Knife-share? Knife-swap?

Joined Jun 30, 2010
While I mostly lurk here, I've seen countless threads about how to choose a knife, asking for recommendations, etc etc.  Ultimately, most of these threads wind up with answers like "I like X, Y and Z, but you should use whatever works best for you."  That's all well and good, but as a few posters have pointed out, it's tough to actually determine what works best for you without actually having a knife in hand for a few days.  Buying and returning/reselling is an option for some people with good kitchen supply stores and who are willing to risk getting stuck with a few extra knives.  However, many people don't have that option, and while they may end up with very good knives, they are often left wondering about the knife that got away.

In order to solve this problem, it would be great if we could organize some type of knife-swap, so that people can try out a few unfamiliar knives and get some better ideas about what they are really looking for.  Obviously there are some risks and logistical challenges to this, but I think it would be really great if people could figure out a way to make it work.  I know I have a few knives that I wouldn't mind sending around for people to lay hands on.  For example, I splurged on a Kyocera ceramic nakiri, which after weeks of use, I wish I hadn't purchased, and I'd be happy to save other people from a regrettable purchase.  (I do know people who love ceramic, but it seems to be more an issue of weight than cutting performance).  Better still would be if people could post brief reviews after having each knife, it would really add to the breadth of reviews we see.
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Joined Aug 6, 2010
It sounds like a really interesting idea, and I would love to be involved. However, I don't know that I really have much to contribute to the pot.
Joined Feb 13, 2008
You occasionally see that sort of thing at the Knife Forum, and more rarely at Fred's Cutlery Forum (on Foodie Forums).  They're usually limited to knives which are just out on the market, though.

As far as I know, no knife store maintains a library of loaners, but you can certainly ask.  It seems to me that most of the obvious pitfalls from the seller's side could be resolved with a deposit and a fee; but perhaps not.  Perhaps it's not worth the inevitable squabbles over who did what damage, knives damaged and lost in shipment, and deciding what is and what is not allowable by the borrower.

As to the last, I wouldn't feel comfortable about really knowing a knife until I've gone all the way through the cycle of sharpening, using (including maintaing) until dull, and sharpening again.

The problems multiply with a group of people who aren't themselves engaged in knife sales as they add the expense of buying new knives at retail (pardon my language) and try to figure out a price schedule which is fair to those who buy the original collection and those who only want to sample. 

Unfortunately, many of the most interesting knives, especially the Japanese, are availble in only a few brick and mortar stores anywhere in North America -- if at all.  So (as you've already figured out) they're not only not available for a meaningful trial, you can't even do the "wave them around" test. 

Your best bet is finding people whom you feel you can trust and using their recommendations in order to narrow your choices down to a fairly select group of knives which would be suitable; then choosing based on whatever personal criteria was left over. 

There's an underlying truth there.  That is that not only is there no single best knife for everyone, there's no single best knife for you either.  Once you've winnowed the selections down to knives which meet your standards equally well... Well, there you are.

A few sellers are very good at advice; Mark at Chef's Knives To Go is very good; Epicurean Edge and Japanese Knife Imports, if you're particularly interested in Japanese knives; also Paul's Finest if you're Canadian. 

Figuring out whom to trust in internet forums can be a challenge.  Look for people who seem more interested in what you're about than in having you validate their own choices.  To my mind, "I bought X and like it so you should too" is not much of a recommendation without a lot more information.  Also, immediately discount anyone who claims that although they only maintain their knives on steels and never properly sharpen them, they (the knives) remain "razor sharp" more or less indefinitely.  In fact, the term "razor sharp" is often a giveaway.   

It's by no means a fool proof system.  A few years ago, after doing a lot of research and soliciting a lot of very good advice, I bought four fairly expensive knives (Hiromoto AS) and ended up not liking them very much at all.  There wasn't much wrong with the advice either.  They just turned up -- for a lot of reasons -- not to be as good for us as the knives we already had.

But my last purchase (Konosuke HD) which was based almost entirely on the buzz and Jon Broida's (JKI) endorsement was eminently successful.

Fortunately there's a backstop for the hit or miss nature for the whole messy process, ebay.  While it's messier and probably more expensive than your idea of a library/club would be, at least, If you buy something you don't like you can move it along and recoup some of your money.  Better still, it's entirely at your convenience and you get to make all the rules.

Joined Jun 30, 2010
Based on the limited responses thus far, it doesn't seem like a knife swap is likely.  I certainly have several knives I'd be willing to pass around, but that's not much of a swap, now is it?  I suppose I'll check out the other forums for any upcoming swaps.
Joined Dec 23, 2004
I'm not sure if there are enough knife nuts here to make a swap worthwhile.  It's an interesting idea, though.  Especially if anyone out there has something I haven't tried yet.
Joined Nov 6, 2004
    Hi all,

   I think a knife swap is a fine idea, but I really only have one decent knife right now.  i also wonder how you would verify that the knife had been properly cared for before getting sent to the next person.  You would have to deal with the issues of abuse, neglect and ignorance not only when the person was using the knife...but also when they were caring for it.

   I just don't know how it would work???

Joined Dec 23, 2004
I don't really have anything exotic, either.  At this very moment all my knives are Akifusa, Hattori, Ichimonji, Hiromoto, Tojiro, Kagayaki & Kershaw (Wasabi & Wasabi II).  Nothing to wow a veteran knife nerd./img/vbsmilies/smilies/redface.gif   If I can score a Devin Thomas or Konosuke next year, though, well...then everyone will want to be my friend!/img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif
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