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Experience with stainless Sabatiers vs German chef's knives

post #1 of 55
Thread Starter 



Following the "death" of a 8" K-Sabatier au carbone (builders put it to work opening paint cans, the b******s!), I'm looking for a replacement knife, primarily for use by my other half. She was fundamentally very happy with the old sabatier (right length/weight/stiffness/profile, and appropriate degree of robustness), she just is not so mindful of the carbon steel ;-). So, we need something similar, in stainless. The two obvious choices are a stainless K-Sabatier (which I can pick up for about £36), or something like a Zwilling Henckels Professional S, which looks similar in weight/profile to the Sabatier, as opposed to e.g. a Wusthof. The thing is, this is almost double the price!

Question is, has anyone got any experience with both these knives? Is the Henckels worth double? Sabatier carbon steel is great but I haven't found much positive said about the stainless versions. Any opinions welcome.


As background, we have a good number of knives, mostly Japanese or French, in a mix of stainless & carbon steels. My sharpening skills, using Japanese waterstones, are good. Japanese stainless is out of the question for this (needs to be more chip resistant and capable of taking more abuse than I'd be happy seeing a gyuto take). Apart from a couple of stamped Victorinox knives, I have zero experience with higher end forged German knives.

Thanks for any help!


PS I'm primarily interested in how well the edge performs: ease of sharpening, edge retention, etc.

Edited by WinkelAdvokat - 9/23/14 at 6:09am
post #2 of 55

I haven't been able to find anything good said of the stainless ksab.  For what you are looking for you, around here you are going to get a lot of recommendations for the Fujiwara FKM.  A little more expensive than the ksab but better steel, better than the typical German stainless, very nice handle and sab profile, nice and thin at the tip, no annoying bolster to sharpen around. 





post #3 of 55

I certainly hope you gave the builders a piece of your mind. I would have flipped out. 

Carbon Sabs are still available. I prefer them to the German style which in my opinion are built too much like a tank. 

I don't own any japanese knives. 

post #4 of 55
I have a stainless thiers-issard sabatier & it's ok. It's not as good as the carbon T-I and the profile is slightly different. If it's just for home use it would probably be fine.
I also regularly use a 10" wustohf trident that I'm very happy with, but a lot of people think it's too heavy and just BIG. Henkles are kind of out of style these days- it's one type of knife I almost never see. I've used but not owned F. Dick and Messermeister and really liked them. I'll also give my usual shout out to Victorinox, which are light, easy to sharpen and easy to use. I'm thinking about giving them up because of the bulky handles, but I've been using them happily for years
post #5 of 55

In 1983 I bought a Henckels Professional S chef knife and used it for 25 years in a professional setting before retiring it to my home kitchen; so I guess I liked "how well the edge performs: ease of sharpening, edge retention, etc." It was expensive initially but when amortized over 31 years I feel pretty good about my purchase.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
post #6 of 55

I feel the same about the Henkels 4-star I bought in that same timeframe.  Still in use and I'm still happy with them.  But I'm also still happy with the much-despised Japanese knife brand that I bought much more recently.  :)

post #7 of 55
Thread Starter 

They ponied up, so I'm less annoyed by it but, still, makes me wonder what else they might have used/abused without my knowledge!


Thanks for the input. Just to say again, no carbon (Mrs WA is sometime tardy cleaning up), no Japanese (Mrs WA is sometimes prone to getting stuck into various Japanese-unfriendly food items with this knife). Other chef's knives we currently own: a old 10" nogent-style Sabatier (great knife, was inherited so no idea of its provenance!), a 24cm Sakai Takayuki Aoniku (another great knife, this is what I regularly use), a 18cm Victorinox Fibrox. The Victorinox is a good knife, but we're after something a bit nicer - when the K-sabatier was still alive, it was almost always used in preference to the Victorinox. We also have a couple of japanese petty knives, so I'm familiar with the pros/cons of Japanese stainless & carbon steel.


Very tempted by the Henckels, especially after the comments here, sounds like a classic knife that you can't go wrong with. I've only handled one in the shop but they seem less hefty than Wusthofs, with a more French profile. (both of us don't like the belly on a typical German profile, having used/borrowed these occasionally). If a stainless Sabatier was deemed a great bargain/good performer, this might make the decision a bit harder.


Thanks again!

post #8 of 55

One thing about the Japanese FKM, it is of moderate hardness steel like the German knives and will take the same level of abuse.  Less bulky too.




post #9 of 55
Rick has said all that needs to be about soft stainless French. I wonder though what is exactly the OP's wife's problem with carbon steel. Can it perhaps be met by NOT letting a patina build up, but by cleaning religiously with baking soda?
post #10 of 55
Thread Starter 

Rick, thanks, will look into the FKM. One of my pettys is a Sakai Takayuki Grand Chef, which is on the softer end of Japanese knives - while a nice knife, and the edge is definitely more chip resistant than others, I'd still find it hard to believe that this might be of similar robustness to a german or french knife. Only one way to find out, will think about it!


Benuser - not sure what problem your baking soda suggestion is meant to solve? In any case, the issue is e.g.: cut up a large piece of fruit for breakfast; discover you're late for the train to work; run out of the door; return some hours later.... Nothing that can't be fixed with a bit of elbow grease, but a problem we'd rather not have to solve ;-).

post #11 of 55
Some find a patina not very appealing. In that case the baking soda treatment may be a solution, especially with French carbon, that's not that reactive.
Edited by Benuser - 9/23/14 at 5:08pm
post #12 of 55

First, my condolences on your late carbon K-Sabatier.  I feel your pain.


I'm assuming you would prefer a replacement which would have about the same profile and feel in your hand as your lamented K-Sab.


After initially reading the posts in this thread, I went home and started rummaging around in the cutlery I currently have that's not in storage - and came up with (1) a 210 mm Al Mar Ultra-Chef gyuto; (2) a vintage Veritable "Chef au Ritz" 200 mm carbon steel chef knife; and (3) a MAC SB-85 "Superior" series "Fillet" knife.  Those were the knives I thought would be of use in a comparative search for a replacement.


While I have not specifically used or handled a 200 mm K-Sabatier chef's knife, I have handled and worked on several other 200 mm sabs.  And I can say that the ones I have experienced are really different animals than their bigger cousins.  Lighter, shorter (relative height, from edge to spine) and MUCH thinner compared to their 250 mm workhorse Sab cousins.  By just those criteria, that takes out the Henckels.  If anything, I would consider a 200 mm carbon steel Sab (if the Chef au Ritz was a good example) as a relatively decent larger petty (BDL in one of his posts asserted that he used his 200 mm nogent-style chef's knife as a petty).


As for a stainless K-Sab, I probably wouldn't want to get one.  The steel is pretty much the same as Henckels, Wusthof and other European mass-market stainless steel knives - tough (to resist breakage and chipping) and much more difficult to properly sharpen or keep sharp, compared to good Japanese knives.


I would also wonder about a gyuto, such as either the Al Mar or the FKM.  The issue here is height: the Chef au Ritz is about 38 mm (which I presume is about the height of a 200 mm K-Sab) while the height of the Al Mar is about 48 mm and the FKM is 44 mm.  It might not sound like much - but it does add up to a different experience.


The one knife I currently have which probably comes closest to the Chef Au Ritz is the MAC SB-85, which is described in both the MAC-USA and MAC Knives International web sites as a "Fillet" knife.  It's from MAC's "Superior" series, with a slightly thicker blade that is differently heat-treated to a harder level than either the Original Series or the Professional series MAC's.  It's close (210 mm) to the same length as a 200 mm Sab, the blade height is about the same and the blade profile (along the edge) is if anything with less rocker than even classic French Sab's.  The biggest difference is in the thickness of the blade - vintage carbon Sab's thin out VERY quickly once forward of the heel/bolster, while the SB-85 and other Japanese knives have a much less pronounced and gradual thinning of the blade when running towards the tip.  The result is a comparatively stiffer blade.  Balance on both the Chef au Ritz knife and the MAC SB-85 are near the heel of the knife.


The other major difference is that the SB-85 is a workhorse knife.  Don't look for fine finish or a bolster on the SB-85.  It has no bolster and the main concession is that the scales have a much more relieved edge than the Original series.  Like most MAC Superior steel knives (including the Ultimate series), the SB-85 probably would benefit with some thinning behind the edge.


Sharpening of the SB-85 is like most Japanese knives - the edge sharpens without problems and, like other MAC knives, the steel will easily hold a 15 degree 50-50 edge.  I bought my knife used on eBay (the American market site) with chips showing on the posted pictures and had no problems sharpening them out.


The MAC-USA site and the MAC-Internation site both use a description of the SB-85 being a "Fillet" knife.   If anything, I have a problem with that description: fillet knives in my experience are light,short profile, thin and flexible knives.  The SB-85 isn't anywhere near as thin as any other fillet knife I have seen and it is anything BUT flexible.


The knife is not listed as part of the stock of Continental Chef Supplies, but they could probably order it.  The other authorized UK distributor is Hansens Chef Shop Ltd. in  London, but they do not list any stock availability or retail prices.  Amazon.co.uk does list 4 secondary sellers of this knife (look under "Mac Superior Sashimi 21 cm anti-stick"), with prices from 72-1/2 pounds to 75 pounds.


Hope that helps.



Galley Swiller

post #13 of 55
Thread Starter 

Benuser - ah, I see where you're coming from now! Sadly, that's not the problem ;-)


Galley Swiller - thanks for the comprehensive reply. I'm away from home a few days, I'll likely take the dead sabatier into a Henckels stockist at the weekend and measure them up side by side. Good point about the different heights compared with the other knives you mention too. Getting hold of that MAC SB85 looks tricky and, what with the way UK customs are like at the minute with charging for parcels, i'd rather try to source within the EU. Actually, thinking about it, another Grand Cheff might be an option too, the petty takes a great edge and it's pretty robust - from memory (I bought the petty in Osaka, and sized up a couple of other knives in the range while I was in the shop), they have the Grand Cheff gyuto's in 2 or 3 thicknesses, and the slightly chunkier one might be ideal.


Things to ponder, will report back!

post #14 of 55

Amazon.co.uk lists two MAC SB-85's available from a secondary seller ("Cook & Eat") through the Amazon web site and located in France.


Actually, I'm thinking that a Japanese stainless petty with a height (37 to 39 mm) and length (210 mm) similar to the deceased Sabatier would be about as close to the sab you want to replace.  And while I am noting you talking about getting a thicker knife, I have found that the thinness of the carbon 200 mm sabs is a good portion of their charm.  Since I don't have that many Japanese petty's (the SB-85 being just about the only one if you want to call it that, to tell the truth, and I think it could stand to be thinned), feel free to ignore my comments about the SB-85 if you find a different knife with the requisite specs and a good feel.



Galley Swiller

post #15 of 55
Are you sure, Galley, these 38mm width of your Ritz Sabatier do correspond to its original value?
post #16 of 55

I do have to admit that the 38 mm is my best approximation.  For the past few months, my access to measuring tools has been extremely limited, with my best instrument being an old engineer's scale.


However, I have personally compared both a 200 mm Ritz Sabatier (made by Veritable) and the MAC SB-85 (which has a stated height of 39 mm) (I own both) and the two are eyeball close to the same height distance from the edge at the heel to the spine.  As for my Ritz, it has a curvature along the spine which strongly suggests it was never overused and a finger pinch feel along the length of the blade just behind the edge also suggests that the knife was never thinned or even significantly sharpened by the original and subsequent owners.  I have also compared the Ritz to another 200 mm carbon (non-Ritz) Sabatier made by Veritable and the two were virtually identical in length, height, blade profile and thickness tapering, except for grind damage along the edge in the middle of the other Sab.  I am willing to attest that both Sabs were not significantly used and, to my best educated guess, were very good approximations of what Veritable was making as Sabs during the Carbon Steel period.  Right now, I am not using the Ritz Sab, since I need to get around to re-tempering it (to remove a warp twist in the blade) and re-handling it.


A little bit of further research indicates that a number of people like to use a small (210 mm) sujihiki as a petty (that may expand your availability parameters).  Jon Broida at Japanese Knife Imports said the following:


for MOST (but not all) makers, pettys and sujis are pretty much the same profile and shape... its just a size difference. There are some exceptions, but this holds true for a good number." (Credit to  http://www.kitchenknifeforums.com/showthread.php/2111-Whats-your-favorite-super-petty/page2 )


I probably also need to note that both of the 200 mm Sabs had close to identical and smaller handles than the MAC SB-85.  That's also true of the Tojiro DP F-826 210 mm slicer.  Unfortunately, I haven't yet been able to find any knives with the length, height, profile and handle of the 200 mm carbon Sabs, AND which are made with quality Japanese steel.



Galley Swiller

post #17 of 55
I would expect a 20cm chef's to have a width of at least some 42mm. Most vintages we see got some use. Then it becomes important how it got thinned. If that condition has been fulfilled absolute width isn't that important unless you have really big hands or a poor grip.
post #18 of 55

What I'm looking at (and handling) are vintage, classic Sabs - the type of knives which many vocally keen about.  They won't necessarily even follow the patterns of other old knives.  But for a classic Sab, even just visually, there's a different pattern between the 200 mm and the 250 mm.


Take a look at the photos of vintage (and not-so-vintage) Sabatiers at http://www.thebestthings.com/knives/knives.htm and the various K Sabatier sales locations.  Compare the visual ratio of height to length between the 200 mm (8 inch) and 250 mm (10 inch) knives.  To my eye, they represent different ratios, with the 200 mm proportionally different and narrower in height from the 250 mm.  It makes sense - if the 200 mm has a different function from the 250 mm and the 200 is more of a petty, rather than just a scaled-down 250 workhorse.


I also have a pair of carbon steel knife blanks that never got past the forging stage.  One is a blank for a 200 mm chef's knife.  The other is a 250 mm blank.  Both are full-tang, three-rivet blanks.  Both are supposedly part of the "lost hoard" that Thiers-Issard "found" squirreled away in the back of their warehouse after 50+ years, a Great Depression, World War II and the collapse of the carbon steel knife production era due to the introduction of stainless steel cutlery.  And a comparison of these "Sabatier" blanks also strongly suggests that the 200 mm and 250 mm had that same type of difference - the 250 being slimmer proportionally to height and length than the 250.


Mind you - this is about the Sabatier design - and is not necessarily transferable to other patterns, or even between different Sabatier makers.  But the K Sab pictures strongly suggest that the 200 and 250 to this day are different purpose knives.  


And what we are looking at replacing is a 200 mm K Sabatier.


As for my knives being thinned - no, I think I can see and feel if a knife has been thinned - and I looked and felt both Veritable Sabs - neither of them had even the least evidence of being thinned.



Galley Swiller

post #19 of 55
Thread Starter 

An update....


We've ended up getting the Henckels. We went and played with a number of knives and it was ultimately my wife's decision and one I'm totally happy with, because it's a very decent knife. Compared side-by-side to the Sabatier, the profile is actually not too dissimilar, there is a little more belly on the Henckels (maybe 2-3mm at most at mid-point if you line the point and the heel up with each other) but the point is roughly the same heigh off the board. It is 3-4mm taller overally mind, but it doesn't feel radially different. Overall weight is similar, if anything the henckels has more weight in the handle and is slimmer towards the tip. Out of the box it's come very sharp,and if I can maintain this level of sharpness without much effort, then this will have been a compete success. Robustness is the name of the game with this one! It's not on par with my Japanese gyuto, granted, but we're both going to be very happy knowing it will be very hard to do serious wrong to this knife ;-).


Curious to how the edge will hold up, and how it will sharpen, when we get there but, for now, I'm more than pleasantly surprised with the knife.


Thanks again!

post #20 of 55

Ugh, the Pro S does have that annoying full bolster you need to grind away at to sharpen properly, hope you  have a Dremel.  The one and only Wusthof Ikon I have uses the same steel, and HT also I think, and sharpens very nicely with little burr production.  At least that's with my Ikon, who knows how variable the  HT might be from one knife to another.  On cheap knives I have bought for givaways and throwaways I am a bit cavalier and have occasionally fried a section of the edge, usually at the tip, while thinning on my bench-grinder.  At that de-flowered place a visibly noticeable burr would form where none had before. 


The Victorinox I picked up out of curiosity is also the same steel as wusties and henckles, but maybe slightly softer.  It produces a visibly noticeable burr but is easily abraded with the proper technique I learned from Benuser, ie, give a light stropping motion, flip to the other edge and with light pressure move the knife lengthwise with a slight edge-leading motion, then strop that side, flip and repeat.  Save the majority of this work for your finishing stone.  Once the burr is gone finish with a few light stropping motions.




post #21 of 55
I have to say I have been using a friend's TI stainless tranchelard (slicer) and it is a wonderful knife. I would never buy these thiers issard knives just because of my experience with full bolsters but god the fit and finish is just sexy and they hold and edge even longer than my henckels. Probably longer than a wusty too though I have never been a fan of wusthof profiles in spite of their better edge retention.
post #22 of 55
I do love my Thiers-Issards a lot, but F&F may vary, to put it mildly. Edges out of the box are just terrible. Not that I care, but one should know.
Here two generations of TI carbons, one NOS Nogent and a recent one.

post #23 of 55
edge otb is irrelevant IMHO, what's another 5 bucks for an edge wink.gif
post #24 of 55
I would avoid a $5 overheated belt sander edge if you don't mind. Better take them to the stones and make sure to abrade a bit of steel.
post #25 of 55
rolleyes.gif yes because every sharpener uses a belt sander. Musn't be much fun worrying about your knives all the time... tongue.gif
post #26 of 55
If you're interested in good knives you better stay away from bad sharpeners and learn stone sharpening, SpoiledBroth.
post #27 of 55

Over here, there is one person who comes to all the Farmers Markets with an edge pro.  Other than that, they all use belt sanders, never cooling the knives and probably wrecking the heat treatment.  The reason is that the majority of knives being brought in are not very good stainless and usually have chips, nicks, etc on the edge.  If you charged what your time is worth to repair these on waterstones, it would be more than people are willing to pay.

post #28 of 55
@Spoiledbroth I bought a "Gatco" sharpening kit & i'm never taking my knives to one of those people again. Maybe you've got someone who knows what there doing but my experience is that that is in short supply. In addition to hastily formed edgesthat aren't that sharp & don't last, I have seen some knives get wrecked.
post #29 of 55

I'm an Edge Pro type of person, so I'm not all that impressed with Gatco, Lansky, Smith's or similar guided thin stone systems.


I'm in agreement with Benuser about belt sanders.  Too many knives have been destroyed by motorized grinding systems when in the hands of incompetents.  Best way to avoid wrecking the tempering of the steel is to not raise it above critical temperature - something which all too often comes with an "Oops" moment with motorized grinders, belt or high speed wheel.  IMHO, those who think that they can judge how the temperature of the edge of the knife is while they apply that knife's edge to the ministrations of motorized sharpening systems are in a state of delusion.  Kitchen knife edges by deliberate design are among the thinnest edges short of King Gillette's blades.  And that thinness is something which is difficult to properly appreciate when the abrasion is just a few microns away.


As for speed - yes the motorized mayhemers are fast - but someone with really coarse stones (say in the 100 grit or coarser range) can often work almost as fast, while still keeping the knife and the edge cool.  Mind you, it will sound like a grinder from Hades, and will try the souls and ears of those who appreciate good knives - but the stone and the edge will both be cooled by water at the instants of abrasion, with minimal risk of distempering the knife edge.


Yes, to keep your precious edges working at peak sharpness, you have to spend on a high quality guide system or buy several full sized differing grit stones.  Then you need to practice and apply.


But it's worth it.




Galley Swiller

post #30 of 55
Originally Posted by Benuser View Post

If you're interested in good knives you better stay away from bad sharpeners and learn stone sharpening, SpoiledBroth.
read: not every sharpener is bad. there are plenty of people who use stones to professionally sharpen knives for other people. rolleyes.gif

Is "hastily formed edges" code for "it takes me longer than it should to raise a burr"... frown.gif It really doesn't take forever to sharpen a knife. Unfortunately for those of us who use them as tools for work, we don't have/want precious hours of free time spent hovering over a stone looking at a 2mm bevel. rolleyes.gif Again, there are a ton of people who like to sharpen using stones and do it professionally, and do it well. I don't see how a knife is wrecked even if the edge was detempered... just grind it down... rolleyes.gif
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