Should I switch Knives?

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Joined Mar 31, 2020
Hey guys/girls/everyone else, this is my first post here in the chef talk forum, and my reasoning is, I own a set of 6 shun premier knives that i received from my parents for my participation in my country's masterchef junior, i like my knives, but they're not perfect, and I've been really getting into japanese traditional knives, but im wondering if its worth selling my shun set to buy 3 traditional knives, and if some high carbon blades are that much of a difference?
Can y'all give me some opinions?
I'm saving up to travel to japan on my 16th birthday, so i could buy some knives there
Can y'all give some recommendations and brands to buy japanese knives in the EU?
Thanks in advance,
Gonçalo
 
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Joined May 29, 2013
Welcome to ChefTalk!

Before anyone can intelligently talk to you about knives, they should ask you what sort of foods you cook or want to cook. Can you tell us what you currently cook? What types of food would you like to learn to cook?

Also, how do you currently sharpen your knives? Are you aware that many traditional Japanese knives have a bevel primarily on one side of the knife blade only?

If I were starting out wanting some Japanese blades, I would probably concentrate not so much on the knives, but on the sharpening techniques. I'd look at getting several good waterstones, with grit levels of 400, 800 to 1200 and 3K to 5K to start with. I'd look for stones with a MINIMUM surface area of 50mm x 200mm (though bigger is better).

In looking at the USA web site for Kai USA (Kai is the Japanese knife company which makes Shun Knives - one of their brands), I counted 18 different Shun Premier knives. Can you describe what knives you received, and can you tell us what you like and don't like about your current knives? As for the EU, I'm not that familiar as to what Kai offers there, or as to their distribution network.

You mention "traditional" Japanese knives. You also asked about carbon steel (non-stainless) knives. Yes, many can be brought to a level of sharpness much sharper than factory-edge sharpness. But do be advised that for many Japanese blades from top bladesmiths, the edge provided when a knife is sold to a customer is not very refined. That is so that the intended owner will put the edge on which that owner wants the knife to have (a very good reason to concentrate first on learning to properly sharpen).

Galley Swiller
 
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Joined Mar 31, 2020
Hi Galley, thanks for the reply
I do own a whetstone form kai, and i can sharpen quite consistently, but my main issue is that its only 400 grit, so i can't really get a refined edge on my blades.
I own a 10 inch chef, a 6 inch petty, a 3 inch paring, a 5 inch nakiri, a 12 inch carving, and a 9 (not entirely sure) inch santoku, I am pleased with them but the main think i do not really appreciate is the bulkiness of the bigger knives (prior to owning the shun set, i used conformably a 10 inch chefs knife, but now that i use the shuns, i find myself always using the lighter, thinner handle 6 inch petty, which is a shame because i originally chose shun over wusthof not only because i enjoyed the design more, but because everyone told me that shun knives are generally more maneuverable, another issue i find, specially with the chefs knife and the santoku is that they have too much rock and because I'm more of a push cutter, that blade shape doesn't really complement my style, even if shun is a japanese company, i find that they're knives are too western for my style.
In terms of what i cook, i cook almost everything and i do fillet my fish, I mainly cut veggies, fish and I prep chicken, not a lot past that, even tho down the line i might want to prep larger meats.
Can you give some thoughts?
And what would you do if you were in my position?
thanks,
Gonçalo Rodrigues
 
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Joined May 29, 2013
The first thing I would address would be to get some more waterstones. The 400 grit stone you have is a coarse stone, and is mostly good for repairing an edge after it's been damaged, then thinning the blade. It's not good for putting a decent polished edge on the blade. For that, you need both a medium grit stone (800 to 1200 grit) for general sharpening, and a somewhat finer stone for polishing the edge (3000 to 5000 grit).

Depending on your sharpening skills, I would also recommend getting a set of Wedgek Angle Guides, fill in and level the backsides of each wedge with some sort of paste and set filler, then drill, countersink and screw mount the wedges onto a long flat stick or narrow board (which can go with your knives into a knife bag). That will give you a tactile feel for any particular angle, which you can directly transfer to your sharpening stone (hint: don't move your wrist when transferring the knife from the angle wedge to the stone. Instead, first use your shoulder and elbow to raise or lower your arm, then rotate your lower torso for side-to-side motions. That way, your wrist will keep the proper angle from the angle stick/wedge to the waterstone.

I suspect your santoku is 180mm length - slightly shorter than 7 inches. It's extremely rare to find any santoku longer that that, and the Kai USA website lists their longer santoku as 7 inches.

The Shun Premier line is made with a core steel of VG-MAX steel, which Shun lists as proprietary to them. Since it's a "VG-" steel, that strongly suggests (through a trademark process) that the steel is laminated and then supplied to Kai by Takefu Special Steel Co. For comments by users of VG-MAX, I would suggest you scan the web for forum comments on the steel to see what others say.

Shun knives are very well noted for having a blade profile with lots of curvature and a high tip. They would not be the party I would go to for a flatter profile,

For a good selection of quality Japanese knives, both traditional and western-style, I go online to japanesechefsknife.com. They are an internet retailer based in Japan, and ship almost anywhere in the world for a very minimal shipping cost.

Hope that helps.

Galley Swiller
 
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Joined Jul 13, 2012
VG10 is probably the most popular core stainless steel for Japanese knives. It's strengths and weaknesses come from the heat treat. Shun has a not so stellar reputation as being "chippy". My Hiromoto VG10 has an excellent heat treat and is one of the finest knives I own. My other beef with Shun is with the profile of their chef's knives it's too German IMO. If they took the paring knife and scaled it up they'd have something, but then there is the heat treat issue.

I don't see anyone traveling out of country during this pandemic so maybe order some better stones as galley swiller galley swiller advised and tune up your current rotation.
 
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Joined Oct 6, 2009
Hi Gonçalo,

I'm going to offer a slightly different view here. Forget Japanese knives for now - although they're great and there are a number of decent EU vendors (e.g. cleancut.eu, Japanesenaturalstones.com) who have some good relatively lower cost options. But you'll spend quite a bit of money, not just on the knives also the stones, and you can get far greater benefit for you money for now by spending it elsewhere.

You say you don't use your 10" chef, and also don't like the profile. I'd focus on finding a single chef's knife that you'll end up using - it simply isn't efficient to do the bulk of your cutting with a petty, and you'll benefit far more in the long run by picking up skills and being super comfortable with a chef's knife.

Look at chef's knives around the 8", or 20/21cm mark. Your comment about the profile suggests to me straight away that you should try a Sabatier profile (i.e. a Sabatier!). Carbon Sabatiers are really great and very good value e.g. https://www.sabatier-shop.com/8-in-chef-knife-nogent-carbon-n20ao.html or https://www.sabatier-shop.com/kitch...vintage_cooking-knife-8-in__carbcui20pol.html (the vintage one is probably better, but it's a bit more expensive). Then also pick up a good steel hone (e.g. F Dick Eurocut - very good value and an excellent performer). This combination will keep you very happy for less than €100 - learn to use the steel, it's easy and that way you keep your knife sharp. When you need to resharpen, any commercial sharpening operation will be able to do this for you for about €10 or so (depending on where you live) - if you keep it up with the steel, this may be once every year or so, depending on use, maybe longer.

Then see where you are! Maybe then you'll find something on your trip to Japan :)

Good luck!
 
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First off, I would advise against selling your knives. I have my first ever chef knife that I received as a gift when I started in this field, and even if I don't use it all the time it still holds sentimental value to me, as one day you may find about the knives your parents gave you. Second, I've found through the years there are a lot of great knives out there and they come from famous makers to off brands and at the end of the day all it depends on is if you like the knife and it works for you. I would advise against purchasing sets at this point and peace meal your own set together.
 
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Joined Jul 19, 2018
I was recently in a similar situation myself. I was 16 years old and I wanted knives. I spent hours pouring over steel types, knife design, heat treat temperatures, and the rockwell hardness scale. After I read everything I could I changed to youtube videos and watched hours of those. Looking back now that time was almost wasted in a way. While I did learn a lot (and discovered a love for blacksmithing) all that information didn't really play a part in my decision. The knife brand I fell in love with on paper is not the knife I bought.

The bottom line for knife selection Is how you feel using that knife. How it fits in your hand, and how comfortable you are with that knife in your hand. While design does play into that a little bit you cant see how a knife feels without putting it to work. Japanese knives can hold an edge longer, yes, but that also means that they are more prone to chip and are typically harder to sharpen. German knives are typically softer. They sharpen easier, and dull quicker. Each of these has their own pros and cons. My advice to you would be not to worry about the super technical specs that knife makers use to dazzle consumers. When the Covid-19 infection lets up go into the biggest knife store you can find. Pick up every knife you can and use it. Base your decision on that.

If you're not happy with the knife while you're at the store then you're probably going to regret buying it. Also congratulations on your participation in masterchef. I hope this post finds you all well and can help you in your decision.
 
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Joined Aug 21, 2004
I was recently in a similar situation myself. I was 16 years old and I wanted knives. I spent hours pouring over steel types, knife design, heat treat temperatures, and the rockwell hardness scale. After I read everything I could I changed to youtube videos and watched hours of those. Looking back now that time was almost wasted in a way. While I did learn a lot (and discovered a love for blacksmithing) all that information didn't really play a part in my decision. The knife brand I fell in love with on paper is not the knife I bought.
This part of your experience can be true gold for Gonçalo. Just imagine if all the hours you spent reading and watching videos, had been spent instead doing knife work. It probably would have helped you to learn and narrow down more exactly what suits you and what you want in a knife. I am all in favor of knowledge. Knowledge is power, especially knowledge from hands on experience.

Thanks for sharing your experience with us. Your whole post was full of good solid practical advice. Kudos for that!
 

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