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Great Knives to last a lifetime

andytee Mar 25, 2007 11:29 AM

Given the opportuinity to register for some nice knives as a wedding gift, what would you pick? I'm interested in pieces, and would rather have a variety than a matched set.

My current favorite is an old thrift store Sabatier I sharpened up.

I'd also love to hear about good knife-related "accesories" - steels and honing rods and storage systems and the like.

And, I'm particularly curious about Caphalon's "Katana" line. Haven't tried one, but am a little infatuated with the look. Anyone have these and have an opinion?

Thanks!

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  1. applehome RE: andytee Mar 25, 2007 11:45 AM

    I don't know about registering, but try looking at some of the Japanese steel - especially the western style ones which won't range too far from what you know. Take a look at the pages that have to do with sharpening Japanese style, with water and whetstones. If you think you might enjoy sharpening by hand, it's a good way to get into some really great knives (you don't want to be spending hundreds of dollars on a hand-made Japanese blade, only to have it ruined by your local scissors and skates guy with a 5-minute grind-o-mat machine). Here are a couple of good sites:

    http://www.korin.com/index.php

    http://www.epicedge.com/shopexd.asp?i...

    1 Reply
    1. re: applehome
      andytee RE: applehome Mar 26, 2007 08:38 AM

      Great sites, thanks. I already have a japanese veggie cleaver, and use a whetstone to sharpen most of my knives. Those sites seem to have some really nice blades on them, that should keep me busy for a while!

    2. jbyoga RE: andytee Mar 25, 2007 11:58 AM

      I love love love my 20 year old Wusthoff Tridents - epic knives they are...

      A great gift for anyone who cooks is a set of crock sticks or if they are willing to learn a litle - a diamond rod. Great sharpeners both..

      4 Replies
      1. re: jbyoga
        andytee RE: jbyoga Mar 26, 2007 08:35 AM

        Are the current Wusthof Trident's as well made? It seems like the high-end knife world has really expanded in the last few years, and now Henkels and Wustof and the others have so many different "lines". It's hard to tell which ones are good and which are not.

        By "crock sticks", are you referring to a "steel" or honing rod?

        A diamond rod might be a good idea, though I usually sharpen with a japanese whetstone.

        1. re: andytee
          jbyoga RE: andytee Mar 26, 2007 01:23 PM

          I think the Classic line of Wusthoff is what I have and again - they will be passed onto my great grandkids someday - the crock sticks (might be a brand - google it) I am thinking of are ceramic and set up at the correct angle for novices to use with ease. I worked at a knife shop years ago and found both the Wusthoffs and the crock sticks to be top notch products.

          1. re: andytee
            d
            dijon RE: andytee Mar 29, 2007 02:19 PM

            Andy, what grit, size , shape and technique do you use? Most whetsones are small slabs, like 2" x 4".

            1. re: dijon
              a priori RE: dijon Mar 29, 2007 04:55 PM

              Most professional grade sharpening stones are 3"x8" or larger.

        2. jfood RE: andytee Mar 26, 2007 08:52 AM

          I bought my first 10" chef Forschner in 1978 and it is still the staple in my kitchen. Over the years I added more Forschners, Henk's, Cutco and Sabatier.

          It comes down to how it feels in your hand and the weight you are looking for. Forschners are very light and agile, Wustoffs you will find much heavier. It's all a personal preference plus the budget. You can buy several Forschners for the price of the Wust.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jfood
            k
            kerdragon RE: jfood Mar 28, 2007 10:34 AM

            I bought a Forschner chef's knife when I was ready to get my first good knife, because I wasn't used to the heavier knives. But now I have a Wusthof Grand Prix and I like it much better. The Forschner just doesn't seem to hold its edge well enough, though my husband still likes and uses it. I think he finds the thinner blade useful for cutting up chicken.

          2. b
            bbqme RE: andytee Mar 26, 2007 01:10 PM

            Most people are familiar with the Shun Classic series. I have a 10" chef's knife and it is very nice but it rather expensive. But Shun also has a couple of lowered priced series, the Wasabi and the Komachi. I have had a Wasabi santoku knife and I find myslef reaching for it the most. It is very sharp, holds it edge well, resharpens easily, and it quite affordable. I got a Komachi paring knife that I like a lot too. It's very light, sharp, affordable, and comes in funky colors. More info here:

            http://www.kershawknives.com/products...

            1 Reply
            1. re: bbqme
              thunderbug84 RE: bbqme Mar 29, 2007 10:09 AM

              My dad recently recieved both a Wusthof Classic and a Shun Classic as presents. We tested them both out and we both agreed that the Wusthof is far superior. While the Shun is much prettier, it wasnt even close to the Wusthof's slicing and chopping capabilities.

            2. Andiereid RE: andytee Mar 26, 2007 01:36 PM

              I've got mostly high-end Henckles and one Wusthoff and love them all. I've had two of my Henckles for 15 years and they're still great. I get them professionally sharpened periodically and use a steel in the interim and they've held up well and hold an edge very well.

              1. t
                theuninvitedguest RE: andytee Mar 27, 2007 06:01 PM

                I have the Wusthof Culinar series and I LOVE them. The previous poster is correct about Wusthof's being a bit heavier, which is why I like them, but try a few in your hand to see what feels the best. For being all metal, the Culinar is lighter than you would think. Some people think they slip easier, but I have never had a problem. I think their rounded, metal edge is far more comfortable than most knives when you are cutting many things for a long period of time.

                1. gargantua RE: andytee Mar 29, 2007 06:57 AM

                  At the risk of sounding heretical, all of the knives mentioned here are mass produced stainless steel hardware. Well made no doubt, but stainless is very hard (impossible?) to make and keep sharp and you can do so much better.

                  You will have these knives a very long time. Think about something handmade and high carbon. You could do worse than to use a satisfying work of art every day.

                  Take a look here as an example

                  http://kramerknives.com/index.htm

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: gargantua
                    Candy RE: gargantua Mar 29, 2007 10:12 AM

                    It doesn't matter what brand you buy or how the knife looks. If it is not comfortable in your hand you are going to be very unhappy.

                    1. re: gargantua
                      w
                      will47 RE: gargantua Mar 29, 2007 10:28 AM

                      I don't think that's true - aren't all of the knives mentioned high-carbon (stainless) steel as well?

                      The terms "carbon steel" "high-carbon steel" and "stainless steel" tend to get mixed up a lot, but my understanding is that all of the main German brands, and Shun at least (of the Japanese brands) are "high-carbon" steel (not carbon steel, which is softer but easier to keep an edge on, and not stain-resistent).

                      1. re: will47
                        applehome RE: will47 Mar 29, 2007 11:02 AM

                        Stainless steel is high-carbon because what makes steel stainless (generally higher amounts of chromium in the alloy) only works well after the carbon content has been upped to a certain point. In other words, all stainless are high-carbon, but not all high-carbon are stainless.

                        Hardness has nothing to do with stainless. It is the alloy that the metal is made from that determines its hardness. The harder the steel, the longer the edge lasts, but the more difficult it is to sharpen. There are other issues, e.g.- when steel is too hard it becomes brittle and can easily crack or pit, especially if forged thinly. That's why some Japanese hand-made blades sandwich a thin hard steel (sometimes blue steel, which is high-carbon and not stainless), with a softer but stainless cladding. Here is a link to AG Russell's steel chart:
                        http://www.agrussell.com/knife_inform...

                        I do not think that a person has to spend $400-$2,000 on hand-made steel before you can get an acceptable kitchen knife. How do all the restaurants in the world operate with their Forschner/Victorinox composite handle knives? They usually use a knife service that keeps them swapped out with freshly sharpened units, but if the basic cutting ability were unacceptable, professionals, who wield knives all day long, would never use them. That's not to say that I don't especially appreciate or prize my hand-made Japanese knives. But I rotate through my German Solingen steel (Victorinox and Henckels) knives as well - and I do all my boning with a Victorinox - with a white composite handle - hmmm... wonder where I got that from...

                        Candy is right - don't buy a knife unseen or unheld. If mail ordering, use a place that will let you send it back. It has to fit in your hands. Chop up an onion with it, or peel an apple with a paring knife - if it doesn't feel good, who cares if it costs $500?

                        1. re: applehome
                          gargantua RE: applehome Mar 29, 2007 01:16 PM

                          Applehome is quite correct that one does not have to spend a lot of money to buy something that is serviceable. One does not have to buy a Ferrari to drive to work or a Patek Philipe to tell the time.

                          But nice things that last a long time can repay a high price with years of pleasure

                          1. re: gargantua
                            applehome RE: gargantua Mar 29, 2007 10:31 PM

                            More to the point, a Ferrari needs to be maintained by specialists. Simply buying the Ferrari isn't enough - you have to be willing to invest more money or time in its maintenance to insure that the special pleasures of the product can indeed be a meaningful experience for years to come. You cannot simply steel your knife and bring it to a guy to sharpen periodically.

                            Traditionally, Japanese chefs never used a steel - they would take out their trusty stones and bowl of water, along with their flattening stone (to straighten the whetstones as they cup from use), every night, as part of the routine of being a chef.

                            Just because one can afford a $2,000 hand-made knife doesn't mean that one will appreciate it, or that one will put in the time to learn to maintain it properly. If you're steeling that Japanese knife, or if you're taking it to your local sharpener with a machine, you're taking the Ferrari to the Chevy dealer for maintenance.

                            My recommendation, for anyone that is interested in pursuing great hand-made knives, is to get into the knife sharpening aspect first - it is a pleasant way to spend some time doing something repetitive (in an almost mindless, zen-like process) but with truly noticeable results - it appeals to some, but not to all. If this is something you enjoy, then spend the money on a really great blade - that way you know you will take care of it the way it needs to be taken care of.

                            I have a whetstone set and a diamond stone set, which I use for the western blades. My knives (whether Victorinox or Hattori or my extensive hand-made pocket knife collection) haven't seen a commercial sharpener in years. I can shave with them (although it's hard to hold the 8" chefs knife to shave with) - it's an absolute obsession - I can't stand to work in the kitchen with any blade that feels even the slightest drag. But I don't believe that most people are that much into knives, and most people are going to be fine with Henckels, W-T, etc. just as long as they're sharp and the edge is straight so they can get on with what they really want to do - cook!

                            That diced onion and carrot in the mirapoix really does taste just as good cut by the Victorinox chef's knife, as cut by the Hattori petty knife. For true experts, that can't be said about raw fish - the tongue is a marvelously tactile organ and it can indeed distinguish between a piece of tuna that was roughly cut (butsu-giri) vs. one that was started as a surgical incision, then separated with virtually no effort, by the sharpest, thinnest steel imaginable.

                            So yes - there is an entire world of cutlery that goes above and beyond any of the German Solingen steel blades, US Steel (Chicago Cutlery, Lamson Sharp), or even of the western-style Japanese blades commercially available in the US (Kershaw, Shun-Classic, Global). Take a look through the sites I posted up top, or through this one:
                            http://japanesechefsknife.com/KDSerie...

                            But it's not for everyone, and it's not about making your food taste better, or cooking better or faster. It's about your own visceral pleasure - something beyond the love of food or cooking, but that is part of the culinary experience, if you want it to be.

                            1. re: applehome
                              c
                              ceb RE: applehome Mar 29, 2007 11:11 PM

                              Thanks for your recs, Applehome. I agree and really want to upgrade my knife set but don't think I should until I improve my sharpening skills and learn more about proper techniques and tools. Any suggestions on how I can get into the knife sharpening aspects first?

                              1. re: ceb
                                applehome RE: ceb Mar 30, 2007 07:27 AM

                                The Korin site has some very good pages on knife sharpening - as do some other sites. Korin also has a DVD called The Chef's Edge for $29.95 that demonstrates good technique and has some Japanese knife & sword history as well. Here's the link:
                                http://www.korin.com/product.php?pid=...

                                1. re: ceb
                                  w
                                  will47 RE: ceb Mar 30, 2007 11:21 AM

                                  That's another thing - I'm hesitant to "practice" sharpening even on my more expensive mass-produced knives... I'd be worried about having an expensive hand-made knife - it's almost *too* much pressure to keep it nice. While I'd like for my nice knives to last a lifetime, I don't think I'd want to use a knife that cost more than a couple hundred dollars.

                                  Using a Forschner or Mundial to practice on seems like a good idea.

                                  There are a lot of sites that have good information on sharpening, many of which are linked to in this forum.

                                  The eGullet guide is pretty good:
                                  http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?s...

                                  There's another really good howto, but I can't find the link at the moment.

                                  There are also some gadgets that allow you to sharpen knives "sort of" by hand - the Sharpmaker and Edge Pro systems come to mind. I haven't tried either myself.

                                2. re: applehome
                                  a priori RE: applehome Mar 30, 2007 03:22 AM

                                  applehome, really well put.

                                  These days, a lot more high performance cutlery is finding their way into home kitchens, but without the maintenance of that high performance in place.

                                  1. re: applehome
                                    jfood RE: applehome Mar 30, 2007 06:33 AM

                                    A

                                    I agree with all you said. I think there are two aspects of knife buying, functionality and enjoyment, and likewise the personalties of the owners.

                                    From jfood's perspective i am 95% functionality and 5% enjoyment on knives. I want to feel right, cut right and stay sharp. The last of these three is dependent on many factors, one of which how the knife is used and by whom. In the jfood house I shudder every time i see someone cutting right on a plate, a trivet and on the countertop. I know that kife just took one in the chin. Do i say anything, i have and old dog new tricks always wins. So I sharpen my knives once a month. And I use an electric kinfe sharpener, not a whetstone, never got into it.

                                    Although the knives onthe sight are absolutely gorgeous i have no idea how they would feel. A few year ago i wanted a new 10" chef's knife. I went to numerous stores, held many knives in my hand and was will to pay a couple of hundred bucks for my new toy. What did I settle on? A $29 Forschner. And I use it every night and love it.

                                    So if you like Forshners, buy them, if you like Henks, buy them, if you want a $2000 custom made, buy it. Buy what you like, will enjoy and guess what if you do not like it, you can always buy another one that you might like better.

                          2. g
                            gourmanda RE: andytee Mar 30, 2007 07:44 AM

                            I bought a Forschner Santoku knife about 2 years ago and use it almost exclusively. It's thin blade keeps its edge forever, needing only an occasional pass with the sharpening steel. It's light yet feels very sturdy. Perfect for slicing (meats, vegetables, fingers!) as well as chopping. It is absolutely a work of genius, IMO.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: gourmanda
                              jillita RE: gourmanda Mar 30, 2007 08:30 AM

                              I love our Mundial chef's knife, bought for $2.00 at an 'Amazing Store' outside Hartford, CT, about 15 years ago. We still use it all the time and it rarely needs sharpening. Oh, to have bought 10 of them! I also love the Pampered Chef 7" Santoku knife for which I hosted a catalog show so I could get it at a 60% discount (retails for $70).

                            2. gargantua RE: andytee Mar 31, 2007 01:22 AM

                              I have read that James Beard owned more than 300 knives. Clearly knife opinions are strongly held. Like golf clubs or second wives, perhaps experimenting and learning to discriminate are much of the fun.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: gargantua
                                BMartin RE: gargantua Mar 31, 2007 02:49 AM

                                I've had Solingen for forty years. I dip the wooden handles in varnish about every four years and use a whetstone pretty frequently--the stone with two different sides. I've been very happy with them and avoid getting them professionally sharpened as it makes the sharp edge too thin.

                                1. re: BMartin
                                  b
                                  big john RE: BMartin Jul 30, 2007 08:05 AM

                                  the crock sticks mentioned above are a great sharpening tool.the brand name is Idahone out of conifer colorado.the rods are set in to a wood base and set at a angle of 22 degrees.they are easy to learn to use.the rods are ceramic stone and the cs24 model comes with 2 sets of rods.medium & fine.

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