Looking to move up in the world of cutlery , but I want to do it right.

Joined May 30, 2011
I've looked at most of the posts on the top page regarding knives, and I must admit - I 'm a bit dizzy as none of the discussions are suited to me.  

Here's my situation , I'm a 31 year old US Marine who just so happens to love to cook.  I don't cook professionally, though I might after my time's up ( I enjoy it that much, cooking is almost theraputic to me.)

My current set of knives were a wedding gift, a set of calphalon katanas.  Good out of the box, but between poor technique , learning, and poor sharpening skills they will become my 'beater' knifes, and also used to practice sharpening (anyone know whether they're a 20 degree or 15 degree angle ?)  They'll also become the goto knives for my wife as her technique isn't quite there for higher quality knives. (She's making faces as if I just 'threw her under the bus' as I type this. You know, the face that roadkill makes when it get hits by a car) 

Now, I've looked at the Tojiros, the Shuns, the Hattoros, the Globals, the MACs, and the Fujis (and a bunch of others)  and I'm not sure what would not only give me good satisfaction now, but also in the future.  

Between this purchase and my new cookware (all clad copper core) I'm willing to drop about 1200 for the two combined. I'm guessing about 3-400 for the purchase of the knives and the stones, as I don't have either right now. 

Here's what I think I need (chef's please correct me, this is based off what I grab when I go to my block) 

- 7 inch santoku or chef knife (I tend to pull the santoku more often, I guess I prefer the control) 

- 3-4 inch paring knife

- utility knife (maybe a nakiri?) 

- boning/filet knife

I also want to get a decent quality sharpening stone set (I'm thinking a 1k/5k combo stone , norton makes a good product it seems, but my wife would prefer a waterstone as it's less messy) so that must be in the consideration. as well. 

Also, I guess it's important to mention that both my wife and I are left handed, as most japanese style blades are D shaped, and either unavailable or 50% more expensive to purchase in left handed varieties.  

Here's some examples of sets I'm considering as functionally correct (I've picked up Globals at WS before, and I'm okay with the handles, I know that's a point of concern.) 





As for stones - 



So, I've given you a lot to guage your answers off of - to sum up

I'm an adult who's spent a LOT of time around knives (including sharpening/honing) 

I'm left handed

I'm looking for a knife that I will grow into, and I'm willing to put forth the work to make it better

I have a budget of up to 400 total

So what would YOU buy, and why ? 
Joined Jan 16, 2011
Calphalon Katana comes out of the box at 22 degrees per side, but you've been sharpening these for a while so they are at whatever angle you sharpen to. :)

I believe that Norton's water stones are just as good as King, the leading Japanese brand.  Remember however that water stones wear down faster than oil stones, and if you go the water stone route you will need to periodically flatten the stones themselves for the best results.

You can just do this on a flat spot on the driveway or on sandpaper on a granite counter or something, but for the driveway, it tends to leave colored particles behind that won't hose out, and for granite counters, I worry about the slurry scratching the counter top.  I would buy the Norton 1000/4000 (good combo stone, and you can always add more stones later if you want your knives even sharper) plus a DMT Extra-extra coarse (DMT8XX - that grit only comes in 8"x3") diamond plate for flattening the Norton and also for blade repair, setting the initial bevel on new knives, and/or sharpening things like machetes and axes.  DMT is made in the US as well.  Make sure whomever you order it from has it in stock -- they seem to be slow to ship these things.

Alternately, you can also just buy DMT plates the whole way.  DMT makes diamond plates all the way up to the DMT Extra-extra fine which is the equivalent of 4000 grit (grit rating systems differ, and you have to look at the micron size of the particles.  DMT's D8EE is 3 micron particles which is equivalent to 4000 grit on the JIS system).  You never have to worry about flattening diamond plates, and they are even less messy than water stones.

Of the knives you mentioned, I would go with the Tojiro because they are the best value overall.  I own several Tojiros and they have given me excellent service, sharpen easily to a hair-popping edge, and hold the edge well.

They are clad construction, though, so be aware of that.  There are certain things you can do with solid steel that you cannot do with clad knives.  But I believe that that would only be a concern when you take it to the level of hobbyists.

I also own several Globals.  These are softer steel and more prone to deforming, requiring more frequent sharpening, but are highly corrosion resistant.  My Globals are now mostly used for fruit, and I try not to hit the board when I do it.  Had I done it all over again, I would have gone with another brand.

Between these purchases you're coming in way under budget, so you can go pick out a fillet knife you like as well. :)
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Joined May 30, 2011
Thanks for the reply (by the way, why a screen name based off of pepper spray? When I saw your screen name, I flashed back to being sprayed during FAST training, probably one of the more painful experiences in my life - my eyes are watering while typing this) 

Those caphalons are sitting at a scant 15 degree now - and they perform pretty well. Very hard to sharpen though given the shape. 

I appreciate your answers, I'm sure you've given them several times before. Sorry about that. 

So you like Tojiro. Which model ? The DP or is the Flash worth the extra money ? (Unfortunately I can't use the Zen's which I really like because of the D-shaped handles and the single edged blade not being available in the left handed styles)  

What about Kasumi  ? Any experience with them ?  I like the styling of the blade and handle, and they look like they would be well-suited to my tasks. Or perhaps the Miyabi 7000s? 

Oh here's the unfortunate issue: I live near Pittsburgh, and from my google searches, there aren't any reputable kitchen supply stores or cutlery stores in the area. Unfortunately ,  I'm buying these sight unseen.   Which sucks, but I don't have another option aside from WS. 

I don't really use a filet knife much (my wife gets grossed out by dead whole fish staring at her, so I won't be doing a lot of fileting.  More boning, protein and vegetable cutting but not a lot of deconstruction in the kitchen.   

Okay, I'll admit my noobness here - I know what a hollow ground is, what damascus is, the differences between carbon and stainless steel are in the venue of knives. 

What I DON'T know is how those correlate to cooking.  What will the tradeoffs of each mean for my cooking techniques and the result for my knives?  

I think the reason I lean towards the globals is because they're the ONLY set of knives that' I've actually held in my hand, so I at least know what they feel like.  It's odd that given it's a VG-10 steel, that it's softer than many other VG-10 steels. 

Thanks again for the reply - and doing your part to ensure I make a well-reasoned purchase.  It's appreciated.
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Joined Jan 16, 2011
No problem...  I got a lot of info from others on the board and I don't have any problems sharing what I've learned from others and through my own experience.

My screen name?  *shrug*  I thought it would be a fun name because it's a food ingredient that can also do some damage.  Capsaicin is what gives chili peppers their spice.  When used judiciously, it can give flavor to the food.  But it is also capable of kicking your ass if used in an aggressive way.

I have a Tojiro DP petty I bought from some sushi place in CA and a Tojiro Pro santoku that I bought from Cutleryandmore.com on clearance.  The steel feels identical, and they both perform well.  I do not have any in the Flash series.  I don't see how the damascus steel would change anything -- the core edge steel is what does the cutting, and as long as the layered steel doesn't add too much thickness -- the edge cuts the food, but the knife still needs to move through the food, so a thin blade will cut better on the whole.

I have four Globals of different sizes and shapes -- they were my introduction to Japanese knives, and I was slowly accumulating a set before I realized that there are many knives which are just as thin and can be made sharper, with better edge retention -- but I probably would not have bought more than one.  It's nice to have one Global around for cutting fruit, and that's it.

Reg. steel:

Carbon demands immediate attention after use, especially with acidic foods.  It can rust if not cared for properly.  It can also transfer that metallic taste to your food.

But you can typically get carbon sharper than stainless.

Stainless is just the reverse.  You generally can't get it as sharp as fast as carbon, but you can lay it down, have dinner, and come back to it, wash it and set it aside without toweling it dry, and use it with things like pineapples, tomatoes, and lemons without worrying about tasting the steel when you eat.

Many steels today are kind of a compromise.  Basically the more chromium, the more stain resistant it will be, but the harder it will be to sharpen to the best possible edge, so different companies play with the formulation to come up with special steels that balance sharpenability (I hate it when there is no other word for it and I have to make one up) against corrosion resistance.

Hollow ground is those dimples on the side.  They supposedly make the food slide off more easily because they prevent the food from suctioning to the side of the knife.  I don't think they work all that great, and when you eventually sharpen up to the dimples, the knife will not work as well.  Probably best to not bother with them.

Damascus and clad construction wraps more corrosion resistant steel around less corrosion resistant steel, or wraps softer, more pliant steel around harder, more brittle steel.  Functionally they enhance the performance of the knife to some degree, but they also prevent you from thinning your knives.

There are several series of Miyabi 7000s, but they all seem to use the D handle?

Reg. knife stores:

Bed Bath and Beyond carries several brands of Japanese knives now -- including Kasumi.  William & Sonoma carries two Miyabi series, and the Fusion series is moderately priced with western handles.  Both are national chains so you should be able to find one within an easy drive, and you can call first to see which ones they have in store to handle.

There might also be some kind of knife store in Pittsburgh that carries more Japanese knives.  They are really becoming mainstream now.

Anyway this forum seems to have few visitors these days...  Perhaps asking some of these questions on another forum would yield more answers:


There are some other kitchen knife forums too.
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Joined May 31, 2011
I'm a total n00b on this forum, so forgive me please if I'm out of line "correcting" anything already, just one clarification:
Originally Posted by Capsaicin  
Hollow ground is those dimples on the side.  They supposedly make the food slide off more easily because they prevent the food from suctioning to the side of the knife.  I don't think they work all that great, and when you eventually sharpen up to the dimples, the knife will not work as well.  Probably best to not bother with them.
The dimples on the side are actually called "kullens" or, sometimes called "Grantons" because they originated with Granton knives.

Hollow-ground knives are slightly concave, the purpose being to thin out the blade to it is "sharper" then to slightly widen the edge itself so that it is less sharp but will deform far less easily than if the knife were flat-ground.  Basically, the hollow ground "correlates to cooking" the same way it does to survival or EDC knife-use.

BTW, I also love the screen-name Capsaicin. But I put it everything.  Oatmeal.  Fruit smoothies.  On cantaloup.  I'm a cayenne freak.
Joined Jan 8, 2010
Looks like you've been getting some good advice ....

Problem with knife choice is that it is very personal.

I don't mind the Globals, just find them a tad difficult to sharpen, but then, I'm only a begginner in the sharpening circuit.

I recently bought a Fujiwara Carbon. Really really like that one, and a JCK Carbonext (which I like, easy to sharpen, but less character than the Fuji, if you can say that about a knife....)

Needing left handed knives is a bit more tricky, but you can re-sharpen any knife till it suits a left hander.

It's just a bit of work and may not be the best idea for clad knives.
Joined Jan 16, 2011
The Globals are okay I guess...  I don't have a problem with the handles either and they are still a step up from the old Henckels I was using.  I guess they are a bit harder to sharpen than some other steels I have sharpened, but in a comparison against German styled knives, they are not so bad, because the Germans are so thick that you have to remove a bunch of steel every time, especially by the time that you have sharpened it so much that you have begun to narrow the blade (and that damned bolster needs to be dealt with on a belt sander or grinder...).  To me at least it's pretty much a wash, and I don't think of them as being especially hard to sharpen.  To me the problem with Global is the crappy edge retention that requires you sharpen it constantly.

In a side by side with the VG10 knives I have, however, the Global steel neither gets as sharp nor hold it as long, deforming laterally relatively easily.  Now I jokingly call them my "watermelon knife", "pineapple knife", "mango knife", and "lemon knife" by size because that's what I use them for the vast majority of times that I use them. :)  And I mostly cut things without touching the board, either holding the fruit in my hand, or working around the fruit (in the case of the bigger ones) instead of to the board.  Globals work well enough for that.
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Joined May 29, 2011
I really like my Global knives. The biggest thing is to make sure you hone them everyday, and do not use your knife as a scrapper if you can help it. I persoally do not feel the need to sharpen them all that often.
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Joined Jan 16, 2011
Here's my mango knife and what I do with it.  I like mine a little sharper than most.

That's a slice I sliced off the fruit without using a board, along with the rest of the fruit.
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Joined May 31, 2011
Love that photo.  Thin mango slices as highlighter.

I am 2 days in with my new JCK CarboNext... it's not a "laser" like some of the knives people here talk about, but it is the thinnest bladed chef's/gyuto I've used, and so far so good.   Seems like a great knife at the price.  It's not stainless, but it's low-stain, tool (carbon) steel, which seemed ideal for my purposes. One of which was referred to in butzy's post -- just seemed the thing for sharpening purposes.
Joined Dec 3, 2010
Oh here's the unfortunate issue: I live near Pittsburgh, and from my google searches, there aren't any reputable kitchen supply stores or cutlery stores in the area. Unfortunately ,  I'm buying these sight unseen.   Which sucks, but I don't have another option aside from WS.
I hear you loud and clear on this.

Not sure if my initial thread here is still on the first page http://www.cheftalk.com/forum/threa...d-budget-entry-level-intro-to-japanese-knives   but I had the same concerns as you, and think everyone pretty much shares in this as it is not any fun buying something you can not hold in your even if you have no idea what it should feel like. Just uncomfortable and almost not natural.

Since I drove almost everyone here a bit nuts with my quest to find my way into "better knives" it may be a good read for you, and some of the lower priced brands you have mentioned are discussed in good detail as well.

One thing I am feeling a need to question you on is your choices v/s your budget. I was on a seriously restrained budget at the time and decided on going with Tojiro DP and Fujiwara FKM as these seemed to be (actually they are) the value leaders, and are so far above my old Henckels (and your Katana's) I am still not sure the higher cost brands will be worth the extra $$$.

If your budget allows to test different brands and even steels I would recommend to purchase more than one brand, and to include a higher end knife or two so that you can compare and be able to learn what you prefer and why etc. Even with my entry level purchase I was able to see and feel the difference between the two different brands, and get a better idea what everyone was talking about etc.

As an example the Tojiro DP has a really nice steel that is not too soft or hard and also is harder than the Fujiwara FKM. The Tojiro is pretty easy to sharpen but not as easy as the FKM, but also holds that edge longer (even the DP Santoku which hits the board constantly holds up just a bit longer then the Fujiwara) These two brands both get super sharp and do their jobs well, but just very differently and they feel just as different in your hand as well. I am sure if compared to a $250 HAttori HD they would feel even more different, and I will not get into the higher end white and blue steels as not only do I not have any experience with them, but they seem to be totally different animals that I just can not wait to get into my knife block.

Best overall advice I can offer to anyone just getting into this all is to take the time and read through as many threads as you can, be honest with yourself in reference to your abilities, needs, and wants so that you do not end up with too little or too much knife, and do not limit yourself to any one brand no matter how much you think you like it as you will only limit yourself and take away much of the fun, oh and this also goes for stones as well.

If your budget restrains you that is one thing and anyone would understand not buying $1000 worth of knives when you only have $400 etc, and I have found there is really nothing wrong with the low cost brands your considering, but also since everyone praises so many of the higher cost knives there has to be value to them due to their performance etc, and if you budget allows I would recommend getting at least one (even if you have to get a petty or other lower cost knife size as it will still allow you to see and feel the performance, fit and finish, and even how it sharpens etc).

My next two planned purchases are going to be less expensive models (petty and ?) of higher end knives so that I can add needed sizes to my block while allowing myself to be able to make my own decision from experience if it is actually worth it to spend $150 to $350 for a 240mm gyuto to replace my $80 Fujiwara that I am very happy with. I am not sure I cook enough (not often enough just enough meals etc) to justify a higher end knife, but I love quality, sharpness, and performance so my curiosity is getting the better of me lol.

One last question for you. What is it that you dislike about the Katana's?

I actually had liked my Henckels until I got tired of having to sharpen them all the time after I reduced the angles and increased their sharpness. I have fixed that problem now lol.

Good luck!!!

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