Intro into higher quality Kitchen knives

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Me and the better half are looking at getting a little more into cooking at home and want to upgrade our current knife set. Have been looking around locally and finding the normal name brands Henckels, Wusthof, Global, Mac, etc. From all the reading I have been doing I know the Fujiwara FKM/Tojiro DP are all supposed to be great knives but I have a hard time pulling the trigger since we cannot handel them. Out of all the ones that we could handle she liked the Wusthof Culinar and Shum Premier the best (how it felt in hand) but have been hearing more negative reviews on shuns vs good. Mainly the blade profile/chipping. I didn't mind the Mac Pro and based on the reviews I read the Tojiro DP is pretty close to this minus the price tag. Just curious if anyone has other advice or suggestions on what to look into / type of knives to get us started.

Chef Skills: Not a chef, home cook looking at upgrading current department store block set - pinch grip

Types of Food: Preping veggies/potatoes/yams/chicken,etc

Knife Style / Steel:  Gyoto/Utility/Paring - Stainless 

Performance: Decently sharp - doesn't need to be the sharpest out there. Small/Medium hands, used to german knives but want to move into something on the lighter side. ambidextrous

Sharpening Skills: Have some experience with my spyderco sharpmaker on my EDC/Camping knives but none on japenease blades.

Would purchase a ceramin rod for honing and may send out once a year depending how I do with the sharpmaker.

F&F, Looks: Prefer a decent F&F but would like a good preformer vs looks

Price Range: Hoping to spend around 300 or so on a chef/utility/pearing combo with a ceramic rod. Maybe throw in another knife or cutting board,etc if any left over.

Appreciate all your help!
 
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This horrid site word processor just deleted a relatively long message on me.  I have to give up and just say that if your wife likes the German profile, and the feel of them, then get the Shun, as you won't duplicate it in any real Japanese knives, and I have heard from knowledgeable folk that the HT is not so bad anymore.  Avoid their sharpening service, and get a course stone for thinning.

Also, there are some Japanese knives that have a continuos, though very gentle, belly curve, like the Takamura Migaki.

And even though I have given up actively bashing Shun, I do have to post this link to a Comment Millions made:

http://www.cheftalk.com/t/67535/are-shun-knives-really-worth-the-price/90#post_522812

Rick
 
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Hehe I do like the shun blue steel series, but hate all their vg10. I thinned, etched, sharpened, a shun premier last week. Honestly not worth the time and effort. At the end of the day, it is still just a polished turd. Usable but never great.
 
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It sounds to me like Shun fits the described needs and desires. The only disappointment you may have is that when they are sharp, they are very sharp. My situation is similar and I've been quite satisfied. I also ha used the sharpening service Shun recommended during had time they abandon their service. Never a problem and I've had no need for thinning in a typical home kitchen application. If you want to try a nearly identical performer at lower price, Williams Sonoma now has the Claasic 8-inch chef at $99. In terms of looks they are diff but both perform identically.
 
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Hehe I do like the shun blue steel series, but hate all their vg10. I thinned, etched, sharpened, a shun premier last week. Honestly not worth the time and effort. At the end of the day, it is still just a polished turd. Usable but never great.
Through your experience is there any you could suggest that would feel similar or more suited for her style of cutting?

Really appreciate the responces. 
 
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To start, the Takamura is vastly superior in every respect.  It is a very thin knife though and is best not used on things like squash.  Though some folks do that and get away with it, often times that will mean chips, big ones.  And definitely no cutting around bones or through frozen stuff.  But you already have "beater" knives for that.  I knife like that also wants a decent wood board, ie, no bamboo, teak or acacia, but rather maple, cherry, walnut, mahogany, oak.  End grain is best, but edge grain works also.  That or a high-end synthetic like the HighSoft. These would be best for VG-10 also.

In the sharpening category, big drawback to VG-10 is that it is one of the most difficult steels to sharpen well, forms a tenacious burr that is time consuming to remove and also difficult to deal with for beginners.  Your sharpmaker may actually work pretty well here if you alternate sides with each stroke.

Wusthof steel is just ordinary German stainless, very mediocre stuff, but Wusthof is a little better than the the other Germans as they harden it a little more.  So it takes a bit of a sharper edge than its other luntsmans and holds it a little better, still pretty unexceptional stuff though, but like other ordinary stainless it is relatively tough. The Ikon series is nicely made and relatively thin for a German.

Rick
 
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Dan, the $99 price on Shun Classic 8-inch chef is in the Catalogue and Amazon too.
 
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You can sharpen the Takamura to any angle you want, within reason.  Though adding a microbevel will greatly enhance edge holding and help against microchipping with only a small sacrifice in performance.  One pass on each side at your 20deg setting.  It sharpens much easier than ZDP-189, go with minimal pressure.

I believe you would be more than thrilled with what your 15 setting will give you with this knife, even with a pass at 20deg added.  It's a very fine-grained steel with a very good HT, on top of being very thin at the edge.

If you go the Takamura route, or any knife similar to it, try it at 15 but I would have you consider maybe going then to sharpening at 20 to begin regular use with as a personal safety precaution.

Rick
 
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Brian - The deal that the local supplier has is on the Premier vs the Classic - not sure what the main difference is besides handle. 

Rick - that sounds great thank you. Did some more reading on wetstones and looks like a King 1000/6000 is the way to go to get my feet wet. Add a binder clip to help with muscle memory if needed. I just wish someone locally had these Japanese knives for us to hold and try.
 
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One look and you'll see that the blades are different but with the same core and performance, in my experience. Handles are different for sure. Classic blade is the "faux Damascas" and Premiere is similar but shinier and hammered. If appearance means anything then let me say that the Premier gets more of a "wow" reaction than the Classic.

The $99 deal is also at Sur la table, if you are interested.
 
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I don't know where you are located, but I agree with the sentiment of wanting to see and touch before committing. Where I live I am blessed to be able to see a lot of them.
 
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I personally think "feel" is greatly overrated for the home cook, something more important to the pro who has to put in many hours daily with knives.  I count profile, edge properties and lightness high above more ethereal considerations of feel.  Now gloves, which I was picking out the other day, well that's something else.  

Rick
 
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Where I am located there are only two main stores in the city that carry the following brands:

Global

KAI

Kasumi

Miyabi

SHUN

Victorinox

MAC

Wusthof

Zwilling J.A. Henckel

Thats basically all I can see/feel in person. 

I see your point Rick since the amount of time spent with the knife for an in home cook vs professional chef is vastly different. Our thoughts are the better it feels in hand the more likely she/we will enjoy it = more often 
 
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Rick has a good point, of course, but there also is a concern many have (me included to the point of calling it an aversion some times) of making sizable commitment to something sight unseen. Mail order brides come to mind first, followed by chef knives. :)
 
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... And, DanHam, I totally relate with your comment that the better it feels in your hand will affect your enjoyment. It does for me.
 
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Its a tough call and after talking to my aunt and cousin who are both Chefs they have their own opinions as well. One loves Globals and the other Heckels. I guess it boils back down to whatever works best for you and the only real way to find it is to buy it and use it for some time. I can see a knife collection in the near future LOL

To me it sounds like we both have styles that would suite a german or shun blade profile (Or as Rick mentioned something like the Takamura). 

If it was down to the Wusthof or Shun - how would you compare those two? Edge Retention/Sharpenss/Easy of Maintenance/Amount of abuse.

From what I'm reading it sounds like the Shun will be able to hold a better edge but possibility of chipping and will need to be cared for a little more then the Wusthof. The finish looks really good but I could see this changing as it gets used.

The Wusthof is a softer steel but assuming its a 20* angle so may need some attention slightly quicker then the shun. A little heaftier and it wouldn't be the end of the world if for whatever reason she forgets to wash or dry it right away. 

Over thinking it??? LOL
 
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I would take shun over wusthof. My problem with shun is that they are fat. I can get over annoying vg10 sharpening. I just dont care for the cutting performance at all.
 
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Yes, overthinking. :). You need both, of course. The chipping thing has not been my experience over the past 6 years of Shun usage. Except for the time I dropped on onto ceramic tile. For heavy work I use Henckels or another heavier knife instead of Shun to ensure the blade edge isn't torqued.
 
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