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Knives - yes, again!

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I know this topic is somewhat beaten to death on the boards and people always seem to get very passionate about their knives! A couple of grey areas have arisen for me, that perhaps some of you more experienced CHer's can clear up.

First let me point out my reasoning behind this post.

I'm an enthusiastic (though not yet, fantastic) home cook and my wife has offered that for my birthday we can finally get/start to get a good set of knives. Previously we've only had knives you could pick up at your local supermarket so this is quite the big upgrade. We're looking to get a 'set for life' or at least that's before we get the knife buying bug many of you seem to have!

Having handled a few knives months back when in London (and not asking nearly enough questions) I was particularly fond of some of the Wusthof knives. I'm getting to the point here honest...

So at the moment we're looking at the Wusthof Classic/Wusthof Classic Ikon knives...though I'm not entirely sure what the major difference is between the two besides the latter being a slightly different shape (in the chef's knife I'm looking at) and a little more expensive. Any clue?

Also, I read a lot on here not to buy knife sets. I can understand this from poor manufacturer's etc but it could save us a decent amount buying a 3 or 5 knife set in this range, is this a big deal?

Lastly, knife block's? Are these bad for keeping knives, do they cause more damage/dull them quicker than alternative storage solutions.

Would love to get your feedback on these points, hopefully you managed to not fall asleep read my post!

Thanks.

P.s. Planning to order online and we live in England if this makes any difference at all to recommendations...

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  1. The difference in the wusthof classics and ikons is prety much just the handle. Since you dont really hold a knife by the handle if you are using it correctly, the difference is almost purely cosmetic,

    Knife blocks are fine assuming you use a little care in putting the knives in it, and dont put anything wet in your block.

    As for sets, it just comes down to getting what you really need. Instead of buying a bunch of knives you dont really need, its usually best to just get the 4 knives that will actually see some use. A chefs knife, a paring knife, a bread knife and MAYBE a boning knife.

    1. We have a old thread on this. Typically speaking, there is a major difference in philosophy between the German and Japanese knife companies. For German companies, the biggest difference between different lines of knives are the handle. For Japanese companies, the blade and steel get changed.

      To answer your specific question, currently (not talking about the past). Currently, the Ikon and Classic use exactly the same steel. The handles are different, and another major difference is the bolster. Classic has full bolster. Ikon has reduced bolster. I own a Blackwood Ikon paring knife and I like it, but you will have to determine yourself.

      <Also, I read a lot on here not to buy knife sets.>

      There are two reasons behind this -- for me anyway. First, I think twyst has answered very well. Many of the knives in a knife block are not very useful. So you will be paying a lot of knives which you may only use during the first month for fun. Second, even for the knives you use, you won't rely on each of them the same weight. For example, most people rely on their Chef's knife (or Santoku) the most, and follow up with a paring knife, and then bread knife or a boning knife, and then maybe a filet knife...utility knife...etc. So let say you have $500 you want to spend on knives. Why buy the same level of quality knife for your Chef's knife as your utility knife. Why not spend $300-400 on your Chef's knife which you will use the most and spend $20-30 on your bread knife which you will rarely use. You may even get more out of your money by getting two Chef's knives instead of a Chef's knife and a utility knife.

      1. Somehow I knew it would turn into a discussion of Japanese knives, even though the OP asked only about Wüsthof, but I thought it would take a little longer than two replies!

        I agree about avoiding sets, but it's a matter of taste. A matched set looks nice on the counter, but then where do you put another knife, which you are sure to want at some point?

        Blocks are good. Without one, chances are knives will be tossed in a drawer now and then, which is bad for the edge and somewhat unsafe when rummaging around ror something. A block keeps the sharpest knife in safety.

        I have the Wüsthof "Create-a-Set" block. This has several slots, but no knives — only shears and a honing steel. The shears work very well, and the rod has finer grooves than the common Shun honing steel. The slots are horizontal, which is better for the edges, except for four steak knife slots. This is a small block, but a good value, in my opinion.

        I advise that you first decide what knives you want to keep at hand in a block. If there is a set which satisfies this list, and which you like, then go for it. But expect to want another knife eventually. It is unlikely you will decide today what you need for life. If you don't get a set, then just get a block of the right size with a little room for expansion, and shop for knives individually.

        1. I believe the blade steel and shape are same. The classic has a thick, full length finger bolster...which eventually causes sharpening headaches. The icon has a partial length finger bolster and a weighted end cap.

          Sets are ok if it contains the exact knives you want (and is cheaper), but most have ones you don't need...and even if you did need them, you don't need them all of the same quality. IMO, you're better off spending more on your everyday knives and less on your ancillary ones.

          1 Reply
          1. re: JavaBean

            <I believe the blade steel and shape are same>

            Yeah, I think this is accurate. There was a short period of time which the two lines of knives (Classic vs Ikon) were hardened to different levels and have different edge angles, but they have become the same since then.

            <full length finger bolster...which eventually causes sharpening headaches>

            Yep. It does not matter if you free sharpening or use a tool like Edge Pro.

          2. I'll share with you the recommendations of America's Test Kitchen, as of November 2011, for what they're worth.

            They say, "We performed an exhaustive test of 8 different knife sets and in the end, our testing confirmed that you are much better off shopping for knives à la carte; that way, you get only what you really need."

            Their top recommendations are split between Wüsthof and Victorinox Fibrox. Victorinox Fibrox 8-inch Chef's Knife, Wüsthof Classic 3 1/2-inch Paring Knife, Victorinox Fibrox 6-inch Straight Boning Knife: Flexible, Wüsthof Classic 10-inch Bread Knife, Victorinox Fibrox Granton Edge Slicing/Carving Knife, Shun Classic Kitchen Shears, and the Bodum Bistro Universal Knife Block. Total: $335, or if you leave out the carving knife as the Wüsthof Classic Deluxe set does, $285.

            They also have a best-buy à la carte set that's almost all Victorinox Fibrox: 8-inch Chef's Knife, Paring Knife 3 1/4-inch, 6-inch Straight Boning Knife: Flexible, 12-Inch Granton Edge Slicing Knife, 10 1/4-Inch Curved Blade Bread Knife, plus J. A. Henckels International Kitchen Shears—Take Apart and the Bodum Bistro Universal Knife Block. Total: $190, or if you leave out the slicing knife, $140.

            ATK includes a boning knife in place of Wüsthof's utility knife. Personally, I believe the utility knife may be more useful, though others here may differ. If you substitute the Wüsthof 6" utility knife for the Victorinox Fibrox boning knife, that adds $60 to the price of each set; the Victorinox equivalent is $15 cheaper.

            2 Replies
            1. re: John Francis

              I am surprise that they pick a bunch of Wusthof and no Henckels.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                These are just ATK's first picks for each type of knife. For all I know, they may also recommend Henckel knives, but because of the testing they do, they've put the other makes first, and only their first choices make the cut for this summary list.

            2. Well first of all, thanks for the replies! Some really good info here.

              Based on this feedback I'm pretty confident in simply getting a 8" Wusthof Classic Ikon Chef's knife and taking it from there. Probably also going to take a close look at the knife block GH1618 mentions...

              Many thanks!

              4 Replies
              1. re: JamesBend

                This is the block I have:

                http://www.cutleryandmore.com/wusthof...

                1. re: GH1618

                  Thanks very much! If only they shipped to the UK!

                  Looks like it would cost me about 4-5 times that price. I'll get bargain hunting!

                  1. re: JamesBend

                    There are other knife blocks. Look around

                    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Apollo-Rubber...

                    http://www.amazon.co.uk/ProCook-Class...

                    http://www.amazon.co.uk/W%C3%BCsthof-...

                    1. re: JamesBend

                      I just finished getting some decent knifes a few weeks ago with the help of Chowhounds. I know you said you want to purchase online. I just went to a local restaurant supply store, they sell at a discount to retail vendors (western Canada). I picked up some Victorinox Fibrox knifes which are excellent value for the money.

                2. I would be patient, check e-bay daily for good used 1/2 price basic Wusthof classic's (Chefs, slicer, utility & paring.) When you get them, send them out for a professional sharpening. You will be very pleased and save a ton of money. Then you can look into picking up a Japanese knife or 2 as your budget permits. I have both and each has their merits.

                  1. I owned and used Wusthofs for a good dozen years before discovering real (that is, Japanese) knives about 4-5 years ago. Can't believe how much money I wasted on those Wusthofs, and how much effort I spent trying to get them sharp. I'll be the first to admit that they have great balance and fit and finish. They feel great in the hand. But they can't, you know, actually cut things. Or at least not very well, by my standards. So unless you've actually cut food in anger with a knife and with its competitors, I think it's premature to have decided on a brand. Of course, not so many places will let you test-drive your knives. If you can find a place that will let you bring in your own overripe tomatoes to cut, by all means take a test drive.

                    For paring knives, I would buy the victorinox 3-piece set, 13 USD at Amazon in the us. Buy yourself an overripe tomato and see how well they do. You'll be pleasantly surprised. And they last fairly long, too, though they are difficult to sharpen and are essentially disposable. But before you test drive any other knives, try these knives so that you know what the minimum acceptable standard of sharpness is.

                    To round out your knives, I'd go with a 150mm petty and a gyuto of 210mm or 240mm. Tojiro DP and Fujiwara FKH are both great choices with wide availability. The JCK originals at http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/JCK... are very good as well (I can vouch for the VG-10; the Basic (ES) should be worthy if the VG-10 is out of your price range).

                    You will also need a decent cutting board that won't dull your knives too quickly, as plastic and bamboo are wont to do. End-grain wood and the Epicurean boards are good choices.

                    You will also need sharpening stones, but that's another post.

                    For storage, blocks work well. You could also try a drawer organizer like http://preview.tinyurl.com/aaz9pzh .

                    18 Replies
                    1. re: seattle_lee

                      I have also been reading about Wusthof's being more difficult to sharpen...

                      Looks like I have more research to do! Thank you for yours and everyone else's suggestions so far.

                      1. re: JamesBend

                        "I have also been reading about Wusthof's being more difficult to sharpen..."

                        I sharpened about 2500 knives last year and I love when people bring Wusthofs. They are about the easiest mass market knives.

                        Caveat:
                        Any knife with a bolster is a challenge because of that compared to a bolster free knife.

                        Jim

                        1. re: JamesBend

                          I agree with Jim, especially the Ikon series (no full bolster).

                          I've sharpened both classic & Ikon Wusthofs & have had no problem getting them super sharp. The Ikon, especially, got sharp easily & quickly.

                          1. re: JamesBend

                            Like knifesaver said, aside for the PITA full finger bolster, Wusthof are easy to sharpen.

                          2. re: seattle_lee

                            I've had my Wusthof classics for over 20 years & recently picked up a couple Tojiro DP's. Do the Tojiro's slice through things with less effort, of course they do, at 1/2 the thickness and about a 12 degree blade angle they better. I love the Tojiro's and use them more often than the Wusthof's. However, there are many tasks that I would not subject the hard thin Tojiro blades to which is where the Wusthof comes into the game. Having both is great but if I could only have 1 chef's knife to do everything I would choose the Wusthof.

                            As I stated above, one of the nice things about the Wusthof's classics is that they have been around a long time and its not difficult to pick up mint used ones at 50% or "more" off the new selling price & its hard to argue with having an old work horse 8 inch classic chefs knife in the block for that kind of $$. Then you can start looking into the Japanese knives.

                            "They can't cut things" .......I think that is a matter of how they are sharpened. One of the best knife related purchases I ever made was the Edge Pro Apex sharpener. With it I re-cut and polished all the Wusthof classics and I can shave with them!

                            1. re: Tom34

                              <but if I could only have 1 chef's knife to do everything I would choose the Wusthof.>

                              This is true.

                              On the other hand, if you are allowed to have two knives, then I think a thick blade cleaver-like knife coupling with a thin blade Chef's knife (or a Japanese gyuto) works together very well. This is why many like the Victorinox stamped Chef's knife. It is a thinner blade knife than most forged Chef's knife.

                              As some may know, a lot of Chinese only have a Chinese cleaver (aka Chinese chef's knife or Chinese vegetable knife) at home. It is a medium blade knife which is equivalent in the sense to a German Chef's knife. However, it is often said that, for a two knives system, a Chinese thin blade sliver (桑刀) and a Chinese thick blade cleaver (九江刀) is much better.

                              So in my view, if I am limited to only one knife, then a medium blade Chef's knife is best, but, in a two knives or three knives arsenal, then a thinner blade Chef's knife should be one of knives. Since many home cooks are not limited by the number of knives, and that many people are going after block-full of knives with utility knife, bird beak paring knife, specialized tomato knife, pineapple knife ... I believe that getting a thin blade Chef's knife will be more useful.

                              Again, if we are truely limited to one knife, then a medium thick blade Chef's knife like Wusthof is better, but how many of us are limited to one knife? If we are limited by money, then it may be better to get a Victorinox Chef's knife (thinner) and a cheap meat cleaver, than getting an expensive forged Wusthof Chef's knife. A Wusthof is easily $100+. You and I can get a Victorinox stamped Chef's knife and a thick cleaver for less than half the price. You and I can also get a Tojiro DP gyuto and a thick cleaver for less as well.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                I agree Chem there are many different ways to go and budget & preference certainly come into play. Because Wusthof Classics were mentioned as a consideration I figured the less expensive stamped knives had been ruled out.

                                I do agree that the average retail price for Wusthof & Henckel is too high and with so many choices now days I would not pay it. But as I said above, used Wusthof Classic 8" chefs knives in mint condition can be found pretty regularly for around $50.00 and thats a lot of knife for $50.00.

                                If I had say a budget of $150.00 to start and figured as time went on I could add to the set, the first thing I would get is a big block with 20 or more slots that I would never have to upgrade.These can also be had for a song used. Then I would get the used $50.00 Wusthof Classic and a used Classic paring knife. With a little patience and cunning, these 3 items could be had for about $100.00. Now I have a lifetime block & 2 very good quality commonly used knives that with proper care should last a lifetime & I still have $50.00 left to put in the Japanese knife piggy bank which is where my daily spare change would go.

                                1. re: Tom34

                                  <But as I said above, used Wusthof Classic 8" chefs knives in mint condition can be found pretty regularly for around $50.00 and thats a lot of knife for $50.00. >

                                  True, and one can find new Wusthof knives in HomeGoods for the same price. Ok, maybe not Wusthof, more likely Henckels for $40.

                                  <I could add to the set, the first thing I would get is a big block with 20 or more slots that I would never have to upgrade>

                                  Good luck with that. :P I made (very rough job) a wood knife block with all the slots which I thought I will need. Then I bought a large CCK Chinese knife, and it won't fit in any of my slots. (It is larger than the typical Chinese cleaver). Not my picture, but it does illustrate the size of my knife. It is the one on the right.

                                  http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:AN...

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    Emergency wall AXE rack might work for that LOL!

                                    I could be wrong but I think many of the high quality knife Co's have a minimum retail price that dealers can sell their products for which I think is the case with Wusthof.

                                2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  If I was limited to one, I'd pick a med weight as well. But it will be like a Jack of all trades, master of none. The two knife approach with one being thin for general prep tasks and one being thick for tough stuff is better.

                              2. re: seattle_lee

                                The notion that only Japanese knives are "real" is elitest and pretentious. A huge amount of fine cooking is done worldwide every day with German (and similar) knives. Perhaps it is more difficult to get a German knife to slice paper, as knife aficionados like to demonstrate with their Japanese knives, but no cook needs to do that. Everything that needs to be cut for eating or cooking can be cut entirely satisfactorily with any good western knife, of which there are many. I can even slice tomatoes with my cheap Chinese carbon steel vegetable knife, after doing a little work with a stone and with regular steeling.

                                I'm not saying Japanese knives aren't nice — I'd like a couple myself. But there is a downside to a hard Japanese blade in the requirements for maintaining the edge in optimal condition. Most people who cook are more interested in the food than in their knives, and don't want to become experts in sharpening Japanese knives or to have to hire someone who is when it becomes necessary. It's hard enough to find someone who can do a good job with a softer western blade.

                                In short, the difference comes down to style. A softer western blade will require more frequent sharpening and steeling to maintain an edge sufficient for cooking, but this can be done to most people's satisfaction with simple and inexpensive sharpening and honing tools. Eventually, if used constantly as in a commercial kitchen, the blade will be ground away to the point where it is discarded and replaced with a new knife.

                                Some professional cooks, and certainly sushi men, need a Japanese knife because they need a razor sharp edge which will hold up through a day's work without needing touching up. For home cooking, these are a frill. People buy them because they're cool.

                                Just my opinion.

                                1. re: GH1618

                                  <A huge amount of fine cooking is done worldwide every day with German (and similar) knives>

                                  Certainly, in USA, a huge numbers of restaurant cooking are done with Victorinox and Dexter-Russell stamped knives which are noticeably thinner than German forged knives like those of Henckels and Wusthof. So using this line of argument would suggest that Chef's knives should be thinner.

                                  <Most people ... don't want to become experts in sharpening Japanese knives>

                                  I have seen many people write this, so I like to clarify this point. It actually does not take more skill or time to sharpen a Japanese knife (Westernized Japanese) than a German knife, and I would actually argue the other way around. A soft steel knife is not necessary easier to sharpen than a hard knife. I would say, from my experience, a mediocrely sharpened Tojiro DP is just as good as a mediorely sharpened Wusthof if not sharper. (I have both knives).

                                  Now, we see a lot of people who own Japanese knives take more time and effort and equipments, but this is a correlation. The true cause-and-effect is the opposite of what you have stated. It is not that "Japanese knives require greater skill or expensive equipments to sharpen". They require neither. It is that "People who are into sharpening and finer edge are geared toward Japanese knives for their ability to take on finer edge".

                                  For analogy, people who own a graphically powerful computer tend to play more video games than those who buy a cheap one, but a graphically powerful computer does not "require" anyone to play games. It is that many games require a powerful computer.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    I gave this some more thought, and trying to be critical of my thinking. So I did come up with a situation which I would be wrong. If you mean by using an electric sharpener like ChefChoice, then you are correct. An electric ChefChoice won't be very good for Wusthof, but probably worse for a Tojiro DP.

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      I would never use an electric sharpener myself, but when I worked in a restaurant many years ago, the chef did. He ran his principal knife — fine German steel — through it now and then (not often, though). I don't know what brand it was, but it was pretty basic. He just eyeballed it and made quick work of it. Then he used a steel honing rod frequently. To him, his knife was just a tool, and if he eventually ground it away keeping it sharp, he would get another one. That's what I mean by cooks being more interested in their food than their knives.

                                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      I see. Your next-to-last paragraph makes sense to me. By equipment, I am thinking of the inexpensive sharpeners with a couple of wheels held in a plastic containment with a handle, and a slot over the wheels to guide the knife. (I have one by Kyocera.) I have no qualms about running my inexpensive knives through this, but don't think I would use it were I to buy a $200 Japanese knife. Similarly for my inexpensive honing steels — would you use one on a Japanese knife? I also have a double-sided waterstone which I use for the knives I want to be the sharpest, but it's an inexpensive one. I know that there are a lot of subtleties to finer waterstones, and some of these are as expensive as the knives. Would I need a new set of stones to maintain a Japanese knife properly?

                                      Whether I sharpen my knives on a stone, or hone them on a steel, I don't worry about angles — I just eyeball it. So I am not interested in any device that helps me set accurate angles or produce a double angle. When I can slice a tomato, I'm happy, simple as that. Basically, my view is that with a modestly priced knife, if I nick or otherwise damage the edge, a professional sharpener can grind a new edge. I don't worry about it. The more expensive a knife, the more care I want to keep the edge in best shape.

                                      It's like the difference between driving a basic utilitarian car vs. an "ultimate driving machine." Is the latter a "real" automobile and the former not? I think not — they are both equally real. They will both get me where I need to go. I would probably spend more taking care of the more expensive car, to protect its value.

                                      1. re: GH1618

                                        < I have no qualms about running my inexpensive knives through this, but don't think I would use it were I to buy a $200 Japanese knife.>

                                        I think I know what kind of knife sharpener you are talking about. You will have no problem using it on $200 Japanese knife. It won't bring out its full potential, but it won't damage it. I think this is what I mean that it does not require more expensive tools. Now, Accusharp is a different story, but many would even tell you not to use Accusharp on a Wusthof neither.

                                        <Similarly for my inexpensive honing steels — would you use one on a Japanese knife? >

                                        Good point. For most Japanese knife, I actually won't use honing steels, expensive or not, but I know other people do. Honing (realignment) is just not as important for Japanese knives in general. So the benefit-to-risk ratio goes up.

                                        < Would I need a new set of stones to maintain a Japanese knife properly?>

                                        I think it depends on the Japanese knife, and also depends on the meaning of "properly". Allow me to use this following example. You know the 1000 grit stone, right? I can sharpen my Watanabe Aogami and my Dexter-Russell knives on the same 1000 grit stone, and they will both get sharpened nicely. In fact, my Watanabe Aagami will be a bit sharper than the Dexter-Russell. However, I can further sharpen the knives on 2000, 5000 grit stones.....etc to get the edge finer and finer. Now, this is where they really start to differentiate. The Watanabe will continue to get sharper and smoother. You can feel it when you cut the vegetables. The Dexter knives barely improve from 1000 to 2000, and really nothing at the 5000 grit stone. On top of that, the Dexter knives lose the 2000 grit edge very quickly. So, practically speaking, it makes very little sense to me to bring my Dexter-Russell knives above the 2000 grit, and I often just stop at 1000 grit. It is not worth the time, whereas I will spend more time on my Watanabe because it keeps on improving.

                                        So it is true that my Watanabe knife can use much more expensive stones than my Dexter-Russel knives. It is also true to say that I need more expensive stones to maximize the Watanabe knife. These earlier assertions you made are not baseless. However, (a big however), my Watanabe knife sharpened at 1000 grit is still sharper than my Dexter-Russell sharpened at 1000 grit, and because of this, I won't say the Watanabe is more difficult to sharpen or require more expensive stones. Using the same stone and same technique, my Watanabe knife still performs better than my Dexter. It is just that the improvement can go further. I absolutely understand why so many people say similar statements you had because they are very close to the truth. They are just, in my opinion, too simplified. Those statements sound as if, for example, my Watanabe sharpened at 1000 grit will be worse than my Dexter at 1000 grit, and that I must sharpen the Watanabe at higher grit and spend more time or else it will be worse than Dexter, but these are not true.

                                        <Whether I sharpen my knives on a stone, or hone them on a steel, I don't worry about angles — I just eyeball it. >

                                        I eyeball it and partially feel it. You can sometime feel the bevel on a stone. It clicks on the stone. For me, it is about consistency. I just want to make sure that I am holding the angle consistent.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          That's a very good explanation. Thank you.

                                    3. re: GH1618

                                      Hi. Before converting over to Japanese knives, i had been using German knives for over a decade.  Over the years, I've worked on a lot them and while the handle and bolster design vary, the blade shape and blade steel used in many different brands and models are more or less the same.  The typical German knife tends to be stout with a  blade that is heavy, thick and soft, capable of withstanding misuse ( sink drop, dishwasher) and tough chores like butchering a Buick, but at the same time causes problems.

                                      It's softer tempering limits it's edge retention and ability to take an acute edge. Getting them sharp enough to slice paper, etc. is a non issue for anyone with decent sharpening skills, but putting a more refined (more acute / high polished) edge on them is an exercise in futility. Sharpening the steel beyond 1 or 2k doesn't improve it and because the edge dulls quickly, the addition efforts is lost when the knife is steeled / after a couple hours of usage.

                                      It's thick blade is like an axe, works by wedging and splitting as opposed to cutting things.  Try cutting a medium size carrot and you will see the carrot looks like a piece of split firewood...the top is smooth and the bottom is cracked. Thinning and lowering the factory edge helps a little, but it will go down a few degrees before the edge starts rolling. 

                                      A lot of people ( I used to be one) view the heft of their thick blades, massive finger bolsters, big handles as a sign of quality, but in truth the addition weight is nothing more than extra baggage and just makes the knife more cumbersome and ponderous to use. 

                                      As mentioned above, the Forchner / Victorianox knives are a long time favorite of America Test Kitchen and amongst the least expensive / most decent knives that I know of. They're cheaper, use a similar (if not the same) blade steel commonly used in many German knives, but their blade being thinner actually works better on general prep tasks. Unfortunately, Vic only got the thin part right as their blades are as soft or softer than their forged German cousins.

                                      I switched to Japanese knives bc they provide a thin blade made of harder steel.  I can do most every thing and do it much better with a Japanese chef's knife than a German chef's knife, except for those odd ball times when I'm dealing with something very hard (bones, lobsters shells, etc.)

                                      For me, jknives are way better, but I would never suggest one to someone who is unwilling to learn how to use and maintain them properly.

                                  2. A few comments on maintenance that I use for my knives that I have had since 1967. If the handle is wood, dip it in varnish every four or five years and let soak in. Use a stone for sharpening that is two-sided--one rough and one smoother. Paint mineral oil on your block every four or five years so that it doesn't dry out and crack. Wipe off all of the excess.

                                    That should give you a lifetime of use.

                                    1. Some great information being shared in this thread, despite the trending theme towards a Japanese vs Western argument, much of the information is very helpful indeed!

                                      In regards to my purchasing and sharpening plan...

                                      I do intend to get a few knives most likely piece by piece. So my first purchase will be a chef's knife equivilant, whether this be Western of Japanese...I'm now not so sure...

                                      I have only ever "sharpened" with a steel, but then again I've never had good knives to really take great care of. I think I do am okay job with this, but if my technique is not spot on, am I going to do more damage than good to these quality knives when honing them? Should I be looking at alternative sharpening options?

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: JamesBend

                                        <I have only ever "sharpened" with a steel>

                                        It is a topic as complex as you want to get to, but most people will tell you that the primary function of a steel rod is honing, not sharpening.

                                        <but if my technique is not spot on, am I going to do more damage than good to these quality knives when honing them? >

                                        Yes, you can actually damage the edge, but not beyond repair. However, you can make a knife duller than it was.

                                        <Should I be looking at alternative sharpening options?>

                                        As mentioned, honing steel is usually considered a tool for honing. Some can sharpen a bit, but it is not its primary function.

                                        1. re: JamesBend

                                          First, you need to understand the difference between honing and sharpening. The edge on a soft steel knife will curl. The honing steel straightens the edge so the sharp edge is properly aligned. Steeling a western knife is easy.

                                          I don't know how those with Japanese knives do routine edge maintenance (which is required less often), so defer to them to elaborate.

                                          1. re: JamesBend

                                            Just to elaborate GH's point and my earlier point too. We told you about honing, and then I realize that you may be new to all these.

                                            Honing, in knife maintenance, really means realigning the edge. When a knife, especially softer steel knives, is used for awhile, the edge will bend and curl a bit. The metal is still there, but it is not pointing in the right direction, and the edge will feel dull. Honing basically realigns and straightens the edge and making the edge sharp again.

                                            As you use the knife more and more, the edge will eventually wear off -- gone. At this stage, no amount of honing will help because there is nothing to be realigned. Now, you will need to grind the blade metal to form a new edge. This is what many call sharpening.

                                          2. The cheap carbide sharpeners like Accusharp do put an edge on a knife but they also remove / tear a lot of steel off the knife. I have one and use it for inexpensive steak knives but I would not use it on an expensive Western or Japanese knife.

                                            I had an electric Chef's Choice 3 stage but couldn't get a super sharp edge with it. Maybe it was just me, I don't know. I gave it away about 10 years ago or so.

                                            I recently picked up an Edge Pro Apex and love it. With very little practice it produces a frighteningly sharp edge. You can also make precision angle changes to a blade or create multiple angles. The down side is they start around $225.00.
                                            For me it was worth every penny & should last a lifetime.

                                            On this site many free hand with stones and its something to be pretty proud of if you master it. Back in the day my dad was very good at it but at the same time he had the patience to tie his own trout flies. I was never very good at either which is why I got the Edge Pro and mail order trout flies.

                                            9 Replies
                                            1. re: Tom34

                                              < recently picked up an Edge Pro Apex and love it.>

                                              I have a question for you and will be important for others in the future too. You actually got the Edge Pro Apex 3 (or 4), which is a very good set. However, there are two cheaper models: The Apex 1 and Apex 2. What makes you get the Apex 3 or 4?

                                              It is unfortunate that Apex 1 and 2 offers stones which are too aggressive for everyday kitchen knife sharpening. If only, they have a model which has 1000 grit stone as the lowest and cheapest model.

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                Hey, I just looked at Mark's site and it seems he offers a more custom model with more useful stones for kitchen knives:

                                                http://www.chefknivestogo.com/edproes...

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  I got the Apex 3 which I think was about $225. to the front door. My reasoning was that it contained the 120 to change an angle or repair a damaged edge, the 220 to clean up a really dull edge then the 400 / 600 / 1000 to progressively get the edge razor sharp & polished. .

                                                  I don't remember if Mark had his enhanced kit at the time.

                                                  If you go to the Edge pro site, at the bottom there is a stone comparison chart. I am not up on different brands of stones but 3 are compared. Below is the comparison to Shapton.

                                                  Edge Pro Stone = Shapton Stone

                                                  400 = 2000
                                                  600 = 5000
                                                  1000 = 8000

                                                  1. re: Tom34

                                                    <Edge Pro Stone = Shapton Stone

                                                    400 = 2000
                                                    600 = 5000
                                                    1000 = 8000>

                                                    Thanks you so much.

                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      I listed it but really don't understand how different manufactures have different numbers for the same size abrasives. It also compared Edge Pro stones to "Chosera" stones. Need a little help / education with this Chem. Is there a standard?

                                                      1. re: Tom34

                                                        Well, I wasn't surprised that the Edge Pro stone has a different grit system than the Shapton and Chosera, but I am surprised that Shapton nd Chosera are different, and I am also surprised the conversion is much different than I thought.

                                                        Japanese manufactures tend to use JIS system, and American of course on ANSI. For example, DMT use the ANSI system:

                                                        http://www.dmtsharp.com/misc/dmt-char...

                                                        Here is the list between the Japanese JIS and American ANSI

                                                        http://www.fine-tools.com/G10019.htm

                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                          I don't know. The edge pro 1000 = 8000 Shapton which left a mirror like finish on the edge but for certain kitchen knives some recommend a little less polish & a little more bite.

                                                          On my Chefs knives I stop at the 600 / 5000 Shapton equivalent.

                                                          If I was Ben & owned Edge Pro, as often as people seek your advise, I would comp you an apex and let you put it to the test and report the results.

                                                          1. re: Tom34

                                                            <but for certain kitchen knives some recommend a little less polish & a little more bite>

                                                            I definitely have heard of this, and especially regarding to stainless steel knives. I have no good evidence one way or the other, so I take no stand on this one.

                                                            <If I was Ben & owned Edge Pro, as often as people seek your advise...>

                                                            Wow, I am very flattered. Really appreciated, but Ben has plenty people testify for his system, including some well known knife sharpers.

                                                            At one point, Mark (from Chefknivestogo) offers knife sharpening service from 8-9 sharpeners.

                                                            http://www.chefknivestogo.com/knife-s...

                                                            One of the knife sharpeners offer service to sharpen kitchen knives by using EdgePro, which (A) speaks volume of EdgePro and (B) why would anyone with an Edge Pro need his service?

                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                              "One of the knife sharpeners uses an EdgePro".

                                                              I don't know but there are much faster systems a professional knife sharpener could use so I can only conclude the EdgePro is very precise & removes less metal which for some justifies paying the extra time/labor to have a pro do their knives with it.

                                                              I do know its works for me like nothing else I have ever used. Definitely worth setting up an EdgePro purchase piggy bank for daily pocket change.

                                              2. My wife and I have a pretty big collection of knives built up over the years.

                                                Primarily French and German sources, we prep in the kitchen using Wüsthof Classic and Rösle Inox 90 % of the time.

                                                I have had exactly 3 Japanese knives for the past 20 years which I used for small delicate items. Since I make bread weekly (when I'm not away on business ) one was a Global bread knife. Despite the fact that I have a Global knife block, everything goes into the knife drawers or cabinets at night. At least that was the case unitl this Christmas.

                                                I was given 2 Global knives as gifts: The Chef's knife, and the utility knife. I must admit I enjoy both.

                                                I really like the feel of the handle: Light, and even if wet or damp, one has a good grip on the knife. No slipping.

                                                I have a honing set, but the knives are razor sharp so they won't need sharpening for awhile. Since the knife block holds 11, the block is beginning to fill up.

                                                True like all good knives they do have to be hand washed, but they perform very well. And for the time being, the knife block sits out on the counter, rather than in the counter cabinet.

                                                To amplify Chem's point, I would not buy an entire collection of knives at one time, and from one source. It is better and more fun to shop around and try knives, buying just what you want. You will use them more this way.