Discussion in 'The Kitchen Knife' started by stringer, Apr 9, 2019.
Look at Carter Cutlery and look at his white steel kitchen knives.
When your knife chips out, it doesn't usually chip out big chunks at a time unless you're abusing it. So the process starts with micro chips that are invisible. These grow. There are iron particles in fortified flour that are bigger than what you are losing through these microchips. Over time, however, they accumulate. They especially get bigger and bigger where you are doing the most work. You can see the biggest chips where I generally make the most board contact.
A knife being used carefully at home will not accumulate that much damage. 400 pounds of veggies is a lot. It gets delivered off the truck with a forklift on a palette with a bunch of other stuff. Then it gets put onto a 8 foot flatbed cart to be delivered to my kitchen. The zucchini and squash come in about 25 pound cases and the eggplant is about a 35 pound case. I think I did 5 cases each of zucchini and squash and 4 cases of eggplant. This was enough to fill 14 heaping roasting pans like the one below. It took me a couple of hours to chop and I am quick. My knives see this kind of activity regularly. They probably sustain more damage during a session like this than a home cook could generate in a year. The Kanehide, at around 60 Rockwell would be rounded and dulled after that much work. It would at least need a touch-up.
Despite all those chips, the Watanabe was still sharp enough to shave.
The Watanabe with a proper micro bevel could do this task 3 or 4 times before it would have that many microchips. And it will never really round off. Like Nemo said, that failure mechanism is unavailable. The carbides don't round but they will break off.
Edited to fix link
I have handled a couple of Mutekis. I find them pretty interesting. I like the thick spines, distal taper, tall heel height. They look cool. They are comfortable. But they are also a little short for my tastes. The ones I've seen are mostly 210s. And they are hella expensive. I think next I will try something that's real hard and meant to be more of a wide bevel like a heiji. I'm also working on some of my own creations. I'm damn proficient from a technical standpoint with a utilitarian 60 HRC edge. It's all I ever really need to do my job.
Going beyond that is mostly just because I love knives, so who knows maybe I'll try a Carter someday, but for now I'd probably rather spend that money on a Mazaki and a Wakui and a natural stone.
Just out of curiosity… If you want hard, I would think that ZDP-189 or HAP-40 would provide that. Any particular reason for not using these?
Pain in the ass to sharpen? I would guess that would be a dealbreaker for pro chefs.
Also if you’ve seen Kip’s sukenari ZDP repair, that stuff isn’t fun.
Yeah, I think you guys put your knives through a much rougher time than we home cooks do. I suspect that you are much better able to compare edge retention because of it.
Heiji Carbon is my fave carbon steel. You should definitely dive right in if you haven’t already.
Carters seem to differ quite a bit in every way except for thinness. It’s an art to find the right length/profile/tip and handle combo for any particular user.
Well, I'm not sure I'd put it as extreme as that. ZDP-189 and HAP-40 are definitely harder to sharpen than blue, white, or VG-10 (or even SG-2). But, with a bit of patience, it works out just fine, IMO. I guess it's not reasonable to expect extreme edge retention without having to compromise somewhere else, such as sharpening time.
But, yes, time may well be a reason. I'm not a chef, so I have no idea where the balance between edge retention and sharpening time tips in the wrong direction in a professional environment.
Definitely on the someday list. I have not tried any powdered/sprayform steel yet. Difficulty of sharpening is the main drawback. But I've been looking longingly at Takamura and Sukenari for a while. Eventually I will succumb to the temptation I'm sure.
Impressive post. Kudos!
Gah.... I am going to sound like a Gihei shill... You might have seen... I just recommended him on another thread - a Sanjo blacksmith who makes stainless clad ZDP knives. I would be interested to see how that steel compares. The failure mode is chipping.
I can't speak to the original grind (years later I forget what it was like). I made it my own - i thinned it, made it convex/hamaguri and fixed up the bevel line aesthetics. With the convex grind the primary bevel and micro bevel are part of the same process. Every time I do this 'reset' I will refinish the face using wet and dry sand paper to restore the brushed steel look. In this condition there will not be a defined bevel line. If the knife gets dull I will resharpen using a micro bevel. At this point you will be able to see a micro bevel line. I might do this three or so times before performing another 'reset'. Most of the faffing about is getting nice aesthetics. If you didn't care you could save a lot of time.
ZDP is less fun to sharpen. It is more work. You are sticking to low grits with fast synthetics though - so it might not be the ordeal some make it out to be.
As a home cook I don't need to sharpen often at all. The ZDP holds an 'acceptable' edge for a long time. We are omnivores but our diet is biased towards vegetables. The 'acceptable' edge might not be the best for perfect protein cuts or delicate cuts like tomato (not that it is terrible) but it does the rest competently. Zucchini and eggplant are on the menu a lot in our house - definitely no issues.
How sharp is 'acceptable'? It is subjective isn't it? These are my 'beater' knives. I deliberately don't obsess over their sharpness. Right now they are overdue for resharpening - so they are perhaps beyond 'acceptable'. Yet they are 'shaving' sharp. Even this is subjective? I can remove hairs but it is rough, requires pressure and exfoliates skin... NOT something i would shave with! I cant remember when I last sharpened them.... maybe four to six moths ago (daily use since then).
Thank you for injecting some pragmatism!
When I'm cooking (as much as I enjoy it), much of the time, I just need to turn large things into smaller things (sometimes in a hurry, because I'm late for work or have guests arriving in ten minutes). In that case, I couldn't care less about how amazing it is that I managed to cut into the skin of a tomato with 50 µg less pressure than last time, before I sharpened the knife. It the knife goes through a tomato without tearing, pretty much by definition, that's a working knife.
I'm into obsessing about knives as much as most people; but I also try not to forget that the point of the exercise is the food, not the knife.
I don't really care about shaving sharp. My tests are much more practical.
One of my main tests for sharpness in the kitchen for gyutos is eggplant. Eggplant skin is weird. A "dull" knife just bounces off it. A nice refined toothy apexed 2000 grit edge should experience no issues. Here is how many pounds of eggplant you would have to chop with the following options from my kit before it fails the eggplant test. (this is a guess, but very educated)
Montana 10" Chef Knife 10 pounds
Dexter 8" stainless Chinese Cleaver 100 pounds
Vintage Sabatier Workhorse Grind Carbon 10" 300 pounds
Kanehide TK 240 500 pounds
Watanabe. I don't believe that it would ever fail this test. After a few thousand pounds the edge would look like a sharks mouth but it will cut the eggplant skin easily.
Now my other test for sharpness/edge retention examines the opposite side of the equation. Toughness. I haven't carried a serrated knife in my kit since I lost mine the second week of culinary school many years ago. I had no money to buy another one. So I started using a chef knife for everything you would use a serrated knife for. Never looked back. The Kanehide fulfills that role in my current kit. It routinely slices a 96 count of this case of crusty french french baguette into 1/16" slices.
I would call it a light middleweight out of the box. Not quite a laser. After 3 or 4 years of being sharpened with a full flat grind zero edge it's definitely a laser now. Despite that, nothing holds a candle to the Kanehide on this test. It cuts cleanly through the bread forever. And never chips. The Watanabe can do this job fine. But even with a micro bevel it will quickly start accumulating chip damage.
Like everything with knives there's opportunity costs to every decision. The Watanabe is my go to for veggie fabrication. The Kanehide is a great all rounder. And I can leave it on the prep table and loan it out to people and know that they will have a tough time breaking it.
Thank you Michi - that is kind.
I love a good reductionist view!
Definitely a healthy perspective. I suppose obsession is part of the journey? Getting the ultimate edge is about pursuing better standards and increasing skill level. While this is good validation of technique it does lose the forest for the trees.
I got into free-hand sharpening through straight razors. I wasted a lot of time being obsessional there. When I translated that knowledge to kitchen knives, I never really felt the need to see how much sharper I could get. Enough to get the job done was always sufficient!
This is true! The skin is tough stuff isnt it? Very rubbery. A nice toothy edge does help rupture the surface.
I guess this comes back to the primary failure mode of the edge? Chipping create teeth to saw through skins.
We do the same. Far less crumbs too! Never owned a serrated knife and I have no desire.
Surely not from the bread though!? Unless your edge is that thin? That is 96x16 cuts with the same amount of possible board impacts?
I guess that is the problem with hard knives... they are less tough! Hence the chipping. Lower the hardness and you get better toughness but are less able to hold an edge.
The way I cut baguette there is plenty of board contact. And I meant 1/16 inch thick slices. That's probably an exaggeration, let's say 1/8 inch slices. On the bias. We toss them with olive oil and toast them to serve with cheese and charcuterie. Each loaf makes 25-30 slices. 96 loaves. Speed is of the essence. It's pretty tough on hard steel.
I don't know what kind of bread you all deal with but when I lived in Spain every bakery had a few types of rustic bread that could mess up a thin edge on a gyuto without a seconds hesitation. I mean concrete hard crust and that really is not an exaggeration. I have cut and jabbed myself with such crust in the past. I found a serrated knife was almost a must. Baguettes were quite soft in comparison, quite soft. I've never seen bread that hard stateside, ever. (The inside is still quite fluffy but not like the Italian/French loaves you get around here.)
Man, I miss that bread. Good stuff for some toasta catalana.
If you were to do what you just did to a zdp/real HSS/r2/srs-15/s30v and similar high carbide especially high V% it would take between 2-10X as long just so you know.
I once did a test with an aus-8 cryoed blade (mac) and a kurosaki r2. both finished at 4k glass. I cut cardboard for at least 30 minutes with each knife. It might have been longer. And at the end of the test the kurosaki chipped out kinda microchips. But all over the blade. There must have been 100-200 or so.
the mac just kinda dulled/rouded off gently. not a single chip. not even microscopically.
And halfway in both knives were equally sharp! at the end of the test no knife was sharp. this was a test of the failure mode though. i wanted to see how they dulled.
Aus-8 can actually be quite badass if you ask me. especially the cryoed macs. I regard aus-8 as more of a supersteel than r2 to be honest. not mentioning zdp... yuck.
Best part about it was the sharpening to restore the edges. the mac took like 2-3 minutes or so. it was a very short amount of time at least. The r2 took about 10x as long.
So i think maybe you should go for something in between carbon and supersteels/hss/ss-hss instead of getting supersteels just because its the flavor of the month. Taking sharpening time in consideration there is really no benefit for the supersteels. I have tested it.
What do you like about Heiji's carbon—quite a few sings its praises—I've only used his SS. Do you find it chippy?
It’s supposed to be on the brittle side but I’ve never had that problem. Then again I’ve never pushed it too a very low angle like stringer does, but I want to. It just encapsulates the carbon experience, easy to sharpen, gets crazy sharp and edge retention isn’t as good as watanabe but it’s no slouch either.
i feel even the cheapest blue 2 knives like the blue moon are easy to sharpen, gets crazy sharp (most likely the most crazy of anything out there) and has more than sufficient edge retention myself though. and are very tough. comparatively. blue 2: the only true supersteel (no joke).
I followed that thread. And the research I've done supports your conclusions. I'm not doing sushi work or delicate fine dining stuff at the moment. It's just ordinary big hotel banquet and buffet stuff. Carbon is too finicky, super steels too hard to sharpen to bash against polycarbonate all day. Although they would probably be great for a slicer. My 270 Ginga in white #2 stays sharp for ages just cutting cooked proteins. I can't imagine how long something in zdp-189 would last.
For everyday gyutos I'm thinking premium semi-stainless next. Heiji, yoshikane skd, and custom aeb-l are up there on my wish list. I figure they are the closest to the Kanehide upgraded. Or even some upscale vg-10. It's a difficult steel to learn to sharpen but once you know how to remove every trace of a burr, it really is nice and easy to keep sharp with minimal maintenance and super tough compared to simple carbon.
I have a yoshikane skd11 hammered santoku. I sh1t you not when i tell you it takes a 12k shapton pro edge and gets so sharp its actually scary. And I'm used to sharp knives obviously. This is japanese D2, one of the very coarsest tool steels, with the biggest mutha F carbides ever in existence supposedly. But hey guess what? It takes a 12k edge contrary to popular belief.
Vg10 is really not that bad imo. Its actally one of the better stainless steel overall. Yeah you will get 100 trillion reviews of vg10 chipping out and vg10 being hard to sharpen. And to be honest I have not found this to be true for my knives. But hey sh1t in sh1t out. you wanna pay 50 bux what you gonna expect?
vg10 is actually very easy to sharpen, and very tough, and holds a "razor" edge for quite some time and a "workable edge" for very long.
Almost all vg10 knives are overheated from the factory on belt sanders so they have brittle edges. they basically re-austenitized them without tempering them. So you have to grind off 1mm or so and then its all good metal there. and you obviously know how to grind off some metal.
I think aus-8 is also good and also steels like 13c26/aeb-l and also vg-1/vg-5. Aus-8 is actually my fav stainless. Since it gets so sharp fast (like blue 2) and also sharpens very fast and easy (like blue 2). Aaaand STILL holds a very good, very sharp edge for very long, talking that fresh off the stone sharpness. I think aus-8 is the most underestimated steel from japan. It can be just as good/durable as r2 but like 3x as tough. go figure.
Awesome post! Loved seeing that method of sharpening. I'd love to try it out sometime. I've only ever thinned, though never all the way to zero, and then put a normal edge bevel on. How do you manipulate angle and pressure to get that edge to zero? Might be missing something simple but I've had trouble on my wide bevels knives. Perhaps I'm not switching my pressure low enough on the knife to achieve true zero when attempting hamiguriba.
In fact, I just bought a new Shigefusa santoku that's pretty rad that came with what appears to me to be a stone-finished zero grind. I don't know what kinda hardness they are running on their "swedish carbon ???" steel, but the edge is super thin and passes the nail flex test better than any other knife I have, actually. To my knowledge that speaks of a high hardness/strength to avoid rolling with good toughness as well. I have a HiSoft board and am just a home user, so the zero edge has held up great for me so far, as to be expected because the knife is only a few days old. Unfortunately the knife came OOB with a small chip on the edge, likely damaged in shipping somehow. It doesn't affect performance, so I'm gonna enjoy the knife for as long as I can without worrying about it.
I'm excited to try this style of sharpening when it comes time to! Always wanted to try a Watanabe too, been very interested for a while.
Yeah, as weird as it may seem the Mac Pro Suji I purchased a couple weeks ago can take and hold a very steep edge without chipping. Also sharpens super easy. I don’t think the grind is quite optimized ootb but if someone is feeling inclined to do some thinning it can keep up with much more expensive knives. I literally replaced my Marko suji with a Mac Pro and I feel pretty good about it.
aus-8 man, aus-8!
If skd can take a 12k edge, then so should many other steels.
U serious about the dropped hair split? I split a dropped potatoe and tomato, cleancut paper towel and sliced a tomato sideways without touching it, so i know my sharpening basics. Still a dropped hair seems like a longshot. Maybe a very long one. Or maybe my finisher just isn't good enough.
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