Home Cook Chef Knife Guidance

Discussion in 'Cooking Knife Reviews' started by scapino, Jul 5, 2012.

  1. scapino

    scapino

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    Hi all-

    I'm looking for some help finding a knife to buy myself as a celebratory gift. I've been working on my knife skills with a Forschner Fibrox and am looking to step up a couple notches; I'd probably still consider myself a beginner.

    My budget is $150-$225 (somewhat flexible). I think I'd prefer a wa-gyuto, as I am partial to the Japanese-style handles, from messing around with the options in the few brick-and-mortar outlets nearby. I'd prefer a 240mm/~9" knife, or maybe a bit longer. I'm looking for something that is a little heftier than a laser, as I think I'd get paranoid about cutting anything heftier than a tomato with a knife that thin (I tend to baby my toys). Aesthetics and fit/finish are somewhat important for this purchase, as it'll be sitting on a magnetic rack in plain sight. I'm afraid I don't know as much about profiles as I should; I typically rock a bit so some belly would be nice, I think. I'm open to stainless or carbon; I wash/dry my knife after each use, so I don't think I'd have too much trouble with carbon.

    From reading/Googling, I think my ideal knife would be a MAC Pro with a Japanese handle and without the MAC logo on the blade (I really don't like the way the MAC logo looks on the blade). That, to the best of my knowledge, does not exist. 

    I am aware that the knife is only as good as the sharpening job; that's a separate issue I'll probably work on in the near future. I have a Spyderco Sharpmaker that I was using on the Forschner; waterstones are probably on my list as one of my next purchases.

    Does anyone have guidance on specific models I should look at? I've tried poking around on CKTG, Japanese Knife Imports, etc, but I keep getting bogged down in the details, especially when trying to figure out how laser-y a specific knife is.

    Thanks in advance for any help you can offer, and I'm glad to offer any additional information that might help!
     
  2. nicholas beebe

    nicholas beebe

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    If you search around here, knifeforums.com, and foodieforums.com, you should be able to find out which brands and models are considered to be in the laser category. Most people will probably recommend that you get the Mac, and they are good knives. The CarboNext and Kikuichi TKC may be worth considering if you want a thin knife that isn't really a "laser". CarboNexts, to my understanding, are not shipped sharp, so you would have to put in a lot of effort getting the first edge on it.

    The Mac logos are not engraved into the metal, so you should be able to polish it off of the knife if you don't like it, and still have a nice knife.
     
  3. wagstaff

    wagstaff

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    And since you were checking outf JKI... the Gesshin Uraku knives (which are Yoshihiro) are thin but not lasers. Thicker a tad than CarboNext I think (and way prettier if you like wa- hanndles). They're kinda baby bear knives. Compromises between tough and strong, very good but not top in edge taking and edge holding, not chippy.... very well priced. They come sharpened with a major right hand bias. The edge is usable ootb. Slightly harder to sharpen than the CN, but most things are. (It jist so happens they were the first two k ives I sharpened myself. The Yoshihiro/GU seemed difficult at first, but with a tiny bit of practice I realized it's not. Harder as a beginner of you're moving the bevel closer to 50:50. Or lefty. Really nice profile to my tastes. If looking for a non-laser but still thinnish knife, and a wa handle, that's a short-lister.
     
  4. scapino

    scapino

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    Thanks guys, I'll check those out.

    Is there any kind of quick check I can do to determine if a knife is crazy thin? I've been looking at the thickness at the heel, but it seems to vary quite a bit even among knives that I've seen described as lasers. I'm not planning to chop chickens in half with it, but I want to be able to use it within breaking into a sweat over chipping issues.
     
  5. jbroida

    jbroida

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    if you have a chance to see/hold the knives in person, its pretty easy to gauge thickness... but there's more to it than just geometry.  You also want to pay attention to the kind of steel and the heat treatment it went through.  All of these together will give you a much better idea of how a knife will perform.
     
  6. scapino

    scapino

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    The only ones I can see is person are Shuns and Miyabi's; I'm not necessarily opposed to them, but got the impression that they (Shuns especially) are kind of looked down upon by people with better options. I did like the looks of the Miyabi's, though.
     
  7. jbroida

    jbroida

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    its more that they are marketed towards people with little knowledge who want something pretty and flashy looking.  They arent bad knives, but for the same money, you can get much better performing knives (that may or may not look as pretty).  The heat treatment and geometry of knives like those will be geared towards people who dont understand knife skills, basic care, sharpening, etc.  The catch with better knives is that you will need to learn more about them- how to use them, care for them, sharpen them, etc.- to be able to get the most out of them (and to make them a more worthwhile purchase than the shuns or miyabis).  The more expensive of a knife you end up buying the more this will be true (excepting knives that are just expensive because they are targeting people with money who dont care about knives).
     
  8. luis j

    luis j

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    Hi...

    You can get rid of the Mac logo very easily, and you can polish the blade to a mirror finish very easily too and have a great looking and an awesome perfomer in the kitchen. I have one, it was a knife that I got based on the many good reviews and comments from people in this forum and I don't regret the fact that I bought against my particular taste, at first it didn't look so appealing to me in the pics, but once that you get it and that you start cutting with it, you'll like it immediately.

    It fits your budget, and since you were working with a forchner, you'll get used to the profile of the mac, the transition is not going to be a hard one. The difference in the performance is something that you'll notice very quickly and you're going to enjoy it big time.

    You already got good advice from people with more experience than me, and there is a ton of info in this site and some others, so, keep reading and if you have very specific questions don't hesitate on calling directly to japanese knife imports or to chef knives to go, I'm sure that any of those guys will give you the specific answer to your questions.

    Regards and good luck...And for sure you'll have to think about a set of stones or a good sharpening system, otherwise you'll be like the guy that has a nice sports car and can't drive it at more than 60 Miles per hour. A quality knife shines when sharpened properly. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/thumb.gif

    Luis
     
  9. duckfat

    duckfat

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    The last time I looked both the old knife forums and foodie forums were pretty much DOA and almost no one posting there. Foodie forums can go days with out a single follow up in a thread. The only other really active knife forum AFAIK is Kitchenknifeforums which seems to have the most traffic.

    Almost all knives benefit from being sharpened even OOTB so the carbo next is no different than many others in that regard. Certainly a knife worth looking at as is the Sakai in either the laser or standard version from Bluewayjapan on eBay. If you look at the Sakai there is an option with an upgraded handle as well.

    I still like the Kagayaki WA from Koki as well especially at the price point but the Sakai from Blueway is really hard to over look as a great value.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Japanese-Sa...013?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item35b996abbd

    Dave
     
  10. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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     Posted by JBroida  
    That's about as well-put as I've ever seen these two (related) analyses.  Bravo Jon.

    As to the Kagayaki CarboNext and DuckFat's Assessments of Other Forums:

    I was highly critical of the Kagayaki CN because of many user criticisms that it not only shipped very dull, but also shipped dull even if buyers ordered the extra-cost OEM sharpening.  While it's true that many Japanese made knives ship dull, it's a big problem if they ship to people who aren't good enough sharpeners to create their own, adequate edge.  Heck, the edges weren't even good enough to "click in" and improve.  I don't know if the knives still ship dull, or if the extra-cost sharpening still doesn't deliver.  Things might have changed.

    The Knife Forum has been a very strange place for a long time -- even when it was still lively, it was strange.  It's been a ghost town for a long time, and I don't even bother checking in any more.  Fred's -- the knife forum part of Foodie Forums -- has also become very slow.  It's not as weird and taken over as the KF, but if you ask a question there you can't count on it being answered by sane people.  Quite a few people with their own, idiosyncratic hobby horses.  Their "who cares" nature is a big part of why the forum has become so quiet.  I agree with DuckFat about both forums.

    I used to scan the KKF regularly, but almost never posted.  It wasn't a very good site for people looking for their first good knife.  There were a few good people there, but most members' answers tended to be pat, formulaic and given without thought to what might best benefit the user.  Instead it seemed as if the advice-givers wanted ratification of their own choices.  To my mind it's a good idea to remember that a knife which suits you to a "T" might be a poor choice for someone else.  As the KKF is about the only game left in town, maybe it would be a good idea to go back sooner rather than later, lurk, and adjust my opinion to the current circumstances.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch:

    Finally, you may be overstating the relationship between chipping and lasers.  Chipping is more typically the result of inappropriate hardening than pure thinness.  The issues with lasers is more about flex.  The 240 mm Konosuke wa HH (stainless) and 240mm Konosuke wa Shirogami #2 are each rated at 61RCH and priced at $183 (CKtG).  That's $12 less than the Sakai Yusuke sold by BluewayJapan on Ebay.  Bear in mind that these aren't the only knives in town; but also consider that the Konosuke HH might come closest to matching your "ideal" as any knife within your price range.  So far, good stainless at good hardness has been rare as hen's teeth in the world of wa.

    BDL
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2012
  11. scapino

    scapino

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    Thanks all; this is helping me out, although I'm not sure if I'm eliminating options or coming up with new ones!

    A few questions/clarifications spawned by your comments:

    1. Are fit/finish going to be a problem for me with the non-mainstream knives? I realize it's not a big deal in the long run, but I know I'll be disappointed if I open the box and there's a glob of epoxy in the handle or something isn't lined up right. I would also like something to be at least fairly sharp out of the box, so I can at least have something to compare it to when I'm trying to get the edge back or get my Forschner at a comparable edge.

    2. Regarding lasers being chippy or fragile, if I'm being paranoid, that's fine. As long as I can do most kitchen tasks without worrying about it (excepting frozen food, bones, pineapples, etc) I should be fine.

    3. Am I going to need waterstones right away, or can I muddle through with the Sharpmaker for a bit (or at least the original sharpening, if it needs one out of the box)?

    4. That HH Konosuke looks very nice and does seem to best fit my criteria; it is probably top of my list right now (probably with the ebony handle at CKTG). I was also considering the Richmond Addict and the Moritaka Gyuto 240mm, if I went carbon.

    5. As someone with admittedly little knowledge, and who admittedly wants something pretty, should I just shut up and get a Miyabi/Shun? 

    Thanks again. I realize I'm all over the place here, and appreciate you all taking the time.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2012
  12. wagstaff

    wagstaff

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    I think you should call Jon, personally.  My experience is that he knows and is enthusiastic to share tons of knowledge, and he'll guide your questions and your purchase toward what's best for you, even if it's not something he sells.

    Sorry if it sounds like I'm shilling for him -- but I think he may help you decide whether you want a laser or help a lot in terms of describe the actual thinness of various knives, and he knows a bunch about the steels and treatments and grinds.

    Now if you're thinking "laser after all" (and perhaps you should be) then things open up; and yeah, the Konosuke line is attractively priced these days.  My mention of the Gesshin Uraku was based on the request for "not" a laser, but not a particularly hefty knife, and a wa- handle, and a good price.  At least, that's basically what I was looking into when I bought one -- which is not to say I'm not falling into the trap of "self-validating".  Hopefully I'm not; and you may or may not like the profile, which was marginally flatter than I thought I wanted but it turns out I'm sort of in love.  Of course most of the gyutos sold by JKI go up in price kind of precipitously from there. It's mostly a "high end" shop.  But you won't getter better guidance from another retailer.
     
  13. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    The "non-mainstream" knives on your list so far have very good F&F -- but they're not in the same league as a Henckels, Wusthof, Global or Shun.  That sort of quality comes from a mix of huge production runs and very high QC.  The specialty market knives we're talking about are more handmade; it shows with some of them, while some of the others are practically works of art.  In short, "it depends."
    As long as you stay away from things as obviously stupid as splitting chickens, you should be fine.  The real knock against lasers -- such as it is -- is their flex.  Just like a panel saw cutting wood, they'll jam in the cut if you twist, bend or pronate the blade.  That's usually a consequence of combining hurry with an overly tight grip (also just like a saw).  Consequently a laser isn't a great choice for a newbie in a pro kitchen, where the pressure to go faster than his skills is intense.

    Pro or home cook, learning to keep the knife square to the cut and cut in a straight line is one of the most basic and important knife skills.  A good, unstressed grip helps as does a sharp edge; but the real key is taking the time to feel and see what you're doing.  Home cooks aren't under the same pressure, and if the blade starts to stick they can relax their grip and square the knife into the cut. 

    Hail to the home cook!
    The Spyderco Sharpmaker is not a good option for most of the knives we're talking about.  It's too slow (not only tedious but makes for uneven bevels), the contact patch is too narrow (also makes for uneven bevels), it's too short for good angle holding, and it doesn't polish fine enough.  The plus side isn't large.  A Sharpmaker won't do as much harm as a carbide sharpener.  

    It's a good idea to start by isolating and controlling the variables.  Let's figure out one end -- whether it's knife or sharpening kit -- before dealing with all of the possible permutations.
    All good.  And there are more.  The suggestion to talk to Jon was good; his store, JKI has a completely different selection than CKtG.  Speaking of CKtG, talk to Mark too.  The best part of the job for each of them is helping customers find that "just right" knife.

    Carbon doesn't require a lot of extra care, but what care it requires it requires RIGHT NOW!  If you're the sort of very organized person who takes care of his tools immediately, no problem.  Otherwise, stainless or semi-stainless will probably suit you better.  Carbon brings some bang for the buck, but it isn't the huge advantage it once was.  It's not the best choice for most people and while I'm not warning against carbon knives, do think about waiting until you've lived with a good knife for awhile and had a chance to develop a comfortable ritual. 

    I can't believe I'm saying that, I was a carbon-only guy for so many years.  But times change.
    No.

    BDL
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2012
  14. scapino

    scapino

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    Thanks guys; I'll get in touch with Mark/Jon and hopefully pull the trigger on something later this week; then I can get started on sharpening equipment.
     
  15. scapino

    scapino

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    Mark confirmed that the Konosuke HH sounds like a good fit for me, so I think I'll go ahead and place that order.

    Moving on to accessories:

    I currently just have a crappy steel that came in a block set. I was going to get the 12" Idahone ceramic rod at CKTG, unless someone tells me that's a mistake. I've read that maybe strops are better than steels for this type of knife; I do have a strop (one of these with webbing: http://www.straightrazordesigns.com...igns-3-black-latigo-strop-with-leather-handle), but I have no idea if a straight razor strop would work for a kitchen knife.

    For sharpening, I was thinking of going with either the 5-piece stone set (http://www.chefknivestogo.com/3pcstoneset.html) or some kind of EdgePro system, although I am somewhat flummoxed by the EdgePro grit numbers and don't really follow what the equivalent of that waterstone set would be. I like the idea of the EdgePro, as I am nervous about being able to free-hand a steady angle. My nightmare scenario is putting a dozen hours into trying to freehand, failing completely, and either having a wasted knife on my block or having to send it away for sharpening.  I don't mind putting the time into it, but I really don't want to just hit a wall and not be able to pull it off (mildly related: this is why I have the strop. I put two months into trying to shave with a straight razor, just couldn't pull off a shave even as good as a Mach3, and the wife eventually put a stop to that experiment. While she is less possessive of my knife's edge than she is of my face, the whole experience put a bad taste in my mouth.) 

    I feel like the Edgepro would at least let me keep my knife pretty good, even if I can't quite master it.

    Any advice on, uh, all that?

    Thanks again.
     
  16. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    The Idahone "fine" (which CKtG calls the "1200") is an excellent hone.  You probably won't use it too much on your laser(s). Those you can strop true, but not on a belt.  You need a clean, and fairly hard surface, lots of things will work. By the way, "stropping" is an edge-trailing motion which can be done on a variety of surfaces.

    When I true my laser Konosukes I most often just "touch up" on a high grit stone.  But sometimes I use either a charged balsa strop (0.25u diamond) or a clean manilla folder laid on my cutting board.  Truing is always just a couple of quick, light strokes, alternating sides on every stroke.  

    Any edge which is out of true is a burr.  When you straighten the burr by pushing it form one side to the other, you're "chasing the burr" and weakening it at the crease.  Weaken it too much and you run the risk of the the burr breaking off in small pieces.     

    The three stone set from CKtG is a great starter kit, good enough to last for years, and excellent for the price. 

    What I call "the burr method" of sharpening is easy to understand with a little explanation.  Once you've got that, a trick or two, and a few tears, with some time and effort you'll outsmart the wily bench stone.   

    An EdgePro is an excellent sharpening gag and will make learning to sharpen easier.  Don't begin to try to figure out Japanese water stone equivalent grits to EP's stated numbers.  For one thing JIS numbers are hardly certain, and for another EP is in its own world.  Just think in terms of coarse, medium/coarse, medium/fine and fine/polish -- and you'll be okay.  Better still buy CKtG's EP Chosera kit.

    FWIW, I have a four stone, water stone, bench stone kit, which includes the Bester and Beston from CKtG's three-stone kit as well as a Chosera 3K (too expensive for what it is) and a Gesshin 8K (ridiculously expensive, but ridiculously worth it); and the EP Chosera.  I also have two other complete sharpening kits, but let's not go there.

    An EP is a little easier to learn than freehanding and will net you better results faster.  Bench stones are more versatile. After everything's said and done, they cost about the same.

    BDL
     
  17. duckfat

    duckfat

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    You do not need a hone for the knife you have chosen. I'd suggest skipping that 5 piece stone kit you linked to as well. The last thing you need to start with this knife is a 500 grit stone.  Either pick up a 1k/3-4K combination stone or a 1k and 3-5 stone. You just don't need more than two stones or a single combo stone to start. If you are going to go down the path of stropping don't buy those supplies from a knife vendor as they can have a 500% mark up on their diamond sprays. Balsa wood can be bought at any hobby shop. I've posted links here in the past to buy the diamond sprays direct so you can search for that here if you want the link.

    As far as the CN edge goes I'd suggest any one interested in that knife search the forum at KKF. Many owners of that knife there and I think Ive only seen one edge complaint. Either way if this is a catalyst the Artifex should never be suggested. Having said that no one wants a lousy edge or wants to pay extra and not receive any value so I agree with BDL on skipping the extra sharpening service.

    Congrats on the new knife and you should be happy as long as you don't have overly high expectations on FF. I've seen several complaints about the glue on the Konosuke but IMO they are a bit over blown and you can see that on knives at a much higher price point.

    Dave
     
  18. scapino

    scapino

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    I actually have a couple pasted balsa strops from my straight razor days as well, although it'll take me a bit to track down what they're pasted with (this was a few years ago). If the rod isn't necessary I'll skip it.

    With the EdgePro, is the Apex 1 enough to be a starter set for me (220 grit and 400 grit), or would I be looking at the  Apex 3 and above? The EP Chosera kit is a bit more than I'd like to spend, at least for initial outlay. I wouldn't mind stepping up in a few years. If I can get away with the Apex 1, I'll probably get that. If I would need the Apex 3, it's a toss-up between that and the waterstone kit or a 2-stone set.

    Thanks again.

    EDIT: My balsa is treated with 0.3 micro chromium oxide on one side and 0.1 micron iron oxide on the other.

    EDIT 2: From poking around the EdgePro site, it looks like the 220 is a medium and the 400 is a fine. I wouldn't mind adding one Chosera stone to the Apex 1 kit, if, say, the 3k grit Chosera would make that sufficient equipment.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2012
  19. scapino

    scapino

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    According to the EdgePro site and this image,:

    http://jendeindustries.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/ep-shapton-chosera-micron-comparison4.jpg

    the EP220 is something like a Chosera 400-500, the EP400 is something like an 800, and it goes up from there. So I would need a 3k or 5k equivalent, I suppose.

    So my understanding/theory is: I can make a decent kit from the Apex 1 (EP220 and EP400) with the addition of the Chosera 5k. I then would mostly ignore the EP220 unless I needed to rescue something awful, do my typical sharpening on the EP400, and finish on the Chosera 5k. I can then use the Chosera to "hone" with a stroke or two when needed. 

    Does that sound about right?
     
  20. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Jende is a good source, but don't rely too heavily on their grit comparisons, or anyone else's either.

    Mixing stones of significantly different thickness isn't a great idea with an EP unless you compensate by readjusting using the collet stop and a level.

    I question whether a Chosera 5K is fast enough to polish out the scratch left from an EP 400.  My guess is that it's too big a gap for the 5K to bridge, but it depends on a lot of things and I might be wrong about all of them.  If you went with a Chosera 1K instead of the EP 400, you'd be better off.  And while you don't use really coarse stones too often, you might want to go with a Chosera for the bottom level as well. 

    Worth it to just buy CKtG's EP/Chosera kit?  It was for me, but I'm considerably more into sharpening and sharpening equipment as part of my knife craziness than you'll probably ever be.  Now that you've realized that good sharpening is an inseparable part of good knives sticker shock must be setting in. 

    BDL