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Committing sight unseen or using what you know

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

Much like an arranged marriage, I'm in a position where I may end up committing to a knife without seeing it.

 

I'm far enough outside Houston that the GreatAndPowerfulGoogle shows nothing but small scale knifesmiths in my area when I look for knife or cutlery stores.  As a result, I really don't have a chance to get a feel for a knife before committing to it.  We were in the city recently, and just for kicks I tested out the Wusthof Classic, Henkels, Shun Classic, and the Miyabi Evolution.  I preferred the Wusthof and Miyabi for feel and movement, but this was just window shopping.

 

As a result of my window shopping, the missus picked up the Wusthof 8" chef and paring knives for my birthday.  Which, in turn, means that I can't window shop any more - I have to commit.  The only real commitment feel comfortable making right now is that something in the 8-9" range is where I prefer to be.  I don't have interest in moving to a 10" at this time.

 

Now that I'm in the market and started doing some research, I stumbled on ChefTalk and am a bit overwhelmed.  I've been digging through new and old threads and have come away with a lot of information.  I'm impressed by the MACs and noticed that you can still by Wusthof LCBs from Amazon.  I'm reconsidering my knife technique - I've been so used to to heavy chopping, that I tend to approach all my tasks in the same way, and end up using the knife to cut instead of letting the knife cut.  I think it would be reasonable to say that while I've been using a rocking Western technique, I'm flexible letting my next knife shape my method.

 

There are a lot of options available online, most of which I can't test out, even if I head out to the big city.  I took a look at the local mall, and we have a Bed Bath and Beyond and a Kitchen Connection (a chain that has little of value).  But, if I don't go with the Classic, I'm stuck with whatever BBB carries or ordering online.  And if I order, the above 4 are all I have touched.  I'm comfortable spending $30 on a Fibrox sight unseen, but I'm wary of spending $120-250 without taking the knife for a drive - it took me 6 years to find our car and 8 years to find bedroom furniture that I liked.  My wife has given me 14 days to settle on the chef's knife that will carry me for the next several years or more.

 

So, I turn to you all for your expertise.  For someone who was really comfortable with the design and weight of the Wusthof and Miyabi, is there something else I should consider?  Is the LCB so much better and similar (at the same time!) that I can select it?  Should I allow myself to be led into an expensive arranged marriage to a knife, like a MAC or something else, I've only seen pictures of?  Should I go with the Victorinox?  Maybe just be happy with what the missus got me - it isn't like I'm committed to the knife for life (as a home user, I suspect that it will be a while before the bolster becomes a problem)?  Or, I suppose I could just suck it up, make a choice, and deal with it, even if I would rather hide in a corner and cry.

post #2 of 20
Hi, there's many out there better suited than me to advise you on your situation and ill leave it to them.
However I have one useful peice of information for you.
Any decent online knife seller will let you return knives if you don't like them so you are by no means locked in once you buy.
Usually you just have to pay for postage... As your in the u.s this really isn't an issue. Although some places charge a small fee.. I think chef knives to go is 10%
Just contact the sellers about their returns policy if you are concerned.
In Australia I can't try any knives before I buy them either (all the good ones are overseas). And postage is horrible... Research research research .
post #3 of 20

Hi, rancho!  Welcome to the forum.

 

I'm by no means the best or brightest or the sharpest edge in the forum, but I'll try to prime the pump for some of the much more experienced reviewers and gurus. If you have a time limit of 14 days to make your pick, then we shouldn't waste time.

 

The one thing I hope you can stretch first is your deadline of 14 days.  If that can be stretched (without too much domestic discord) to 30 days, that would really help you.

 

I read through your posting, and what I missed was a sense of what type of foods you prepare, cook and eat. To follow an old architectural axiom, "form follows function".  A knife which has to chop through or along bone is a far different knife than a blade which cuts mostly vegetables.  Knowing what type of cooking you do will help the real experts give you the best advice.  

 

Next, no matter what your choice of knife ends up as. sooner or later it will get dull.  The sooner or later part really has more to do with what you cut up and how much an d how often the knife is used, rather than being a set time issue.  So, figuring out how you are going to sharpen all of your knives and then actually sharpening them will have a much greater impact on enjoying cooking than just getting a new knife (otherwise, you will be following the vast majority of the population who have drawers. collections, ...nay, even filling whole spare garages and warehouses with those "new" knives which got dull quickly enough to be just beyond warranty or return to seller deadlines).  Returning to seriousness (sigh), I would suggest you do a search through the ChefTalk forums about sharpening methods and systems.  Please note that I'm not talking about pull-through sharpeners, either mechanical or electrically powered.  Those have quite a few critics and get little love in these forum pages and posts.

 

No matter what your choice is for sharpening, expect both to need to do your shopping and purchases online, and to have moments of financial panic when you look at prices.  

 

If you decide to consider freehand sharpening, go to your local public library and read Chad Ward's book, An Edge In The Kitchen (I'm assuming that you're going to want to save every penny you can, and reading the book through a public library will save you about $20.  Read up, but do keep in mind that the book has prices which are long out of date, and will seem quaint).  As for an appropriate entry-level set of sharpening stones, the online retailer Chef Knives To Go has a three stone basic set for about $140.

 

One alternative to freehand sharpening is the Edge Pro Apex sharpener, definitely not inexpensive at a beginning price of about $165 for a basic set.  The learning curve is much shorter than with freehand sharpening.

 

I realize that I am harping about sharpening, but it will probably have more impact than your choice of knife.

 

Search in ChefTalk and read up about good cutting boards and chopping blocks.  Your cutting surface can significantly affect how quickly or slowly your knife will get dull.

 

You asked about the Wusthof Le Cordon Bleu and how it compared to the other Wusthof's.  Since you mentioned the bolster, I am supposing that you received a Wusthof Classic as a gift.  What you will find is that the full height bolster on the Wusthof Classic will very quickly become a Royal Pain as soon as you try to either sharpen the knife yourself or have it sharpened by an "expert" sharpener.  What happens is that the bolster, if not quickly reduced, very quickly forces the knife edge just forward of the bolster to be hollowed.  The Le Cordon Bleu line (and the Wusthof "Classic Icon" line) eliminated the full length portion of the bolster along the heel. making for a MUCH easier time for a sharpener to get an even edge along the full length of the blade.  In short, the bolster will become a problem much, much, MUCH sooner rather than later for you.

 

In any event, Wusties don't necessarily get the greatest amount of love from the people in these forums.

 

Whatever your budget level, prepare yourself for sticker shock and try not to go to catatonic (remember your 14 day deadline).  First, set your spending limit.  Next, figure out if you are going to try freehand sharpening or use a system (such as the Edge Pro), and order up online your choice.  And then finally get (or keep) a knife.  If all you have left (after spending on sharpening) is $30, so be it with a Fibrox-handled Forschner  (do be careful that you don't order a serrated edge Forschner's chef knife by mistake).

 

 

Galley Swiller

post #4 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the feedback. I hadn't thought about the ability to return a knife, but with the lovingly short turnaround to "stop messing about and decide," I might be able to squeeze one return trip at best.

To answer galley's questions -

1) for sharpening, I've already decided to take advantage of the multitude of knife makers in the area. Many of them offer to freehand knife sharpen, at a reasonable $.50-1/inch. At some point, I may invest in a self sharpening process, but my view of automated sharpeners is colored by stories I heard long ago of poor performance - they be better now, I don't know.

2) most of my cutting is chopping/mincing vegetables and breaking down muscle tissue. I don't go through much boned meat (mostly larger chucks and butts, but the vegetables can vary between tomatoes and butternut squash).

3) my cutting surfaces are primarily acrylic and polypropylene

4) that is my concern about the bolster, and while I know that it depends on usage and how often I sharpen, is I don't know how quickly it becomes a problem. To an extent, I think that if it became a problem quickly, the design would have lasted and Wusthof wouldn't have the reputation it does.

I can probably squeeze 30 days if I maintain my research rate from the last few days. Still, that doesn't give me time to try everything I'm considering and whatever I return/restocking fees I incur will hit my budget.

Some reviews of the LCB seem to suggest that weight and balance of the line isn't that far removed from the Classic, which is the line my gift came from. If they handle the same, that is motivation to try it out.

All in all, I think I can afford one online mistake before my deadline hits, but getting it right the first time means a little bit more money in the bank for the product and less for fees. The BBB products are my only way to avoid fees, and they were the source of the Wusthofs she got me.

Still, it sounds like most of you are comfortable buying sight unseen, is that right?
post #5 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by rancho unicorno View Post

Thanks for the feedback. I hadn't thought about the ability to return a knife, but with the lovingly short turnaround to "stop messing about and decide," I might be able to squeeze one return trip at best.

To answer galley's questions -

1) for sharpening, I've already decided to take advantage of the multitude of knife makers in the area. Many of them offer to freehand knife sharpen, at a reasonable $.50-1/inch. At some point, I may invest in a self sharpening process, but my view of automated sharpeners is colored by stories I heard long ago of poor performance - they be better now, I don't know.

2) most of my cutting is chopping/mincing vegetables and breaking down muscle tissue. I don't go through much boned meat (mostly larger chucks and butts, but the vegetables can vary between tomatoes and butternut squash).

3) my cutting surfaces are primarily acrylic and polypropylene

4) that is my concern about the bolster, and while I know that it depends on usage and how often I sharpen, is I don't know how quickly it becomes a problem. To an extent, I think that if it became a problem quickly, the design would have lasted and Wusthof wouldn't have the reputation it does.

I can probably squeeze 30 days if I maintain my research rate from the last few days. Still, that doesn't give me time to try everything I'm considering and whatever I return/restocking fees I incur will hit my budget.

Some reviews of the LCB seem to suggest that weight and balance of the line isn't that far removed from the Classic, which is the line my gift came from. If they handle the same, that is motivation to try it out.

All in all, I think I can afford one online mistake before my deadline hits, but getting it right the first time means a little bit more money in the bank for the product and less for fees. The BBB products are my only way to avoid fees, and they were the source of the Wusthofs she got me.

Still, it sounds like most of you are comfortable buying sight unseen, is that right?

 

When I purchased my first "real" knife, a Global G-2 that I still have today, I bought it without ever having used it.  I feel I got kinda lucky.  But, I subsequently bought a number of knives that I was not happy with. 

 

As a starter, a knife is a very personal tool.  I think it's more important to find out what you're comfortable with, rather than relying on the millions of opinions out here on the internet, without getting into the details of a knife.  Find out what kind of handle you like, whether you like a lighter knife or a heavier knife, what kind of handle you like, and the length of knife you're comfortable with.

 

I venture to say that, if you happen to find a knife that you're not completely happy with - which is almost inevitable, you'll want to buy another one . . . and another one.  But, for the time being, finding the characteristics that suit you best is most important, in my opinion.  Because, ultimately, even if a knife is super sharp, if it doesn't feel right, chances are, you won't use it as much. 

 

Then, you can either (1) try as many knives (if not actually use to cut, grab a hold of and feel) before committing, or (2) talk with a retailer who will honestly take into consideration what your preferences are, and, only if you're confident of it, buy something sight unseen.  Places like Sur La Table and Williams Sonoma, as well as any restaurant supply stores, should allow you to hold a knife. 

 

As far as stores that really take into account what you want, in my experience, Japanese Knife Imports is the best knife store I've ever dealt with as far as helping me find a knife that's right for me.  They won't upsell - hard as it is to believe, it's true.  Before I became a more competent sharpener and learned to maintain my knives better, they recommended that I buy a less expensive knife because more expensive knives require more care.  I've tried a number of knives they sell and all of them are far superior performing as far as actual cutting performance are concerned than any traditional Wusthof or Henckels knife.

 

For what it's worth, I'm not recommending any knives because I simply do not know exactly what made you feel comfortable with the knives you preferred, e.g., did you like how it rocked on the board, did you like balance, did you like the shape of the handle, etc.?

 

P.S. - Bolsters on Wusthofs and Henckels will be a problem immediately as far as sharpening goes.  If you intend to send them out, hopefully, the sharpener will know how to properly grind the bolster away.  If you ever intend on personally sharpening those knives, it will be a problem unless you have a grinder. 

post #6 of 20

I'm probably going to be jumping around in trying to answer your questions, so try to bear with me.

 

I feel your pain here concerning avoiding fees.  And the best suggestion here I can think of is to strictly prioritize your spending.  Getting a new knife may be a bit of excitement (it's something you can hold in hand), but getting your existing knives sharp, keeping them sharp with a good ceramic sharpening rod, and a subsequent sharpening system, and using a good cutting board may have a much higher immediate cost benefit aspect, which will also be usable decades down the road.

 

And I will harp again on going to your local library and reading Chad Ward's An Edge In The Kitchen.  If your library doesn't have it, it's probably available through an inter-library loan network.  And borrowing it through the library won't cost you any money - just effort.

 

At least for myself, I am comfortable about ordering from afar, sight mostly by picture, text and separate research.  The reason is because of a sad truth - really top level products in kitchen cutlery are not normally found anywhere except in small isolated (from one another) shops, which are few and really, really far away from one another or from the general populace.  About the only way you can get some of the best products is to go the internet route.

 

There is really a dual world here.  Top sellers, such as Wusthof and Henckels, got that way because they developed sales networks and contacts when other knife manufacturers failed to push sales representation in the United States.  Their success today is as much about the fact that they are the last widespread sales knife makers, except for the really inexpensive Chinese-factory knife manufacturers.  When Macy's became the last truly national brand department store, what Macy's is offering becomes the "quality leader" that chains like BB&B will follow.  It's not likely that Macy's will bad-mouth their top-of-the-line offerings.

 

Another issue here is production consistency and mass production quantity.  Macys and chains like BB&B need consistent quality in their products - and production facilities capable of churning out knives in volume.  By example, Wusthof uses X50CrMoV15 steel in their best knives - chosen as a compromise, as much because it can be heat-treated to avoid chipping (having chunks break out of the edge of the knife) as to provide a cutting edge.  Having a knife you can use in whacking a boned roast without having the knife edge flinging off chunks of steel is valuable to many chefs - they don't want to have to run to the cutlery shop mid-production during dinner hours.

 

On the other hand, Japanese knives are more like high-end craft makers, rather than mass market manufacturers.  They don't make many, but their quality is much higher on a piece-by-piece comparison.  Top Japanese knives use different steels specifically designed for cutlery, and heat treated to harden the steel as much as the makers dare risk.  The result are knives which will take a sharper edge and hold it longer, but with a greater risk that the edge can fail or chip, if abused.

 

Le Cordon Bleu is really a long-ago-discontinued line from Wusthof.  What you are seeing on Amazon is the remnant stock being sold through the Amazon webstore by another, much smaller retailer.  It was subsequently replaced by Wusthof with the "Classic Icon" line - the primary difference (as far as I can tell) being the replacement of the traditional handle of the LCB (and the "Classic" line) with an "ergonomic" handle on the "Classic Icon".  Removal of the full bolster is certainly an improvement over the "Classic".  Wusthof also changed their heat treatment process a few years ago, to increase the hardness of their knives to 58 Rockwell Hardness testing.  Whether the LCB has the older, softer steel heat treatment or the newer harder steel heat treatment is something I don't know.

 

In your original post, you mentioned Miyabi Evolution.  Since that is a line supposedly exclusive to Sur la Table, I am presuming that you visited a Sur la Table store to handle the knives.  I would suggest that you go online to their website and browse through all of their on-line catalog to see what might else be available that you can touch.  (The other big box upper-scale home retailers are Williams Sonoma and Crate and Barrel).

 

1.  Sharpening.  Because a single bad sharpening session can really do a horrible job on a good knife, I would first do a lot of checking around on what any particular professional sharpener is able to provide in services, as well as the quality of services.  You might also try out the sharpener by taking one of your older, more expendable knives to be sharpened.  Then carefully look at the evenness of the bevel of the edge, including looking at both sides of the blade.

 

In my own experience with an outside "expert sharpener", at a family-owned vacation house, where I don't really have much influence, one sister-in-law took the kitchen knives to be sharpened to a "professional" sharpener.  The result was a nightmare.  It seems the "expert sharpener" was mostly expert in getting the word "expert" spelled right (unless that was spell-check).  So, I'm quite skeptical about taking knives to a service.

 

However, that will be your choice.  If you do go the professional sharpener route, first ask about getting the bolster reduced.  If the answer is "No" or "It isn't needed" or some other put-you-off answer, then take your knives elsewhere.  That person is flat-out not an expert.  And you will need to get the bolster reduced before your first sharpening, if you are going to treat the knife right.

 

You should also get a honing rod (what is often called a "sharpening steel").  It's not really for sharpening, but for microscopic edge alignment, and will vastly prolong the amount of time between sharpenings (it's the sharpening process which creates the wear on the knife.  The more times the knife is sharpened, the faster the knife is worn).  For your honing rod/"sharpening steel", get a smooth ceramic rod - one of the best is the Idahone (about $30).

 

2.  Your type of cutting sounds like you will be doing almost every type of cutting experience.  Tomatoes will be thick-skinned, with a soft interior (so you might very well justify a separate serrated edge bread knife).  Butternut squash will be a good test of sharpness, which would work well for a good Japanese gyuto.  And going through any boned meat may very well justify one of the non-japanese knives, such as a Wustie.

 

3.  I would give a high priority on replacing your cutting board.  Neither acrylic nor polypropylene are particularly edge friendly, especially to Japanese knife edges.  Polypropylene also runs the risk of developing and retaining cuts, cracks and grooves, which can (and are likely to) retain microscopic food remnants, which will end up as grist for pathogen growth and passage to your foods later.  Health inspectors often cite restaurants precisely for that reason.

 

Best choice, but most expensive, is a properly built end-grain wood cutting board.  Hard maple is the usual standard against which other woods are compared, but other woods can also be used, as long as they are closed grain, rather than open-grained (such as oak).  Be sure to check a potential end grain board carefully before purchase for cracks and gaps.  Then treat it several times with lots of mineral oil before first use (a new board will soak up a lot of mineral oil).  See the forum for suggestions and critiques about various makers, both stock and custom.  And then scrupulously follow cleaning procedures after each use.

 

In descending order of preference after end grain boards, an edge grain wood cutting board (also treated with mineral oil) is next in preference.  Then comes composite boards and bamboo boards, followed by plastic boards.  Anything harder, such as glass or ceramic or (shudder) marble or granite, should be considered as strictly decorative, and should never be used by a good knife.

 

 

Galley Swiller

post #7 of 20
Thread Starter 

I meant to drop by the library to see if my hold has arrived, but I took your suggestion and put holds (we're near the county line, so I have a couple systems I can pick from depending on where I am that day - once one arrives, I can cancel the hold on the other) on Ward's book.  This means I'll probably end up putting my quest on one side for a few days so I can get and read through the book.

 

As far as your points, here are my thoughts.

 

1) Sharpening - that is really good advice.  As I mentioned previously, most of the knife shops around here are knifesmiths that cater towards the hunting/survival crowd - they don't make kitchen knives and they don't sell what others make.  I had taken for granted that their sharpening skills would translate to kitchen, but I have nothing that confirms it.  I may have to stop by a thrift store, pick up some knives, and take them in for sharpening to test them out.

 

I have a cheap 10" steel that I got years ago, and have no problem replacing it - from what I recall, the steel should be at least as long as your longest knife, right?  As I plan to eventually replace my 10" slicing knife with a 10.5-11, I should get a 12", right?  Maybe sand down the handle a little so it has a bit of a flat side and doesn't roll off the counter?  I'm guessing the $9 sheath isn't really worth it?

 

2) This suggests that I'll be happier with a Japanese knife, as I have my old knife which performs well for an old cheap knife.  It won't be as heavy, solid and effective as a Wusthof or Gude, but I think it will be sufficient for the occasional bone-in shoulder.  I'm looking at CKTG, and the MAC Pro isn't that far beyond the price the missus paid for the Wusthof.  I'd like to replace my paring knife at the same time, but the Forschner gets good reviews there and I believe I can afford the $8.

 

3) I hadn't thought about the cutting board - my understanding was that polypro is the best all around performer  - it isn't as fast as wood, but you can toss it in the dishwasher.  I'd like to get a nice cutting board, but a couple hours of research there tells me that's a rabbit hole on its own.  Threads tell me that there are several good sources for end grain - the boardsmith, Boos, others.  Someone mentioned a company called Catskill Craftsman - Google tells me I can pick one of those up at Lowes and their prices are way better than BS, BOOS, etc.  Is there a quality difference I need to be aware of?  I mean, I know you normally get what you pay for, but sometimes there are brands that surprise with their quality.  I'm certainly not in the market for a custom, although some day I'd love to get a dovetailed end grain.

 

As far as materials, I've seen different opinions.  ATK, whose recommendations I find adequate for the home cook suggest that teak is a good, long lasting material.  In the forums, I've seen teak dismissed as too hard and damaging to the knife.  Of course, ATK also lists the Wusthof as one of their blades of choice, behind the Victorinox.  And the ProTeak was 1.5" and my understanding is that 2"+ is the ideal thickness for a board.

 

Once I read through An Edge, I'm sure I'll be better able to put my amateurish thoughts into words.

post #8 of 20

Hopefully, An Edge will arrive soon for you and you can go through it.  It's really an easy read - Chad Ward talks about what's important in a way which reflects his skill as a good communicator.

 

On sharpening, you may find that the knifesmiths will be more careful about doing a good job than the people who simply run knives through a machine on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.  At least they will know what a bolster is and will understand why you want the bolster reduced.  My guess is that the custom knifesmiths will either be able to do the job properly for you in the first place or will know some sharpening service which won't just do a hack job.  Can't hurt to ask...

 

When choosing a knife to be your blade to be potentially sacrificed on the altar of knife sharpening service appraisal, it's best to have one which is at least modest quality.  If you go to thrift stores for a cheap one, look for one with a real bolster.  That will at least indicate it was pseudo-quality.  However, finding cheap but not-quite-awful knives at a thrift shop has become problematic, ever since forums such as this and eBay made their appearance.  I drop into the local shops around here on a not-infrequent basis and have found that either everything is total garbage, or the even moderately not-quite-awful knives are few and far between.  It seems good even moderate quality used kitchen cutlery has become an eBay specialty, with folk combing through thrift shop bins daily in search of potential items to be put up for bid.

 

As for the length of your honing rod, the two-inches-longer-than-your-longest -blade is a reasonably good guide.  I would just suggest you get a 12 inch rod, and not have to worry about whether you need another, longer rod later.  Since 12 inches is usually the longest length ordinarily carried for the Idahone, that's why I suggested the $30 size.

 

As for whether a Japanese knife (or a knife made in the Japanese fashion) is a better choice, at least on ChefTalk there is a wide consensus that the Japanese form of a chef knife, the gyuto, is THE way to go.  On the better European stainless steel knives, hardness rarely gets higher than 58 on the Rockwell hardness ratings, while the better Japanese knives start at 58 Rockwell hardness and go on up from that.  And even a few digits can make a considerable difference.  A harder steel means that the knife can be made thinner (less "wedging" effort), there will be less edge rolling, and the knife will remain sharper longer.  The gyuto shape is also closer to the classic French chef knife profile, where the blade profile has a flatter shape than the German profile, which has a considerably more upswing shape leading to the tip.

 

Do search through ChefTalk forums about what might be a good first Japanese knife.  Seek out posts by Boar de Laze ("BDL").  He very much recommends the Mac Pro, but he also has recommendations for knives which are less expensive.

 

On a cutting board, I again suggest you seek out BDL's posts in ChefTalk.  He has given a good summary of what is available, and what are the most widely considered brands and makers.  Almost anything I would say would be a pale reflection of what he has covered in much more detailed posting in the past.

 

Generally, the old adage that you get what you pay for has an element of truth.  Certainly, the less expensive products need to be examined much more carefully for problems such as gaps between board pieces, cracks in pieces and in-the-wood flaws.  Again, look at each board carefully and try to find all problems on the cutting surface.  Then turn the board over and do the same to the back.  Repairing these flaws is not impossible, but the combined initial cost of your bargain board and the added cost of repairs can often exceed the cost in the first place of a good board - so would it be worth it to buy the less expensive board?.  That's a very powerful reason behind "You Get What You Pay For"

 

As for the type of wood - most hard woods will do well (though it might be valuable to keep in mind that "hardwood" is a botanical term as well, and balsa is technically a hardwood).  The usual standard against which other woods are compared is hard northern maple.  Other woods may be harder or softer, but if in doubt, try first to check out what type of wood is involved, and then look to see if the wood is suitable.  You do want closed grain wood - so Oak is out.  As for teak, I'm skeptical.  The wood is moderately hard, but teak has natural oils which make it very difficult to glue together without first removing the oils and changing the nature of the teak wood.  Teak often also has silca in its composition - which is also a point of concern.

 

Also, keep in mind that you need to decide before you go to the store or order online what size and shape you want the board to be.  Look to see where you will be putting the board in your kitchen - and be sure to have a ruler or tape measure with you.  Consider how big the board should be, so that you will not be trying to constantly either moving back and forth constantly, or moving piles constantly on and off the board. Think about the shape - square or rectangular boards can be set on edge, but a round board .....

 

As for thickness, only end grain boards really come in thick sizes - but 2 inches does seem to be a minimum thickness standard (one reason for a thicker board is that it can from time to time be taken to a carpentry shop and run through a thickness planer, creating what will essentially be a new surface).

 

Concerning decorations and eye-catching patterns, which have become the rage for cutting boards, I will flat out say that you should be looking for a board which will be a tool, rather than a decoration.  It's fine if you like how the board looks, but keep in mind that you have the board for the purpose of cutting on it - and all else is secondary.  

 

Again, don't forget the mineral oil - make sure plenty of it soaks in before you use the board for the first time.  It doesn't have to be fancy source mineral oil from the specialty shops - drug store or grocery store mineral oil will do as well.  Also, make sure it is mineral OIL and NOT mineral SPIRITS,

 

 

Galley Swiller

post #9 of 20
Thread Starter 

Ok.  The book showed up on Monday.  I picked it up in the evening and have read it twice (well, I skipped the recipes).

 

So, I'm reevaluating my thought process on what I want and what I need.  

 

My first and foremost purchase is the Idahone rod (with sheath to protect it).

Second, I get the value in adding a wood cutting board, but since my budget involves other things as well, I'll go with an edge grain to save some money.  I'm not sure exactly what size I'm going to want or where I'm going to get it, but I'm a little more flexible there.  Making me feel a little better was a post by BDL discussing his edge grain board.  If it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me.

Third, I can hold off on replacing my it-was-cheap-and-we-needed-knives-and-had-just-gotten-married knives completely - the chef, santoku, and paring have been perfectly serviceable, the slicing a little less so.  So, instead of getting the big 3/4, I can be very methodical.  My goal is to buy a chef/gyuto, santoku or second chef, paring, slicing and/or bread, and some new shears.  At that point, I can pass my older set that isn't great along to someone who could use something better than the $10 CVS special buy.

 

Ward brought a lot of good information to my attention in his book, much of which I was starting to glean from the boards.

 

Here is what I'm thinking for products:

1) Chef/Gyuto - either the MAC Pro 9.5" or Tojiro DP 240.  I know I was pretty committed to the 8-9" size, but I keep asking myself if I would be better off with a little more length.  Yes, I get that I'm running a pretty big spread in cost, but I see it as either getting a beginner knife I can later resell or pass along and then buy the knife that sets the standard or I can jsut jump into the standard now.  I wouldn't trust a teenager with a BMW, I don't know if I trust myself with the MAC yet.

2) Santoku/Chef - either the Forschner Fibrox Santoku or 8" Chef.  This is a delayed purchase, something I will eventually pick up as something that the missus could use on the rare occasion I need her help in the kitchen.

3) Paring - unless I find a sweet deal paring my choice of (1) with a paring knife, I'll go with the Fibrox 3.25".

4) Slicing/bread - I'm not sure if I need both, but I'm torn between the 10" Fibrox Granton edge and the Tojiro 270 ITK

5) Shears - Messermeister

 

As far as sharpening, I'm still sorting out how I'm going to proceed there (I know, I know!).  Knife storage will be with the LamsonSharp or Victorinox KnifeSafes.  I haven' figured out how to store the shears, though, but I'll probably store them loose.

 

I'm going to reread An Edge again tonight, I'm hoping that I'll start having questions that the boards haven't answered.

post #10 of 20
That's one big purchase ;-)
I have just 2 comments;
1) between The Mac and The tojiro, go MAC! There are other options in The price range, including Masamotos, But The Mac is a great choice.
2) why do you need a santoku? There is probably nothing you can do with it that a gyuto can't.

Extra comment... The 240mm gyuto os perfect size!
Daniel
post #11 of 20
Thread Starter 
Not necessarily one big purchase - more likely it will be two sensible purchases.

1) this is what decides how I break up the purchase. The extra ~$100 would go la long way towards upgrading the rest of my steel. As far as other makes, I'm wary of falling into the Japanese version of the Wusthof/Henkels trap - buying a major name because its popular, not because its better. But, folks here seem universally happy with the MAC, which makes me think its a lower risk purchase as far as comfort and design than another make. But, I've got 7 days to sort that out.
2) the santoku isn't necessarily happening. It was just an alternative to the chef as a secondary knife. I suggested it because in our kitchen, even when both knives are clean and available, the missus seems just as likely to grab the santoku as the chef.
post #12 of 20

I'm glad one of your library holds enabled you to get a copy of An Edge and read it.  It sounds like it did what I was hoping - give you a lot more details than I could about knives.  It also sounds like you are really evaluating what you need.  Hopefully, everything will mesh together for you within your deadline (I hope it's the longer 30 days!) 

 

(p.s. - I also hope you've released the library holds on the other copies from the other library systems).

 

Personally, I do agree with Daniel - everything you can do with a santoku can be done better with a gyuto or (western) chef's knife.  The longest santoku on the market is 180 mm - less than 7 inches.  Even an 8 inch chef's knife or 210 mm gyuto will have more length and the gyuto/chef knife will have a less rounded point.   As a second knife to be used when both you and your wife are working in the kitchen at the same time, why have one knife (a santoku) which won't perform anywhere as near as well as the other person's knife?  A Forschner might not be at the same quality level as a Mac, but a chef's knife is still more versatile than a santoku.

 

As for Mac vs Tojiro DP vs ??? - that's something which involves your comfort level.  I have and use the Tojiro DP and like it.  I also have some Mac knives (but not a Professional series gyuto), and can attest to their quality.  However, you're reading the comments - and I think you will now have or will be able to search out the reviews and rants - and make a decision you can be comfortable with.

 

As for a slicing/bread knife - I think here the importance is to separate the two words into two different knives.  Normally, a slicing knife is a knife dedicated to slicing such foods as roasts, where you are using a long, narrow and moderately thin blade for cutting the roast without having to saw back and forth repeatedly.  One Japanese version is known as a sujihiki.  Bread knives are entirely different - they are serrated edge long knives which are used to cut foods with tough or hard crusts/skins and soft interiors - french bread and tomatoes being the classic examples.  Your chef's knife or gyuto can do the job of the slicing knife well enough in the beginning.  The bread knife is a different story.  Gyutos and chef's knives are nowhere as able as bread knives to cut bread or tomatoes without making a mess of the job, compared to a bread knife.  You should get one.  If spending on the Mac version gives you cost jitters, you can always go the Dexter Russell or Forschner route.  I personally am still using a several-decades-old 8 inch white-plastic-handle Dexter Sani-Safe.  Forschners and Dexters can be found in restaurant supply stores.

 

I have the take-apart Messermeister kitchen shears and they are my primary kitchen and general purpose scissors.

 

One further note on sharpening - with Japanese knives, it's not uncommon to have one fine (5000 or plus grit) stone for keeping the edge sharp, rather than using a honing rod.  A simple swipe (or a few) on a wetted stone on each side of the knife is the traditional form of keeping the blade sharp.  This does not mean that stone is for restoring a dull knife - it's for keeping the already sharpened knife at peak sharpness.

 

It sounds like things are now coming together for you!!

 

 

Galley Swiller


Edited by Galley Swiller - 9/11/13 at 10:00pm
post #13 of 20

As I understood from your first post, you already have a Wusthof 8”, isn’t it? If it is so, keep it for heavy duty and as your second knife for group cook.

Don´t be worry about MAC’s brand vs performance, they are really good. However, I would recommend you to also consider the Massamoto VG, which is probably in the same price range as the MAC and, in my opinion, slightly better and looks nicer. In addition, I recently gave a Richmond Adict AEB-L as a gift to my mom and got pretty impressed. Easy to sharpen and holds excellent edge, on a lower price range, but doesn’t look as good.

 

I have one 6” Tojiro DP and I am seriously considering replacing it. I’ve tried some things to make it better, such like thinning, but although I have improved it, I don’t think it’s enough.

You have probably noticed that there are several good options in different price ranges. I know this is not an easy task but I really doubt you will be unhappy with any of your options, comparing to the wusthof you own.

 

I really agree that you need a bread knife. However, there is no need on spending a lot of money on this.

The slicer, on the other hand, is not essential. I didn’t need one for quite some time. That’s the beauty of the versatility of a good gyuto. It can perform several tasks with good performance.

Remember that when you think on going to this level of cutlery, you must think on the tripod knife + board + sharpening. 

 

Daniel

post #14 of 20
I agree that a slicer is definitely not essential for a home cook. I'm not saying don't buy one eventually if you think you may get some benefit from one, however at work I use my 270mm suji exclusively for portioning quite large slabs of meat and fish, something a home cook would barely ever do.

There's no reason you can't portion /slice carve / dice pretty much anything with a 240 gyuto. It's a very versatile profile .

I think the combo of
gyuto
heavy duty backup
bread knive
Parer
is perfect for a home cook and would only add the addition of a 6" petty for trimming meat and smaller delegate things ( down the line)
I see no point ( as a home cook) to have any more than that.
Unless of corse knives are a hobby or you butcher meat or fillet fish at home.
post #15 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Galley Swiller View Post
 

Personally, I do agree with Daniel - everything you can do with a santoku can be done better with a gyuto or (western) chef's knife.  The longest santoku on the market is 180 mm - less than 7 inches.  Even an 8 inch chef's knife or 210 mm gyuto will have more length and the gyuto/chef knife will have a less rounded point.   As a second knife to be used when both you and your wife are working in the kitchen at the same time, why have one knife (a santoku) which won't perform anywhere as near as well as the other person's knife?  A Forschner might not be at the same quality level as a Mac, but a chef's knife is still more versatile than a santoku.

 

As for Mac vs Tojiro DP vs ??? - that's something which involves your comfort level.  I have and use the Tojiro DP and like it.  I also have some Mac knives (but not a Professional series gyuto), and can attest to their quality.  However, you're reading the comments - and I think you will now have or will be able to search out the reviews and rants - and make a decision you can be comfortable with.

 

As for a slicing/bread knife - I think here the importance is to separate the two words into two different knives.  Normally, a slicing knife is a knife dedicated to slicing such foods as roasts, where you are using a long, narrow and moderately thin blade for cutting the roast without having to saw back and forth repeatedly.  One Japanese version is known as a sujihiki.  Bread knives are entirely different - they are serrated edge long knives which are used to cut foods with tough or hard crusts/skins and soft interiors - french bread and tomatoes being the classic examples.  Your chef's knife or gyuto can do the job of the slicing knife well enough in the beginning.  The bread knife is a different story.  Gyutos and chef's knives are nowhere as able as bread knives to cut bread or tomatoes without making a mess of the job, compared to a bread knife.  You should get one.  If spending on the Mac version gives you cost jitters, you can always go the Dexter Russell or Forschner route.  I personally am still using a several-decades-old 8 inch white-plastic-handle Dexter Sani-Safe.  Forschners and Dexters can be found in restaurant supply stores.

 

One further note on sharpening - with Japanese knives, it's not uncommon to have one fine (5000 or plus grit) stone for keeping the edge sharp, rather than using a honing rod.  A simple swipe (or a few) on a wetted stone on each side of the knife is the traditional form of keeping the blade sharp.  This does not mean that stone is for restoring a dull knife - it's for keeping the already sharpened knife at peak sharpness.

I guess I was considering the santoku because that was something that An Edge suggested as a good role for a santoku.  I wasn't totally convinced (thus my wavering between the forschner chef and santoku), but he points about blade width and versatility were good enough that I wasn't fixed either way.

 

I saw the Forschner 9" offset as a good bread knife option, but I had a hard time digging through the Dexter-Russell site to see what all the options are - I may be better off going to a local restaurant supply to confirm what I can buy.  I think the MAC was well out of my range.  What has me especially interested in the Tojiro though (and got me looking at their other blades) was the reverse scallops on a $60 blade.  The alternative would be to use what you have, but treat it as more disposable.  Although your several-decades makes me think that I wouldn't need to worry about that.

 

One thing that stands out - from what I've read, the waterstone would be good to hone a japanese style japanese knife, but a ceramic rod is better for the western style japanese knives - but I guess not?

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dhmcardoso View Post
 

As I understood from your first post, you already have a Wusthof 8”, isn’t it? If it is so, keep it for heavy duty and as your second knife for group cook.

Don´t be worry about MAC’s brand vs performance, they are really good. However, I would recommend you to also consider the Massamoto VG, which is probably in the same price range as the MAC and, in my opinion, slightly better and looks nicer. In addition, I recently gave a Richmond Adict AEB-L as a gift to my mom and got pretty impressed. Easy to sharpen and holds excellent edge, on a lower price range, but doesn’t look as good.

 

I have one 6” Tojiro DP and I am seriously considering replacing it. I’ve tried some things to make it better, such like thinning, but although I have improved it, I don’t think it’s enough.

You have probably noticed that there are several good options in different price ranges. I know this is not an easy task but I really doubt you will be unhappy with any of your options, comparing to the wusthof you own.

 

Sorry for not being clear in my OP.  I have the 8" Wusthof, but it was the gift that triggered this research and sits unopened in its box.  My current chef is from a set that we bough a while back.

 

As far as your Tojiro - I know it's a way different knife from what I'm looking at, but what don't you like about it?  Is it something that stretches across the brand like the steel or build quality, or is it particular to the model like its design?

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by geo87 View Post

I think the combo of
gyuto
heavy duty backup
bread knive
Parer
is perfect for a home cook and would only add the addition of a 6" petty for trimming meat and smaller delegate things ( down the line)
I see no point ( as a home cook) to have any more than that.
Unless of corse knives are a hobby or you butcher meat or fillet fish at home.

 

I don't do a lot of breaking down, but I try to buy larger cryopacks of things I do use more often - but those could still be handled pretty easily by either the gyuto or the backup.  I've been watching what I use this week, and reached for my slicer once this week - to carve up some chicken when my chef was dirty.  I think the conclusion you had others have come to, of skipping on the slicer is pretty reasonable.

post #16 of 20
There is nothing at all wrong with a santoku, if that is what you like, for whatever reason you may have. Opinions are all different. That is what makes for conversation. NO, I'm not telling you to buy a santoku. I think you should be happy with the gifts your wife has given you. Be happy for a year. Cut and chop the ever-loving bageebies out of everything you can. Get the experience of feel. Today something might feel good and then tomorrow it may not. Practice on different things. Over a year you will maybe know exactly what you like and what not.
post #17 of 20
Thread Starter 
I thought I should update my knife hunting status:

1) I took Galley's advice and picked up a Sani-Safe 9" offset bread from our local restaurant supply house

2) I'm making a pit stop on the way home to pick up a Boos Edge Grain cutting board. I'm getting the 15x20x1.5 Chop n Slice, as I think that will be sufficient for our space and my needs. I'll eventually add an end grain, but this fits into my budget more easily. I'm not sure about the quality of the line, since I can't find reviews, but the Boos name seems to be pretty trusted here. The good thing is that I can take a look at the board in the shrink wrap before buying. Also, the site says 1.25, but the label (and the Boos site) said 1.5.

Thoughts on the board? http://www.acemart.com/prod4607.html

3) After digging a little more, I've narrowed my sharpeners down to one dealer. I'm going to check him out in a week or two with my current set to see how I like his work.

4) The chef/gyuto. I've still got no idea. 14 days ran out yesterday, but I got 30. I keep going back and forth - the Tojiro or Fujiwara would be more budget friendly, but for every two good reviews, I see someone complaining about F&F. The Massamoto isn't much more expensive than the MAC, but I think the MAC tops my budget out once you factor in everything else - especially when the missus was planning on one $150 purchase and it's cascading into a lot more (the above and a new hone). If one of the two cheaper knives was still available at the $50 that a lot of posts from just a couple years ago mention, I'd go with that as a solution for the next couple years. But, the extra $30 makes higher quality options more attractive.
post #18 of 20
Thread Starter 

I think this thread is finally done.

 

After too much research and too many questions and too much changing my mind, I ordered a Gesshin Uraku from JKI.  I had great conversations with both Jon and Sara, who were both helpful and accommodating of my confusion and mental disarray.

 

I plan to order a King 1k/6k combo from CKtG as Sara agreed that it's a good stone for someone who is sharpening as a means to an end rather than because of the love of sharpening (as an aside, that was one of the best things about the call - I suggested a competitor's offering and she thought it was a great idea).  I probably get the Forschner paring knife and a couple other goodies to get my cart to $60 to save on shipping.

 

Also, thanks to those of you who posted here - I don't know any of you, so I had to consider everybody's thoughts equally (I'm glad nobody suggested buying a block set from Wal-Mart....I would have researched it), even if I didn't respond to your suggestions.  Everything I read brought me closer to my goal.

 

Also, my wife is happy.  Well mostly happy - now I keep showing her pictures of what I ordered, and she's a bit tired of that.

post #19 of 20

Good Choice!

Just don't forget to feedback with your experience with your new "baby":thumb:.

post #20 of 20
And, as with all babies, we expect photos!
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