Looking for knife/board/sharpening advice

Joined Dec 16, 2009
Yet another "which knife" thread. Can you feel the excitement?;)

BTW, this is something I also posted in the other forum, you know which one. Looking for my wife, a great amateur cook, who cooks about twice a week. Budget is $300 for the knives, but could stretch to $400 if I can be convinced there is a significant difference (here we go, new knife nut material..). Really going for biggest bang for the buck, with aesthetics a significant nice to have. In our minds, that means Kanji lettering, preferably in black, and san mai damascus. I know, we are cheesy. However, aesthetics are second to blade and F&F quality. Stainless because we are not the best at cleaning up immediately. Fortunate to have Korin nearby, so we will probably skip the religious experience of sharpening, unless someone can help me figure out that we will need to do so often enough that the cost and effort of waterstones, flatteners, strops, learning and potentially hurting the knives is worth it. However, we will certainly need a cutting board or 2, at a price point below the Boardsmith. Probably (sigh, here we go again).

So, I think she will need:

1. 240mm Gyotu
2. 180mm Santoku (i know, i know, but she really likes them)
3. 150mm Petty
4. Parer
5. Bread knife
6. Board

We are a little unclear as to whether we should get a Honesuki instead of the petty, as she does chicken, but mostly not the whole bird. Could we just get some $25 Taskmaster shears for the rare occassions instead of a Honesuki and keep the petty?

Current thinking:
1. Fujiwara FKM 240mm Gyotu - $71
2. Fujiwara FKM 180mm Santoku - $62
3. Fujiwara FKM 150mm Petty - $37
4. Shun Steel 3.5" parer - $45
5. MAC 10.5" bread knife - $67
6. Sani Tuff 12x18x0.75 cutting board - $50
All in $332, no honesuki

For the knives, I had the chance to go in and hold the Togiharu Moly and Tojiro DP at Korin. Nice knives, but I was leaning towards Fujiwara because of higher Rockwell than Togiharu Moly and I hear iffy things about the Tojiro handle.

Another way to go:
1. Tojiro DP 240mm Gyotu PLUS
2. Tojiro DP 120mm Petty (as a combo Parer/Utility)= $114
3. Tojiro DP 180mm Santoku - $65
4. MAC 10.5" bread knife - $67
5. Sani Tuff 12x18x0.75 cutting board - $50
All in $296, no dedicated parer or Honesuki

3rd option: our shameful secret, we ordered the 5 knives from Shun (mostly steel, santoku hollow ground classic) for $390 (no board yet). We could keep them, or pay $20 to ship them back.

:look:Whew! So what do you think?
Would you suggest an alternate lineup of knives and tools?
Would you go with one of my combinations, keep the Shuns, combine styles a different way (honesuki? dedicated parer and petty or combo petty?), go with different brands (don't know enough about Takeda, other specialists)? Step up in cost to a different brand (JCK Kagayaki VG-10)?
Can I justify stepping up $50 to a Boardsmith board (beauty not enough) on an actual cooking utility basis?

Thanks for taking the time to read all this, and hopefully respond!
Joined Feb 13, 2008
You have good questions. All of them make sense too, once some of the assumptions are teased out and examined.

Shun Classic

You already bought a bunch, but you ask whether you should keep them or eat the $20 restock and re-ship fees.

Hmmm. You already described your ideal knives as something very much like Shun. Is that your ideal, or your wive's?

I can't recommend the Shun Classic chef's knife at all, because the geometry is so incredibly bad. The worst two aspects are: (1) It's tip is way too high to get down on the board, as when cutting onions; and (2) It's got way too much belly -- more German than the Germans.

To the extent that people tend to be Shun lovers or haters, I'm a hater of the chef's knife, but a skeptic of the rest.

The other great weakness of Shun Classic, and true across the line, is the indifferent quality of their faux Damascus (aka suminagash) cladding. It looks pretty -- but not for long -- it just scratches and fades way too easily. Impossible to maintain, no matter how careful you are.

Otherwise, their fit and finish is excellent. Almost everyone finds their "D" handles comfortable -- as long as they're properly handed. That is, the handles are either right or left handed, and do not work well for an opposite handed user.

Their VG-10 core steel gets pretty sharp and fairly easily too, if you know hot to do it. It holds the edge reasonably well. The edge can be fairly easily maintained between sharpening with appropriate "steeling."

Santoku vs Chef's Knife:

Given your budget and aspirations -- choose one or the other. If this is really a gift for your wife and she wants a santoku, ixnay the chef's and spend the money elsewhere. There's nothing a chef's knife can do that a santoku won't. In my opinion a chef's knife is a better knife than a santoku, but we care about she and not me.

How do you spell redundant? Oh. Wait.

Tojiro DP

They used to be a lot of knife for the price. Now, since the price increases of the last 14 months or so, they're just one more knife at a crowded price point. There are plenty just as good or better: Akifusa, Fujiwara, Hiromoto, JCK Kakayagi, Kanemasa, Kanetsuga, MAC, Masamoto, Misono, Sakai Takayuki, Thiers-Issard "Nogent" Sabatier, Togiharu, to name the first dozen off the top of my head.

Also, the DPs are not what you'd call real good lookers. Quite the reverse.

Black Kanji:

If it's screened on, it will die quickly. If it's engraved, different and happier story. If you really like the kanji, don't go for black -- like Hattori or Shun; go for engraved like Hiromoto and Masamoto.

Which Profiles Should You Buy?
  • Santoku: Again, chef's or santoku. If they're her knives, don't waste your money on both. You can buy a chef's knife later. If the chef's knife is for the other cook -- that's a different story. It's the knife which will be used most often by far, it's where the money should go.
  • Chef's: Oh, well.
  • Petty: The switch from a small paring knife to a 5" - 6" couteau office as the linch-pin short knife in a pro set, is fairly recent and appears to have begun with professional chefs cooking Western style food in Japan. I like it. If your wife likes it too, get a good one; but don't bust the budget on it. At this length, the Shun is actually a fabulous knife as long as you don't give a rat's patoot about the pattern holding up. While it wouldn't be my choice -- there are dozens I'd prefer to Shun -- it's still a good one.
  • Paring: Go cheap young man. If you need special shapes like bec d'oiseau for turning, or your wife can't live without a sheep's foot -- or she wants a short couteau office -- look at Forschner Rosewood, Forschner Fibrox, F. Dick, etc. And by the way either count on sharpening this little knife yourself (they dull fast because of all the fibrous work they see) frequently.... Or, consider buying a half dozen disposable Forschner serrtated paring knives (about $5 each), Kiwis, or something equally cheap, and tossing them when they get dull.
  • Bread: There's one standout in the under $100 class, and that's the 10.5" MAC Superior. If cutting bread and cakes isn't a big thing in your house, forget the MAC, as good as it is, and save some money with an 8" generic. Forschner Rosewood are very nice.
  • You didn't mention it, but it's one of the four knives every pro set should have (Chef's, Petty, Bread and Slicer). If you have the time to reach for the "right" knife, the better a cook you are, the more you tend to use a slicer for portioning. It's really an important knife. My recommendation is to buy a top quality slicer.
  • Honesuke (rant!): You absolutely, completely, unequivocally do not need a honesuke. It adds nothing whatsoever to what a petty brings to cutting up a chicken. If you're not doing Japanese style poultry butchering, and you're not a knife hobbyist buying a knife for something other than what it actually does -- it's a waste of money.
Chances are huge you don't need any sort of "boning" knife. But if you do, get a Forschner Fibrox or Rosewood, or a Dexter Pro in whatever profile(s) are most useful for the types of butchering you actually do.

I learned to cook in the sort of brigade system that had me at the "boucher" station for about six months; and now (decades later) have five specialty profiles -- desosseur (aka "European" boning knife), wide fillet, cimiter, chef de chef (aka "lobster cracker"), and heavy cleaver -- which do suit my style of cooking exactly, and seldom use any except for the chef de chef. I still do some boning, but find that my "petty" (a Nogent 6" slicer) works almost as well as my desosseur for fancy "boning-out," and it's a lot easier to keep sharp (big issue with boning knives); and it has a better handle too!

And, a similar truth with fish. I now fillet smaller fish "Japanese" style, except I use a little 7" chef's the way a Japanese cook would use a small deba. If I didn't have that knife, I'd happily use my 10" chef's or the 12" chef de chef to cut through bones, and break the fillets out; and my slicer for everything else.

High performance compared to... oh... say... Henckles International; but just adequate by Japanese knife standards. Because of their low prices, you'd have to call them high value. Mediocre fit and finish (at best).


You say you're close to Korin. Go there and look at the Togiharus. The G-1s might be out of your price range, but you can afford the other lines. Togiharu is Korin's "private" brand and there's a lot of value in them.

Hiromoto G3

These are beautifully designed and quite reasonably priced. Hiromoto's big claim to fame is providing really excellent steel at a good price. Some cooks find their handles to be too narrow; but I've never heard the complaint from a woman -- even ond using a "tennis" grip. After reading your post, this would be my top recommendation for both santoku and slicer. Heck, throw in the petty just to make Koki (at JCK) happy.

Other brands:

I don't want to go through a rundown of every Japanese knife known to man. For one thing, I just posted one on CT a couple of times.

Cutting Board:

Just go to a good restaurant supply and get a maple "edge grain" aka "long grain" cutting board -- at least 1" thick. If you need a name brand, get a Boos; but it doesn't matter that much. Assuming it was adequately made to begin with, treat it right and it won't crack or warp for a long time. Next year or the year after, you can invest in a Boardsmith. Nice to be able to rotate boards -- they last about four times as long if you do.

Sharpening at Korin:

Some people get the idea that good knives only need to be sharpened once a year -- and can be maintained between sharpening with a "V" stick sharpener and/or a rod-hone type "steel." Not true.

If you're active cooks, and you want knives with edges which don't wear to "very dull," you'll need to full-on sharpen your chef's and petty at least every three or four months. That's independent of "touch ups" with a steel or "V" stick, by the way. Those you'll use a couple of times a week.

I sharpen my main knives every 6 to 8 weeks at the longest; and maintain them on a steel at minimum 3 or 4 times a week.

What I'm getting at, is that if you can afford to have your knives sharpened by Korin, Japanese Knife Sharpening, or whomever, that frequently -- that's great. But, you'll still need to use some sort of appropriate regimen (which in particular depends on the particular knives -- but probably steeling) to maintain them between those expensive sharpenings.

No hurry on this, go with plan A for awhile. But when you get tired of sending your knives out every 12 weeks, or alternatively, spending most of the year with dull knives -- you might want to consider some form of sharpening less intimidating than freehanding on stones. There are a few.

Waiting to hear more from you so we can delve a bit deeper,
Joined Dec 16, 2009
Great feedback as usual, BDL. Let me try to reorganize my thinking to incorporate yours, and then ask further questions. If you don't mind, I will come back with individual selections per tool for your picks in a bit.

So, my reordered tool set so far:

1. Best possible, up to $125 Santoku (180/190mm) or Gyuto (210mm, she felt uncomfortable with the 240 at Korin)
2. Best possible, up to $125 Sujihiki (240 or 270?)
3. Parer on the cheap, around $20 (80-90mm)
4. Petty not too expensive, around $50 (150mm)
5. Bread Knife not too expensive, around $30
6. End Grain hard maple board, around $50

What do you think of these two potential additions:
1. Electric sharpener instead of the Korin solution: Chef's choice I assume? Do I need all the capabilities of the Trisor XV or is a 316 sufficient?
2. I hear you on the boning knives, but do we need a Yo-Deba or cleaver for heavy meat and bone work? Any particular knives for this kind of job that line up with my previous thoughts? Or would you reiterate that we can get it done with the petty or santoku?

Joined Dec 23, 2004
I'd say you're on the right track; all of your choices are viable. It will depend on personal preference to a great deal as well as how you like to cut.

First off, the Shuns aren't bad knives by any means. BDL's criticism of the suminigashi pattern being fragile is a bit overblown. I have a couple of Shuns that are several years old and look new. The bigger issue, as he says, is the geometry- it sucks. That is to say, it sucks on the Chef. Still, that's also just an opinion; I know guys who bought them even after using some of my gyutos because of their Germanic shape.:rolleyes: And while it's depressing to lend an Akifusa to someone who ends up preferring a Shun, I understand everyone has different likes and dislikes. At any rate, when you get out of the chef knife area Shuns are a bit more competitive. On the plus side, fit 'n' finish are uniformly good. And Shuns are generally as sharp OOTB as any brand I can think of. On the minus side they're a bit pedestrian and designed to mimic the shapes and styles of their European competition. The 6" Classic utility & the paring knife are standouts. If you must have a santoku, the Shun Classic is a fine one, too.

Personally I like the look and feel of the Tojiro DP line. They're not clad in a sexy suminigashi finish but they're tastefully understated. And Korin does have that 15% sale going all month; that brings the price down to a pretty appealing point. The edge on the Shun will probably last a bit longer but the geometry of the DPs is much better. As BDL points out, while the Tojiros used to be the bang-for-buck champ, recent price increases and a spate of new competitors has eroded the DPs supremacy. Still, they're fine knives.

Silk screening will eventually wear off but this can take a long time at home- sometimes a decade, depending on how much wear it's subjected to. If you like a clad knife with an interesting appearance and Kanji that won't wear off, you may wish to consider the Kanetsunes from Japan Blades. They're thin & light with great geometry and V-Gold 10 steel...and they're priced right. You can get gyutos in 240 or 210, a santoku and a petty in this line. It's a shame they don't sell a Nakiri instead- that would be a better & more interesting knife than the santoku.

Ah, that santoku...if your wife wants one go for it. It's not a bad shape for most stuff. It won't do everything a gyuto will do, however. A good gyuto can double as a sujihiki; you'll have a helluva time carving a turkey or slicing prime rib with most santokus. Still, in a cramped kitchen a santoku can be a decent compromise.

The MAC is the default bread knife recommendation for good reason- it's a great knife. But I've also been extremely impressed with the Kershaw Black Wasabi bread knife. It's got a shape virtually identical to the Classic/Elite with just a tad more curvature. It has the same scalloped serrations as you'll find on the MAC & Shuns and it's very sharp OOTB. It's also $40 vs $70- not a huge deal but maybe the difference if you're leaning towards a more expensive gyuto.

My current favorite gyuto is the 240mm Akifusa. So far I prefer it to everything else I've used, although the Hattori Forum is a virtual tie due to the fantastic handle & overall geometry. It's thin & light and really holds and edge. That would be of benefit if you plan to have them sharpened at Korin.

Getting a cheap paring knife isn't a terrible idea. Victorinox parers are pretty nice for the price and work well. I'm pretty fond of the colorful stamped Messermeister paring knives, too, and you can get one in virtually any configuration (eg birds-beak, spear point, clip point). I don't use a paring knife much, but the tourne is often handy.
Joined Aug 7, 2008
It's hard to say if you should step up. Overall knives are a very personal choice. What I can tell you is that I am using a JCK Kagayaki VG-10 WA Gyuto and I'm thrilled with it.
They are an exceptional value for the price.
As far as boards go in years past I would have agreed with the suggestion for Boos. However over the last few years I have had a few boards by John Boos fail. Americas Test Kitchen had a Boos board fail during testing and I have heard the same from others. I no longer suggest boards by Boos. Like knives board selection does matter. Avoid boards made in China with God only knows what kind of glue. They can be hard on your edges and there are other implications as well.
The boards from Boardsmith are a thing of beauty but there are a few drawbacks. One they are expensive and two they are not NSF certified. I trust Boardsmith to be using quality glues and a sound manufacturing processes as he has a sterling reputation but I would NOT buy a board that is not NSF certified from any one else. That's just me.
Overall you are paying a lot for a pretty face with Boardsmith but then they really are works of art as much as cutting boards.
I buy my boards from Michigan Maple Block. They have been around forever and they are made in the USA of northern Maple (unless you choose a different wood) and I have been VERY pleased with their pricing and their products.
As always I hope that helps.

Wood Welded - Butchers Block, Cutting Boards, Chopping Blocks, Cutting Board Conditioners
Joined Dec 16, 2009

Are the Michigan Maple Blocks end grain? I couldn't find any reference to it on the site; the only place I saw something relevant said edge grain...
Joined Aug 7, 2008
MMB makes both end grain and edge grain boards. I have both from them. IMO people make a bit too much out of that. If you have a limited budget get an edge grain board. While I prefer end grain along with most others if you watch you will see edge grain boards in use on shows like the Iron Chef. No matter what brand you buy IMO you are better off skipping the 1" boards and buying a 3" thick board. Here is a page of end grain boards from MMB and a link to their home page. There's more info here than you will probably ever want to know about cutting boards.

Michigan Maple Block: CHOPPING BLOCKS

Butcher Block Counter Tops, Butchers Blocks, Michigan Maple Block
Joined Oct 10, 2005
If you're uncertain about the terms "end grain" and "edge grain" here's a tip:

Imagine a fist full of soda straws. When the straws are vertical, this would be "end grain", that is, the fibers of the wood are running vertical. To make a block like this involves gluing many pieces together, which costs more. HOWEVER this block will withstand incredible abuse and is quasi/sorta/kinda "Self healing" as the fibers close up again. Far less scarring then with edge gain boards. More imortantly this type of board doesn't warp much---very little at all. The best endgrain blocks are made up of dovetailed pieces, that is, the individual pieces are shaped so they interlock together, giving you a mechanical advantage as well as the help of glue holding the whole thing together.

If you imagine a wood plank with the the fibers running horizonatally, the board WILL warp, and almost always along the width. It can cup, bow, or twist. All woods do this irregardless if they've been kiln dried or reclaimed from a 300 year old farmhouse beam.

Edge grain--if you imagine a board lying on it's side and many boards glued together to make up a cutting board. This is still a pretty darn good board.

Face grain is a flat plank and this type is most prone to warping. Avoid this at all costs.

Remember that wood is a natural product and it WILL swell and shrink with humidity and temperature changes. Ensure that other family members do not toss the wood board in a dishwasher or leave to soak in the sink. Trust me, this happens, dont ask me how I know......

There has been an incredible amount of stuff written about wood vs "other types" of cutting boards. The one thing to remember (and coincidentally, the one thing the health inspector looks for) is the amount and depth of scarring on the board. Bacteria and food debris WILL lodge in these crevices--no matter how tiny. When this happens, the best thing to do is take your board--- wood or plastic--to a woodworker friend and have it run through a thickness planer. This will remove about 1/16" from both surfaces, giving you, in efffect a "new" cutting board.

Maple is a lovely wood, one of the hardest and durable of the N.American woods. Treat it well.
Joined Jun 24, 2009
Since I have been mentioned here, may I offer my 2 cents worth.

MMB is a good company that makes a quality product. Yes they are a bit less expensive than I am but they also make hundreds a day as compared to my hundreds a year.

Boos is also a good company that has been around a long time. Their products are a bit more expensive than mine and they also make hundreds a day.

If you get a good end grain board from a reputable manufacturer, you can be confident that your investment will be somewhat safe.

As for NSF, I'm not convinced. Some years ago I inquired about what it takes to qualify for a NSF rating. I was on the phone with a representative for about 30 minutes and the end results was all it would take was a check for $4000 to $6000 and I could use the NSF logo. No inspection, no real paperwork. The amount of the check would depend on some factors but the major kicker was, no inspection. This will probably stir up a controversy, I hope not. If you trust the NSF then it is your choice. I decided to invest in equipment.
Joined Feb 13, 2008

You wrote: Makes a lot of sense. I think what you'll find in the high value lines like Togiharu (which you can play with at Korin and is sold by them exclusively) and JCK Takagayuki is that the santoku will cost less, and the suji might cost more. But your breakdown is very realistic.

I like Chef's Choice electrics for A LOT of people and a fair number of knives. The big problem with Chef's Choice once you start stepping into better knives is that they don't do a very high polish. So, your knives will never be extremely sharp and highly polished -- but only sharp and sort of polished. The nice thing about a Chef's Choice is that it lives on the counter and is so easy to use, that you keep your knives sharp.

Unless you also have a few European knives that you plan to keep and use (not a bad idea, IMO) at a 20*+ angle, you don't need a Trizor XV. I forget the number of CC's 3 stage all 15* sharpener, but that would be the first choice. After that, the model which doesn't do wide blades -- could be the 316, I don't recall offhand.

From a results stand point alone, I recommend an Edge Pro over a CC electric; but the EP is a lot more expensive and is something of a drag to use. It's the last part that worries me the most. I'm not trying to convert you to any particular way of sharpening, but rather to match you with what will be best for you. And that means something which gets used.

It's nice to have a heavy knife for heavy work. If you have a big German 10" or 12", that's plenty strong for splitting chickens, breaking down all but the biggest fish, cutting the tips off spare ribs, portioning them, cutting heavy gourds, topping pineapples, and so on. I use a 12" K-Sabatier (actually it's a Cuisine de France OEM... shhhhhh) au carbone, as my "chef de chef," without any problem. You may want to invest in an inexpensive cleaver (not the lighter chopper), a bit Henckels at the flea market, or the like. You don't need the steel quality you'll find, or the expense of a good western deba; but if you can find a 24cm in your price range, and don't have a less expensive alternative, go for it.

If you're not using a single-angle Chef's Choice, you'll want to sharpen your heavy duty knife at a more obtuse angle than your other knives.

Breaking chicken? Well, except for splitting them (which you shouldn't do to much of with a honesuke anyway) you can do everything else.

It depends on how many chickens I'm doing. If more than one, I'll split them with my 12" or my cleaver, and break them into pieces with the petty. If just one, I'll likely do the whole thing with my 10" chef's (another French carbon) if that's already on the board.

Joined Dec 16, 2009

Invaluable feedback above. Thanks for helping refine my thinking, and offering some key alternatives (like the Michigan Maple blocks, Kanetsunes and the Wasabi Black bread knife). Here's my new tool line up with the sort of :rolleyes: narrowed down options for your picks and feedback. I am trying for the value picks but including more expensive options if I suspect they might be worth the extra.

1. Chef's: The wife is coming around on the chef's instead of the santoku, assisted by your comments!
$58 210mm gyotu Tojiro DP
$64 210mm gyotu Togiharu Molybdenum
$80 210mm gyotu Kanetsune VG10 core 17 layer damascus/hammered Japan Blades exclusive
$81 210mm gyotu JCK Kagayaki Basic
$98 210mm gyotu JCK Kagayaki VG10
$108 180mm gyotu Kanetsune VG10 core 63 layer damascus Japan Blades exclusive (beautiful knife and a great deal vs Hiromoto VG10 Damascus, that's why it made it in despite smaller size)
$112 210mm gyotu Hiromoto G3
$114 215mm chef's MAC Pro

2. Slicer:
$91 270mm sujihiki Togiharu Molybdenum
$120 270mm sujihiki Tojiro DP
$133 270mm sujihiki JCK Kagayaki VG10
$150 260mm slicer MAC Pro
$157 270mm sujihiki Hiromoto G3

3. Bread:
$24 255mm Forschener Fibrox
$30 245mm Kanetsune serrated
$35 250mm Suisin Inox serrated
$48 230mm Kershaw Wasabi Black scalloped
$66 265mm MAC Superior scalloped

4. Parer:
$5 3.25in Forschener Fibrox
$10 3.25in Forschener Rosewood
$37 3.1in Tojiro DP petty
$40 3.25in MAC Pro
$45 3.5in Shun Steel (Classic line with steel handle)

5. Utility:
$41 150mm petty Togiharu Molybdenum
$50 155mm utility MAC Pro
$53 150mm petty JCK Kagayuki Basic
$55 150mm petty Tojiro DP
$55 145mm petty Kanetsune VG10 core 17 layer damascus/hammered Japan Blades exclusive
$65 150mm petty Hiromoto G3
$66 150mm petty JCK Kagayaki VG10

6. Cleaver:
$27 8in (3in wide) Forschener Fibrox Chinese cleaver
Any other suggestions here?

7. Board:
$49 15x15x2 Michigan Maple end grain chopping block (sorry Dave, the budget constraints overcome our admiration of your work and design.. for now;))
$50 12x18x0.75 Sani Tuff

8. Sharpening regime:

Everyone, go to town! Combinations, replacements, suggestions, all welcome. Let's say $425 is the high end of the budget for the 5 knives + cleaver + board. Tough to do and get great quality, but I think it's possible. For example, I could put together 3 Togiharu Molys (gyotu,petty, sujihiki) + 3 Forschners (bread, parer, cleaver) + board for around $305. I think Chef Knives to go has a Tojiro DP set in which I could perhaps sub 3 knives and end up with 5 Tojiros + Forschner cleaver + board + knife block and ceramic sharpener bonus for $380. Thoughts?
Joined Aug 7, 2008
The move to a Chef's knife is a solid one. Of those I would lean towards the
JCK Kagayaki VG10, Hiromoto or the MAC Pro.
Since you have switched to a Chef's knife and some of your choices are thin I would hold off on a slicer until you see if you really need one. You have picked slicers at a higher price point than your Chef's knife. I would spend more on a primary use knife to begin with.
Mac makes two bread knives. Make sure you are choosing the bread knife that is the well thought of one and not just buying a brand. To start I would lean towards the Forschner. I was in GFS the other day and they had a bread knife very similar to the Guede or Viking for roughly $20. Unless you bake a lot or cut a lot of bread knives in this price range will carry you at least a few years until you know exactly what you want.
The Forschner is a no brainer in the pairing knife.
Again I would hold off on a utility knife until you see if you really need one. A pairing knife will take you a long ways. Again I lean towards the Hiromoto, JCK or Mac.
You may also want to consider a cleaver from F.Dick or Dexter. A little more $ but both very nice and far more useful to many at home than a slicer or a utility. I probably use a cleaver more than a slicer and a utility combined but every one is different in this regard.
Stay away from the Sani-safe cutting boards. Many of use here use them at work because we have to. Compared to Maple they are miserable. They are harder on your edges. The only benefit if you can really call it that is that they can go through a dish machine. Once you scratch them up they are trash so they cost more $ in the long run.

Best of luck with your choices.
Joined Feb 13, 2008
Considering where you're starting from, all of your choices are winners.

Also, while I'll ruminate a little on them, I wouldn't want my feet held to the fire until I knew how you were going to sharpen:

So, let's start at the end.

8: Sharpening: All of your choices, with the exception of Forschner, will benefit from at least a medium polish or higher. The Forschners are fine with a low medium polish.

Also, if you're going to use a Chef's Choice, which I'm neither recommending nor dismissing at this point, you should know that Forschners will function very well thank you with the "Asian edge" 15* bevel.

Considering how many knives you're buying, the fact that many will be Japanese, and the relatively high quality of the set -- you're faced with the choice of waterstone or diamond, in the form of stones, "jig and tool (like the Edge Pro), or a Chef's Choice. It's an important decision and one that really should be made before buying the knives.

1. Gyuto/Chef's Knives: You've got some good knives there.

(a) Tojiro DP -- A lot of people love the Tojiro DP, some people don't. I'm in the "don't" group; but my experiences may be atypical. I find the handle blocky and uncomfortable, especially (by report) for women. The knives I used had F&F issues, but this seems to no longer be a problem for Tojiro. Generally, I'm not sure if F&F is the issue it once was in the price range. With a few notable exceptions which are not among your selections, there seems to have been a lot of improvement more or less across the board.

(b) JCK Kagayaki VG-10 -- This appears to be a lot of good alloy and level of F&F for the money. I don't know the knife personally, but have heard nothing but good things at Fred's (participate) and the KF (lurk only). The only criticism I've heard is regarding ultimate sharpness, but that almost certainly is more a function of owners' skills than than the knives themselves.

(c) MAC Pro -- I love to recommend MAC. The only thing that stopped me before was the significance you (and/or your wife) put on aesthetic enhancements like fake damascus cladding. From a use standpoint, I recommend the MAC. Whether or not you can live with its plainness, is a different issue. The good news is that the silk screened logo washes off pretty quickly.

2. Slicer: All of your choices, with the exception of the Tog Moly are more or less in the same price/performance group. Because a slicer performs a semi-ceremonial function when it's used as a carving knife for table and buffet service, I suggest buying whichever you find best looking.

Note: Tojiro DP -- Same remarks as the gyuto. Still a decent bargain, although not nearly as much as before the price increases of the last 16 months or so.

3. You either want a top bread knife or you don't. Choose the Forschner or MAC. If you don't get a MAC, everything else is pretty much a Forschner but more expensive. The Forschner Rosewood series is both more comfortable and better looking than the Fibrox.

4. A paring knife (knives, really) used to be very important to me. Now I seldome use one except to peel something difficult or to make specific shapes that I almost never do anymore, and you never will. I use a "petty" for almost everything I used to use the parer for. That switch, from parer to petty, is one you may not necessarily make.

Anyway, you can't go wrong with the Forschners. They're so cheap, what's to loose? If you don't like it, you can upgrade. At this short length, you might find the "sheepsfoot" design even more useful than the regular (aka "couteau office).

5. Petty (you say "utility"): Whether or not you and your wife are going to make the switch from parer to petty is an open question. It's not something you're doing now, but it's something you may want to try for a few months. But, the range of choices you've given start fairly high up the ladder.

Of those, MAC Pro. MAC Pros are phenomenally comfortable, very easy to hold, use, sharpen, and maintain; and for those reasons are the knives I usually recommend first to other people just getting in to quality, Japanese knives. They are not the prettiest knives in the world, though.

The 6" length is sort of the bargain bin for highly "aesthetic" kitchen knives. Maybe start with something uber cheap, and hold off until you decide whether it's a size that will get a lot of use.

6. Cleaver: Without knowing more than what you wrote, a "Chinese Cleaver" is just a chef's knife by another name. It's not a heavy-duty "meat cleaver." If you want a Chinese chef's knife to compliment your gyuto, more power to you; but they're redundant.

The best bargain choice is without question, either one of the cheap Chinese knives from CCK or a Dexter "Green River." If you don't want to go through all the BS that's involved in distinguishing between Chinese knives, get the Dexter.

On the other hand, if what you want is a heavy, heavy-duty meat cleaver for splitting chicken backs and the like, go Dexter, Dick, or Forschner. It doesn't matter.

Just remember to use it by placing the blade and leaning on the back or, if absolutely necessary, using a rubber mallet on the back. Don't swing it like an axe, or you'll go through boards in no time.

Also, you'll want to sharpen this knife at a more obtuse angle than you would any of your others. Also, this knife doesn't need much polish at all. The different sharpening requirements make it awkward, I know -- but there you go.

7. Board(s): Decent choices. Get whatever's the biggest that works on your countertop. Board management is a knife skill, you'd rather not have to stress. Everything goes a lot easier with a bigger board. Walmart has some decent choices right now.

8. Sharpening: Isn't this where we got on?

9. Other: I stayed away from specific recommendations regarding faux Damascus knives, because I don't like san mai aka warikomi aka hon warikomi aka cladded aka laminated knife construction in general, and dislike pattern welded jigane (the pretty outside coating) in particular. But, the "performance" reasons have almost nothing to do with very many other people -- almost certainly not with the two of you -- and the appearance reasons are strictly, de gustibus non disputandum. Better and easier if I leave the discussion of "Damascus" patterned blades to other people.

Hope this helps,
Joined Dec 16, 2009
Is it wrong to be this interested in knives I will use maybe 3% of the time, and the actual user (wife) is kind of ready to chop my head off already ("just buy something! they told you they're all good!")?:crazy:

So, going back to sharpening, I am frankly having a hard time thinking that we will put in the time on the stones :blush:. That leaves Korin or Chef's Choice (edge Pro strikes us as trying to lauch a space shuttle). We understand and accept the need for touch ups on a steel every week. What impact would you say Korin or Chef's Choice should have on the knife selection?

The board selection is a done deal; going with maple edge grain, probably MMB. I need to get some clarity on the labeling of the cleavers (chinese/chinese vegetable/meat). Any suggestions/links for a good meat cleaver in the $20-30 price range?

After thinking it through, I believe I have 2 ways to go on the remaining knives:

1. Full set approach, as this might be best value immeditely due to extras from buying more at the same time
MAC Superior 10.5in bread
Tojiro DP 210mm gyotu
Tojiro DP 270mm sujihiki
Tojiro DP 90mm parer
Tojiro DP 150mm petty
Bonuses: block, steel, shears

2. Best possible in my budget on a 240mm chef's, cheap parer, ok bread, no slicer or petty for now, choose those later if we figure out we need them, this might be best long term way to build the set

240mm gyotu $125 JCK Kagayaki VG10, $132 MAC Professional, $138 Hiromoto G3
$9 Forschner Rosewood 3.25in parer
$24 Forschner Rosewood 8in bread

Joined Aug 7, 2008
No matter what brand of Gyuto you get I would lean towards 240mm. As you already know I think option #2 is the way to go. If nothing else you can get a feel for length and make a better decision about the need for a utility and a slicer. What's the worst that can happen? You pay a few dollars more to ship a second order? I don't think you can make a bad choice out of your #2 list and you could always just go for the Mac bread knife. FWIW I like the Guede or on a more cost effective note the Viking (made by guede) bread knife as well.
Unless you are familiar with Tojiro why buy all of the same brand? What fun is that? ;)
With regards to sharpening IMO you are a lot better off letting Korin sharpen them 3-4x a year than putting your knives on a grinder. Pick yourself up a knife guide and a single Naniwa stone to keep them touched up. This is a very easy way to learn and you will have the benefit of Korin keeping your edges in good shape. A single 2k stone should be all you need. Skip the steel. This way you can have fun, learn and keep your tools in good shape. If you need shears the Henckels international are a fair price and work well.

Tojiro Sharpening Guide
Joined Dec 16, 2009
Thanks, Duckfat. I get the sense in the build up approach, it's just warring with the instant gratification impulse of having the multiple tools in hand at a pretty good price. Plus, except for the handle issue, I hear good things about the Tojiro.

Any additional input from anyone on the meat cleaver issue? Since I can finally link, here's the one I was looking at: Forschner Fibrox Chinese Cleaver
Any better suggestions in the same price range?
Joined Feb 13, 2008
A "chinese cleaver" is NOT a meat cleaver. It's a (relatively) thin, light-duty, vegetable knife. It is not meant for splitting chickens, or whatever else you intend.

At the risk of sounding like Paul Hogan, this is (an example of) a meat cleaver: http://www.cutleryandmore.com/details.asp?SKU=4099

Nowadays, most people don't use a cleaver for much. In fact, they were going out of style when I learned to cook in the early seventies. The modern trend is to use something like a "chef de chef" -- an antique name for a large, tough chef's knife. This is great if you're coming out of a high quality German set into Japanese, because you already have one. Even a regular-duty, high-end German chef's knife is tough enough to stand up to hard-duty -- especially if it's sharpened at an appropriately obtuse bevel.

As a matter of historical interest, high quality, European chef's knives made before WWII were actually thinner than they are today, which meant a real need for a special chef de chef. But with changes in alloys, manufacturing processes, design, etc., a modern, forged Wusthof Classic is plenty tough enough to split a few chickens. Just don't run out and buy one new.

If you do go the "good chef's knives make good chefs de chef" route that I'm recommending, with a few exceptions (like the monster Forschner ) you'll want something forged. Stamped knives are cheap, but generally too thin to handle the abuse.

BTW, here's a link to that Forschner: Forschner Rosewood 13-in. Lobster/Bone Splitter: Extra Heavy - Forschner Chef's Knives Just to be clear, it's only an example. I'm not recommending you buy it.

While I have a great cleaver (early seventies, carbon Chicago Cutlery), I use an ordinary 12", Sabatier au carbone (Cuisine de France"/K-Sabatier OEM, IIRC) chef's for the heavy work. If I need more than that knife can take, there's always the cleaver. Plus, as a proud graduate of the "Bigger Hammer School of Tools," I've got a saw.

If you don't have something like an old, forged German available, you might consider something inexpensive like an Old Hickory. OHs certainly have their issues, but if you're using yours to crack lobsters and not too much else, you can live with it.

Another thing to consider is how you're going to sharpen your heavy-duty knife -- whether it's an actual cleaver, a chef's knife or whatever. If you're going to use a dedicated 15* sharpener for your Japanese knives, it will not serve that other knife well -- as it should be sharpened to a fairly obtuse bevel and left fairly coarse. I expect Phaedrus's Easysharp suggestion, would work pretty well, and so would a Chantry for a knife you don't care much about.

Tojiro DPs represent a lot of bang for the buck. I'm told that not only has their quality control improved, but they're making their blades thinner (good thing for most things) as well. I'm not sure if that's true.

Now that you seem to be seriously considering knives without a lot of added aesthetics (like "Damascus" cladding), I'm going to make a little push.

MAC Pro occupy an entirely different and higher level of quality than DP and most of the other knives on your list. They are neither collector's knives, nor bang-for-the-buck compromises -- not that they aren't a lot of bang for the buck.

MAC Pros really are used by a lot of well known chefs because they perform so well. I think they've got or had some sort of deal going with Thomas Keller, but otherwise everyone else is paying for their own. God knows, it's not for their plain-Jane looks. On top of that, they have excellent U.S. support and a serious, 25 year warranty.

You can spend more, you can get more ornate, you can get knives made from exotic alloys, and so on; but, if what you want is a comfortable knife that works, I'm not sure you can get better.

MAC Pros are a lot like Masamotos, in that their most outstanding charactersitic is a lack of fault; and that you should have a pretty compelling reason to choose something else.

By the way, I don't own one. If you're wondering, all my frequently used, prep knives are old French carbon.

Joined Dec 16, 2009

Thanks for the clarity on the cleavers. Unfortunately, we don't have the old German option. So a new cleaver seems the way to go. The Old Hickorys certainly help the budget; around $15-20 in a 7in. Any thoughts on whether the following 2 are significantly better for the little bit of extra money? The Sabatier may or may not be the "good" Sabatier (think its Sabatier Diamant), but it sure is a big drop from list price, whatever that means.
Sabatier Provence 6-in. Meat Cleaver: Laminated Wood - Sabatier Cleavers
Forschner 7-in. Meat Cleaver: Walnut Handle - Forschner Cleavers

Yes, all the discussion does seem to be leading back to your most recommended gyotu. I am thinking strongly about a 9.5in MAC Pro, 4in MAC Superior parer (3.25 seems too small to the wife), and 10.5in MAC Superior bread as the solution, with the slicer and petty on hold for now. Maybe I can get a decent package deal on the 4 knives (incl the cleaver), although probably not as good as the Tojiro set..
Joined Feb 13, 2008

What's the nic by the way? J.I.G. (from) Rhode Island?

I might have gone overboard on the MAC. Not that it isn't every bit as good as I said it was; but just that I wanted to give you enough information to help you choose what was best for you rather than just saying "buy this, don't buy that."

In fact, I think all your choices are great.

Because your budget has some real limitation and because you (that is, the two of you) are not already experienced with quality knives, don't know which lengths you'll end up with, and so on -- there are going to be some compromises. That takes us back to: In fact, I think all your choices are great.

Let's take the cleavers. Personally, I'd go with the Forschner because the curve is helpful, you can rock the knife when you lean on the spine to help you get through the toughest stuff.

Just in general, that "Sabatier" with the lion rampant logo can be good or bad. I don't know enough to comment on the quality of the particular cleaver -- but quality isn't a huge issue with cleavers anyway.

As to your latest proposed kit -- Personally, I'd be disposed to go cheaper in order to have a decent slicer right off the bat, because I use a slicer a lot for portioning proteins of every sort other than small fowl. That makes it a more important knife to me than to most.

Another thing about your current thinking: Your gravitation towards 9-1/2" chef's knives is interesting, and from the standpoint of good knife skills it's an excellent idea. They're a lot more productive. I wanted to stay away from an argument by proxy with your wife over her preferences (or any other sort of argument for that matter), but I think it's the right way to go as long as she's happy with it.

For what it's worth, the key to managing a longer length is to use a proper grip. If she's interested, you can PM me your email and I'll send you a short essay on the "pinch grip." Don't worry, it will be short.

Sort of summing up: You've got as much information about knives as you need to make really good choices for the two of you. Your lists show that -- in spades. On top of that, you obviously know a lot more about the two of you than do I or anyone else on this board.

I'm reall looking forward to hearing about what order you actually place, and your (plural) initial impressions of your new knives when they finally arrive.

All your choices are great,
Joined Jun 24, 2009
Thanks for the compliment.

The block arrangement on my board is the tried and proven arrangement for any block/brick that has to support weight. Rather than have all the joints arranged like a checker board, each block is supported by six of its neighbors creating a stronger bond. I even go further with the manner in which the growth rings are arranged. Less likely to warp and split. Harder to make and more costly due to the waste factor.

One thing I don't do which is done by some of the major manufacturers is use a resin hardener. That makes the wood harder and that means harder on your knife edges.

No I'm not NSF certified. And I doubt that I will ever be. I researched NSF four years ago when I thought it was important. The voice on the other end of the phone call told me all I would have top do is send them a check for $4000 and I could use their logo. No inspection, no paperwork. Hollow at best.

A pretty face? No, not really. I craft each one with as much quality and perfection as I can put into them. They are professionally made and are professional quality. Unlike Boos and MMB, I don't make hundreds each day in a large scale plant with hundreds of employees. Each one goes through my hands and will only go out when they are ready, not at the end of a production line. That is why they cost more. There is more in them.

Thanks for letting me ramble. If I can be of any help to anyone here, please let me know.
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