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Knives for Grandma: Sabatier or Japanese?

Grandma, actually my mom, is now a vegan and has been a very good modern style cook for many years. She could use some new knives, wihch I plan to provide. She likes smaller knives and smaller handles, and likes sharp. I do her sharpening, and am good at it (I use an APEX with Chosera stones now) but I don't always have time to keep up with her shapening, so I want good edge retention (Carbon or Japanese). I won't buy soft stainless (e.g. Forshner, Victorinox, Wustoff, etc.). She is fine with carbon steel. She still recalls "the old days" when knives were grey/black but sharper.

As I mentioned she likes smaller and smaller handles. I got her a Wantanabe Santuko. It took her years before she really used it, but she says she likes it now, but even that, I think the handle is a larger diameter than she prefers, and I don't think she's comfortable yet with the shape/feel, and may never be. I think the French Sabatier style would be to her liking.

I'm thinking that the Sabatier french style carbon would be the handle she likes, since these handles are similar to some old ('60s) knives she has and says work for her. So I'm thinking the regular french style Sabatier from The Best Things, or similar for a paring knife (her go to paring is losing it's handle and blade is wore to very little).

She also lacks a good chef knife. I've shown her mine (240mm) and she says she wont use anything anywahere near that large. So I'm thinking either a 180mm gyuto (e.g. Tojiro DP) or the french Sabatier in the 6-inch Chef.

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  1. Get her whatever she likes. At the end, she will be the one using it.

    <so I want good edge retention (Carbon or Japanese)>

    Sabatier knives relies on honing. You need to regularly use a honing steel because many of them are made of relatively soft steel. They are actually softer than many modern stainless steel knives.

    "52 to 54 HRC hardness"


    "A) Sabatier-K (French) 8" Chef Forged Carbon Steel HRC 54-56"


    "The whole knife is forged in a single mass of CARBON steel. The steel, Rockwell 54-56 HRC, is tempered, "


    Either Henckels Zwilling or Wusthof knives are harder, let's alone the Japanese stainless steel knives like Shun Classical and Tojiro DP.

    So if you are really looking for edge retention as you have said, then I would advise you to get the standard Japanese knives, but the knives are not really for you, so just get her whatever she likes.

    For some reasons, the Sabatier handles do not look exceedingly thin to me, but I could be wrong.

    <So I'm thinking either a 180mm gyuto (e.g. Tojiro DP) or the french Sabatier in the 6-inch Chef.>

    If you are to get the Tojiro DP, then get the wa wood handle because it should be thinner. However, also keep in mind that Tojiro DP knives are not carbon steel. Good luck.

    1. Japanese Stainless is the way to go. Remember, you are buying them for her use, not yours.

      The Gyuto is a French profile with much harder stainless steel. It's hard to argue against the convenience and performance of modern Japanese stainless steels (not the cheap stamped stuff ;-).

      6 Replies
      1. re: Sid Post

        Not to seem facetious but Japanese generally have smaller hands than the French-the popular octagonal wood handles on so many better quality Japanese knives may take some time for her to adjust to but they are that way for a reason- ultimately very comfortable and serviceable.

        1. re: Sam Salmon

          I don't agree. Here are pics of the Sabatier Nogent parer vs the Misono. The Sabatier handle is quite small.


          I think she might like the Sab handles. Does no one have one?

          She has had a Watanabe Santoku for years now, and thinks it's good. And it's pure carbon steel, so she's quite comfortable with that. But would prefer a more narrow handle. And I think she might like a 180mm gyuto.

          We live in a rural area. There's no where to "try out" knives.
          The smallest gyuto I've got is 240 and she says that's too big. She's 82, so she isn't likely to "adjust" to a new style.

          I'm going to give her one of my carbon opinel parers, which she said she liked. I find the handle too narrow for me, and an under-utilized MAC Superior 8" Chef's Knife (SA-80) that I'l let her try out. It's lightweight anyway.

          1. re: Eager6

            Note-you may disagree but the Japanese women I have carnal knowledge of have had much smaller hands than the French women.

            As it happens none of them were particularly good cooks.

            1. re: Eager6

              <Here are pics of the Sabatier Nogent parer vs the Misono. The Sabatier handle is quite small. >

              Looking at the photo, the Misono handle looks narrow er to me, but it may be due to the shadow. No, I don't have a Sabatier knife, but I have seen them. The handle is small, but it just does not look particular small. There are many people who have Sabatier knives on this board, so I am sure they will stop by soon. Good luck.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                I have a Nogent paring knife. The handle feels quite dainty. It is noticeably smaller circumferentially than the handle on the regular Thiers Issard carbon parer.

        2. Carbon Sabatiers made before the 1980's are nice knives.  They sharpen very easily, and will take a better edge, but their edge retention is not as good as a std (~54...56 HRC) European blade.  The size of Sabatier slab style handle isn't small, and are larger than the Sabatier Nogent style handle. 

          A std Jblade @ 58 HRC and up, will take and hold a better edge.  BTW, the slab handled Tojiro DP is kinda chunky. The handles on Kanetsugu  Pro M are supposedly on the smaller side.

          Have you considered rehandling the Wantanabe?  Swapping out a wa handle is not difficult and the ones used on a petty or yanagiba are generally smaller.

          7 Replies
          1. re: JavaBean

            <Have you considered rehandling the Wantanabe? >

            I was thinking just that too. Good advise.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Nah, I'm just a little faster than you today. Alternatively, simply sanding down the wa handle is even easier to do.

              Btw, I saw and passed your thoughts on the Artisan along.  Your impression of it feeling hefty makes sense.  I believe the Artisan and Fusion were designed as a German/Japanese hybrid, while the Birchwood and Kaizen were designed as a Gyuto. That double bolstered handle on the Artisan likely weighs more than a simple yo or wa handle, and give a butt or handle heavy balance (like the Fusion).  

              A thick spine and upper 2/3rds of the blade is common with Tsuchime / hammered finish knives as the cladding is often thicker than non hammered finish cladding or mono steel blades.  

              1. re: JavaBean

                <I believe the Artisan and Fusion were designed as a German/Japanese hybrid, while the Birchwood and Kaizen were designed as a Gyuto.>

                I didn't know. Thanks for letting me know. Maybe I will test-drive them.

                <and give a butt or handle heavy balance>

                Yeah, it is heavier, but it sure looks nice.

                <A thick spine and upper 2/3rds of the blade is common with Tsuchime / hammered finish knives>

                Good point. The other thing I was thinking the after writing the last reply to you is that the Tojiro DP Chef knife is a narrower (spine to edge) knife than the Artisan Chef's knife. All else equal, a narrow knife will have a thinner spine thickness than a wider knife.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Personally, I like gyutos to be very thin at the edge, but am ok with some thickness at the spine and middle of the blade as it provides rigidity and backbone, and allows for convex blade face.  They cut with a little more resistance, but is very good at pushing the food away from the blade and don't torque on dense foods ( winter squash, rutabaga, etc).

                  Those that are thin from edge to spine knives are great at reducing wedging and resistance, but are more opt to food sticking issues, and susceptible to torquing on denser foods.  

                  You just have to watch out for those thick V, double convex...battle axe ones.

                  1. re: JavaBean

                    <but are more opt to food sticking issues, >


                    By the way, I love your suggestion to look for a long petty knife. That should have very low knuckle clearance as the original poster has asked for. Of course, I haven't think of any perfect knife which matches the original poster's request.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Your just having an off day, I'm sure you'll come up with something more ideal.

            2. Here's a photo of my Sab vs some of my J-knives.

              The handle"s definitely smaller,but will it be more comfortable for your Mom?

              9 Replies
                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  OK that photo shows a lot. She is used to, and therefore wants a shape similar to... the knives she has from, she says 1958. The chef is very similar to the Sab in the photo. Narrow blade, spine to edge, mostly straight, very little knuckle clearance, small diameter handle. This is what I'm looking for, but with good steel, but also short, because I think If I give her even a 210, she will reject it (not ever use it). Another key parameter is the knuckle clearance. She's used to, and I suppose "prefers" very little. She is used to, and likes a handle that is close to the edge in relation to the spine. She isn't used to wide blade knives, or knives with the handle centered at the spine, as the Wa handled knives appear to be. This is a problem. The Watanabe is a great blade, and one far superior to anything she has. She recognizes that. Even so, I'm sure her first reactions are to reach for her old knives, with that old familiar shape, like the old Sab in the photo. The only thing that holds her back is the crappy dull edge, because her knives are of some godawfully soft stainless.

                  What she wants is that old Sab in the photo, but with great steel, and shorter (maybe 180 to 200 mm). But no, I don't have a custom budget, nor do we want to wait for that. This is why I keep saying Sab, or 180mm gyuto with a small diameter western handle. If there is such a thing.

                  She needs a paring knife maybe first. This may be easier. Her (almost dead now) "fav" of '58 looks a lot like the old Sab above, but scaled down more or less proportionally, with a 3-inch blade. She likes my Opinel carbon paring, so I gave it to her. The handle is narrow (she likes) but I think she'd prefer a shorter blade (3-inch I think would do it), and stiffer, and less wide (spine to blade). One of those Globals might work, but I dunno if she's going to like a steel handle. The Misono and MAC Pro look OK, but she might find the handle too fat.

                  Really, I think the Sabs would be "it" except for the soft steel. I had hoped that people would like them a bit more. Maybe I'll just buy something, and if she doesn't like it....

                  ...I'll keep it. :\

                  1. re: Eager6

                    <What she wants is that old Sab in the photo, but with great steel, and shorter (maybe 180 to 200 mm)>

                    I see. If I think of something like that I will post right away. I am sure there are. I am just in the middle of something now.

                    < Maybe I'll just buy something, and if she doesn't like it.......I'll keep it. :\>

                    Except she likes short knives, and you don't....

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      I like ALL knives. Also, my daughter is starting to cook, and a shorter gyuto, or Sabatier might be the thing.

                      I might re-think the Wa handle thing. I'll have to see how much she likes or dislikes the santoku she has now, i.e. see if she wants more of that, or somehitng else.

                    2. re: Eager6

                      Hi, the problems with 180mm gyutos are a) there aren't many in that size to choose from, b) the Gyuto blade shape compressed into a 180mm length is doesn't work very well.  

                      Off the top of my head, check out the Sugimoto French, Shun Classic Asian,  or see if Masamoto KS or Sakai Yasuke makes a 180mm petty.  All of these are kinda close to the Sabatier French blade shape. 

                      1. re: JavaBean

                        Yes, that's what I was worried about. How short can I go without losing function. I had a 7-inch Messermeister Asian Precision gyuto for a while, and it was OK, but...

                        1. re: Eager6

                          IMO, a chef's knife needs to be at least 8" long. Shorter ones aren't long enough to slice and don't have enough flat cutting edge to handle many normal size items...med onion, grapefruit,etc.

                          If you need to go short, look for a petty or something like a Nakari with a mostly flat cutting edge.

                          1. re: JavaBean

                            I have the Tojiro DP Nakari. Very thin, extremely sharp and very handy. Very economical too.

                      2. re: Eager6

                        <The chef is very similar to the Sab in the photo. Narrow blade, spine to edge, mostly straight, very little knuckle clearance, small diameter handle.>

                        @Eager6..the Sab in my photo is actually a tranchelard/slicer hence the slim profile..

                  2. I'd suggest a Shun 7" Asian Chef Knife. The length is right, the shape is right, the steel is excellent, & the handle is small in diameter.

                    18 Replies
                    1. re: Eiron

                      I'll look at that. Perhaps a Japanese handle might work.

                      1. re: Eager6

                        The Shun 7" Asian Chef's knife may work well for your need. It is relatively short and has a straight blade profile. However, the handle is still align with the knife spine -- something you don't want.


                        I would take a look in your nearest store.

                          1. re: JavaBean

                            I personally like the handle alignment, but Eager6 (original poster) prefers a different style. The Shun Asian Chef's knife has the handle aligns (parallel) to the spine. Eager hopes for handle which aligns with the cutting edge. He wrote:

                            " She is used to, and likes a handle that is close to the edge in *relation to the spine. She isn't used to wide blade knives, or knives with the handle centered at the spine, as the Wa handled knives appear to be."

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              Ooops, I missed that part. Handle running parallel and closer to the edge...like a Sujihiki?...at 180mm....hmmm.

                              1. re: JavaBean

                                Yeah, while you were look at the long petty and suggest a 180 mm petty. I was looking for a short Sujihiki online, but I didn't find anything I can suggest. Yeah, if you find a short Sujihiki, then it may work well for the original poster. Let us know.

                                Edited: See Eiron's interpretation below. I may have read it wrong too.

                              2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                I took that to mean having a handle in which the *centerline* of the handle was *in line* with the top edge of the spine. (i.e., the top edge of the handle would be offset *above* the top edge of the spine)

                                Of course, the Shun Classic knives are *not* made that way.

                                1. re: Eiron

                                  Oh....Yeah... that may be what it means. In which case, Shun Classic should be fine.


                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    This is proving tougher than I anticipated, because of her preference in handles... and blades. I'm going to have to do some detailed reseach and experimentation on her. My 16 yo daughter, who has been cooking with her, confirmed my suspicion that "I've only seen her ever use a real small knife to do everything". That knife is the really narrow bladed, narrow handled, 3-in long blade paring knife of soft stainless from 1958, which is now missing a chuck of handle and the blade of which is very worn. She mostly uses it by pushing the item against the blade, ultimately touching the blade with her thumb. Usually the blade is so dull that the fruit is more wedge split, than cut. I'm not sure that she even wants a sharp bladed parer. I'll try to find out. I might have to throw out all logic, on this one. :|

                                    So much for man's quest for a sharp blade.

                                    1. re: Eager6

                                      Yeah, you never know if you can get what she really wants. You can consider a petty knife as JavaBean has suggested. A petty knife is very much like an utility knife except it has better knuckle clearance.

                                      The good thing is that if she does not like it, you can use it for yourself. A 150 mm (6") petty knife is considered very normal. Whereas if you get a 6" Chef's knife for her and she does not like it, then you are stuck with a knife which may not like and difficult to sell.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        Jeezer, I had hoped to be into the joy of knife buying by now. Dumb ol grandma :(

                                        Hey! Maybe I can get my kid to use knives!

                                        1. re: Eager6

                                          How old are you kids? 2 years old? :)

                                      2. re: Eager6

                                        Granny technique + sharp knife == Not Good. Unless she's willing to adjust her ways ( good luck with that one), you're better off avoiding high performance edges & knives. She's going to appreciate anything you get her, but would likely like the Sabs more than a Jblade.

                                        1. re: JavaBean

                                          <Granny technique + sharp knife == Not Good>

                                          That is an excellent point. Many people, including professional, develop their skills based on semi-dull and dull knives. For a long time, I developed my knife skill based on my dull knives. As such, it was actually challenging when I got my first sharp knife. I had to unlearn previous methods.

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            Ditto. Spent weeks just trying to break my German  knife habits.  I was all kinds of stupid, and kept embedding and grinding the blade into the board. I had to change my grip, cutting stroke, and learn to not apply a lot of downward force.  

                                            I put the training wheels on again with the single bevels. Totally different animals. With them, I had to learn to just aim and prevent the blade from free falling too hard. They're awesome if used as intended, but a nightmare otherwise.  I'm currently learning to use a Usuba and thus far no chips or stitches. :-)

                                            1. re: JavaBean

                                              I have a usuba too. I used it for awhile, but slow down. I like it very much, but I got it mostly for the rotary cut, so I better spend some more time to practice.

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                My katsuramuki skills suck; i take forever to do it just to avoid an ER visit. I've been cheating by sticking two wooden matches on the blade and using them like rails against the board.

                                                I'm having a blast making see through cuts and julienne-ing everything in sight with it.

                                                1. re: JavaBean

                                                  <My katsuramuki skills suck>

                                                  I honestly believe either of us can get very good by just practice. I have practice a couple of time, but it is time consuming, and I just get lazy. :P

                        1. If her heart is set on the old Sabs the only option is the ones from The Best Things or an old Sab.

                          Handle preference is so subjective stick with what she likes.


                          1. I have several older Sab carbon, including a Nogent paring. The Nogent feels daintier to me. They all seem softer than newer SS and get (and need) honing with each use. I love them but the few Japanese knives I have used were every bit as sharp and might be a little hard to sharpen but likely require less obsessive honing. IMO no bad choices here.

                            1. You're buying the knives for her, because she's the one who's going to be using them the most.

                              Is it possible to take her to a cutlery, kitchen, or good department store and let her try a few? Then she can pick out the ones she likes. You can, of course, nudge her towards the ones with the blades that are the least issue for you to sharpen-- but this is a lot like trying to buy someone a new pair of shoes -- only the one who "wears" them can tell you if they "fit".

                              1. I agree with sunshine843. If distance is a problem, she could go to a local store and tell you which one she likes. Such a thoughtful gift!

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: klutzygirl

                                  I can work on that. I'll start by letting her use my 8-inch MAC Superior Chef, and Opinel carbon paring, and I'd like to know what she really thinks of a Wa handle, and what max length she will accept.

                                  She needs two knives: a paring and a chef

                                  She has an odd selection of knives that she uses.
                                  I believe she has a big Cutco chef that she doesn't like to use, so never does. She gave me a couple knives to sharpen. One is the Watanabe santoku. The other is a Brazilian stainless boning knife, which appearently she uses for veggies. I probably should let her use my MAC UK-60, Original series 6-inch utility. I used that for almost everything for years, and the handle's kind of thin.

                                  1. re: Eager6

                                    If your local store offers Sabatier carbon, regular or Nogent, where are you? Assuming they don't, eyeballing them the Nogent paring knife handle is about 3mm narrower than the handle on the 6" chef which, in turn is about 3mm narrower than the handles on the 8" or 10" chefs. Nogent Paring is lower left. Lower right is regular Sab carbon, 4". 6" chef and 10" slicer are in center. 8" and 10" chefs are on the sides.

                                2. OK, breaking news, I confronted her and demanded that she give her new internet forum audience satisfaction, and select her new knife! She was less than cooperative. I tried to get her to confess her secret love for an Rc 58+ steeled Japanese paring knife, but she would have none of it. All she said was she'd take one of my Opinel carbon paring Knives. I think that could work well for her. The handle is slim, and they're sharp. I tried to offer something cooler, but she wouldn't bite. I even put my old Victorinox parer, which I hate, in her hand, but not much interest. OH! She did say that she thought that the blade of the Vic would be better than that of the Opinel, which is what I thought, she wants a 3-in, straight, narrow blade, but said the handle of the Opinel was good. This is pretty much what I thought. I think I'll look serious at (probably just order one) a Forschner rosewood 3 1/4 in. paring knife. I think that'll work for her, and she said her 1958 paring knife, which I know she uses predominantly, is just about shot.

                                  Now, Re: a big knife. She coughed up that she likes the santoku best! Well who knew! Sheesh. I tried to "steer" her towards a gyuto, or some type of Chef knife, I don't know how she cuts melons, I'll have to watch for that, but she did say that she liked the Wa handle, OK that's progress, you guys were right on that, and she liked the length of the Watanabe santoku, and that she liked that. I tried to figure out if she might like a Nakiri, and she might, but she didn't really know. So, based on that, I think I'll consider another Santoku for her or a Nakiri, this time in good stainless, and thinner, light, small diameter handle (If there's a choice). Having two will allow me to take one and sharpen occasionally. Possibly a shorter Wa Gyuto, but she did not like the idea of something longer than the Santoku. So what do you guys recommend based on that? I'd like to see a Nakiri. How 'bout the MAC? It seems light. Another possiblity is a Utilty knife. She brought me a soft steeled Brazillian boning knife, with a massive bolster to sharpen, which says she "likes" to use to cut vegetables with. :\ Seems like a Utility would be better than that. Like a MAC 5-in Utilty. or maybe a good larger Petty. I hate large Pettys myself, but...

                                  I'd like to get a better parer, but she might not like it, so I better just let her go with the Opinel. I think I'll order a forschner rosewood parer.

                                  Well, were finally makin some progress. Too bad Grandma doesn't like knives as much as I do.

                                  27 Replies
                                  1. re: Eager6

                                    I have the Forschner Rosewood santoku & think it's a great knife! But I also like your idea of the MAC. I just got a 6-3/4" MAC 'original' utility knife & it's an interesting cross between a santoku & cook's knife. It's thin & light, & the handle is small.

                                    1. re: Eager6

                                      <OK, breaking news, I confronted her and demanded that she give her new internet forum audience satisfaction>

                                      Ha ha ha.

                                      <She coughed up that she likes the santoku best! Well who knew! Sheesh.>

                                      Well, a lot of women like santoku, so maybe she really like a santoku better than a Chef's knife, or she just does not want to spend too much money. Rachel Ray is a huge advocator for the Santoku knife.

                                      < So, based on that, I think I'll consider another Santoku for her or a Nakiri,>

                                      If she likes her Watanabe Santoku, then why do you want to get her another Santoku? Is there something she does not like and you want to improve upon?

                                      <this time in good stainless, and thinner, light, small diameter handle (If there's a choice)>

                                      I do not have a Watanabe Santoku, but I have a Watanabe Nakiri. Watanabe knives are really good in my opinion, but they are usually not very thin. I had to custom request a thinner blade nakiri. I don't know if yours are customized by Mr. Watanabe Shinichi. As for the handle, I remember asking him about a new handle since I wasn't all that thrilled about D handle. At the end, I didn't get one, but he offered several selection of customized handles too. I believe his octagonal handle is narrower than his standard handle, but you should double check with him.

                                      < with a massive bolster to sharpen, which says she "likes" to use to cut vegetables with>

                                      It seems to me that she like short knives. In which case, Santoku and Nakiri are short knives which offer higher knuckle clearance and greater utility. However, if she likes paring knife and utility knife, then a petty knife is not a bad alternative to an utility knife. A petty knife has better knuckle clearance. Ask to see if she like the general shape of a petty knife.

                                      So there is what I think. For a safe choice, either get a Santoku, Nakiri or a long Petty knife.

                                      For a more creative choice, try the Shun 7" Asian chef's knife or a Shun Rocking knife. Yes, I know they are totally different, but they are both shorter knives, which is why you need to ask if she like short wide knives or short narrow knives.



                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        Those Shuns look too heavy to me, with the bolster and all. I'll ask about wide or narrow. I think light and thin, I'm liking the idea of a Nakiri, since she has a good Santoku, and she might like the comfort of no sharp tip. She did say she could live without a tip. Do we like Nakiris here? compared to Santokus? I have the Watanabe Santoku myself, but never a Nakiri, so don't know. I might prefer a good stainless or clad, so that she can try something different than her carbon Watanabe, but another carbon is fine if it's good. Thin for sure, and nice thinner handle. I think in general she prefers a blade narrow and short over wide and long.

                                        Long Petty? Yes I think so. Which?

                                        1. re: Eager6

                                          Nakiri.... I like it. Compared to a Santoku, a typical Nakiri has no tip and has a flatter edge profile (there are exceptions of course). A Santoku is a more well-rounded knife due to the tip. On the other hand, the flatter/straighter edge profile of the Nakiri results a very wide cutting board contact, which is very good if she uses a push cutting technique, and not the rock chopping method. Do you know if you use push/pull cutting or rock chopping?

                                          < I think in general she prefers a blade narrow and short over wide and long. >

                                          But a Nakiri or a Santoku is wide -- wider than many gyuto.

                                          <Long Petty? Yes I think so. Which?>

                                          I have only had one. I have a Konosuke HD2 150 mm petty. It is thin, narrow, but with some knuckle clearance. HD and HD2 are semi-stainless steel. They are not quite exactly stainless steel because of the slightly lower chromium, but they are rust resistance. This is a nice video (not mine):


                                          You may want something longer than 150 mm (6 inch). Maybe a 180 mm petty (8 inch)? I don't know.

                                          I don't have the Tojiro petty, but people like it and it looks good to me. There are 120 mm, 150 mm, 180 mm, 210 mm...., but I don't see the wa wood handle anymore from Chefknivestogo:


                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            <Do you know if you use push/pull cutting or rock chopping?>

                                            Opps. I mean her. Do you know if she uses a push/pull cutting or rock chopping. Sorry for the confusion.

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              I don't belive she EVER uses, or has EVER used a rock chop.
                                              I think, if she can, she'll grab even big stuff, and use a small paring knife to cut without a board, over a bowl pushing the item against a stationary blade with her thumb. I've always hated her knife techniques, although arguably, there are things she can do better than I can with that technique.

                                              She does cut melons and things on a board, and she must be using a board some, since she says she likes the Santoku.

                                              1. re: Eager6

                                                <she'll grab even big stuff, and use a small paring knife to cut without a board>

                                                Ok... if she is going to cut against her hand instead of a cutting board, then forget everything I have ever said. You don't want a sharp knife.... Just ignore everything I wrote.

                                      2. re: Eager6

                                        LOL, love the no more Mr. Nice Guy approach. 

                                        I'm not a big paring knife user, but do prefer ones  with a straight, narrow spearpoint blade shape; the Kuhn Rikon, Forschner, Mac and Shun Classic are all excellent.  I personally don't care for high end steels w/paring knives because their often thicker and stiffer blade  don' t follow contours very well, and attributes like wear resistance, edge retention, etc.  aren't needed for a knife that normally sees  little to no board contact or hard items. 

                                        My petty of choice these days is a 150mm Tanaka blue, awesome knife, but not a good choice for non knife nuts.  Petties are great with fruit, so I suggest going with something stainless or semi-stainless.  Start with a simple, entry level moly, VG-10, mystery inox one; Fujiwara, Tojiro, Misono, Suisin, Togihari,  etc..  

                                        The few Santokus &sub 210mm Gyutos that I've used, did't have enough flat edge to chop and not enough blade length to rock.  For the reasons Chem said, I prefer a Nakiri.

                                        1. re: JavaBean

                                          <Start with a simple, entry level moly, VG-10, mystery inox one; Fujiwara, Tojiro, Misono, Suisin, Togihari,>

                                          Java, I was thinking yesterday. There are not a lot of stainless steel petty with a wa wood narrow handle, right? I know Tojiro DP offers in wa wood handle, but I don't see many on Chefknivestogo anymore. Any other suggestions popping in your mind? Any decent (not necessary great) stainless steel petty knives with a narrow wood handle?

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            Hmmm...most of stainless wa-petties that come to mine are the high end...Suisin, Konosuke, Yasuke.

                                            Aritsugu A type (alien grade tool steel) makes a wa and yo handle that looks narrow. Mcusta / Masanobu, but pricey for VG-10.

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              OK, thanks Java and Chem. Good info.
                                              First, I'm thinking of ordering the ubiquitous Forschner/Vic parer with the rosewood handle. I have the plastic handled version, and although I think she would like it because it seems to fit her blade handle preferences, she balked at it when I put it ion her hand, I think because she has an averasion to plastic, and it looks disgustingly cheap. She liked the Opinel parer, and she's now got that. She did say that she thought the blade of the Vic would be better, but with the wood handle of the Opinel, So I think the rosewood "Vic" will work well. And for $13 ea, I could get several. That with the Opinel, amy be all she needs for paring.


                                              Next, I'm thinking a 150mm Petty might be a good idea. She seems to have a tendency to always grab smaller knives. So having a petty to grab might well be the best option to get her to start using sharper knives. I think she will use the petty, but maybe never a 240 gyuto. 210 and 180 would be better, but she might not pick those up. Plus a petty cost less. I like the Fujiwara FKM 150 for only $44, because I really like my Fujiwara, and the handle appears a bit slimmer than others. I know it's only Rc 57-58 (drawback), but I get very great performance out of my similar Fujiwara. Alternately (Wa handle seems rare or out of budget):

                                              Tojiro DP 150 ~$60

                                              MAC Pro 6-in Utility ~$70

                                              The Carbonext 150 petty is $70

                                              Hiromoto AS 150 is ~$80

                                              Kumagoro Suminagashi, San Mai Damascus Utility Knife - Fruit Knife - 6 in. (150mm) ~80

                                              BTW, the Tojiro DP Wa-Nakiri 165mm looks attractive at ~$75, alternatively the MAC Pro Nakiri at ~$85, or Dojo Hayashi Nakiri at$80

                                              1. re: Eager6

                                                <I know it's only Rc 57-58 (drawback), but I get very great performance out of my similar Fujiwara.>

                                                The hardness is not great by Japanese standard, but is not soft. I believe most Henckels are still in this range 57 HRC range. Tojiro DP is also nice too. They are your less expensive choices.

                                                <the Tojiro DP Wa-Nakiri 165mm looks attractive at ~$75>

                                                Yeah, but it is out of stock at Chefknivestogo.

                                                1. re: Eager6

                                                  It sounds like your mom uses a granny technique a lot and will likely do so with any narrow blade ( paring, petty), so i strongly suggest putting handle comfort and security as a top priority.

                                                  Blade wise, the Vic is more than fine for a paring knife. I think the Fujiwara or Mac is a good choice. Their lower HRC works in your favor cause you DO NOT want the level sharpness, or need the edge retention of a better / higher HRC blade on a knife that won't see anything tougher than her thumb.

                                                  For a Nakiri or knife that's too wide for her to freehand / needs a cutting board, feel free to step up on the blade steel. I think something thinner would compliment the Wantanabe Santoku ( I'm assuming it's on the thick side)

                                                  1. re: JavaBean

                                                    Yeah, well... I wasn't thinking a wide blade either, but that's what she says is her fav. I think she should hava 210 gyuto, but I'm afraid she wouldn't touch it. So I first asked about a 180 gyuto. Not much love here. 6-in Utility/Petty=some here like and I think she would pick that up, I think to do some of here sharp knife board work that she's using a boning knife to do now on veggies (she's vegan).

                                                    I'm leaning farther towards the 150 Fujiwara FKM now. I'm sure she'll use it. I'll just have to check it often for edge. for $44 almost can't go wrong. My daughter might like it too. I've got to get her "cutting" and big knives intimidate her as well. Also she cooks over there with Grandma sometimes, and maybe we can start somekind of family knife rotational thing.

                                                    1. re: Eager6

                                                      A Gyuto shape and length buys you the ability to handle meats, but likely unnecessary extra baggage for vegetarians. A 180mm Santoku or Nakiri should handle most normal size veggies without issues. For bigger items like melons, pumpkins, etc, an 8 or 10" bread knife should handle the initial cuts just fine.

                                                      How often do her blades need to sharpened / honed now?

                                                      1. re: JavaBean

                                                        I would like to add that a Nakiri or a Santoku can also handle meat, just differently.

                                                2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  C...and more has the 130mm tojiro dp wa- petty on sale. Iirc there's an eBay seller (L???) that may have it as well.

                                                  And the yucky machi Tanaka VG-10.

                                                  Interesting, I've never tried a nakiri with meats.

                                                  1. re: JavaBean

                                                    I actually skimmed over cutlery and more before. Do you mean the Tojiro Zen? I think you are right. The Tojiro Zen is pretty much same as DP except for the handle. Looking at the photo though, it looks like the wa handle is larger than its yo (Western) handle. The utility knife (petty) knife does not look to have much knuckle clearance. The price is great though.

                                                    Using Nakiri for meat is not much differ than using a Chinese vegetable cleaver (e.g. Chinese Chef's knife) for meat.

                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      I think the zen and wa-dp are the same. Yeah the handle looks oversized, but fixable with some sandpaper. Kinda narrow thou for board work.

                                                      Duh...brainfart :(

                                                      1. re: JavaBean

                                                        No. It was a good suggestion. It just may not work for Eager6's mother, and so I want to point this out in case he did not notice before paying for it. Yeah, sandpaper will work nicely.

                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                          Yeah OK. I'm good with tools. I'm thinking now that I will research her cutting needs, i.e. she needs to cut melons, squash, tomatoes, etc. I suspect she wants a sharp blade for tomatoes, and a big blade for melons. I will find out what she wants to do those tasks, then look to provide for that.

                                                          E.g. a good steeled, good handled, say 150mm Petty MIGHT be good for her tomatoe slicing duties.

                                                          Perhaps a Vic type parer with a 20 degree micro bevel with the edge ever-so-slightly rounded for thumb push cutting.

                                                          I'll look at her peeler too, while I'm at it. Might be able to improve her life a little through that.

                                                          1. re: Eager6

                                                            A bit of a off-remark. I know you asked for sharp knives with good knives, and you have told us that your mom is about 85 years. Any chance she may be interested in Dexter Duo Glide.


                                                            I don't expect the steel to be nearly as good as the knives we have discussed before, but it is designed for people who have less power. This line has received the recommendation from the Arthritis Foundation's Ease-of-Use Commendation.

                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                              Thankfully she's not even close to being ready for that yet.
                                                              I think I'd offer to cut her carrots for her before I allowed that abomination in her house, but that's just my first reaction.

                                                              I think she still has time and the stength to enjoy some knives of quality and class.

                                                              1. re: Eager6

                                                                <before I allowed that abomination>

                                                                Ha ha ha.

                                                                  1. re: Eager6

                                                                    Don't knock it till you try it.

                                                                    Funky looking as it is it works for compromised grips be it arthritis or any injury that impairs use of a regular chef.

                                                                    I keep one in the drawer.


                                                                1. re: Eager6

                                                                  ...ever so slightly rounded for thumb push cutting.
                                                                  +1, go with very conservative edge.

                                                  2. okay....totally get that you want to buy her nice knives.

                                                    What I don't get is the not-so-veiled insistence that she buy the knives that YOU want her to have, not the knives that SHE wants to use.

                                                    If you're going to sharpen them, then it's okay to nudge her towards something that you can sharpen well..

                                                    But the bottom line is that if she really wants to buy a 99-cent paring knife -- it's her hands and her kitchen and her choice.

                                                    (and BTW -- sometimes I use a cutting board; sometimes I cut veggies with my razor-sharp Wusthof against my thumb. Haven't bled yet.)

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                      I've only bought her one knife in over 50 years, so I'm not really forcing my knives on her. She actualy complained that the last of her old knives is going, which is asking for help. She could go get something on her own. I can't explain to you why she doesn't do this. Probably because she like to see me. She now says she likes the Watanabe carbon santoku that I bought her ~tens years ago, but that I know she didn't touch for at least 5 yrs.

                                                      I think the bottom line is she likes sharp for SOME things, but she lacks or has bad knife techniques for a lot of things. She is asking for a sharp knife. Probably for the things she does do on a board. But I think you guys are right in that she should have (this really hurts me to say) a dull parer too, to fit with some of her common techniques. I think the Vic will work for that, and she can scape the Opinel on the concrete too if she wants. I'm confident that she can and will figure that out for herself. She hasn't cut off a finger in 82 yrs, so probably knows what a sharp knife is. In all cases she wants handles and blade sizes and shapes that work. I think I'm getting there, e.g. with the Opinel that she now has, the wood Vic and a petty which should be better than the stiff boning knife she's now using for veggies, but which she asked me to sharpen, so I can only asssume that she would prefer a sharp knife for whatever shes using it for. She never said she wanted a 99-cent parer. Where did you get that? She did say the Watanabe Santoku is one of her favs and she would use another. I think she could use a dull parer, maybe a sharp parer, and some sharp "board" knives. I'm not really talking about expensive knives to fill those roles.

                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                        I'd also recommend that the OP take her shopping for said knives. She gets what she wants.

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          I will try that, but recognize that effectively that has already been done. She's has been a very good and sophisticated cook for many years. Nevertheless, she has essentially "declined to participate" in the importance of knives and knife skills. I'm sure she's seen lots of knives. She has read dozens of sophisticated cookbooks. She's taken classes in Thai cooking, is a freind of a Thai lady who owns and runs a good local Thai restaurant, took a class in sushi making. Yet through all that, she won't recognize that participating in learning about knife skills and types would help her cook better. She should have taken a knife skills/knife class years ago. That would have helped. I dropped a good Santoku in her block over 10 years ago, but it took 5 before she'd touch it, and another 5 for her to try it enough to admit that she likes it.

                                                          Also, I don't think she'll go. She doesn't want to look at knives, and she doesn't want me to spend on her. So, mostly likely she'll refuse to go, or refuse to effectively participate. She knows I love knives, and I sharpen for her, so if I say "here's a knife I have that I don't use much, why don't you try this for while." She's more likely to give it fair test.

                                                          1. re: Eager6

                                                            You don't THINK she'll go. Okay. I would never buy a tool for someone. YMMV.

                                                      2. I've found that most female home cooks prefer Santoku's over german chef's or gyuto's. It's probably because they find the length & heft of 8"+ knives too unwieldy. I've got a Mac Pro Santoku that's my go-to blade for small tasks. It's incredibly sharp out of the box and has good edge retention. My mom (who's in her 60's) loves her Messermeister Mu Santoku (made by Suncraft in Japan). It's got a classy bamboo handle & the handle is angled up a bit so you get more knuckle clearance.

                                                        23 Replies
                                                          1. re: zinFAN

                                                            What you say makes sense, but I believe a lot of women prefer the santokus over the 8" chef because in the 80s and 90s heavy knives were so in vogue. The top of the line Henckels and Wusthofs of that era were quite hefty. My wife is 5'3" and uses her 8" Sab more than the 6", and I believe a major reason is that it is light and nimble, as are most of the Japanese knives I have seen. If you can find a longer knife that you are comfortable with, you often find that you like the extra few inches for many tasks. IMHO a heavy German style chef knife is best for rocking action chopping where the weight may actually help.

                                                            1. re: tim irvine

                                                              Yeah. Now I'm thinking I need to research how she cuts things, and although I think I have a good idea of what handles and blades she likes, confirm that. I think she would enjoy a 150mm petty, for tomatoes and fruit, and it looks like most of these have small enough handles, but the steel should be good, so that it's sharp when she needs it. A Santoku or Nakiri, a light sharp one with a narrow handle is also of interest, I think you guys a right, are a Wa handle would be best. She has the Watanabe, which she says she likes, so I'm thinking something slightly different to try, say somthing in stainless or clad, and the Watanabe has a notably curved blade, so I like to try something with the straighter blade, like a typical Nakiri. The Mac Nakiri might do this for a good price, or the Dojo Nakiri or Santoku, which seem to have a narrow handle. Although I haven't mentioned this before, she has a nice house/kitchen and asthetics do matter to her. I think this had something to do with her rejection of the plastic handled Vic without even really trying it.

                                                              1. re: Eager6

                                                                For what it worth, I want to say that many octagonal wa (Japanese) handles are thinner than most D-shape or round wa handles. I don't know why, but that is what I have observed:



                                                                By the way, what is your approximate budget for the petty and for the Santoku/Nakiri?

                                                                Have fun.

                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                  Let me first just say to quell the "LET GRANDMA CHOOSE HER OWN" crowd, that I'm only thinking out loud here, and I only have limited access to grandma to do research on her, and I won't buy until that research is done, so most of this is just "kicking" ideas around. But anyway...

                                                                  The budget is around $150 for the one big knife, which right now is looking like a Santoku or Nakiri. I would prefer to see her with a 210 or 180 gyuto, but I think she's more likely to accept the Santoku or Nakiri. I have ordered three Vic parers (My daughter and I could use one), and I think I'll make one sharp, and one 20 degrees and not-so-sharp for G-ma. I also ordered a 150 Fujiwara FKM, because I'm confident that both G-ma and daughter will like that. For fruit and tomatoes and such, and at $44 the price is great. If G-ma really likes it, and the edge doesn't hold well enough, I'll get something harder, and keep the Fujiwara for myself and daughter, where I can maintain the edge. Daughter is starting to cook and she doesn't like my 240s or chinese cleaver either, so I've got the advantage of being able to set up a "Family Knife Rotational" Program, where nothing will be wasted, since my other relatives love recieving even used knives from me.

                                                                  My best guess on the Santoku/Nakiri is the following general specs:

                                                                  6.5-in maybe less
                                                                  Wa handle prefered (or not) but either way on the narrow side
                                                                  I'm thinking a straighter blade, because her current Santoku has a much more curved profile (so something different)
                                                                  Stainless or clad because again her current Santoku is all carbon (so something different)

                                                                  Nakiris appear to have a fairly consistant straight edge, whereas Santokus can be significantly more curved. Her Watanabe is more curved than most, so I was thinking to try a straighter edge. I suppose this would mean more chopping as opposed to rocking. I suspect she does more chopping, so this seems like to good idea to me.

                                                                  1. re: Eager6

                                                                    <and I only have limited access to grandma to do research on her, >

                                                                    You are funny. :)

                                                                    < I also ordered a 150 Fujiwara FKM>

                                                                    Sounds like a good plan. I assume it is the petty 150 mm.

                                                                    <Nakiris appear to have a fairly consistant straight edge, whereas Santokus can be significantly more curved.>

                                                                    I agree. I find the curvature of Santoku can be quiet different from one manufacturer to another, whereas most Nakiri is pretty straight.

                                                                    Here are some random suggestions in no particular order:

                                                                    Chefknivestogo has some Tojiro Nakiri (Western or Japanese) handle:


                                                                    Japan Blades has Kanetsune and Minamoto:



                                                                    As for Fujiwara, there is this Fujiwara Nakiri in the FKV series as opposed to the FKM series:


                                                                    <so I've got the advantage of being able to set up a "Family Knife Rotational" Program>

                                                                    Ha ha ha.

                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                      There is some excellent info here on preferences and let me be the first to say in the most sincere way possible that Eager6 is a Great Son!

                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                          re: gender: more fun to allow the mystery to persist.

                                                                          Yes, I'm anxious to see how the 150 yes petty is received. I was thinking 180, but I think she likes small knives, so I think she will enjoy that. It's almost a shame I (or you guys really) didn't think of that before. I think I can get her some more enjoyable parers too. A large knife is still a challenge (research needed).

                                                                          That Wa handled Tojiro looks like a top candidate for consideration.

                                                                          Hey! That Fujiwara FKV looks really nice! That's a beautiful kitchen knife. I think she would like that. It's 50/50 and right handed too (she is). I gotta make sure she would be OK with a Nakiri though.

                                                                          1. re: Eager6

                                                                            Actually I also think you are a guy, but I was just teasing Sam.

                                                                            I have a 150 mm petty. It is nice, but I personally don't use it as my main knife. Hey, maybe your mom just doesn't like a large knife like a Chef's or a Santoku. Maybe, all she wants is a small like like a petty. Keep us update.

                                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                              Darn it. Exposed! Yeah, but she cuts a lot of squash and melons somehow. She likely uses her old '58 Chef for that. I'll have to check the edge on that, and see what she's using that for.

                                                                    2. re: Eager6

                                                                      I was thinking that you could send or give her this thread. Some's too technical but not all. In addition, why do you call your mother "Grandma" ? :)

                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                        Because she's the grandma, of my daughter. :)

                                                                        I just got the 150 mm Fujiwara FKM, and I cleaned it. Grandma/Mom was over, so I gave it to her. I asked her what she used the 6-in boning knife she dropped off for sharpening for. She said cutting fruits and vegis, just what she thought the new Fujiwara would do better. She tried the new handle and said she thought it would be fantastic. I think she will like it. Someone here had some good advice on that. I expected it to have a 50/50 edge (I didn't read it well). It's 70/30. I would have liked to sharpen it a bit, the edge could have been a bit better, but it was sharp enough. I'll check it in a few days, and see how she likes it. At some point I'll "scrub" the 70/30 off with my Choseras.

                                                                        The rosewood Vic parers also came today but not in time to give her one. The handles look perfect for her. More research later.

                                                                        I asked her about handles and blades, she said she did like the Wa handle, or narrower diameter handles, like her old soft stainless 1958 chef, which she said she used to cut melons and squash. I may be able to direct her to a Wa handled gyuto (say 210 mm) which performs better than her 1958 chef.

                                                                        1. re: Eager6

                                                                          < She tried the new handle and said she thought it would be fantastic.>

                                                                          Nice. I was concern if she thought the western handle of Fujiwara FKM petty being not small enough.

                                                                          < she said she did like the Wa handle>

                                                                          Based on photos? Or do you have a wa handle knife for her to play around?

                                                                          Thanks for the update.

                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                            Every 150 mm petty I've seen looks like a scaled down gyutos, so I suspected she would like the handle. A full size gyuto handle is a bit large for her but she likes the scaled down version.

                                                                            Recall that she has had a Watanabe Santoku for around 10 years, although probably only started using it in the last 5 years. It has an oval Wa handle, which she says she likes.

                                                                          2. re: Eager6

                                                                            Congrats. What is a 1958 chef knife?

                                                                            Double bevel jknives, generally have an asymetrical grind (90/10, 80/20, 70/30), meant to mimick the edge of a tradional single bevel knife, aid in pushing the food away from the blade face. Why do you want to make it a 50/50?

                                                                            + some jknives also have an asymetrical blade face (flat on the left side, convex on the right side). I don't know how, but you may need to adjust for it with your edge pro.

                                                                            1. re: JavaBean

                                                                              A 1958 chef knife is just what it sounds like. A chef knife made in 1958. She says it was a wedding present, so she can bracket the date. I think the brand is Black Hawk or something like that.

                                                                              I'm not going to bother adjusting my edgepro for the 70/30. I'm just going to grind it to 50/50 at the first sharpening. Someday I'll play with chisel grinds, but not on this small simple knife. The goal here needs to be fast and easy sharpening to get it back into service for G-ma/Mom. I'm sure I bought the Atom diamond hone for my edgepro, but haven't used it much, as well as the Choseras, so it won't take long.

                                                                              1. re: Eager6

                                                                                Duh, thanks for the clarification. Upon further thought, setting and resetting the angle on the edge pro for an asymetrical grind would be tedious. Please follow up with Gma's thoughts.

                                                                                1. re: JavaBean

                                                                                  Nah, I don't blame you. Considered that many knives come out with numbers and all, you were correct to ask. Like the Henckels 1731:


                                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                    Thanks, yeah I was thinking it was a model number.

                                                                                2. re: Eager6

                                                                                  On a side note, how do you like the Edge Pro. I bought one and just can't say enough about how well it works. With it I got my Wusthof Classics sharper than factory and it does a great job on my Japanese knives.

                                                                                  1. re: Tom34

                                                                                    Love it, especially that one can get Chosera and Shapton stones with it now. I've also got a Lansky system, diamond hones, paper wheels, and a minimal set of waterstones. I can barely do freehand, but not well and it takes too long, so the edgepro is for me. Most of my years of sharpening before the edgepro were with the Lansky, so I guess I'm a "jig man" at heart.
                                                                                    I have a lot of little pocket knives, and it doesn't work well on those though.

                                                                                    1. re: Eager6

                                                                                      I think there should be a "I love EdgePro" thread.