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Thread: Chicago Cutlery 42S and 44S review

  1. #1
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    Chicago Cutlery 42S and 44S review

    A little while back I posted a thread asking for information on the Chicago Cutlery 44S 10" chef knife and got little results. I was looking on ebay for fun project knives and stumbled upon them and wanted to see if anyone likes them or not. Well I saw a few for cheap and decided to give them a try. I have never done a kitchen knife review, but have been using older carbon steel and some stainless so I'll do my best to provide good information for everyone. I ended up with a few to try out and these are my findings.

    I found two lots from the same seller that I bought. One with a 44S (10") and a 42S (8"), and another with two 42S's. Price for each lot was $15+shipping, and I think the total for 4 knives was ~$37 shipped.
    [IMG][/IMG]

    The 42S below came with damaged edges, but I was able to restore them fairly well. I do not have after photos of the knives, but I lightly sanded and oiled the handles and sharpened them up.
    [IMG][/IMG]

    My first observation was that one of them was noticeably thicker and heavier than the other 2. The middle knife in the pic has a thicker tang than the other two.
    [IMG][/IMG]

    Here are the choil shots of the three 42S knives. The shots can be deceiving as some are not as thin as they look. The choil was relieved slightly making it look thinner than it is. Still not too shabby.
    [IMG][/IMG]
    [IMG][/IMG]
    [IMG][/IMG]

    Choil shot of the 44S. This one looked thick in person despite the photo which makes it look serviceable. Regrettably I did not sharpen the 44S and use it with the factory grind. I planned it for a project knife and didn't want to sharpen it before I to my mods.
    [IMG][/IMG]

    Photo of the 44S after my mods. I thinned it with my new belt sander (not very well, but it will work) This knife did not have a full flat grind, and held most of the spine thickness through the length of the blade. I hope my photo illustrates kind of how the originally grind was. It was thick behind the edge, and very blade heavy. I thinned it out a good amount, and re-handled with Wenge. I only used 1/4" thick scales, so the knife is still handle heavy, but cuts quite well and looks much better. I feel like I have a nice knife now compared to my disappointed unboxing upon first receipt.
    [IMG][/IMG]

    Conclusions:

    I used the 42S with the best grind (the bottom choil shot) for a couple of weeks off and on. It has a nice profile with good belly and has good geometry. The handle was thick and boxy, so I sanded down some finger ramps to make a pinch grip more manageable. It gets pretty sharp but edge retention is only decent. Loses the shaving edge rather quickly, but holds a working edge for a good amount of time (yes I know that is subjective sorry). I touched it up once over the 2 weeks, but it didn't need a sharpening, it just lost the shaving edge and I wanted it back. I know for kitchen knives working edges are mostly not very desirable, but as a loaner knife, travel knife, or backup beater, they are very good for the $10-$15 I see many go for on the bay. Sharpenability was average, not difficult, but it did take time. I sharpened all three of the 42S and they all handled about the same. I put a thin ~12 degree primary bevel (rough guess) then a thick ~20 degree secondary bevel to help with edge stability. The primary bevel took a while, but after the edge was thinned the secondary bevel was much easier to work with. Burrs were a slight problem with this stainless steel, but manageable. They don't get carbon steel sharp, but they can take a good edge. Please keep in mind that I had 3 and was able to choose the nicest one. Two of them had thinner spines and one was thicker. All had good geometry, but one stood out as better than the rest. I ended up giving one away, am keeping one, and have a spare for another gift, or to sell to a co-worker or anyone who needs a cheap upgrade.

    For the 44S, I did not get to use it with the factory grind. I feel I can safely say it would not be very fun to use right out of the package (on the one I got) due to the thickness near the edge. Wedging was my primary concern. I was not able to sample a variety like on the 42S, so please keep this in mind. I feel like the 44S has much more potential than the example I got. After thinning, the knife cut very well. I'm not very good on the belt sander yet, but was able to get the geometry somewhere where I was very happy cutting with it. The blade is heavy, but gets sharp. I got the 44S sharper than the 42S if that means anything. It has a nice profile, with a generous flat spot near the heel, so it push cuts and chops very well after the tune up. My new handle is a little thin for my taste (should have bought 3/8 thick scales not 1/4) but the pinch grip is nice and it is comfortable to use. Haven't used it enough to do edge retention tests, but it gets nicely sharp and was not difficult to sharpen. Sometimes I would get a stubborn burr, but it just takes finesse to remove.

    Rating (my opinion with limited experience)

    42S
    Sharpness 6/10
    Geometry variable (6/10)
    Profile 7/10 Good for rocking
    Handle 5/10 boxy with some gaps
    Edge Retension 6/10 midrange stainless
    AVERAGE 6/10

    44S
    Sharpness 7/10
    Geometry variable (5/10)
    Profile 7/10
    Handle 5/10 boxy with some gaps
    Edge Retension N/A (not enough data)
    AVERAGE 6/10

    I realized I don't have any good dimensions for ya'll, so I'll try to get some dimensions up later. I do not have a scale, so weights are not available.


  2. #2
    New Member salmonkiller's Avatar
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    A neat and hopefully fun project that you have undertaken.I used the same knives for many years.The old CC was the first knife that my Mother gave me when I was out of the nest.Thank you very much for sharing your journey and project.I have enjoyed reading about your undertaking.
    Best,
    salmonkiller


  3. #3
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    Thank you very much for the kind words. It was a fun project. I actually enjoy the modified 44S very much now. It cuts well and has good balance. Will definitely be looking for more project knives in the future.

  4. #4
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    Update to this project. I bought a few small boards of different wood from a wood worker's store (small shop) in Ft. Worth and decided to rehandle the 42S that I am keeping. Behold.
    [IMG][/IMG]

    This is Jobillo. I did a pairing knife in Bolivian Rosewood, and the 44S above in Wenge. All natural (non-stabilized) boards for cheap projects. I bought some liners to try as well, but don't have a pic on hand with the liners on the 42S. Added a bit of contour to the handle too just to try out a few techniques. I have done about a dozen handles on full tang knives now. All at varying levels of fit and finish. This one turned out pretty good except for a mistake where the liner shows through on the other side. Sanded to 1000 grit then oiled.

    Scratches on the blade from sharpening. Will try thinning it out when I get some stones. The 44S above will also get a polish as well once I get the proper stones. It was thinned on the belt sander and desperately needs a polish. The current finish is still very "rustic" if I can use it like that. Hopefully I will add an updated choil shot after I do some thinning and polishing on the 44S (if I remember)

    My verdict is this line, 42S and 44S, can be good budget knives if given some attention. The walnut handles are quite serviceable, if a little thick for my liking. The geometry can be hit or miss, but if you want a knife to practice thinning on, these can be a good choice for $15 or less. I will be holding onto my pair and putting them in my travel kit for now.

  5. #5
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    Typically these knives are variable in quality, depending on age and origin. The ones made from 440C with good heat treatment in the US are not bad, although the profile and geometry isn't great as found. The ones made in China (which usually do not have the model numbers) are junk. QC was quite variable as seen by the obvious differences in geometry for what should be identical knives,

    I have a pair of 42S knives, sharpened them up at 15 degrees per side, and other than more wedging than I would like, they work pretty well. Edge retention isn't great, but they are 440 stainless, what do you expect? I may learn to thin using them, good knives for that purpose as I don't really care if I mess them up.

    As inexpensive knock around/lending knives they are great, easy to sharpen, hold a usable edge, and cheap enough if they walk off you won't be crying!

    Peter

  6. #6
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    It was brought to my attention that I have left out one of the knives in this series. So a forum member here decided to remedy the situation by supplying me with a Chicago Cutlery 41S to complete the set. The 41S is the 6" model in this series, so how I have the whole set. And so it doesn't feel left out, it got a new handle of Bolivian Rosewood with white liners. Here is the before and after shot. Didn't take a photo of all 3 together, but if anyone shows interest, I certainly can.

    [IMG][/IMG]
    [IMG][/IMG]

    Also my apologies for losing the top photo. I would remedy that, except the post is now un-editable. Either way all knives are still represented in subsequent photos.
    Edit: here is the photo that should be in the first post. Must have gotten a duplicate and deleted the wrong one. Hate it when that happens.
    [IMG][/IMG]

  7. #7

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    Great knives! I have been collecting CC for over 30+ years. As of today I own 71 individual pieces of CC. This includes 4 of their oak blocks as well as a wall block. I keep them as sharp as I can and my wife and I only use CC. I know many collectors scoff at the mere mention of CC. This past week I have acquired a rare 45S Scimitar I guess also called a Cimitar. It should arrive on Monday. Also called a "steak knife" for making steaks. I am always looking for a good CC for my collection. I believe I am missing maybe 4 maximum knives. I buy american made knives, however I do have some very fine German made also.
    It is often said that land blessed with good natural water can produce good crops, rice, sake and beautiful women...and a few fine Koi

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by KitchenCommander View Post
    It was brought to my attention that I have left out one of the knives in this series.
    Well, yes, and unless you've added the 40S - 4" Chef's Knife to your collection, you are missing one.

    Very nice work you've done. Your new handles are beautiful.

    It was my understanding that CC are carbon steel. If not carbon steel, what are they?

    I've had my CC's since 1989. My experience with it losing it's "shaving edge" agrees with yours. The ones I use for tomatoes are constantly being sharpened. The handles reveal their use - the 61S, 71S and 103S are my most often used knifes. The 71S is my go-to knife. I used to use my Chef Knives often (40S and 42S), and now they are rarely used.

    BTW, the extension "S" indicated it was sold "solo" or as a "single," while sets sold with a block begin with the preface "8" (i.e., 8042, 8044, 8102, etc).

    Quote Originally Posted by koikeeper View Post
    As of today I own 71 individual pieces of CC.
    Congrats! I'm down the road the OC. I'd love to see your collection. Is that possible?

    ML

  9. #9
    Senior Member KeithA's Avatar
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    My wife and I bought a bunch of sets of Chicago Cutlery when a knife store was going out of business in the early '80s (75% off everything they had). We thought what great wedding presents. Unfortunately, we have only two left. A 66S slicer and a 44S chef's knife. I'll be learning to sharpen with stones in the near future and I thought they would be good learning knives. Was good to see how they are appreciated by you gents. We also bought a bunch of Swiss Army knives, hunting knives, old fashioned clocks, etc. for gifts, although I still have a couple of the Swiss Army knives and one of the hunting knives.

  10. #10
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    These were the first knives I ever owned, before I knew anything beyond what Consumer Reports had to say back in the 1990s. I liked them quite a bit. They were never sharp beyond what you could bang them into on a steel, and the rough spine was kind of uncomfortable. But they hung onto a toothy, workmanly edge long enough, and I liked the walnut handles. When I eventually upgraded, I gave the whole set to my sister. Her family's still using them, many years later. Not sure, but mine were probably the U.S. made ones.

    The equivalent knives I have today are my rosewood-handled Forschner boning and fillet knives. The Forschners are better, but the old Chicago knives had a certain charm.


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