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Aug 7, 2012 08:42 AM

Knife pros - What is this knife??

Okay, post is a little disingenuous as I already know the basics. I recently bought a Henckels knife at auction. I knew it was an older knife as evidenced by its carbon steel construction and solid wood handle. However, when I picked it up, I was stunned by how lightweight it was and how slim the spine was.

At first, I was upset that I purchased what I thought was a window model or an otherwise poor imitation of a heavy-duty chef's knife. After some work in the kitchen however, it is becoming a fast favorite. The knife slips through veg smoother and with less effort than any other I have had the pleasure to try. it is remarkable.

Some pics are below. In #2 and #3, the one in question is the center blade. If anyone knows something of the history of Henckels and can tell me what the scoop is, I would appreciate it.

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  1. Hi. Nice score. I don’t if it is true or not, but I recall reading a blurb from an ebay seller stating that the older, carbon steel knives were made much thinner and lighter than modern ones. Overtime, they started making the blades thicker, added the big honking bolster and finger guard, and heavier overall bc many attribute heft as a sign of quality.

    7 Replies
    1. re: JavaBean

      No, I don't know about the history. Like JavaBean said, congratulation on the knife. It looks great. Yeah, thinner is not worse. In fact, one of the biggest selling point for today's Japanese influenced knives (like Shun and Global) are that they are thinner than the modern Henckels and Wusthof.

      Again, great knife and great photo shots.

      *Java, I meant to reply to Ernie, but accidentially replied to you. Sorry for the confusion*

      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        A problem with Shuns is the very fine angle of the edge. Very thin and fine and that can equal brittle. I had one Shun that was only used for cheese and cured meats. After awhile the blade almost looked serrated. I was, with some work, able to bring the edge back and get it smooth and sharp. I do have 2 Shun Ken Onions and they are my most often reached for knives. I do have a Sabatier that is almost 40 YO. It takes an edge beautifully and is another favorite.

        I do have to be careful with knives and I do need a good bolster. I have an auto-immune disease that can turn nicks on my fingers to ulcers and could lead to amputation. I'd hate to mess up my manicure. Give me knives with good bolsters.

      2. re: JavaBean

        I suspect the association of thick, heavy, full-bolstered knives with quality came as a response to the flood of thin, stamped, bolsterless knives as machine made knives became widely available. Many of the early mass produced stamped knives (as well as many current ones) were indeed pretty crappy, but it wasn't their thinness or their lack of bolsters that made them so. Bolsters and heft were just the easiest ways for a consumer to spot the difference between cheaper and more expensive knives early on, so companies like Henckels exaggerated these features.

        I know that Henckels used to make carbon knives that were a lot like some of the vintage French knives people are more familiar with. And that looks like what Ernie has scored here. The company has been making knives for a few centuries now. Unfortunately, I don't really know exactly when they stopped making this kind of knife, so I can't say with any authority when Ernie's knife might have been produced.

        1. re: cowboyardee

          I think you suspicions maybe valid. I’ve seen some older ones with the more flat French-style blade curve as well. I wonder if they moved towards a more rounded curved edge to differentiate themselves from the French brands / Sabatier. Iirc, Sabatier, Henckel and Wusthof were the three main brands.

          1. re: JavaBean

            And the recent Henckels knives are even more round. The spine is almost dead flat now.


            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Do you know what the purpose / advantage of having a chef’s knife with a tip that curves up that high?

      3. Hi, Ernie:

        Yes, you got a good one.

        As others have mentioned, modern Euro chefs have been fattening for some time, and I think shoppers' evaluation-by-weight is a part of the explanation. It's a false economy, but many consumers think an expensive knife should be heavy.

        Something also to remember is that >99% of modern knives are machine-shaped, whereas older knives tend to be all or mostly hand-shaped. Look at your tang--that rat-tail shape took skill to forge, and that element usually translates into improved balance. Another thing you will find is that, on modern knives, IF there is a distal taper, it is dead flat-straight, which makes for carrying thickness farther out toward the tip. I bet if you look down the spine of your Henkels, you will see a very slight *concavity* which is the result of hand forging. What this does is it allows quite a thick spine back at the very heel (for the tough work that needs it), yet the blade thins out faster. For example, I have two 9" Henkels, one old one newer. Here's how they mike out.

        NEW OLDER
        Bolster 0.145 0.196
        1" 0.138 0.153
        2" 0.115 0.131
        3" 0.102 0.104
        4" 0.092 0.083
        5" 0.082 0.069
        6" 0.063 0.056
        7" 0.050 0.042
        8" 0.040 0.031
        9" 0.020 0.019

        A thin tip flicks through soft things easier, e.g., While this budding chef (my friend's son) is wielding a Murray Carter gyoto, the point is pretty obvious. See


        1 Reply
        1. re: kaleokahu

          Great info all!

          I really appreciate the input. Kaleo, the knife spine is indeed convex when looking along it. I would have never noticed that.

          It's surprising that when using this knife I begin to feel that my other ones seem almost overbuilt by comparison. I don't think that it is going to be my go-to when breaking down a chicken, say but slicing and chopping veg is fun with this guy. Easy to handle, lightweight and slim as a razor.

        2. That looks quite like my old Sabatier Chef au Ritz 10" carbon steel knife, but with a longer thinner handle and smaller rivets. "Old" - nearly 40 years old, like Candy's. Sabatier is not an exclusive brand name, many different makers use it and some of their knives are better than others. Sounds like you got one of the good ones!

          1. In the late 60s or early 70s I had a Henckels that looked very similar. It was made in Brazil. Sadly, it met an ugly end. It was a great knife, very much like a Sabatier of the same vintage I still have, whatever the brand was that used a cluster of grapes as their logo. nice.

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