First "good" knife -- but what to get?

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alexrk

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Hi all. New member here, I'm a home cook and I've been wanting for a while to take I guess the next step up from my Wusthof Classic. Looking for something that will perform better but also honestly just look and feel cooler and more special even when I'm using it as an everyday knife. Because my sharpening skills are just barely more than non-existent I'm trying to cap my budget at $300 or less. Had been figuring on getting a Kramer Zwilling just because it was the thing I was aware of, plus of course some of them look cool as hell. But with that budget, and not having had a carbon steel before, I'd likely just get the plain stainless, which seems... fine? But just that.

Looking for reviews of it I found this board and others and have been checking out that whole world of sub-$300 knives out there and now I think the Kramer's the wrong choice but honestly don't know, and if it is I don't know what to choose beyond that, so looking for some help.

Filled out the questionnaire below too but some of the issue at this point is I don't think I know what I want.

I think I want a Western knife because I primarily rock chop, because I think I like heavier knives (did a knife skills class years ago where they gave us 10" Wusthofs and talked about how useful the weight was and I did like the weight that time but maybe I just liked the class), and because I think I want a Western handle -- but I'm not sure I've ever tried a good lighter knife or another kind of handle (unless the handle on the Dexter Russell chinese vegetable cleaver isn't western? I have that and love it, handle's not the best part of it but that knife is what it is) so I don't really know. Maybe I should be thinking about Japanese instead? I think I want to stick with stainless because all the descriptions of how people treat carbon steel scare me/make me think I'd do a bad job with it. But then that's also how people talk about cast-iron pans and I've found the reality is I do a decent job of caring for them and that's good enough, and maybe I should think of carbon steel the same way? (Or just start out with a patina?)

Really appreciate any suggestions. Seems like there's a ton of options and I'm really open to anything. If there's a knife you know of that seems to fit the bill of what I'm looking for and has a look/feel that would make you excited about picking it up every day, I'd be interested in hearing what/why. Thanks so much.

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KNIFE TYPE
What type of knife are you interested in? Chef's

Are you right or left handed? Right

Are you interested in a Western or Japanese handle? Think Western but maybe I should be branching out?

What length of knife (blade) are you interested in (in inches or millimeters)? 8 inch range

Do you require a stainless knife? Definitely prefer it but maybe I'm wrong?

What is your absolute maximum budget for your knife? $300

KNIFE USE
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? Everyday use -- slicing/chopping/mincing veg, slicing meats.

What knife, if any, are you replacing? Wusthof Classic

Do you have a particular grip that you primarily use? Pinch

What cutting motions do you primarily use? Rock, push cut, walk

What improvements do you want from your current knife? Better/more refined performance and aesthetics overall

Better aesthetics? Open to lots of kinds of looks, really less interested in some specific feature than in a knife that is just striking/unique and makes you stop and appreciate it every time you pick it up. I do like the profile of the Kramers, and there are a lot of the smaller makers out there doing some knives I've thought looked great -- Phillips Forged, Jamison Chopp, Florentine, Hyde Handmade, Feder. Basically I tend to like the knives that are striking while still being a little understated; damascus isn't typically my first choice though some is great.

Comfort? Not sure of anything in particular, just want something that will feel really comfortable as an everyday knife. I find the Wusthof pretty comfortable; the Dexter-Russell starts out comfortable but gets less so in a pinch grip after doing a lot of cutting with it.

Ease of Use? Think my priority is a great rock chopper/push cutter that's sharp out of the box and relatively easy to maintain.

Edge Retention? Good edge retention definitely a big plus

KNIFE MAINTENANCE
Do you use a bamboo, wood, rubber, or synthetic cutting board? Yes

Do you sharpen your own knives? Well, I try. Have a DMT stone but just got it recently/not great with it and probably don't use it as often as I should.

If not, are you interested in learning how to sharpen your knives? Yes

Are you interested in purchasing sharpening products for your knives? No

SPECIAL REQUESTS/COMMENTS

It seems like $300 or less is probably too low a budget for a chef's knife from the small shops doing handmade stuff but if anyone has recommendations for one that does fit the bill and doesn't have a super long waiting list, I'd love to be able to support a smaller place.
 

Qapla'

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alexrk

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Hey, thanks for the reply. They all look nice (though couldn't open the first link of that second batch), I like the profiles on them. But I think they look a little too much like the Wusthofs and to me at least don't have that sort of striking make me say "oh ****"/make my heart go pitter patter when I see them element. (I probably understated a bit the maybe irrational degree to which that/pure aesthetics are important factors for me in this decision.)
What do you think of these?
 

HumbleHomeCook

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Welcome.

What DMT do you have? My advice is almost always to first invest in sharpening gear and time. Learning to get a workable edge on a knife doesn't take a long time and will open a huge world to you.

Also, most stainless clad carbon-core knives are not that finicky.

While you ponder the sharpening idea, you can also look at the JCK Blue Cloud series.

Something like this:
 

alexrk

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I've got an 8 inch fine/extra fine. I know I should go for the full whetstone thing but I also want to be realistic with myself about how often I'm likely to do that, argument I've heard is that DMT can get you to good enough especially doing it more often than you'd do whetstones and, well, I like that argument because it gives me an excuse. Those Blue Clouds are pretty, like those a lot, thanks.

Also like the look of the Hattoris a lot, especially the wooden handle ones, MrHiggins, thank you.

Everyone seems to be recommending western handles, seems like that is the way I should go?

And any of you looked at the Florentines? Have seen nice things about them on these boards and I love the look of them generally, but would be curious as to what people think -- something about the shape of the heel makes me nervous they wouldn't be great for rock chopping, like they'd come down hard and awkward on the board, but I don't know what I'm talking about and could be totally wrong.
 

HumbleHomeCook

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I've got an 8 inch fine/extra fine. I know I should go for the full whetstone thing but I also want to be realistic with myself about how often I'm likely to do that, argument I've heard is that DMT can get you to good enough especially doing it more often than you'd do whetstones and, well, I like that argument because it gives me an excuse. Those Blue Clouds are pretty, like those a lot, thanks.

Also like the look of the Hattoris a lot, especially the wooden handle ones, MrHiggins, thank you.

Everyone seems to be recommending western handles, seems like that is the way I should go?

And any of you looked at the Florentines? Have seen nice things about them on these boards and I love the look of them generally, but would be curious as to what people think -- something about the shape of the heel makes me nervous they wouldn't be great for rock chopping, like they'd come down hard and awkward on the board, but I don't know what I'm talking about and could be totally wrong.


I think we're recommending Western handles just because you seem to have a bias for them, but by all means, explore the wa handle world as well.

Now, this is going to seem nit-picky and I don't mean it to be a jerk, but a whet stone is any stone, including your DMT. Whet just means to sharpen. DMT's as you know are diamond and while they can surely sharpen whatever you toss at them, I see diamond stones as being more for my high-alloy pocket knives, quick work on soft stainless, and other niche jobs. They are effective but I don't like the feel of them and they can be really aggressive.

I much prefer oil and water stones when I can. Splash and go's are pretty straight forward and they feel nice and do a nice job.

Just something to think about.

But there's nothing wrong with not sharpening so long as you have some kind of sharpening plan.
 

Dull_Apex

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When I started I was scared of carbon because of all the horror stories online about rust, but stainless clad wasn't very reactive (but don't leave wet).

If you're still curious give it a go.
 

Delat

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You’re getting Western handles recommended b/c you stated a preference for them in the questionnaire. But since you expressed an interest, here’s some wa/Japanese handles for you on blades with a little bling. This is an annotated photo of my own knife journey for my first few knives; they’re numbered in order of purchase. Hopefully you’ll find it helpful with the pictures.

Rock chopping is possible with knives that aren’t super thin behind the edge, but it’s best to always be aware of how delicate the edge might be on any specific knife and go light on the tip if you’re rotating there. With most of these knives I tend to prefer tap chopping for things like garlic. Generally I grab the Shiro Kamo if I know I’m going to rock chop something like scallion as it’s pretty sturdy. But honestly for normal home cooking just push cutting or guillotine & glide with quick lift isn’t much slower.

4D1B6017-F177-40F3-A823-826D4EE3E487.jpeg
 

Tapio

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My recommendation is to not spend too much money and thought to the first Japanese knife. Most likely you don’t know what you are looking for. At least for me it has been an educational joyrney full of surprises. The good thing is that all Japanese premium knives are good. Just choose one or two and enjoy the ride. Learn how to keep your knives sharp and try different kind of knives. After some time you know much better what you really are looking for.

When I was choosing my first Japanese knife I wanted a shiny stainless gyoto, damask cladding and western handle. Now years later everything has changed.
 

NotAddictedYet

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this is purely based off your budget but I think Shibata Kotetsu 210mm is a great first japanese knife. Laser profile, OOTB edge cuts well and fit and finish is great. Full Stainless. Not sure how well it rock chop though since the profile is kind of flat.
 
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Some of the knives frequently mentioned in such cases are Hattori FH and also Tojiro DP. Both are VG10 steel which some say is a bit difficult to sharpen, but other than that really good knives. The Tojiro costs approx. half of the Hattori, the Hattori has a very nice handle.

If you wanna go „thinner“ there are some knives from Takamura, Chromax for example…

As somebody has mentioned them, I have had the chance to see a Florentine blade recently. Simple flat grind but very nice at the edge, thin and flexible when pressed against your fingernail along the edge…

You can always give Jon from JKI (japaneseknifeimports) a call. He’s super nice and very helpful and will give you a good overview andmake sure you get what you want and fits you and your needs. Buy local if you can (at least in your country).
 
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Delat

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There’s always great stuff flowing through BST. This one looks like it checks some of your boxes.

 

alexrk

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I think we're recommending Western handles just because you seem to have a bias for them, but by all means, explore the wa handle world as well.

Now, this is going to seem nit-picky and I don't mean it to be a jerk, but a whet stone is any stone, including your DMT. Whet just means to sharpen. DMT's as you know are diamond and while they can surely sharpen whatever you toss at them, I see diamond stones as being more for my high-alloy pocket knives, quick work on soft stainless, and other niche jobs. They are effective but I don't like the feel of them and they can be really aggressive.

I much prefer oil and water stones when I can. Splash and go's are pretty straight forward and they feel nice and do a nice job.

Just something to think about.

But there's nothing wrong with not sharpening so long as you have some kind of sharpening plan.

No, no, absolutely appreciate the correction, thank you. I honestly thought "whet" was connected to, well, "wet," so good to know. Picked up the DMT idea from Dave Arnold, who's mentioned on his podcast that's what he uses for his knives, with the idea being what I mentioned, that he's more likely to use them regularly than stones he has to soak/fix, and the guy from Knife Steel Nerds was on one episode and didn't seem to hate the strategy. But seems like splash and go's would serve the same purpose, I'll look into them; thanks for the suggestion.
 

alexrk

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You’re getting Western handles recommended b/c you stated a preference for them in the questionnaire. But since you expressed an interest, here’s some wa/Japanese handles for you on blades with a little bling. This is an annotated photo of my own knife journey for my first few knives; they’re numbered in order of purchase. Hopefully you’ll find it helpful with the pictures.

Rock chopping is possible with knives that aren’t super thin behind the edge, but it’s best to always be aware of how delicate the edge might be on any specific knife and go light on the tip if you’re rotating there. With most of these knives I tend to prefer tap chopping for things like garlic. Generally I grab the Shiro Kamo if I know I’m going to rock chop something like scallion as it’s pretty sturdy. But honestly for normal home cooking just push cutting or guillotine & glide with quick lift isn’t much slower.

View attachment 157242
Yeah, this is super helpful, thank you -- and those are some amazing looking knives.
 

alexrk

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Some of the knives frequently mentioned in such cases are Hattori FH and also Tojiro DP. Both are VG10 steel which some say is a bit difficult to sharpen, but other than that really good knives. The Tojiro costs approx. half of the Hattori, the Hattori has a very nice handle.

If you wanna go „thinner“ there are some knives from Takamura, Chromax for example…

As somebody has mentioned them, I have had the chance to see a Florentine blade recently. Simple flat grind but very nice at the edge, thin and flexible when pressed against your fingernail along the edge…

You can always give Jon from JKI (japaneseknifeimports) a call. He’s super nice and very helpful and will give you a good overview andmake sure you get what you want and fits you and your needs. Buy local if you can (at least in your country).

Thanks for this. I was the one who mentioned Florentine -- any idea from seeing it how it would be as a rock chopper? It's obviously higher quality but something about the look of the heel reminds me of my first knife, a generally bad Santoku from Zwilling, that was like nails on a chalkboard any time the heel hit the board when rock chopping or push cutting.
 

GoodMagic

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I am going to recommend a different knife, the Tanaka 210 ginsan gyuto. This is a proper introduction to Japanese knives, is sturdy but thin behind the edge, has good heat treat, easy to sharpen and stainless. The handle is wa, not western. This knife is a good all around performer, although it is designed for primarily push or pull cuts. I strongly recommend a shapton pro 1000 or similar for sharpening. They are splash and go, fast, and long lasting for about 50$.
 
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Alex, if your only tool is a wusthoff I guess rock chopping makes some sense. With hard, thin knives there’s other ways to go. Watch this video


Ps-Sharpen that wusthoff!
 

AT5760

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Do you want to stick with rocking, or is that what you are familiar with (or both)? If you are willing to try other cutting styles like rickbern suggests above, then S. Tanaka's knives offer a nice transition profile. They have a little more curve to the cutting edge, so you can still rock some, but they are still good push cutters. I'm biased of course, because that's what I started with.

If you want lower maintenance, then this line may be worth checking out: Shigeki Tanaka VG10 Damascus Western Handle Gyuto 210mm

If you really love a rocking profile, then maybe go for the Kramer/Zwilling. They are heavier and lots of people here speak well of them, particularly the 52100 ones.
 

coxhaus

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I am at your point to where I have a lot of German knives. I think I would buy a Kramer/Zwilling or a Martell knife. And I might at some point.

I bought a MAC PRO but to me it was not an upgrade just different with a smaller handle. My wife liked it for a while but I have not seen her use it since she moved on to the Wusthof Classic 8-inch chef knife. I may get rid of it since the handle is too small for me.

One thing I noticed is the back half became dull with the front half still sharp. It was used to cut a lot of limes for drinks this last summer and I don't know if the acid got to the steel, it was hard use or maybe temper as I have no idea. It was different than what I am use to anyway.

By dull I mean it won't slice tomatoes without mashing the skin.

I have a limited number of knife slots and 30 is about my max. So, I need to trade out nowadays.
 
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HumbleHomeCook

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No, no, absolutely appreciate the correction, thank you. I honestly thought "whet" was connected to, well, "wet," so good to know. Picked up the DMT idea from Dave Arnold, who's mentioned on his podcast that's what he uses for his knives, with the idea being what I mentioned, that he's more likely to use them regularly than stones he has to soak/fix, and the guy from Knife Steel Nerds was on one episode and didn't seem to hate the strategy. But seems like splash and go's would serve the same purpose, I'll look into them; thanks for the suggestion.

Larrin of Knife Steel Nerds spends a lot of time with his feet in the high-alloy world where diamonds are often preferred or necessary. There's nothing at all wrong with diamond stones and they certainly have their place, but for a lot of the common steels found in Japanese knives they aren't necessary and other stones will give better sharpening feedback and refined edges.

Now, diamonds work well with the softer Krupp steels used by Wusthof so that means you have a fine setup to learn on. I really encourage to research sharpening and start working on the Wusthof. The "Sharpie" trick will help a lot.
 

alexrk

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Do you want to stick with rocking, or is that what you are familiar with (or both)? If you are willing to try other cutting styles like rickbern suggests above, then S. Tanaka's knives offer a nice transition profile. They have a little more curve to the cutting edge, so you can still rock some, but they are still good push cutters. I'm biased of course, because that's what I started with.

If you want lower maintenance, then this line may be worth checking out: Shigeki Tanaka VG10 Damascus Western Handle Gyuto 210mm

If you really love a rocking profile, then maybe go for the Kramer/Zwilling. They are heavier and lots of people here speak well of them, particularly the 52100 ones.
Both, I guess? Feels like it's the fastest/easiest way to just knock out a bunch of prep when I need to get dinner on the table. I do plenty of push cutting, and I'll try to do some pull cutting (thanks for the video @rickbern) but it just doesn't seem like something I'll be good at, at least not at any significant speed.

The Shigeki Tanaka knives look really interesting, thanks for that.
 

alexrk

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Larrin of Knife Steel Nerds spends a lot of time with his feet in the high-alloy world where diamonds are often preferred or necessary. There's nothing at all wrong with diamond stones and they certainly have their place, but for a lot of the common steels found in Japanese knives they aren't necessary and other stones will give better sharpening feedback and refined edges.

Now, diamonds work well with the softer Krupp steels used by Wusthof so that means you have a fine setup to learn on. I really encourage to research sharpening and start working on the Wusthof. The "Sharpie" trick will help a lot.
Ahh, that makes a lot of sense, thank you.
 

HumbleHomeCook

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If you want to consider a good entry synthetic stone, the King NEO 800 is highly regarded and comes with it's own stand. I believe MTC offers a first-time-buyer 20% discount.


Pair that with at least an entry level flattening stone and you'd be in pretty good shape for a starter that will have versatility and longevity.

But again, learning with your Wusthof and DMT's is a good way to start. I push sharpening because, of course, all knives will dull, so you can care for them yourself, but being able to do so, also really frees you up to a lot of steel diversity and by extension, knife choices.
 

coxhaus

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I can say the Worksharp Ken Onion works well on German knives for sharpening. It is what I use on 30 German knives to keep them all sharp. Plenty of utube videos if you want a look see.
 
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HumbleHomeCook

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@alexrk I thought of a couple more for you to consider.

Warther makes a flashy western-style knife in S45VN which by all accounts is a nice powder metallurgy steel that should respond well to your DMT's but not be overly difficult to sharpen.

Another nice looking knife line, in a good steel, but this time with a wa handle, is SHARP Knife Shop's X-Hammer Ittetsu line. SLD is a steel on the border of semi-stainless and stainless but is quite resilient and is a nice steel. It looks like the gyuto is out of stock (not listed) right now. I have the bunka and it is really nice. Nimble and slicey.
Ittetsu X-Hammer

There's a couple more rolling around in my head that I can't quite remember but if I do I'll update.
 

alexrk

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@alexrk I thought of a couple more for you to consider.

Warther makes a flashy western-style knife in S45VN which by all accounts is a nice powder metallurgy steel that should respond well to your DMT's but not be overly difficult to sharpen.

Another nice looking knife line, in a good steel, but this time with a wa handle, is SHARP Knife Shop's X-Hammer Ittetsu line. SLD is a steel on the border of semi-stainless and stainless but is quite resilient and is a nice steel. It looks like the gyuto is out of stock (not listed) right now. I have the bunka and it is really nice. Nimble and slicey.
Ittetsu X-Hammer

There's a couple more rolling around in my head that I can't quite remember but if I do I'll update.
Hey thanks, those look interesting. I think I'm going to end up going with either something like the Saji that Delat pointed out or the Florentine, those are the two that have spoken to me most so far; I think I'm leaning Florentine of the two.

But either way I have gotten the message from everyone, I'll get a stone, and I'll practice with the Wusthof and the DMT in the meantime.

Thanks to everyone who's weighed in with ideas, really appreciate it. And I'll likely be coming back to the list in here when it's time for the next knife...
 

Perverockstar

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I honestly second the Hattori and JCK Natures recommendations. Wusthofs are nice knives though. They are so easy to sharp, they have a good weight and they keep their sharpness quite good, IMO.


If you are gonna go through lots of prep, I personally do not recommend Tsuchime (hammered) finished knives. In my personal experience, the texture starts screwing up with your clawing hand.
 
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