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More beginner questions..

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

I've been reviewing some threads on here and really like the input people have when it comes to helping beginners.  Have mercy on me for posting seemingly identical questions to many before me. :)

 

I am basically a beginner cook at home.  I have little, if any, skills when it comes to food preparation.  The meals I create turn out well and are accepted by the picky family, so I might be on the right track at least.  I have the same set of knives I got when I moved out and they have never been sharpened.  It is a set from Zepter International and I only use the chef's knife(I think it is an 8").  I generally prepare onions, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, celery, carrots, and squashes and okra in warmer months.  Any meat I cut is boneless at this point.  I had a price in range in mind initially, until I found this place doing some google searches.  Now I realize I can start with one knife, and a few accessories.

 

KNIFE:  A knife that pops up fairly often for someone trying to save some coin while simultaneously dipping into better knife territory is the Artifex 240mm gyuto.  Some suggests the 210.  I have no preference(yet) on either.  However, I'm not in a cramped space and don't mind learning on a larger knife; especially if I may chose to go that route later once I have some basic skills.

 

SHARPENING:  I enjoy doing things myself, so I see the benefit in sharpening.  Would like to learn how to do this too since I'm not a fan of having to send out knives to have sharpened.  Plus, I just think it's cool. :D  Some have mentioned the bester 1200 and suehiro rika combo is a good entry level stone set.  Again, I am ok with the price if that is a set I won't soon outgrow(relative to the individual I know).  Fortunately, I have several knives I can practice on before I touch any new knife I get.  

 

HONING:  Not sure what will suit me here...I watched a youtube video of a fellow who seemed knowledgeable and he was stressing you should get a steel that compliments the hardness of the knife you use.  Seemed reasonable, but again, not sure.

 

CUTTING BOARD: I'll definitely need a board as I'm using those plastic mat things now.  I'm a huge DIYselfer so I'm always trying to find ways to save money.  I have access to several types of wood that I could make a cutting board out of(read: free).  Is it plausible/recommended to use a solid piece of board cut to the size I need?  Or is it necessary to cut planks and glue together?  If so, I'll probably forego that option.  If not, I love teak and can probably score enough for a decent board. :)

 

I am pretty open to any recommendations but please be aware of my limited budget.  The knife and stones are about the top of what I want to spend(they are actually on my Christmas list).  I'd even be open to less expensive stones if there are better bangs for the buck out there compared to what I listed.  

 

Thanks for any help!

Mike

post #2 of 14
Regards to the wood, http://www.theboardsmith.com/purchase.htm answers a few questions on the type of wood. You can get away with single piece edge grain and save the fancy end grain as a DIY project later...gives you a chance to practice your sharpening tongue.gif
The wood whisperer website has some plans you can use for a cutting boards ( though I disagree with his method of sealing...which does really work since his own board split open from moisture...also the varnish is hard and I still think it'd dull the edges....) modify his plans to do a diagonal lineup like what the boardsmith does (brick layout instead of chess board.)

For honing, the Idahone ceramic is a safe choice.
post #3 of 14

If you want to but a good end grain Maple board with out breaking the bank check overstock.com  They often have Michigan Maple Block seconds. It will still be more than making your own but a lot less $$$ than many other options.

 

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
post #4 of 14

I have made a few boards in my lifetime, and here are my thoughts.

 

A single plank board is prone to warping.  Boards tend to get wet on one side only.  It is not that difficult to produce an end grain board.  You will lose around 10-20% due to cutting, but if your wood is free that should not be a problem.  People tend to think that you glue up those little blocks.  You just create an edge grain board, slice the board into strips, and reglue on edge.  If you are buying wood at retail for a board, you might want to check the prices of boards vs. wood.  A 24 x 24 x 2 board contains 8 sq ft + waste.  Figure 12 feet at retail, and you are getting near the price of a quality board.

 

There are board woods and non board woods.  In general maple and the fruit woods make acceptable boards.  Maple is very good, but boards made from cherry, walnut, and the like are close.  Stay away from Teak.  Teak contains silicate, which is sand.  I have never used a teak board, but it is hard on woodworking tools.  Oaks and the like are a little too porous.  Contrary to what you might hear about larch, conifers contain sap pockets, and do not make good boards. They are also soft woods in the true sense of the word. 

 

I don't care for plastic boards, and bamboo sees to me to be just plastic with bamboo fillers.

post #5 of 14

Knives:

The Artifex is a nice entry level knife at a nice entry level price.  It's extremely functional but something of an ugly duckling.  I like the way it feels in the hand, on the cutting board, and especially like its edge holding and edge taking characteristics.

 

Considering that you really haven't figured out sharpening yet, you might also want to take a look at the Fujiwara FKM and Tojiro DP. 

 

Both knives have better F&F than the Artifex.  The Fujiwara is not only best in that respect, but has the best cosmetics in general.  The Tojiro DP is a nice, stiff knife with excellent edge taking and holding characteristics.  If you're planning on maintaining a DP on a steel, plan on being very gentle because the knife has some tendency to chip.

 

Between those three, it's basically a "U-Pickem." 

 

240mm is probably the right length for you.

 

Sharpening:

Bench stones aren't the only way to sharpen and they aren't the best way for everyone in that there's a learning curve.  However, you seem determined and that's about 90% of the battle right there.

 

The Bester 1200 and Suehiro Rika are both good enough stones so that you won't grow out of them.  

 

The Bester requires a LOT of soaking before use, if you're the sort of person who sharpens impulsively, you might want to rethink it.  It's also a bit on the hard side and won't provide great feedback.  On the plus side, the Bester is extremely fast, polishes out coarse stones, and leaves a very good finish.

 

The Suehiro Rika is very beginner friendly which is a nice thing in a fine/polishing stone.  It's a bit soft and needs frequent flattening considering it's relatively high nominal grit.  Until you learn to "break down the mud," the Rika will act more like a 3K than a 5K, but that shouldn't matter to you yet.  By the time it does, you'll know how to deal with it. 

 

At some point, you'll need to add a coarse stone to complete your set.  The Beston 500 is a particularly good companion for the Bester 1200.  If you can afford to do it now, you can save money with one of CKtG's sets. 

 

While we're on the subject of sets, you absolutely positively no exceptions need some sort of way to flatten and dress your water stones (including easing the edges) before using them.

 

Honing:

Nearly everyone uses a steel wrong, making at least some -- and usually all -- of the following errors: 

  • Too much pressure;
  • Too many strokes;
  • Bad rod (too coarse);
  • Wrong angle;
  • Wobbly angle holding; and/or
  • Slapping the knife against the rod.

 

Whether you steel down or up the rod, doesn't matter.  Stabilizing the rod in a towel on your board can be helpful, but it doesn't really matter either.

 

You don't want a rod so soft that you cut gouges into it with your knife, but otherwise "hardness" isn't an issue. Honing is all about force, and the force comes from geometry.   Small contact patch = Sufficient force to bend the burr.   

 

Read Steeling Away.  If you don't steel similarly -- i.e., a very few, very soft strokes with an angle equal to or only slightly more obtuse than the sharpening angle -- you're doing it WRONG

 

Ceramic hones are better than steel not because they're so hard but because good ones are cheap.  They're cheaper than glass too.  The Idahone "fine" is a great rod at a great price.  You can't do better.

 

Board:

What Dave said with two additions:

  • Get the biggest board you can fit into your kitchen; and
  • A good edge grain board is better than a crummy end grain board because, no matter how well you take care of them, bad boards warp and crack. 

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 12/19/12 at 10:42am
post #6 of 14

I've mentioned this before,  I will buy old AB Dick professional steels when I can find them and rehandle with scraps of wood I have laying around,. They were smooth to begin with, and years of use have only made them smoother.  The fact that these are very cheap and plentiful attest to their original quality and longevity.

 

Totally agree with the largest board you can handle and have room for.  Mine are full counter width and with 2 smooth sides.  No grooves for me.  The board gets turned each time I wash it.  Warp tends to average out.
 

post #7 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

Whether you steel down or up the rod, doesn't matter. 

 

Most directions I've seen say to use an edge-leading stroke. 

 

If I understand the purpose of steeling or honing correctly, which is to straighten a rolled edge, it seems like an edge-trailing stroke would do this better.  Maybe it doesn't matter, as BDL said above, but I'm curious as to why.

post #8 of 14

I was unclear and apologize.  No matter whether you hone towards the handle or away, always hone with an edge leading stroke.  Please read my article, Steeling Away

 

Although sharpening and knife terminology can be ambiguous and is so frequently used incorrectly that usage has rendered many terms nearly meaningless.  But ambiguities and all...

 

As a Rule:  

Honing [usually] means leading with the edge.  Stropping [almost always] means trailing with the edge.  However, you'll run into a lot of people who don't use the terms consistently or use them differently or...  well, you get the picture.  When you talk about sharpening or knives in general it's important to make sure you're on the same page as the person with whom you're having the discussion.  In this case, thanks to toddnmd for raising the issue.  

 

Meanwhile, Back at the Rod...

FWIW, edges can be trued by stropping but -- for a variety of reasons, some of which are ergonomic, one of which has to do with "pulling" an unwanted "wire," and a great many of which I don't understand -- the strop motion is not as effective on a steel as honing. 

 

What I was trying to say and garbled in my previous post is that it doesn't matter if you hone holding the end of the hone away from you, straight up, or plant it straight down in a towel on the board; and that it also doesn't matter whether you hone the knife moving it away from the handle and towards the point, or away from the point and towards the handle (and your hand, and also towards yourself if you hold the rod pointing away from you).  I hold the steel away from myself with the rod point up at about a 30* angle and move the knife very quickly towards my hand and body.

 

That's one right way to steel, and a very good way at that -- as long as you're doing it right; but it's not the easiest thing in the world to master and can be somewhat frightening.  If my (less than vast) experience teaching knife skills and my correspondence is any guide, most people seem to find that angle holding is more certain and the whole process less intimidating if they plant the point of the steel on a towel bunched onto their board, then hone down towards the board.  

 

Moral of the Story:

You've got the option of choosing whichever of several right ways will work best for you.  

 

A gezunt dir in kepele,

BDL

post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 

Danke sir and no apology needed.  I read your steeling article before I read your thoughts on the different ways you can do it.  So I didn't even think about stropping on the steel. :D


See I learned something already!  I practiced the motions on the cheap steel and knife that I have.  I'm comfortable with holding the steel at 45*ish angle and parallel with my chest.  I'm just guessing, but I think I will be able to more accurately keep the right angle in that position as opposed to a "cutting away" motion.

post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 

Also, I'm leaning toward the Artifex.  I think the "made in the usa" is going to do me in.  I like supporting the states when I can.  I do wish the f&f was better but since I've seen neither, I won't know any better.

 

The bester 1200 and rika, and the idahone are probably set in stone.

 

All that is left is finding a decent board, and pulling the trigger on the purchase.

post #11 of 14

It's not that the F&F isn't good... it's just not present.

 

You get a sharp piece of steel sandwiched between 2 scales of black micarta-like material held on with 2 shiny rivets.

 

The edges are all nicely softened as well as the knifes spine and heel.

 

I've recently received the 240 gyoto and 150 petty and like them very much.

 

Nothing special to look at but they work damn well.

 

Give me a few weeks of test-driving in the restaurant and i'll be able to post up more useful (precise) information.

----

 


"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold

 

Reply

----

 


"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold

 

Reply
post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 

Looking forward to your review(if I can wait that long). :)

post #13 of 14

The F&F on the handles and easing the edges is good.  What isn't good -- in terms of cosmetics anyway -- are the tool marks on the blade.  They're something you'd never see on good mass-produced knives, even knives as cost conscious as Forschners and Dexters. 

 

They're not evidence of bad craftsmanship or bad quality control so much as they are evidence that Lamson does a fair amount of hand grinding in order to get the Artifex geometry right, but don't put much (or any) effort into polishing the evidence out.  I wouldn't call it crude, but wouldn't fight with someone who used the term.

 

So, what does it all mean?   

 

Sometimes you'll see a sort of hazy spot on the left face of the knife, around the midline (between spine and edge), near the tip. If you look around the net, you'll see that some people perceive this as an "overgrind"  Whatever it is, it only affects performance if it's at or near the edge, or if the "overgrind" is substantial. 

 

If you're seriously OCD, you can polish out the face of the knife with buffing wheels and/or finger stones; but it's extremely time consuming and won't change the knife's performance. 

 

If this stuff bothers you -- and nothing wrong with that -- you'd probably be better off with something like a Fujiwara FKM.  There's nothing wrong with trading the Artifex's better edge properties for better cosmetics.  A Fujiwara will get plenty sharp.  Your money, your priorities. 

 

BDL

post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 

Finally got moving and ordered the Artifex and Idahone.  Waiting til they get the suehiro rika in stock before I order that and the bester 1200.

 

I have to say, I'm almost nervous around this thing.  The sharpest knife I've ever handled(remember, my old knife has a 10+ year old edge on it).  Comparing to that; it's lighter, bigger, smoother, thinner blade, and just feels nice.  Although bigger, doesn't act like it compared to the blade heavy knife I've been working with.

 

Thanks all!

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