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Comprehensive Beginner Setup

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

I have been reading a lot and it's hard to make a final decision about the exact knives to choose. As background, I have a $65 set of Chicago Cutlerly knives right now that are better than anything my family's had, and they're 7 years old and have never been sharpened, used on plastic boards. I mainly use a 5" santoku because the bigger one is a lot thicker and wedges. This is too short and I want to upgrade to a good setup. I'd say decent knife skills for an uninformed person using a 5" knife, haha. Definitely beginner since I've never used a real chef's knife though. I want whatever will best fit my needs, within reason, rather than trying to save $30-40 here and there and compromising some quality.

 

I'm leaning towards stainless, not because I wouldn't take care of a carbon blade, I just don't like the patina. Some examples make it look old and uncared for.

240mm Gyuto - looking for all around use, medium duty without being too thick

 

- Mac Pro: This looks like a great knife and I'm leaning towards it right now I think. I'm a little worried it will be too thick/heavy duty, but that's probably unsubstantiated.
-Masamoto VG: It looks like the only advantage it has over the Mac is profile, which I don't have enough experience with to know the difference in use. Otherwise it's a little more whippy, not sure if it's too much.
-Konosuke HD: Looks great, but may be too much of a laser for all purpose solo use.

-Richmond Ultimatum: Another good one, but may be too heavy and heavy duty?

 

120-150mm petty: I'm leaning towards 120, but i'd be open to 150 if that's the consensus. 150 is already longer than the "chef's" knife I've been using.

Mac pro: not as many posts on petty's, but this seems like a good one

 

Bread knife: Mac superior

 

Paring: Forschner

 

Steak Knives: lots of posts saying don't waste money since they'll be cutting on plates, but not many suggestions. What's a good cheaper set of serrated ones?

 

Board: End-grain. 

 

-Boardsmith: seem like the best, but every expensive for a piece of wood. $203 shipped for a 16x22 maple. Any cheaper lifetime board?
-Boos: I've seen more posts than I like about them separating and don't seem worth any price savings. 

            - There is an 18x24x1.5" edge grain for $30 by my on Craigslist I'll probably get either way

            - There's a 15" round boos for $95. That seems too small and odd shaped though

 

 

Sharpening stones:

-Beston/Bester/Suhiro Rika set. If I want a holder, I could save $10 getting the bigger set with the diamond plate and holder included.

 

 

Honing rod: Idahone fine

 

 

Probably an angle cube to help learn sharpening

 

I am open to any other suggestions and anything else I might need. This is just what I've kind of narrowed it down to after the past week or two of research.


Edited by bradthebold - 9/3/14 at 7:22am
post #2 of 19
Thread Starter 

My initial order will be, at least:

-Mac Pro 240mm ( this or the richmond. This is thinner, but the richmond is a better metal? From reading, it looks like the richmond is a step above the Mac heavy duty wise) $185
-$30 boos board if I can get it

-Idahone 1200 $32

-Forschner paring knife $7

-Bester 1200 stone $48

-cheapest diamond flattening plate $30

-deburring cube $5

Total: $337

 

Then later I can get:
-120-150mm petty $70

-bread knife $90

-steak knives ?

-boardsmith board $203

-beston/shurio rita stones $100

Total $463 + steak knives

 

 

Vs $835 for everything right now. Or some combination above. After cutting up 10lbs of chicken breast last night though, my knives suck and I'm ready to get something. I just need to decide Mac pro or Richmond Ultimatum.

 

Edit: I may just get an edge pro instead of the stones. Still reading now, but it seems an edge pro edge would be better than I'd be able to get on stones even after a few years (probably only sharpen every few months?) of learning.


Edited by bradthebold - 9/5/14 at 1:40pm
post #3 of 19

That looks like a pretty good list to me. The two big decisions are what gyuto to get and how to sharpen it.

It sounds like you've been reading a lot of BDL's old posts. Sabatier, Masamoto KS, Richmond Ultimatum, Konosuke HD. Not the only choices, in my book, even though BDL is quite convincing and those are just the ones he wrote about at length.


 

If you're looking for a Western stainless gyuto, what you might do is to get a Fujiwara FKM and learn to sharpen on it. ANYTHING you get will be a huge step up from what you've got right now.


 

In my experience in upgrading to better knives, I've found:

1) freehand sharpening on waterstones is not particularly difficult, and it is a lot of fun. You get a nice sharp usable edge after not to much learning, and then it just gets better after that.

2) It takes a few tries to get a knife that is just right, and starting out, you don't really know what your preferences are.


 

I'm a cleaver kind of guy. My progression went:

$2 used. thrift store carbon cleaver. Hey, this thing gets sharper than my German stainless!

$40 new. CCK 1303. Wow! Easy to sharpen, but a little reactive, and I could make use of something somewhat larger, too.

$80 used. Suien VC. Nice steel, very sharp! But the blade wasn't flat enough, and the handle seemed a little small.

$230, used. Ashi Hamono white #2 cleaver. Perfect! Great steel, handle fits my hand very well, good sized blade, nice profile.


 

I sold the CCK and the Suien and lost maybe $20-30 total. If I had bought something super-fancy right off, I'm sure it would have been better than what I had before. But it might not have fit my preferences. I went through a sort-of-similar progression with gyutos. First, a carbon Sabatier from ebay. Came bent, too small anyway. Then, an Artifex. Awful grind, super wedge-monster, never really could get it sharp. Nice shape and I didn't mind the handle, but definitely a project knife. Bad enough that soured me a bit on Richmond. Then, a Zakuri Aogami Super gyuto (originally from Japanese Knife Imports). Really nice steel, but not flat enough for me, and I find myself using the cleaver more.


 

Anyway, IMHO, it makes some sense to dip a toe in and try to see what your preferences are first. 210 or 240mm? Full stainless, semi-stainless, or maybe stainless-clad carbon? Really flat profile like a Takeda, or something more rounded? Laser-thin or something with some weight and a more complex grind to it? Hard to know right off, regardless of what you might read on the forums.

If you bought something bang-for-the-buck right off (like the Fujiwara FKM at $83 from JCK), you could use it to learn freehand sharpening, and also to get an idea of what you do and don't like in a knife. Then sell it and take a slight hit, and buy something nicer with more information about your own preferences. Repeat as needed.

post #4 of 19
Thread Starter 

Where can you buy and sell used knives? I might be more apt to try some cheaper ones if they'd be easy to sell. But if I'd get stuck with them and then have multiples, not so much. 

I imagine something semi/stainless, average profile, average weight/thickness would suit me and I'd force myself to learn 240mm instead of 210mm. They're both a lot longer than my current knives, so I might as well go longer. Then if I decided I needed a pure laser, e.g., I could get that. I see that being a very low possibility though, as I'm no chef at all. I don't foresee myself upgrading anytime soon, especially if it's hard to buy/sell used.

 

I'm leaning towards the Mac as my minimum purchase and doubt it would disappoint me in any way. Just seeing the number of posts saying macs are soulless, old and outdated, I want to see what these better knives are for the price that might suit my needs and have better steel.

 

Some other things I've started to consider are the Addict, though it may be too tall. And the Kikuichi TKC. The Kikuichi seems like it might be a good one. A little lighter and thinner, but not too much of a laser? A better steel than the Mac. 

 

Plus, if you need $200 in stones, a $100-200 board, $200 in a petty, paring, bread knive and hone, I'd rather spend more and get the Mac vs a cheaper option that wouldn't be a long term knife anyways. Or at least that's now I'm seeing it now.

post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 

I think I'm down to the Kikuichi TKC 240mm gyuto, Teruyasu-Fujiwara 135-150mm petty, and Tojiro ITK bread knife after further reading.


Edited by bradthebold - 9/6/14 at 12:15pm
post #6 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by bradthebold View Post

 

I think I'm down to the Kikuichi TKC 240mm gyuto, Teruyasu-Fujiwara 135-150mm petty, and Tojiro ITK bread knife after further reading.

Sounds like a really good trio. That petty in particular should be a joy to sharpen.

post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the link. Those classifieds seem really expensive though. Like a Konosuke HD 210, for example, sold for $250 with saya. It's only $253 on CKtG with saya... And then you don't get any type of warranty if something's wrong.

post #8 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by bradthebold View Post

 

Thanks for the link. Those classifieds seem really expensive though. Like a Konosuke HD 210, for example, sold for $250 with saya. It's only $253 on CKtG with saya... And then you don't get any type of warranty if something's wrong.


That Konosuke came with a custom aftermarket handle, and they can be pricey, so not apples to apples. But yes, in general, knives on the the kitchen knife forums buy/sell/trade seem to go for more than you might expect... which makes it a nice place to sell knives! I bought my Zakuri gyuto there for $165, retail at JKI was $210. When I sold it a few months later in similar condition, I netted $148, so it cost me $17 to try it for a while.

post #9 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by bradthebold View Post
 

 

Steak Knives: lots of posts saying don't waste money since they'll be cutting on plates, but not many suggestions. What's a good cheaper set of serrated ones?

 

 

I realize steak knives may be one of your lowest priorities given the other types of knives you're interested in.  That said, I recommend against serrated steak knives, especially a "cheaper set" since in my experience they tent to shred the meat rather than cut through it.  I really like the Wustof steak knives.  They slice nicely through meat.  Plus, you can often find them on sale if you keep an eye out for them.

 

http://www.cutleryandmore.com/wusthof-gourmet/steak-knife-set-p12238?gclid=COnD17iuz8ACFUiGfgod7zgA6A

post #10 of 19
Thread Starter 

I agree they would be more shreddy initially, but what's a relatively cheap ($17.50/knife in your link) soft steel knife going to do to a steak after cutting a ceramic plate over and over? It seemed like a serrated knife would stay sharper a lot longer (minus the tips of the serrations) and do a better job than a dull non-serrated one. I'll have to look more into it and see how often they would actually need sharpened. I would imagine pretty often to be useful though.

 

My plan was a few serrated Forschner paring knives, but I'll look more into non-serrated ones. Thanks for the advice. I might just get an extra non-serrated Forschner and test it against a serrated one and see how it goes.

post #11 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by bradthebold View Post
 

I agree they would be more shreddy initially, but what's a relatively cheap ($17.50/knife in your link) soft steel knife going to do to a steak after cutting a ceramic plate over and over? It seemed like a serrated knife would stay sharper a lot longer (minus the tips of the serrations) and do a better job than a dull non-serrated one. I'll have to look more into it and see how often they would actually need sharpened. I would imagine pretty often to be useful though.

 

A few questions.  

  • Why would serrated steak knives be "more shreddy initiallly"?  Does this mean it becomes 'less shreddy' as it's used?
  • Why would a serrated steak knife with sharp tips be easier on a ceramic plate?
  • Why would a serrated steak knife "minus the tips of the serrations" be satisfactory to cut anything?

 

I care for my steak knives like I do my other knives . . . they get frequently honed and occasionally sharpened.  If you're looking for low maintenance knives, you may find yourself frequently disappointed and frustrated.  Purchasing quality knives is only one thing.  Knowing how to care for them . . . and following through on the care and maintenance . . . makes a huge difference.  I'm stunned and amazed by how many people purchase good knives and think that's all they need to do.  So many people don't want to go through the effort of maintaining good knives.

 

I often tell people that are interested in going down the road of quality knives in their kitchen (usually after they've used my knives and see how much of a difference a really good knife makes), start with one knife . . . just one . . . usually a good quality 8" chef's knife . . . and get really anal about its care.  Learn to hone and practice honing frequently.  Learn to how sharpen and sharpen regularly.  Honing and sharpening are skills that takes practice.  Commit to washing knives shortly after using it (I hate seeing good knives sitting on a kitchen counter covered in slime).  Store it in a place where its safe and won't get damaged . . . in other words, don't leave it loose in a drawer.  Get a simple blade guard for it.  And never ever put your knives in a dishwasher.  

 

Making a commitment to one knife isn't as ominous in one's mind as an entire set.  It will allow you to grow your knife skills over time.  At the same time, you will develop an appreciation for how a quality, well-kept knife feels when used.  Knife maintenance will become a habit over time.  

post #12 of 19
Thread Starter 

-I mean the serrated knife would shred more than a good, sharp plain knife, but a flattened/dull plain knife would probably damaged the meat more than a serrated one.

-I think the serrated knife tips and entire plain blade would act similarly, they would both be quickly dulled. The other ~90% of the serrated knife serrations that aren't the tip would still be sharp though.

-Based on what I've read, even though the tips will dull, the other 90% of the serrations that are sharp will still cut the meat well. Vs a plain knife where 100% of the blade will dull and crush the meat instead of cutting it.

 

Knife care cutting on an quality end-grain cutting board vs a ceramic plate are not even close to comparable in any way, so I'm not sure why you are trying to compare them? Do you use your chef's knife on ceramic or glass, because I certainly won't be. If you do take care of your knives, use them on a wood board, hone them, they'll only need sharpened every few months. If you used them on ceramic, they may need sharpened every couple days. 

That is exactly the reason I'm getting expensive large knives that will be used on a cutting board that will require relatively little maintenance and looking at cheap steak knives that would require a ton of maintenance to maintain the same sharpness cutting on ceramic plates. 

 

Just because I'm looking at cheap steak knives does not mean I'm not going to care for my knives though. Do you not see my list. I'm getting $230 worth of stones and a hone and a $200 cutting board for my $220 gyuto, and I'm not doing that to cut on a plate and then throw it in the dishwasher. I take good care of my cheap knives, let alone these new ones.

 

Back to steak knives. If you sharpen them after every couple uses, then sure, a plain blade would be great. That seems like an overly excessive amount of work though. And if you don't sharpen them every couple uses, then the ceramic plate will destroy the edge and you'll have crush the meat trying to saw through it with a dull blade. This is why I was considering serrated knives, as the lesser of the two evils. Or you could serve meat on wooden boards, which would be much, much better for the knives. 

post #13 of 19

I would like to remind you in your initial message, you wrote "Definitely beginner since I've never used a real chef's knife though."  Plus, you also wrote "I am open to any other suggestions and anything else I might need."  

 

Because you are a self-described beginner, you really need to get some experience with a single knife, preferably a chef's knife which you indicated you have never used before, instead of "getting expensive large knives" and spending upwards of $1,000 on knives, boards, stones, etc.

 

Get one good knife and developing some knife skills, including maintenance.  Experience will help you learn what you like.  Learn when and how to hone and sharpen a knife.  You will be honing much more than sharpening.

 

We're just trying to help you, as you requested. 

post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 

Your first comment was, "Why would serrated steak knives be "more shreddy initiallly"?  Does this mean it becomes 'less shreddy' as it's used?" So either you were being sarcastic and condescending, or you actually thought I thought a knife would get sharper as it gets used more? Either way I took the rest of your post as condescension instead of advice. If that's not the case, then alright.

 

I am a beginner at using large/sharp knives. I have, however, been using kitchen knives for a decade. I know what I should be doing knife skill wise and practice the best I can on a smaller knife. Due to those limitations, I guess I'd classify myself as an educated intermediate to most people and a beginner compared to this forum. I have always taken care of even my cheap knives though. Washing and drying after every use, never used the dishwasher, hone every few uses.

 

I also said, "I want whatever will best fit my needs, within reason, rather than trying to save $30-40 here and there and compromising some quality." By this thought, I normally save money in the long run from having to upgrade things and get I to use the nicer things the whole time. 

 

I could either do what I had planned and get a nice setup, or I could get a cheap setup that might lead me to making better choices towards what I ultimately want. One thing I don't want it to have multiples of the same style of knife, like a nice one and a cheaper one I'd never use.

 

So my current list:

240mm Kikuichi TKC gyuto $220
150mm Teruyasu-Fujiwara petty $142
Torijo ITK bread $60
Forschner paring/abuse knife $7
Shapton kit + 320 stone + leather strop $238
Idahone fine with cover $41
Boardsmith board $203 shipped

Total - $911

 

So either way, I would need the bread knife, paring knife, hone, and sharpening stones. I could start with one stone and add later, but eventually I'll be paying for them all anyways. And I would rather just start with a nice board that will last forever, than a cheaper one that might fall apart or be harder on my knives.


Otherwise I could start with:
Fujiwara FKM 240mm  $83

Fujiwara FKM 150mm $44

 

Assuming my bread knife preference wouldn't change and I get all the stones I would need either way, I could save $235 initially. So I'd still spend $676. Maybe I'd love the knives and never want to change and save that money. Maybe I'd decide on different knives to upgrade to than the ones I've chose now. Or maybe I upgrade to the knives I chose and it cost me an extra $127 along the way.

So basically is it worth it to spend another $127 hoping I would learn enough to decide to try other knives than the ones I've chosen. I'm not sure now that I've actually written it out.

I really doubt I would be disappointed by the knives I've chosen or not find them to be an upgrade from the FKMs, so it seems like worst case I'd end up with good knives.

 

The worst path would be buying everything relatively cheap (smaller edge-grain board, combo stone, Forschner bread knife) and then have to buy the more expensive versions anyway in the future. I am looking at that $900 as an investment in something that will hopefully last a long time, minus the components that wear out. I really don't see myself collecting knives or upgrading all the time.

post #15 of 19

Everyone has their own way.  Only you know what tasks you need to do and what foods you're working with. 


For what it's worth, here's my experience: I don't use a bread knife much at all.  I make boules in my dutch oven and that's about the only time I use my cheapo hand me down bread knife.  I don't use a paring knife.   I can use a 140mm petty for in hand tasks just fine

 

The Idahone and strop aren't necessary.  You can do maintenance on your stones.  These days I'm going with shapton 1k, 2k,  gesshin 5k.  I do my maintenance on 5k until it needs real sharpening.

 

For you, I recommend to stay away from 320 grit until you are okay at sharpening. The shaptons cut faster than their numbers indicate, so a beginner could wreck a knife on the 320.

 

Finally, the petty you mentioned is White #1 hardened to 64-65.  That seems high to me for that steel type.  I would guess it is on the more brittle side.  If your technique is not spot on, you're going to have chips.  I use my petty for trimming and some boning tasks, so I wouldn't want it to be brittle in case it scrapes a bone by accident.

post #16 of 19
Thread Starter 

I figured a bread knife would be nice for cutting bread, haha, and for some bigger slicing jobs. Do you not cut bread very often or do you use something else?

 

I have not seen the recommendation for skipping the hone before. Do you just strop the 5k stone, or actually sharpen for maintenance? The leather strop seems like it would be nice afterwards in either case. And it's only $13.

 

I hope I wouldn't have to use the 320 anytime soon, nor would I try before I felt comfortable with finer stones. That is what I was looking at for future use though.

 

Accidental bone scraping and chipping could be a concern with the petty. I'll have to consider something a little softer mostly likely, thanks. It is highly recommended on CKtG though and the one review in the store says it's a workhorse and he bones chickens with it, so maybe it's tougher than the hardness seems. 


Edited by bradthebold - 9/8/14 at 9:33pm
post #17 of 19

Yes, bread of course.  I've seen a serrated bread knife recommended for hard items like peeling a butternut squash or pineapple.  Not stuff I cook with much, so I haven't tried it.

 

Pretty much I'm doing trailing edge strokes throughout sharpening.  I don't actually lift the knife, but I apply pressure on the trailing edge stroke;  I might on the way back, but not intentionally.  As you go up to finer stones, you use less pressure.  It only takes a few swipes on 5k if I feel my knife getting dull.  Beyond that, a few at 2k, then 5k.  Harder steels on the knives you're talking about don't roll so you don't need to align the edge.  The Idahone is abrasive, so it is working on the same idea of removing a little metal. I don't like the idea of the pressure of the knife on one spot on an Idahone as much as distributed across a stone.  I know people use it and it works for them.  If I was traveling, it would be easier to throw in my knife bag than a stone I guess.

 

I agree you'll need the 320 stone (or another coarse stone) eventually .  It's going to be used when you have to remove more metal because of a chipped blade, or if you need to thin behind the edge. I thin most knives, not my laser, a bit every time I do a full sharpening progression.

 

I have no first hand knowledge of that petty.  I only speak in generalities.  I trust the reviews on CKTG are real because I recognize some of the user names.  However, I'm suspicious that there aren't any bad reviews.  Also the video reviews are by people who are paid by or have their own lines for sale on CKTG.  I don't trust them very much at all.  For any knife I'm looking to buy off CKTG, I try to get independent reviews off any other site.  Here, chowhound, kkf, anywhere.

post #18 of 19

I'm with Millions on the Idahone. I have one, but find I rarely use it. It is probably just the thing for softer German knives. I strop on balsa wood with CBN slurry. Also, I've read that the Kikuichi TKC is pretty much the same as the less expensive Carbonext, with the only difference being the rounded spine and choil on the TKC, IIRC. I'd save the bucks and round the spine/choil myself with wet/dry sandpaper. YMMV, and I could have it wrong.

 

I've got the Fujiwara FKM petty. It isn't quite as super-easy to sharpen as my knives with Hitachi steels (I've got a white #2 cleaver and blue #2 Tanaka petty), but I like it well enough. I notice that it is THE knife guests go for, well that and the Forshner petty. The other knives are too big and/or scary and weird for them. Of course, in your set-up, that might not make any difference- they'll just go for the old Chicago Cutlery stuff...
 

post #19 of 19
Thread Starter 
I've read the carbonext and tkc are similar too, but that the carbonext is terrible out of the box and needs profiling to be useful. That, plus the better fit and finish on the tkc led me towards it. If I was an experienced sharpener, then I might consider the carbonext. But I think the tkc wcould be a better choice now.

Yeah, guests would be limited to the old knives. Maybe the roommate would use the new ones, otherwise it would just be me and I'm pretty particular and use and care.
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