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Favorite classic and vintage chef knives from Europe and Japan

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

Oh and pictures please, if you will.

When I first started buying cooking equipment I looked for a chefs knife . I never quite got one I liked . I'm on a tight budget and vintage knives maybe a direction I could take. And I do very much like the way they look.

What are the best vintage knives that you have had, or still use today . Or any ones you think are great value used. Also do you feel contemporary knives have improved all that much against knives from the mid 20th century or earlier?.

I am thinking in way, of a light and nimble beautifully handling knife for "across the board"  purposes. Not a brand-new Ferrari FF.

But a little old Lancia or Alfa  .

 

 

Thank you 

Alex 

post #2 of 17
Vintages aren't always cheaper than new ones, and will often need a lot of work. Think about correcting the profile, especially reverse bellies and protruding heels.
A new Fujiwara will cost some $80. A good vintage carbon Sabatier or Sheffield will cost between $150 and $200.
post #3 of 17

As far as a marketplace that can reliably bring a large selection of used and vintage knives to your perusal, about the only site I can think of is eBay.

 

And on eBay, used knives are always a crap shoot.  You have to take the written copy with a grain of salt (or sometimes with enough sodium to make doctors aghast).  You also need to squint long and hard at the photos.  Even then, the copy and pictures can lead you astray.  I seem to recall one commenter saying that only about 1/2 of the knives he bought were worth it.

 

If you are mentioning "long and light", invariably that means nogent-style handled knives - which invariably are bid up into the stratosphere.

 

Yes, I do buy used and vintage knives on eBay.  Some are clunkers.  Some are bargains.  As to my strategies - well, sorry, but I don't necessarily want to tip you off (as a potential competitor) as to what my bidding practices or search process and judgement criteria would be.

 

Bottom line - if you want a good knife, buy new.  Financially, you won't save much money chasing the rainbow of used knives.  Used knife collection should be considered a collector's hobby, not by any means a savings process.

 

 

Galley Swiller

post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thank you very much for both your answers. I am well aware of eBay and have cruised around looking for knives. What do you think of the vintage or used Mac knifes . I mention this because it seems that a lot of people on this forum  prefer the Japanese knives. And that one used will to be cheaper. I was not so aware that a knife can go so sour become used up and need work as you say "Benuser " .Gally Swiller ( I love swilling in the galley myself )  "About 1/2 of the knives he bought were worth it ". Assuming that the expectation the knives were of good manufacture exceeded the physical reality , that's a shame but what can we do about it ? Is this true of even the finer names ? Do either of you restore knives? Three weeks ago I bought very old bonning knife $1.00 ( carbon steel )and restored the handle over a week and sharpened it . It works quite well. I  looked up "nogent  style handle". yes they are nice and are old & traditional  and yes I like them very much. As for Ebay strategies I'm a cutthroat , if I really want it . I am not buying so much on eBay now so I'm certainly not a competitor. I just thought if there was a bargain knife out there I should look for one some time in the next few months . For example in cars the Porsche 928 or Mercedes 300 E from the early 80's & 90's are bargains .

 

Also I would like to see some beautiful vintage knives that some people have in their collection in pictures .

 

 

Thanks

Alex B  

post #5 of 17

Many of the vintage MAC knives are from the "Original" series.  This series was intended as a set of knives for commercial kitchens - hence, the hole in the forward end of the blade, to hang the knife up after use and cleaning.  The knives are stamped, machined steel with no metal bolsters, and the 9 inch blade chef's knife (14 inches overall length) is a good value for beginning a working collection.  It is a very thin blade, which adds to the ease in cutting.  Like all MAC knives, Original series knives will take and hold a good edge.  For many western chefs, the Original series knives were their introduction to Japanese cutlery and their properties were a true revelation about the limitations of western knives.  

 

The downside issues of the Original series knives are several: the thinness of the blade makes for a very flexible blade (not as flexible as a fish fillet knife, but fairly flexible nevertheless compared to heavy western knives.  Many chefs prefer a stiffer blade than the Original series provides.  There is no bolster, so the heels of the knives (there are several rounded indentations on the 9 inch chef's knife) may need to have their corners relieved (done with fine emery paper wrapped around a round dowel will do the trick easily enough).  There's the tip - rounded, rather than pointed.  And finally, the handle protrudes far enough forward as to make sharpening of the area near the heel difficult.  It can be fixed - provided you use some woodworking fine saws and wood shop utility knives to relieve some of the forward part of the handles.  Using a wood rasp also helps in rounding and relieving the forward end of the Original and Superior series knives.  Just be careful not to saw, sand, cut or rasp too near to the forward rivet.

 

I have bought some of the Original series knives and can attest to both their quality and to their plainness.

 

You should be aware that all of the significantly used MAC knives I have bought needed sharpening - they were all DULL! 

 

I have also bought slightly used higher level MAC's and there were usually some minor problems with them.

 

However, if bought cheaply enough (say under $30, including shipping), the MAC Original 9 inch blade (14 inch overall length) and then sharpened is a very good value knife.  However, it needs to be compared to the value of a new Tojiro DP, a Fujiwara FKM or even an IKEA Damascus Slitbar.

 

Concerning knives being cheaper - while it might be true for stainless steel western knives, it won't be true of quality carbon steel knives.  You will find that there's a lot of junk offered - especially mass market stainless steel knives whose owners never knew how to sharpen.  Instead, they try to get rid of their existing dull and abused knives, so they will have room (and a feeling of a clear conscience) to buy a set of new knives.  One way of thinking about it is that "Hope Springs Eternal" - uninformed sellers have overexpectations about their offerings.  I don't necessarily attribute that to intentional fraud (though that does occur), but to general human expectations.

 

As Benuser pointed out, there are problems with good knives having undesired recurves and protruding bolsters whose previous owners never properly sharpened their knives.  Knives can also be used so much that the edges are progressively sharpened so far back into the face of the knives that there are wedging issues.  Can these knives be restored?  Theoretically yes, but it often means that the blades have to be significantly thinned and bolsters significantly reduced - so much work that there's a real question as to whether it's worth it.

 

In fact, at this point, I am thinking that the initial money spent on a first really good quality knife might be better put towards a good cutting surface, a good honing rod (the 12 inch Idahone) and the beginnings of a good freehand sharpening kit.

 

(p.s. - "Galley Swiller" is because I was initially on a small cruising boat, hence "Galley" and much of what I produced could be considered as "swill".  Hopefully, I will not try to take myself too seriously)

 

 

Galley Swiller

post #6 of 17

+1 to everything GS said on Mac Originals and old knife conditions.

 

The other big drawback of the Mac Original is when put in a block that handle design leaves a fair bit of exposed blade. 

 

I've gotten many a blade used and gotten burned a few times on E-bay items that were beyond repair. I received a lot of several blades with a Deba that is a total loss with a laundry list of issues.

 

Rust is the worst offender as it may have severely pitted the metal. I've gambled and lost on a few of these especially on honing rods.

 

Jim

post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 

I'm using a Frederick dicks honing steel. I'm not sure I know how to use it best ,but I watched Julia Child do it on a YouTube video. This honing steel I bought about six or seven years ago. It is flat on both sides . I'm not sure I like it, it doesn't seem to do very much too  easily. Perhaps I need to apply more pressure on the edge, of the steel.

I saw a few Tojiro on ebay and think they're beautiful.

What do you think of them, have you used them? They certainly, look very different from Mac. Stiffer but are they any  heavier?. 

post #8 of 17
Using a steeling rod is the object of a lot of debating. If it's a very finely polished one, you may use it on soft carbon steel. Better use the rough -- split -- side of leather or a fine stone for stropping. On stainless though it will invariably lead to a wire edge.
post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Benuser View Post

Using a steeling rod is the object of a lot of debating. If it's a very finely polished one, you may use it on soft carbon steel. Better use the rough -- split -- side of leather or a fine stone for stropping. On stainless though it will invariably lead to a wire edge.

I see, I have mostly carbon steel. Nothing that great mind you. I bought the Frederick dick's on sale. It was quite expensive. It's rather large with long channels going down the flat sides for "Fine honing " is anyone familiar with this steal? 

post #10 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexB View Post
 

I see, I have mostly carbon steel. Nothing that great mind you. I bought the Frederick dick's on sale. It was quite expensive. It's rather large with long channels going down the flat sides for "Fine honing " is anyone familiar with this steal? 


Probably an F Dick Multicut like this right?

 

http://www.knifemerchant.com/product.asp?productID=1403

 

I use one all the time. It is great to maintain an edge but eventually the blade needs to see a stone. Once the steel stops bringing back the cutting performance it is stone time.

 

Jim

post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by KnifeSavers View Post
 


Probably an F Dick Multicut like this right?

 

http://www.knifemerchant.com/product.asp?productID=1403

 

I use one all the time. It is great to maintain an edge but eventually the blade needs to see a stone. Once the steel stops bringing back the cutting performance it is stone time.

 

Jim

Eureka! that's it!, you nailed it on the head!, it's the old  F Dicks multicut, I forgot what it was called. I think I paid $75.00 . So they're good, so the problem is I have no stone. I have some flat diamond files in the toolbox though. I'm using one now on a carbon, they seem to like each other. Don't worry it's a clunky French knife. I don't remember the name of it either but it was a good name and it reminds me of the style of knife, Julia Child used to use ( French )?. It has no name on it and was expensive. Does anyone remember "professional cutlery direct" its bought from their catalog. I think it  had (The elephant and four stars) on the name or was advertised as such. I am only remembering this surprisingly now as I write. I have held much better knives then this. It's a chefs knife 8'' blade I don't understand why it doesn't have a name on it. It has beautiful brass rivets and is very well made .

 

Alex 

post #12 of 17

As Han Solo said in The Empire Strikes Back, "I've got a bad feeling about this...."

 

I've seen the use of a honing rod as the means to re-align an edge of a blade, not necessarily to sharpen.  To do that, the edge and the honing rod need two things: (1) that the edge is always a leading edge and (2) that the honing rod ALWAYS needs to be harder than the blade having its edge realigned.  For any and all combinations of knife and honing rod, Condition No. 2 is an absolute.  Now imagine if the opposite were the case and a harder steel knife were drawn as a leading edge across a softer steel honing rod.  Probably within the first stroke across the honing rod, the harder knife edge would begin cutting into the softer honing rod.  This would begin at an extremely micro scale, but would very rapidly exert enough force on both steel and edge to (1) rip out part of the edge and (2) rip out part of the hone.  Big Big Time Bummer.

 

F. Dick is an honorable and centuries old firm with a respectable business reputation.  Their hones are made to be harder than the steel in the knives F. Dick makes.  All good and well - except that good quality Japanese knives will be much harder than any German-manufactured knife.

 

Your F. Dick, with the grooves, is just awaiting its first J-knife, before having a gouge ripped out of it and in turn having a chip whacked out of the knife's edge.

 

I earlier mentioned the Idahone.  It's ceramic, so it's going to be harder than any steel honing rod.  It's also going to be harder than the edge on any steel knife, period.  It's relatively smooth.  And, for the 12 inch length, it's a bargain at $30.  Drawback: it's ceramic, so if you drop it, it will shatter.  Solution: put a hook somewhere in your kitchen (I hang mine on the side of my fridge with a 3M  Command removeable adhesive hook).  No Muss, No Fuss, No Drama.  Always available.

 

The alternative is to use a fine (3K plus) sharpening stone (such as a Suehiro Rika), provided that you know how to freehand sharpen.

 

 

Galley Swiller


Edited by Galley Swiller - 9/16/14 at 6:13pm
post #13 of 17

This, sir:

 

 

is and edge destroyer. A mostruosity that hates edges. Please listen to GS.

Gebe Gott uns allen, uns Trinkern, einen so leichten und so schönen Tod! Joseph Roth.
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Gebe Gott uns allen, uns Trinkern, einen so leichten und so schönen Tod! Joseph Roth.
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post #14 of 17

Any honing rod steel or ceramic will destroy edges if used at too obtuse an angle.

 

The key to honing it to ride the bevel. Make a V of any angle and lay it on a flat surface so the side of the V is in full contact with the flat. That is how your cutting edge needs to slide along the hone using very light pressure like weight of the knife only pressure.

 

Raise the tip you do nothing. Lower the tip to dig into the hone and you jack it up regardless of material.

 

I run the Multicut on western blades and a Mac ceramic on J knives.

 

Jim

post #15 of 17

If the hone is harder and is smooth, the edge of the knife will not "catch" on the hone.  As for running a knife with problems along the edge, such as a kink or a chip - well, that's one of the things that proper sharpening is supposed to take out before the knife is honed.

 

As for running the edge of the hone exactly along the bevel - well, the best I can do is an approximation.  Frankly, I would be very surprised if anyone can run a hone along the exact bevel of a knife - especially one which has an extremely small primary bevel.  

 

I make sure I am not clanging the hone against the edge and I make sure that I am running the hone at as close to the bevel (but a smidgeon bit more, just to be sure).  I run it VERY lightly, I alternate the strokes on each side of the blade and I run it just 4 or 5 times on each side.

 

KnifeSavers notes that he runs the Multicut on Western blades and a MAC ceramic on J-knives.  That's pretty much what I have been saying about using western hones on western knives and a ceramic hone on J-knives.  It's using a western hone with a J-knife that gives me the willies.

 

I would add that I only use an Idahone.  There's no reason I can think of not to use a ceramic hone on western knives.  Thus, I don't see any reason for two hones.

 

As I noted before, the main drawback of ceramic hones is their fragility, especially when dropped.  A dedicated mounted hook in the kitchen, a ring or hole at the end of the handle that will fit over the hook and thoughtfulness to return the hone to the hook (not laying it down somewhere on a counter) pretty much solves that problem.

 

 

Galley Swiller

post #16 of 17

GS I totally agree on your points but as Alex already had a great steel if he only has western knives there is no reason to replace it unless it is damaged. Using any hone riding the precise angle is not going to happen, it is the goal. I've seen many folks run at an obscenely obtuse angle and then I show them, on a flat surface  the angle where their cutting edge really makes contact.

 

I mentioned a few times getting used honing rods and once cleaned up  there were pits or some sort of damage that render it useless.

 

Alex take that steel and clean it with cleanser to remove any buildup of metal fragments and dry it. Then run your fingers the entire length feeling for ptis or any sort of imperfection that could catch the edge. Most steels do have ridges going along the length like so ||||| but you will feel any issues going ----.

 

If damaged it is toast and get a ceramic to replace it. If it is in good shape and used proper, on your western knives you don't need to replace it. For mild honing use the flat sections, polish use the edges and for more aggressive hone on the channels.

 

Jim

post #17 of 17

For the sheer convenience of steeling, and the benefits of some small stock removal, I have found nothing better than the rounded edge of a translucent Arkansas stone.  You will of course need the stone (I think a new 12" Halls is going for just over $100, much cheaper are the finds on ebay), and you will trash a small and cheap diamond hone in the process of putting a bit of a partial radius on one edge.  Works fine on stainless steel and since you are not "stropping" it does not create a wire.

 

 

Rick

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