Another beginner searching for a good knife

Discussion in 'Cooking Knife Reviews' started by goodell, Nov 6, 2012.

  1. goodell

    goodell

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    I'm a beginner chef, I cook at home most nights of the week.  I've been cooking for a few months, and so far have only used a knife from a gift set my dad got from his work and gave me.  It was decent to start off, but now I'm to a point where I want to get something a bit better.

    Knife skills: I've watched a few online videos for technique help, but go pretty slow.  Having a dull knife doesn't really help with the speed.  Since the chef's knife I have is dull, I tend to do sort of a forward slicing motion rather than rocking, so I'm thinking a Santoku might be a good bet.

    Types of food cut:  Generally onions, peppers, zucchini, carrots, salmon, chicken breast (no bone), garlic, herbs, and occasionally I'll slice a cooked steak.

    Availability:  I live in Austin, TX, so there's probably some cool local knife store somewhere if anyone has recommendations.  I've currently just gone to Sur la table, but there's also a William Sonoma nearby.  I'd rather get this first one in person so I can try it out and have a  physical store to return it to if need be.  For the next knife I might consider ordering something.

    Price Range:  Less than $200

    Thanks in advance to anyone who helps out.  Normally I'd read old threads for something like this, but it seems like knife choice is very custom to a user's particular situation.

    Edit:  Also, I'm interested in japanese knives.  No particular logical reason, I just think they're pretty slick.

    Edit2:  As far as sharpening goes, I don't have too much interest in learning a really difficult method. How much am I looking at for a decent low skill sharpener?  I'd like to keep it under $100 if possible.
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2012
  2. luis j

    luis j

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    Goodell... You're in the right place.

    I was asking almost the same question a year ago and now I'm a knife / sharpening junkie. You'll find the best people in this forum and a lot of good advice.

    Just remember... A dull Japanese expensive knife is like a walmart junk dull knife. You need to get at least a bit serious on the sharpening stuff or your fancy knife will end like a lame supermarket knife in a matter of weeks.

    My starters kit was:

    Mac professional gyuto (Go directly to "chef knife" A.K.A. Gyuto... Santoku is not the way to go if you want to do prep as a professional, it's just too short to make you productive) try 10" blade, looks big and intimidating at first but you'll get used to it very fast...If you find it too big... Ok, go 8".

    Sharpening stone... My first was an "Oishi" 1000/6000 combo stone that I got from epicurean edge.com for 31 bucks, not the best stone, but good bang for the buck, and if you're a home cook, that stone will be a good way to start. Now I have more stones but I used the Oishi until it crumbled in my restaurant kitchen.

    Honing rod: Idahone "fine" rod, it was like 28 bucks and I still own it, great piece an a "must have".

    You can but from chefknivestogo.com, they have an awesome variety of knives that will fit your budget. There is also another great online vendor, japaneseknivesimports.com but it's more "high end" and maybe not the best place if you're just begining or in a budget.

    With 200 bucks you can get a Mac "superior", a Tojiro DP or a Richmond Artifex gyuto, the Idahone honing rod and a pretty decent combination stone like the king 800/6000

    For sure with that kit you'll get a good introduction to the professional knives world.

    Don't take what I say as a gospel, for sure people with more experience than me are going to reply too, I just want to share my two cents with you.

    Best regards.

    Luis
     
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  3. goodell

    goodell

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    Awesome, thanks for the reply Luis!

    I think after researching I'm going to go with the Artifex.  Who'd have thought a good knife could be <$100??  I'll be going for the honing rod you recommended as well.

    As far as stones, it appears sharpening is a way bigger deal than I first thought (although after watching a youtube vid it seems pretty easy/quick).  How long will a combo stone typically last an average home cook?  It seems like separate stones are the way to go for longevity, and I don't mind throwing down a little more up front if it's going to help me in the long run.  Any beginner recommendations for separate stones?

    Also, how useful are sharpening guides?  It seems like a really easy way for a beginner to get going, but I'm sure there's gotta be something more to it.  If they're not useful, what's the typical learning curve for using stones?

    Thanks for the help!

    -Goodell
     
  4. luis j

    luis j

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    Hi Goodell...

    Nice to know that you're getting an Artifex, let us know your impressions when you get it, looks like a great knife and Mark si such an standup guy that I don't doubt that the knife is a great piece for the price.

    For the combo stones... How long they last in a home kitchen?... Maybe years or even a life time, my stone was good at home, but once I took it to the restaurant and got serious use and abuse, it crumbled, but I'm sure that it could last years at my home sharpening 2-3 knives every couple of weeks.

    My first two separate stones were the Bester 1200 and an Arashiyama 6000, now I have a Suehiro Rika 5000 too. All of them great stones, I really like the 1200 and that one is an absolute must have (something on the 1000-1200 grit is always necessary) and for the polishing, I have the 6000 and the 5000, those one are redundant, you don't need both because there is no much difference on the grit. I like the polished edge that the 6000 gives, it's beautiful and smooth, but the 5000 is also very good and I love the feeling and feedback of that stone.

    The bester 1200 and the arashiyama 6000 or suehiro rika 5000 are great stones, you can acomplish great sharpness with them, and maybe in the future you can add another finer stone to give a better polish if you find it necessary... Or you can buy a coarser stone for repairs or thinning your knives.

    But starting with 2 good stones is a great way to start. Keep reading, there are many guys with more experience than me and you'll find great info in this place.

    And about the learning curve on sharpening... For me it took years of trial and error... But once I started to listen the people in this forum and watching the videos from cktg and japaneseknifeimports.com, in a matter of weeks I was doing a very good job, once that you understand the process and start sharpening trying to get the feeling and understanding what you're doing, it gets very easy.

    I use BDL "Burr" method, the vids and the info from him, helped me a ton, and now I can sharpen on a "good enough" level. When I started, I took almost any knife that I could, my mum's, my friend's and my cook's knives, I was trying hard for the first weeks and at some given point I realized that the knives were getting quite sharp.

    I'm sure that you'll get it very easy and in a short period of time./img/vbsmilies/smilies/thumb.gif

    Best regards.

    Luis
     
  5. luis j

    luis j

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  6. goodell

    goodell

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    I think I'm gonna get the Artifex 210mm, the Idahone rod, the Bester 1200 (Is one stone sufficient for a while? It is just for one knife I'll use at home after all), and isn't there some sort of thing I need to get to level out the stone?  Any recommendations on that front?

    Thanks again for the help Luis, I appreciate it!
     
  7. dreamwrx

    dreamwrx

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    It depends on how you use it and how often. If you baby your knife it will keep a rather decent edge for a while. If you pound it like a hammer then it will dull quickly. Also it depends on if you can live with 1200 grit max polish.

    Also for flattening, CKTG sells a cost efficient diamond plate for $25 but they seem to be out of stock for a while.. you can get a DMT extra course but its at $59 and also out of stock, the XXC is $79 and is in stock.

    I have the Artifex 210mm (two actually) and had them professionally sharpened for the additional $15.. it would get you to a higher level of sharpness so it would take longer before you need to resharpen. But it may also spoil you to the amount of sharpness it can attain, it sure did it to me. 
     
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  8. goodell

    goodell

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    Thanks for the response dreamwrx!

    I have very amateur knife skills, and will probably use it 4-5 nights a week.  As far as the max polish, I just really want something where I can cut an onion without having to put a hand on the back of the knife and lean on it (my current technique), anything beyond that is a bonus.  As for babying the knife, I'm going to try, but with my skill level there's a chance it'll get banged up a bit.  I guess I don't have a great handle on the "range" of the grit sizes.  Is 1200 going to be too fine for minor repairs, or too coarse for a moderately sharp edge/would I be significantly better off with two stones?  

    Does anyone else have ideas for flattening plates?  Due to the fact that I'll be using/sharpening pretty rarely compared to most people on this board (or so it seems), I'd rather not spend $80 on what seems to be a fairly minor tool.
     
  9. dreamwrx

    dreamwrx

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    The artifex comes pretty sharp OOTB but with that $15 pro sharp.. its quite nice.. you should get it just to know what level that knife can be. 

    You shouldn't have to baby it per se, but you shouldn't rush through cuts and try to impress the next door neighbors by hammering the knife on your board. No cutting on granite, glass, metals, or other hard surfaces. Don't use the edge to move your food (scrape). Mine lasted a good 3-4 months before it needed sharpening.

    I think the Bester will be good to get a dulling knife back to being useful sharp. It wont repair chips... well technically it can but it will take a long long time to reshape (and wear down the stone at that). 

    You can use wet/dry sand paper on a flat glass surface... but it will eventually cost you more in the long run. For short term till the $25 ones are back in stock it would be ok. 

    There is another option that people don't think of which is to send your knife (or knives) out to get sharpened every few months.. costs more and maybe more time.. but you don't have to do the work.
     
  10. goodell

    goodell

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    So let's say I decided two stones is the way to go, should I go with a coarser starter and finer finisher?  Maybe an 800 and 5-6k?

    I probably will try out the sharpening add on for $15, might as well.  I get the feeling anything is going to be a step up from my chinese unbranded knife that's never been sharpened and came in a gift set from an employer :p

    The sandpaper sounds like a good solution for now.  Hopefully if I get the extra sharpening the $25 blocks will be back in stock by the time I need to sharpen it.

    As far as sending them out, one of the big reasons I started cooking was to outsource less of my daily tasks to other people.  In the process I save some $, and retain control over my stuff (and body as far as food goes).  Since I'm kind of a control freak, it works out well.  I don't mind putting in some time to learn to use stones, I just originally pictured it as a very long tedious process, which it seems it really isn't after the learning curve.

    Plus, if some crazy apocalypse happens, I get the feeling knife sharpening will be a good skill to have :D
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2012
  11. goodell

    goodell

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    Random note, I'm a mechanical engineer by trade, so if anyone's got any technical specs they want to add in on some of this stuff do it to it.  I like hearing all the technical details, processes, and materials and whatnot, even though I don't think I'm gonna be too picky for this first knife.  The stones seem to be the more important decision, since I'll probably use them on my future knives for the foreseeable future.  Depending on how this first one goes, it looks like those could end up being pretty pricey (lawd, last thing I need is another obsessive hobby).
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2012
  12. rdm magic

    rdm magic

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    The 5 piece set from CKtG is always recommended here. 135$ I think. Would be better than an 800 and a 6k, 800 is more for fixing chips and reprofiling than anything IMO
     
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  13. dreamwrx

    dreamwrx

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    I'm an ME too.. I noticed you said First knife... then you said future knives.. and you mentioned last thing you need is another obsessive hobby... If your last statement is true.. get out while you still can.. it will only get worse../img/vbsmilies/smilies/crazy.gif

    I started with a Kikuichi TKC, then two Artifex (gave them away as gifts), then Richmond Laser, tried a few Fujiwara FKM parings... Just got a Konosuke HH Ebony, then a Sakai Yusuke White #2, Richmond Laser Suji.. IT ONLY STARTS HERE...

    I started off with cheap Masahiro stones from amazon... they work but I'm not sure how well they work compared to others but I just ordered a three set of Gesshin stones.. and they are costly..IT DOESN'T END...
    In all honesty if you forsee many future knives and you are a control freak as you say you are then I agree with RDM that the CKTG 5 piece set will be what you want. Its a higher initial cost that will keep with you for a long time. 
     
  14. goodell

    goodell

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    Hey rdm, thanks for joining in to help me out!

    I looked into that set after seeing it referenced quite a few times in this site.  I may end up getting it, but that's a lot of $ to spend on stones that will probably only be used on one knife for the next year or two.  Adding in a leveling block, knife, and rod, that's all gonna run me quite a bit over $200 (What I was hoping to spend). 

    Since I'm not obsessed with getting a super razor sharp edge (yet), I'm thinking maybe just sticking with the 1200 on its own will be the way to go.  If I ding the knife a couple times I may pick up the 500 from the set separately when I need it.  Like I said above, I'm really just looking for something to cut onions or carrots without putting my whole bodyweight on it for now.

    I appreciate the recommendation though, and I'll steer clear of an 800/6k combo for now as advised.  
     
  15. goodell

    goodell

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    So it looks like my setup is going to be:

    Stone:  Bester 1200x - $50

    Knife:  Artifex 210mm Gyuto - $70

    Flattening Plate:  140 Grit Diamond Stone Flattening Plate - $25

    Rod:  Idahone Ceramic Sharpening Rod 12" - $30 + $7 for leather sleeve

    Total:  ~$200 with shipping/tax

    Any further comments or recommendations?  I'm going on a two week trip on Saturday, so I'll be ordering soon after returning (probably after the first paycheck /img/vbsmilies/smilies/tongue.gif)
     
  16. luis j

    luis j

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    Hi goodell...

    Nice to see that you already made a choice... As for some of your questions:

    Bester 1200 as the "only one stone" is ok for beginning, it gives a "thooty" edge but it cuts fine, the sharpness is not going to last that long as if it were polished by a second higher grit stone but it will be fine, in my professional kitchen I have some knives sharpened to 1200 only for some tasks where the "thooty" feeling is appreciated, and anyway, a 1200 properly sharpened knife is more than the average sharpness of non professional and not "uber-sharp-knife-junkies" like some of us.

    For flattening the stone...I have no experience with the stone that you're getting, at first I was flattening with sandpaper and I was using one sheet per flattening session, wich translates in a few cents every week, after that by the advice of BDL I started using "drywall screen" and it worked great, now I have a flatening stone, but that's because I do my share of sharpening often and several knives, if it were for my home use only, I could have stayed with the drywall screen for the rest of my life, the box was less than 20 bucks and I think that it can last for a lifetime.

    If you can push for getting a polishing stone at first stretching your budget, instead of getting the flattening stone, it will be a good idea.

    On getting the Artifex, I recommend you to get the extra sharpening by Mark, for two reasons... One: You can see the full potential of the knife (on the process you'll get spoiled /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif  ) and second... The edge is going to last much longer and if you hone it propperly with your Idahone rod...We're talking about a good deal of onions, tomatoes and herbs diced cutted and chopped before you need to get  the knife sharpened, take a read to BDL post on using the honing rod http://www.cookfoodgood.com/?p=551

    The most important thing is that you already took a first step on this hobby, don't be afraid of experimenting, get what you can and in the future you will be adding more toys to your collection and you'll be getting more experienced.

    Congrats and let us know your impressions once you get your stuff.

    Luis.

    P.S. Try to get a "wood" cutting board, that is going to help you to protect your knife and the edge is going to last much longer.
     
  17. goodell

    goodell

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    Oops, somehow missed your post up there dreamwrx.

    Well, I think I'm going to re-assess after the vacation, and see what I'm thinking then.  After you and Luis' replies I'm now leaning toward the stone set and leaving out the flattening stone.

    And it looks like the sharpening is actually $30, not $15.  May rethink that one too...

    Thanks for the help guys!  I'll keep the thread updated as to when I decide/buy.

    edit:  And as for the cutting board, I already have a large wood one (relatively cheap though), and a regular sized bamboo one.  My sink is somewhat small, so they're a huge pain to clean, I usually only use the big one for pasta.  I recently got some semi-flexible plastic mats that I've been using, so I'll probably continue to use those and see how it goes.  If it's too tough on the knife maybe I'll switch it up.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2012
  18. missmeg702

    missmeg702

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    From one home cook to another, I've had my (ie: my husband's) JA Henckel's classic set of knives for something like 12 years. It's not Japanese or particularly hip or trendy, but this knife (even when dulled) has always done amazing for me. I don't sharpen myself, but every few years I take them down to a local place and they sharpen all of my knives for a couple dollars a piece. My hubby just uses the tool to straighten the knife (he says teeth) every so often. I also use a really good wood cutting board, a must if you want your knives to last and then baby them. You've gotten a lot of great, more informed responses - just thought I'd share my experience since I basically do the kind of cooking and chopping you mentioned in your original post.
     
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  19. dreamwrx

    dreamwrx

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    I don't see the sharpening option for the 210mm Artifex anymore (you should call/email Mark to find out if it's still possible). But if you look for the 240mm one its only $17. $30 options are the Saya (sheath).  Wood is good.. Bamboo is a bit more tough on blades as requires more glue to hold it together. Only thing to worry about is if you cut at and angle into the board but pull up straight you will ruin your edge. 

    If you are going into this "hobby" a good stone set is worth the initial investment.
     
  20. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    Goodell,

    While everyone has given you some good advice about various knife choices, I think you are jumping the gun a bit. You've mentioned that the knife you currently use is dull and that you put all your body weight into chopping carrots, etc. This is extremely dangerous. Your first step is to get your current knife sharp. Take it to a professional sharpener or do it yourself but you should not be spending any money yet. You can learn good knife handling skills with the knife you have if it is sharp. The extreme pressure you are now using to make the knife perform is what causes dull knives to cause more accidents than sharp ones. When the dull knife slips, all that pressure forces the knife to go sideways with great force, typically into your hand. A sharp knife bites into the food, slices through more easily using less pressure, is less tiring, and much safer.

    Second, even as a home cook, take the time to learn good knife handling skils and some basic vegetable cuts. Holding the sharp knife properly while using your other hand to hold the food correctly is a basic but very important step. Good knife use may look like no big deal when you see someone do it correctly but it is in fact a series of important small steps done all at the same time. These take time and practice to master but are worth the effort. In-person demos, videos or books are all worth using to help you understand how this is done.

    Third, Slow down and enjoy the learning process. The best knife for you to buy is the one you will enjoy using all the time. It may or may not cost alot of money. You can only know what it will be after developing your knife skills a bit first. Good knife handling in all it's aspects is a surprisingly involved activity.  Work slowly to develop good knife skills. These will pay off far more than any amount of money you may spend to buy the knife itself.
     
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