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My first 'nice' cutlery set

Hey all,

Haven't posted here in a while! So, right now, there's a Zwilling JA Henckles sale right now on Gilt Groupe. Several sets are sold out already, but I was able to get the 15-piece Twin Gourmet block set for $150 (it's $490 retail).

Which brings me to my question...

As a 20something who's just starting to build a kitchen for myself, good cutlery is one thing I've been seriously lacking. Just to have knives, I bought a cheap set from Marshalls or Ross, and they're just... blunt, and so difficult to use. I found one Henckles paring knife at a TJ Maxx one time (for $10!) and it made cooking so much easier for me... I use it for things I shouldn't use a paring knife for, just because those other knives aren't up to the task.

So, do you think this is a good starter set for someone like me, who's ready to toss out the cheapo knives but not quite ready for a pro-grade set? It's my understanding that their Gourmet line is more affordable than their Cuisine line, so I feel comfortable about this purchase as a nice way to segue into having nice things in my kitchen without going overboard :)

Here's what I got in the set --

TWIN Gourmet Block Set:

Includes:
*One paring/utility knife, blade measures 4 inches in length
*One serrated paring knife, blade measures 5 inches in length
*One bread knife, blade measures 8 inches in length
*One chef's knife, blade measures 8 inches in length
*Eight steak knives, blades measure 4 1/2 inches in length
*One set of kitchen shears, measures 10 1/4 inches in length by 3 3/4 inches in width
*One sharpening steel, measures 9 inches in length
*One hardwood knife storage block, measures 10 inches in length by 5 1/4 inches in width by 9 inches in height

Does that sound like a good way to start?

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  1. First, I want to say that $150 is not a super deal. It is the default price at this moment, so don't worry that you are missing a great deal if you wait. You can probably get it cheaper still:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listin...

    Second, I am a not believer for buying a huge set of knives. A set of 3 knives, sure. A set of 15 is unnecesary if not wasteful. You will soon find out that all you need is about 1-2 knives for daily work. A good main knife (German Che'f knife, Santoku, Gyuto or Chinese Chef's), and a paring knife will handle 99%of your work. Feeling fancy a bit? then get a bread knife or a boning knife depending on your need. I use my boning knife more often, but I am sure many people use the bread knife more.

    Third, Henckels Twin Gourmet knives are stamped knives. If you like stamped knives, then you may want to consider Victorinox knives.

    Fourth, I would also advise you to look into harder steel knives like Japanese knives, like Tojiro, Shun,.... You may well hate them, but at least consider them first.

    http://www.chefknivestogo.com/to2pcst...

    I wish the best of luck to your knife purchase.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      This reply I wholeheareted concur with..

      Don't buy a set - and try out a few chef's knives (shapes - like the traditional Euro style versus a santoku). I have Henckles, but was really impressed with a friend's MAC.. in hindsight, not sure if I wouldn't have preferred it before I bought what I have. But explore and then spend a lot on a single chef's knife that you love to start. Buy the knife you want to keep, not the "intermediate set". Of course, don't go crazy and buy some $600 japanese knife from Korin, but you can get a lot for your budget.

      I generally use 3 knives - a big chef's knife, a smaller paring knife, and a serrated bread knife.. don't spend a lot on a serrated knife - you are using it to cut bread, not do surgery.

      I also agree, Gilt prices aren't necessary the greatest if you know how to hunt.

      Further advice - you want good knives, find a local sharpening service that doesn't just run them through a stripper. Buy a honing steel. And a personal rec, find a local cooking school that will offer you a knife skills class.. great foundational cooking skill. And if you have a good knife, NEVER put it in the dishwasher.

      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        +1, I (as always) concur with CK.

        I have 4 knives, a paring knife, a Santoku, a chefs Knife and a bread knife. The Santoku and chefs knife are pretty much interchangable.

        Unless you're going to be doing a lot of specialised preparation, 3 is fine. And spend most of the money on the chefs knife (or santoku, or whatever you'll be using 90% of the time).

        1. re: Soop

          I agree with grant.cook and you. Most of the resources (time and money) should be focusing on the Chef's knife or the Santoku, and not the paring, bread knife or boning knife... etc.

      2. Re-reading your post, even the best knife will stink if its allowed to go dull, and even a cheap stamped chef's knife can do a good job when its just been sharpened... get them sharpened once/twice a year.

        1. The set you described is actually not that large a set when you consider that eleven of the items are steak knives, a block, a steel and kitchen shears. You are really buying four knives to cook with, plus shears. I think Henkels is a fine starter set as long as you think you will like and use all of the knives you have listed.

          Personally, I use chef's knives, parers, shears, a bread knife and what you describe as a serrated paring knife, usually called a utility knife, all the time. The utility knife is used by my family to cut bagels rather than wield the large bread knife. I think the only thing really missing from this set is a slicer. You may want to consider buying one of those to carve a roast or turkey, and if you do, make sure it is at least nine inches long and very sharp.

          Chem always recommends Japanese steel as an option to his Victorinox, which are excellent, while I believe German or French knives are easier for beginners because you can actually use your steel to keep them sharp, supplemented by a simple sharpening gadget made for those blade profiles. Wusthoff and Henkels both have them -- they are pull-throughs and they work nicely on the soft steel of these knives.

          Japanese, in my opinion, is not for everyone. They are harder, are known to chip with regularity when trying to do things like take a chicken apart, and as a result of their hardness, maintaining a sharp edge is much more difficult. Only diamond steels are really hard enough to take any of their metal off when sharpening, and those are not really advisable. You will either need to learn how to use water stones or else send them to a professional sharpener or back to the manufacturer, in the case of Kershaw/Shun. Way too much of a hassle for someone just getting started. I have been cooking for 40 years and I have never sent a knife out for sharpening because I just can't be bothered. I sharpen myself. Japanese knives can be crazy sharp, though, because of their thin blade profile, and you may just fall in love. If you do, then the upkeep is worth it. However, don't get a set of them. You'll still need a tough 8 to 10 inch sturdy non-Japanese knife for heavy duty work. I have a mix of German, French and Japanese myself. My Shun slicer is the best, for example, and my favorite chef's knife is a ten inch Shun, but when I am working through a chicken and may catch some rib bones, I pull out my heavy duty forged Henkels eight inch chef's knife because it is tough enough for the job. I save the special work for my carbon steel French stuff, but I wouldn't recommend carbon steel to any beginner.

          Is it possible for you to visit a cookware store to try some of these out? No substitute for this experience. That said, your set could conceivably keep you happy for a while.

          2 Replies
          1. re: RGC1982

            "consider that ten of the items are steak knives, a block, a steel and kitchen shears."

            True true. I would now say that if the original poster desires for the 8 steak knives, then it is fine. If he can do without the 8 steak knives, then it is somewhat unnecessary.

            "Way too much of a hassle for someone just getting started. "

            Probably true too. So maybe original poster should not get the Japanese knives if he is uncomfortable about sharpening or maintaining the knives.

            Excellent inputs, RGC

            1. re: RGC1982

              On the old Japanese vs German knife debate, I think the biggest questions are:

              Are you interested in knives beyond a strictly functional dimension (in other words, does a knife that's super sharp and fun to use appeal to you more than a cheaper knife that gets the job done well and requires less maintenance?)

              Can you avoid abusing a knife (hacking through bones, using a glass cutting board, cutting on plates, opening cans, putting a knife in the dishwasher) or letting others in your home abuse your knives?

              Do you have any pre-existing bias towards the German shape, like from years of use?
              _______

              If you answered yes, yes, and no, then I feel even a beginner might as well go and try a Japanese knife from the get go. The prices anymore can be competitive with mid-range German knives.

              Also, it's not significantly harder to do a crappy job of maintaining a Japanese knife than it is to do a crappy job of maintaining a German knife. To keep either in top notch shape, you'll either have to learn to use a whetstone (or an Edgepro) or get it professionally sharpened very regularly. Most cheap/easy solutions are usable on Japanese knives with more or less the same predictably inferior results (plus a tiny chip here or there).

              The big difference is that there's not much point of buying Japanese knives in the first place if you're gonna maintain em poorly.

            2. I agree with those that said to avoid the knife sets. I think a good kitchen needs a few good knives such as an 8" chef knife, serrated bread knife, paring knife and a boning knife. That being said, we have a kitchen full of knives, some better than others. I recently bought a 9" Henkels Gourmet chef's knife at a thrift store for $2.40. The best part of the deal is that the handle is broken so I'll soon mail it in and get a new one as a replacement.

              1. Nthing no sets. Spend about 80% of your budget on a good chef knife or equivalent (Chinese cleaver or santoku could work, but I'd start with a 8-10" western style Chef's knife, either Japanese or German). Spend the rest of the money on a Mundial forged paring knife (not that expensive), cheap bread knife (restaurant supply store type), and some decent kitchen scissors, in that order of importance.

                If you are butchering meat / cutting through bones often, or deboning fish, you might need specialized knives.

                Also keep in mind that there's really nothing special about the lower-end lines from Henckels / Wusthof - and a lot of them are stamped rather than forged, and made in South America or Asia rather than Germany (not that there's anything wrong with that, but if you're going to do that, no need to pay for the name). Messermeister is similar to those two brands, but doesn't have the big bolster, which makes them a little easier to sharpen than many other German style forged knives IMHO. The Mundial forged line has a similar style to the German knives (actually, I think they used to make one of the lower end lines of one of the big German manufacturers), and is cheaper.

                1 Reply
                1. re: will47

                  "Messermeister is similar to those two brands, but doesn't have the big bolster"

                  Agree. Wusthof does have some expensive lines with reduced bolsters like the Wusthof Ikon lines. However, you are correct for the general cases.

                2. if you are interested, the smaller cuisine sets (chef's knife paring and bread) might be a better bet? you can usually cancel on gilt on the day of purchase if you're not 100%. i've done this before and my card was never charged. I would double check the price on amazon. Also, for a while WS had some good deals on Shuns, just get a chef's or santoku and you'll be satified for a while. You can go a little cheaper on the bread knif (try victorinox fibrox)

                  actually it's the same on amazon http://www.amazon.com/Zwilling-Hencke...

                  plus free shipping- since you don't have to rush to get a deal, maybe head to a WS try out what fits best and just get a chef's knife for now?

                  1. I agree with everything the posters have said. They know what they're talking about. Think quality before quantity. Start out with one great chef's knife, either an 8- or 10-inch, whichever you're most comfortable with, and build from there. You can accomplish probably 80% of your cutting needs with a very good chef's knife. Get a honing rod and you're good to go for a while. Your chef's knife need not cost more that $100, if that.

                    1. Wow - great advice by all. It definitely makes sense to allocate most of my budget toward a chef's knife rather than one big set. As far as the Japanese/German debate, personally, I don't even think I'm advanced enough to be making that choice -- I defaulted to Henckles because it's the brand I grew up with and learned to cook from with my mom. Sentimental, I know. But once I get my knife skills down (am definitely taking a class!!!) and get some good practice in with these, I might look into a higher-quality chef's knife.

                      Luckily, I don't feel overwhelmed by a range of unnecessary knives, because as RGC1982 pointed out, the 'set' really only has four knives, + the steak knives and all those supplementary things. As a single girl who often only cooks for myself and my boyfriend, I really don't NEED eight steak knives at all. So that part of it was pretty unnecessary. I am, however, trying to have more and more friends over for dinner more regularly, so maybe those eight steak knives sitting in that block on my kitchen counter will convince me to do that. Silly, I know.

                      Anyway, thanks all for your sound advice. I do trust the hounds. And I have to say, in the process of slowly transitioning my kitchen out of cheap tools and into the better-quality tools (I love my Microplane!), this set seems like a good step forward to me.

                      I'll just wrap it up and stick it under the tree next month :)

                      14 Replies
                      1. re: collegekitchen

                        UPDATE.
                        Screw the steak knives. There's no reason I need eight steak knives. And I didn't even realize that this set of knives were stamped, not forged. I just called and Gilt allowed me to cancel my order.

                        Thanks, hounds. I think you all saved me from a large, pretty-good-but-not-great set. Instead, I'm going to ask Santa for a smaller, better set. And I'm still looking at sets because I really do need a wood block.

                        1. re: collegekitchen

                          just so you know, you can usually buy just the block and fill-as-you-go ;) they're cheap too, between 20 and 30 dollars, even cheaper if you buy at a seconds/thrift shop.

                          1. re: cannibal

                            I think I picked up my block from an outlet store somewhere.. personally, I don't like the blocks that "house" steak knives, just make it too big.. steak knives sit in my kitchen drawers for in somewhat infrequent (with a non-red-meat-eating wife) that steak or tougher cuts of meat come around..

                          2. re: collegekitchen

                            Excellent, just ask if you need more help. A knife block is nice, I've still not fixed up my knife holder, and since I won't put them in a drawer, they do take up a lot of surface space.

                            I'd just like to add one thing: Forged Vs Stamped is not really a huge deal anymore in terms of quality. Forged tend to be thicker and heavier (and thus stronger*), but there's no real difference in terms of quality. You could get a good stamped knife and an awful forged knife.

                            *by stronger, I mean it will be stiffer and less likely to snap if anything bad happens.

                            1. re: collegekitchen

                              Steak knives are fine if you need them, but some people like to purchase steak knives as a separate set. The reason is that you can cut most steaks with normal dinner knives and if you really want steak knives you might as well get the good ones -- or so to speak.

                              In my opinion, there are plenty good stamped knives. Many stamped knives are very good like the Shun and Global knives. They are stamped, but they are well-respected. Soop has a nice Global knife and it is stamped, and I know he loves it more than most forged knives. The issue is that Henckels is not famous for making stamped knives.

                              I won't worry about the wood block so much for two reasons. First, you can buy individual wood knife block, and I have repeatedly found $5 small Henckels wood block at Home Goods and TJ Maxx. You definitely get one for $20-30 without any hunting/shopping effort.

                              http://www.amazon.com/Henckels-10-Slo...

                              There are the Kapoosh knife blocks which some people love and some people hate:

                              http://www.thegreenhead.com/imgs/xl/k...

                              You can always fancy yourself and get a nicer wood block too.

                              http://www.amazon.com/sthof-Profile-1...

                              Finally, you can build one too. I did. It looks like crap, but it works.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                "you can build one too. I did. It looks like crap, but it works."

                                Have any pictures of it? :D

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  I don't care for any block really; I love my counter space more. But if you have some drawer space available this bamboo knife holder works well.

                                  http://www.chefknivestogo.com/tobaink...

                                  I have two in one drawer. On one side are my (don't touch Japanese knives) and on the other side are the more durable Henckels, Forschner and Shun (that my family is allowed to use). Just kidding -- sort of...

                                  Just make sure to measure your drawers before ordering as they are a bit big and might not fit. Also, I wouldn't get the Wusthoff version as the knives don't rest as well in the slots.

                                  Just an option. I think I first saw these holders recommended in Chad Ward's book.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    Actually, my Global is drop forged ;)

                                    1. re: Soop

                                      Oh yes, I remember now. You have the fancier version of Global. :) Man, your girlfriend does love you. :D (I know she gave you a smoothing honing rod, but I think she gave you that knife too, or did you buy that knife?)

                                  2. re: collegekitchen

                                    You can get a block separately, but I'd advise against one. If you have room, put up a magnetic strip. If not, get a couple of knife edge guards, and keep them in a drawer. The wood blocks will actually tend to dull the knives when you put them in / out, and they're not really that convenient either.

                                    1. re: will47

                                      Will47,

                                      Maybe just a little bit in term of dulling, but not significantly. The reason is that a knife get significantly more contact time and force on a wood cutting board vs a wood knife storage block, the amount of damages from the storage block should be very small in comparison. Moreover, many wood knife blocks have the slots in the horizontal positions, so that will further minimize the potential problem:

                                      http://www.amazon.com/Henckels-20-Slo...

                                      In other words, I do not believe a wood storage block will dull the knife more than a couples of percentages.

                                    2. re: collegekitchen

                                      I know that this thread has taken a life of it's own- but this is something worth discussing with santa: http://www.amazon.com/sthof-Classic-6...

                                      i think the 6in chef's is a great place to start and a small set is a great so you can build on it as you learn what you really want or need. If you can wait on the set- this is a great deal:
                                      http://www.amazon.com/Wusthof-979779-...

                                      since you already have the pairing knife- this will become your go to- I started with this 6 inch and still use it nearly daily- i added some larger (a santoku and larger chef's knife) when I got married but i still reach for the 6 inch wisthof the most.

                                    3. re: collegekitchen

                                      There are knives that only work well for right-handed people. If you are left-handed, choose carefully.

                                    4. Unless you can sharpen decently well, you will always be cursed with dull knives.

                                      40 Replies
                                      1. re: jaykayen

                                        I'm not cursed and I don't sharpen. I happen to have a service available that puts a great edge on my knives. I have them sharpened once or twice a year and have never sharpened them myself. If you get your jollies sharpening knives, that's fine. But it's not necessary

                                        1. re: chuckl

                                          "Sharp" means different things to different people. Some people wouldn't consider a knife sharpened once or twice a year particularly sharp most of the time. For others, it suits their purposes fine. And of course it also depends on how much you use your knife and how well it holds an edge through use.

                                          Ultimately, sharp just means 'sharp enough' and what's sharp enough depends on who you ask.

                                          1. re: chuckl

                                            chuckl and cowboyaerdee:

                                            I'm w/ chuckl on this one. For a home cook--as opposed to a butcher, sushi chef, surgeon or histologist--professional sharpening 1-2x/year is fine. The OP will actually dull her knives, unless she learns to sharpen (which takes years). Even if she learns everything about sharp, she will likely be with 95% of the rest of us mere mortals who can't attain really sharp--ever.

                                            1. re: kaleokahu

                                              if it's sharp enough to perform basic kitchen prep relatively effortlessly, it's sharp enough for me. I don't intend to shave with my santoku

                                              1. re: chuckl

                                                But that is the challenge, since there is no easy line to draw. The definition of sharpness is continuous. What is sharp to a person is not sharp for another person. For many people (probably majority of the people), they are work fine with knives which have not been sharpened for years. They can still perform their tasks. I know because I was one of them. I also know because I have recently sharpened a few knives for my friends and these knives are very dull, I can clearly see the light reflection from the edge. They all thought their knives were fine until they are sharpened, then they realize how dull they must had been. In term of what constitutes "effortlessly", that is different from one person to another person. It is like saying that you need a car with good handling. So exactly how good of a handling is good.

                                              2. re: kaleokahu

                                                In another thread I disagreed with you on how long it takes to learn to sharpen and how few people have the ability to learn, based on my experience learning from nothing more than reading about it and teaching a couple other people to sharpen reasonably well in a period of a few months. I disagree on this thread too.

                                                Hand sharpening takes some work to learn, and yes - some people never get the knack (and I reiterate that the Edgepro is a great little device). But you overstate its difficulty. By a lot. I was able to make dull knives sharper on my second or third try sharpening (with much wasted effort and brow furrowing), and I'm no prodigy.

                                                Also, I agree that for most home cooks, pro sharpening 1x-2x/year is fine. MOST home cooks. I was merely pointing out that some people have different needs, different standards. Most knives in a pro kitchen are noticeably dull after one day of use and downright frustrating to use after about a week without sharpening. Likewise, some home cooks put their knives through much more use than others in a year/month/day. And some knives put up with hard use better than others. And some home cooks just like the feel of very sharp knives, even if they could get the job done with duller ones.

                                                Telling everyone that it's dumb to learn to use a whetstone is just as silly as telling everyone that they should learn to hand sharpen. Different strokes for different folks is all.

                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                  You guys are making me feel like a freak or something. I bought my 10 inch Sabatier stainless steel chef's knife in the early months of 1961. I have NEVER had it professionally sharpened. I keep it in my knife block. I use it every day, usually multiple times. BUT...! I hone it every time I take it out of the knife block to use. My honing steel is very old. It belonged to my great grandfather. The one who was a butcher in England. I one bought a ceramic rod "honing steel" and gave it away three days later and joyously returned to my ancient horn handled, silver hilted honing steel that belonged to my grandmother's father. All of my knives are incredibly sharp! None are quite as old as my 10 inch Sabatier, but they are all very sharp. And after all these years, that knife's blade is slightly "indented" just at the bolster from years of honing, but not enough to interfere with the rocking motion I use for slicing and dicing.

                                                  I suspect, based on my experience, that the secret to sharp knives is an exceptional honing steel and regular use. Using one is a skill well worth mastering.

                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                    I thought my knives, which I purchased in the 1980s, were perfectly sharp, too. Like you, I used the steel religiously. Then I had them sharpened. It was a 100% improvement over what I thought "sharp" was. And it only cost $12 to get four knives sharpened. I still get a kick out of how much better I'm able to cut, slice, etc., every time I use one of my knives.

                                                    1. re: Jay F

                                                      Well, there may be "sharper" knives, but how can I tell? I can turn a tomato on its side, set the blade of my 10" chefs knife on top of it with my only hand contact on the bottom of the handle to balance it, slide it forward with NO downward pressure from me, and it will cleave the tomato. If that's a dull knife, I can live with it! '-)

                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                        Well, I don't think you should feel like a freak. I do occasionally run into people who think their knives are sharp or maybe just a little bit dull only to find that their knives are barely sharper than the edge of my credit card, but I don't think that's what is happening in your case.

                                                        Old Sabatiers have a reputation for being endlessly renewable with a steel (though that's usually the carbon steel versions - I don't know too much about the stainless ones). Even so, for it to remain sharp for this long, that steel has to be removing some metal when you use it. You mentioned that there's a little step at the heel, and that would seem to confirm this.

                                                        I think your steel is acting like a coarse stone on the knife, leaving you with a microscopically jagged edge. This type of edge is actually very good for many cutting tasks, and especially for tomato skins. I don't know for certain how your just honed knife would compare to one just off a coarse to medium-coarse stone, but I suspect they would be similar.

                                                        That works for you (and surely others as well) so I say keep it up. The catch is I can't recommend it as an across-the-board sharpening solution for everyone because some knives don't react that way to a honing steel (your technique and your steel likely also have something to do with it, btw). For some knives a honing steel removes very little metal, and for others a honing steel removes too much (or in bigger chips when it does). You also won't have the option of creating a highly polished edge, though it doesn't sound like you miss it.

                                                        Of course I could be wrong - this is just an educated guess.

                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                          There is no doubt in my mind that I get a microscopically jagged edge! On the other hand, ALL knife edges are microscopically jagged if you apply enough magnification. '-)

                                                          I can feel the "tooth" with my thumb. I can also feel whether I have been off with some of my honing because I can feel if the edge is turned right or left, then I have to correct.

                                                          All I can tell you about the knife is that I bought it in 1961 at a U.S. Navy Ship's Service store in San Diego for between forty or fifty dollars, which was deeply discounted compared to non-military stores. In today's prices, that would be between $290 and $365. It is a drop forged knife made by a member of the Sabatier consortium, but the blade is so dense that it's difficult to read the stamped manufacturer information, even with a magnifying glass, but "Sabatier" and "stainless" are clearly legible. I would love to know what the steel components are! No clue. When I tried to buy another "Sabatier stainless" a few years later, I went to a knife shop that spacialized in good knives with an emphasis on Sabatier, and was told that Sabatier did not then and never had produced staiinless steel blades. I did take it in and showed it to them and they were amazed, impressed as hell, but could not find a source to get them.

                                                          Yes, there is now a gentle "offset" between the bolster and the heel of the blade, but the way the bolster melds into the blade would mean that a knife professional would have to modify the bolster in order to get it close to its original "dip free" flow. In my lifetime I have had one good knife ruined by a "professional" knife sharpener who had excellent recommendations. It was a Chinese cleaver, and I don't understand why he couldn't handle it, but I took it in with a nearly flat cutting edge, which I loved for slicing vegetables, and it came back with a deeply bowed cutting edge and I was grossly unhappy. As a result of that experience, there is no way I would trust my 10" Sabatier to anyone! Maybe the 8", which does not take an edge nearly as well, but I make do and rarely use it. Oh, and while it is also some sort of stainless, it is NOT a Sabatier.

                                                          Anyway, as you well know (I'm sure) there are Sabatiers, and then there are SABATIERS! I am very fortunate to own a SABATIER! '-)

                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                            "I have had one good knife ruined by a "professional" knife sharpener who had excellent recommendations. It was a Chinese cleaver,...with a nearly flat cutting edge... and it came back with a deeply bowed cutting edge ..."

                                                            The knife sharpener thought he fixed the knife by putting a big belly (curve) on the edge. It is a preference thing and he prefers it that way, unfortunately. As for taking the knife bolster heel down. I don't see a knife sharpener can mess that one up. Afterall, it has very little room for "interpretation".

                                                            Yes, it it true that all knife edges have some level of serration, but some knives rely on the serration power to saw through the foods, while others rely on the sharp edge ability to part the foods.

                                                            Saltydog like to use tomatoes to test the push cutting ability of his knives. Here, you can see this Michael Radar knife cut through a tomato without visibly denting the tomato skin.

                                                            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Nr24c...

                                                            Here is a video of the CCK Chinese cleaver. You can scroll to at the 3:00 min mark to see. As you will see, it barely passed the tomato push cutting test, but it passed nonetheless:

                                                            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzVSWu...

                                                            There are other ways to test the edge pure cutting abiltiy. Some people like to test that using armhair. The reason is that you cannot saw through armhair. So it makes the test is very easy to distinguish between cutting and sawing.

                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                              The knife sharpener thought he fixed the knife by putting a big belly (curve) on the edge. It is a preference thing and he prefers it that way, unfortunately....Chemicalkinetics
                                                              ......................................................

                                                              Yes, but I specifically told him I did not want the blade's contours changed because they matched my style of chopping and dicing perfectly! I wouldn't have minded him putting a "belly" in HIS knife, but on mine? I was soooooo ticked! Bad man! Bad BAD man!

                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                :) Really? That is bad. I can only guess that he has/had tons of customers and he could not remember your requests by the time he got to your knives. Not that it is ok, but at least that makes more sense. Did you tell him that he ruined your knife profile? Did he say anything?

                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                  Sweetheart. It's me! Caroline! Not exactly the shy retiring type. Of course I told him. His response? Empty stare, inscrutable shrug. And no more business from me!

                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                    Just a shrug? That is pretty bad. He should have at least offer you to regrind your knife.

                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                      Well, a knife is a very personal thing, and I'm not at all sure I would have accepted. I had bought it at a huge Chinese market in Chula Vista, California, called Woo Chee Chong's, that is (sadly) no longer in business. It was imported by them from China, had a rat tail tang set in a wood handle with a brass ferule and the blade was nearly three inches deep. Beautifully balanced and a joy to work with. The amount of metal he would have had to take off the edge to restore the very shallow curvature of the blade after he had ground each end of the blade to the bow he did would have radically changed the whole dynamics of that knife. I did the kindest thing I could for it. A decent burial in the back of a kitchen drawer, and at some point -- I know not when -- it slipped away to wherever knives go after a useful life has come to an end. Ive been looking for years, and maybe someday I will find another Chinese cleaver that speaks to me the way that one did. Hey! I just found my fluting knife on the web, and it is on its way home to me as a write! I'm on a roll....! '-)

                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                        Caroline,

                                                                        Yeah, I know what you mean. He would have to take more metal off, but what can you do that point? I suppose it is like a bad haircut. The only way to immediately fix a haircut is to cut more of it. More unfortunately for a knife, it does not grow back like hair.

                                                                        If you are on the market for a carbon steel Chinese knife, then I like to recommand the Chan Chi Kee knives, better known as CCK. Of all, this CCK 1303 sells very well at Chefknivestogo.com:

                                                                        http://www.chefknivestogo.com/cckclea...

                                                                        I own two and CCK 1303 is a very good knife. It is a thin blade Chinese knife. Inexpensive (~$34), easy to sharpen, take on a good edge ( I have no problem shaving arm hair with mine after a few cooking sessions), ok edge retention, well-respected among knife enthusiasts (you are read the reviews there). As shown early, SaltyDog has a video demonstration of this knife:

                                                                        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzVSWu...

                                                                        Oh yes, as a bonus, it has a fairly straight cutting edge. That is one thing many Chinese knife enthusiats do not like about Shun Chinese knife. The Shun Classic Chinese vegetable knife has too short and too curved.

                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                          Wow! On sale AND free shipping! Thank you, kind sir. I am now through (promise!) Christmas shopping for me... On to the rest of the people I love! '-)

                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                            No... only free shipping if you buy over $60 :)

                                                            2. re: Caroline1

                                                              Thanks for the info about the Sabatier. They make many stainless knives now and they can be decent, but yours sounds like it's in a different class altogether. I've always liked their older knives, though they can be inconsistent and pricey, so I never bought one. I keep hoping to find one at a yard sale, take it home, and fix it up to find I've got a SABATIER.

                                                              On a knife so well loved, you're right in not trusting a major repair to just anybody. Grinding down a bolster is something you can do yourself (carefully, and cooling often) with a belt sander, but you may need to regrind the belly a bit afterwards, and I certainly wouldn't suggest trying for the first time on such a valued knife. I would trust Dave Martel with the job though, because I've seen him discussing this type of repair intelligently. There are plenty of other pro sharpeners who would be up to the job, but I don't know them or your area to recommend them - I'd at least check to make sure they grind down bolsters regularly - the kid in the back room of the Sur la Table with a chefs choice is probably not up to the job.

                                                              Or of course if you still manage to get enough board contact further down the blade, you can just let it ride.

                                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                Duhhh...! I DO have a camera! When I used 35mm film, I always ran out of film before I was through taking pictures. Now that I have unlimited film, I forget I have a camera. LOTS of pictures of the family leaving. Zero of them arriving! But at last I have remembered, and here is a picture of my beloved Sabatier and honing steel.

                                                                I suspect the steel was made in Sheffield, England, about 150 years ago, give or take a decade or two either way. The handle is horn, the ferule is silver, though likely coin silver and not sterling since it's stubborn about taking a polish. I pick up a soft baby tooth brush every year or so and give the honing shaft a good scrubbing with liquid detergent, rinse it well and dry and it's good to go until it gets engorged with filings again!

                                                                Again, I have no clue as to which Sabatier house made the knife. It is stamped about two thirds of the way up the spine side of the blade with "SabatieR" with "Professional" above it nestled between the capital "S" and "R", then "Made in France" under that, and finally "Stainless" is last. The dent from years of honing is not nearly as bad as I keep thinking it is! This knife is now 49 years old and I have been using it daily for all of those years and honing it every time I take it from the knife block. I would give anything to know the composition of this stainless steel. It is hard as diamonds! You have to hold it in your hands and turn it against the light to see where the "indentation" is beginning. And then, on closer inspection, it is obvious the problem is simply bad honing technique. It's easy to see that the knife and steel make no contact within about a quarter inch of the bolster. Shame on me!

                                                                I hope you strike it rich soon and find your Sabatier! It will be the beginning of a love affair! And may yours last at least as long as mine! Bon chance! '-)

                                                                 
                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                  Double duhhh...!!Google *IS* my friend! I've been googling "Sabatier" for years in search of my knife and couldn't find it. It finally occurred to me to google "Sabatier Professional" and lo and behold! Inflation has been very kind to the price. Judging by the pictures, I do believe mine is the 20cm knife now selling in the UK for 42 Pounds, or about $65.50 US. It has a 25 year guarantee, and if this is truly the same knife as mine with the same formulation of steel in the blade, it would be a bargain at triple the price! Here's the URL:
                                                                  http://www.armorica.co.uk/Sabatier_Pr...

                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                    I have had that Sabatier for 20 years. I find I rarely use it since it is so heavy. It IS a beauty to look at. It has migrated from counter blocks to a drawer. Maybe I'll frame it.
                                                                    My point: Knives are VERY personal. What you like will change over time as you acquire more skill and your needs change.

                                                                    1. re: Kitchen Bitchen

                                                                      Thanks for the information! I've been using mine for 49 years and love it! As you say, different strokes for different folks. It is frameworthy, but not quite what it was designed for. If you want to have a garage sale, cowboyardee is looking for a garage sale Sabatier! '-)

                                                                      1. re: Kitchen Bitchen

                                                                        This is getting weird. Everyone tell me so many different things about Sabatier. Many people say they are soft steel knives but a few say they are hard. Many people say they are light in comparison to Henckels and Wusthof, but you say they are heavy.

                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                          "Sabatier" as a sole identifier is only slightly less useless as "knife" would be. It's not a brand. It never has been, nor will it ever be. Anyone, anywhere in the world can call a knife "Sabatier". And, no shock, there's a range stuff with the name, ranging from some nice stuff by long-established makers in and around Thiers, France, to utter crap from others in Franc, to utter crap from other countries, and pretty much everything in between.

                                                                          It's only meaningful with another name or logo attached to it, and not always then, because the trademarks have changed hands, been abandoned, picked up by a new maker, copied, had periods when the stuff made under the name was first rate, and periods when it was junk.

                                                                          1. re: dscheidt

                                                                            Thanks. Yeah, I have the impression that it covers a range of cutlrey made in France, but I presume most people meant the Four Star Elephant made by Thiers-Issard when they say something good about the Sabatier. This is absolutely confusing now. It is no more descriptive than saying Seki knives (a Japanese city famous for knives):

                                                                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seki,_Gifu

                                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                              Chem, when I talk about Sabatiers, I'm thinking mainly of the Thiers-Issard made knives, and even then there seems to be a surprising amount of inconsistency, even within knives of the same line made around the same time.

                                                                              The older carbon steel knives were softer steel, but the newer ones are often harder. And I know pretty much nothing about older stainless Sabatiers.

                                                                    2. re: Caroline1

                                                                      Thanks for the pic. I can't tell all that well, but it doesn't look like taking down the bolster would be a particularly major repair - to the naked eye, the bolster isn't noticeably lower than the rest of the edge. You probably wound't need to have the belly reground afterward. The only real problem with having a full length bolster on a sharpened-down knife is that it limits how much of the edge contacts the cutting board. If most of your edge still contacts the board, there's not much reason to sweat it.

                                                                      That honing steel is pretty cool too.

                                                                      Someday I will have my Sabatier. I'm just trying to stay patient rather than ordering one off ebay.

                                                        2. re: cowboyardee

                                                          cowboy: We're 'way off thread here, but I think I remember that previous thread's denoement being a general agreement that 95% of us can't get our knives REALLY sharp. Yes, unless a person is a complete clod, they can easily learn to BETTER a very dull edge. But a substantial % will never approach sharp, and the return diminishes rapidly thereafter. In the meantime, MANY hours and MANY dollars are spent that could have better been spent actually cooking.

                                                          I didn't say it's dumb to learn to use a whetstone. It's a valuable skillset, probably about as important as learning to tune a carburator.

                                                          Happy Thanksgiving to All.

                                                          1. re: kaleokahu

                                                            "But a substantial portion will never achieve sharp..."
                                                            _____

                                                            I maintain that I can teach your average person to reliably sharpen a decent knife well enough to easily pop arm hairs along its entire edge, and I can do so within a mere few teaching sessions over the stones. By most kitchen knife standards, that's sharp. By the standards of most sharpening professionals, it's sharp enough. It's certainly more than sharp by the standards of most other home sharpening options.

                                                            Of course, there are some people who are especially gifted, but that's really neither here nor there. Your average person can learn to use a stone to create finer edge than they could otherwise, and that's what matters.

                                                            Honestly, I don't even find that the learning curve typically works quite the way you make it out to. In my experience, it takes only a little bit of practice to be productive over the stones, and a lot more to be efficient.

                                                              1. re: chuckl

                                                                Laziness. I might sometime if people are interested enough. Most of the people on chow who are interested in sharpening seem to already be practiced at it.

                                                                Some aspects are really much easier taught in person though - identifying a burr, noticing primary and secondary bevels, how much pressure to use, how to tell when you're about done on an individual stone, picking off bad habits early, etc.

                                                                Meanwhile, there are already several pretty decent video series. Mark's from Chefknivestogo.com is free and comprehensive. There are a few things that I might do differently, but it is well thought out and should help a novice sharpener enormously. Dave Martell and Murray Carter both have videos, and while I haven't personally seen them, they are reputed to be pretty decent.

                                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                  I agree. There are some good videos on the internet, but Mark's ones are more comprephensive, and he can be unintentionally funny too.

                                                        3. re: kaleokahu

                                                          Knife sharpening isn't rocket science. It's not a mystical art that takes years of mediation to learn. Anybody who tells you it is is selling you something, or has just bought it. I've taught more than one person how to sharpen a knife inside an hour. Of course, they were nine or ten year olds that hadn't been told that it was hard to sharpen knives by hucksters selling stuff, so they didn't know it was supposed to take them years.

                                                          1. re: dscheidt

                                                            dscheidt: Agree that knife sharpening isn't rocket science. But it IS--at its apex--a black art. And at that apex, it DOES take years to learn, even for those with the gift. And it is not easy to come anywhere close to mastery, despite what you say.

                                                            I'm not selling anything. I've been making knives for about 20 years now, worked in my dad's slaughterhouse and packing plant, bought nearly every sharpening "system" out there (ever try a 30" whetstone wheel, turning 10RPM in a water bath?). Misspent many hours funiculating with an edge that the gifted can better with two strong passes over a bench stone. Not buying anything either, thanks.

                                                            Since we're on the topic of sharpening, along with the temptation to think all those hours at the bench are actually producing better results, is the consequent temptation to be self-satisfied that we know better than everyone else and spout off. We don't. I can sharpen, just not well.

                                                            1. re: kaleokahu

                                                              Kaleokahu,

                                                              Art maybe, but what does black art mean? Do you mean it is evil or do you mean it is a secret society art?

                                                              Like anything it is very tough to be the very best. It is very tough to be the very best in cooking, but that is not a good reason to stop learning cooking and just eat out all the time, right? You probably picked up that I have a high education in physical chemistry (thus my login name). Am I as good as Boltzmann or Planck or Schrödinger or Dirac ...? Not even remotely close. I am not 1/100th as good as any of these people, but neither was any of my classmates. That should be the reason that I should stop doing research and stop writing papers. I think the logic of "I cannot sharpen as good as the top 1% sharpeners and therefore it is mispending time for learning sharpening" can be counter-productive, much like saying "Most American high school kids will never be as good as Schrodinger, so it is a waste of their time to learn physics and math." Yes, 99.999% of the kids will never be as good as Schrodinger, but it is never a waste of time to learn math and science in my opinion.

                                                              Think of it as a daily skill or even a hobby, most people who take a guitar class are not going to be the very best, but we should not tell them to stop taking guitar classes and that they should just buy some CD.

                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                Chem, Chem, Chem...

                                                                First off, Happy Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for having the opportunity to exchange ideas and information with you and other CHs.

                                                                No, by "black art" I do not mean anything evil or even a secret society. What I mean is that it is one of those human activities, the mastery of which has almost nothing to do with study, intelligence, interest, time, effort, money or equipment. And that those who have the gift find it virtually ineffable to convey so that others might "learn".

                                                                You are right, in a sense, that we all should know something about sharpening. We could be trapped on a desert island (or in a crappy condo) and the integrity of our fingers could depend upon it. But remember, my fiend, our several discussions about "convenience" (e.g., the phenomenon of folks who'd rather use low-performance SS/plastic knives/cookware, just so they can slam 'em in the DW). In those discussions, you rightly extol the virtues of saving time. With regard to sharpening, I believe that more time can be wasted by most folks to garner such a small improvement, that it is not worth it.

                                                                And I'm sure you're far too humble about your PC abilities. Think Nobel!

                                                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                                                  Happy Thanksgiving.

                                                                  I agree. I think you are correct to consider time-saving or time convenience to be. Ultimately, I think knife sharpening is a nice skill to have, but not a must skill to have. It is certainly not as important as learning how to cook, but definitely more important than learning how to do faster cell phone texting. So I think knife sharpening is a useful but an optional skill to have.

                                                                  I think most folks who try to make that little improvement in knives are really taking knife sharpening as a hobby -- me included. In that case, it is very tough to assess usefulness. I watch movies and play video games and.... I cannot really say they are productive in a straight forward sense, but they do bring me joy, so I won't say they are waste of my time. Of course, it will be more important for me to convince my future wife to let me play video games, than to convince you, but that is another story, right? :)

                                                                  I will never win Nobel or anything. I work in the industry, not academic. Consider that Gandhi has never won the Nobel Peace Prize, I am think I am fine. :D

                                                    2. Personally, I don't like any knife set that includes steak knives. It's just a cheap (relativel to the brand) way of upping the price. As for chef's knives, it is a matter of personal preference. I have both a 10 inch and an 8 inch and a 6 inch chef's knives and which do I use most? I hardly EVER use the 8 inch, but the other two I use daily. I prefer the 6 inch chef's knife to a paring knife, though I do have those. Several in fact.

                                                      YES! to the sharpening steel!, but is it the entire thing that is 9 inches (too small) or just the steel? That's a nice size for a steel.

                                                      Before you plunk down another dime for any knives, no matter how much they are discounted, I strongly urge you to go to the biggest, best stocked knife store in your area and hold every brand to see how it works for you. See if they will let you cut a few things with them. Decide whether you want a chef's knife or a santoku? Younger chefs often prefer santokus. I was trained a looooooooong time ago and prefer chef's knives.

                                                      You should also know that if you go with a chef's knife as opposed to a santoku, there is a diffeerence in the arch of the cutting edge between German and French knives. And then there are all sorts of different sizes and styles of paring knives. And I will add that I am not a great fan of a set of knives all from one manufacturer. You're making a long term commitment to a good knife, and to blindly buy all from one manufacturer can bite you. You can buy knife blocks are a reasonable price, then you fill the slots as you find the right knife. But do get a sharpening steel with your first knife and learn to use it every time you take a knife out of the block.

                                                      You don't have to buy from the knife store where you go to get some hands on feeling for what you may prefer. But do go in and see how every brand fits your hand and your cutting stile. Good luck!

                                                      10 Replies
                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                        We too have 6, 8, & 10 inch chef knives and I use the 8 daily, the ten infrequently and the six never. We bought the 8 last. We have two blocks side by side. I would't wish to waste valuable drawer space with knives with the blocks avaiable. I would rather use a magnetic strip, but we have no convenient place for one. I like the magnetic blocks but I'm too cheap to pay over $100 for one.

                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                          Funny! Wanna trade your 6 and 10 inch chef's knives for my 8 incher? My greatest regret about my knife collection is that somewhere along the way my fluting knife has run away from home. I've been all over every cutlery site on the web and there are NO decent fluting knives available today, which makes watching the old reruns of Julia Child on the Cooking Channel all the more painful because SHE has MY fluting knife and I want it back!!!

                                                          I don't like magnetic strips either and for the same reason: where to hang the damn things! But I have never had any problems with my knife block dulling my knives. At least none that I'm aware of. But then it's my compulsion to steel any knife I take out of the block before using it, so that might account for it, ya think? '-)

                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                            What brand fluting knife did you have?

                                                            1. re: KingoftheCastle

                                                              That's part of the problem. I can't remember! I *think* it was French made, therefore probably a Sabatier knife, but I'm not sure. The only fluting knives I can find on line are from German makers and the heel of the knife flows right into the bolster, which is great on a chef's knife, but I use the heel of a fluting knife for fluting almost as much as I use the blade! One of the reasons I watch the Julia Child reruns is to revisit all of my cooking equipment that has wandered away since the 60s. She sometimes uses a fluting knife identical to my missing one on camera. I freeze frame and envy. But it's really okay I guess. I haven't fluted a mushroom in ages. But if I still had my fluting knife, maybe I would! '-)

                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                Car: I had to look it up. Did yours look like the far right one in the drawing at:

                                                                http://deegeezdesignz.com/Temp/simple... ?

                                                                This is pretty much what all my parers end up looking like after a few years. If it's not like that, can you describe it?

                                                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                                                  Nope. It looked EXACTLY like the one in the URL in my last post to KingoftheCastle. I'm soooOOOoooOoOOoooo happy...! '-)

                                                              2. re: KingoftheCastle

                                                                Thank you for asking! After my reply above, I thought, "What the hey, why not google 'Sabatier fluting knives?" So I did. EUREKA....!
                                                                http://www.cookingenthusiast.com/2-3-...
                                                                I'm a happy camper!

                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                  I have one of those that was my dad's now to learn to use it for what it was intended.

                                                                  1. re: SanityRemoved

                                                                    Before I lost mine, I used it primarily for fluting mushrooms and making carrot flowers for Japanese dishes. I feel quite confident I can still make carrot flowers, but it's probably going to take some practice to relearn how to flute a mushroom. But they are so pretty topping a tureen of boeuf Bourguignon! It is company fare, but when you top it with a few fluted mushrooms, it really shines! We'll see how many pounds of mushrooms it will take to remaster the art. The knife will hopefully arrive this week!

                                                          2. re: Caroline1

                                                            collegekitchen: You listen to Caroline, you hear?

                                                            Now go on down to Goodwill and buy yourself a $95 block for $5.

                                                          3. People have a lot of great info for you. My favorite knives are a $20 carbon steel veggie clever from Chinatown and a $20 carbon steel filet knife from a tackle shop. My advice is don't spent too much and learn to sharpen with a wet stone. I love to sharpen. There used to be a old Sicilian man that would drive around the neighborhood in a green van. He had a bell he would hit with a hammer to let you know he was coming.

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: CCSPRINGS

                                                              Many, many moons ago, an old man would visit our neighborhood with a small cart on wheels. He would sharpen your knives at the curb. My mother wouldn't consider anyone else for the task. Now, it's just a vague memory. He did an excellent job, only came by once a year, and charged nothing much at all.

                                                              1. re: Duquesne

                                                                Here's a you-tube video in which Chef Charlie Palmer suggests a very unique way to get your knife sharpened. It's at the end of the video. My only problem with it is that it requires more chutzpah than I have! What do you guys think? Would you do it?
                                                                http://tinyurl.com/28co9by

                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                  Nice video, but no. Beside the point that my knives cannot/should not be sharpened this way, I just do not think I would ask a stranger to hone my knives. That is taking advantage of other people.

                                                                2. re: Duquesne

                                                                  Duquesne, what neighborhood did you grow up in that was visited by the old man with pushcart? My memory of the green van was in Queens, NY. I used to beg my father to give him something yo sharpen so I could watch.

                                                              2. If we were all very wise and immune to shopping pressures our first 'nice' knives would be our only, and last, knives.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: BangorDin

                                                                  This is what I'm hoping for mine. I still get tempted, but I did enough research to be satisfied with my 4 knives.

                                                                2. My first 'nice' cutlery set,

                                                                  Also my first post here so I hope it works out!

                                                                  I have just aquired my first 'nice' knive set... http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product....

                                                                  The sale is good for a few more days if anybody is interested. I have been a
                                                                  machinist in the past and believe them to be of very fine quality.

                                                                  Have fun with your holiday cooking I know I am...d;^)

                                                                  1. Just in case anyone's interested --

                                                                    I'm glad I canceled this order from Gilt and waited it out. Santa brought me a Shun santoku (and one of those rubber finger guards to go with it, har har har). I can't wait to use it!

                                                                    Thanks for all the great advice -- I'm glad I waited it out. Now I have a santoku and a small (4", I think) Henckles that I found for $6 hidden in the TJ Maxx kitchen section. My knife collection is small but respectable, I think!

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: collegekitchen

                                                                      I was thinking of your post the other evening while I was sharpening my knives. Glad Santa was good to you! Speaking of knives I was considering treating myself to a ceramic paring knife that is made by Kyocera, approx. $30. Any input since we all now know so much about cutlery?