First cleaver---cck or no-name?
KNIFE TYPE: cleaver
Are you right or left handed? Right
Are you interested in a Western handle (e.g., classic Wusthof handle) or Japanese handle? I don't really know.
What length of knife (blade) are you interested in (in inches or millimeters)? Maybe 8"?
Do you require a stainless knife? (Yes or no) I'm willing to try carbon.
What is your absolute maximum budget for your knife? I want to stay around $50, or less.
Do you primarily intend to use this knife at home or a professional environment? Home.
What are the main tasks you primarily intend to use the knife for? Occasional chicken carcasses and some veg prep.
What knife, if any, are you replacing? I don't currently have a cleaver, but use a global Sai santoku currently.
Do you have a particular grip that you primarily use? (Please click on this LINK for the common types of grips.) I'm learning to use pinch grip.
What cutting motions do you primarily use? Push-cut, rocking
What improvements do you want from your current knife? Durability, edge retention, good for beginners.
Do you use a bamboo, wood, rubber, or synthetic cutting board? (Yes or no.) End grain wood
Do you sharpen your own knives? (Yes or no.) Not currently.
If not, are you interested in learning how to sharpen your knives? (Yes or no.) Yes.
Are you interested in purchasing sharpening products for your knives? (Yes or no.) Yes.
I'd like to venture into the cleaver jungle, and obviously prefer to keep the investment as low as possible. Basically, I'm a light-use home cook. I cut up whole chicken carcasses about once every 6 weeks, and i'd like to have a bit of fun when i do so, as well as prepping some vegetables. I'm not going to be Rambo when dismantling bones in the birds. I dont really foresee myself using a cleaver predominantly, but I'd like the cleaver to last for a long time, too. With this pattern of usage, is a cck a proper purchase, or will a no-name cleaver adequately match my needs? Can y'all suggest a good model? (I'm not adverse to buying used cleaver, especially from a forum member who has maintained it well.)
A thin carbon cleaver like the CCK 1303 is a great thin to learn freehand sharpening with... the steel gives you some good feedback, the burr is easily removed, you don't have to worry about sharpening a point, and you don't have to worry about thinning the blade at all. Also, you've got a LOT of steel there... if you screw things up, just sharpen some more! That being said, the CCK, at least the 1303, isn't going to be your best choice to use with a chicken carcass. It is more of a vegetable cleaver than something you'd want to use on a lot of bone or cartilage. You want something heavier with the bird stuff. Also, the price inflation on the CCK stuff means it wasn't the bargain it used to be.
The good news is the cheap Chinese cleaver still exists. What you might do is to get two cleavers- one a vegetable cleaver, and one something heavier-duty. One good vendor is the wokshop, out of San Francisco. They sell on Amazon. I've got their vegetable cleaver, which runs a little under $20 shipped, and I used to have the CCK 1303. The wokshop's vegetable cleaver is a little more rustic (if that were possible!), but it is exactly the same size and shape, and also made of carbon steel. If you want to try out a thin cleaver, this one is good (and cheap) bet:
The wokshop also carries a #2 cleaver in stainless steel. This knife is lot thicker, and better for heavy-duty stuff. I think the #1 cleaver should be thicker still, but a #2 should do fine. I've got a cleaver in the same dimensions from the same manufacturer (actual make is "San Hang Nga") but in carbon steel (I picked it up at a thrift store). I really like it- nice distal taper, very comfortable in hand... but that being said, I don't know how good San Hang Nga's stainless steel is.
That one comes to $17 shipped, but it looks like if you order from wokshop.com through their yahoo web store, the shipping on two cleavers is cheaper. Actually, they might also be able to give you some good ideas via email. I don't know for sure, since I've never contacted them. They have a bunch of cleavers listed on their web site, with dimensions listed, but not weight. You might be able to score a medium-sized carbon cleaver from them that would work fine for both dealing with the chicken carcasses AND general cutting.
Hope this helps!
San Hang Nga stainless steel Chinese chef knives are great beaters/workhorses, and solidly made
I'm clearly not going to get the ultimate cleaver at these prices, but what negatives am I likely to experience, compared to a cck or wusthof?
A medium CCK cost about 70.00 here. If light use you could try the carbon cheap ones on Wok shop a #1 or #2 weigh more & can handle chix. carcass, but not going through larger bones.
The thing is even these cheap softer carbon cleavers still can be sharpened. After banging away they get a little dented up but you can put an edge on no problem. The cheap stainless Chinese cleavers are a challenge to get any sharp edge on. And if you do it will not hold it worth a plugged nickel.
Thanks for all the advice so far. Are there any <$50 sources other than the wok shop that I should consider?
You local chinatown kitchenware store may carry some cleavers but I doubt it's going to have the selection at wokshop especially carbon steel cleavers. I got my cheap $10 carbon steel http://wokshop.stores.yahoo.net/vegcleav.html which is now my main knife over all the other "nicer" stainless/semi stainless Japanese knives I had. Sure it took a bit of elbow grease to get it where I'm happy with it (thinning, cleaning up the rough edges with sandpaper, putting wood finish on the handle, sealing the tang handle joint with silicone) but I can boast it is probably the best $10 knife I will ever own.