8+ years without sharpening or care

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tom_12345

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Hello all,

I thought I'd share with you a Robert Herder/Windmühlenmesser paring knife, and 2 cheap unknown ones (plus two bonus Robert Herder knives).

As far as I know the first 3 have never been sharpened. And definitely not in the past 8 years. They are often found left out overnight after cutting citrus fruit. Or used for opening boxes. But despite years of abuse at the hands of my other half, they remain sharp.

The handles are splitting on the 2 no name ones. And the blades are chipped and kinked in places on all 3.

Does anyone else have similarly mistreated knives that are still doing well?

From Left to Right:
1 - Unknown carbon steel paring knife
2 - Another unknown carbon steel paring knife
3 - Robert Herder carbon steel paring knife. Note that this originally had a flat blade, it is not a bird's beak knife
4 - Robert Herder carbon steel middle-pointed paring knife. This one is only 8 months old
5 - Robert Herder stainless steel Buckels/Abendbrot/Breakfast knife. Again only 8 months old

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DavidPF

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The ones that get used a lot have been dull for 7+ years - but you stop noticing after a while and just use them anyway.
 

xxxclx

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Are the Herder Buckles actually meant to be sharp knives? I’ve been interested in them for a couple of months and thought they’re just really good butter spreaders. I didn’t expect for them to be like nakiris i.e. pointless knives that could actually cut.
 

Benuser

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Are the Herder Buckles actually meant to be sharp knives? I’ve been interested in them for a couple of months and thought they’re just really good butter spreaders. I didn’t expect for them to be like nakiris i.e. pointless knives that could actually cut.
They are crazy thin behind the edge, and come reasonably well sharpened out of the box. The carbon ones are great to get the basics of sharpening — raise a burr, chasing it, getting rid of it.
 

MrHiggins

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Benuser is right, these are very thin knives. They come sharp and can be easily maintained that way. I'd highly recommend a carbon breakfast knife if you've been curious about them anyway. It'll definitely up your butter spreading game.
 

VICTOR J CREAZZI

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My wife has a Chinese duck knife that she really likes. It had a damaged area in the center of the edge. I reprofiled it and sharpened it like I would an ordinary knife only to find that it would not hold an edge at all. I finally concluded that it totally relied on thin geometry for its cutting ability and my re profiling had effectively thickened the knife. After extensive thinning and no traditional sharpening the knife is working for her again.

I was hesitant to even mention this knife on this site as it works on a completely different principal than a normal knife. It took me a long time to figure this knife out. A friend had told me about a pairing knife that he grew up with that was always sharp and never required sharpening. I suspect it was the same.
 

DavidPF

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I was hesitant to even mention this knife on this site as it works on a completely different principal than a normal knife.
If it really worked on a different principle, normal knives couldn't be improved by thinning - but in fact it often does improve them. Maybe more accurate to say that normal knives use the same principles as this one, and then add sharpening the edge too.
 

VICTOR J CREAZZI

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If it really worked on a different principle, normal knives couldn't be improved by thinning - but in fact it often does improve them. Maybe more accurate to say that normal knives use the same principles as this one, and then add sharpening the edge too.
Right except the steel appears to be too soft to hold a conventional edge at all.

I just did a spark test and it appears to be mild steel incapable of being quench hardened.
 

DavidPF

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Right except the steel appears to be too soft to hold a conventional edge at all.

I just did a spark test and it appears to be mild steel incapable of being quench hardened.
I know that you know more about steel than I ever will. :)
My only point was that making the entire blade thin enough to work is not a different principle from normal knives, it's part of every knife I've ever seen (I guess there are exceptions like certain types of axe, where wedging is intentional - and even then, near the edge is still thin enough). Many knives being built too thick, and needing to be thinned for better performance, is a common KKF theme. The knife you're talking about seems to me just proof that for some relatively easy tasks, thinning is already enough, and you can skip sharpening altogether.

Sharpening is nothing but a special kind of thinning anyway, right?

Maybe the different principle you noticed is not about knives, but the people who make them. A dedicated "knife nut" will make every edge beautifully sharpened - but an engineer might say "Why are you sharpening that? It doesn't do any good in this case." For some people, the engineer's words might be very sad words to hear. :D
 

DitmasPork

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My mom's trusty, well used Mac knives; my late aunts whetstone. Whenever I visit me parents, and commandeer mom's kitchen, I keep the whetstone out on the counter when I cook—for nostalgia, inspiration, my aunt was a great cook! The knives are probably circa 1950/60s.

IMG_5218 copy.jpeg
 

jsph

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"Note that this originally had a flat blade, it is not a bird's beak knife" -- ouch and double ouch. ... but, oh, the stories it could tell.

"definitely up your butter spreading game." -- you're killing me. that is so good. i'm now reassessing my entire existence, starting from the morning spread of butter onward.

reminding me how much i want a herder 9" chef knife, like everyone recommends, but i keep giving up after fruitless hours spent trying to find someone/somewhere selling them at non-stoopidly-inflated prices. (not that it's probably not worth even current prices, in a way, but to see how the prices of that particular one have been jacked up since people caught on to how great it apparently is.)
 

Noodle Soup

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My wife has a Chinese duck knife that she really likes. It had a damaged area in the center of the edge. I reprofiled it and sharpened it like I would an ordinary knife only to find that it would not hold an edge at all. I finally concluded that it totally relied on thin geometry for its cutting ability and my re profiling had effectively thickened the knife. After extensive thinning and no traditional sharpening the knife is working for her again.

I was hesitant to even mention this knife on this site as it works on a completely different principal than a normal knife. It took me a long time to figure this knife out. A friend had told me about a pairing knife that he grew up with that was always sharp and never required sharpening. I suspect it was the same.
I can't speak for your wife's duck knife but I have two CCK models and they both have a normal heat treat and edge holding ability. Having watched many chefs in Hong Kong slice Peking Duck I think their knives required something besides thin steel.
 

VICTOR J CREAZZI

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I can't speak for your wife's duck knife but I have two CCK models and they both have a normal heat treat and edge holding ability. Having watched many chefs in Hong Kong slice Peking Duck I think their knives required something besides thin steel.
Yeah, this one looks like a peasant knife.
 

Jovidah

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Geometry matters.
This. The Herder paring knives are thin enough that even with a crap edge they'll still cut most softer stuff really well simply because there's so little behind it. They're a very good cheap illustration of how thin-ness behind the edge will for a lot of products have a bigger impact on cutting performance than the actual edge itself.
 

DavidPF

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A number of the paring knives I've used and seen have been pretty thick. It seems to me like there are very few reasons for a paring knife to have a thick blade - it looks impressive in a picture, that's about it - and some very good reasons for them to be thin like these.

(I can understand wanting an oversized handle on a paring knife, or an extra-small handle. Paring knives need to fit your hands in a way that other knives don't need to do, and many complaints about them are about inconvenient handle geometry rather than about poor cutting.)
 

Benuser

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Paring knives and peeling knives are different things. A peeler won't have much board contact, and requires another geometry. Not just thin, but the right face flat, the left one convex, and the edge off-centered to the right. Herder applies a microbevel to the left side for edge stability.
 

gcsquared

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I’m just very impressed your mom has been using MAC knives since 1950. I didn’t know they existed for that long, let alone being sold in the US. Super cool.

Too bad the petty looks like it’s reaching the end with that hole nearing the edge

My mom's trusty, well used Mac knives; my late aunts whetstone. Whenever I visit me parents, and commandeer mom's kitchen, I keep the whetstone out on the counter when I cook—for nostalgia, inspiration, my aunt was a great cook! The knives are probably circa 1950/60s.

View attachment 116282
 

DitmasPork

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I’m just very impressed your mom has been using MAC knives since 1950. I didn’t know they existed for that long, let alone being sold in the US. Super cool.

Too bad the petty looks like it’s reaching the end with that hole nearing the edge
Actually, just looked Mac up, they were founded in 1965, so these were from the mid-late-60s. Mac knives are very popular in Hawaii, lots of stores carry them. Now some of her fave knives are Kai Pure Komachi 2, colorful knives that cost about $10 each.
 

Noodle Soup

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Actually, just looked Mac up, they were founded in 1965, so these were from the mid-late-60s. Mac knives are very popular in Hawaii, lots of stores carry them. Now some of her fave knives are Kai Pure Komachi 2, colorful knives that cost about $10 each.
I don't know when he started importing but some years ago I talked to the owner/importer, a Japanese American. He tried the outdoor market in the early 70's but that didn't work for him. I have two of his original hunting knives and think highly of their designs. Moved on to kitchen cutlery and that seems to have worked better for him.
 

DavidPF

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Too bad the petty looks like it’s reaching the end with that hole nearing the edge
On the bright side, it's taken maybe 50 years to get the knife down as low as it is - that small-looking bit of steel should last at least a few years more, if it needs to.
 

tom_12345

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Those Mac knives look great. I like the angle of the handle to the blade on the smaller one. Is there a name for knives with this kind of angled handle?

My stainless Buckels knife was very sharp out of the box. It slices through tomatoes and thick bread crusts easily.

What would be a good way to sharpen/maintain the carbon knives? Particularly the one that's now curved inwards/bird's beak like? As I can't see how I would do that on a stone.
 

Benuser

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Particularly the one that's now curved inwards/bird's beak like? As I can't see how I would do that on a stone.
There’s no need for restoring a straight profile as long as it is only used for peeling. It's not meant for board work and would badly perform because of its geometry. As it is meant for peeling by a right-hander, the right side is flat while the left one is convexed, and ends with a microbevel — that has gone, meanwhile. The edge is off-centered to the right side — 'under', when peeling.
What I do, is flattening — thinning — the entire right side until the edge has gone. I use a coarse stone followed by a finer one. Use a marker and a loupe. On the left side, build a bevel at a high angle, say 45°. A few strokes on the corner of a medium-fine stone will do. Deburr at the other side at a low angle — say 10-15°. Three or four very light leading strokes on the same or a finer stone. Check by going with your nail along both sides of the edge. Both should feel equally smooth.
 

tom_12345

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Thanks, what if the knife is used by both a left and a right hander?
 

Benuser

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The peeler was originally meant for a right-hander. Out of the box the difference will have been quite small as it is very thin. Now, after years of wear, the edge has moved to a much thicker part of the blade, where the asymmetric geometry becomes more relevant. Ignoring it will lead to a poor performance for both users.
 

DavidPF

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My extreme oversimplification of Benuser's descriptions; apologies to all if I make mistakes:
The intention is to have the "vegetable side" of the peeler basically completely flat (i.e. no real edge on this side), with only the tiniest hint of sharpening. The "air side" of the blade is supposed to be convex overall, and have a much larger bevelled area when sharpening. This way the knife is much more able to skim over the surface for successful peeling; if there was a big bevel on the "vegetable side", you'd have to tilt the knife a lot more, and when held at that angle it would tend to dig in all the time. Think of having to use a snow shovel that is wrong side up.

Most of the time - but depending on unique styles - right handed and left handed people don't agree which side of the blade is for which purpose, so ideally you'd hope for two knives (or a totally different peeler design). If you're in the lucky situation where one of you actually prefers to "peel backwards" compared to the usual, then in fact you would agree on which side is which after all.
 
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