View Full Version : What knives to buy? (AKA: The question you get all the time)

07-05-2012, 02:36 AM
Hi all, I'm so glad to have found this forum. I'm usually living in Toronto but in the Bay Area for a couple of months for work. I had on my list to buy some new knives and stones and after much pondering and thinking "man, I really wish an expert could advise me..." I stumbled upon this forum! I hope this is the right place for this post :)

Here are my answers to the requisite questions:

What type of knife(s) do you think you want?
Presently thinking chef's (wide, 8" to 10"), nakiri, bread knife (not right away, but eventually), and cheese knife (meh)

Why is it being purchased? What, if anything, are you replacing?
My current knives are garbage. Won't keep an edge---they're mostly standard no-name knives that my parents had laying around when I moved out---plus I don't really have a good stone so I'm looking to buy one (or two...) as well.

Right now, I have a paring knife, a finely-serated utility knife, and a santoku from Chicago Cutlery that are decent. Other than that I have a dinky chef's knife, as well as a couple of other paring/utility knives that are also of unknown provenance. I don't really do a lot of paring, mostly chopping or slicing (sometimes fine mincing), so I don't feel the need to get a high-quality paring knife. Other than the chef's, I'm interested in the nakiri for its flat blade and ability to cut thinly when necessary.

What do you like and dislike about these qualities of your knives already?
Aesthetics- Nothing
Edge Quality/Retention- When I sharpen them, they get sharp. Sometimes. For a little while.
Ease of Use- Not terrible, but I don't have tons of experience with higher-quality knives.
Comfort- Ditto.

What grip do you use?
Vary between pinch and hammer. Used to hammer, started using pinch recently. Depends on what I'm cutting and what motion I'm using. Willing to learn anything.

What kind of cutting motion do you use?
Similar to above: used to push, started rocking recently. Walk every so often depending on what I need. Willing to learn anything.

Where do you store them?
Presently in a wooden knife block. Eventually I want a magnetic knife rack, but don't want to drill through the tiles I have right now, so it'll have to wait until I move to a different place (not for at least three years).

Have you ever oiled a handle?
I have no idea what this means. There was that time I sliced through a flax seed oil capsule to see how much oil was actually inside...

What kind of cutting board(s) do you use?
Wooden, bamboo IIRC.

For edge maintenance, do you use a strop, honing rod, pull through/other, or nothing?
Honing steel, usually every time I use a knife.

Have they ever been sharpened?
Professionally? No. By me with my dinky pseudo-stone? Sure.

What is your budget?
Not super-high, but I'm looking for quality. Maybe in the range of $100-$150 (USD or CAD) per knife. (Except the cheese knife...)

What do you cook and how often?
Pizza, indian food, sometimes mexican food, all vegetarian (no meat at all) so it's pretty much all vegetables or herbs, probably 3--4 times a week.

Special requests(Country of origin/type of wood/etc)?
Something that will work, that is comfortable (which is why I'd also appreciate recommendations on where I can put a knife in my hand and try it, and preferably buy one and return it if I don't like it), that holds an edge, and will last. Looking nice would be a plus.

As I mentioned above, I'm also going to be buying a stone or stones. So far I've been thinking of two combo stones: a 300/1000 and 3000/8000. Would appreciate advice here as well :)

Thanks very much in advance! As I mentioned already, I'm so glad to have found a forum of people with a passion as well as expertise on this kind of stuff. First I found one for pizza, and now this one---it seems I just need to find the right place to ask!

07-05-2012, 03:12 AM
First of all Welcome!!!

Wow you basically know what you need. For stones as a starter I would go with a 1k/6k combo, with something for stropping. There are a few vendors here that can hook you up.

Get rid of that bamboo cutting board. It is prob. the biggest reason your edges don't hold for a while. Exp. if rocking on it. Bamboo is grass and not a flat surface. Which is not good.

I will let others chime in with suggestions for the knifes. Just remember that there is some great vendors here, and take a look at what they have. Call on any of them they can help you out.

Good luck.

07-05-2012, 03:44 AM
Welcome! I'm sure you will find some nice knives to suit.


07-05-2012, 10:26 AM
The all-time champ in pure starter knives(?) Fujiwara FKM for a chef knife, and a good combo stone (1/6k) will set you up perfectly. I'd take a serious look at the Fujiwara 120mm petty knife in the same line. I have the carbon steel version and still use it all the time. I love the feel and thin grind on it, and so will you.
However, if you go 240mm gyuto, I'd maybe go with the 150mm petty knife.

Order both from Koki at JCK, and you'll have them by Wednesday at the latest.

07-05-2012, 11:22 AM
Welcome aboard!

I'm a big fan of nakiri and use them (as a group) more often than anything else in my kitchen, but I would suggest focusing for now on a good chef's knife (gyuto), board and stone(s). Get the nakiri later. And go economical on the bread knife. Cheese knife... unless you need it for presentation purposes on the table at events, I don't see why you couldn't use something else in the meantime. Use the money you would otherwise spend on the other stuff on the gyuto, board and stone(s) first.

Your stated budget can get you off to a solid and enjoyable start :)

07-05-2012, 12:12 PM
Thanks for the responses! Good to know I'm on the right track. Any suggestions for cutting board material?

Regarding the knives... I won't worry about the cheese knife. I don't do a lot of bread these days but may in the future, so I was sort of looking for a pre-emptive recommendation. I'm not looking to buy one just yet, I definitely prefer to play things by ear when it comes to buying things.

I'm a bit hesitant to buy a knife without trying them myself. This may be taboo here but I went to Bed Bath & Beyond to see what they had; they had some Shuns, Zwilling Henckels (which my dad likes), and Global. The advantage there was that I could walk into the store, buy the knife, and then return it if I didn't like it. One thing I liked about the Shuns was that their honing steel has a guide that helps you get the angle right (whereas now it's a bit of a guessworky chore). I do think I somewhat preferred the feel of the Globals though, particularly for the pinch grip.

I'll take a look at the Fujiwara, but does anyone have any specific recommendations for the nakiri that would fall into my price range? Again, it'd be great if I could give the knife a go before settling on it (same goes for the gyuto/chef's).

And lastly, regarding the stone, it's good to know that I won't need to buy two. They are kind of expensive! Would 1k grit be low enough to sharpen some of my crappier, duller knives? (I assume 6k vs. 8k is not that big a difference for polishing, and based on the suggestion of a single 1k/6k stone I also assume that there isn't much of a need to go through 3k first.)

Thanks again!

07-05-2012, 12:26 PM
If you get out to the East Bay, there are a few places that sell Japanese knives if you want to see some knives. In Berkeley, there's Hida Tools and Tokyo Fish Market (two blocks from each other) and Japanese Wood Worker in Alameda. If you ever get down to LA, definitely go to Japanese Knife Imports and talk to Jon.

07-05-2012, 01:17 PM
First, welcome to the forum!

Any suggestions for cutting board material?

Read this primer (http://www.theboardsmith.com/purchase.htm) on cutting boards written by a well respected member/vendor here.

Bread knives that are frequently recommended include the Tojiro ITK (around $65) and MAC Superior (around $105). There are many threads here on this subject if you do a search.

Couple of other shops in the Bay Area that I have heard recommended (but not visited myself) are Bernal Cutlery (http://bernalcutlery.com/) and Town Cutler (http://www.towncutler.com/Town_Cutler/About.html). If you want to get on the phone and talk to someone knowledgeable, try Jon at Japanese Knife Imports (http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/) (a member and vendor here who I can say from personal experience offers unparalleled customer service).

I'm not sure you're going to find a shop that sells the kind of knives favored by members here with the same liberal return policy as a Sur La Table or Bed Bath & Beyond. You may need to make a bit of a leap of faith based on the suggestions of experienced members here. If you buy a relatively inexpensive (but well regarded) knife like a Fujiwara and decide it isn't for you, you could always put it up for sale in the Buy/Sell/Trade section here and recoup most of your moderate investment.

One thing that visiting one of the local shops mentioned above might do is help you decide what length feels most comfortable (Japanese knives are typically much lighter and more nimble feeling than their German counterparts), and handle type (traditional Japanese "wa" style handles or western).

I will let more experienced members make specific recommendations on knives and stones, but recommend you read some of the older threads here as this question is frequently discussed.

07-05-2012, 01:59 PM
+1 on getting a nice gyuto first and then adding a nakiri at some later point. I too would recommend a nice starter stone and maybe and end grain board, wait a little bit and get a nakiri (my recommendation would be a Carter) once you are comfortable with your other purchases.

As to handling the knives beforehand that may be of help, but once you know what you like you really can go by recommendations combined with pictures and specs.

Good luck!

07-05-2012, 03:03 PM
+1 on the Tojiro ITK bread knife.

Nakiri's are great, I've just got a cheapy right now but I use it alot.

07-05-2012, 03:48 PM
If you get out to the East Bay, there are a few places that sell Japanese knives if you want to see some knives. In Berkeley, there's Hida Tools and Tokyo Fish Market (two blocks from each other) and Japanese Wood Worker in Alameda. If you ever get down to LA, definitely go to Japanese Knife Imports and talk to Jon.

I was gonna suggest Jon too. He's an expert, patient, and won't try to up sell you. Stand up guy all around.

07-07-2012, 04:18 AM
Thanks again everyone for the suggestions. As I said I'm partial to playing things by ear, so I'm sympathetic to the recommendation to buy a gyuto now and a nakiri later, but I'm pretty sure it's going to be a lot harder to buy a good knife in Toronto than it is here, so I'd rather take care of this stuff now. OTOH it would be nice to save the money :\. I should say that I'm only here (in Mountain View) up until the end of August, so I'd need to have acquired everything by then (or found someone willing to ship to Toronto without paying outrageous shipping costs... though even then I'd get boned by UPS/FedEx/whoever due to their brokerage fees). I'll be visiting SF on occasion, so could get something from there, and will also be in San Diego for a couple of days so could do the same there. LA, unfortunately, is not in my itinerary :(

OK, I've got the Tojiro ITK in my list for the bread knife. I took a gander around and the FKS 240mm gyuto seems like a nice choice (I'm willing to pay that extra bit for the hollowed edges, unless you guys really think it isn't worth it).

Do you have any recommendations for a good nakiri around $100?

For the stone, I saw this Shun 1k/6k stone that also gives you a good honing steel:

Would that suffice? And speaking of Shun, what do you think of their knives? The Shun Premier Chef Knife is $120, which is in my price range, if a bit on the high end (and obviously more than the Fujiwara). The nakiris are more like $160 so I'd probably hold off on those for now. (So regarding the Carter recommendation: out of budget.)

I should have mentioned before that I'm also looking for comfort. A more ergonomic handle would be worth paying for, I think, but I'm also pretty cheap so if it's too big a difference I probably wouldn't go for it. I'd appreciate any recommendations along these lines as well :)

Thanks again!

07-07-2012, 08:12 PM
I just had a Nakiri in a pass a round a couple of weeks ago. Yamawaku Nakiri is about 80$ on ebay. here is the pass a round thread.

There is something about a thin blade on a nakiri that you don't really want to get a cheap one. I can not recommend any others yet, I haven't tried any others out.

07-07-2012, 11:16 PM
Hm OK. Guess I'll hold off on the nakiri for now. I'm about ready to pull the trigger on the Tojiro ITK and the Fujiwara FKS 240mm from Chef Knives to go, so if anyone has any other ideas or recommendations, please speak up :) I'll probably buy them a little later in the week, depending on what other purchases I need to make.

07-07-2012, 11:35 PM
I'm sure you will enjoy those choices and the ITK bread knife is very popular, but nothing wrong with a Forschner for your bread...cheaper, better f&f and it is only a bread knife...

07-07-2012, 11:37 PM
Actually there was one more thing I wanted to double-check. How are these knives for knuckles hitting the cutting board? That was one problem I have with my current chef's---if I go for the pinch grip and rocking motion I tend to knock/rub my knuckles against the board, which can start to hurt or at the very least get annoying.

07-08-2012, 02:32 PM
If you usually live in Toronto and haven't made a decision yet don't hesitate to visit KNIFE Toronto or Tosho Knife Arts, they know what they are talking about and give lessons on sharpening. Lessons are free at KNIFE and Ivan at Tosho knows his stuff. You can handle the knives they have to see what you like. They have some more expensive stuff like Konosuke or Suisun, Good luck!