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Help with Antique '50s Sabatier K knife purchase

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hi, I've only just discovered these amazing forums and wondered if anyone could help me with a knife purchase I'm thinking about. I've read a lot of informative posts on here over the last few days, especially by boar_d_laze relating to the various types of Sabatier knives and was looking for some advice/information on a Sabatier K knife I've been looking at.


I'm a home cook and interested in vintage cookery equipment. I've used the same main knives my Mum handed down to me a good few years ago, both reasonably inexpensive stainless knives, one 8" flatish bellied chef and a small paring knife. I've put new oak handles on them and learned to sharpen on them (still a lot of learning left!) so am quite attached to them but I'd like to get something with a much better quality metal to supplement them.


I've looked at the vintage carbon Sabatier K knives but don't really know that much about them. There seems to be a selection of knives available made from blanks forged in the 50's and I've been looking at the 6" advertised here:


The Sabatier K website has a page entitled "Antique Sabatier K Carbone" and I wondered if these were the same knives.


The story on the website is that they discovered a stock of hand forged blanks which had been forgotten about and only recently rediscovered and finished. It's a nice story but seems a little unlikely and I'm cautious of not buying into a fairy-tale. I'm sure I also read something about a stock of blanks being discovered and hastily finished in order to get them ready for sale in anticipation of a sales rush that never came. I'm not sure if there is any truth in that but would be interested to know if there may be any quality issues with these knives. They aren't much more expensive than the Sab K 1834 carbons which surprised me. I would have thought the back story and the limited nature of the stock would have made them much more expensive. 


If anyone has any information or experience with these knives I'd be greatly interested to hear. It's unfortunate that I wouldn't be able to hold or see one before I bought one but from the pictures I like the profile and shape of both the blade and handle and think they'd suit me quite well. Maybe I'm over thinking the purchase and I'm sure they're going to be good knives but I'd be grateful of any opinions first.


I also wondered if anyone could hazard a guess at what sort of angle the edge on these knives could be taken to.


Thanks for any help



post #2 of 7

The fairy tale is true to the extent that a lot of very old blanks were misplaced and rediscovered.  How and when the blanks got lost might or might not be another tale.  Quien sabe?


In any case, they're excellent knives and worth the price providing the handles fit and the knives aren't bent in any way.  Make sure you get some sort of guarantee from the seller regarding those two issues. 


Don't expect the knives to come sharp or for the edges to be in any way particularly well finished.  Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.  Que sera, sera.  Chances are creating a good edge will be up to you.


These knives are light, stiff, and take an extremely good edge; as good as almost any Japanese knife and better than almost any Euro.  However, the alloy is very soft, rolls easily and needs frequent steeling. 


Because the alloy is so tough, I find they sharpen easier and better on oil stones than on water stones, and finish particularly well on fine grit Arkansas stones.  At the end of the day it's not a huge difference, so if all you can get are water stones don't let that deter you. 


I sharpen my old, carbon Sabs to a 15* edge angle.  I stick to 60/40 or 50/50 symmetry, if taken too asymmetric the edges will collapse too easily. 


Hope this helps,


post #3 of 7

I'd like to add emphasis on the word "light" in the previous post.  These tend to be so light that I use am 8 inch Sab "chef knife" as more of a utility knife than a chef knife.  I would probably find a 6 inch to be in the same role -- maybe even moreso.

post #4 of 7
Try going to its in the usa and carry the k line they are real first quality wonderful little store. Only one in the us:)
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hi, thanks for everyones comments. I was hoping you might have some input bdl, thanks. I think I've made up my mind to order one of the knives, I've already got a set of waterstones so will probably just use them. Thanks for the heads up on the handles and bent blades, I'll be sure to give the shop a phone first and see what they can do.


Could you explain your comments about the alloy to me as I don't really understand. You say that it's a soft alloy that rolls easily but it's a tough alloy that is hard to sharpen. It probably betrays my lack of knowledge about metal but I don't quite understand how it can be soft and tough.


Interesting that they're so light, given the metal and the handle I'd expected them to be relatively heavy in comparison to a stainless steel. As Brian says being light and 6" inch makes it a nice size and weight for a utility knife.


Cheers cookie, nice collection and info on that site.



post #6 of 7

Nothing against Sabatier Outlet, they're nice folks, but the Outlet doesn't carry the older knives we're talking about.  On modern knives, they're not cheaper than buying directly from K Sab for someone who lives in the UK.


Strength and toughness are two materials terms referring to alloy property which are often, but not always, at odds with one another.  A strong alloy is one which does not bend easily, and one which tends to tear or break before bending.  A tough alloy is one which tends to bend before tearing or breaking.  Sharpening is usually a function of abrasion, which is another name for lots of little, tiny breaks.  So very tough alloys can be difficult to sharpen using some abrasives.  


In addition to being tough Sabatier carbons are relatively soft.  That's partly a property of the tougher than stronger nature of the alloys used to make them, and partly a function of the hardening given to the alloy by (or for) the maker.  Ultimately that means they tend to roll before they wear and the edges can be maintained and restored for a fairly long time using an appropriate "steel" with appropriate technique, i.e., very few, very light strokes, at the sharpening angle, with a steady hand.  



Edited by boar_d_laze - 10/12/12 at 8:09am
post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks for taking the time to explain that.



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