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View Full Version : For non-knife nuts, why carbon?



Don Nguyen
05-09-2012, 07:11 PM
I know we all love carbon blades here, patinas, etc.

I've thought about this a lot; if someone came up to me and asked what the advantages of a carbon knife were, I'm not sure how to answer. From what I know, there are stainless steels out there that can take a keen edge like a carbon steel will. Stainless theoretically needs less maintenance to worry about. No need to consider reactivity. Aaand for those who can't appreciate the patina, well, there isn't one.

Is it cost?
Ease of sharpening?
Durability of edge?

Thanks for schooling me :)

-Don

Eamon Burke
05-09-2012, 07:16 PM
IMO, carbon steel is better when price is a factor. Yes, there are stainless steels that are just as good, but they are not as readily accessible, the cost more, they are harder to work with, harder to laminate, etc etc.

I think the Low-end world of knives still needs carbon. Middle to High-end knives, though...stainless has finally caught up. It's an aesthetic choice for me.

tkern
05-09-2012, 07:24 PM
For me its ease of sharpening and sense of tradition. I usually don't have time to work a knife from 700grit to 10000 grit and marvel at its prettiness. I need the knife to get very sharp, very quickly and retain that.

On the tradition side, I feel that knives forged with carbon steel are carrying on something passed down and I enjoy being a part in that blacksmith/user chain. I know many non-carbon knives are forged well and with great care but its not the same for me. Perhaps thats irrational or unjustified but eh.

Dusty
05-09-2012, 07:41 PM
I don't recommend carbon to non knife nuts. Perhaps something clad, but non nuts don't constantly think about the tools in their hands. "I cut this box of lemons and now my new knife is dull and rusty.".

What most knuts consider absolute minimal care is way over the top for the average person. After all - its just a knife.

Ease of sharpening is handy, but most people, even pros, don't sharpen.

bluntcut
05-09-2012, 07:41 PM
In my limited experiences... Carbon fine distributed grain + tiny (0.2-0.4u) carbide cut & feel silky, also easier to sharpen. Stainless alloy carbide mostly bigger than 1u, so cutting doesn't give that carbon silky feel. M390 is close to get that 'feel' - ******** Ultimatum m390 where are you?

High density + hard carbide stainless can be challenging for avg mortal to sharpen. But, it sure holds the edge longer than carbon. Carbon patina looks nice but rust + acid dulling + lazy/abuse shy me from owning more carbon (including san-mai).

Dusty
05-09-2012, 07:43 PM
There is also the fact that recommending a beginners j-knife like a tojiro or a Fujiwara fkm is going to be light years ahead of what they are currently using.

Mingooch
05-09-2012, 07:44 PM
Give me a PM anytime. But carbon still gets some love.

Shinob1
05-09-2012, 08:03 PM
For those who prefer carbon, do you still keep a stainless around incase you need to cut a lot of acidic food?

stereo.pete
05-09-2012, 08:07 PM
For those who prefer carbon, do you still keep a stainless around incase you need to cut a lot of acidic food?

I imagine that question was geared towards a professional but as a home cook I never shy away from using my carbon knives. I love to sharpen so if my blade happens to get dulled from too much acidity I will gladly take the blade to the stones. This is especially true now that I have stepped up in the world of whet stones with my new Gesshin line up. Not to mention as stated above, there's something cool and old school about a knife with a heavy patina.

Back to the original question, I am in the same boat as Dusty when it comes to never recommending carbon to a non-knife nut. For my best friend's wedding I bought him a set of Misono 440 stainless knives (Gyuto, Santoku and petty). He and his wife love to cook but they absolutely suck at taking care of knives. A year later, they've lost the petty, chipped the tip of the santoku and are afraid to use the gyuto because it is "too big" (210mm :pullhair: ). I will sharpen their Misono's usually once every quarter and am still amazed at just how easy it is too form a burr on that particular steel.

Shinob1
05-09-2012, 08:12 PM
I imagine that question was geared towards a professional but as a home cook I never shy away from using my carbon knives. I love to sharpen so if my blade happens to get dulled from too much acidity I will gladly take the blade to the stones. This is especially true now that I have stepped up in the world of whet stones with my new Gesshin line up. Not to mention as stated above, there's something cool and old school about a knife with a heavy patina.

I'm a home cook too and I prefer the carbon knife I have over my stainless. I like sharpening as well and the extra care so far hasn't been a big deal for me. I'm thinking of trading out my Gyuto which is stainless for a carbon one, but I wouldn't have a stainless knife, (other than my Henkels, but I don't use them any longer), and didn't know if an all carbon lineup would be unwise.

Vertigo
05-09-2012, 08:30 PM
No carbon for non-knuts. They don't care about the "ease of sharpenability," (which, as mentioned, has diminishing returns as you approach the higher levels of stainless anyways), and more often than not they develop beautiful patterns of rust instead of patina. I gave a CCK cleaver to a friend and instructed him to wipe it and dry it after use. He's an excellent cook and can make an edge on oilstones ("45 degrees each side," he tells me, "nothing better than a tri-stone!"), but the first time I went to his house after gifting, that poor knife was rusty in the sink.

No carbon for non-knuts.


For those who prefer carbon, do you still keep a stainless around incase you need to cut a lot of acidic food?
I do. Didn't used to. I do a batch of salsa fresca a day, sometimes as big as 5 gallons, and got pretty tired of having my knife go dull halfway through my shift.

stereo.pete
05-09-2012, 08:31 PM
I'm a home cook too and I prefer the carbon knife I have over my stainless. I like sharpening as well and the extra care so far hasn't been a big deal for me. I'm thinking of trading out my Gyuto which is stainless for a carbon one, but I wouldn't have a stainless knife, (other than my Henkels, but I don't use them any longer), and didn't know if an all carbon lineup would be unwise.

I have a few stainless but only because they are truly exceptional knives (Devin Thomas ITK) but to be honest I could very easily survive and survive well with a carbon only line-up.

RRLOVER
05-09-2012, 08:54 PM
The only reason to go with carbon is......Because You Want To!! There is no real advantage of carbon in cutting or ease of sharpening vs. some of the high end SS.

stereo.pete
05-09-2012, 09:01 PM
The only reason to go with carbon is......Because You Want To!! There is no real advantage of carbon in cutting or ease of sharpening vs. some of the high end SS.

+1 I found this out first hand when my friend's Misono 440 Stainless was easier to sharpen than my Fujiwara FKH.

Shinob1
05-09-2012, 09:18 PM
With Carbon, can you get a better cutting and performing knife for cheaper? To say it another way, do you get more bang for the buck at lower price points?

stereo.pete
05-09-2012, 09:20 PM
With Carbon, can you get a better cutting and performing knife for cheaper? To say it another way, do you get more bang for the buck at lower price points?

I would say that you can definitely get a better knife for less money when it comes to carbon.

tk59
05-09-2012, 09:22 PM
I do think that your average non-stainless steel is easier to sharpen than your average stainless. Even most higher end stainless takes some work to remove the burr esp on coarser stones. For someone that does sharpen and takes decent care of knives, carbon is still a good option. I know a number of old chinese ladies that use their carbon cleavers. They look like **** but they get sharp in a pinch on the back of a ceramic mug.

kalaeb
05-09-2012, 09:30 PM
For those who prefer carbon, do you still keep a stainless around incase you need to cut a lot of acidic food?

Yes.

stereo.pete
05-09-2012, 09:30 PM
I do think that your average non-stainless steel is easier to sharpen than your average stainless. Even most higher end stainless takes some work to remove the burr esp on coarser stones. For someone that does sharpen and takes decent care of knives, carbon is still a good option. I know a number of old chinese ladies that use their carbon cleavers. They look like **** but they get sharp in a pinch on the back of a ceramic mug.

What is the brand and grit of their ceramic mugs?
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:justkidding:

Shinob1
05-09-2012, 09:30 PM
In Japan do professional cooks use more carbon knives compared to the states?

Don Nguyen
05-09-2012, 11:50 PM
Thanks for the discussion everyone!

Lots of good knowledge for me to pick up here. This is exactly what I was looking for.

ajhuff
05-09-2012, 11:56 PM
Why carbon? Because silicon is only 1/3 effective. :P

-AJ

phan1
05-10-2012, 12:51 AM
From a value perspective, carbon just wins out 100%. If you want a Stainless Steel knife that can get as sharp as carbon (like AEB-L, Konosuke HD. etc.), then you're going to have to fork over a lot of money. And once you experience how sharp carbon steels get, you're not ever going back. After using carbon, something like VG-10 is absolute crap to me; no different from the Mercers that kids use when coming out of culinary school.

Crothcipt
05-10-2012, 12:55 AM
What is the brand and grit of their ceramic mugs?
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:justkidding:
Don't laugh at one point of time I was walking through walmart just looking for a very fine grain. The bottoms of most cups now are not level or flat all the way across for this to be a great deal for the cheap in mind person.

Eamon Burke
05-10-2012, 01:22 AM
With Carbon, can you get a better cutting and performing knife for cheaper? To say it another way, do you get more bang for the buck at lower price points?


Yes. I have said it before and I'll say it again--the CCK 1303 has some of the poorest quality steel I've ever used in a knife. Ever. But it takes a better edge(and a lot easier) than, say, Forschner. It seems to me that carbon steel just can't get THAT bad, when it comes to a knife. The problem is reactivity and corrosion, and the old solution to that(sloppy stainless alloys with huge, soft chromium carbides) were not as well suited to taking and holding an edge. Now they are. It really is a new age for kitchen knives. The Carbon vs Stainless debate is just a matter of how you feel and what you like. I like stainless better in theory, but in practice, I use a lot more carbon steel.

oivind_dahle
05-10-2012, 01:40 AM
The only reason to go with carbon is......Because You Want To!! There is no real advantage of carbon in cutting or ease of sharpening vs. some of the high end SS.

No my friend. The reason is sharpness ;)
I found 52100 to take the same edge as AEB-L, however O1, white and blue takes a sharper edge. You know us tomato nuts, we need that clean cut :)

Don Nguyen
05-10-2012, 02:05 AM
Don't laugh at one point of time I was walking through walmart just looking for a very fine grain. The bottoms of most cups now are not level or flat all the way across for this to be a great deal for the cheap in mind person.

This is honestly one of the funniest ideas ever.

Maybe we're on to something? New sharpening stones made of ceramic?

Crothcipt
05-10-2012, 02:10 AM
This is honestly one of the funniest ideas ever.

Maybe we're on to something? New sharpening stones made of ceramic?
My boss laughed when I turned over a soup cup and started sharpening my Tanaka petty. A week later he was doing the same thing. I was just glad he didn't grab the pull through.

kalaeb
05-10-2012, 02:27 AM
No my friend. The reason is sharpness ;)
I found 52100 to take the same edge as AEB-L, however O1, white and blue takes a sharper edge. You know us tomato nuts, we need that clean cut :)

I have handled some pretty poor AEB-L. Save a DT not even close to 52100 in sharpenability.

oivind_dahle
05-10-2012, 04:37 AM
Oh, I dont buy from other makers than DT, BB and AMT, so I cant tell about bad AEB-L :) DTs knives are insane :)

VoodooMajik
05-10-2012, 03:11 PM
I've started using Carbon steel blades in a Pro kitchen over the last few months. I keep stainless on hand for stuff that can react heavily and for the line when I don't always have time to wipe off the knife and can get dragged away from the line.

The blade develops a character from being used. It feels alot nicer when cutting and holds up a decent edge. people are starting to be sold on Carbons as well as Suji's at work.

Birnando
05-10-2012, 03:30 PM
I prefer Carbon.

The reasons being the keenness they can reach, and with what ease they can do so.
Tradition being another and very important reason.
Looks does count too.
I am rather involved in the straight razor world as well,and I'm sure that has something to do with it too;)

Mike Davis
05-10-2012, 03:57 PM
I love carbon. At home i have 2 270's (one carbon, one ss) a 240(ss) and a 210(carbon) aside from those two ss gyuto's, everything else i have is carbon. For the most part, my 240 rarely gets used, my 2 270's are about neck and neck. I think i take pretty good care of my stuff, so i guess i am a carbon guy right now

Schtoo
05-10-2012, 10:30 PM
This is honestly one of the funniest ideas ever.

Maybe we're on to something? New sharpening stones made of ceramic?


No, nothing new at all.

I could cut/paste the email I have in my inbox, but it was sent to me and I'm reluctant to put any of that kind of correspondence up for the unwashed masses.

(Plus it's in Japanese!)

But...

You know when a stone is called 'ceramic'? In some cases, it actually is.

The email I have from a certain stone maker (Sigma Power) after asking whether their stones could be left in water stated the closest household comparison they could make with regard to the composition of their ceramic stones was, yes, a coffee cup.

(So, yeah, they're glorified coffee cups. Better that than a hunk of megabuck drywall, a squished flower pot or a smooshed out plastic bottle for my way of thinking.)

But it's also nice to know that short of giving them a trip off the 3rd floor balcony, your stones don't give a rat's back passage what you do to them.


Stu.

(Keeps a set of stones in the freezer. Because I can. :razz: )

keithsaltydog
05-11-2012, 04:58 AM
From a value perspective, carbon just wins out 100%. If you want a Stainless Steel knife that can get as sharp as carbon (like AEB-L, Konosuke HD. etc.), then you're going to have to fork over a lot of money. And once you experience how sharp carbon steels get, you're not ever going back. After using carbon, something like VG-10 is absolute crap to me; no different from the Mercers that kids use when coming out of culinary school.

I agree,I have tried to be open minded using some of the better stainless VG-10, AEB-L,Inox.I always go back to my carbons.All the maintainance issues mean nothing to me I have used only carbon in Banquet kitchens last 25 yrs.If in front of a cutting board an entire shift you want the best knife poss. to me that is thin japan carbon gyuto's & carbon yanagi.I have the Konosuki white steel 240 it is a fine tool.I have heard alot of good things about the HD,but at this point no more stainless blades for me,I end up giving them away to my relatives.:laugh:

stevenStefano
05-11-2012, 10:58 AM
As others have said, price vs performance, carbon is usually a better deal. Look at the Sakai Yusuke knives, you'll find it tough to find a stainless knife of their performance at their price. Another one is simply you have a better choice of knives. Some makers just don't really do stainless, or not very well anyway. Personally I have sorta moved away from carbon. To be totally honest the edge retention of White #2 has left me pretty underwhelmed. My Konosuke HD holds an edge longer than any carbon knife I've ever used and my Rottman suji holds an edge for much longer than the Konosuke, and I know the Konosuke isn't technically stainless but for all that it matters to me it is.

dav
05-11-2012, 02:44 PM
I' m a home cook and complete newbie when it comes to kitchen knives although I've enjoyed researching and reading up on different steels properties and finding out for myself how some of these actually feel in use and when sharpening etc

Obviously I have limited experience and have only experienced certain steels such as White steel, blue and blue super and the semi stainless steel in the Konosuke HD. and again my limited sharpening skills have probably made these steel more equal in that I'm probably not getting ultimate sharpness from each knife/steel to make a real comparison. Edge retention wise as a home cook I'm again probably not really testing my knives out as a professional would but I like the tradition which comes with some of the Japanese makers and steels that they use as well as their appearance/asthetics.

Also and this is purely personal I find appearance wise a stainless knife extremely boring, perferring steels that develop patina's, Kurouchi finishes and the more subtle damascus patterns. I again personally find some of the more elaborate damascus patterns abeit probably requiring a lot of skill in most cases superfluous to requirements and asthetically either "contrived" or gawdy/over done.

I also have no issue with the maintenance of carbon blades although can totally understand the practcal aspect of stainless in a professional setting.

shankster
05-11-2012, 07:56 PM
I've switched to SS or Semi(Kono HD and Swedish),too lazy,don't care about patina and too busy at work to fuss over my knives.Still love carbon,just not at work.

David Metzger
05-12-2012, 03:51 AM
I don't really understand why the chromium in some stainless steels allow such fine grain, such as 13c26 and AEB-L. I believe these are fine grain, somewhat similar to the carbon steels we use like o1, 52100, 1095, 1084, W1, W1, White and Blue. I think they are more difficult to harden to 62+ RC which many like for kitchen knives. Also appears that these fine grain stainless may need sharpening more often.

Then you have some more traditional stainless like 440C or 154 cm or VG10. Because of the larger carbides and less toughness of these types of steels - a thin edge and steep angle will not hold up very well. It is probably more difficult to harden these steels to 62+ and have them behave very well, I would think they would be a bit brittle.

Then there is a multitude of powdered metal steels like CPM 154, S35vn, M390, Elmax etc. Most people hold these steels in high regard. The edges with medium small carbides that are more evenly spaced work quite well. They will slice rope and cardboard longer than the typical carbon steels. (Not really the best test for cutting food) It remains to be learned how well these steels will do in kitchen knives at high hardness and sharp angles. I guess these steels sharpen easily enough in kitchen knives with waterstones but for outdoor knives - diamond plates are preferred.

I have not tested all these steels and these are my general impressions, as much from reading as testing. My general impressions are that Stainless blades are more difficult to sharpen and usually have and need a more obtuse edge angle - maybe 30-40 degrees inclusive instead of 20-30 degrees inclusive.

Carbon steels probably loose some sharpness just to reactions to food and humidity.

The vast majority of household have bad knives and poor sharpening. I guess the average non-knife nut would not notice differences in sharpness much and wouldn't sharpen enough to notice a difference. I have pocket and outdoor knives in many steels and easily notice sharpening and cutting differences, but I am not sure how the thinness of a thin gyuto with stainless steel may be virtually no different to sharpen than a carbon steel as others have stated.

Anyway, I like them both, except mass produced stainless is generally really bad (Soft, thick,etc). Whereas custom stainless knives are usually very good.

This is what I see from my experience and reading Kevin Cashem, Roman Landis, Larrin, Devin and other metal science experts.

David

keithsaltydog
05-12-2012, 03:21 PM
I like the S35Vn steel I bought a warther & put a thin edge on it.It holds an edge fairly well with cutting sessions.The M390 I have used in a folder I would like to see a Gyuto made out of that steel I am sure it would be expensive.

I have heard so much about the Kono. HD it is a little more cost than the WS it must be a very good blade.What is the def. of carbon steel is a little fuzzy M390 has a higher carbon contant than many so called C blades.I just love sharpening carbon steel it gets so sharp so fast if a little mud gets on the blade your fingers do not slip like on stainless.I have sharpened many stainless knives for other people in the food buss. including Shuns & other brands.The stainless Yanagi to me are inferior to the carbon Yanagi.

David Metzger
05-12-2012, 06:02 PM
Yeah "carbon steel" I guess was named that meaning that there is enough carbon in the steel to harden the steel. Once you get to about .8 % carbon, the carbon is not helping the hardening as I understand it. I guess this was before stainless steels were invented since stainless steels for knives have carbon and sometime much more than the "carbon steels". I think the extra carbon changes the matrix of the steel as well as forming carbides.

David

ajhuff
05-12-2012, 06:23 PM
The amount of carbon in the matrix is pretty much fixed at 0.5% for most steels. The more alloying elements you have, the more carbon you need.

Carbon steels get their strength from the addition of carbon. This is in contrast to low alloy steels, or high alloy steels, stainless steels or tool steels etc.

-AJ

keithsaltydog
05-14-2012, 02:52 AM
I've switched to SS or Semi(Kono HD and Swedish),too lazy,don't care about patina and too busy at work to fuss over my knives.Still love carbon,just not at work.

I think at work is where carbons excell,they do not do well at all laying around not being used.When I first started using carbon Masamoto's many yrs. ago they were so superior to the Forchner's I was using.All the Sushi Chef's I know use carbon as do the Fish & meat cutter's in Chinatown.You would be hard pressed to find many stainless blades in the Japan fish markets.

Of coarse I would be the first to admit that when I switched completely to Carbon over 25 yrs. ago,the Masamoto Carbon steel was excellent,and there were no Konosuki HD or AEB-L swedish razor steel.

Still-edo
05-16-2012, 04:34 PM
I can't afford to join you big boys yet. But this thread convinced me to pull a robbery on my mom for her Old Hickory chef (Don't see to many of those around).