High quality knife set for a home cook?

Joined Jul 2, 2010
Hello folks,

I've enjoyed reading your boards and have narrowed down my knife set selections based on other threads.  I'd like to get a bit of feedback before making a final decision on a set, so please help.  Here's my situation:  I'm a home cook, not a "chef".  I like fine quality stuff and have a MAC chef knife which I love. I have used Shun's before but found them too light for my taste - I prefer something a bit heavier.  I have an old Cutco knife and know that's not for me - not high enough quality.  I have been disappointed in my Shun steak knives as I do not feel they sharpen or hold an edge well.  Here are my criteria:

1) Ability to get sharp and maintain a good edge with minimal maintenance.  I have an Idahone rod kit which works great for my MAC, and that's what I'll use on the set.

2) Good looks - sue me, I'm vain and want a nice show piece if I'm investing money.

3) A full set - I've considered just piecing together a set, but again, would prefer something cohesive and good looking.  I know some of you will disagree with this (2 & 3) methodology, so please no flames.  I'm just a home cook who likes good stuff.  Apologies if I offended your sensibilities.

4) I'd like something with non-serrated steak knives - I prefer the straight edge. 

Currently evaluating:

1) Forschner Forged Professional (seem to get good reviews, good price)

2) Wusthof Ikon (gorgeous, good name)

3) Messermeister Meridian Elite (hit most criteria?)

4) MAC - by pieces (bummer on not having a "set" but I love my chef)

5) F Dick Premier Plus (would need to buy a block and separate steak knife set)

Any thoughts or suggestions are welcome.  By quality, in what order would you put these sets?  Or is there something else you would recommend?  I'm open to other Japanese knives provided they're heftier than the Shuns - more like a German knife.  Also, I would not want anything that is not sharpened evenly on both sides - that's a bit advanced for me.

Thank you in advance!!!

Joined Feb 13, 2008
As a preliminary: 

While an Idahone "V" stick set is an excellent two stage "steel," it won't do that much in terms of sharpening your knives -- and won't take the MAC anywhere near where it should be.  Sharpening is something you should re-think.

If you're going to stay with the Idahone as your only sharpening solution, don't bother buying more MACs. 


You seem to have read all of the many good reasons why it would profit you to purchase your remaining knives individually rather than as a set.  If you want to be argued back to your senses, there are plenty of other people to do it.

As you approach your final choice try to exercise as much discrimination as possible in terms of choosing types and sizes which will best suit your cooking.  More knives are not necessarily better if they aren't the knives you want.

I wouldn't spend a cent on a santoku, an 8" slicer, a serrated sandwich or tomato knife, etc., but you may think they're stepping stones on the path to happiness.  Since you'll be the one living with the knives, let's go with the idea that whatever you want you should have.

High End German Knives vs One Mid-High Japanese Series: 

With the exception of MAC, your choices fall in mid to very high end Germany categories categories.  In truth, they have more in common than defferent.  They are typified by perfect fit and finish, excellent handles, excellent corrosion resistance, and mediocre (at best) edge taking and holding characteristics.  Don't let my "rankings" distract you from their similarities.

MAC Pros are great all around knives with excellent edge taking characteristics, nicely but not as beautifully made and finished, good corrosion resistance, etc.

There are several other Japanese lines with more or less traditional western styles and handles, like the MACs.

Misono Moly are nice, and have a pretty good selection of shapes too.  That is, you could easily fill out a block with matching handles.

Masahiro makes a new line which is very nice indeed, but probably more than you want to spend.  FWIW, you can get a block set.

Miyabi Masamoto Fusion 600 --  Also expensive, actually made by Henckels in Japan, and supported by Henckels worldwide.  A very good thing.  VG-10, but Henckels calls it something else.  Excellent knives, but very hard to track down. 

There are other Japanese makers -- some of whose names begin with a letter other than "m" -- which may have enough selections in a given stainless line to fill out a block.  Unfortunately, the data bank in the block of wood I call my brain isn't organized that way.  Maybe more will come to mind as and if we continue the discussion.

Ranking Your Choices:
  1. MAC Pro -- Not only are these not sold as a set, but some profiles are simply not available in the Pro line and will force you to drop down to Superior and exercise some selection.  For what it's worth, the 10.5" Superior bread knife is incredibly good.
  2. Misono Moly -- These are at the high-end of Japanese entry level, one step below MAC Pro.  Much better than any of the Germans.  Misonos like MACs have particluarly good handles as Japanese "yo" knives go; as good or better than your European choices.  Good F&F for the class, but not as good as those made in Germany.  Much better alloy -- it used to be VG-1, but since Takefu discontinued it, thery're probably made with VG-2.  Hardened to around 57-58RCH.
  3. Masahiro -- VG-10.  Nicely made.  Expensive.
  4. Miyabi Masamoto Fusion -- Great stuff, but currently vaporware.
  5. Messermeister -- Profiles have a slight French influence compared to the other German makers', a good thing in my book.  X55CrMoV15 is a little bit better alloy than you'll find in the other knives, and made slightly harder.  In my opinion, the benefits are more theoretical than actual. 
  6. Forschner Forged Pro -- Very well made.  Although Forschner (aka Victorinox) is a Swiss company, the forged knives are actually made in Germany.  Traditional German styling.  Same alloy as the Wusthof.  If you like regular German knives like Wusthof and Henckels, Forschners are every bit as good but less money -- a definite value leader.  I'd choose them over the Wusthofs for their price.  But if you really like the Ikon handling and styling...
  7. Wusthof Ikon -- Impeccably finished.  Prestige name.  Indifferent performers.  X50CrMoV15.
  8. F. Dick -- Dick makes some very good knives.  This particular line is not their best.  Made from X45CrMoV15, which by definition, is not "high carbon."  Edges will roll up even more easily than the other Germans and will require extra steeling to stay sharp.  Otherwise, another good German.
Bottom Line:

If you're going to buy a set from one of the European makers, let styling and price be your guide.  There's not enough performance difference to choose between them.  I only ranked them because you asked.

All knives dull, and one dull knife is pretty much the same as another.  Dull.

If you don't care enough about sharpness to make and keep knives sharp beyond the Idahone's level -- don't bother with the Japanese knives.  It's not that you wouldn't be worthy of the knives or anything like that, just that they're a lot of money and their only advantage relative to the Germans is sharpness.

Hope this helps,

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Joined Aug 3, 2010

I empathize with your desire to own a "set" of knives--as opposed to a piecemeal collection--though most likely for different reasons.  That weird sense of order and uniformity, for some reason, just helps me sleep better at night.  (I can't stand buying books in a series from different printings either.)  Even buying one knife at a time, from the same company, same series, and filling a block doesn't offer quite the same catharsis.  I'm weird.  Please don't laugh.

Of course, I forgot about that instinct once I started viewing knives as a serious hobby and ordering wacky beveled Japanese goodies off the internet, but I don't think anyone could fault or flame you for not doing the same. 

All that logorrhoea aside: finding block sets of Japanese made knives is fairly difficult, and the ones you do find tend to be expensive.  Since you prefer heavier knives anyways, it's a pretty safe bet that you can rule them out.   That leaves the German knives you listed (or the Swiss knives made in Germany!) and, as BDL said, your only real concern then are aesthetics and price.  If those were my only options, I'd spring for the Ikons, but I'm a sucker for a thick, cleaver-esque spine that makes me feel all powerful inside. 

(But seriously, they're sexy, if not a little soft in the middle!)
Joined Jul 2, 2010
Thanks to both of you guys for the varying view points.  While reading your responses the conclusion I've come to is that I really should go to a fine cutlery store and actually get a feel for all of these knives before making a decision. 

BDL, do you by any chance know how the metal in the Henckels Pro S line compares with that in the Wusthof Ikons?  I've used the Pro S line before and was not impressed with its ability to hold an edge.  If it's the same composition as the Ikons I may want to go with something that holds an edge better.  Oh, and I didn't mean I didn't plan to sharpen my MAC... just that I'd have a pro do it - I will hone it myself, but don't feel the need to learn to sharpen.

Joined Jun 22, 2010

I was just in SLT and the one near me was carrying a full line of Miyabis ("7000 Pro", I think - not positive on that).  This is the first time I'd seen them there.  I held one, chopped some celery. :)  It was surprisingly stout compared to the Shun's.  A real hybrid knife.  Japanese made, great steel but about the same heft as Ikons, I would say.  Worth checking out if they're selling them at all locations now.
Joined Aug 3, 2010

Those wily Germans are fairly secretive about their exact steel specifications, but it seems that both the Ikons and the Henckel Pro S line use X50CrMoV15 (or variations with only extremely subtle and irrelevant distinctions).  Our kitchen is conveniently stocked with a number of Wusthofs and Henckels, and while they do their job fine, they gotta run through the electric grinder pretty often.  Much more often than they should.  As you saw firsthand with the Henckels, the steel has terrible edge retention, which the manufacturers attempt to offset by sharpening to stupidly obtuse and durable angles (so even when it's sharp it's not *actually* sharp).

If you decide on a Messer or a Henckel or a Wusthof, at least pick up a Chef's Choice electric sharpening system.  See, one of two things happens when you use a "Pro" service to sharpen:  if the service is bad, they'll put your knife through a similar (if not worse!) sharpening system; if it's good, they'll laugh at you for sending them a Wusthof, but still sharpen it well and you'll enjoy the edge for roughly 20-30 seconds of prep-work.  With a Chef's Choice, you could at least keep them "sharp" on the cheap.  The dark side of this suggestion is that within a year or two, depending on use, your Chef's will be a slicer and your slicer will be a toothpick. 

Edit - Regarding the Miyabis that BDL mentioned and Sockpuppet reiterated:  these may be the "perfect" knives for you: Henckels product but good steel, heavy, Japanese influence.  As BDL said, they can be difficult to find though.
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Joined Feb 13, 2008
All better Wusthofs and maybe even all Wusthofs are X50CrMoV15.  Henckels uses several different alloys depending on which line -- Zwillings (aka Twins), International and Miyabi. 

The Pro S line are the heart of Zwillings.  I used them in the late seventies as my go tos, until I rediscovered my Sabs and began to appreciate how much better....  [Slap!

Sorry.  Back to Zwillings Pro S.  They're made with a proprietary alloy, also from Krup, which a lot like X50CrMoV but not quite the same.  In addition, Wusthof and Henckels harden their alloys differently -- Henckels uses their famous Friodur method -- which further distinguishes them to the point where practical differences approach miniscule.  Nearly.

A styling cue of the Ikon line is the cut-down bolster.  The lack of a finger guard makes them easier to sharpen around the heel for newish sharpeners using bench stones.  But since that's not at play here, who cares?

While the Miyabi Morimoto Fusion 600D series and Miyabi 7000D are both full-tang (which means they're both "heftier" than a Shun classic), western profiled knives, faux Damascus cladded, but are otherwise about as different as different hagane can make knives.  The Morimotos are actually made with VG-10 hagane, and the 7000 with SG-2 189  hagane.   Note that the hagane choices are (coincidentally, no doubt) the same as Shun's.

The 7000 Ds will give slightly better edge characteristics to a good sharpener, but are substantially more expensive.  I haven't tried the Morimotos, and they aren't a type of knife I like.  But from everything I hear, they're very good for the type and a relatively good deal -- at least compared to Shun.  Here's a review from a trustworthy source

The Morimoto Fusion are available only through Sur La Table.  It bears mention that SLT sells both lines as sets.  

About sharpening services... If you can find one cheap enough, who will turn your knives around quickly enough and do a good job on the MAC, a service is a good thing.  If you're demanding -- and most people aren't nearly as picky about sharpness as they should be -- your knives will need frequent trips -- there's only so much you can do with stop gap methods, like the Idahone.  I'd figure three times a year, minimum, for the most frequently used.

The best sharpening alternative for someone who doesn't want to learn to freehand (don't worry -- no nagging) is an Edge Pro Apex.  I actually like Chef's Choice Machines quite a bit, and you might be a good candidate.  Depending on which block set you choose, you might want [gulp] two.  One for your Japanese kinife (or knives), and one for your Euros.  CC does make a machine which can handle 15* and 20*, the model 1520.  But their model 15 XV does a better job on quality 15* knives.

IMO, the idea of pairing a CC with a block set of Euros is a very good one.  So +1 on that.

Another block set brand we haven't talked about is Global.  They're not quite the darlings they once were, but they're actually pretty good knives if you can live with their odd handles.  I think the advice to "try" knives by taking a trip to the knife store and waving them around is highly overrated and often confusing as certain qualities are easy to overrate, while others aren't noticeable.  But in the case of something as idiosyncratic as the Globals, it's a very good idea.  People love them or hate them.

Hope this helps,

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