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Jul 18, 2012 11:20 AM

Carbon Sabatier Slicer knife user feedback.

I’m working on restoring an old Sabatier (**** elephant, carbon steel, 10”) slicer knife and would appreciate any comments on some 1st impressions and questions.

A) The knife starts out somewhat stiff at the heel and becomes more flexible as it tapers towards the tip. I’m a bit taken back that forward section flexes almost like filet knife. Is it supposed to be like that?

B) I had to reshape most of the edge to deal with divots or open spots from the previous sharpening mistakes. Aside for first inch or so –nearest the tip, the rest of edge is now mostly flat. Would putting a modest curve on it be helpful for carving?

C) What are the normal patina colors and will it take on an iridescent blue hues type patina?
I've already removed sections of its' somewhat ugly shades of brown patina to clean up some surface rust and minor pitting issues.

D) I found the steel surprising easy to grind, should I expect anything more than so-so edge retention?


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  1. A) Not 100% positive. The older Sabatiers I've seen have generally been stiffer knives. That said, there's not much that will make a stiff knife flexible besides thinning the bejesus out of it, which I don't often see done on older knives. So my guess is it was designed to be thin and flexible near the tip. But again, I'm kinda talking out of my rear, here.

    B) Toss up. Depends somewhat on how you think the knife will be used from here on out. I tend to like a flatter edge for most of the knife's length if it is to be used for any prep - but that's just me. If it's strictly for carving, I do like a little curve toward the tip. Sounds like you want to add the curve a bit earlier (which might perhaps make the curve at the tip more dramatic?). Even so, few knives are dead straight until an inch before the tip. A picture might help.

    C) Most of the older carbon knives tend to have a brownish patina (though not brighter orange rust), usually because it's built up for so long. Once this is removed, you can get more of a blue patina effect, either naturally or by forcing a patina. Red meat and beef fat are common ways to get a patina to lean towards blue, but every knife is a little different and can respond a bit unpredictably in terms of what colors it takes.

    D) Most older carbon sabatiers are made of especially soft steel. They tend to sharpen very well and very easily, but their edges can also fold very easily. This isn't all bad - these are the kinds of knives that steeling was really made for. A steel works especially well on em, and a dull-seeming knife can be made sharp again very quickly with a few good swipes.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cowboyardee

      "...which might perhaps make the curve at the tip more dramatic?"
      I think I meant to say 'less dramatic.' But thinking about it, even that isn't necessarily true, so you should probably just ignore the little quote above. Sorry bout that.

    2. My older TI carbon ten inch slicer is stiff, seems like softer steel that takes very well to frequent steeling. It gets so much less use thn my ten inch chef or 2 1/2 inch paring that the patinas are not remotely omparable, but it gives a neutral grey impression, not blue.

      1. Hi, JB:

        A) Yes. Older Euro knives like this tend to have a more pronounced distal taper than modern production. It's quite useful, and tends to impart a better balance. I think the thicker tip in moderns is the combined result of people being able to afford multiple specialty knives, mass-produced hardening, stainless steels and more acceptance of blade abuse (e.g., using tips as frozen food picks/prybars).

        B) As a pure slicer/carver, no. The traditional Euro carver has a long, straight edge.

        C) The normal patina colors to expect will be a mottled, silvery grey to dark grey. You could cold-blue the steel if you want (Google Birchwood-Casey), but the benefit would be mostly aesthetic.

        D) Unless the heat-treat has been lost by regrinding, you should expect good edge retention. Easy sharpenability does not equate perfectly with edge retention.


        1 Reply
        1. re: kaleokahu

          "Easy sharpenability does not equate perfectly with edge retention."
          This is true. The steel in a lot of older carbon knives is not very wear resistant and seems to have a pretty ideal grain structure for sharpening. Relatively simple carbon steels tend to sharpen easily as long as they're heat treated well, regardless of edge retention.

          However, some of the older Sabatiers in particular I've seen seem to be made especially soft. They sharpen very quickly in part because of the steel makeup but also because they are not very hard (comparatively). In this particular case, the only way to say for sure would be to use it for a while and see if it warps easily (or else have the hardness tested, I suppose).

          I'm just guessing the steel is soft because it's an old carbon Sabatier. But you're right that ease of sharpening alone doesn't mean it will lack in edge retention.

        2. JavaBean,

          Good to hear. Both Tim and cowboy have extensive hands-on experience with Sabatier knives.

          As for your last question, it depends. The practical edge retention depends on several factors. One of which is strength and hardness, and one of which is related to grind (abrasive). Based on your description, this knife is soft and is very easy to sharpen. As such, I do not expect the knife to have above average edge retention. However, you will find out very soon, and you can let us know how it compares to your other knives. That being said, it may be difficult to compare the edge retention of a carving knife to that of a Chef's knife for example.

          1. Thanks for the insight, guys. This is my first time with a carbon Sab, so I’m flying blind.

            The previous owner(s) weren’t skilled enough to sharpen it correctly, so I doubt they thinned it. More than likely, it was tapered like that at the factory. The sale ad said it may be from the 60’s –dunno for sure. I haven’t figured out if its’ flexible tip is a good or bad thing yet, but it’s different.

            I’m planning on using it as a dedicated slicing/ carving knife. I mostly debone and slice against a cutting board, but it would please my better half to carve a holiday ham or turkey on the bone – in front of guests. Would adding a modest curve help with bone in cutting?

            What’s left of the existing patina is akin to the orangey-brown of onions. I’m going to remove the rest of it and shoot for the red meat blue colorations. Anything will look better.

            The steel is definitely softer than I had imagined. I had to switch to finer stone because the one that I normally use for coarse grinding work was removing metal too fast. I suspect it will take a very good edge (not as good a carbon jknife) and would be surprised to get more than so-so edge retention. The knife won’t see a lot of use, so I’m more curious than concerned.