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Jan 22, 2010 01:15 PM

Upgrading chef's knife, where to start?

I know that finding the right knife is highly subjective as it becomes a function of fit and personal handle, but I thought I'd ask the forum for a few tips.

I currently have a Wusthof Classic 8" Chef's knife, it's great, fits my hand well, good weight, etc... I send it to be sharpened every 6 months and I hone it before use every day with an F. Dick Multicut steel. I really do like the knife a lot, but I can tell that there is room for improvement.

I have a birthday coming up in a couple months and I want to upgrade from a great to a SUPER GREAT chef's knife but I'm not sure where to begin my search. What I do know is that I'd like a chef's knife, and that 8" will be the most likely length. Budget? Well, if it's worth it, then it's a value, but maybe $100-300 to start?

Shun Classic 8"? Others to look at?

Cheers, thanks!

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  1. NIco,

    Yo what's up dude? What do you wish to improve from your Wusthof classic? Are you trying to get a sharp knife so you can slice better? In that case, Shun is something you can look at as well as many other Japanese gyutos (which has similar knife profile as a French's Chef knife).

    On the other hand, if you are looking for a Chef knife which has more muscle and can take more abuses, then I am not sure if the Shun route is correct.

    Go to website like:

    If you are interested in Japanese influced Chef's knives or Gyutos

    I have never used this, but Tojiro DP Chef knife is considered a very good value Japanese influnced Chef's knife. Hey, it is no more expensive than a Wusthof Chef's knife:

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      Thanks chemicalkinetics... I'm mainly looking for something that will slice better. I'll take care of the knives, so it's not really something about muscle or abuse. I'll take a look at those links for sure!

    2. this thread is a great place to start:

      and there are plenty more if you look at the related threads generated by the CH keyword feature - they're listed directly below the last post.

      personally i *adore* the Shun Santoku i finally picked up a couple of months ago, but now i can't stand to hold any of my Wusthof or Henckels knives! oops :)

      21 Replies
      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        Yo Goodhealthgourmet,

        I don't have a Shun Santoku, but I heard people complain the Shun Santoku has too much of a belly -- a edge profile which is too curved. What do you think?

        Here is a picture of a Shun Classic Santoku:

        Here is another Santoku for comparison:

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          As for the Shun's belly, it's again a matter of technique. I have one and like find that it is curved enough to rock, and flat enough to chop. For me, Shun got it just right with this one. My Henckels chef's knife is permanently retired. That said, I don't use the classic french rocking motion much, except for small items like herbs and garlic, so if you always use that method, stick with western style chef's knife.

          1. re: Zeldog

            Thank Zeldog. Got it. You use a small rocking motion, not the full rock chopping. Got it.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Zeldog and i clearly possess similar knife techniques :) i agree that Shun got it right. i, too, reserve the rocking chop for mincing garlic, shallots & herbs. i have the classic Granton 7-inch, and this knife has become my go-to workhorse. since i started using it, the few times i've pulled my other chef's knives (i have a Wusthof and a Henckels) out of the block they've gone straight back in after about 15 seconds and i've switched over to the Shun. the belly sweep on it is perfect for me.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                Zeldog must be your long lost cousin. :) Good to know you two take advantages of the Shun curved edge profile.

          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

            You've got it wrong. The Shun santoku has great geometry. It's the chef's knife that has way too much belly.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              I have both the 7" shun santoku and the 8" chefs knife.
              the santoku was my first but now that I have the chef knives, I find I reach for them more.
              Personal preference.. guess I like the more rounded even more rocking of the chefs knife.
              The santoku feels more like a chopping motion to me.

              1. re: grnidkjun


                Yep. Everyone has difference preference. Sounds like you have more than one chef's knife -- as you wrote "reach for *them*"

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  guilty as charged:

                  shun deba 4"
                  shun KO 4"
                  shun classic 8"
                  shun classic 10"
                  shun classic 7" santoku
                  henckels 4 star 10"
                  henckels proS 8"
                  calphalon 8"

                  had a few others that I gave to my mother.
                  I like them all.. I tend to reach for the henckels for heavier/thicker items like melons and such.

                  the calphalon and a few random others I keep on hand for when someone wants to "help". lol

                  1. re: grnidkjun


                    Wow. Cool. Sounds like you like Shun alright. Calphalon has a few lines I think, like Katana, DX and Comtemporary. What is that Shun Ken Onion 4"? It cannot be a 4" chef knife. A paring knife?

                    Next time, you can give your helper friend one of these when they want to help:


                    I think that will get the point across well -- maybe too well.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      LOL.. you're right, I think that would be too well.
                      It's the calphalon contemporary. It has substance.. I actually like it.

                      I am partial to the Shuns.. those I don't share. :)
                      The KO is a chefs knife.. I found it at the discount store.. in fact all but one of my chef knives have come from tj maxx.

                      1. re: grnidkjun


                        By the way, I made the mistake. It is Calphalon LX knives, not DX. I have seen Calphalon LX in stores like TJ Maxx and they feel nice. They are very handle heavy. Calphalon Katana knives are made from VG-1 which is a nice steel. Unfortunately, the knives are way too handle heavy. You are lucky to find so many Shun knives in discount stores.

                        The only time I find a Shun knife in a discount store was in TJ Maxx. It was the unique Shun U2:
                        which I really do not have use for and it wasn't that cheap, probably $90. The next time I visited the same store, the knife was swaped out. That's right. A very cappy $10 knife is in that Shun box. Presumbly someone took the Shun knife out and sticked it into a box which is labeled $10 and basically cheated the price. I don't know if it is considered stealing.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          I would say that is considered stealing.

                          I found the U2 knife there as well. I like it.. but that's me.
                          I have gotten lucky by biding my time and going to TJM every so often.
                          That's where I found mine too, there and Marshalls.

                          Overall, I've "saved" 40% off retail on my knives.
                          (yup, I kept a tally sheet- I'm odd like that)
                          I say "saved" because I'm sure I have a few I wouldn't have otherwise purchased had I not found such a deal. lol
                          But look how much money I "saved"!!

                          Actually, I've not done too bad, I've found the following at TJM over a period of time, some were better bargains than others, but all were a good bit less than finding in a specialty store:

                          Shun Classic 7" Santoku
                          Shun Classic 9" Bread
                          Shun Classic 3.5" Paring
                          Shun Classic 6" Utility
                          Shun Classic 8" Chefs
                          Shun Classic U2 Utility
                          Shun KO 4.5" Chefs
                          Shun Pro 2 Deba 4"
                          Calphalon 8" chefs
                          Calphalon 4" paring
                          Henckels Four Star 10" Chefs
                          Henckels Five Star Slicing Knife
                          Henckels Four Star 5.5" Boning Knife
                          Henckels Pro S 8" Chefs

                          1. re: grnidkjun


                            Very impressive knife list from TJM. I like TJ Maxx and HomeGoods, I often get very nice stuffs at very low prices. That being said, I have yet to buy a knife from these stores.

                            Back to you: Which ones you think are the best buy -- knives which have high value to you and low prices? And which ones are the ones you could live without, like you won't even notice if they are lost?

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              the Henckels were a best buy dollar wise. I paid on avg 40% of suggested retail. (saved 60%)

                              The Shun, my favorites are probably the chef knives.
                              Monetarily, I paid about 60% of retail (saved 40%)
                              Though I would miss my Henckels when summer comes around and it's melon season. I'm more comfortable using the thicker german 10" knife to go through a melon.

                              I'd say they each have a time and place... did I really need the 4" chef knives.. no.. but I like them. :)

                              1. re: grnidkjun


                                Good to know. Although Henckels knives tend to go on sale more often than Shun knives, so you may actually save more on your Shun knvies. Since you have so many Shun knives, have you had the chance of sending them back for sharpening? If so, how was the service?

                                At first, I thought 4" chef’s knives won't be very useful, but the more I thought about it, the more I think it can be useful. It should be more useful than an utility knife. I think a lot of people find the utility knife very difficult to use because it is too long for paring, but it does not have the knuckle clearance to use on a cutting board. Your 4” chef’s knife has that clearance, so it can be great for cutting butter, cheese, shallots…. that sort of things.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  No, so far I've not had to send any in. I haven't quite decided if I'm going to do that when the time comes or pick up the chefs choice 15/20.

                                  I figure I have enough to alternate between it may be a while before I hit that point.

                                  What is your favorite in your collection of knives?

                                  1. re: grnidkjun

                                    Sending the knives back is probably safer, but the wait time is long. It can take about 2-weeks. Beware of putting your Shun bread knife in any electric sharpener. It is not a double bevel. It is either a pure single bevel knife or very one-sided heavy. I know because I have a Shun bread knife and it got chipped at two spots near the knife heels. I smoothed out the edge with a flat diamond stone.

                                    I don't have an impressive knife list, though I am trying to build up. I have a set of poor Tools of Trade knives (12 pieces).
                                    a Henckels L series 3" paring knife,
                                    a Wusthof Ikon Blackwood 3" paring knife,
                                    a Dexter Russell Traditional sheep foot 3" paring knife,
                                    a Dexter Russell Traditional 6" boning knife,
                                    a Seiko Chinese 7" chef's knife,
                                    a Dexter-Russell Traditional Chinese 8" chef's knife,
                                    a CCK KF1303 thin blade carbon steel Chinese 8" chef's knife (just got it for a week),
                                    a Shun Steel 9" bread knife.
                                    a 6" meat cleaver with no name, but it has a real good convex edge.

                                    I am looking to get an Usuba knife.

                                    My most beautiful knife is the Ikon Blackwood paring knife. In term of what I like the most is either my Dexter-Russell Chinese chef's knife or my CCK KF1303 Chinese chef's knife. It will take me another week to figure out.

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      Oh yes.. the bread and/or the U2 knives I will most likely send in. Those I know better than to try and do. :)

                                      I didn't know Seiko made knives.. is this the same company that makes watches?

                                      1. re: grnidkjun


                                        Oh, I didn't sharpen the entire bread knife. There was flat section at the knife heel which got chipped. I only sharpened that section.

                                        Pretty sure is a different company. I will check the spelling later tonight.

            2. I tend to think of all the expensive knives as being pretty similar quality, and that most of it is preference. Go in the store, handle the knives, which one feels best in your hand? Get that one.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Indirect Heat

                Indirect Heat, that is excellent advice.

                The only thing I would add is that each cook must decide for himself or herself whether the knife is for use or for show. As users of Japanese knives for nearly 50 years (not exclusively; among not all that many knives in our knife block, we number five countries of origin), we have been amused as the prestige level of Japanese knives has gone from "poor man's Solingen" to "ne plus ultra" in the past few years while the knives have remained the same. Fashions change, but the tasks remain the same and the knives are no better and no worse when the breezes of fashion start to waft another direction.

                In that regard, Nico (nasv), I suggest that among the chef's knives that you try out you include the Chef's Choice Trizor 10X knives from Edgecraft, They do not get much mention on this board because they are made in Pennsylvania, which lacks the cachet of Seki or Solingen these days, and (while not -cheap-) they fall short of the expensive knives on price prestige.

                When a few years back we were making the same decision that you are in the process of making, we did just as Indirect Heat suggests, and we tested some very shi-shi knives from the knife-making capitals of the world. We were as surprised as anyone to find that OUR clear favorite among all of the chef's knives we tested was a Chef's Choice; we almost wanted to come to a different result for fashion's sake, but we could not find another knife that equaled the Chef's Choice. But, as others have mentioned out, the decision is very personal.

                1. re: Politeness

                  While fashion certainly plays a role in knife popularity, attributing all things to it sidesteps some interesting points.

                  Japanese style knives are (slightly) better suited to a lot of modern Western haute cuisine than German style knives. Less sauce on top of foods, increased use of raw foods (especially proteins), and more emphasis on presentation led to a desire for cleaner cuts. And the sharper, more acutely angled edges of Japanese style knives delivered cleaner cuts at the expense of being less suited to rough work. Of course, some of this trend can be attributed to the influence of Japanese cuisine on Western cuisine. Haute cuisine pros started moving towards Japanese knives and knife nuts and home cooks followed, often regardless of whether their style of cooking would benefit much. It doesn't hurt that really sharp knives are sort of fun to use.

                  I don't think there's a lack of buzz around Chef's Choice Trizor knives because they are made in PA. There are multiple American custom makers who have enormous buzz - Bob Kramer comes to mind. In part, the issue is that the Trizor is functionally a German knife made out of hard steel (to my knowledge, they don't publicize which steel - another problem). Sure the edge will last longer, but it's still fairly obtuse, still cut into a German profile that (like Shuns, for better or worse) limit slicing and promote rocking. Perhaps just as important - it's made by a company that's famous for sharpeners that most hard-core knife nuts consider a compromise at best.

                  I'm glad you like the Trizors. I'm not personally interested in their edge geometry or their blade profile, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't be a good choice for others. I'd also be curious how thick and/or heavy they are. I'm imagining something comparable to a forschner, but that's only a guess. Have you tried sharpening them by hand/edgepro/sharpmaker/etc? If so, how do they sharpen up? Or even more basic - what made you like them more than all other knives you've tried?

                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    cowboyardee: "...the Trizor is functionally a German knife made out of hard steel (to my knowledge, they don't publicize which steel - another problem)."

                    Although the website is a bit coy about the alloy in the knives, it does state that the alloy is "proprietary." To my knowledge, no other commercial knife maker uses the same alloy. While almost all French, German, Japanese, Brazilian, and American fine knives have a carbon content of 0.5%, the Chef's Choice alloy has a carbon content of 1.0%, a difference that Chef's Choice knives share with Kai Corporation's Shun line of knives. Also whereas most fine knife alloys contain about the same 0.5% molybdenum, the Chef's Choice alloy is a full 3.0% molybdenum; I do not know of any other kitchen knife with anywhere near that rich a molybdenum content.

                    cowboyardee: "Or even more basic - what made you like them more than all other knives you've tried?"

                    In a word, balance. The relationship between the mass of the handle compared to the mass of the blade, and the point where the slight arc of the edge makes the knife want to rest on a cutting board, add up to a "just right" for Goldilocks. Added to that was the bonus that, while the Chef's Choice is not _quite_ as sharp as a good Japanese or German or French knife fresh off a sharpening, after an hour's work with any of the other knives, none of them is quite as sharp as the Chef's Choice is after the same hour's work. If I were more of a recreational knife sharpener, I may have preferred one of the knives that could be taken to the next stage of sharper-than-sharp; but, as I see sharpening as more of a chore than a joy, I like to be able to keep the knife in action until the job is done.

                    1. re: Politeness

                      Calling a steel "proprietary" is sort of a roundabout way of saying they don't want to print what kind of steel they use. Since edgecraft is a big company, it's plausible that they develop their own alloy, to an extent. Even so, it's likely that their steel is closely based on an existing steel.

                      To clear up a couple small points for anyone interested:

                      Politeness: "While almost all French, German, Japanese, Brazilian, and American fine knives have a carbon content of 0.5%, the Chef's Choice alloy has a carbon content of 1.0%"

                      Most Japanese knives use steel with a carbon content of around 1%. Japanese carbon steels are higher still at 1.20-1.60%, and some powdered steel knives are higher still - about 3% for ZDP 189 and cowry x. Carbon content of 0.5% would be atypical for a Japanese knife. The Trizors are only following this trend, not leading.

                      Politeness: "...the Chef's Choice alloy is a full 3.0% molybdenum; I do not know of any other kitchen knife with anywhere near that rich a molybdenum content."

                      There are many steels with that much molybdenum. Molybdenum content does not tell you much about how good a steel is, on its own. I know molybdenum makes the steel a bit easier to work with while hot and helps prevent brittleness. Maybe other stuff too - moly is a bit mysterious to non-metalurgists. Probably, the high moly content is so the the steel can be air-hardened.

                      If I had to guess based on what info you've provided, I'd think that the Trizors use a steel similar to ATS-34, a common alloy vaguely based on 440c with more molybdenum. But there are a lot of steels with carbon around 1% and moly around 3%. ATS-34 is just the most common. It's decent, and sounds perfectly appropriate to a knife designed like the Trizor. Of course I could be wrong.

                      Where did you get your info about the Trizor steel composition?

                      Politeness: "...after an hour's work with any of the other knives, none of them is quite as sharp as the Chef's Choice is after the same hour's work."

                      The chef's choice seems particularly geared towards durability, so it's not surprising that it holds onto an edge well. But if you're not exaggerating about your other knives losing their edge within the first hour, you may have a problem that is not related to the knives. French carbon knives can lose their edge that fast, especially if angled very acutely. Most Japanese knives or appropriately angled German knives should hold onto an edge for more than an hour. Double check your technique and cutting surfaces if this is the case.

                      Also keep in mind that you could put an obtuse and/or convex edge on most knives that use hard steel and expect the edge to last a long time, just like the Trizors. Just because most Japanese knives come with acute edge angles doesn't mean that the knife Gods are gonna smite you if you change that.

                      1. re: cowboyardee

                        cowboyardee: "Where did you get your info about the Trizor steel composition?"

                        ISTR that originally I read it in one of Daniel D. Friel, Sr.'s white papers, but the Wayback Machine fails to back up my recollection. However, a Google search brought up Byron Bitar's discussion. Bitar's company sells many lines of knives, Chef's Choice among them.


                        1. re: Politeness

                          Thanks for the link. Interesting read. I hadn't seen that one.

                  2. re: Politeness

                    Politeness, thank you very much, I'm checking out edgecraft right now.

                2. Nico,
                  I have to agree that the Shun 8" Classic is a beautiful and very functional knife. I would also take a look at the Shun Ken Onion 8" Chef's knife. The design is slightly different but its nicely balanced, light-weight and cut through pretty much anything with ease.

                  Since you already have Wusthof that you like, you may also consider upgrading to their Classic Ikon 8" Chef's or 7" Santoku. Both knives in the collection are a little bit more substantial than the knives in their original classic collection. Definitely better balanced and the thin bolster makes it more comfortable. Here are some links to my favorites:

                  8" Ken Onion Chefs:

                  8" Wusthof Classic Ikon Chefs:

                  7" Wusthof Classic Ikon Santoku:

                  Good Luck!

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: rhtfoodie

                    Yeah, Ikon is beautiful. I have an Ikon knife and am very happy with it. However, it depends what the original poster wants. If he wants a knife with a better handle and want the center of gravity shifts toward the handle more, then Ikon is a good choice. If he wants a better blade, then I don't think Ikon will do much because Ikon uses the same steel as the Wusthof Classic.

                    Nico. I think you should us what you really mean by "I can tell that there is room for improvement". What sort of improvement you are looking for? A knife which is sharper? a knife which shifts center of gravity toward your hand? A knife which is very rust resistant? A knife weighs less? Thanks.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      You're right, sorry for my lack of details :-)

                      I don't mind the weight/heft of the Wusthof classic, but I think that cutting, chopping, slicing should have less resistance and be quicker than it currently is. I did have the knife recently professionally sharpened (by a respected regional sharpener), and I do hone the edge regularly, but I think the knife should be quicker/easier/smoother (I guess, this is my long way of saying "sharper").

                      Thanks so much!

                      1. re: nasv

                        For slicing, you're not going to do better than a good Japanese (or Japanese-style) knife. The thinner profile presents less resistance, the lighter weight feels nimbler and allows use of a longer blade, thus allowing longer strokes, and the harder steel will take a keener edge than European-style knives. The Shun is a good, but IMO slightly overpriced, example. Tojiro DP, Togiharu G-1, Misuno UX-10, Nenox, and Hattori FH (in roughly increasing price points) give you better bang for the buck.

                        But while I use my Togiharu gyuto more than any other knife (except maybe my cheap Victorinox parer), I keep the old Wusthof on the rack, too. It's better suited for chopping or rocker-cutting than the Japanese blade. Maybe I should just change my technique, but until then...

                        1. re: nasv


                          You did think AlanBarnes is my twin because I happen to agree with him. There are traditional Japanese knives and Japanese influenced European knives. Shun, Global, Tojiro make a lot of these Japanese influenced European knives. These knives are usually made from stronger steel, so they are harder. Consequently, these knives can take on a sharper edge angle while maintain that edge for a long time. For example, Shun knives have a 15-16 edge angle, while Classic Wusthof has a 20+ edge angle.


                          In addition, these knives usually have a thinner blades. Needless to say, a more acute edge angle makes these knives sharper. The thinner blade also make them slice big item foods with less resistance. This is because a thick blade will cause the knife to wedge the foods.

                          The upsides for these hard steel knives are that they cut better, they maintain their edgse for longer, honing is almost unnecessary and is often discouraged. The downside is that they don't have the cleaver ability compare to the traditional European chef's knives because of the thinner blades.

                          I think you can start looking at Tojiro DP, Shun Classic, Shun Elite, Misuno UX-10

                          Here are their links:





                          I think Shun knives can be slightly overpriced as Alanbarnes mentioned. However, Shun has a very good warranty and provide free knife sharpening service, so it is not that overpriced if you can take advantages of these services. Quoting from KAI Shun website:

                          "First, you can send your knives to our Kai USA facility in Portland, Oregon. We will be happy to restore the factory edge to your blade for as long as you own the knife. There is no charge to you for this service, aside from the cost of mailing the knife to us. We will sharpen your knives and return them to you via the US Post Office... ."

                          You may also want to check on feedbacks for knives you are interested. Especially read the negative ones, just to get an idea.

                          Let us know if there is any question we may answer.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Not to get too far into the mutual admiration thing, but Chemicalkinetics makes a good point - don't underestimate the free sharpening services offered by Shun or anybody else who specializes in Japanese blades.

                            A well-regarded local sharpener may not be accustomed to dealing with the asymmetric bevels and acute angles presented by Japanese steel. And some of the best sharpeners who specialize in Japanese cutlery can be quite expensive.

                            Of course, for a couple of hundred bucks you can always set yourself up with a good, foolproof sharpening system. But if you don't have a strong DIY ethic, there's something to be said for free sharpening.

                      1. re: jaykayen

                        Wow, the hattori seems like a great "crowd-sourced" option, though obviously, it doesn't look like you get the opportunity to test or feel it before hand, right?

                        Question though, and my apolgies if this is obvious... but when it says "Cutting edge length: 210mm" (for the FH-6), does that take into account the curvature of the blade? My main question: is the FH-6 (210mm) your normal 8 inch chef's knife?