold, and the eye to see errors without inking the blade.  It's not how I learned, but it sure helped when I re-learned.

 

I suggest getting some graph paper and drawing several large pictures of the angle you want to hold and place them around your sharpening station.  Ditto on the re-learning.

 

2.  Don't bother with a knife that isn't good enough to sharpen.  They're only heartbreak.  A Forschner Fibrox is barely okay, and pretty much the minimum of "worth it."  It only took my wife a couple of months before she preferred a 10" chef's to anything else.  Since "your" 10" may become the family go-to gyuto, it pays to get something good enough to enjoy.  I suggest the Richmond Artifex or Fujiwara FKM as entry-level "good."  

 

3.  Knife alloys are a very complicated subject, and VG-10 is especially so because it was so overrated.  It's a very good alloy if its hardened and ground right, but problematic if it isn't.  The biggest problem was its tendency to chip -- even in san-mai knives -- especially until it was sharpened a few times.  Don't ask my why sharpening changes things, because I don't know.  

 

Okay, you can ask.  But I still don't know.  

 

It's a good alloy in the right knife, but I wouldn't choose one knife over another strictly because one was VG-10.  It's a good idea not to be too impressed by so called objective distinctions like particular alloys or Rockwell hardness numbers.  What you're really looking for are certain performance characteristics, especially comfort, edge taking and edge holding.  

 

Profile can be a big part of comfort and efficiency, but since neither of you has an established "action," your knife will train you.  You can adapt to just about any profile which isn't too weird.   Nevertheless if you're going to keep your knives sharp, I suggest a French profile (like most Japanese knives) over a German profile (most western knives and Shun). 

 

4.  I suggest putting the screen in a large, flat sheet pan with the pan itself on something hard and flat.  You're going to use a lot of water and get "mud" everywhere unless you do something to keep it contained.  You want low sides so they don't get in your way.  Consequently, sheet pan ftw. 

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post #11 of 20
Thread Starter 

I was not aware of Richmond knives. Thanks for pointing that out. I like to buy american when I can.  I think a 240mm artifex might be the winner.

 

For a smaller chopping knife, is there any advantage of a nakiri over a santoku. How about just a shorter (6") chef's knife?
 

post #12 of 20

You're asking the wrong person about nakiri vs santoku.  I don't care for or "understand" either profile as more useful than an ordinary, 10" chef's and am quite likely to veer off into incoherent sputtering.  Don't interpret my dislike, lack of understanding, or general bad attitude as particularly meaningful.  It's just me.

 

BDL

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post #13 of 20
Thread Starter 

Fair enough. :)
 

post #14 of 20

Hi CLEngman...

 

My method for flattening the stones is to soak them as if I were going to sharpen, or when the stone is ready right after sharpening.I draw a big X with a pencil on the stone, I just put a paper kitchen towel on an absolutely flat surface, wich was my marble table for working with chocolate, but now is just a table with thick glass on top (BDL told me that glass was as flat as flat can be...and it works just like he described it) on top of the paper, I place the drywall screen and I proceed to flatten the stone applying considerable pressure while I go with front- backwards movements, I rotate the stone a few times to make sure that all surfaces are getting even pressure and same number of strokes.

 

I rinse the stone 2 or 3 times in the process and when the "X" is totally erased I just start with the sides of the stone giving them something like 45 degrees angle.

 

I try to flatten every time after sharpening, that way the process is easier and takes less time. If you let the stone get "dished", flattening gets tiring and a dirty muddy messy business, my advice is to do it more often.

 

There are several videos on sharpening and flattening (But with a flattening stone) here http://www.chefknivestogo.com/vitu.html the principles are the same.

 

On the santoku / Nakiri thing, both knives work fine for chopping SMALL quantities of herbs or chopping a shallot or two. I used to work long ago with a Nakiri and it's a fine knife when you're chopping a small bunch of fine herbs, but nothing beats a long chef knife to dice or chop a big bunch of scallions/cilantro/parsley and you name it. Now I use those small knives only to carve the lacquered duck in my dining room. As long as you don't process big quantities of food, both knives are ok, they are very different to everything else.

 

If you're very curious on them, get a Tojiro shirogami a CKTG, both models cost the same and take and hold a wicked edge without costing too much. They are very "rustic looking" (I don't want to say ugly as hell) and take a "funny" patina almost immediately, the look is a bit dirty but that's the way those knives are, but the sharp edge will always be there. Take a look http://www.chefknivestogo.com/toshna161.html

 

Best regards and good luck!

Luis

post #15 of 20

I have, and like using a nakiri. Why ... because it's cool and I like it.      I like to feel cool cutting up vegetables w/ a vegetable knife. Is that any good reason?    Yes ... for me.    For you?    Probably not so much, unless you agree.     I have, and like using a santoku.  Mine "feels", in my hands, like a really good knife when I need some speed.    Again, probably not such a good reason for you because you are you, and not me.  We all have our own reasons.     What I'm getting at is that we all pick and use what we like because we have our own feelings and opinions.    You can get either from quality makers on the cheap. You can pick up either from decent makers on the real cheap. 

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post #16 of 20
Thread Starter 
I finally dove in and did some work on two of my knives, my chef's and my 5" paring knife. Got them both sharp enough to shave arm hair. Tried them out on a tomato a carrot and a gnarly old piece of ginger. What a revelation! It felt surgical. Can't wait to see how it goes with a knife that's worth a damn. Thanks for the tips!

Carl
post #17 of 20

If you think you got your Henckels sharp, wait til you try some knives which take a good edge.

 

BDL

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post #18 of 20

CLEngman, my wife also prefers a santoku to a chefs knife. I couldn't quite understand it at first, but hey, everyone is different and it's what she wanted. Her wants and my price range were very similar to yours and your wifes. We ended up getting a MAC MSK-65 6 1/2 santoku and it has worked like a dream. We steel it generally before and after every cooking session and it is always able to cut arm hair with ease. Is it the best knife out there? Absolutely not, there are 50 other knives I'd rather have, but for the money and what you are wanting to get out of a knife for that price range, I'd say seriously consider it.

post #19 of 20

Your screen in a pan will only be as flat as the surface the pan sits on.  I recommend going to a local glass guy and asking for a piece of 1/4" plate glass.  Mine gives them to me as they are Oops's and destined for the recycle bin.  1/4" plate is very flat and true - I use it for lapping small precision parts.  I might try using it for diamond lapping. 

 

I'd get a 12" or 300mm slicing knife - it's nice to make a cut with a single stroke.  I use a 300mm Yanagiba, but I have an old Dexter Russell slicer that is 14" long and whisper thin for special occasion big cuts. 


Edited by Mike9 - 7/29/12 at 6:09pm
post #20 of 20

I am coming to this thread a little late, but for flattening your water stones ,Lee Valley tools has a product designed to "true" water stones.  I too dabble in woodworking and enjoy cooking.  I find that pleasure in both require quality tools that are sharp.

 

Here is a link to the item.

 

http://www.leevalley.com/en/wood/page.aspx?p=55067&cat=1,43072,67174&ap=1

 

 

Enjoy,

 

GCarroll

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