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Feb 15, 2013 05:00 PM

Kyocera Ceramic Knives -- Do I Want One?

Was visiting my mom in her winter condo in Fort Myers and she showed me her new Kyocera ceramic knives -- I saw a small chef-like knife and a small one, a bit bigger than a paring knife, that I used as a steak knife (went through a pork chop beautifully). She says she has one more that is larger.

She has offered to buy me one. I have two questions: What do you do to hone them? I have two santokus, a carbon-steel chef's knife, and a few others in a block I rarely use. I use a steel to hone these between uses. Mom says the ceramic knives do not need any honing.

Second, would a ceramic knife provide any benefits over the santokus and be worth the care they require due to their fragility?

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  1. < What do you do to hone them?>

    If you mean like using a honing steel, then the answer is a "No, you don't"

    <Mom says the ceramic knives do not need any honing.>

    She is correct.

    <would a ceramic knife provide any benefits over the santokus>

    Well, a ceramic knife can be a ceramic santoku too, so what you asked are not mutually exclusive.

    In my view, a ceramic paring knife is not a horrible idea, but a ceramic Chef's knife or ceramic Santoku are probably very limited. I don't recommend ceramic knives for general purpose works.

    1. Ceramic blades are impervious to rust, don't impart flavors, and can hold an edge much longer than a metal blade.  However, they are more fragile / brittle.  If you whack a metal blade hard enough, it will dent or chip...whereas a ceramic may crack or shatter.  Also, they need to be honed or sharpened with  diamond abrasives ( they are harder than regular, softer abrasives) and IMO don't get as sharp as a metal blade. 

      Fwiw, I had one and won't ever touch one again.

      2 Replies
      1. re: JavaBean

        I agree with almost everything JavaBean reported. I own a black Kyocera santoku. Following are my observations:

        - Very lightweight. This is a good thing and a bad thing. I tend to like a bit of heft, but on the flip side sometimes it feels more agile than a steel blade.

        - Very brittle. A houseguest put the first chip in the blade, chopping something right on my granite countertop. (Arrghh! Houseguests who don't know anything about knives! Stay away! But if it had been a steel blade, it would have been virtually no harm done.) Later, after I repaired it, I dropped it and put a HUGE chip in the blade (probably 1/8" in from the edge). I repaired that too. Now the knife looks a bit different than it did before.

        - Difficult to sharpen but -- and here's where I disagree with JavaBean -- you do not need diamond abrasives. I do in fact own two diamond plates (DMT), and the 250 grit plate was quite handy in helping me grind out the huge chip when it happened, but after that I used my normal wetstones (mostly Shapton) and they cut the ceramic just fine; the only caveat to that is that it takes probably 5x more strokes to have the same effect. So those repairs I mentioned were an exercise in patience and lots and lots of time. (For the big chip, I'd find a half hour here ore there, work on it, and then put it away -- it took me 3 months to completely repair it.)

        - Doesn't get as sharp as a steel blade, BUT if you modify the blade angles a bit you can get it pretty damn sharp. Unfortunately now the brittle nature of the material REALLY kicks in. If I make the edge too acute I get lots of micro chips unless I'm really careful. So there is some balance required.

        Would I recommend one? Hell no. It's expensive, high maintenance, doesn't live up to the hype, and doesn't perform all that well. Since going through that big repair process I use mine more than ever before -- because I feel like I should -- but if I drop it again it's going straight in the bin.

        1. re: davis_sq_pro

          Fwiw, I had and have only worked on the 1st generation Kyoceras. Personally, I got nowhere with them on stones and went to diamonds. I had a very hard time getting them arm hair sharp or more without micro chipping. Mine just snapped one day. IMO, they're a pita and provide more cons than pros.

      2. I also once worked Under a vegan chef who only used kyoceras, and she babied those! Once she chipped her big knife while breaking down a kabocha squash and had a huge fit about it.
        They are very fragile and cannot withstand things like bones, chips every time you drop em. You usually send them to Kyocera for sharpening, which is rare.

        1. I've had ceramic knives for a couple of years now and the longer I've had them the less I've liked them. Having to switch knives in the middle of prep for all of the things that I can't do with the ceramic ones is a real pain.

          1. Just a quick note - not sure how you're planning to store a ceramic knife if you get one, but I like to store all my knives on a magnetic knife board on the wall. Ceramic won't stick to the magnet.