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Knife selection - where to start?

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 

Firstly - hi :)

Stumbled across the forum by accident but so much good stuff on here so thanks for those that share their experience.


However, the more posts I read the more confused I am so I thought I would reach out and ask for help.


I am;


UK based

A hobby cook. Cook most days on average an hour a day or so.

Almost exclusively Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Malasian food.

I also do a lot of preserving and fermenting foods.


To date I have used fairly cheap Sabatier style cooks knives, mostly around 8" blades but also have a cheap Santonku 7" and a good kyocera ceramic santoku (was a gift) at 7"


What I find frustrating with the steel knives is how soft they are and how often I have to hone them. 3 heads of cabbage I carrot and 1 radish when making Kimchi and they are blunt again.


I spend a lot of time foraging/bushcraft too so have some good outdoors knives which I keep hair sharp, so have some experience of sharpening. Mostly 1095 and 19c27 type steels. I own a Spyderco sharpmaker up to their ultrafine rods, and 400/1000 3000/8000 whetstones (not the very best quality). Also a strop.


Im looking for probably two knives to begin with, probably a general chefs knife and a paring knife? Should I stick with Western style or look at Japanese (so many western style seem to be of poor steel and low Rockwell?)


So where do I start? Im in the UK and there is very limited local choice so it would need to be an unseen internet purchase.


Budget? Well whats reasonable these days? £100? £150? for a chefs knife? Im looking for maximum bang for buck. Pretty is always nice but its function and edge retention i'm most concerned with. I'm happy to wash and oil as necessary. It wont be used by anyone else so can be looked after properly (my wife is happy with any old crap knife)


Many Thanks in advance.

post #2 of 25
If you're looking for bang for your buck and don't mind something utilitarian in appearance than the Tojiro DP series is a great starting point! The steel is VG-10 which you have probably heard of when buying outdoor knives as it seems to be pretty popular in those applications as well. It is a cladded knife which is not the prettiest but it is supposedly beneficial. VG-10 is very low maintenance. They can be had for very cheap, 8.25" chefs (japanese call it a gyuto) for 38 pound, or the 9.4" (recommended) for 46... Free UK delivery. Here's the link to the listing for the Tojiro DP gyuto. These are great knives, I own several and use them daily in a professional environment. They hold up well, better than your standard german made chefs knives (wusthof, henckels) and at a fraction of the price. The handles are a little ugly and are where you're most likely to find flaws in the fit and finish-- sometimes glaring ones. Knives come straight though, which is a plus at this price point. 50/50 bevel on the edge.

Tojiro also makes a carbon steel gyuto which you can find here. The steel is japanese white steel no. 1 I believe. You would need to observe proper carbon steel care with this knife for sure. 38 pound for 8.25"

You could also look at for Fujiwara Kanefusa FKM series knives (AUS-8 another japanese steel which I've seen used in outdoor knives) with nice pakkawood handles. Better fit and finish than the Tojiros for sure. This steel can really take a beating. They are asymmetrically ground to the edge, 70/30 in favour of the right hand side. Something to note when sharpening. If you want a cheap carbon knife to check out Fujiwara Kanefusa also makes their FKH series in SK-4. Other users can tell you more as I don't have any experience with carbon... yet rollsmile.gif

I'm sure you'll get more recommendations in the higher price range from other more informed members! I've only just caught the bug recently myself. rolleyes.gif

You should note however that you should not hone any of these knives with a steel. Stropping would be recommended or better yet just honing on a fine grit stone whenever you feel the edge isn't performing up to your standards.
post #3 of 25
Thread Starter 

Spoiledbroth thank you for your reply.

Interesting, I do prefer the more traditional look of the handle on the carbon steel I think. The VG10 looks more western handled?


In bushcraft most of my knives are carbon steel rather than stainless for a number of reasons. The stainless two I have are a pocket knife I use for foraging and everyday carry so its practical where there are a lot of plant saps etc in constant contact. Similarly a survival knife I took on expedition to a jungle environment with high humidity, and was supplementing my larger parang.


What is the most common preference in the kitchen now, stainless or carbon steel? (if we assume that we wont be going near bones etc so less risk of chipping)

post #4 of 25
99% of homes will have junk stainless. Corrosion resistant sure, but also abrasion resistant and hard to sharpen. Too soft to take or hold an edge for long, but also nearly indestructible.

You seem like you treat knives as the tools they are, not just an additional chore added to cooking. So forget what the other 99% are doing. Even considering sharpening your own puts you in the top 1%.

Not all stainless is that 420J stuff at walmart. Wusthof, victorinox, henckels use X50CrMoV15 mostly. Common stainless in Japanese knives are like VG-10, G3, AEBL, swedish stainless.

Then the powdered steels: R2, SG2, HAP40, ZDP189 etc. these get treated much harder. Longer edge retention, but also more brittle. Stay away from these until your knife skills are good enough.

There are reasons to pick stainless, like working in a busy pro kitchen, or if it's a knife that cuts lots of acidic things.

I have a few stainless knives around, but don't use them much. Carbon is just much easier to touch up on a finishing stone, and building a patina is always fun. You do need to clean and dry them immediately though. Not in 5 minutes, as soon as you're done cutting.
post #5 of 25
Fujiwara Kanefusa FKH series (carbon) with a western handle from JapaneseChefsKnife would run you probably 70 GBP for the biggest knife you're going to want, shipped. I don't know anything about how duty/customs works in europe though the proprietor of that website ships everything as a 20 dollar gift regardless of price. Nice fellow too. At any rate at that price even if you absolutely hate the knife (unlikely) it's not like you're out a hell of a lot of money. I would probably recommend that knife over the Tojiro carbon... but that's just me.
post #6 of 25
Thread Starter 



Yes thanks I do treat knives as tools because that's how I see them. Like most tasks, using a good tool always makes it more pleasant to do and can lead to a better result.


Cooking for me is a hobby, so I want to enjoy doing it, and working with blunt knives isn't enjoyable. I also cook more now again because of a medical issue my wife is having and fermented and Asian foods seem to help a lot. I can get most steels sharp enough but the ones I have as I say don't hold their edge for more than minutes frankly. I enjoy maintaining my tools (Ie stropping, honing) but not every time I cut a cabbage!


It seems that in general even the 'expensive' common kitchen brands like Global seem to be quite low on the Rockwell scale 56-58? My carbon bushcraft knives come in at 58-61, even my axes are 58. They can do some pretty decent work and then just need a strop again to bring them back to perfect.


Spoliedbroth I will check out that range thank you. Customs is standard VAT on knives so 20% plus you pay an 'admin' charge now to the post office which is usually another £15-20 (robbing so and so's) :)

post #7 of 25

Seeing as you are OK with carbon and looking for edge retention, I'd suggest something in aogami/blue #2.  The semi-stainless Carbonext is another to consider.  Take some time and search thru the JCK website.  I don't know if they are still getting away with it but they were somehow managing to get knives through while avoided VAT charges, shipping at just $7 worldwide.




post #8 of 25
Originally Posted by ItsDoe View Post

Spoliedbroth I will check out that range thank you. Customs is standard VAT on knives so 20% plus you pay an 'admin' charge now to the post office which is usually another £15-20 (robbing so and so's) smile.gif
Bureaucracy at its finest frown.gif Sorry to hear that.
post #9 of 25
Thread Starter 
This is all great stuff thanks. So from the websites I've looked at it think i want a japanese traditional handle style rather than a western riveted handle. Have never been keen on those and my grip would be more comfortable with a japanese I think as I don't tend to rock anyway.

From a metal perspective it looks like I should try and stretch to either a blue steel or stainless. I'm concerned that a white carbon might be too soft and the edge retention not be great? Is that founded or am I being silly?

So blue steel or stainless equivalent grade
Japanese handle
Wa-gyuto 210 or 240 mm (still undecided on that)
Smaller knife for skinning garlic, paring etc (4 inch?)
post #10 of 25
How big is your regular use cutting board, what is the biggest knife you are currently comfortable using to mince an onion (length)?
post #11 of 25
Thread Starter 

I need to buy a new board to be honest. Been using a variety of the polyprop ones for ease and hygiene. I'd probably look at 24"x18" or so?


Length wise im used to an 8"blade for mincing an onion. Never had anything longer than that. Been using a 7inch recently but that does feel a bit too short.

post #12 of 25
You seem concerned about edge retention, in which case I'd recommend looking at powdered steel knives as mentioned by MillionsKnives above.

Eden is one UK retailer I've come across.
I don't have one of these, but I do have an R2 (SG2) knive myself and like it a lot - currently looking to buy some more. It gets stinky sharp and holds an edge for ages.

Tojiro also do a powdered steel range, if you can find any.

Otherwise there are already plenty of good recommendations.
post #13 of 25
This may be a cheaper option, I have a Takamura though a different line to this - very good knives.

Chubo have cheap postage.
post #14 of 25

I recommended against powdered steel actually.   It's a big jump to those extra high HRC.  Your technique has to be really spot on, no twisting, no rock chopping, and certainly no parmesan.  I prefer a little bit more forgiving carbon steel.  They still have good edge retention and they are very easy to sharpen.

post #15 of 25
The Takamuras are listed as 62-63, high, but I wouldn't classify it as extra high.
The hardest knife I've got is carbon wink.gif
But seriously, the Takamura Hana that I have (62ish hrc) whilst being thin, gives me no sense of fragility like I get with my Tadatsuna and Moritaka, no chipping whatsoever, and that's with a fair bit of use, and it cuts better than any knife I have except for a freshly sharpened white 2 usaba. It's been a couple of months since I sharpened it too.
post #16 of 25
Thread Starter 

Those SG2 Susumi's look very pretty but these lower spec ones have taken my eye. Any thoughts experience? They are supposedly blue steel so decent? but half the price of the SG2. With the discount I can effectively buy the 23 cm chefs knife and I get the 13.5 utility for £120


Reasonable idea or not?

post #17 of 25
I have no experience with these particular knives, but both my main 240 and 270 are blue 2 knives.
Easy to sharpen, get nice and sharp and hold it for a while.
You should enjoy them smile.gif
post #18 of 25

I wouldn't get hung up on steel.  A lot of makers start with the same blue or white steel.  Some are better at working with it and heat treating it.  I think more important is profile (more or less belly) and geometry (thick, thin, convexed, flat, etc.).

From the video, that knife looks fat, but from the one picture that almost shows the back it looks thin.  Without a good picture of the choil you can't really make a good decision.

post #19 of 25
Thread Starter 

Great advice MillionsKnives (and everyone who has helped already).


So in terms of that;


1) What geometry should I consider, a safer 50/50 grind or assymetrical (that's what Im leaning towards). I'm by no means the most skilled with the knife but im confident my technique wouldn't kill a reasonably hard but fragile edge.


2) Is there a physical maximum measurement in terms of thickness I can look for? After all I am sure I can ask them for measurements.

post #20 of 25

Sorry.  By geometry, I meant what the whole thing looks like from the back, not really the edge bevel.  Maybe this thread can give you an idea.


How thick should it be? It's a personal decision.  There's no right or wrong answer except wusthof :P I joke but not really...  wedge monsters!


Some people like "lasers".  Because they're so thin, they can just sail through product.  The tradeoff is food can stick to the side of the knife more, the edge is more fragile, and edge retention is not as good. My preference lately is thin behind the edge but convexed more for food release. That means the spine will be on the thicker side.  (kochi, watanabe, kato kind of things).  I like the weight helping me cut too.


About asymmetry, don't worry about it so much if you're right handed.  When sharpening it just means the right side is at a slightly smaller angle.  I sharpen mine probably like 12 degrees on the right and 15 on the left (guessing, i don't measure anything).


My recommendation for a first knife is to pick something in the middle.  Right now you don't know what you like yet.  Pick something with more reviews and pictures than NONE, but don't overthink it.

post #21 of 25

Check this one out


Great seller, but you will get charged VAT since maksim ships out of denmark.

post #22 of 25
Not exactly, if it is shipped to a destination outside the EU no VAT is applicable -- technically a 0% tariff is being applied.
post #23 of 25

OP is UK based.  I love living in the US.  It's a great place to be a consumer!

post #24 of 25
Thread Starter 

That's right im in the EU so they have the price on the website with VAT, just the same as your local taxes I guess.

I order US made gear like ESEE, Maxpedition, Gibson and Fender I pay the equivalent in GBP as the dollar price! So it makes sense to import and pay the VAT anyway because of exchange rates. Same as you guys will pay through the nose for say Marshall amps. Anyway that's an aside.


So many photos MillionsKnives, but so beautiful some of them.


Ok I think you hit the nail on the head. I don't know what I 'prefer' yet. What works best for me. That happened with bushcraft just the same. My Esee 6 and izula have a special place in my heart and they have been to hell and back with me, but years down the line I now rely on a  scandi with a curly birch handle and either a machete or a small axe on expedition. When im doing daily tasks or teaching others (purely voluntary, kids groups etc) I mostly fall back on a pocket knife and a cheap Condor Bushlore. They get the job done and I can really abuse them knowing its a simple fix and I go home each night so my life is not in the balance.


Thinking the same way here, as much as I would like to buy the best right away, that's just not going to happen. Most likely I will spend a lot of money and find I prefer something else, so I need to limit my budget. The balance of finding something I can learn with and still enjoy, not get frustrated because it dulls so quickly, or is so thick its not effective at speed, but equally allows me to learn which areas I want to 'hone' in on to perfect my choice of tool. 


That intinomonn looks nice and I am tempted, i'm just wondering should I aim for nearer the £100 mark initially?


Thanks for your patience with me :)

post #25 of 25

Itinomonn is a no nonsense working knife.  I value profile, heat treat, and grind above all.  The handle is okay, I prefer octagonal, but the oval is comfortable enough.  There's no fancy damascus look or anything here.  It's a solid knife you can learn to use and sharpen.  You can find many reviews on kitchenknifeforums.


I know lots of stuff in this price range available in the US.  I don't know the vendors over there other than japanesechefsknife and japanesenaturalstones, so I can't help much there.  I know JCK has a huge collection.  Maybe the Misono swedish, but it is a pretty reactive knife,  you'd need to force a patina on that.  FKH was also mentioned on the budget side.


Metalmaster ( ) has Tanakas in your price range, but the blue #2 ones in 210 or 240mm size are sold out.  He's out of japan.


If you don't mind sharpening up some slightly used knives, I have found great deals off the Buy/Sell/Trade forums on kitchenknifeforums.  A lot of people just like to try out knives and resell them.  Deals can be found for sure.  Unlike ebay, these were more likely hand sharpened instead of using a pull through sharpener or, gasp, belt sander...


Another idea is to try out a petty knife first to get a feel for the maker / particular line.

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