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Yet another "help choosing starter knife" question

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hello all,

 

I stumbled upon this site yesterday Googling for "best knife for X", which I now understand is a very naive question. It looks like this forum has several knowledgable folks who don't seem to mind helping newbies like myself over and over, so I thought I'd just jump in and ask away. :) I'll try to fill in some of the details that I see get asked below, but if it would help to know more, I'm happy to try to answer.

 

Background - I would not even really consider myself an amateur cook; rather, I find myself cooking more meals at home than I used to and would like to get better at it. (Up until a few months ago, the only things I knew how to "cook" involved plastic wrap or pre-made mixes.) Most of my knife use at the moment is either slicing/chopping vegetables or boneless meat (chicken breast, salmon, etc.). The most arduous thing I do regularly with a knife is skinning fish fillets I get from the grocery store.

 

Current equipment - My wife and I have a horrible, old, cheap set of kitchen knives. What started my search for new knives was trying (!) to use our largest knife to cut a mini watermelon in half - the knife was so dull I was worried about it slipping the whole time I was using it. We also have one good knife: a Wusthof Classic 4.5" utility knife. I use this for basically everything, although it doesn't seem all that sharp. I have no real background to really judge this, but I have to use more force than it seems like I should with a quality knife. Perhaps my biggest issue is that I don't really know how to sharpen a knife correctly - one thing I've been searching for is a "fool-proof" knife sharpener; Amazon reviews lead me to http://www.amazon.com/Presto-08810-Professional-Electric-Sharpener/dp/B000TYBWJ0/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_nC?ie=UTF8&colid=39TDKI5VHZWUF&coliid=I28WPDMXARDTR8. Is this sort of thing really useful, or do I need to dig in and learn how to use some other equipment?

 

Other - Having gotten by with bad, dull knives for a long time, I don't know that I'm in any particular hurry to have an entire knife set. I think I'd like to get a small paring knife and a chef's knife for sure, and possibly a knife that's well suited to skinning fish fillets (if neither of those is). Budget is somewhat flexible; I'm okay spending a few hundred dollars but have no need for top-of-the-line or "style" or anything like that. Unfortunately I am unaware of any stores nearby where I could actually feel any of the brands that I see recommended here with some regularity.

 

What I think I want - I have little kids. I won't intentionally mistreat good knives (e.g., always handwash, never dishwasher), but I can't always tend to proper maintenance in a timely manner. It would be good if "wash and dry when finished" was all the immediate attention a knife required. My wife and I will share any knives I get and she has the same outlook toward care. Given that my Wusthof "feels" not sharp enough, I think I lean towards the Japanese style blades, but this could also be just because the knife I have isn't sharpened correctly.

 

Thanks for any advice!

post #2 of 10
Thread Starter 

Should've held off posting for a few hours so I could fall down this rabbit hole a little more. Given my knife usage and after reading a bunch of older threads here, this is what's sitting in my shopping cart:

 

Fujiwara FKM 240mm Gyoto (http://www.chefknivestogo.com/fufkmgy24.html) - general use

CCK Small Cleaver (http://www.chefknivestogo.com/cckcleaver2.html) - veggies

Bester 1200 sharpening stone - bludgeoning (j/k ... purpose for this one is probably clear.)

 

A few questions:

 

1. Do these knives seem like reasonable choices for a beginner?

 

2. Watching some sharpening tutorial videos it doesn't seem too hard (I have plenty of cheap knives to practice with), but am I getting in over my head with a water stone?

 

3. How careful do I need to be with the surface I'm cutting on? Right now all I really use is some super-flimsy plastic cutting boards - should I invest in a wood one?

 

Thanks!

post #3 of 10

Just so you realize that cleaver does not fall into the "wash and dry when finished" category...it is a non stainless carbon steel knife...

 

And don't forget you'll need something to flatten your stone with.  You can use wet/dry sandpaper or drywall screen on a flat surface or if you want to get fancy a diamond plate is the easiest way.

post #4 of 10

I got recently a Fujiwara FKM Gyoto as my fist good quality knife and I'm extremely happy with it, it also came quite sharp from the factory.

I hope your knife handling skills are good enough because if your fingers get in the way of the blade you'll be in trouble before you know it, due to the sharpness the knife is not very forgiving in handling mistakes.

 

A single 1200 grit stone will not be able to give a good polish so unless this is a temporary solution and you intend to buy a second finishing stone I think you would be better with a combination stone like a king 800/6000 for the same amount as the Bester.

 

If you don't want to spend on a flattening plate then you can also use a wet sandpaper laid on a glass (so it sticks and becomes flat) as a temporary solution (probably a more expensive solution in the long run)

 

If you don't have a cutting board maybe you should also consider one too.

 

Alex


Edited by alexane - 4/15/13 at 6:55am
post #5 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by john9247 View Post

Should've held off posting for a few hours so I could fall down this rabbit hole a little more. Given my knife usage and after reading a bunch of older threads here, this is what's sitting in my shopping cart:

 

Fujiwara FKM 240mm Gyoto (http://www.chefknivestogo.com/fufkmgy24.html) - general use

CCK Small Cleaver (http://www.chefknivestogo.com/cckcleaver2.html) - veggies

Bester 1200 sharpening stone - bludgeoning (j/k ... purpose for this one is probably clear.)

 

A few questions:

 

1. Do these knives seem like reasonable choices for a beginner?

 

2. Watching some sharpening tutorial videos it doesn't seem too hard (I have plenty of cheap knives to practice with), but am I getting in over my head with a water stone?

 

3. How careful do I need to be with the surface I'm cutting on? Right now all I really use is some super-flimsy plastic cutting boards - should I invest in a wood one?

 

Thanks!


1- Yes, you should be very happy with those choices.

 

2- No, it isn't too hard. Improving the edge on your old knives should take no time. In case you get discouraged, though, remember that cheap stainless like your old knives have is harder to sharpen then carbon or better stainless. The CCK is super-easy to sharpen, but you won't need to tackle it right off, as it comes pretty sharp out of the box.

 

3- An end-grain wood board would be a good investment. I hear Boardsmith makes good one; I've got a Boos block. Get some mineral oil from your local drug store to keep the wood oiled, or it will crack (especially if you're in a dry climate).

post #6 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by john9247 View Post

Should've held off posting for a few hours so I could fall down this rabbit hole a little more. Given my knife usage and after reading a bunch of older threads here, this is what's sitting in my shopping cart:

 

Fujiwara FKM 240mm Gyoto (http://www.chefknivestogo.com/fufkmgy24.html) - general use

CCK Small Cleaver (http://www.chefknivestogo.com/cckcleaver2.html) - veggies

Bester 1200 sharpening stone - bludgeoning (j/k ... purpose for this one is probably clear.)

 

A few questions:

 

1. Do these knives seem like reasonable choices for a beginner?

 

2. Watching some sharpening tutorial videos it doesn't seem too hard (I have plenty of cheap knives to practice with), but am I getting in over my head with a water stone?

 

3. How careful do I need to be with the surface I'm cutting on? Right now all I really use is some super-flimsy plastic cutting boards - should I invest in a wood one?

 

Thanks!

Having a gyuto and a CCK seems kinda redundant. Why do you need the CCK for veggies only?

post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks all! I'll definitely add a cutting board to the list.

 

On the CCK - everywhere it seems to come up, people rant and rave about it. I figured it would (a) be fun to use and (b) let me test how capable/willing I am in practice to care for a non-stainless knife without worrying about an excessive cost if I screw it up.

post #8 of 10

That so many people do like them, makes it fair to say that people at the "fooling around" stage of knife prep should give a Chinese style knife a try.  At $40ish, with so much good buzz, the CCK seems like a particularly good choice. 

 

The Fujiwara FKM is a nice, entry-level knife.  Two other knives in the same, "nice, entry-level" category are the Richmond Artifex and Tojiro DP.  They're far more similar than different, and it's quite likely that you'd be happy with any of them.  But each of the three has a slightly different appeal.  The Artifex is more comfortable and made from better steel than the others, and would be my recommendation for most people.

 

Most good sharpeners use two different surfaces (medium/coarse and medium/fine or fine) for the sharpening/polishing processes which comprise routine sharpening.  However, there's a third set of processes -- minor repair, as well as thinning and other occasional profiling -- and those require a coarse surface.  

 

  • You don't need to buy a coarse stone right away; 
  • Don't even think about using a coarse stone until you can hold an angle well enough to consistently do a good job with your finest stone;
  • Separate stones are easier to maintain and use than combination stones; but
  • Combination stones cost less; and
  • Buy the best sharpening equipment you can reasonably afford. 

 

If you can afford an Edge Pro or Wicked Edge system, they're something you should seriously consider.  It takes 12 to 20 hours of learning and practicing freehand sharpening to reach an adequate level of consistency.  It takes about 2 using an Edge Pro or Wicked Edge.  The Edge Pro Kit 3, or Edge Pro Essential Set (from CKtG) are probably the most cost effective choices.

 

DO NOT USE SANDPAPER to flatten.  Maybe all-caps is too strong a caveat.  Sandpaper flattening won't hurt your knives or stones, but it's slow, inconvenient, messy, clogs in no time, and the paper wears so fast that it's not cost effective long term.  If you can't afford a couple of extra bucks for a real flattener, use DRYWALL SCREEN instead of sandpaper.  While still inconvenient and messy, it's faster, easier to un-clog by rinsing, easier to clean and re-use (rinsing, again), lasts longer, and consequently is hugely better for flattening.  A lifetime supply runs around $12. 

 

But an actual flattening plate is the way to go. $30 for CKtG's 140 grit diamond plate is an incredible value.  So much so that, unless you want a diamond plate for double duty as your coarsest stone, nothing else makes sense. 

 

BDL

post #9 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

DO NOT USE SANDPAPER to flatten.  Maybe all-caps is too strong a caveat.  Sandpaper flattening won't hurt your knives or stones, but it's slow, inconvenient, messy, clogs in no time, and the paper wears so fast that it's not cost effective long term.  If you can't afford a couple of extra bucks for a real flattener, use DRYWALL SCREEN instead of sandpaper.  While still inconvenient and messy, it's faster, easier to un-clog by rinsing, easier to clean and re-use (rinsing, again), lasts longer, and consequently is hugely better for flattening.  A lifetime supply runs around $12. 

 

But an actual flattening plate is the way to go. $30 for CKtG's 140 grit diamond plate is an incredible value.  So much so that, unless you want a diamond plate for double duty as your coarsest stone, nothing else makes sense. 

 

BDL

 

I bought a granite tile from lowes and use some automotive sandpaper I had lying around. It is slow with sandpaper, the drywall screen works a lot better. I spent a good hour (probably more) flattening my stones. The only stone that I can't do that with is the bester 500grit as it tears up the sandpaper and drywall screen pretty fast. 

 

I'm thinking about getting the diamond plate from CKtG that comes with the strop set (as soon as I go through the sandpaper I have on hand).

 

For the OP, I believe you can get an Artifex in 51200 so you can also take that into consideration if you want a carbon steel knife.

post #10 of 10

RE (1) i personally think the only 3 knives you'd need would be:
 * a 210mm western handle gyuto (240mm for wa-handle)

 * a 240mm suji

 * a 150mm petty

those 3 knives are all i really use at home. personally i like the Masamoto VG series. they have POM handles which i find comfortable, and they're stainless steel which makes caring for them easy.

 

RE (2) i say go for it for a whet stone. and for now just get a 1000 grit. it will be a PITA for a while getting them consistently sharp, but once you get it then you're set. just keep looking out for that burr, and work on keeping an even angle while you sharpen. feels good to be able to sharpen your own knives in a traditional way. 

 

RE (3), yeah get an end grain chopping board. bigger the better. i just got a new one which is 16" x 21" cause that was about as big as i could comfortably fit on my worktop. big boards are nice to work on. :)

 

let us know what you end up going for!

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by john9247 View Post

1. Do these knives seem like reasonable choices for a beginner?

 

2. Watching some sharpening tutorial videos it doesn't seem too hard (I have plenty of cheap knives to practice with), but am I getting in over my head with a water stone?

 

3. How careful do I need to be with the surface I'm cutting on? Right now all I really use is some super-flimsy plastic cutting boards - should I invest in a wood one?

 

Thanks!

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