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First gyuto, but keywords: low price, europe, learn to sharpen

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

Hello all wise knife enthusiast,

 

I have decided to take a shot at J knives and discover this new realm, and I am looking for a couple answers that I can't quite find on this forum.  A word on me: I cook at home every day, (say, 1h average) with increasing pleasure in using good tools to do so.  Even though I cook only for 2 to 6 people, I using food that is as least processed as possible, so on winter week-ends I can easily spend 3-5 hours cooking per day.  I like also to take on larger cooking challenges when I can : big parties, company annual meals, weddings and such events.  I live in south-western France, and in winter I like to make conserves using fat duck or a full pig.  In these cases, I can spend several hours in a row using a knife, and performance becomes critical.

 

I have Arcos knives in the kitchen and sanisafe Fischer-Bargoin knives for the more heavy-duty stuff.  I talked about the latter in another post, which comforted me in the idea that cheap, resistant knives like the FB were my best bet for my "heavy duty" tasks like deboning a dozen ducks in a row...  In the kitchen however, I have come to dislike my Arcos knives (Saeta) quite strongly.  The handle is very thin, the blade isn't wide enough (my knuckles hit the board all the time), the edges are too sharp (granted, maybe I should wok on that one by myself) and I get blisters after an hour of work with them.

 

Regarding sharpening, I use a steel and a whetstone (probably a 220/800, I think...).  I'm not very good at it, but I would love to improve and I'm definitely ready to give it the time and patience.  I also bought a Lansky Turnbox that I use for EDC knives, and it get's them razor sharp, but it really doesn't do me much good in the kitchen for some reason.  Sizewise, I have decided to give the 24cm / 9" a shot.  My 3 previous chef knives were all 20 cm, and it is often enough, but I do sometimes feel slightly limited. As for caring, I think I would be ready to take good care of my knife on a day-to-day basis (I wipe my stainless Arcos clean after just-about-every use).  If I did go with a carbon steel though, since I am no professional I am not very well organized, and I might be scared to take this knife to one of my "cooking challenges".  Finally, I would like to keep the price down to around €100 for this first buy, yet I sense stuff might happen by adding 20-30% to that...

 

tl;dr I'm looking for a 24cm / 9" gyuto in the €100 area, but I could be convinced to stretch that.  I want it to: 1) have enough potential to show me that the world can be a better place once I get rid of my Arcos knives for home cooking, and 2) be my guinea pig to continue to improve my freehand sharpening skills.  This point means that I have to choose the steel smartly too, but then I am really ready to improve my freehand sharpening techniques, so anything with a not-too-discouraging learning curve would probably do.  I guess a carbon would make my life easier in the short run than a VG10 blade, but since my budget is very limited finding a knife that fits approximately my criteria might be hard enough to forget the steel argument.  Being abuse-resistant enough to also be used in a slightly harsher environment once in a while would be a plus.

 

One of the issues I have with choosing a good contender for my needs is that the info on this forum is often given from a US perspective, and does not always match the prices I find in Europe. For I guess many reasons (e.g. the dollar - euro trade rate changing by a lot in the past year), the prices that I find to get a knife at my doorstep doesn't consistently match the recommendations I see here.  Here is a short list of knives that either might fit my price range, or that don't but are sometimes suggested along side the others.  The prices I give include shipping: for a cheap knife, it counts!

 

Mac Pro : best price is €210 on japansemessen.nl.  That's waaay out of my league for now

Fujiwara FKM : 80€ on JCK

Misono Moly : 126€ on JCK

Kagayaki Basic : 109€ on JCK

Kagayaki CarboNext : 120€ on JCK

Kagayaki Aogami : 130€ on JCK

Tojiro DP : 126€ on knivesandtools.fr

Eden Kanso Aogami nb 2 : 109€ on knivesandtools.fr

 

Some of these knives are cited in many posts here as being from totally different worlds, yet to me they appear to be in the same price range.  Hence my confusion.  I'm sorry if this selection is a bit eclectic, it is the result of my confusion on prices and qualities. 

 

Finally, I add that I plan to increase my sharpening set by at least one stone.  I know that the Naniwa stones aren't cheap generally, but the "work" 1000/3000 is available for a very low price here (approx 20€) so as a first stone to really abuse and learn on I'm considering it.  If advised against it, posts here showed me the fine-tools.com site which sells King stones and delivers in France.  I might go with the King 1000/6000 combo, again to keep prices low during learning (43€), or with two seperate 1200 and 6000 King stones (57€).

 

Sorry for being the millionth guy to ask these questions, and a great thanks in advance to you people who never get tired of answering!

post #2 of 23
The Fujiwara are decent knives. Not too expensive. Get Naniwa Professionals: all you need are a 800 and a 3k.
post #3 of 23

I agree that a price for the MAC MBK-95 of 210 euros is very high.  I am seeing a price of 198 euros at www.macknife.nl.  It may also be that you were looking at the MAC MKS-105, which is not a gyuto, but a type of slicing knife known as a sujihiki.

 

For a MAC knife with the same steel type (MAC's "Original Steel") and thickness (2.5 mm), but a much less expensive handle, you might look at the MAC BK-100, which is a 255 mm blade gyuto.  The price is 119 euros.  While the handle does not give the same prestige as the MAC "Professional", the blade gives the same performance as the "Pro", especially when used with a "pinch grip".  Or with just a little bit of effort and some abrasive sandpaper, you can easily shape the forward end of the handle to fit your grip (though that would probably void any return rights to the distributor).

 

Of course, if you are willing to forego a Japanese knife, then a traditional carbon steel Sabatier is also available.  The K-Sabatier 250 mm chef's knife is a bargain and long respected.

 

With any of the Japanese knives, you should not use any European-made "sharpening steels" or more properly known in English, "honing rods"  To be effective, a honing rod needs to be harder than the steel in the knife.  Otherwise, the edge of the knife will "dig into" the honing rod and the result will be a very damaged knife edge and an extremely damaged honing rod.  European-made honing rods are designed for the hardness of European knives, which use steel which is hardened to a much softer level than Japanese knives.  For a Japanese knife, you will probably want a ceramic honing rod, rather than a steel one.  A very good ceramic honing rod is the Idahone, which can be purchased through eBay France for 36,96 euros (including shipping from Australia) for the 12 inch size ( http://www.ebay.fr/itm/Idahone-Sharpener-12-10-8-Ceramic-Sharpening-Hone-Honing-Rod-Steel-Fine-/291296815207?var=&hash=item43d2a4a867 )

 

About sharpening stones - the surface size of the stone is critical.  The absolute minimum surface size you should accept is 200 mm long by 50 mm wide.  And longer and wider than that are much better.  If this is Item 313346, then it is just too short at 175 mm.

 

Hope that helps.

 

 

Galley Swiller

post #4 of 23
For maintenance use your finest stone. A few edge trailing strokes should do. Honing rods -- steel or ceramic -- all fatigue steel. If you use it after two hours of work, you will have to use it again after a quarter of an hour, and so on. It's an emergency tool.
Edited by Benuser - 8/30/15 at 4:39pm
post #5 of 23

I have to say I'm intrigued by the Eden, knowing nothing about it.

 

 

Rick

post #6 of 23
post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 

Hum, food for though...

 

Benuser, the Naniwa combo you describe is attractive, I agree.  But the best deal I could find on the pair was around 120€.  Now, maybe I have been very unsuccessful at finding good bargains, but that is still quite a long shot from the 20€ Naniwa 1000/3000 combo, and still more than twice the double King stone set.  Any reason to pay double (or 5-fold!) in your opinion?

You are right Galley about the stone size.  If I follow your reasoning, this actually rules out every combo I suggested... The wide King combo stone can be delivered for 57€ where I live, I guess this could be acceptable... ? The size is 207 mm x 66 mm x 36 mm. The price difference for just a couple mm is huge though!  Well, it's thicker also, so that says something.  The separate stones of same size are at 77€. I guess I need to think about it, but since my objective is to improve on sharpening, this is probable the part I should not be to weary to spend on...?

 

I have a honing rod and use it a lot when I use very soft steel blades.  And for some specific applications described above, I will probably continue to do so.  But I would be willing to upkeep a good kitchen blade using only stones.  If I have to take a fine stone out once in a while to do touch ups, that's OK, because I really want to improve my sharpening skills anyway.  If at one point I get bored of sharpening and want to use the stones less often, an Idahone or equivalent might become necessary, but until then I feel I prefer to get a reasonably good stone kit and play with it as much as needed.

 

Concerning knives, I have read about the Sabs Galley, and I am a bit ashamed not to have thought about them instead of Arcos even though I live only a couple hours ride from Thiers... Oh well, I was really ill-advised back then. On occasion I use a 30cm stainless sab, and all I can say is it's too big for my use and that I dislike the fact that the bolster goes all the way down to the board (dunno if that's clear...). My curiosity has been raised about the carbon sabs though, especially seeing as they are on sale right now (62€ for a 24cm chef). However, as I said in the top post, I would like to take a step in the world of J knives, especially on the sharpening side.  I doubt a 55-56 HRC carbon K-Sab maintenance has much to do with VG10 or Aogami.  Or am I completely wrong about that? Adding another soft steel knife to my collection would slightly defeat the purpose of widening my sharpening techniques.  Maybe it would fit all my other criteria best, and I should forget buying a hard steel J knife until I can afford a higher end one?

 

The two knives that have been suggested so far are the Fujiwara FKM and the Mac BK-100. These are definitely in my price range.  However, I wonder if they will really fit what I'm looking for best because of the steel: both steels have been described as 'VG-1' equivalents here and there.  Is this really an introduction to the world of high-end, hard steel japanese knives? Wouldn't something in Aogami or CarboNext be more of a smart choice to enter a totally different area of knife habits, maintenance and sharpening? Again, my objective here is to learn as much as possible from this buy.  I have time in my life to buy lot's of other knives, so I'm not looking for the 'tool of my life' at all, but more for the optimum to learn as much as I can from where I am.  Now, if I were a total sharpening noob, I would probably go for the cheapest possible knife. But I do sharpen quite often some soft steels, which gives me at least enough confidence to try my skills on something more challenging, so I'm more looking for the next step up.

 

Anyway, thanks again for the input, still looking for some answers though!

 

FC

 

PS : just found an old post by BDL stating : "The MAC Pro and Chef series are very different knives.  The Chef's are made very thin and from a "lesser" alloy than the Pros.  They are not as easy to sharpen."  That scares me! I am precisely looking for something not too difficult to sharpen, so that the learning curve stays reasonably fun.  I've had my share of knives that are difficult to sharpen...

post #8 of 23

Jeepers my reply disappeared.  But thanks again Benuser, everyone reads German nowadays.

 

I just looked and saw the Hiromoto AUS-10's are no longer listed.  That may blow my theory about them continuing for a while.

 

JCK stiil has the Hiromoto AS santokus though, $104 is not a bad deal.

 

The all carbon Eden may be interesting to you FC.  It's ground like a wide-bevel so it may wedge a bit in something like squash, but you get better food release that way.  It's all carbon so easy to thin when you get around to that, and it's apparently well made from what I read in Benuser's link.

 

In your position I'd probably go with the Carbonext, but I think Benuser has voiced some concerns on the FF, I know the OTB edge is lousy, maybe he'll chime in on that.

 

 

 

Rick

post #9 of 23
The Carbonext used to come with a poor edge but this seems to have been adequately addressed.

Within the OP's price range I guess I would take the Kagayaki Aogami #2. Not the thinnest, and don't expect too much from the stone sharpening out of the box. It still will require a bit of thinning and some steel removal before the core's qualities become apparent.
post #10 of 23
The reason I suggest the Naniwa Professional series, formerly known as Chosera, is that they are fast cutters, hard, don't wear or dish alot and provide a great tactile feedback. A few strokes will do. Important to a novice as errors are often due to loss of attention.
post #11 of 23
And the 190mm santoku by Hiromoto is a wonderful performer.
post #12 of 23

Have almost the same question as the tread starter. So I post here instead of a new tread.

Had planned to buy the Hiromoto AUS-10 240mm. But now I have to rethink.

 

How stainless is the carbonext?/How much nicer is the Aogami #2?

 

Have stones and feel fairly comfortable sharpening. Have had a Masamoto ct santuku for a couple of years so feel comfortable with carbon steel but like the looks of blank steel so wanted to avoid a patina on a bigger knife that i would store more visible. But function before looks.

post #13 of 23
The Aus-10 isn't available anymore. The Kagayaki Aogami is an option if you know how to thin and sharpen.
post #14 of 23

At that price range, why get something that needs thinning out of the box?

 

@Calski  I'm a big fan of the Itinomonn knives.  Great value, great cutter.  It's easy to sharpen carbon steel (V2 steel), but stainless clad http://www.cheftalk.com/t/86119/itinomonn-wa-kasumi-240

post #15 of 23
Thread Starter 

Hey, my thread has been hijacked!  Nah, kidding of course, we all benefit from this conversation.

 

So now that I talked about sharpening, it seems that the Aogami steel is the most suggested.  I have set my mind on a 240mm-ish gyuto for this buy, which rules out the Hiromoto AS santoku. It's not a very informed choice, I live in a knife desert and I have no opportunity to try these things for real, but I have to narrow the choice down or I'll never get to a conclusion. Too bad Hiromoto gyutos are out!  AS at Hiromoto prices would have suited me fine...

 

The two Aogami's found in my price range are therefore the Kagayaki and the Eden. The steel is about the only thing they have in common :

 

 

The Kagayaki is san-mai, yo, and with no level of service after buy since it's JCK.  Kagayaki has a good reputation here and elsewhere apparently, but this specific series is rarely mentioned. To my untrained eye, it also looks 'cheaper' than the Carbonext series... which is cheaper (due to an limited offer, I think). But then the CarboNext steel is subject to more controversy than the aogami, and I'm having a hard time finding out how much fun/learning I'd get when sharpening CarboNext. The aogami is 130€ including delivery, the CarboNext 120€.

The Eden Kanso is single steel, wa asymmetric handled, and Eden customer service seems to have good reviews.  It is 'guaranteed' 25 years. Very, very few appearances in forums (except german), on CT there seems to be only 1 user (Soesje) who has and likes one of them.

 

The profiles seem quite different from the pictures too.  Now this is definitely a gray area to me, with my short experience.  If I had to guess, I'd say the Eden has a more german profile than the Kagayaki... does that make any sense?

 

So if no one has a big change to make to what was said above, I guess I'm left with these questions :

1) Any argument for / against aogami vs carbonext in my situation? Stainlessness is not a big issue for me (but it doesn't hurt), I'm more concerned about the sharpening properties of the two. Benuser you suggested the aogami over the carbonext, any specific reason?

2) Any comments on the profiles? Kagayaki Aogami vs Eden Kanso, but also the Kagayaki Aogami and CarboNext seem to differ slightly

3) Is JCK trustworthy enough to buy from them even if there is no service?  Or, putting it the other way around: would it scare many people here to buy a 'no name' brand like Eden, even if they are significantly cheaper and offer better service? Since people often say that steel matters little, and it's more about the manufacturer's skill, I could see how some would stay away from an unknown manufacturer...

 

Then there are questions I must answer myself : wa vs yo, san-mai vs single-steel... And to be honest, that's gonna be pretty random since I don't know how to get my hands on either before I buy.  The only handle I have now just sucks, so anything OK would be a step up, whether wa or yo!

 

 

Oh, and I've looked for Itonomonn : they seem out of my price range and very hard to get by in Europe.  Oh well, hope it helps Calski!

post #16 of 23
Just a few remarks. Haven't used the Carbonext personally for a longer time. Fit and Finish with the JCK Kagayaki Aogami#2 are at a very high level. Handle on par with the Misonos.
JCK's Koki Iwahara is a very serious guy, competent and helpful.
From the review with our German friends I would retain the sloppy grinding.
Edited by Benuser - 9/1/15 at 3:30am
post #17 of 23

Hi French Curious

 

Sorry it has taken so long to come back to answer you.  I have been having computer problems.

 

About the MAC "Chef" series - I have to disagree with BDL's information about them.  

 

First, about the "lesser alloy".  My source of information is directly from the MAC web site, which states that the steel in the "Pro" series is "Original" steel (except for the MTH-80, which is the 210 mm "Pro" gyuto with the "kullens", which are the ground-out indentations.  That knife uses the "Superior" steel, which apparently - from the MAC web site - uses a different heat treatment process, presumably a different quenching and tempering treatment).  Also, from the MAC web site, the "Chef" series is listed as using MAC's "Original steel".  

 

Second, about the thickness of the "Chef" series knives.  There are two possibilities here.  Either the "BK" knives had not yet been introduced at the time that BDL made his statement, or (I suspect) that BDL was only looking at the specifications of the HB-85, which is only 2 mm thick, compared to the 2.5 mm of the "Pro" MBK-95.  In terms of personal inspection and comparison, I have both a BK-100 and a MBK-95.  I have not only compared the specified thickness on the MAC web site (2.5 mm for both knives), I have also used a high quality manual dial gauge caliper, which confirmed the same thickness.  I have also done a personal manual stiffness feel test, from which I could not tell any difference in stiffness.  For what it's worth, I also have a HB-85, which is 2.0 mm thickness in MAC's specifications, shows a reduced thickness when measured with my caliper compared to the MBK-95 and the BK-100, and is noticeably more flexible than either the MBK-95 or the BK-100.  As a further comparison, I have (and compared with all of the above) a MAC SBK-95, which is the 9 inch (225 mm) version in the "Ultimate Series", and that is the thickest (at 3 mm), heaviest and stiffest blade.  But, just to emphasize again, between the MBK-95 and the BK-100, there is no difference in thickness or in stiffness that I can tell.

 

As for the K-Sab carbon being "only" 55-56 hRc, that did not bother BDL, who had an older pair (200 mm and 250 mm) of Thiers-Issard 4-star Elephant nogent handled chef knives.  He found them to be superb, and only needing a honing before use.

 

With respect to Benuser, I partially disagree about hones and I believe that a good quality honing rod properly used can extend the time between sharpenings.  The purpose of the honing rod is not to sharpen - it is to straighten out the microscopic areas along the edge which have folded over.  The problem is that most hones are mis-used.  The popular image is that of the chef who swings the blade towards the hone, resulting in a clang and the illusion of heroic danger of being personally sliced (and often just that result), with multiple clangs being seen as necessary.  The proper use is to avoid all that nonsense - quietly lay the base of the hone at the heel of the blade, then with very light pressure (either the weight of the hone on top of the edge of the blade, or the weight of the blade when on top of the hone), then sweep the hone and blade edge on a diagonal to each other until the tip of the knife is reached just before the tip of the hone is reached.  That's one stroke.  Alternate strokes between the two sides of the edge, until you reach 4 strokes per side.  And that's it.  No muss. No fuss,  No "HEROICS".  I suspect that a lot of the problems with honing come from the clanging (imagine how much force is concentrated at the point of impact - especially on a microscopic area such as a properly sharpened edge) and from an vastly excess number of strokes (again, very possibly part of the "HEROIC" image process).

 

Now, some of the J-knives simply do not need or cannot really benefit from honing, especially those with higher hRc numbers.  For those knives, a few light strokes on a high numbered grit stone will do the same function.  But certainly MAC knives can use a hone as part of the maintenance process.

 

Finally, about length.  I agree with you about 30 cm.  It's just too long.  I also have a monster knife just slightly longer, a 315 mm MAC BK-120, which I have problems controlling the tip (BDL also had the same problem).  And that knife, because of its length, does have a noticeably more flexible blade (even with a 2.5 mm blade thickness).  But BDL did see a 240 mm or 270 mm blade as very workable.

 

Hope that clears up a few items.

 

 

Galley Swiller 

post #18 of 23
I have to respectfully disagree about the honing with a steel or a ceramic rod. Better use a stone that will slightly abrade the failing steel, instead of rebuilding an edge of fatigued steel that won't last.
post #19 of 23
And there is a lot of lateral pressure on one point which is never great. The only time I would consider using a ceramic rod is in a pro kitchen with no other options. I avoid that situation by bringing backup knives.
post #20 of 23
After ignoring Benuser's admonitions for a very long time I have to say that I am now a died-in-the-wool stropping snob. The rounded edge of my translucent Ark that is my steel now cries for loneliness.


Rick
post #21 of 23
Thread Starter 

Hum, many things to consider here...

 

Thanks for the advice Benuser: I contacted Koki Iwahara at JCK, and after describing my position he kindly advised me to go with the CarboNext. In his opinion, although he values the Aogami series, the CarboNext is more finely crafted and superior in most ways.  Since I'm totally hesitating between the two anyway, I might as well take his word for it :). I'm not sure what you meant by 'I would retain the sloppy grinding' though...

 

Thank you Galley for these very thorough precisions on the MAC knives.  Given how much praise is given to MAC on these forums, I was quite disappointed to see how expensive they were here. But if in fact the BK-100 is quite close to the Professional series, since they can be found for half the price here, I guess this makes an excellent knife at a very reasonable price.  Maybe the steel still isn't exactly the same, but if an experienced knife user like yourself can't tell the difference, that's probably quite enough for my knowledge level.

However, for my current buy, I have now convinced myself that there was more fun to be had with a CarboNext or Aogami blade than a VG-1 or equivalent one. This is also the reason that I am not willing to try a carbon K-Sab at this time.  I might very well come around to buying one, especially if I fall in love with a carbon blade very soon! I will keep all your remarks on MAC in mind for any later buy of an excellent, affordable stainless knife in Europe though.

 

Now, about sharpening : having no experience whatsoever with hard steels, I have no opinion on honing on a 'steel'.  The only opinion I have is that buying a knife and two stones is already a lot for my budget.  Since I want to learn freehand sharpening, I'm more inclined to put my current money on a decent stone. I have seen how much the Idahone is praised, and if it comes to that one day I guess I'll go straight for it.  Maybe then I can make up my own opinion on the matter of honing on a steel.

 

On the subject of stones, I am still hesitating between the 'cheap' solution and a more durable one.  I can get a large King 1000/6000 combination stone for 57€, or add a JCK 1000/4000 combo for 58€.  But it happens that the knivesandtools website has a sale on some specific Naniwas right now, and I can get a 800 and a 3k professional for a total of 112€.  I think that's a pretty good deal, at least compared to what I see on CKtG and a couple of other sites. Benuser's arguments on it being in fact easier and more forgiving with sharpening noobs is also sinking in.  But wow, 112€ instead of 20 initially still hurts...  Anyway, if I were to go down that road, what do you think of the Naniwa dressing stones?  The 220 grit (A102) and 24 grit (A101) are available from the same site for around 10€.  Are they worth it, or is it better to just get some sand paper?  I see people online use nice diamond plates, but that's really going to stretch my budget way too much for now.

 

Thanks again, I feel like I'm getting there!

FC

post #22 of 23
My remark on the sloppy grinding was about the Eden. The Naniwa 220 is good for home use. If you sharpen a lot you will want a diamond plate, e.g. an Atoma 400, but that's hardly your case.
post #23 of 23

The CarboNext is a great knife!  I think you'll be happy.  I keep two of 'em in my work knife case.

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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