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First Chef's Knife Purchase: A Post-Holiday Quandary


I'm a full-time college student as well as an avid cook and baker--so much so that I am strongly considering a couple years of pastry school after I graduate. At home, we have ancient, ineffective knives, and after working this summer with a set of classic Wusthofs, it's not exactly fun to go back. I've read in a lot of places that a good chef's knife is anyone's most essential knife purchase, and I am not opposed to laying down a Benjamin or so for a nice one.

I did my research. I'm thinking of purchasing a Wusthof Ikon 8" chef's knife (the classic knife was too bulky in my hands; this is a better grip) or the Global 8" chef's knife (I really like the feel of it and how sharp it is, but it seems like it may be less reliable--snapping issues? yikes!--than the Wusthof Ikon.) For Christmas, I received Mundial commercial-quality paring knives, a boning knife, and a wide chef's knife. The blades look good and they feel alright to the hand, but they look cheap. In any case, I kind of have my heart set on something that will last me a WHILE and still age gracefully.

Any suggestions? Should I just forget buying a knife for now and wait until I have my own place? Am I forgetting anything crucial?

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  1. Since you received Mundial knives, use them and see how you like them. These knives are nothing to sneeze at. Hold off from buying any knives until after. Knives are very personal; each person has it's own preference depending on how they feel. They are not trophies.

    9 Replies
    1. re: PBSF

      The Mundial forged line is actually very similar to the higher end German stuff - I believe they used to make some of the medium quality Henckels knives. I think it should last a lifetime if taken care of well, and you should also be able to put a very good edge on it.

      I'd be tempted to use that for a while until you get a better sense of what you need / want. If you're really going to splurge, or want something for more delicate work, look into the less mass-market Japanese knives like Misono, Tojiro. Misono UX-10 is quite well regarded by professionals, and not as silly looking as either Global or Shun. Fairly expensive, though.

      A slicer would probably come in handy, but it doesn't need to be something expensive.

      Consider spending some money on some decent sharpening stones and maybe a strop. As much as these are less sexy than a beautiful knife, it's really important to start getting comfortable with maintaining your knives.

      1. re: will47


        I agree with Will. It is much better to have "a decent knife with a sharpening strategy" than to have "an excellent knife and no sharpening strategy". I also like to reiterate Chuck's point. Forschner/Victorinox and Dexter-Russell make some affordable and good quality knives. A Dexter is not as good as a Wusthof Ikon (I own both), but a Dexter is 1/3rd to 1/4th the price and the performance is sufficient.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Very true about the sharpening strategy point. You've given me some excellent advice!

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I have been looking for years for a good sharpening strategy. Currently I have a hone that use every time I use a knife. I also have one of those V shaped sharpeners that has a carbide and a ceramic V. I've used it a few times and have read how they're bad for your knives and really honing keeps them sharp enough for the most part. I think I want to get a stone, but which and what?

            What is y'alls sharpening strategy?


            1. re: JuniorBalloon

              It really depends on the knives and the needs. In keeping an inexpensive knife sufficiently sharp, any strategy is better is than doing nothing. On the other hand, to get the most out of a good knife, water stones are probably the most popular and safest tools.

              For minor repair and maintenance, a ~1000 grit water stone is probably coarsest stone you need. A finer stone may be needed depending on the knife and the needs. For excellent knives, some people go all the way up to a 10,000 grit stone with at least 2 more stone in between 1000 and 10,000, and top off on a charged strop. For average knives, that is unnecessary. Many people are happy with a single 1000 grit stone.

              I personally have a 8 stones or so, but I really only use my 2000 grit and 5000 grit stones for knife maintenance.

              1. re: JuniorBalloon

                Junior Baloon: "What is y'alls sharpening strategy?"

                I gave up on the idea that I had to be the one who sharpened my knives. I'm just not good at it. I've used stones, and other stones, and Chef's Choice devices, including a non-electric that did not work at all, and nothing I've ever done was as satisfying as taking them to a hardware store near my house and getting them sharpened. It's called the Squirrel Hill Locksmith, and it's on Murray Avenue in Pittsburgh PA.

                It cost $12 for my 8" chef's knife, my 6" cook's or sandwich knife, and my 3" paring knife. They're all Wusthof. When I was buying knives, the choices were Wusthof, Henckels, and Sabatier (wish I'd never gotten rid of my carbon steel chef's knife).

                Now if only I could do something to make my knife callous not hurt when I cut for any substantial length of time. I think it's age (mine, not the knife's).

                1. re: Jay F

                  I've been to that very locksmith - my roommate used to sharpen his knives (Henckels i think) there when I lived in squirrel hill during college. They were using a high speed belt at the time - is that still their go-to? They did nice, clean work, but I wouldn't recommend them to anyone using Japanese knives.

                    1. re: cowboyardee

                      I don't know what they use. They had me leave the knives and pick them up a week later. It was only when I got them home that I realized what a good job they'd done. I didn't think to ask any questions either time I went in.

          2. I have a Wusthof Blackwood Ikon paring knife. It is a good knife. Beautiful blackwood, nice handle, thick hefty steel... etc. The standard Henckels and Wusthof knives are tough knives which can handle a wide range of jobs. Westernized Japanese knives like Shun and Global knives are made for higher performance duties. They cut and slice better, but they are not meant to handle bone crushing jobs. Here is a previous post on this matter:


            I think you should first decide what kind of knives you would like to have. European chef's knives like Henckels and Wusthof, or Westernized Japanese knives like Shun and Global, or maybe full traditional knives.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              I appreciate the link! Good things to consider, for sure.

              1. Erica - from my own limited experience with knives - I love the Global 8" Chef's knife which I splurged to buy. I think that for a female's use (sorry to be gender specific here) I have better control with a little lighter knife that has greater precision.

                And while it is not a trophy - to me it is my prize!

                1. Frankly, I'd skip upscale knives(possibly excluding Global or MAC)and look seriously at the Victorinox Fibrox line. These may be lacking in aspirational cachet but they're tough as nails and deliver extraordinary value. I gave some as gifts this year, mainly to stop a couple friends from pining for 250 buck Japanese blades capable of beheading a blue fin tuna. Function is the point and these were welcomed mainly because they did the job with aplomb. No fashion statement potential, aside from showing you're smart enough to know what counts.

                  1 Reply
                  1. Get the Wusthof chef's knife, it's the knife I use the most. I don't like the grip on the Global.

                    1. Just got a notice from City Kitchens in Seattle that they have the Wustof 8" Ikon on sale for around $70.Even paying shipping on this it's a great price. You can google them a phone number.I've ordered stuff via phone and never had a problem with them. I'm tempted to order this for myself, but I don't have room in my knife block for one more anything. Oh, they also have the sharpener on sale. Go for it!!

                      44 Replies
                      1. re: amazinc

                        Howdy! I found their site, but I'm not finding the $70 deal. The sharpener is tempting, too. Any suggestions?

                        1. re: ericabakescakes

                          Look under "e-mail specials".



                          I'm really tempted to order one myself since the handle feels so much better than the regular classic Wusthof.

                          1. re: ericabakescakes

                            Does anyone, especially knife experts, know if the Wusthof sharpener with honing mechanism is worth getting, for a wusthof ikon and also some henckel forged knives? I'm looking for relatively low maintenance but don't want to ruin the knives. This looks easier than using a water stone, etc. (I'm completely new to knife honing/sharpening.)

                            (I have shuns too but have read you knife experts' posts on that, and will not be honing that, or sharpening it myself..)

                            Many thanks!

                            1. re: iyc_nyc


                              I don't think knife sharpening on waterstones is as hard as you think, but if you want something very easy to do and also cost relatively cheap, then I think something close to a Spyderco Sharpmaker may work. The reason is that the users do not need to find the angle:


                              Here is a video:



                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                Thanks, chem (was hoping you'd reply :-)). So you don't tk the Wusthof linked above is worth getting then, and if not, can you explain why not? Your rationale will help me better understand the whole knife-sharpening world!

                                1. re: iyc_nyc

                                  I think the Wusthof Ikon sharpner mentioned above looks fine too and it is being sold at a nice price.


                                  Now, if you look at the Wusthof Ikon Sharpener, you will see its sharpening mechanism is basically having two rods set at ~40o (?) apart from one another. In this sense, it is similar to the Spyderco Sharpmarker. The difference is that a knife edge will run through the entire length of the Spyderco rods, but it will only contact two very small surfaces of the Ikon Sharpener rods. As such, the Ikon Sharpener probably won't last as long. In addition, Spyderco Sharpmarker can be set for 15 or 20 degree edge angle.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    Thank you! Sorry to keep bothering you - but will the wusthof or spyderco harm the knives - strip off metal, etc.? Someone told me I should rely largely on honing as opposed to sharpening.

                                    Also, is there a good knife honing & sharpening 101 guide, post, or web site you'd recommend so I can read up and do my homework before bothering you and other CH's again w what I can learn on my own?

                                    Thanks again!

                                    1. re: iyc_nyc

                                      Neither the Spyderco Sharpmarker nor the Wusthof Ikon Sharpner should harm your knives. I cannot say the same for the standard Wusthof Sharpner which is different.

                                      In term of knife sharpening and honing, Chad Ward wrote a very humorous and insightful book: Edge in the Kictchen. A section of it is published here:


                                      If you prefer visual demonstration, Mark Richmond has published a series of introductory knife sharpneing videos:


                                      Of particular, you may like these two videos about honing steel:



                                      Thomas Stuckey also have a series of very nice videos. This one is about honing:


                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        WOW - this is really helpful and look fwd to viewing all. Thanks!

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          Yowza wowza that was an ear and eye full of info. Thank you very much for posting those. Some serious knife geek-i-tude going on there. I guess I have to ask myself how sharp is sharp enough? The use of the steels was very educational. I am certainly one of those that use a heavier hand than needed. I will not press so hard nor clank the knife on the steel as I had. I use the steel everytime I use a knife. I tested my knives with a piece of paper and with little pressure they slice through it. I never have trouble with soft tomatoes. Even still I think I'm going to get a couple of stones; the 2000 and 5000 that you mentioned. Do you have a brand recommendation? How often do you get stoned...I mean sharpen with the stones?


                                          1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                            :) When a knife is sufficiently sharp, you can push cut a paper without using the slicing motion:


                                            A sharp knife gives the user greater control.

                                            I do have a 1000 grit stone, but I don't use it much for knife maintance because I find my 2000 grit stone is aggressive enough for touchs-up and I maintain my knives regularly enough that I don't usually need to hit the 1000 grit stone. That being said, if I am going to have one stone and one stone only, then I think most people will agree that a ~1000 grit stone is the most important stone.

                                            My 2000 and 5000 grit stones are Naniwa Super stones recommended by Cowboyardee.


                                            They are soft/semi soft stone, do not require water soaking, and they give a polish bevel.

                                            Some people prefer harder stones, and Shapton Glass Stones are very popular. Mark Richmond from Chefknviestogo recommends them.


                                            Dave Martell, considered to be one of the best knife sharpener, has the following lineup:


                                            I try not to get stoned -- it sounds like a very expensive hobby :P .

                                            As for hitting my knives on the stones...I sharpen them when I feel their performance is deteriorating. If a knife cannot push cut a paper, then I will sharpen it -- though that is not the only indication I rely on. As for a timeline, it depends on the knives. My CCK KF 1303 Chinese Chef's knife has a moderate edge holding ability, so I say about once every two weeks for this knife -- if not once every week. My Tanaka Kurocuchi (Aogami) Nakiri has a much better edge holding ability, and it can go on a month without sharpening.

                                            What knives do you have?

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              "What knives do you have?"

                                              Embarrasingly I only know the name of one of the Mfg. My two main knives I have are a 10 inch Chicago Cutlery and an 8 inch unknown. The 8 inch was a gift from a friend so I don't think it's very high end, but it does hold an edge better than the Chicago. Then there is an assortment of cheap block knives collected over the years.


                                              1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                In that case, a 1000 grit stone may be all you will need. The cheapest 1000 grit stone I find so far is the 1000 grit King stone ($20). King is a reputable brand:


                                                Thought about getting a higher end knife than the one you have? :)

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  :o) Yes I have. Still just thinking at this point.


                                                  1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                    :) Let us know when you are shopping a new knife. Really. All you need is one good main knife. You don't need 15+ knives from a knife block.

                                                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    "In that case, a 1000 grit stone may be all you will need."
                                                    As usual, Chem's advice is good.

                                                    I've sharpened more cheap knives for other people than I care to mention. After a lot of frustration and wasted effort, I've decided that many cheaper knives just don't respond all that well to higher grits and work best with a coarse edge. A 1000 grit waterstone should allow you to put a decent edge on all but the most banged-up of knives (or the most abrasion resistant, but that's not going to be Juniorballloon's problem). Many of the cheaper knives I find actually cut much better with a coarser edge - the grain structure in their steel doesn't seem to support a higher grit finish. There are exceptions - forschners, for example, take well to higher grit polishes, but lose their initial polish quickly. CCK cleaver take high grits very well, and hold a polished edge reasonably well. I'm sure there are others. But generally speaking, for cheaper knives, I just don't feel there's much reward from higher grits.

                                                    As always though, there are a few caveats. For one, I feel like you learn a little faster and your progress can be more easily gauged if you also get an even coarser stone. It makes feeling a burr easier, and lets you practice moving from one stone to another and gauging when to move. Also, if you're just starting to learn to sharpen, chances are your knives are pretty dull. And while putting a fresh edge on a very dull knife is certainly possible with a 1000 grit King stone, it will also probably be quite frustrating for someone who has never hand sharpened before and has to stop often to check their progress and angle.

                                                    There are some good ones in the 500 grit range. As stated above, this would also let you eventually do reprofiling or repairing a badly chipped or dented edge.

                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                      Always impressed by the depth and thoroughness of fellow CH'ers knowledge. Perhaps I will get a 500 and 1000. There are only 3 knives in my vast collection that I would even bother to sharpen. The Chicago (is it considered a cheap knife?) the 8 inch, which it turns out is a Henkel, and a 3rd knife that is fairly old, has a thin and slightly curved 7 inch blade that I use for breaking down whole chickens.


                                                2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  So far so good but the real problem still unaddressed is how to maintain edge geometry when using a stone.

                                                  1. re: Kagemusha

                                                    "but the real problem still unaddressed is how to maintain edge geometry when using a stone."

                                                    There are plenty of insightful posts regarding this topic on CHOWHOUND as well as on other websites. One can use the "magic marker" trick or "click to the stone" trick or many others. It is a learnt ability and it takes some (but not much) practice. We can talk and write about how to ride a bicycle, but there is no subsitutuion for getting behind the wheels and practice. If sharpening stone is not one's cup of tea, then he/she can send the knvies to a professional knife sharpener or get an EdgePro Apex.

                                                    1. re: Kagemusha

                                                      What sort of 'walk' are you expecting from a forum? Are you familiar with the magic marker trick? It makes a pretty good set of training wheels as long as you take your time with it and check your progress often.

                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                        Cowboy. Have you checked on Dave Martell sharpening classes description? Dave requires only a few things from his students: a knife, some flat waterstones and a good attitude.


                                                        I find studying science to be very rewarding and exciting, but I have seen a few students get very agitated during learning. Their poor attitude speaks more about the roots of their challenges.

                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                          Dave Martell would be a good dude to learn from. And obviously, there are some benefits to learning in person, from someone who really knows what they're doing.

                                                          Looks like you pay for the privilege though - $100/hour. Here we are giving what help we can for free and somehow that generates hostility. You've heard the expression "Haters gonna hate," right?

                                                    2. re: Kagemusha

                                                      Kagemusha: "So far so good but the real problem still unaddressed is how to maintain edge geometry when using a stone."

                                                      The traditional recommendation for a Japanese blade is to lift the spine "two coins' thickness" away from the stone's surface. For US coins, quarters are usually suggested. I suppose someone could tape two quarters to the side of the blade at the very top/spine & use that as a guide.

                                                      Alternatively, there's a plastic clip-on bar you can buy that you place onto the spine of the blade & drag along the stone's surface while you sharpen.

                                                      Recently, while I was sharpening a friend's knife, I placed a strip of masking tape about 1/4" away from the edge of the blade. My goal was to protect the damascus pattern from getting scuffed if I momentarily dropped the sharpening angle too low (as I had done on my own knife when I first started using water stones). What I discovered was that the thick tape, at that location, did a nice job of letting me know exactly where to keep the angle of the blade.

                                                      1. re: Eiron

                                                        I just made a small wooden wedge (kind of like a small wooden doorstop) with an angle of 16 degrees. I keep it with my water stones and use it to determine the proper angle before I start sharpening.

                                                        1. re: tanuki soup

                                                          Hi Soup,

                                                          I thought of doing something like that -- making a wooden wedge. How did you make yours? Did you have a machine shop?

                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                            Hi CK,

                                                            Nothing as complicated as all that. I just bought a small strip of wood at a DIY store, used a protractor to draw a line across it at 16 degrees, cut along the line with a fine-toothed hobby saw, drilled a small hole in it for hanging, and slapped two coats of varnish on it to make it waterproof.

                                                            Here's a picture of the final result -- not much to look at, but very handy for checking the blade angle (especially for a newbie at knife sharpening like me).

                                                            1. re: tanuki soup

                                                              Thank you very much. That looks like a Glestain Satoku. Awesome. You are not a newbie at knife sharpening anymore. You can make a knife with edge sharp enough to push cut paper (as opposed to slicing paper). I seriously doubt many newbies can do that.

                                                              1. re: tanuki soup

                                                                Tanunki, I'm always impressed with how good your handiwork looks. First the strop, now even just a little wedge of wood has a nice, clean, even look to it and that little hole in the corner for hanging it.

                                                                Anyway, nice resourcefulness. A lot of people ask how they can find or hold a ___ degree angle, but fewer just measure it on a protractor, make a guide, and move on.

                                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                  On top of that, he knows how to take photos. They are nice photos.

                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                    Thanks, CK. It's so easy with a digital camera -- just take 50 photos and delete the 49 bad ones ;-)

                                                                    1. re: tanuki soup

                                                                      Is that right? I thought for a long while that you have some semi to full professional photography background because I have seen many of the photo you uploaded here and they are always very nice.

                                                                        1. re: Eiron

                                                                          Eiron. Don't laugh my friend :D You will need to do that (take a lot of photos) when your new business up and running.

                                                                    2. re: cowboyardee

                                                                      Thanks for the kind words, cowboyardee. One of the advantages of living in rural Japan is that I have lots of time to fiddle around with bits of wood, glue, and sandpaper.

                                                                      I'm hoping to eventually work my way up to making a custom knife block to hold my modest collection of Japanese knives. I made a little stand for my board scrapers last week, and it gave me big ideas!

                                                                      1. re: tanuki soup

                                                                        You need to stop this. It is making us all look bad. :P

                                                        2. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                          kaji's got a great set of steel knives... but you won't be sharpening them. free sharpening service for life!

                                                  2. re: iyc_nyc

                                                    My son was at the shop where he purchased his Henckel Pro S knives and was talking to the knife rep. He suggested the Wusthof pull through as a good way to keep a reasonable edge on his knives and an alternative to using the steel, something you have to develop confidence in your technique to feel comfortable with. I use the steel, my son uses the pull through as does my wife.

                                                    Although many here say using a steel or wetstone is not that difficult to learn, they have not encountered my son-in-law. I was tring to demonstrate to him how to properly use a steel, I couldn't get the knife out of his hand fast enough. Seriously, how can you put the top edge of the knife against the steel? I suggested he get the knives professionally sharpened when they need it and use a pull through sharpener in the meantime. Since I shelled out the money for the Henckels Four Stars, I guess it's my responsiblity to buy the pull therough sharpener as well. I just wanted my daughter to have something I could cut with when I visit. They are off limits to her husband.

                                                    Regarding honing and sharpening and the removal of metal: Other than steeling or stropping, everything else involves various amounts of material removal. Honing removes material, just not as much as grinding does.

                                                    1. re: mikie

                                                      Okay, I'm now way over my head! You lost me at 'steeling or stropping' - don't know what those are.. but I will view the videos etc that Chem posted and hopefully will become more knowledgeable..

                                                      1. re: iyc_nyc


                                                        You know knife sharpening and honing, but I will recap. Honing is realigning (straightening) the bend edge. Sharpening is grinding to remove metal in order to form a new edge. Alton Brown has a short (1 minute) and entertaining video on these:


                                                        Stropping is the like very final stage of knife sharpening. It is probably not something that everyone has to worry about. Thomas Stuckey and Mark Richmond each has a video on stropping:



                                                        As for steeling, it appears that Mikie and I have different definitions. For me, steeling a knife is the same as honing a knife.

                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                          We may indeed have slightly different deffinitions and it's easy to understand how that can happen with all the honing, steeling, sharpening, grinding information on the internet and the way people tend to use, missuse and adapt terminology.

                                                          My honing definition is based more or less on this definition: Honing is an abrasive machining process that produces a precision surface on a metal workpiece by scrubbing an abrasive stone against it along a ...
                                                          en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honing_(metalworking) - Definition in context
                                                          This involves the removal of a small amount of metal from the edge of the knife.

                                                          My steeling definition is more or less on this first definition: to overlay, point, or edge with steel. <steeled ...
                                                          This idealily doesn't remove metal, but realigns the metal to maintain a sharp edge, although at some point metal fatigue will cause the loss of some metal.

                                                          I believe we use the same definition for sharpening, that's the removal of more metal to reshape the edge, which is only done once steeling and honing are no longer producing the desired results.

                                                          1. re: mikie

                                                            Yes, I have read about this honing definition you mentioned. As far as I know, the definition you mentioned is well-accepted in the general community, but for reasons I don't understand, the knife community has a different definition. It is great that we have clarified the definition as you have offered very good advices for us.

                                                            By the way, I cracked up when I read "Since I shelled out the money for the Henckels Four Stars, I guess it's my responsiblity to buy the pull therough sharpener as well."

                                                            That is very funny.

                                                          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                            Great primer - -and the differing interpretations of terms helps explain a lot. Thanks!

                                            2. Not a fan of the sticky-thingie sharpeners. Lots of choice here:


                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Kagemusha

                                                what is a sticky-thingie sharpener?

                                                1. re: iyc_nyc

                                                  The abrasive angled wands-in-a-block item above.

                                              2. go to paulsfinest.com
                                                they sell sakai takaguchi damascus knives in 17, 45 and 63 layers
                                                i use a combo of the 17 and 63 layer for my knife roll , at very good prices
                                                these are really better than any european style knife for holding an edge
                                                not to mention that they are works of art

                                                1. Back on task, Erica, did you recieve the Mundial knives as a present from a family member, if so would there be hard feelings if you choose not to use them? That's your first conundrum. You have plenty of time to aquire the knife of your dreams, but family members feelings can be difficult to mend.

                                                  Just about any knife, if kept well sharpened, will serve you well and the Mundial knives are better than what many people use regularly. I would use them and be excited to have such good knives as a starting point. You then have time to experiment with other knives and decide if you prefer western or eastern knives and the subtleties between brands and types, German vs French for example. It's easy to put down a Ben Franklin for a diecnt knife, but not always necessary, shop around and look for good deals, they do pop up from time to time. There have been many great suggestions put forth on this board and by all means take them into consideration, but remember that a knife can be a very personal thing, what works well for one person may or may not feel comfortable for another. Personally I'm more of a German style Chefs knife kind of person, that's what's comfortable for me, but that's also what I'm used to and I really haven't spent much time with other styles of knives. Take the time you have to learn about knives and technique and try out different styles so that Ben Franklin is well spent.