HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >

Discussion

A Henckels that costs more than my car

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

Ok, $1K for a Henckels. It's damascus forged (as opposed to the damascus clad of a Shun or whatever, though not lost-to-the-ages wootz crucible steel or anything). Profiled like traditional German made Henckelses. No full-length bolster. I don't know the weight or thickness, but I feel reasonably comfortable guessing that it is in line with other German chefs knives. African blackwood handle. Oh, and they use lasers somehow (though AFAIK the Henckels people don't come to your home and cut your food with said lasers).

I'm trying not to bias people, but my views will probably quickly become obvious, so let's get it over with: I'm not impressed.

What I'm wondering is who the target demographic is for this knife. It would seem to me that for the same amount of money, you could get a custom knife with more collectors value/better performance/greater potential as a conversation piece.

So if this knife appeals to you, I want to know. I promise not to ridicule. I just want to know why. Any reasons whatsoever will be accepted.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. "No bolster"

    I think they call it a partial or reduced bolster.

    "What I'm wondering is who the target demographic is for this knife"

    Everyone really. At least that is why I read. I read that most cutlery manufacturers do not earn money from their very top line of knives. In fact, they lose money from a pure sale point-of-view. These very expensive and beautiful knives are really used as a promotion/advertising tools to draw people in. Yes, 99.99% of buyers won't buy these knives, but they will admire the knives over and over and then buy another Henckels.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      ""No bolster"

      I think they call it a partial or reduced bolster."
      _____
      You're right - i was already editing that as you wrote your reply.

      As to the rest of your response...
      I dunno - it just seems to be an odd strategy for Henckels. Their high end lines had been moving more towards a Japanese design until recently. Amongst knife enthusiasts, they were gaining back a little respect for offering high-end, quality products. I know that knife enthusiasts make up a very small part of their customer base, but still it begs the question - what line are they trying to push on their newer customers?

      It sorta looks like they're just trying to justify the cost of the Cronidur chefs knives (also at williams sonoma) by making another even more outrageously overpriced mass produced knife and selling it at the same store.
      http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...
      Which is fine I guess. Looks almost like a bargain, comparatively. But then who do those appeal to?

      1. re: cowboyardee

        Cowboy,

        I see this Damascus Forged series as a replacement of their previous 1731 series. The 1731 series was its most expensive series above Cronidur, above Perfection. Now, it appears the 1731 series has been discontinued, so this Damascus Forged series must be it's replacement.

        http://gearpatrol.com/blog/wp-content...

        http://www.zwilling.com/en/knife-seri...

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Hmmm

          I seemed to have missed that line. I actually like the handles on that one better than the blackwood on the Damascus line. Do you know what they cost?

          This might be a marketing improvement for Henckels. People are still confused enough about damascus that they might think it will perform better. And it does look more expensive, handle aside.

          1. re: cowboyardee

            Cowboy,

            Ok. Somehow I thought it is $700, but I must be wrong. Because it is 350 Euro on Henckels' online store.

            Edit: Both wrong. A old data from Amazon shows the Chef knife (1731) was sold for $450. Not as high as I thought, but more expensive than buying it now. I guess it is consider as a real clearence item.

    2. Ha! I saw this a couple days ago.This knife will appeal to people who shop at Williams-Sonoma
      with too much money and who don't cook much.They don't know or care about all the amazing custom knife makers in North America,never mind the fine Japanese steel now available from many fine purveyors in their own backyards.
      To each their own I guess.

      1. cowboy: "What I'm wondering is who the target demographic is for this knife. It would seem to me that for the same amount of money, you could get a custom knife with more collectors value/better performance/greater conversation-piece value."

        Yes, right on all points. The demographic is IMO, sadly, somewhat typical of W-S these days: folks who don't know any better, yet want to feel special, yet have a lot of disposable cash. Maybe it's true that the "superluxury" goods are selling better than ever.

        Melted meteorites aside, 160 layers of Damascus really isn't all that, as you know. 4+ folds? A better question is how you fold two layers of material to end up with 160? 5 bends of 5 layers? Wow, they pulled out all the stops.

        As someone who's into blade profiles, I have to say I like the geometry. It's got a little "ham knife" in its pedigree, don't you think? But, hey, I'm a sucker for a touch of drop-point *and* a big belly.

        I'm sure Chem will report what it's vitals are.

        23 Replies
        1. re: kaleokahu

          "I'm sure Chem will report what it's vitals are"

          Hmm, between the four of us, I am guessing you have the best mean to purchase one.

            1. re: cowboyardee

              Not even enough room on the credit cards for a buy-and-return test drive, sorry!

              1. re: petek

                Shh.... don't use that term. We are luring Kaleo to buy this Henckels Damascus knife. You will startle him with that word.

            2. re: kaleokahu

              "But, hey, I'm a sucker for a touch of drop-point *and* a big belly."
              ________
              Wait, are we still talking about knives?

              I assume at this point that we have scared away anyone who would be inclined to say anything nicer about this knife than you just have. So I'll float this question after your post, seeing as you at least like the German profile and you've made knives (and I'll agree that the little bit of drop point there at the end is at least stylish):

              What's the point of using harder steel on a knife with a traditional German thick grind? (I'll assume that this and the Cronidur and the 1731 have standard thick-ish grinds, since that would help sell their more affordable knives, but who knows - maybe this could be Henckels' $1000 version of a Shun) Seems to me that you'd be better off just using a steel that still has some toughness and impact resistance, steeling the crap out of it between sharpenings, and using it as a meat cleaver when the urge strikes - it's the main virtue of that grind anyway.

              I can appreciate working with that profile and grind as a custom knife maker - some people like that style and want something unique and handmade and with a personality of its own. But the whole concept of pricey, high end, mass-produced German style chef knives just comes off as odd to me.

              1. re: cowboyardee

                "What's the point of using harder steel on a knife with ..."

                Do we know it is made from hard steel knife (>HRC 60)?

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Not really. They're not publishing. We can sorta assume so since the description lists it as "exceptionally hard" and boasts about their ice-hardening making a harder blade. Not that this translates to anything specific on the rockwell scale.

                  I wouldn't expect HRC 66 like their powdered steel lines, but I would be surprised if this wasn't a little harder than the 54-58 HRC of standard German knives.

                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    Cowboy,

                    Yeah, but I feel like it is a recital. Henckels repeats the same thing for about anything.

                    Here, Henckels Pure Chef's knife:
                    "Each knife is precision forged using Zwilling’s Sigmaforge process resulting in an exceptionally hard yet flexible blade."

                    http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

                    Henckels Cronidur Chef's knife:
                    "Each knife is precision forged using Zwilling’s Sigmaforge process resulting in an exceptionally hard yet flexible blade."

                    http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

                    Of course, Henckels Damascus:
                    "Each knife is precision forged using Zwilling’s Sigmaforge process resulting in an exceptionally hard yet flexible blade."

                    http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Fair enough. As I said in a post below, this could just be a prettied-up version of a henckels twin Profection sold for a ridiculous price

                2. re: cowboyardee

                  cowboy: Oops, I see now the double entendre ramifications.

                  "What's the point of using harder steel on a knife with a traditional German thick grind?"

                  Not much. Not being a big Nipponophile (mostly out of sheer ignorance), I don't really subscribe to the Euroknife-as-Cleaver generalization. Sure, you can use them to bust down with, but that's what my cleaver is for. Personally, I think a little too much is made of hardness all around. Harder makes some sense if hardness/toughness are not opposite spectrum ends, but there are more variables in the steels these days. And frankly, even if everyone reading here got the hand-sharpening Jones, they would be a tiny minority of the people buying this kind of knife.

                  I'll also take partial issue with the characterization that this particular blade profile looks German. To me *the profile* looks like "Germans interpreting 1800s American Ham Knife." If you add in the tapered bolsters and hidden tang, it looks vaguely Modern Japanese artisanal to me as well--sort of design by Kommittee.

                  To me high-end and mass produced don't go well together regardless of grind or profile. I think this is something a well-meaning, unwitting person would give his chef as a retirement present.

                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    < this is something a well-meaning, unwitting person would give his chef as a retirement present>

                    That is how I acquired a Michel Bras Santoku that I assume was purchased at WIlliams Sonoma by a good friend, although it wasn't for retiring. Nice gift!

                    1. re: la2tokyo

                      Michel Bras looks nice. The construction is probably the same as Shun Classic (VG-10 core... etc), but it is coated with a titanium layer and it has Bras's signature emblem and has a knife shealth.

                    2. re: kaleokahu

                      "I'll also take partial issue with the characterization that this particular blade profile looks German. To me *the profile* looks like "Germans interpreting 1800s American Ham Knife." If you add in the tapered bolsters and hidden tang, it looks vaguely Modern Japanese artisanal to me as well."
                      ______
                      I'll defer to you here - I don't know anything much about the history of American/German knife making, and a quick google search for 'Ham knife' turns up mostly knives for slicing prosciutto and serrano ham.

                      There seems to be a common misconception that increased hardness makes for sharper knives. That has more to do with grain structure, and the grain structures of Henckels' standard lines of German knives aren't bad. I do think that hardness has value in edge stability for acutely angled knives, as long as they aren't used like meat cleavers.

                      It's not that anyone has to use Euro knives as a cleaver. But those thin, hard, acutely angled Japanese knives just cut better than German knives if you avoid impact work. And they seem to have a little more variation to blade geometry, steel, and technology to justify slightly higher prices, so I can see spending a little extra money on one if it translates to cutting performance. As you implied, these differences aren't very useful for people who don't maintain their knives very well in the first place. And still, I can't imagine paying a grand for a Japanese mass produced knife either.

                      1. re: cowboyardee

                        cowboy: This is not directly on thread, but have you ever played with a microtome? My B-I-L is a histologist, and among his other gifts to me was a box of microtome blades (and a 14" rotatating bench stone/strop and an evil-looking brain sectioning knife). As you probably know, microtomes are used to cut tissue samples as thinly and cleanly as possible for microscopic pathological anaylsis. In some cases only 1 or two cell layers thin.

                        These straightedge blades, at least the ones I got, are quite thin at the very edge but very wide (maybe 5-6mm) at the spine, which sits maybe 2" over the edge. Their primary bevels are hollow-ground with a much smaller wheel than most knifemakers use. I believe the edge bevels are put on flat.

                        I raise this because I have always considered it a bit of a myth that thinner stock yields a sharper knife all other things being equal. With a very sharp, finished edge leading the way, what follows afterward is, IMO not as important. In fact, the sharpest (knife) blades I've ever handled were full-convex ground with a relatively thick "supported" cross-section right behind the edge. Kramer always told me that the thick support in a convex edge actually enhances cutting ability by leveraging the cut. Does this have credence for you?

                        1. re: kaleokahu

                          "In some cases only 1 or two cell layers thin. "

                          It is exactly because it is cutting a thin layer that the blade thickness does not matter, just like a yanagiba is actually very thick at the spine.

                          http://lh3.ggpht.com/___fzu8Ptz-o/ScU...

                          Thick blade cutting thin/soft objects - fine.
                          Thin blade cutting thick/hard objects - fine.
                          Thick blade cutting thick/hard objects - no

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Chem: You've never met my axe. Cuts wood better than my machete.

                            1. re: kaleokahu

                              Now you're talking about something different than sharpness and angle of attack. Now you're introducing velocity and head speed and the dynamics of a moving cutting edge. I would guess that if you could get the same mass in your machete as you have in your axe you would see different results, although only for a short period of time as the finer entry of the machete would dull quickly compared to the more obtuse angle of the axe.

                              I have no idea why I responded to this, and with this degree of detail, I've lost it, it's finally happend. There's men at my door in clean white coats.

                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                Kaleo,

                                Well, that is not exactly what I original meant to address. I wanted to respond to the "wedging" resistance for a thick blade knife. Not the mass x acceleration and not considering the splitting property of wood. In responding to your microtome example, it is exactly because one is slicing a very thin and soft layer of tissue that the resistance is less of a problem. In other words, when slicing a soft and thin layer of tissue, a thin blade has less to offer than a thick blade. When a sushi chef uses a yanagiba (often has a rather thick blade) knife, it is also not a huge problem as well. The same yanagiab trying to cut open a butternut squash will be different.

                                Some day you can introduce me to your little friend (axe), ok? Maybe after your other little friend (Le Creuset)

                            2. re: kaleokahu

                              "I raise this because I have always considered it a bit of a myth that thinner stock yields a sharper knife all other things being equal."
                              ______
                              This may be a bit of a myth, but it wasn't quite what I was getting at. You're right that a thick blade can be every bit as sharp as a thin one. But I'm not really talking about sharpness. I'm talking about ease in cutting, which is a function of both sharpness as well as thinness (especially near the edge, but also generally) as separate factors.

                              I recently made a thread about buying a very thin blade - the Sakai Yusuke - you probably saw it. Compare to a wusthof classic - standard, thick behind its edge German blade. If you sharpened that wusthof enough to shave your face with it, it still would have a much harder time cutting through winter squash than a slightly dull sakai yusuke gyuto. The difference isn't subtle. It's not sharpness at play here.

                              I pick winter squash because it exaggerates the difference, but in truth many things we cut in the kitchen are subject to this effect to some degree. Likewise, while a sharp thick blade like that of a microtome can cut extremely thin samples in the lab due to superb sharpness and machine guides, in the kitchen it is slightly easier to cut extremely thin slices with a thinner knife (or one with extreme asymmetry or a single bevel edge), sharpness being equal, because in the kitchen you use your knuckles as a crude guide, and because angling to cut paper thin slices with a thick double beveled knife tends to cause steering/uneven slices.

                              Again, I'm not saying thinner is always better - there is a trade-off in terms of what kind of treatment that knife can take. But that goes back up to my original point - if you're gonna make a thick German ground blade, you may as well make it to take a little impact, since if you're gonna baby a knife, something a little thinner cuts better. Your axe example is timely because things change once we start including swinging for impact (like a meat cleaver) in our considerations - then having some extra mass in the knife blade (along with some toughness) becomes more important.

                              BTW- I haven't used a microtome personally, but the unit I work on is directly adjacent to a histology lab, so I am familiar with how they work, with a general idea of the wedge shaped blades they use.

                          2. re: kaleokahu

                            Kaleo and Cowboy,

                            "pricey, high end, mass-produced German style chef knives"

                            "To me high-end and mass produced don't go well together"

                            Let me throw something out just for an interesting discussion. Clearly the Henckels Damascus knives are made by Henckels Zwillings, one of the largest and oldest knife manufacturers. However, does this truly translate into mass production? Like you two, I don't presume a lot of people will buy these knives, and I believe Henckels produces these more so for publicity than direct profit. Conversely, Mizuno knives are about the same price range and they are highly respected, so I won't be surprised that the sale figure of Mizuno knives are about the same as Henckels Damascus. In other words, are these Henckels Damascus knives mass producted when the sale numbers may not be all that high.

                            http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/Miz...

                            :) I thought this is a devil's advocate thinking session.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              Chem: I know W-S marks up their knives at least 150%. Are you seriously contending a German bladesmith is pattern welding these up at the forge, forging/grinding out the bolsters by hand and fitting up these knives (and getting them here, marketing, advertising, etc.) for under $400?

                              This blade has web cutting and CNC written all over it. Remember the lasers? They may not make all that many, but I'll believe they're not mass-produced when I see two that are not exactly the same dimensions.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                I'm with Kaleokahu on this one - i thought it was obvious that the Henckels was mass produced - for one there are a lot of Williams Sonoma stores, and for another the description, complete with laser testing, sure makes it seem like a mass produced knife. Frankly, if Henckels produced a hand crafted knife (unlikely), I would expect them to be trumpeting it from the mountaintops.

                                The Mizuno in my mind is a perfect counter example - the description takes pains to make it clear that you're buying a hand crafted blade made by a master craftsman. I mean, I'm not in his shop to verify this and I don't own a Mizuno honyaki, but i'm pretty sure that personal craftsmanship by someone who's spent his life making knives is what is supposed to justify the price.

                        2. I read the description and the way I take it is that they are trying to say they found the formula for
                          "true Damascus steel" which I find hard to believe, see wiki

                          "The original method of producing Damascus steel is not known. Due to differences in raw materials and manufacturing techniques, modern attempts to duplicate the metal have failed. Today, the term is conventionally used to describe steel that mimics the appearance and performance of Damascus steel, usually that which is produced by the techniques of crucible forging or pattern welding."

                          A grand for that, nope not a chance

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Dave5440

                            I believe the method to wootz damascus was more or less rediscovered in the last few decades.
                            http://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/JOM/...

                            The henckels in question is pattern welded (wootz damascus was not folded), which makes for a pretty pattern and can produce a nice blade but doesn't have any functional advantages over other common knife making techniques. I don't have anything against pattern welded knives - Bob Kramer and Devin Thomas make some nice ones - but $1K for a mass produced knife seems pretty optimistic of Henckels, much less one with old school German geometry.

                            1. re: cowboyardee

                              cowboy: Separate quick response here. If that's pattern, it's pretty darn ugly or I need new glasses. And if it's pattern, why brag up 160 layers. At that price they ought to have the Bundeswehr insignia in patterned into the blade.

                          2. This knife appeals to me because if I buy it I can tell my friends "That Henckels cost more than cowboyardee's car!"

                            1 Reply