Requesting Recommendations for Knife Block Set for Cousin's Wedding Gift

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Oct 28, 2020
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San Antonio, TX
I'm answering these questions for my young cousin and his new wife, whom I have not met.

What country are you in?
My cousin and his wife is in Washington State

What type of knife are you interested in (e.g., chefs knife, slicer, boning knife, utility knife, bread knife, paring knife, cleaver)?
Needs at least Chef's, utility, pering, steak knives and a block to hold it all. Preferrably wood.

Are you right or left handed? Don't know, probably Right

Are you interested in a Western handle (e.g., classic Wusthof handle) or Japanese handle? No Preference

What length of knife (blade) are you interested in (in inches or millimeters)? Chef's knife: 8"

Do you require a stainless knife? Yes, who knows how they will be treated

What is your absolute maximum budget for your knife? $400 HARD MAX, for the whole set and shipping

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 (e.g., slicing vegetables, chopping vegetables, mincing vegetables, slicing meats, cutting down poultry, breaking poultry bones, filleting fish, trimming meats, etc.)? Probably basic vegetable slicing, fruit cutting, chicken, steak. I don't want to ask for more detail.

What knife, if any, are you replacing? Don't know what they have.

Do you have a particular grip that you primarily use? Don't know what kind of grip they use.

What cutting motions do you primarily use? They are not trained and probably don't care to learn right now.


Aesthetics: No hard requirement. Satin finishes are fine.
Handle: Probably a plastic handle for max durability.
Steel: Stainless - NO RUST!
Comfort: Probably they would want a thicker handle for comfort over the balance point location.

Ease of Use:
* Decent initial sharpness, since they will not have them sharpened before use.
* I'd like to get them something that is not difficult to sharpen in case they get into sharpening later.

Edge Retention: Best that can be had given the stainless and price requirements.

Do you use a bamboo, wood, rubber, or synthetic cutting board? I'm going to assume they will use something cheap, like plastic.

Do you sharpen your own knives? I strongly suspect they do not.

If not, are you interested in learning how to sharpen your knives? They are probably not interested in this now.

Are you interested in purchasing sharpening products for your knives? They probably will not for the first 5-10 years of ownership.

* I'd like the knives to not have a full bolster so that if they do get into sharpening, the knives can be sharpened all the way to the heel.


The couple requested the Cuisinart Hollow Handle Block Set C77SS-15PK on their registry. This sells for $60, which I suppose is an amazing accomplishment of capitalism for there to be such an inexpensive set that has so many positive reviews. Still, it's hard for me to stomach getting them that set knowing that these knives may not be maintainable in the long term and they may not want to get rid of stuff that they think is "still good" down the line.

Right now, I'm leaning towards the Cangshan Z Series 17-Piece Knife Block Set, which sells for $350. The downside to this set is that it's so wide (for an apartment) and includes non-essential knives like a tomato knife and a 5" serrated utility knife. The other top contender is the Zwilling J.A. Henckels Four Star 14 Piece Acacia Knife Block Set which also sells for $350. I got these knives 12 years ago and They are pretty good beaters. They come with the Henckels brand name. The con is the full bolster.

Discarded Options Already Considered:
* Zwilling J.A. Henckels Diplome Chef's Knives (Block is $600 with no steak knives)
* Cangshan Thomas Keller Signature 7-Piece Knife Block Set ($500 + cost of steak knives which is $200+)
* Tojiro DP 8 Piece Acacia Slim Knife Block Set ($399.95 + cost of steak knives)

I've already convinced one family member to go in on the gift with me, that's why the budget is as high as it is. The other members I ask, don't think we should focus on getting them such a nice knife set given they have other needs.
It really pains me to say this, but here goes:

Someone that asks for a knife "set" is generally not someone that shares the same interest in knives as folks on this forum. The knives will likely be abused, sit in the sink for extended periods of time, thrown in the dishwasher, and probably never sharpened. Any knife, regardless of quality, will perform poorly under these conditions. So while I firmly believe the cuisinart set is absolute trash, I also think it would be a waste to get them anything else, especially if they didn't ask for it.
Agree with the above posts, get them the cuisinart set they asked for but throw in an electric sharpener like a Chef’s Choice.

Bow to the collective, they have been assimilated.
I don't always color within the lines.

How about a gift certificate to Epicurean Edge? They sell a broad range of knives and probably have something that would appeal. Hell, you can even go with them if attending the wedding.

Otherwise suggest you shop for a knife block and a couple of MAC Pro knives. Good knives and robust enough for some abuse. I wouldn't give Calphalon, Kitchen-Aid, Cuisinart, et al, to someone I don't like.
To tojiro looks decent, Henkels will do too. Victorinox have couple good set, if you don't like black rubber handle they also have the Swiss modern and rosewood. Mercer have decent stuff for the money, consider how they are used in commercial kitchen, they should be able to stand up to some abuse.,aps,113&sr=8-5,aps,113&sr=8-13
Or how about these. They're also completely useless, but they have dinosaurs!
Nobody has commented on the Cangshan Z series. They have nicely shaped handles have an HRC of 58 and use standard german steel (X50CrMoV15). They look nice and have good reviews. Does anyone have any experience with them? I bought my parents a Cangshan S series carving set, but they have barely used it. It was sharp out of the box and had no noticeable manufacturing defects.
If it has to be a forgiving steel like Krupp's 4116 I would look at Burgvogel — Messermeister in North-America. A tad softer, perhaps, which might be a good thing when an indifferent use is to be expected. Add a Dickoron Micro rod with it.
I have yet to see a knife set - especially one including steak knives - that I would truly find recommendable, worth buying, or good value...
In general sets tend to contain a lot of redundant / overlapping knives.

Regarding the Chinese stuff; in my experience it's playing a lottery due to lack of consistency. Although admittedly when you get anything from a cooking brand that isn't traditionally a knife-maker, a lot of it will be made by some OEM - often in China - as well. They just don't advertise it as openly.
Victorinox don’t harden 1.4110 like the common German makers cryo 1.4116. I figure 54-56 RC max. I don’t know for the Grand Maitre they might be. But there’s hardly better value than Victo Rosewood for folks that won’t care for them much. If you suspect dishwasher involvment just go Fibrox.
Unless we know more about the end user its hard to make recommendations.

I don’t think many around here use either sets or blocks. Most get what they want instead of sets and use either magnetic strips on the wall, store in a drawer, or have a freestanding magnetic rack on the counter. Blocks have the problem of not letting you see what is in them and only holding knives of particular dimensions. You end up grabbing 5 knives looking for the bread knife in the block.

A starter set would typically be (in order of importance):
- 8” chef
- 3.5” to 4” paring
- 10” serrated bread knife
- 6” petty

And they can all be from different brands. The chef should cost the most. Paring and bread can be cheap. Serrated steak knives can be cheap.

There is no point in spending significant money unless they can be maintained and sharpened. Proper care means not putting in a dishwasher, not attempting to cut frozen food or ice, not contacting bones, and always use a wood or plastic cutting board (never cut on glass or stone counters).

Using an electric sharpener or one of the pull through V sharpeners can ruin a knife in under a year. They remove too much steel which ends up making a thick edge and often a reverse curve in the blade so part of it no longer touches a cutting board. Most people here do freehand sharpening on a whetstone.

The soft steels listed (55-58 HRC) will not stay sharp long and will need frequent sharpening but they are tough enough to take some abuse without chipping. In general, harder steel holds an edge better but are more brittle. Most around here use with care and get harder steel that can hold a keener edge. Cheap stainless steel is famous for being difficult to sharpen, not staying sharp very long, not getting particularly sharp, and being nearly indestructible.

Many are assuming the recipient will not properly care for knives or properly sharpen them so they are suggesting soft but durable steel and inexpensive knives. Victorinox is known as a pretty decent inexpensive line as stated by others above. $300-$400 is too much for a cheap set.

If you really want to get them one decent knife and know they will care for it and properly sharpen it then investing in a good chef knife is suggested. Mac pro 8” chef knife is often recommended as a good starter chef knife and was previously mentioned. It is a moderately hard steel about 60HRC and will stay sharp longer but isn’t brittle or fragile.
@blokey, I'd seriously consider Mercer, if they had a wooden block and it came with steak knives.

Mercer's have been fairly hard edged blades & durable, like Wustoff, not CutCo.

I do NOT like "wooden blocks" as they are not the best on cleanliness in the slots or ergonomic hand position for secure holding while getting blades in or out. I prefer a counter/drawer knife tray that is easy to get knives in and out right next to my cutting board.

The big issue with 12-15 knives in a "set" is that more than half the knives are not used until the others are damaged. 3-4 good knives for a new couple is plenty.

Very sharp "steak knives" are a scam in my opinion as they 'dull-out' in the first few meals. Expensive Shun steak knives are worthless in my opinion as they chip instantly on a dinner plate. Don't know whey people buy them.

The only good steak knife edge design I have seen is a very carefully made scalloped design in the tip area and pretty dull behind it. After all you are eating cooked meat that is fairly soft and most likely without tendons in it. Tough meat means using a wood plate and a chef knife (with strong jaw muscles.)