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Looking to Purchase 1st Chef Knife

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

I am a looking for a purchase that will last me a long time. I have been reading around on this and a couple other forums and have narrowed down my choices to a few different selections. Also, I would have to learn how to sharpen on this knife, and would like a recommendation for sharpening tools. My decision is down to a 240mm Fujiwara FKM Gyuto, a Tojiro ITK 240mm Gyuto, or a MAC Mighty 8 1/2". I do not have a knife store around me, so it would be a blind purchase. Any advice would be very helpful.


Edited by Remy - 9/12/12 at 12:17pm
post #2 of 16

Your three choices imply that you've got the cart well before the horse.  You've got a big "bang for the buck," entry level, 9-1/2" stainless, yo-gyuto; a 9-1/2" kurouchi, bargain priced carbon wa-gyuto, with some amazing strengths and weaknesses, and an 8-1/2" "bottom of the high-end," great all-round, stainless yo-gyuto.

 

Start by narrow your choices down to a single length and type and we can begin to make sense of the various possibilities. 

  • Carbon, stainless, or semi-stainless?
  • Yo or wa?
  • Plain or stylized? 
  • "Mono" or san-mai?
  • Length?
  • How much belly?
  • Light or stiff?
  • Budget?

 

As it is, I can't tell what you really want and I suspect that you don't know either.  Which -- by the way -- is no sin.  We all have to start somewhere and reading forum posts and looking at knife sites is as good a way as any.  But let's narrow it down so you can make an informed decision. 

 

There are a few ways to approach sharpening.  Given your interest, your two best choices are likely to be freehand sharpening with water stones or an EP kit.  You can save a little money up front by starting with a limited set of water stones, or save a lot of learning time and effort by starting with an EP.  I have both types of kits; and while they're distinct enough to appeal to different personality types, neither will do a better job than the other.

 

Also, depending on your knife choice(s), you'll likely want a quality "steel" (aka honing rod).  Fortunately, there are several excellent rods at good prices.  

 

At this stage of the game it's enough to know that you're making a commitment to sharpening.  Rather than delving deeply into the nuances of why one stone is better than another let's explore knives. 

 

BDL

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post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 

Your three choices imply that you've got the cart well before the horse.  You've got a big "bang for the buck," entry level, 9-1/2" stainless, yo-gyuto; a 9-1/2" kurouchi, bargain priced carbon wa-gyuto, with some amazing strengths and weaknesses, and an 8-1/2" "bottom of the high-end," great all-round, stainless yo-gyuto.

 

Start by narrow your choices down to a single length and type and we can begin to make sense of the various possibilities. 

  • Carbon, stainless, or semi-stainless? I am leaning more towards the stainless.
  • Yo or wa? Not sure what the differences are here.
  • Plain or stylized? Plain
  • "Mono" or san-mai? Again not sure what this is.
  • Length? 8 to 9 1/2.
  • How much belly? Again not sure.
  • Light or stiff? Stiff
  • Budget? 150-175 for knife and sharpening kit

 

As it is, I can't tell what you really want and I suspect that you don't know either.  Which -- by the way -- is no sin.  We all have to start somewhere and reading forum posts and looking at knife sites is as good a way as any.  But let's narrow it down so you can make an informed decision. 

 

At work I have been using a stainless steel blade, about 9 in. that has pretty good weight about it. When I asked a few coworkers there about it, they suggested Wusthof Classic or Tojiro DP. I am taking the Tojiro ITK out of it because I don't think I like the idea of a carbon blade.  Thanks for your help BDL.

 

 


Edited by Remy - 9/11/12 at 3:05pm
post #4 of 16

What is the stainless one you are using and your thoughts on how it performs?

 

It can help with suggestions for your future knife.

 

Jim
 

post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 

I think our house knives perform decently. The brand is Columbia Cutlery. Reason I am looking to purchase a knife is for work and home. I would like it to be reasonably durable, and able to hold its edge well. We use poly cutting boards at work, not sure if that is something to consider. Have been suggested Wusthof, Global, and Tojiro Dp, but open for any suggestions on what is the best "bang for my buck". As I mentioned above my budget is about $150.


Edited by Remy - 9/11/12 at 5:02pm
post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 

Tojiro DP 210mm for $79.95, Kagayaki Carbonext 210mm for $105, MAC MBK-85 for $125, or FKM Fujiwara 210mm Gyuto for $75?


Edited by Remy - 9/12/12 at 12:15pm
post #7 of 16

Don't get a 210mm. I did and I regret it hugely, its just too short to be properly functional. Get a 240mm minimum, or a 270mm if you can.

I have the carbonext (thats the 210mm I got) and I do like it lots, other than the length, but I havent tried the others so I can't offer a comparison. 

post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 
  • What are you looking for in your new knife?

  • I need something for work and for home. Work as a prep chef cutting up vegetables, meat, etc.

  • What knife are you currently using that looking to replace or partner with?

  • I am currently using a Columbia Cultery 8" stainless steel chef knife at work. 

  • What other knives do you own/use for tasks that you're looking to use the new knife for?

  • none

  • How do you grip the knife?

  • pinch grip

  • Do you prefer the knife balanced more handle heavy or blade heavy?

  • handle heavy

  • Do want it thin-thin, heavier build, or a some description of something in between?

  • Something in between, but closer to thin

  • Do you prefer a flatter edge or more curvy?

  • a flatter

  • Do you like the blade to 'belly up' or flat, parellel with the handle?

  • a little belly up

  • What handle shape would you like?

  • western style

  • What handle materials are you looking for?

  • wood or wood plastic mix

  • What budget constraints do you have?

  • $150-$175

  • What sharpening equipment do you have?

  • none has to be included in the budget

post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 

thanks for the tip rdm how is the edge retention on your carbonext? Any other thoughts on its performance?

post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 

Can anyone comment on the stiffness of the FKM?

post #11 of 16

The FKM is neither particularly thin and flexible or particularly thick and stiff.  It's a very nice knife for the price, but no longer the cheapest entree into high performance chef's.  That honor currently goes to the Richmond Artifex. 

 

The CarboNext is a nice knife and an excellent deal for the price, but it's real benefit goes to people who are already good sharpeners.


Wa knives have Japanese handles.  Yo knives have western style handles.  You've indicated a strong preference for "yo."

 

All in all the Tojiro DP is probably a better choice for you because it ticks all your boxes.  The DP is priced in between the FKM and CarboNext.  Like the Fujiwara FKM, the DP is entry-level to the high end of Japanese made western style knives but it does get you a lot of performance.  It's construction is three layer laminate (called "san mai" in Japanese), which is something I don't like but I seriously doubt you'll notice the negatives.  On the other hand, it does make the knife quite stiff, especially considering its weight and thinness.  It's edge taking and holding properties are very good, but unlike the CarboNext the knife comes OOTB with an appropriate profile and sharp enough to use.  The DP's VG-10 core is significantly less chip prone than most VG-10.  Ergonomics, profile, handle comfort, bang for the buck, and F&F are all somewhere between good and very good. 

 

I'd recommend a MAC Pro 9-1/2", but its a skosh out of your price range, and not quite as stiff as a DP (but stiffer than an FKM or CN).  If you can afford it great, but the right length is more important than the extra benefits (handle, F&F, agility) the MAC brings compared to the DP.  I also frequently recommend the Masamoto VG which has a better profile than the MAC but is a lot more flexible. 

 

Most good knives aren't "balanced" in the sense you seem to think they are.  Chef's knives/gyutos which are 210mm and shorter tend to be handle heavy; knives which are 300mm and longer tend to be blade heavy; while knives between 240 and 270mm tend to balance just forward or just behind the pinch point.  There are a few exceptions; e.g., Viking/Gude are made to be handle heavy, and Globals (other than the "forged" chef's) are made to be balance neutral. 

 

You're certainly entitled to a preference, but most skilled cutters don't care about "balance," considering it an "it is what it is" sort of characteristic.  The sharper you keep your knives and the more adaptable your grip, the less it matters.  The same is true about handle styles.  As long as the handle isn't waaaaaaaaaaaaay too thin, too short, or too wide, a good grip makes wa as comfortable as yo, and vice versa.  But again, it's a matter of taste not an absolute. 

 

Sharpening and maintenance are incredibly important parts of knife skills.  It's something you really have to lean into and will make ALL the difference in how you feel about your new knife after owning it for a few months. 

 

BDL

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post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

The FKM is neither particularly thin and flexible or particularly thick and stiff.  It's a very nice knife for the price, but no longer the cheapest entree into high performance chef's.  That honor currently goes to the Richmond Artifex. 

 

The CarboNext is a nice knife and an excellent deal for the price, but it's real benefit goes to people who are already good sharpeners.


Wa knives have Japanese handles.  Yo knives have western style handles.  You've indicated a strong preference for "yo."

 

All in all the Tojiro DP is probably a better choice for you because it ticks all your boxes.  The DP is priced in between the FKM and CarboNext.  Like the Fujiwara FKM, the DP is entry-level to the high end of Japanese made western style knives but it does get you a lot of performance.  It's construction is three layer laminate (called "san mai" in Japanese), which is something I don't like but I seriously doubt you'll notice the negatives.  On the other hand, it does make the knife quite stiff, especially considering its weight and thinness.  It's edge taking and holding properties are very good, but unlike the CarboNext the knife comes OOTB with an appropriate profile and sharp enough to use.  The DP's VG-10 core is significantly less chip prone than most VG-10.  Ergonomics, profile, handle comfort, bang for the buck, and F&F are all somewhere between good and very good. 

 

I'd recommend a MAC Pro 9-1/2", but its a skosh out of your price range, and not quite as stiff as a DP (but stiffer than an FKM or CN).  If you can afford it great, but the right length is more important than the extra benefits (handle, F&F, agility) the MAC brings compared to the DP.  I also frequently recommend the Masamoto VG which has a better profile than the MAC but is a lot more flexible. 

 

Most good knives aren't "balanced" in the sense you seem to think they are.  Chef's knives/gyutos which are 210mm and shorter tend to be handle heavy; knives which are 300mm and longer tend to be blade heavy; while knives between 240 and 270mm tend to balance just forward or just behind the pinch point.  There are a few exceptions; e.g., Viking/Gude are made to be handle heavy, and Globals (other than the "forged" chef's) are made to be balance neutral. 

 

You're certainly entitled to a preference, but most skilled cutters don't care about "balance," considering it an "it is what it is" sort of characteristic.  The sharper you keep your knives and the more adaptable your grip, the less it matters.  The same is true about handle styles.  As long as the handle isn't waaaaaaaaaaaaay too thin, too short, or too wide, a good grip makes wa as comfortable as yo, and vice versa.  But again, it's a matter of taste not an absolute. 

 

Sharpening and maintenance are incredibly important parts of knife skills.  It's something you really have to lean into and will make ALL the difference in how you feel about your new knife after owning it for a few months. 

 

BDL

My decision is now down to either the Tojiro DP 240mm or the FKM Fujiwara 240mm. I like both knives a lot and have heard great things about both of them. As of today, the Tojiro DP is out of stock on both C&M and CKtG, but that is not currently a factor since I'm not ready to make a decision just yet although I think I am learning more towards the DP. Balance is not something I am concerned about as much as comfort while using and learning to sharpen correctly. Also with that said, I have read in other threads that the best combination of stones would be a 1k and 5k grit, would this be true for someone just starting out sharpening? Is there a significant difference between sharpening these two knives? Where would be a good place to start as far as sharpening with stones information goes? Also I looked into honing steels and found an Idahone Ceramic Rod that is 1200 grit, would this be the correct rod for me? Thanks again for your help BDL, I can tell you are a very informed and reliable source for information.

post #13 of 16

Assuming you decide to sharpen freehand on bench stones, you'll ultimately want three or four stones:  Coarse, for thinning, profiling, and repair (80 - 400 JIS); (2) Medium/Coarse (700 - 2000), for initial sharpening; (3) Medium/Fine (3K to 6K) for final sharpening and initial polish; and possibly (4) Extremely Fine (8K and up) for pure polishing.  Most people don't polish beyond the medium/fine range.  And really, there's not much need to do so.

 

As a rule, it's best to learn to sharpen with the medium/coarse and medium/fine stones before trying a coarse stone.  Screw ups on a coarse stone are not easy to repair under the best of circumstances, and nearly impossible if you don't know what you're doing.  So... you can save a little money by holding off on the coarse stone for awhile.  Still (still assuming you're going with bench stones), I suggest stretching your budget to the point that it will accommodate both the 240mm Tojiro DP and CKtG's four piece sharpening kit ($135).  You'll also need some way to flatten the stones.  You can do it using drywall screen, but CKtG's diamond plate is so cheap you might as well use that instead. 

 

If you're going to start with two stones, your best choices for an FKM or DP are probably the Bester 1200 and either the Suehiro Rika (3K - 5K) or Arashiyama (6K). 

 

I'm not suggesting you'd be better off, but at least consider holding off on the sharpening kit for awhile and getting something like the Global Minosharp Plus3 ($76).  It's good enough to keep your knife adequately sharp for a year or two while you replenish your funds, and incredibly easy to use.  A 15* Chef's Choice electric (such as the Model 316 for $80) is another, good interim possibility.  Neither is an ultimate, but both are cheap, adequate, fast and easy.

 

What are your thoughts?

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 9/14/12 at 7:58am
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post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 

Looking at the Tojiro Professionals set with the 240mm Gyuto and 80mm Petty for $119, the MinoSharp Plus3, and Idahone 12" ceramic rod. I got a last minute boost in budget. Any final thoughts?

post #15 of 16

Great choice!

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 9/15/12 at 10:19am
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post #16 of 16
Thread Starter 

They have arrived and are magnificent. Only qualm I have so far is that the chef knife's chin had what looked like a scuff mark or something, but besides that they are sharper than any knife I have used by a long shot. Right when it came I went out and bought a few pounds of tomatos and onions to dice up for my late grandfathers rib baste/sauce for a tailgate this weekend in Auburn. It slide through the tomato with very little if any downward pressure and I was able to dice the onions faster than I ever have at work with our house knives. Great buy and couldn't be happier with the customer service and shipping of CKtG. Any tips on how to touch up that spot would be appreciated, but thanks to everyone who helped me along in my first dive into Japanese cutlery. Any additional tips on extending the life of my knives would be greatly appreciated.

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