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Surprise! I am hoping for help choosing new knives :)

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

HI all :)


Newbie/lurker here, with the usual request for help choosing some new knives.  I have tried to do a fair bit of reading here and on other sites, so I am now that most dangerous of individuals - I have some understanding and knowledge but probably not enough.  I will try to provide details on what I want, how I am and what I am thinking so far.  Please help guide me as I expand my culinary skills. 


So I am a home/hobby cook, not a professional and not likely to become a professional.  I'm fairly certain I shouldn't use the word chef to describe myself.  I have taken some cooking classes and will likely take more for my own enjoyment.  In particular, I plan to take a knife skills course to better use these new knives we're discussing.  I cook a wide variety of items - vegetables, meats, no limits on what I will try really.  My wife and I like to eat multiple ethnic foods (I do the vast majority of the cooking).  I also bake (mostly cookies, squares, cakes etc, accounting for my physique).  I rarely would do anything involving cutting through joints or bone.  The only times I can think of, off hand, would be Christmas/Thanksgiving with turkey.


I currently have a set of relatively inexpensive Sabatier knives (a set that came with a pairing knife, 6 steak knives, a 8 inch Chef, a 6 inch utility knife, a bread knife, and a 10 inch slicer).  They are supposed to be about the quality level of 1 or 2 man Henckels - I can't remember exactly, we've had them for almost 20 years.  I recently bought a 8 inch santoku and 6 inch santoku by Kuhn Rikon to see how I felt about the shape (I like the shape fine).  I mostly use the utility knife, chef's knife and the steak knives (don't hate me - I use them like a pairing or utility knife when my utility is dirty and I don't like my pairing knife).


Maintenance and sharpening - um, ooops?  Ok, we didn't know about no dishwasher, so they have all been constantly in there.  Probably explains the lack of sharpness, particularly since I have never sharpened them. I promise to hand wash and dry my new knives.  I do use the steel to hone the blades, more and more recently.  I honestly thought that was sharpening before embarking on the research to find new knives.  And while we're being honest, I will say I don't mind honing, and -might- use a machine to sharpen but I am not likely to get into hand sharpening.  So blades that stay sharp longer are probably important.  As well, I would probably be unhappy with rust, so I think I'm looking for stainless.


Alright. So what am I thinking? I would like to try Japanese knives.  After my reading, I was leaning towards getting a Tojiro DP 2- or 3-peice set from Chef Knives To Go.  It is a 6" utility knife and 8" gyuto plus or minus a 3" pairing knife. However, I will admit to an aesthetic bias. I was hoping to get "cool" looking knives, maybe with funky handles and a hammered damascus blade.  My reading so far suggested the Tojiro's would be amongst the best function for money. I have an engineer's function before form core so hence the above.  I was also thinking I might get a German Chef's knife as well to deal with gourds, other hard vegetables and the rare times I might need to cut joints/around bone.


Money is not really a limiting factor, but I want to pay for good knives and not simply to have a name brand (for instance, a friend who went to WS and bought Shuns because they looked cool and had a recognizable name),  I guess in the money area, the best phrasing is that I would like a good value.


Thanks in advance for any and all advice.  Oh, and thanks to boar_d_laze and others for all the information here.  I particularly liked the post sequence "Best knives???". 

post #2 of 12
https://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/collections/hammered-damascus-series to satisfy your bling
I use my J-knives or a cleaver on gourds. A conservative edge on a petty/utility can work fine if you don't work around joints and bones often

IMO any knife that we're going to be talking about, the performance, and therefore your satisfaction, is going to be heavily dependent on what kind of sharpening it gets. You buy a new knife and whatever it edge it comes with (even ignoring that some of us will resharpen that immediately) lasts maybe 1,2,3 months or something in that range. Then you resharpen it. That nice steel is going to respond to what it gets, and by and large the machines aren't getting close to maxing out the potential of the knife+its steel. You want to buy a 50 or 100+ dollar knife for its lifetime, not the first few months, so the sharpening ought to match. I don't recommend anything pricier than a Victorinox to friends if I know it won't be sharpened right, and am only gifting J-knives to people who will take their knife back to me every few months so they see some time on the stones. That's my personal experience
You could think about getting a loaded strop for home maintenance but if you can strop, you've done like half the work to learning how to use stones (consistent angle holding, the stroke/motion)

Depending on where you live (this is a big conditional) you might have a sharpener in the area who does the job right and can send your knives there once in a while. The more knives you have and use, the more that money adds up though
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the reply.  I just looked at the Gonbei Hammered Damascus Wa-Gyuto and it does have the blade aesthetic I liked. I need to get my hands on some of the handles to ensure they are comfortable for me.  Along those lines, I forgot to  mention that use what I think people call a baseball grip, likely because I have never been shown pinch grip.  After I take a skills class, perhaps I will change.


I realize hand sharpening with stones is the best, I am just slightly suspicious of my diligence given my history of "hmm, yeah, I should mow the lawn...but I don't feel like it today so maybe next weekend."  A machine seemed like something I would actually do at appropriate intervals. While looking at the Tojiro DP's again yesterday (and noticing they have a Damascus DP line that I had somehow missed), I saw "Tojiro Pro Roll Sharpener" (http://www.chefknivestogo.com/to.html) and was going to ask about it. In terms of stroping, is that preferred over honing? I had planned to buy a ceramic hone.

post #4 of 12

I didn't notice your location before. Check out the selections at Paulsfinest and Knifewear


Pinch grip can be worked on without a knife skills class. 


Wish there was a way to demonstrate the different results you get via different methods (stone, machine, rod, etc). IMO it's going to come down to your standards for sharpness and edge retention.


Oh, I think Knifewear now has a Vancouver shop. Depending on the rates they charge for knife sharpening you could probably get away with doing that...and have a chance to look at and hold some of these types of knives in person!


post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks again! I didn't know about those places and will appreciate being able to physically see and touch the knives. I also found out today that Japanese Knife Imports (the place you mentioned earlier) is in LA. I will be visiting the area later this year so I may be able to drop by their store.
post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 

So I managed to stop by KnifeWear today.  Interestingly, I found the handles of the Tojiro DP to be a bit thin (I have fairly large hands).  I think that it would be fine if I were pinch grip, but currently it wasn't the most comfortable.  I think I would adjust to it, though, if I bought them.  


I really enjoyed the feel of the oval Wa handles, particularly Masakage Kiri and Haruyuki SRS15 they had.  I got to try the blades a little and, OMG, what a difference in terms of sharpness to what I have now.  I am definitely looking forward to actually owning better knives. Anyway, I had mostly heard of VG10 for stainless steel.  Does anyone have an opinion regarding SRS15 in comparison? And any thoughts on the quality of the aforementioned knives? The guy at the store suggested getting the Masakage petty and the Haruyuki gyuto or santuko. 


On to maintenance: they had some strops there, but discussed a ceramic honing rod with me (could have been my fault - I mentioned the rod first and my toddler was getting antsy, resulting in my need to end the visit before I could bring up sharpening or stroping.  My understanding is that stroping would be in place of honing, but I would still need to have them sharpened or sharpen them myself every few months? Also, I have plastic and wood cutting boards (not end grain, as far as I know).  Is replacing them an important task?



post #7 of 12

SRS15 is made to be a fine grained Powdered Metallurgy steel, capable of having higher edge retention than VG-10 and I think in your particular examples, is taken up to a little higher hardness than the Kiri's VG10. I believe @Rick Alan here has a knife made from SRS15 or something similar and hopefully he'll shed some more insight on this. I've only read good things and was recently pretty close to getting that Haruyuki 240mm but took a shot getting something a bit less known :3 


I would go gyuto over santoku and a 120-150mm petty. Have a little mineral oil/board oil for the Kiri's handle to apply initially and when needed afterwards. 


Honestly? As someone who last year was new to any kind of sharpening or maintenance and got a rod and stones and strops at all around the same time, I did not feel that it was significantly easier to learn how to use a honing rod well. Only 1 hand for angle control and stability vs an edge trailing motion on the stones or strop you have 2 hands. And as a home cook there's not a particular time or space pressure that would force me to use a rod. I know Knifewear has some high grit ceramic rods that they sell but IMO if you have a fine grit stone you can learn to touch up on that about as easily (or a loaded strop).


If your wood board's in good condition and you like it then don't worry about it for now. Keep the thing oiled as needed though. 

post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks :)


Given that I didn't like the feel of the handles of the Tojiro, are the ones they recommended a reasonable alternative? Are they good "bang for your buck?" Or are there others I should look at as well/instead? I will be in LA next month, so I can swing by Japanese Knife Imports as well.  I am hoping to make a decision/purchase around that time, mostly so that if I buy in the US, I can use my exemption (no Canadian tax/duties).


Could you or someone please expand on "loaded strop?" I have found some examples of strops online, and they had one in-store at Knifewear, but most places I read talk about putting compound or such to load them. And are honing and stropping essentially the same thing?


I suspect I am going to buy a Chef's Choice for sharpening.  Perhaps down the road I will look at learning hand sharpening, but I currently don't have inclination nor time.



post #9 of 12

Yes SRS15 is wonderous wonderful steel. The only steel I would pick over it for all around performance is HAP40, except I don't know of any knives in it that I really like.  The Mugen HAP40 looks like a very expensive project knife, looking way too thick at the edge for that price range, like you might at well get a Kohetsu,


SRS15 a very easy to sharpen, takes a very nice edge for stainless, and just holds it for weeks.  The Masakage looks like a rebrand of a knife sold under several names like Ikea, Akifusa and Geshin Kagero.  I would take the Kagero over the rest because it is made to Jon's exacting specs. It has a very nice profile, lots of flat on the edge.


For inexplicable reasons the knife is particularly good at slicing onions and hard salami.

post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thank you.  I am also still considering the Gonbei gyuto suggested in the second post.  How would this compare to the Haryuki and Masakage Kiri/Geshin Kagero? Other suggestions are also welcome :) I am currently leaning towards the Haryuki because of having felt it in my hands, positive review/words, and I think there is some value to buying locally in term of being able to go back and get help if needed.  I am still unclear regarding a "loaded strop," and stroping versus honing and would appreciate it if anyone can help me with that as well.

post #11 of 12

I'm taking a quick break from the dinner stuff so I can get in that compared to the Kagero the Gonbei looks a bit thicker at the spine but thinner at the edge (the Kagero is nicely thin though), its steel is very good but does not compare to SRS15 for edge taking or holding, the Swedish stainless (19C27 I'm guessing) is a little more rugged though but that's probably not a deciding factor here.

post #12 of 12
A quick note of clarification- it's the Haruyuki that's said to be the Akifusa/Ikeda rebrand. The blacksmiths who make knives for the Masakage brand seem like they do their own thing with those lines.
I might look at how many sharpenings at Knifewear (I assume the Vancouver location is planning to offer sharpening service like the other locations) you can get out of the cost of a CC. But that's not even a fair comparison in a way because the quality of results are not equal. Can't help but feel like you don't get closer to maxing out what this price and quality range of knives has to offer with a CC
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