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Knife Newbie Needs "Death Blade" - Advice?
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Thread: Knife Newbie Needs "Death Blade" - Advice?

  1. #1

    Knife Newbie Needs "Death Blade" - Advice?

    Synopsis:
    Amateurish home chef snorts too much Sichuan pepper dust; demands ninja “death blade” to smite hordes of uppity onions, intolerable tomatoes, and all the #*&^$ mauve leprechauns rummaging through the crisper.

    Basically, i’m a home “chef” who spends a lot of time in the kitchen and enjoys doing so. Recently realized that, as in woodwork, if you enjoy it, then it’s worth getting the right tools. And in the world of the kitchen, that means having something that a.) burns stuff (check!) and b.) juliennes vegetables, meats, and / or fingers with equal aplomb. (noooo dice)

    Currently, i have a drawer of $20 Wal-Mart specials. Only one – a chef’s knife – is used consistently, and with a little love, tenderness, and thoughtful care, its stainless steel edge can be brutalized over 30 grit rock into some form vaguely resembling “sharpness”. Actually, i must be doing something right, because i can sharpen & hone the thing to a level that scares most casual users and has surprised (cut) a few careless hands that thought they were holding one of their usual 2x4s.

    But i know enough about knives & stones to understand that, in a professional environment, this thing has about the same acuity as your average Louisville Slugger and doesn’t “cut” the product at hand so much as it might, say, aggressively beat it to submission. Having said, i don’t know much about fine, high-quality blades and could use the benefit of some professional advice. As, no doubt, could most of the general public. Offer what you will.


    What I’m Looking For:
    Budget of $200 or under. Knife would be a daily worker. I assume a chef’s knife is best, due to the rocking motion of a good ‘belly’ and the fact that i do a lot of work with vegetables, especially tomatoes and onions – the usuals – and that’s where the sharpness and belly of the blade seem to matter most. I use my current ‘chef’ 98% of the time and, frankly, could chuck the other lot into the street and never miss a one.

    I work with plenty of meats, but try to avoid “hack & slash” jobs. I’d like the ability to cut thin strips (Asian style) which also seems closely tied to blade sharpness (and quality).

    From what i have read, it seems that the style-laden Japanese blades are a better fit to my profile than the Western / German “meat cutlasses”. Doodling around the web, i’ve seen a chef’s knife from Shun (Premier, 8-inch) that seems decent enough for the job, but perhaps i overestimate my own level of finesse with a delicate blade ... or give more credit to the manufacturer than is due.

    Knowing what you know now, what knife would you grab for under $200 if "THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!!"


    PS. Not scared by a tool that might need a little special TLC. The proper tool used in the proper way can be a transformative thing. Fully willing to trade some convenience for a zap of brilliance in performance. Or, well, any spark of 'life.'

  2. #2
    Senior Member ThEoRy's Avatar
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    This may help us narrow it down.




    LOCATION
    What country are you in?



    KNIFE TYPE
    What type of knife are you interested in (e.g., chef’s knife, slicer, boning knife, utility knife, bread knife, paring knife, cleaver)?

    Are you right or left handed?

    Are you interested in a Western handle (e.g., classic Wusthof handle) or Japanese handle?

    What length of knife (blade) are you interested in (in inches or millimeters)?

    Do you require a stainless knife? (Yes or no)

    What is your absolute maximum budget for your knife?



    KNIFE USE
    Do you primarily intend to use this knife at home or a professional environment?

    What are the main tasks you primarily intend to use the knife for (e.g., slicing vegetables, chopping vegetables, mincing vegetables, slicing meats, cutting down poultry, breaking poultry bones, filleting fish, trimming meats, etc.)? (Please identify as many tasks as you would like.)

    What knife, if any, are you replacing?

    Do you have a particular grip that you primarily use? (Please click on this LINK for the common types of grips.)

    What cutting motions do you primarily use? (Please click on this LINK for types of cutting motions and identify the two or three most common cutting motions, in order of most used to least used.)

    What improvements do you want from your current knife? If you are not replacing a knife, please identify as many characteristics identified below in parentheses that you would like this knife to have.)

    Better aesthetics (e.g., a certain type of finish; layered/Damascus or other pattern of steel; different handle color/pattern/shape/wood; better scratch resistance; better stain resistance)?

    Comfort (e.g., lighter/heavier knife; better handle material; better handle shape; rounded spine/choil of the knife; improved balance)?

    Ease of Use (e.g., ability to use the knife right out of the box; smoother rock chopping, push cutting, or slicing motion; less wedging; better food release; less reactivity with food; easier to sharpen)?

    Edge Retention (i.e., length of time you want the edge to last without sharpening)?



    KNIFE MAINTENANCE
    Do you use a bamboo, wood, rubber, or synthetic cutting board? (Yes or no.)

    Do you sharpen your own knives? (Yes or no.)

    If not, are you interested in learning how to sharpen your knives? (Yes or no.)

    Are you interested in purchasing sharpening products for your knives? (Yes or no.)



    SPECIAL REQUESTS/COMMENTS
    Starting this harvest I'm a starving startling artist/
    Lyrical arsonist it's arduous spitting this smartest arsenic/

  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    My choice: Misono Sweden Steel aka THE DRAGON (Western handle).

    It is below your maximum budget, it has fantastic fit & finish, and it is and gets scary sharp. Oh, it is carbon steel (it rusts and reacts with food) so it does take special care.

    Other choices: Hiromoto AS (Western handle), Sakai Yusuke (Wa-handle)

    But I am not sure if the SY is available in your price range...

  4. #4
    If you plan on learning to sharpen, do you have a separate budget for waterstones?

  5. #5
    My Chinese Cleaver / Wood Ax is made of iron or carbon steel and reacts to everything but sharpening tools. (Thing came so abysmally blunt out-of-the wrapper that i still have a hard time telling which side's supposed to do the cutting.) So i'm accustomed to dealing with demanding gear that likes to rust off just for sitting around.

    And while other dishes in the kitchen might lay about, waiting for a good scrub and a pat, i always give my chef's knife (poor as it is) an immediate clean and a dry. Just use it too much not to.

    As for sharpening stones, i have one double-sided brick literally big enough for masonry use. Also has a similar grit count, though the box did not give numbers. It serves for lesser tools and chucking the car during oil changes. Do have a half-decent flat steel for honing. Between the two, you can put a surprisingly nice edge on a crummy blade.

    I do recognize the need for a set of honest waterstones to compliment a tool worthy of the cost. I'm guessing that will include....

    - 400 grit stone
    - 1000 grit stone
    - 6000 grit stone
    - cleaning stone
    - strop block

    I've basically priced it in separate from the knife.

  6. #6
    oh - not sure how the handle figures into the calculation. I see those getting mentioned from time-to-time as a factor for some, but ... most kitchen work doesn't seem to involve a serious grip issue with the handle. I mean, if you're trying to knife a biker in a dive bar, yeah, the grip will matter a lot. But tomato slicing? onion chopping / rocking? paper-cutting a roast? more of a pinch than a seize-for-dear-life. Even if you're running veggie prep for the day, so long as the handle's not grossly oversized .. shouldn't be an issue? a light touch on a sharp blade, no?

  7. #7
    Senior Member ThEoRy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 4-Finger Chef View Post
    oh - not sure how the handle figures into the calculation. I see those getting mentioned from time-to-time as a factor for some, but ... most kitchen work doesn't seem to involve a serious grip issue with the handle. I mean, if you're trying to knife a biker in a dive bar, yeah, the grip will matter a lot. But tomato slicing? onion chopping / rocking? paper-cutting a roast? more of a pinch than a seize-for-dear-life. Even if you're running veggie prep for the day, so long as the handle's not grossly oversized .. shouldn't be an issue? a light touch on a sharp blade, no?
    Yo handled knives are heavier than wa.
    Starting this harvest I'm a starving startling artist/
    Lyrical arsonist it's arduous spitting this smartest arsenic/

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by ThEoRy View Post
    This may help us narrow it down.




    LOCATION
    What country are you in?



    KNIFE TYPE
    What type of knife are you interested in (e.g., chef’s knife, slicer, boning knife, utility knife, bread knife, paring knife, cleaver)?

    Are you right or left handed?

    Are you interested in a Western handle (e.g., classic Wusthof handle) or Japanese handle?

    What length of knife (blade) are you interested in (in inches or millimeters)?

    Do you require a stainless knife? (Yes or no)

    What is your absolute maximum budget for your knife?



    KNIFE USE
    Do you primarily intend to use this knife at home or a professional environment?

    What are the main tasks you primarily intend to use the knife for (e.g., slicing vegetables, chopping vegetables, mincing vegetables, slicing meats, cutting down poultry, breaking poultry bones, filleting fish, trimming meats, etc.)? (Please identify as many tasks as you would like.)

    What knife, if any, are you replacing?

    Do you have a particular grip that you primarily use? (Please click on this LINK for the common types of grips.)

    What cutting motions do you primarily use? (Please click on this LINK for types of cutting motions and identify the two or three most common cutting motions, in order of most used to least used.)

    What improvements do you want from your current knife? If you are not replacing a knife, please identify as many characteristics identified below in parentheses that you would like this knife to have.)

    Better aesthetics (e.g., a certain type of finish; layered/Damascus or other pattern of steel; different handle color/pattern/shape/wood; better scratch resistance; better stain resistance)?

    Comfort (e.g., lighter/heavier knife; better handle material; better handle shape; rounded spine/choil of the knife; improved balance)?

    Ease of Use (e.g., ability to use the knife right out of the box; smoother rock chopping, push cutting, or slicing motion; less wedging; better food release; less reactivity with food; easier to sharpen)?

    Edge Retention (i.e., length of time you want the edge to last without sharpening)?



    KNIFE MAINTENANCE
    Do you use a bamboo, wood, rubber, or synthetic cutting board? (Yes or no.)

    Do you sharpen your own knives? (Yes or no.)

    If not, are you interested in learning how to sharpen your knives? (Yes or no.)

    Are you interested in purchasing sharpening products for your knives? (Yes or no.)



    SPECIAL REQUESTS/COMMENTS
    First, you should fill this out before going on and on.

    Second, the type of handle matters more than you know.

    Third, there is no magical sub-$200 knife. If there were, everyone would have it. A knife can be a very personal thing. That's why you should fill out the questionnaire.
    Michael
    "Don't you know who he is?"

  9. #9
    I'd go with a western handled knife if that's what you're used to. You might also consider handle material. Wood tends to have a warmer feel but synthetics are more durable. Pakkawood and linen micarta are good choices for synthetics.

    ThEoRy asked some important questions you need to consider. They're in the sticky at the top of this forum specifically so people can be helped correctly. For example are you right or left handed? If the knife has a symmetrical handle and a 50/50 bevel it won't matter what hand you use. If the knife has a D-shaped handle (as in the Shun classic line) or a 70/30 bevel (Masamoto, Misono) then you'll either have to order a left hand handle, which will be more expensive, or have the knife re-beveled to the left hand, which will also add to the cost and render the knife non-returnable if you hate it at first sight. 70/30 bevels are also more complicated to sharpen for a newbie.

    How big do you want the knife to be? There can be a $50 difference between an 8.2" (210mm) and a 9.4" (240mm) knife. An 8" might fall within your budget but a 9" exceed it. How big is your counter space and cutting board? How big is your current chef's knife and do you want to go larger or smaller?

    Finally are you willing to expend the extra effort to maintain a carbon steel knife? You"ll have to keep wiping it down and never leave it wet or in the sink or it'll rust. It"ll react with acidic fruits an veggies so be prepared for discoloration/patina. Not everyone likes the look of patina and unlike the cleaver the chef's knife is going to be in constant daily use.

  10. #10
    I figure there are “limitations” on anything priced under $200, but plenty of opportunity there to drop serious spending money on the totally wrong tool.

    I might push the budget to $250 if a good argument could be made for X over Y. Willing to make an investment in a worthy product ... but you start pushing four figures on some of these and you’re comparing onions to “house payment”.

    Location: America, TX

    Type: Chef’s Knife
    Hand: Right-handed
    Size: 8” (10” seems ‘long’ but a good ‘rocker belly might be appreciated)
    Handle: no pref;
    doesn’t matter if one’s heavier, unless the dif is being measured in pounds...
    Stainless? no pref;
    not afraid of extra effort to care for a carbon blade if it’s a better breed
    inveterate cleaner / drier of my existing “knife” set
    Budget? $200, might stretch to $250 if it’s really worth it / that different

    Workplace: Home knife
    Use: cutting vegetables in all ways, not so much hard squash
    meat slicing, trimming, basics (more delicate work-no bone busting)
    light poultry breakdown
    not much fish work (buy pre-filleted)

    Replacing: augmenting Stainless Wal-Mart $38 special / tomato bruiser
    (old trooper to retain use for general assault & battery of bone joints)
    Grip: standard hold, some with left hand pinching tip to pivot the cut
    Cut motion: Forward slice
    Pivot from tip
    Sawing (back & forth slide)

    Improve? need something to hold an edge longer
    need something WITH a better edge/turns a better burr
    HATE “blade slide” on rounded objects
    (you didn’t tap the apple, but my FINGER you bite!)
    want better (thinner) cuts on meat (not sloppy, troublesome to cut)
    tired of feeling like i’m putting a 2x4 to Romas after one salad

    Aesthetics: not particular
    beauty is effortless; it comes from doing the job well
    Comfort: balance is good
    Ease of use: cut well, slice well, hold an edge ... make the arduous effortless
    Edge Retent: better than a couple weeks would be nice

    Cut Board: yes
    Sharpen? yes
    Tools/Sharp: yes

    Special Notes:
    Just has to be something that can deftly cut its way through most basic kitchen jobs and hold up to that use without requiring constant work to the blade.

    Put it this way – $60 gets you the best table saw blade Home Depot has to offer. For twice the bucks, you can get a Forrest ... and perform at a level of excellence that would be impossible to even conceive of with the lesser HD blade. You could buy a drawer full of those $60s for a thousand bucks and it still wouldn’t be worth the equal of one $120 Forrest.

    “That” is the kind of knife i’m looking for. Why bother shelling out $120 for something that will never equal a $180? or etc? realizing, of course, that there are limits to the “sky” and you have to call it at one point or another.

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