Seeking lightweight, half-bolstered chef knife that rocks

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AustenNut

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Thank you in advance to all of you experts who so generously share your time and expertise to help the relatively ignorant (like me) as we go through the process of choosing a knife.

The short version is below. The longer version of the questionnaire is below.
  • A 6-8” chef’s knife that will rock well, but can still do other motions well
  • Prefer a knife where the height of the blade is at least 1.75”
  • A knife that weighs less than 7.5 ozs/213g
  • A half-bolster with a handle that looks nice (i.e. not like Fibrox or $10 knives from a discount store)
  • A hard limit of $150 budget, but preferably significantly lower
  • Strong preference for something that will work with a Chef’s Choice electric sharpener
Possibilities I’m considering are below:

Knife Chart.JPG

Yellow means it meets the above requirements, at least in terms of the hard metrics. Peach highlighting means that it just misses out on a numerical metric, but is still under consideration. Green is the chef knife that I currently use. 😊

For those who are unable to see the chart above of possible contenders (or eliminated), here’s the list. Everything’s 8” unless specified otherwise.

  • Sabatier Laguiole: What I currently own
  • Wusthof Legende: 6” ($60) is too short and 8” ($130) is slightly too heavy with a cheap-looking handle for the price
  • Zwilling Henckels Pro Traditional Chef Knife 6” ($80): Too heavy (239g) but great blade shape
  • Mattio Borrani Bowie: Like the price of the 8” satin ($99) but prefer the weight of the 7” Damascus; blade shape looks really cool/nice
  • Boker Core Chef w/walnut handle: $104
  • Wusthof Classic Demi-Bolster: $150, though an open stock copy is floating around for $115
  • Zwilling Pro Slim: $150, 7”. This just came out but looks like it ticks all the boxes
  • Henckels Classic Christopher Kimball: $55, 7” really nice and light, but wish the blade was taller (only 1.6”)
  • Yaxell Mon Chef: $80
  • Tojiro DP: $86
  • Shun Sora Chef: $90
  • Wusthof Classif Deba: $100, 7”
  • Yaxell Tsuchimon: $100
  • Miyabi Evolution: $100
  • Miyabi Extra Wide Rocking Knife: 6”, $120


THE QUESTIONNAIRE

LOCATION
What country are you in? US


KNIFE TYPE
What type of knife are you interested in: Chef’s knife

Are you right or left handed? I’m right-handed, but my son has ambidextrous tendencies (and we intend to have him leaving the house knowing how to cook!)

Are you interested in a Western handle (e.g., classic Wusthof handle) or Japanese handle? Flexible, but primarily used to Western-style handle

What length of knife (blade) are you interested in (in inches or millimeters)? 6-8”

Do you require a stainless knife? Yes

What is your absolute maximum budget for your knife? $150, but would prefer to spend much less


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: Slicing, mincing, and chopping produce (from garlic and leafy greens to sweet potatoes). May slice and trim some meat or fish.

What knife, if any, are you replacing? The main knife I use is an 8” Sabatier Laguiole (with maybe a salamander or something pictured?) chef knife from a block kit I bought about 15 years ago from a kitchen outlet store going out of business. I think the set of 13 (6 of which were steak knives) originally cost between $130-200. The 8” Sabatier weighs 213g with a wooden handle, full bolster, and full tang. I was also gifted a Victorinox Fibrox chef knife, but I don’t find it comfortable (handle is too large).

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

What cutting motions do you primarily use? Rocking, walking, slicing

What improvements do you want from your current knife? I would like a lighter knife with a half-bolster (for lightness and ease of using my sharpener) and something that is a “quality” steel (I don’t know if what I have is considered quality or not). I’d like something with a little bit more of a belly also to help with rocking. Also, something that resists stains well is preferred. I’d prefer a knife staying sharper longer, but as I have a Chef’s Choice sharpener, it’s not that big of a deal to sharpen more often.


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

Do you sharpen your own knives? I use a Chef’s Choice sharpener, but no whetstones

If not, are you interested in learning how to sharpen your knives? No

Are you interested in purchasing sharpening products for your knives? Minimal (the Chef’s Choice was enough of an investment, but could be talked into something else)


SPECIAL REQUESTS/COMMENTS
  • Aesthetically I like the appearance of wood or rivets or something that doesn’t look like the handle of a $10 knife from the local discount store. I don’t want to pay $100+ for something that looks similar to the Fibrox handle (my issue with the Wusthof Legende 8”).
  • I ordered the 6” Wusthof Pro on which I loved the blade but it felt quite heavy. I also tried the 142g Wusthof 6” Legende, and while I loved the weight of it (though a knife doesn’t need to be that light), I wasn’t a fan of the handle (too long and skinny) and I really wasn’t a fan of the shortness of the blade.
  • Since I’m using a Chef’s Choice sharpener, I’m feeling as though I should stick to blades around a 15 degree angle. If I get one of the Japanese knives with 9-12 degree angles, then I either would need to spend more for another sharpener or lose out on some of the benefits of the Japanese knife as it would gradually be resharpened to 15 degrees with my sharpener. But I am open to being convinced to change my opinion.
  • I’ve also looked at a number of rocking santokus, but the ones I’ve seen don’t have a mostly flat top to their blades, and I tend to scrape and scoop with my blade (scraping with the top, not the cutting edge).
 

AustenNut

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I appreciate the feedback. Is there a different sharpener that would be recommended, or is a higher caliber of knife only worthwhile if whetstones or professional sharpeners are used?
 

Delat

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I have a chef’s choice electric sharpener which I used for years on my wusthofs. It takes off a lot of steel, which you don’t want on an expensive knife. Plus just from looking at the finished edge, it appears to sharpen around 220 grit or so. Most people here sharpen their knives around 1000 - 6000 grit, so the chef’s choice doesn’t even get within spitting distance of what a decent knife is capable of.

This is not to say that a Wusthof + Chef’s Choice isn’t perfectly fine for prepping a meal. It works and a lot of people are perfectly happy with it. But what you’re doing is like starting with a set of skinny wheels from a Prius and asking for recommendations for great cars to use those wheels with. We’re saying to drive the Prius with the Prius wheels as they won’t do much on a Porsche.

There’s other sharpening systems out there other than plain whetstones that are better than the chef’s choice like Wicked Edge, Lansky, etc, but I think they can get expensive given your budget constraints.
 

HumbleHomeCook

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I appreciate the feedback. Is there a different sharpener that would be recommended, or is a higher caliber of knife only worthwhile if whetstones or professional sharpeners are used?

"Higher caliber" is relative and a bit open ended in this regard.

Let's back up. Why did I say what I did? Electric sharpeners almost universally "tear" at the edge linearly (heel to tip) rather than laterally (spine to edge). This is true even for the ones with vertical spinning wheels as you're still pulling the knife through them. This method will leave a "sharper" feeling edge but it won't last and it wears your knife.

So there are certainly other options but understanding your knife and steel choice will surely help here. For example, take a look at the Messermeister Olive series:


These are beautiful, German knives and in this instance would qualify as higher caliber. Now, there are reasons many here would still not opt for one but they are nice. In comparison to most Japanese knives, the steel is rather soft. So, in my opinion, this opens up options. The electric Work Sharp Mk.2 or Ken Onion editions are viable options here. Yes, they have drawbacks but I've gifted/recommended them to many people who prefer these types of knives and who do not want to delve deep into sharpening and no one has ever been unsatisfied. And hell, you can even do your lawn mower blades if you want.

There's also a bunch of clamp (or fixed)-style sharpening systems but they start get a little more dicey and pricey for decent ones.

With the softer western steels, there's no point in going up to high grits. They respond well to lower grit abrasives. Toss in a strop or good honing rod for routine maintenance and you'd be in pretty good shape.

Now, if you decide to start moving into steels above say 58 or so HRC, then you're getting into hand sharpening to get the most out of them and not ruin them.

I hope that helps a bit more.
 

Oshidashi

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If you are going to use a Chef's Choice sharpener, consider the Mercer Renaissance 8" chef knife. It's my beater (i.e. gourds and for family and friends) but I like it, nice rocker, looks decent, FF good, takes a good edge, I think it fits all your criteria, excellent value, only $40. Stays pretty sharp just with a steel. If you can come up with $28 above your budget, consider Wüstof Classic Ikon, which nearly fits your criteria, beautiful FF, and has a luscious handle.
 

AustenNut

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Thank you, all, for elaborating on some of the incongruities of what it is I've said I want. To make sure I'm understanding, I've done a quick recap below. If I've misunderstood, please let me know.
  • Electric sharpeners like the Chef's Choice remove a lot of metal and don't provide a fine finish, therefore it is a waste of money to buy more expensive knives that will be quickly damaged and not kept as nice by the Chef's Choice. Something like the Victorinox or Mercer Renaissance should then amply fulfill my needs.
  • If I switched to an alternative sharpening system like the Lansky ($20-50 by my quick glance at the Brazilian river), Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition ($130), or Work Sharp Mk. 2 ($80) then it might be worthwhile to take a closer look at some of the European-style knives up to about a hardness of 58 as they might make a good fit together (in combination with a good honing rod). A Wicked Edge (hundreds of dollars for the cheapest) is not in the budget for this.

Assuming my understanding is correct, I'm left with two main knife recommendations. Although the Mercer Renaissance seems like a great option, at over 9 ounces, it will be too heavy for what I'm looking for. As Victorinox is discontinuing the Rosewood (I found out tonight), I went on ahead and grabbed one so I can have it in my hand and see if it will work before they're all sold out, or only available way over retail. Looking at the pictures of the Rosewood and the Fibrox, the handle connection to the blade might be different enough that it won't bother me like the big Fibrox handle did. I'll have to wait and see.

I do have a few more questions:

  1. What is the learning curve like for using the Lansky or Work Sharps? And how much time is required to sharpen a knife once the sharpening system is learned?
  2. Also, continuing the car analogy, if Chef's Choice is a Prius, and whetstones are for Porsches, are the sharpening systems in #1 more like a Lexus? Or just a souped up Prius?
  3. If the Victorinox Rosewood doesn't work for me, what do people think of the Henckels Classic Christopher Kimball Cook's Knife (link 1, link 2)? Would this knife be fine with my Chefs Choice, or would this need an upgrade to the world of Lansky and Work Sharp?
  4. If I do upgrade my sharpening system to Lansky/Work Sharp, what do people think of the European knives listed above? For convenience, I will paste them below.
  • Boker Core Chef (link) w/walnut handle: $104
  • Wusthof Classic Demi-Bolster: (link) $150, though an open stock copy is floating around for $115
  • Zwilling Pro Slim: (link) $150, 7”. This just came out but looks like it ticks all the boxes
  • Wusthof Classic Ikon Pro $180 retail, but there are a number of open box versions that would fall within the budget.
@Oshidashi's recommendation of the Wusthof Classic Ikon is lovely, but unless I find a great used copy or open stock version, I don't see myself going up to $180. (ETA: Found copies!) But feel free to use it as a comparison point between the other three German knives listed above (or also in comparison with the Chris Kimball Henckels).
 
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Oshidashi

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Keep in mind also the balance point or center of gravity of knives that interest you. Most J-knives tend to be blade heavy, with the balance point near or even forward of the pinch grip area in front of the handle. In contrast, for most Western knives the balance point is aft of the ferrule or bolster, in the handle. The way a knife balances in your hand may affect feel, performance, nimbleness, cutting pleasure, efficiency, and arm fatigue. It's a matter of individual preference, but worth considering this yet additional variable to add to the maelstrom of possibilities. And as they said in "Jaws," you might need a bigger spreadsheet.
 
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sansho

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to start, maybe consider getting a cheaper knife (i believe at least a few were mentioned) that is suitable for use with your existing sharpener.

in addition, maybe also get an inexpensive whetstone like a king 1000/6000 grit combination stone if you are so inclined. this way, you can practice hand sharpening at your own pace as inspiration strikes.

if i read correctly, you have an 8" victorinox chef knife (fibrox handle)? i hand sharpened one of these recently and thought it wasn't hard to sharpen. FYI, different steels behave differently when you sharpen, and some are easier than others to learn on. i think this victorinox "behaved well". i have also been using that knife recently during lazy prep because it's stainless, and i think it's actually not a bad knife at all when you have it nice and sharp. you sure you can't get used to that fibrox? if you could, maybe you wouldn't even "need" to buy another knife yet.

if you take a liking to hand sharpening and are getting acceptable results (hopefully at least as good as what you get with your Chef's Choice sharpener), maybe then at that point you will enjoy buying and maintaining a higher end blade.
 

Jovidah

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A few random thoughts that came to mind:
-Don't stare yourself blind on 'total weight'. The exact same weight can feel very different depending on where it is in the knife and how it's balanced.
-If you want something that rocks well but also does other stuff well longer is better; it allows you to have belly in a profile without getting a stupid football shaped profile (like the shorter Wüsthofs).
-You don't need insane belly to rock; most Japanese gyutos, especially on the cheaper end, actually do it just fine.
-As others mentioned, wanting to ram it through a Chef's Choice sharpener comes with problems. It's going to put a low ceiling on the performance, and with asymmetric knives it might **** up how they handle (for example leading to steering).
-Personally I agree that if you insist on the electric sharpening - which is fine - there's limited utility in spending more on a knife
-Your desire for a lower weight conflicts with your desire for a nice looking handle, especially if you don't want to go down the wa-gyuto route. But most of those will be asymmtric in one way or another.
-Given your desires it could make sense to look at all the lower budget 210 western handled gyutos - they're usually lighter than all the German stuff, but the problem you'll run into there is that most of them will be asymmetric in one way or another.
-I agree you should probably ignore ******** like 'rocking santokus'.
 

JASinIL2006

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I think it's approaching heresy to say it here, but another option is to just send your knife out a couple times a year to be professionally sharpened. Unless you're doing a LOT of home food prep, you can almost certainly get by with sharpening a couple of times a year. It doesn't cost much - maybe $15-20 - and if you hone or strop your knife regularly, you can keep decent edge on it.
 

Jovidah

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Oh another two things that came to mind:
-Most other guided sharpening systems have the same problem where they don't deal with asymmetry well.
-If you don't like heavy knives I don't think the Wüsthof Classic Ikon is for you. It's very buttheavy.
 

coxhaus

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I like the Wusthof Classic and the Henckels 4star knives. There are lots of them cheap on eBay used. I use a Worksharp Ken Onion sharpener set at 15 degrees. This seems to be a good combo for me. I also have a MAC Pro I bought off eBay that my wife uses which is lighter than the German knives. The handle is too small for me. I have around 30 Kitchen knives that I sharpen using the Worksharp. The Worksharp KO is a fast sharpener.
 

Hz_zzzzzz

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Thank you, all, for elaborating on some of the incongruities of what it is I've said I want. To make sure I'm understanding, I've done a quick recap below. If I've misunderstood, please let me know.
  • Electric sharpeners like the Chef's Choice remove a lot of metal and don't provide a fine finish, therefore it is a waste of money to buy more expensive knives that will be quickly damaged and not kept as nice by the Chef's Choice. Something like the Victorinox or Mercer Renaissance should then amply fulfill my needs.
  • If I switched to an alternative sharpening system like the Lansky ($20-50 by my quick glance at the Brazilian river), Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition ($130), or Work Sharp Mk. 2 ($80) then it might be worthwhile to take a closer look at some of the European-style knives up to about a hardness of 58 as they might make a good fit together (in combination with a good honing rod). A Wicked Edge (hundreds of dollars for the cheapest) is not in the budget for this.

Assuming my understanding is correct, I'm left with two main knife recommendations. Although the Mercer Renaissance seems like a great option, at over 9 ounces, it will be too heavy for what I'm looking for. As Victorinox is discontinuing the Rosewood (I found out tonight), I went on ahead and grabbed one so I can have it in my hand and see if it will work before they're all sold out, or only available way over retail. Looking at the pictures of the Rosewood and the Fibrox, the handle connection to the blade might be different enough that it won't bother me like the big Fibrox handle did. I'll have to wait and see.

I do have a few more questions:

  1. What is the learning curve like for using the Lansky or Work Sharps? And how much time is required to sharpen a knife once the sharpening system is learned?
  2. Also, continuing the car analogy, if Chef's Choice is a Prius, and whetstones are for Porsches, are the sharpening systems in #1 more like a Lexus? Or just a souped up Prius?
  3. If the Victorinox Rosewood doesn't work for me, what do people think of the Henckels Classic Christopher Kimball Cook's Knife (link 1, link 2)? Would this knife be fine with my Chefs Choice, or would this need an upgrade to the world of Lansky and Work Sharp?
  4. If I do upgrade my sharpening system to Lansky/Work Sharp, what do people think of the European knives listed above? For convenience, I will paste them below.
  • Boker Core Chef (link) w/walnut handle: $104
  • Wusthof Classic Demi-Bolster: (link) $150, though an open stock copy is floating around for $115
  • Zwilling Pro Slim: (link) $150, 7”. This just came out but looks like it ticks all the boxes
  • Wusthof Classic Ikon Pro $180 retail, but there are a number of open box versions that would fall within the budget.
@Oshidashi's recommendation of the Wusthof Classic Ikon is lovely, but unless I find a great used copy or open stock version, I don't see myself going up to $180. (ETA: Found copies!) But feel free to use it as a comparison point between the other three German knives listed above (or also in comparison with the Chris Kimball Henckels).
My recommendation is buying the Mercer or the Victorinox and sticking with the chefs choice but adding a good ceramic honing rod (Mac black for example). The ceramic rod will cut a tiny little bit of steel every time and make your knife usable. Use the honing rod most of time and use the chef’s choice once every other year. In this way you don’t lose too much steel. Maybe after 10 years you just need to find someone thinning the knife for you, then it’s good to go for another 10 years. Actually I think this solution could even work for your sabatier.
 
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Oshidashi

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Given AustenNut's obsession demonstrated in this thread alone, short of any substantial physical disabilities, he will be wanting to sharpen on an actual whetstone by the end of the year. It is not that difficult. Get the Vic, buy a decent couple of whetstones or a double one with some of the rest of the money. Learn how to sharpen freehand, save up a few rubles, and buy a cool J-knife knife in a few months.
 
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