Henckels German knives are EXTREMELY chip resistant, so the cause was something other than the identity of the alloy. It's possible you have a defective knife, the cause might have been user related, etc. Henckels product support is extremely strong. If you liked the knife, contact them and see what they'll do for you in terms of replacement. Get in touch with Henckels even if the knife is very old, or you weren't the purchaser.
If the knife was Henckels International, i.e., not made in Germany, it's not worth chasing the warranty. Just replace it. It sounds like you're ready to move on in any case.
As to your specific questions:
There are a lot of good stainless alloys in current wa-gyuto production. In numerical/alphabetical order an incomplete list could include:
- CPM 154;
- G3; and, less enthusiastically...
Just as important as the identity of the alloy from the foundry, is that the knife maker has done appropriate heat treating and hardening.
Note also: (a) 13C26 and AEB-L are identical or so close to identical that the differences are without distinction; and (b) that although the CKtG refers to 19C27 as "semi-stainless," it contains slightly in excess of 13% chromium and is "stainless" by normal, "trade" definition.
A good three stone sharpening set will cost you in the neighborhood of $150, including a flattener. That puts your knife budget in the $150 to $250 range and leaves you quite a few good, stainless, 240mm wa-gyuto choices, and a few 270s. Without implying that the following is in any way an exclusive list, here, in alphabetical order, are some of the highlights:
- Gesshin Uraku (JKI);
- Gesshin Ginga (JKI);
- Konosuke HH (CKtG);
- Richmond Addict2 (CKtG);
- Richmond Laser (CKtG);
- Richmond Ultimatum (CKtG);
- Sakai Takayuki Grand Chef (CKtG, etc.); and
- Sakai Yusuke Sweden (Blueway Japan on ebay).
A few, brief thoughts:
- Don't worry about whether or not a particular knife is currently sold out. It will be back in stock in a few weeks at most. If it's a knife you want, get your name on the waiting list so you won't be SOL the next time it sells out. You've already waited this long;
- The Gesshin Uraku and Richmond Addict2 are the Goldilock's choices. That is, they're neither too light nor heavy, and neither too thick nor too thin. They're also the least expensive;
- As far as I know, ALL of the Richmonds on my list are made OEM by Lamson (a few Richmonds are made by Konosuke, and there may be other OEM makers as well), which means the blades will show a bunch of tool marks. The more complex the geometry -- the more tool marks. That may or may not bother you, I'm ambivalent. On the one hand, I think it's somewhat sloppy, on the other hand I find it charming and "hand made," and on the third hand, my Richmond is carbon and if the marks bother me I can push a patina to cover them;
- The Richmond Ultimatum is somewhat heavier, thicker than the other wa-gyuto, but it's as tough and versatile as a German chef's knife. I bought a 52100 (carbon) Ultimatum couple of months ago, and the more I use it the more I like it. If you were dreaming about a wa-handled Sabatier, the 19C27 Ultimatum is for you. Be aware though, that despite sharing the same profile, it's much thicker and heavier than a Masamoto KS (carbon and out of your price range);
- The other knives are ultra-thin, ultra light lasers -- a thing I like quite a bit but you may not; and
- Because the Grand Chef is (AEB-L) only hardened to 58, we can infer that it's the most chip resistant of the lasers, but we know Henckels are EXTREMELY chip resistant, and that knowledge is better than inference. How far did that get us?
Do a little bit of research to see if you can't limit the field, and come back with your many follow up questions. Both Mark (at CKtG) and Jon (at JKI) are extremely helpful on the phone.
Edited by boar_d_laze - 1/22/13 at 10:43am