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How do you purchase your knives?

I just posted a "does anyone have a source for" question on my local-area board, but would love some feedback from here too.

As I explained in my other post, I've had a "set" of Sabatier knives that I bought about 15 years ago and while they're 'okay I guess', after reading Anthony Bourdain's book I want to investigate a more serious chef's knife. But I would absolutely need to see how any knife feels in the hand; I had a set of Henckels that I bought in the 1970s that I gave to a friend after seeing how much more comfortable the Sabatiers felt. It was like night and day....!

One store in my area used to have a decent knife section (that's where I bought my Sabatiers, back in the day; they carried Scanpan too, and boy do I miss the Scanpan Steel line!) but they went out of business a couple of years ago. So apparantly the only brick-and-mortar choices now are places like Macys and Bed Bath & Beyond neither of which carry anything better than what I already have (if even as good). I'm particularly interested in the Global after reading that it's lighter than the typical chef's knife; I always gravitate toward my Sabatier 6" utility knife because it's lighter, so maybe the Global 8" one would work well for me.

I know that I absolutely positively have to compare knives in hand in order to choose. I also do that for cookware, and have passed up more pans than I can count simply because I didn't like the way the handle felt; I hate a flat or concave handle which eliminates a lot of pans as you can imagine, LOL!

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  1. In responsing to your title: I buy my knives with money and sometime I buy them in person, but often via mail. I bought a lot of knives and knife related goods from:

    www.chefknivestogo.com

        1. I know BBB carries Global, and I think Macy's does, too.

          1. I like the selection on thebestthings.com. Lots of choice, even old forging nogents, which, if you like "light and nimble" will really strike a chord.

            1. The best knife store I have purchased from physically is Korin in Manhattan but I realize that not everyone has the ability to get there or a place like it. I have purchased online from Chefs Knives To Go and Epicurean Edge and both were excellent.

              I also think that a good place to check out knives if you can't get to a shop like Korin and you're not comfortable with mail order is William Sonoma. The WS in my local mall carrys Nenox, Kuikichi, Shun, Global and Wusthof.

              1 Reply
              1. culteryandmore.com

                We have replaced just about all of our Henckels and Wusthof knives with Shun Kershaw. Prices are quite good and the shipping is fast. No cost for shipping for purchases over $49.99

                1. I also buy many of my knives online. I research my knife purchases quite a bit before buying one, and I buy from sites that have a reasonable return policy (both www.chefknivestogo.com and www.japanesechefsknife.com qualify). I have been happy with my purchases and have bought some fantastic knives that I never would have been able to find and handle in a brick and mortar shop.

                  The upside of buying a knife in person is quite obvious, but there are a few downsides that are seldom mentioned:
                  1) You have fewer options
                  2) You tend to buy whichever knife is the sharpest and/or most polished in the store, which may just be a function of how long that particular knife has been on display
                  3) You tend to buy knives that are very similar to what you already have, because that's what feels 'right' to you. That's fine, but keep in mind that most people can adjust to a knife in time. It took me a while to get used to Japanese knives, but I'm glad I did, and they now feel more 'right' to me than German knives.
                  4) You'll get a lot of bad or mediocre knife advice in most kitchen stores. Sometimes they'll just try to upsell you, and more often than that you'll get well-meaning advice from a salesperson who just isn't very well informed
                  5) You often tend to overlook important factors such as edge holding and sharpenability in favor of factors that are more immediately obvious (looks, as-is sharpness, feel

                  )

                  All that said, if you're really picky about how a knife feels in your hand, shopping in person is probably your only option. It seems like you live in NY. If so, a trip to the Korin store in Manhattan may be worthwhile.
                  http://korin.com/About-Us/Store
                  It would go a long way towards taking care of problems 1 and 4, at least, since they have an enormous selection and their employees tend to know knives.

                  They don't carry Globals though, so if you're pretty sure that's what you want, check out a Sur la Table, a Williams Sonoma, or a Bed Bath and Beyond and don't let them talk you into anything you don't need.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    "a lot of bad or mediocre knife advice in most kitchen stores"

                    Disagree. "a lot of bad or mediocre knife advice " is an understatement for most kitchen stores. :D

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Lots of good advice in this thread.

                      Most sales clerks know next to nothing about knives. Shop carefully and avoid up selling unless you understand what you are getting for your money.

                      1. re: Sid Post

                        I think its important to hold a knife in your hand and feel it before you purchase.It might look good online but when you get it it could be to heavy,to light, to bulky in the handle or even to skinny in the handle, not have the balance you wanted or just not the right size you thought it would be.
                        That being said I buy locally and have a pretty good store here in NJ that has excellent discounted prices on all popular high end brands.Also does free shipping to people out of area.

                        1. re: ZeroSignal

                          "it it could be to heavy,to light, to bulky in the handle or even to skinny in the handle, not have the balance you wanted or just not the right size you thought it would be."
                          ____
                          These are all factors you can get an idea of from posted reviews and talking to other knife enthusiasts (like here among other places).

                          I wouldn't have most of my current knives if I only bought knives I'd handled personally. And I like them more than any knife I've ever found in a brick and mortar store.

                          I've seen too many people with the most oversized set of overpriced crap in their kitchens because a salesclerk talked em into it, and that's having gotten to hold each knife and play with it before purchase (not that you'll find them in a store, but interestingly that's the whole principle behind Cutco's sales strategy - let em hold it, then talk a whole bunch of nonsense)

                          1. re: cowboyardee

                            That depends on where you shop. If you shop at a William Sonoma or a Sur la Table they know next to nothing on the knives they sell. If you go to more of a smaller specialty stores they are usually have more knowledge on there knives they are selling.
                            Kinda like buying a car you wanna drive it before buying it. Plus I like supporting local business instead of some guy working out of his basement selling stuff.

                            1. re: ZeroSignal

                              I guess that depends on where you live. Where I am, there are no specialty shops (there is one independently owned kitchen store with big markups and staff that doesn't know anything much about knives). I'm happy to go with basement dude, as he is providing a good product I couldn't get elsewhere at a good price (and I can attest that the two I listed in my previous post have excellent customer support). That's just me.

                              Of course, if you research your purchase and know what you're looking for, going to a nice specialty shop and handling a few of your options can only be a good thing.

                              But I frequently see advice along the lines of "You must handle a knife in person before buying" given as the be-all and end-all of buying knives, the whole trick to it. In truth, for most it's a minor convenience, severely limiting your options for the sake of avoiding the risk of paying a restocking fee with an online vendor (I'm always a little baffled by people who are super picky about 'feel' but insist you go to a brick and mortar store where there are, like, 3 or 4 options for nice chefs knives, where they're certain that one of those 3 or 4 options will be the PERFECT one for you).

                              That's fine if it's your preference. But it's not the only way to buy a nice knife.

                              And going to the store with a full wallet and no idea what you want in a knife is a great way to get suckered.

                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                Boy you hit the nail on the head here Cowboy. I've been biting my lip for years on this subject. Finally it is said.Thanks.

                                It's just like that 'sharper knives are safer' wisdom. That is generally true until the blades get scary sharp.

                              2. re: ZeroSignal

                                "If you shop at a William Sonoma or a Sur la Table they know next to nothing on the knives they sell"

                                I don't know about Sur la Table, but I can confirm of your view about Williams Sonoma.

                                On the other hand, I am more of a blade guy than a handle guy. So I think what you said is true for a handle person. Using your example of car, it is the difference between a person who focuses on performance vs comfort -- maybe not exactly parallel, but you get my point. In my experience, I can adapt to different handles and shapes in time. I don't think any of my knives felt immediately right to me when I got them, but they all felt good after a week or so. I think what you said is not untrue, but sometime the problem of getting a knife which "feels right to you" limits you to the same kind of knife you have been getting. If you have been using a German chef's knife for your whole life, than a Chinese chef's knife or a Japanese nakiri (aka Chinese cleaver) will never feel right to you in the first 10 minutes. As such, the person will constantly reject many potentially exciting knives.

                                Even for the same style of knife, it can be problematic. I am more of a Chinese chef's knife guy. I was using a Dexter-Russell Chinese chef's knife for awhile. Based on numerous excellent reviews, I got a CCK Chinese chef's knife. My first week impression was ok, but not great. See my original post here:

                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/684861

                                As time passed, I started to like it better. By the third weeks, I clearly loved it more than the Dexter-Russell Chinese knife. Had I bought my knife based on "love at first sight", then I would have missed the opporunity for this wonderful CCK knife and also my Tanaka nakiri. The Tanaka nakiri was also another knife that I did not love until 3-4 says afterward.

                              3. re: cowboyardee

                                I agree. I have purchased most of my knives online without ever touching them till they were in my kitchen. I'm not one where it has to feel right in my hand. I can adapt to most things pretty well. After a while they all feel right.

                                1. re: scubadoo97

                                  I also purchased many knives online and been completely satisfied once they arrived but I did not do that with my first Japanese knife. The first one I handled in person and once I had that baseline as a reference point I became comfortable ordering others online. Now i find online reviews, pictures and detailed specs almost as good as handling the knife in person.

                                  If I did not have the opportunity to go to a shop like Korin and handle a diverse line of knives I would pick out a knife that everybody loved and then talk to Mark at Chef's Knives To Go and ask him if I could return it unused if I didn't like it. Then just order it.

                                  If you want light and nimble in the 8" to 9" range I would suggest a wa gyuto with a thin blade and a length of 210mm-240mm. Some suggestions below:

                                  http://www.chefknivestogo.com/wagyuto...

                                  http://www.chefknivestogo.com/suinhow...

                                  http://www.chefknivestogo.com/suinhow...

                                  http://www.chefknivestogo.com/tagyas2...

                                  Sean

                        2. I love my Global's. I went into WS and held it in my hand before I ordered it. I have small hands so it is perfect for me. I then went online, did a search and found the best price. I sent my son and SO the utility knife, which I found on Ebay, and they love it. I am going to send them the 8" chefs knife which comes with the paring knife for, I think was $109 + free shipping.
                          I have the Mac chefs knife, which I like, but if I did it over again I would go with the Global.

                          1. When I bought my knives, in the 1980s, the ones "everybody" considered "good" were either Wusthof or Henckels. I chose Wusthof. I liked holding them in my hand more than the equivalent Henckels. I had an 8" carbon steel Sabatier I'd bought in 1979, which I gave away when I bought my "good" knives. I wish I still had it.

                            There are so many more choices now. If I were starting today, I think I'd buy one really good carbon steel knife, maybe only 6" (they're available at Fantes in Philadelphia, or www.fantes.com). Plus paring, boning, slicing, and serrated knives in stainless.

                            If money were tight, I'd buy Forschner.

                            And then you have Japanese knives, which I don't recall hearing about in the US in the '70s and '80s.

                            And those knives with the really gorgeous handles.

                            So many potentially good choices.

                            But I don't need to replace the knives I already own, my "good" knives. I get them sharpened every 18 months or two years, and they stay nice and sharp and useful. Still, sometimes I think a 6" chef's knife would be nicer than the 8" I have.

                            I have a 10" chef's knife I've probably used ten times in the last 30 years. I'd have to sell it to make room for a new knife.

                            1. Lately (no surprise to those that have read some of my posts) I have been getting pretty good knives second hand at thrift stores. I bought a Wustoff 8" chef's knife for $2.40 and it has a broken/cracked handle so I can send it in for a new one. I bought about a 100 year old Dexter slicing knife that has a great edge and I bought 4 Woofgang Puck Sabatier-style forged knives (chef, slicer, boning and bread) for a total of about $7. And most recently I bought an 8" CC chef knife for $3. I don't really need all these knives but there are young people in my family that will soon be setting up their own kitchens.

                              1. Just to add some other internet options. Mad Cow Cutlery has some really good priced restaurant service blades. And I thought one of the food forums (I can't remember which one) usually has a discount code for the site. Maybe it is ChefTalk.

                                Also, I wouldn't ignore eBay. There are some good Japanese knife sellers on eBay. Here are a couple that I browse.

                                http://stores.ebay.com/my-japaneeds
                                http://stores.ebay.com/BluewayJapan

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: smkit

                                  I have also bought a knife from this person and it worked out fine.