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Knife Help

post #1 of 34
Thread Starter 

I'm new to the forum and I'm hoping to get some advice.  


I like cooking. Okay, I love cooking and food. Other than play soccer (football), cooking has been my life hobby. However, I am not and never have cooked professionally.  While I have spent significant amount of time learning and practicing cooking techniques  (including knife work), I have no formal training and I'm not a "natural" talent.  Most of what I know I've learned either through experimentation, repeated failure, or working my way through books like "The Professional Chef", "Making of a Cook", and Jaques Pepin "Complete Techniques book".  I'm not particularly fast, but it doesn't really matter to me that much as a home cook.


I live in an older house.  We recently split our home kitchen into two distinct areas separated by about 5 feet; A prep kitchen (24" under counter refrigerator, bar sink, wall oven, and speed oven) and a functional kitchen (dual fuel range, fridge, sink, dishwasher).  As part of the renovation, I budgeted new knives so I don't have to switch back and forth.  I'm planning on leaving my old knives in the prep kitchen.  They are mostly western knives from 90's (Wusthoff Classic, older Chicago Cutlery, Mercer Genesis).  I sharpen them a 4-6 times a year using a Chef's Choice 130. 


In cooking with friends, I've tried out a few western-style Japanese knives.  I liked them immediately and lost my bias for "forged."   For the new kitchen, I'm planning on purchasing a new  collection of knives.  I'm not really a collector and I don't use a lot of specialty knives.  I was thinking of getting the following:


Chef    Mac MBK-95  
Santoku  Takamura Migaki Santoku R2 170mm 
Petty Tojiro DP Petty 120mm
Bread   Mac SB-105 
Honing  Idahone Fine Ceramic Rod  with sheath


Are these reasonable choices?  Should I add any additional knives?  Am I missing anything obvious?  Do you recommend alternatives?  


Since I'm not interested in sharpening as a hobby, I'll also likely upgrade to a Chef Choice that can do a 15" angle.  Can I safely use this on these knives? Chef's Choice 15 Trizor XV EdgeSelect Electric Knife Sharpener.



post #2 of 34

Only one problem I see with your choices, well 2 actually.


Firstly, I think you'll be happier with the takamura 210 gyuto.  More blade = more fun in the cut.  And I just can't fathom the santoku thing.


Second, I think maybe you should forget about the Takamura if you intend to subject it to the CC.  You have a very thin edge in relatively brittle steel.


And aside from the not wanting to see what the CC might initially do to that edge, I think you will find relatively little difference in performance between the Takmura and MAC coming off the CC.

post #3 of 34

Hi hgilson.


There are many things that should be considered when buying a set of kitchen knives. What are they going to be used for?  What style?  What brand?  What sort of steel?  Carbon steel?  Stainless steel?  Forged?  Thickness?  Length?  Handle style?  2 rivet?  3 rivet?  Natural handle (wood) vs composite?    Pinch grip vs. handle grip?  Etc etc.  


So, basically, unless we know what sort of work the knives will primarily be used for, we can't really give precise advice. 


For example, if you prep a lot of vegetable product, there are a number of well made "lasers" that will do the trick very nicely.  I have a $300 Japanese laser that I use only for vegetable prep. It makes extremely fast and clean cuts and can perform any style of cutting I need.  It also works incredibly well as a filet knife, especially with delicate seafood, although, I rarely use it on beef, poultry or pork. 


If you prep a lot of proteins, how far to you usually break them down?  Are you breaking down a whole pig or are you trimming up some store bought meats, poultry and seafood? 


However, assuming your ingredients list is what would be found in your average household, any good set of Wusthoff plus an additional knife or two will likely handle anything you can throw at it. 


If you could provide some details in terms of how you intend to use the knives, I can give you some advice that is more specific.  :-)





"Wine is sunlight held together by water." - Galileo
"Wine is sunlight held together by water." - Galileo
post #4 of 34

If you are comfortable using a 9.5 inch knife and you have a good paring/petty sized knife, I don't know what place a santoku really has besides 'just for fun'. 


I too cringed when I thought about the Takamura in a CC. It just feels like the blade deserves better than what a CC can give it. Additionally, I don't know about R2 steel and a ceramic rod...it's getting up to the hardness/brittleness range that makes stropping type of touch-ups the preferable choice vs a honing rod.


How much do you cut up roasts and the like? You might consider getting a decent slicer/sujihiki just for kicks.


Do you have something like a set budget?

post #5 of 34

I think hgilson had it pretty well figured out, except the Takamura/CC matchup.  There was the 9.5" MAC for the general rough prep, petty, bread knife, and the Takamura laser for the fine slicing.


hgilson, you're going through the considerable expense and trouble building a dream kitchen, all for the sake of making your food experience all that more wonderful.  Perhaps you might also consider putting some time and money into providing yourself the ability to sharpen properly.  It's all part of the experience.


Myself personally, I'd cry, literally, if I didn't have an edge a whole lot better than what a CC will give.  I have a Takamura Migaki, and it is something to behold coming off a 6K stone at 10deg, and just about as nice with a 15deg microbevel to hold up to board work.  But once you run it through the CC it's really not going to be a laser anymore, and that rough edge is not going to cut anything like my knife.  In fact the edge may be poorer than what you'd get on some cheaper knives, because I think you'd possibly experience microchipping with the CC.  Not sure, but perhaps there is someone around here with a CC whose owned Shun or Miyabi in SG2 and knows first hand.


Anyways you remove relatively large amouns of material with power sharpeners, your knive are going to get thick at the edge before you know it, and I fret you are going to feel not much better off than before for the money spent.


Anyway if you are going to stick with the CC then a MAC santoku or  a number of other relatively thin knives will be fine.


Oh and a kitchen like that, and the knives, really deserves a nice end grain board, or something like a High Soft if you go synthetic.





post #6 of 34
Thread Starter 

Well, these responses are ridiculously awesome.  Talk about making a new guy feel at home.  Thank You all.


To answer Virgil's question:

I probably spend most of my time preparing vegetables. I've never broken down a whole pig.  I occasionally use a local butcher but most of the time I'm trimming up store bought cuts. For a home cook, I do a decent amount of filleting fish.  It typically use a white handled (Dexter-Russel?) fillet knife that I got from a friend that was retiring it from a commercial kitchen. I like it but it's getting pretty thin from the years of repeated sharpening.  I do break down a chicken or two per week. I'm reasonably efficient at doing this but I've only ever done it with heavier Western knives. The subtlety of my technique is questionable to be sure. I do cut up a lot of roasts. Braising is a favourite cooking method for me in the fall/winter.


I use my santoku (Wusthof) a decent amount, mostly for vegetable prep, herbs and slicing garlic. Mostly this is habit.  For a long time, my "Chef" knife was a Chicago Cutlery knife from a set. It didn't stay sharp for long so I found myself using the santoku as an alternative. For a long time, it was my only decent knife.  


Perhaps, with the new knives, the santoku would not be necessary. Thoughts?  


Hmm...I didn't realize that the electric sharpeners were such a coarse tool.  I figured it was the lesser of two evils; my limited (non-existent) sharpening skills vs. the electric sharpener. Does basic knife sharpening require significant skill?  Would I be risking my knives if I did an "inexpert" job of it?  Are there other sharpening alternatives that might make sense for a home cook?


Thanks for the comments on the cutting board.  I have some old maple boards that I use.  They are in a bit of disrepair.  Any recommendations regarding brands, models?


Thanks again for the fantastic and thoughtful responses.  

post #7 of 34
There is little you can do by hand that is irreversible. Stay away from coarse stones until you are adequate. Evening out your bevels and removing scratches is part of your learning process

Lookup the JKI sharpening playlist or korin on youtube and avoid a lot of other bad advice
post #8 of 34

I have one of the Apex sharpening kits which makes the process pretty easy.  There are videos.  It's still not as easy as an electric sharpener, but on the other hand it's not taking up any counter space.

post #9 of 34
Originally Posted by hgilson View Post



Perhaps, with the new knives, the santoku would not be necessary. Thoughts?  


Actually, the Santoku is superb for prepping vegetables.  If it were me, I would keep it.  Same with the Mac MBK-95.  They both are versatile work horses. 


If you work quite a bit with seafood, you may wish to invest in a good Japanese knife such as a Warikomi style knife ("Warikomi" means the style of the cutting edge).  I have a Kikuichi Warikomi 9.5inch and I absolutely love how it performs, especially with seafood.  It has all the agility and precision of a filet knife and enough "backbone" to function very well as a chef's knife.  I actually did a review of the Kikuichi Swedish Warikomi.  Check it out on my page.


For your bread knife, I would use nothing other than a good quality German bread knife.  After all, the Germans invented the bread knife blade design.  Wusthoff makes some very fine bread knives. 


From the sounds of things, its seems likely that you have outgrown your Chicago cutlery set.  Picking out a good knife set is every bit as important as picking out a good set of cookware.  From the information that you have provided, it seems like you have a made some good choices.





"Wine is sunlight held together by water." - Galileo
"Wine is sunlight held together by water." - Galileo
post #10 of 34
Thread Starter 

TL;DR Still working on my choices, they are listed at the end of the thread.  Let me know what you think.


At the risk of resurrecting a zombie, thread, I thought I would give you an update as to where I am in the process.


After considering your comments, a lot more reading on this forum and others and some more thought into what I like in a knife. I made significant changes to my choices.   I've also watched a lot(!) of videos on knife technique and knives.  Let's just say, I have more bad habits than I would like to admit.  I'll need to practice. 


1. While I would prefer not to learn to sharpen, it's seems like a cost of doing business and I'm really intrigued by having better knives.  In general, I don't have the best touch in the world so I think a jig approach (Edge Pro Apex) would probably be better for me in the beginning.  Later, I'll pick up a kit and see how I do sharpening free hand. Can someone comment on whether going with the Chosera Set for the Apex makes sense? 

2. I don't think I need a Santoku.  Instead, I just feel more comfortable with a smaller knife in certain situations.  Instead of going with a Santoku, I'll go with a short thin Gyuto as a second knife.

3. While intrigued, I'm a little concerned about my technique, ability and experience regarding a very lightweight "laser" as my primary knife.  The Mercer's, while effective for me, are heavy and seem pretty forgiving. 

4. I'm still leaning towards Stainless (or "semi-stainless").  Maintenance is less of a problem for me than reactivity.  I swear I can taste something off (metallic) with Carbon; particularly with fruit.  I noticed it when I was helping out a neighbor prep for a party using her older carbon knives.

5.For some reason, my mind has latched onto powdered steel. The heart wants what the heart wants.

6. I think I want to stick with yo handles for now. I just don't know enough about wa knives.

7. While it's not my primary driver, I do care that I like the look of the knife.  Fit and Finish also matter to me.

8. Budget for set is around 1K.



Here's the current plan.  Critique away.

(Right handed, Apex EdgePro, Mostly Stainless, 1K budget (including sharpening), Maple Cutting boards)


Sharpening:  Edge Pro Custom Chosera Set;

Bread:          MAC Superior Bread Knife 10.5 Inch  

Longer:         Kohetsu Western HAP40 Gyuto 240mm  

Short/Thin:  Takamura Migaki R2 Gyuto 180mm
Petty:           Takamura Migaki R2 Petty 150mm  
Paring:          Fibrox Victorinox Paring (mostly so I'm not tempted to use the petty for inappropriate tasks like opening boxes)


I'll still have my old knives (Mercer, Wusthoff) in the secondary kitchen about 30 feet away if I need them. 



post #11 of 34

No worries about resurrecting a thread. It's yours, after all!


No comments on usage of the Edge Pro (been freehand sharpening for all of 6 months!) but the knives you've got on your current list could certainly benefit from stones like Choseras. You want fast cutting stones (Choseras fit the bill) because PM steel at that 60somethings HRC is a bit stubborn to abrading quickly.


I don't think the Kohetsu is particularly close to a laser kind of knife. Just keep it sharp and be very attentive as you adjust to your new knives and also (hopefully) trying to improve your knife/cutting skills to not force or twist the blade, or come down hard on the board.


Some carbon knives are definitely reactive enough to impart a weird tang on foods. This impression tends to be much more toned down if the knife has a stable patina or is otherwise treated in a way that inhibits its reactivity (baking soda scrubs as part of its cleaning/maintenance). If you're sensitive to picking up on that taste, no problem with leaning towards stainless/semi stainless. Another option is stainless clad carbon steel knives, where the carbon core steel is exposed fairly close to the cutting edge, so the contact area of the reactive steel to acidic foods is much less than the whole blade. And with nicer knives of this type, the core steels can get pretty pure, so there isn't much reactivity going on in the duration of a cut. 


Wa-handled knives - not all that much different. Lighter by around 2 ounces in many cases versus the western handled equivalents. Sometimes the wood comes rather raw/untreated (mainly with ho/magnolia wood knives in the lower price ranges) and would benefit from a little oil or wax to give it some water/stain resistance.


List looks pretty good. If you want to try out more brands you could consider looking into the Gesshin Kagero for the petty. It also has a PM steel core.


Michigan Maple Block, Catskill Craftsmen, and Top Chop Butcher Block for some more budget friendly end grain boards. Boardsmith and Boos Block if you've got more money. The cherry board from Top Chop Butcher Block (24x18x2, $115) is in my avatar pic. Takes on a gorgeous color when it's oiled enough.

post #12 of 34
One point I have to disagree about: the use of a jig system. Sharpening a kitchen knife is not so much about putting an edge at the end of a piece of steel. If it were jigs would be great. Kitchen knives have a taper. The spine is some 2-3mm thick, behind the edge you should expect some 0.2mm.
Every time you sharpen with a jig, you move the edge a little bit into a thicker part of the blade.
With free-handing you start somewhere behind the edge and thin a bit every time.
I won't discuss here the merits of jig systems in dealing with asymmetric blades. Please notice all good knives are more or less asymmetric in some way or another.
post #13 of 34

While I use a triple stone at work, I do have the Wicked Edge system which works great for me on all of my knives, Japanese, German, whatever.

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
post #14 of 34
... and get thicker and thicker behind the edge -- not speaking of wedging and steering with more pronounced asymmetries after a few sharpenings. Good luck.
Edited by Benuser - 2/18/16 at 4:39pm
post #15 of 34
post #16 of 34
post #17 of 34

Big lessons are to pay attention to your knife's construction and not grind away mindlessly without respect for how it's made, and to pay attention to how it's cutting for you. A more versatile sharpening method will let you do more for making desired adjustments to the blade.


For some knives that aren't terribly asymmetric, edge adjustments can resolve or prevent steering problems (see Jon's post on that thread, #104). For mine, I'm thinking that only the Misono is visibly asymmetric along the grind of the blade face (panicked and checked all of my knives after the first time I ran across that thread) and is going to need some moderate thinning/flattening out of the convex right side (to suit a lefty).


Seems to me like for most cases, as long as you don't move the edge very far past the vertical axis that was intended for the knife, that you should be fine. 

post #18 of 34
Left-handed may get inverted Misonos, but that's not exactly the OP's issue.
post #19 of 34

The big problem with jigs is that you can't do thinning.  Home user... maybe you won't see a problem for years depending on how much you sharpen.

post #20 of 34
After a few sharpening sessions you should notice a loss in performance.
post #21 of 34
Originally Posted by Benuser View Post

Left-handed may get inverted Misonos, but that's not exactly the OP's issue.

I understand that, but my take on the asymmetry thread is that it could freak out a lot of users into thinking they have problems that they won't have unless they grind mindlessly at their knives. That thread almost intimates that lefty users are pretty much screwed to be using J-knives at all since adhering to how the blade is ground will cause steering problems for lefties. I mention my Misono because even as a lefty, it is the only one of my knives where I looked at that and it looked to be asymmetric enough to eventually cause a problem if I was sharpening mindlessly. 


With regards to the OP, for right handed users, are you really going to create major steering issues if you sharpen and respect the feel of the existing grind on the blade?


Totally agree on the thinning dilemma with the jigs. It's better and easier to do that freehand vs trying to manipulate a jig to do so.

post #22 of 34
Originally Posted by Benuser View Post

... and get thicker and thicker behind the edge -- not speaking of wedging and steering with more pronounced asymmetries after a few sharpenings. Good luck.


Thank you, your point is well taken, but I don't believe I will need any luck.

Between my triple stone for the heavy work and the jig for more mundane sharpening I'll be fine until death.

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
post #23 of 34
I'd bet on that, JustJim!
post #24 of 34
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the responses.


Even though I used lots of words,I suspect part of my post was misinterpreted.  I intend to attempt to learn how to sharpen by hand.  I just suspect by the time I get reasonably good at it, I'll need to sharpen my knives...quite a few times. Because I don't have the deftest of touches, I've go some concerns about ever being very good at it hand sharpening.  I thought the jig might be a reasonable compromise. My plan was to practice free hand on an inexpensive carbon knife until I felt reasonably confident.



post #25 of 34

It is pretty doable to get good enough to improve crappy knives in your first few hours of sharpening, and to sharpen by following existing bevels (at least the first 1 or 2 times) on your good knives not much longer after that. I'm quoting this off my own experiences last year and I'd never done anything like that in my life (not particularly handy). You'll probably get some scuff marks up on the blade face at least one of those early sessions though.


Apologies, definitely did not understand about the intention of the jig. The initial money outlay is so significant on those (especially getting the custom stones) that it isn't commonly used as an intermediate measure. Not to mention, you'll need a different set of stones for freehanding. The Edge Pro custom stones are cut down to 1 inch width by 6 inches length (and maybe thinner than a typical stone too) to fit the jig, and trying to freehand on anything less than about 60-70mm width (I rate a bare minimum of 50mm, approx 2inches width for me even 6 months later) is fraught with frustration. It is much easier to accidentally 'run off the edge' of a narrower stone. Generous good full size stone dimensions are around 200-210mm length by 70-75 width and about 20-25mm thickness.

Edit: 'did not' as opposed to 'did'
Edited by foody518 - 2/19/16 at 9:24am
post #26 of 34

The Kohetsu is a great middle-weight knife


I'd still have you go with the 210 Takamura for your laser.


At the moment I just can't get my thoughts together on sharpening for you.

post #27 of 34

OK I've thought about it, look here:



Right at the top you see the King 250/1000.  With this stone you can do a job thinning your current knives, and also put on a serviceable 1K edge.  Make up some poster card wedges of various angles to get a visual on how to angle your blade (you can harden and waterproof them with superglue).


Your new knives will not need sharpening right away, so you'll have time to get a feel for free-hand.


You'll now whether you want to add a finer bench stone, or try a jig, in which case I would recommend the Wicked Edge as it will give you better final results.  Get the tall version and an angle cube if you do.

post #28 of 34
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the advice.

Those stones are certainly inexpensive enough to make me give it a try. I'll go with that approach and see if I can get the hang of it with my older knives.

I understand how the angle cube works and how I would use it. I'm not quite sure I understand the poster card wedges. What would I use them for and how would I go about constructing them? Can you point me to a tutorial? I don't want to take up too much of your time.

post #29 of 34

With the wedges you can stick them around your work area for visual reference or even on the stone before you start actually sharpening, so you can get a feel for angling your knife so that it is flush with the wedge.

post #30 of 34

This has me intrigued as an option for beginners:



Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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