View Full Version : My First Serious Knife Purchase

03-02-2013, 06:14 PM
Hi Gents,

I am looking to make some of my first legit knife purchases (investments) and could really use help with some navigation of what’s out there quality/price from the pro's on this forum. I love to cook and use my current garbage knives on a daily basis. I am 2 years out of college and my stamped SS "tools of the trade" $25 set is just not cutting it anymore, no matter how much I have cared for them. My father used to be a chef, and still swears by his 30 year old Henckel 4 star two's he got when he was my age, still using them to this day. I know there are a lot more options including Japanese now, and I'd value hearing what you all would recommend.

Right now I'm looking to get a solid 8" chef’s knife, possibly also a Santoku for chopping, is it worth it? And or a utility knife. I will be slicing/cuttings/chopping/mincing meats, vegetables and herbs on a regular basis.

What kind of cutting board(s) do you use?
Primarily I use thin flexible plastic boards, any opinions on this? I also have a wood carving board that I don't use as often.

For edge maintenance, do you use a strop, honing rod, pull through/other, or nothing?
I hone on a standard slotted steel on regular basis.

What is your budget?
$150-300 for all considered knives total. Looking for an investment to care for over the long-term, but still economical.

Thanks in advance!

03-02-2013, 06:15 PM

03-02-2013, 06:19 PM
210/240 mm gyuto and a paring/petty are your best bet I think. A santoku and gyuto are pretty much interchangeable, but the gyuto has a length and tip advantage.

I think 240 mm is a more versatile length and it isn't too hard to get used to; the extra length makes it a better slicer.

What are your thoughts on stainless vs carbon and wa vs western handles?

03-02-2013, 06:49 PM
In addition to James' questions: are you left handed?
You will need two stones for sharpening. With your limited budget, instead of the gyuto and petty combination, perhaps a 270mm slicer (sujihiki) and a well chosen santoku may cover all your needs as well.

03-02-2013, 07:27 PM
Welcome aboard! How does your dad care for the knives?

03-02-2013, 08:41 PM
Thanks for the greetings!

"Benuser" Good call, I am left handed, you must have sensed it ;-)

For handles, I grew up and currently use Western, I should however, go try holding various ones to get more accustom to what feels right on a purchase like this. I do like it when a handle has a pinky hook, that seems to give me better control and a more ergo feel. I think it would be nice to get suggestions on both Japanese and Euro knives options.

I think I would prefer a forged high carbon SS, I do not always dry my knives right away and would be concerned about high carbon steel staining, but maybe I need to learn what the tradeoffs are.

Japanese knives scare me in regards to my lack of knowledge about their maintenance. With their one sided blade, I would imagine you cannot use them on an electric honing sharpener? Do you still steel them?

I do plan on buying a nice 3 stage electric sharpener to keep my knives in top shape, but would also be open to stones, because I am handy and like the thought of craftily sharpening my knives. My father took good care of his knives and taught me the basics of honing, but he never sharpened them, and now uses an electric.

My budget is rather loose, if there is some major benefit I am not seeing as far as price , let me know, but I need to see the value. I would not consider maintenance items in the budget.

03-02-2013, 08:59 PM
On j knives, no electric sharpeners. Hones, personally I rarely use them and only on certain knives. For that matter it would be a ceramic hone, a mac black. Stones are the best way to sharpen the knives for sure. As far as what stones, depends on what knives you end up with.

03-02-2013, 10:39 PM
I also vote stones, though am still newish to it...electric will take a lot of metal away and shorten the life of your knives.

03-02-2013, 10:49 PM
Welcome. Add another south paw to the crew!

03-02-2013, 11:13 PM
we lefties must band together! lol.

03-03-2013, 12:00 AM
Don't worry about the edge, 70/30, 60/40, or 50/50, they are all asymmetric, right handed, and you will have to change them, drastically, whatever they tell you. What might be more important is the difference between the blade's faces: if one is very convex, it will be harder to get it somewhat flattened. If the knife is very thin, conversion will seem easier or less needed but there is not enough steel to get the left side convexed.

03-03-2013, 12:04 AM
I'm not as experienced as most on this board. I've been interested in better knives for a year or so.The two big take-aways for me thus far were the following:

1- If you learn to freehand sharpen on waterstones, after a while, all your knives can be sharper than you imagined they can be.

2- Once your knives are reasonably sharp, it takes a while to learn what your preferences are otherwise. Heavy or light? Carbon or stainless? Gyuto or cleaver? Yo or wa handles? What this means is that, although knives are a relatively long-lasting purchase (in that they don't wear out in a short period of time), the chances are good that you'll have to experiment a bit to find out what you like. So, your first knife could be but probably won't be that heirloom purchase. Buy with that in mind.

Here's one way to start:
boardsmith end-grain cutting board, $115
mineral oil from your local drugstore to oil the cutting board, $5
bester 1200 stone, $50
fujiwara fkm 150mm petty, $50
used gyuto in 240mm of some sort from the buy/sell/trade section of this forum, around $100 or so

This is one example; there are lots of ways to go for all of this. Just keep in mind that you'll likely want to upgrade your sharpening equipment and what you cut on at the same time as you upgrade your knives.

03-03-2013, 02:40 PM
First thoughts... The J blade clan is off to a strong start, are they all around more superior to European knife options? I know J's have a greater HRC, buy any Euro suggestions? I really like the idea of a 120mm petty and find I would gravitate to that knife more so than a paring knife as my 2nd knife. Major differences in Gyuto VS chef knife seems to be the blade taper, the Guyto being flatter?

Since I am a lefty, are you guys insinuating that I need to change the end of the blade to suite my left hand? Can this even be done on a single side J blade? I agree that a stone will out do electric, just not sure how much I want to dive into becoming a knife connoisseur, VS a chef who uses and cares for his knives.

03-03-2013, 04:25 PM
Traditional japanese knives are as you say single-sided, meaning that the bevel is on one side(the side of the user's dominant hand) and the other side is flat. Those are traditional knives, but since the advent of western cooking and ingredients in Japan, to date virtually all japanese knife makers manufacture knives in western styles or the equivalent. A perfect example is the gyuto, it is a chef's knife for all intents and purposes however the shape and profile of it are very different from most chef knives produced in the west. Is it better for you? Possibly, but I would argue that it is definitely worth a try.

You could do a lot worse than to purchase some good sharpening stones and cutting board followed by the purchase of an entry-level japanese chef knife. Fujiwara FKM, Tojiro DP, and Hiromoto G3(and these are just a few suggestions) are all good low-cost knives that would give you a great idea of what to expect.

In regards to purchasing a japanese petty, I would hold off on that if I were you. The handling of a thinner, much sharper japanese knife is an adjustment for anyone and especially a home cook. Before I discovered japanese knives I always preferred a longer paring knife, but when I got a 120mm petty thinking I had finally found that niche of what I had always wanted i was sorely disappointed. For me a thin, super sharp knife in that length slowed me down as I found myself being too careful and awkward when doing in hand work. For work on the board it is absolutely wonderful, but it took me a long time in professional kitchens and a huge volume of food to adjust to inhand work with it. For the really intricate in hand work and even most peeling tasks I always find myself reaching for my K-Sabatier parer(I wanna say its 100-90mm or so). But that is just my personal experience(I have large palms but short fingers) and something for you consider. Also on the other hand a gyuto(especially a 240 or something shorter) may have enough finesse and versatility for you that you do not feel the need for a petty at all.

In summary my advice to you would be to go ahead and purchase sharpening equipment and one decent gyuto, be it an entry-level or something used in a higher price/performance range, and use it all the time and give it a chance to make a real impression you before you consider further purchases.

03-03-2013, 07:20 PM
Have you considered the carbons by Robert Herder, Solingen? Some series have been hardened up to 60HRc, and have - remarkably thin - symmetric edges.

03-03-2013, 07:45 PM
Have you considered the carbons by Robert Herder, Solingen? Some series have been hardened up to 60HRc, and have - remarkably thin - symmetric edges.

I think the Mac Pro is a great first knife for someone making the transition form German knives to J knives. It was the first knife I got when I started moving away from the Henkels/Wusthoff/Victorinox knives I started with...

03-03-2013, 08:16 PM
I don't know that I'm ready to deal with the extra responsibility of a carbon steel blade. I have some 1095 spring steel aggressively rusting away in my garage just from the moisture in the air. Do these knives need to be kept oiled and always dry? I think I'm going to stick looking at a high carbon SS for my first knife, albeit it may have a softer edge. You all have been very helpful that far in flushing out ideas and making me research and critically think about several aspects of what I want in my knife. I will take it from the absolute silence on the forum, that Hanckel and Wusthof have been trumped by J blades, leaving them to the department store but not good enough for the enthusiasts.

Is it worthwhile to hone J blades? I know I would need a ceramic hone. What grits do you need for the basics of sharpening and maintenance?

03-03-2013, 08:56 PM
Some Japanese knives have more "German" style profiles. But, if you happen to like a "German" style profile because you rock chop/cut, most Japanese knives that are not exceptionally flat work fine for this cutting method.

You can get what's considered a "high carbon" stainless steel knife that's not soft (like a German) knife. While I haven't used a Suisin Inox, I know that it's highly recommended and, considering there was just one up for sale that was used by a lefty, this might be along the lines of what you're looking for. (I own a CarboNext and would not recommend it for a lefty unless the left-handed version is actually convex ground on the left side of the blade. On the right handed version that I have, left side of the blade is nearly flat; the right side is slightly convexed.)

And, personally speaking, I agree with longhorn. I use my 120 petty less and less (Sakai Takayuki Inox); my primary knives are my 240 Gesshin Ginga White #2 Gyuto and an inexpensive Japanese paring knife. I find the 120 a little unwieldy for in hand use; the parer is great. I also feel that there's very little that I cannot do with my gyuto that I would need a 120 petty for.

I personally do not "hone" in the typical manner, i.e., using a steel or ceramic hone. However, there are a number of members that recommend the Mac ceramic hone which is supposed to be 2000 grit. If I were a pro, I'd consider this if it works well. But, since I'm not, I have my growing collection of stones and strops.

03-03-2013, 10:04 PM
Sounds like you may want a thin gyuto that you can get setup for you in the first place and for that I would recommend speaking with Jon @ JKI. He will get you a setup (from what I understand he will sharpen for a lefty) that will be ready to go out of the box--I would recommend a Gesshin Ginga in stainless likely 240 in length. Has a bit of curve to it though not too much. I would rule out Euro's unless you are willing to go custom, the best value is likely in the not too expensive J-blades. The length will work out nicely as it is light and sharp.

Western handle here (http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/kitchen-knives/gesshin-ginga/gesshin-ginga-240mm-stainless-gyuto.html#), and wa handle here (http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/kitchen-knives/gesshin-ginga/gesshin-ginga-240mm-stainless-wa-gyuto.html).

Oh, and waterstones for sure.