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Heavy, but not too heavy, cleaver?

Hello fellow hounds. I'm hoping you can help me out with a recommendation for a heavy, but not too heavy, cleaver. Lots of details to follow.

I use all Western-style knives (Wusthof Classic Ikon and Henckels Four Star II) plus one MAC santoku, and quite happy with the equipment I have, with one exception. I need a big cleaver for use in cutting through bones, squash, for smashing garlic, all that good stuff.

So I was looking on a knife store that I like, chefknivestogo.com, and they have this one called the CCK bone chopper that looks perfect:

http://www.chefknivestogo.com/cckbone...

Carbon steel, full tang, designed for hacking. The problem is that the spine is 8.1 mm thick at the heel. It's basically designed for chopping like an axe - if you try to push through food (e.g. squash - we eat a lot of squash) it'll wedge. I even emailed Mark Richmond (site owner) about it and he confirmed that it wedges badly, but that it's mostly designed for hacking.

Anyway, most of the other cleavers I've seen are Chinese-style slicers (very thin), or at most, about 2 to 3 mm thick. I'm looking for something heavier, maybe 4 or 5 mm thick? I want about 8" or 9" long blade, with full tang. Carbon steel or stainless is fine, I take care of my equipment so corrosion shouldn't be too much of a problem with carbon steel.

Should I just be going down to Chinatown and buying a $10 cleaver there? eBay? Should I go for the Wusthof Classic Heavy Cleaver? (Anyone know how thick it is?) It's kind of expensive, too.

Any recommendations are appreciated. Thanks!

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  1. Just noticed your post and it got me thinking. Certainly a clever that is good for hacking through bones would work great for smashing garlic, but maybe you need something else for breaking down winter squash. Something that goes through bones is going to have to be heavy and thick, and ground to have a relatively large angle at its cutting edge. Cutting through a squash probably would work better with a steeper angle. I use a large chef's knife for that purpose. The inexpensive cleaver that you are thinking about might work. They come in a variety of sizes, from narrow and very sharp (for vegetables) up to monstrous and heavy (for hacking through bones).

    1. <I need a big cleaver for use in cutting through bones, squash, for smashing garlic, all that good stuff.>

      Like PinchOfSalt said, I think the types of knives you need for cutting through bones are different than the knives you need for cutting through squash and smashing garlic. For cutting through squash, I find a thin blade knife work the best. For smashing garlic, I find medium blade knives work best. If it is too light, you don't get enough momentum. If it is too heavy, you get tired and inaccurate. For cutting through bones, thick blade knives will do.

      Now, what kind of bones are you thinking? A medium blade knife can work for chicken bones, but a thicker one is needed for bigger bones. For really thick bones, you probably should get a saw

      For a Chinese bone cleaver, I like 九江刀 Kau Kong Chopper. It is short, but thick. It is designed with a heavier tip to give it extra momentum during a swing.

      Here is my review:

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/850869

      <Should I just be going down to Chinatown and buying a $10 cleaver there? >

      You probably need to spend closer to $20 for a good bone cleaver.

      <Should I go for the Wusthof Classic Heavy Cleaver?>

      That is very thick too.

      You can also think about Dexter Russell bone cleavers. I have handled them. They are very thick and heavy. Heavier and thicker than the CCK KF1402 knife.

      http://www.katom.com/135-08070.html

      http://www.katom.com/135-08253.html

      8 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Out of interest, how thick is the spine of your CCK KF 1402 at the heel?

        1. re: geoffolynyk

          I have the exact geometry written down in my home computer, so I will let you know when I get home. I am guessing it is 5 mm, but I will check and post later.

          1. re: geoffolynyk

            Hi Geoff,

            Is geoffolynuk same as olynyk?

            I looked the measurements I record for CCK KF 1402. 3.2 mm thick at the tip of the spine, and 6.4 mm at the heel of the spine.

          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Hi Chemicalkinetics,

            The Dexter Russell 9" heavy cleaver looks great. (Too bad they only make the 7" in the carbon steel ... the 8" and 9" only come in stainless... I liked the idea of getting the patina on the carbon steel!)

            http://www.dexter1818.com/Item_Detail...

            http://www.katom.com/135-08240.html

            Do you happen to know what the dimensions are on that blade? It doesn't say on DR's site or Katom's. The slot in my knife block is 87 mm x 6 mm and I'm wondering if it will fit.

            1. re: olynyk

              Hi olynyk,

              Sorry. I have handled the DR cleaver a few times, but I don't have one with me, so I cannot measure the dimensions. Based on my memory its blade thickness is more than 6 mm, so it will not fit in your knife block. That said, most people don't put the meat cleaver in the knife block.

              I used to email the customer service of Dexter Russell, and the guy I talked to (John) is very helpful. He answered all my silly questions (17+ email back and forth). He was very patience. Send the customer service an email.

              Some examples to how how annoying I was and how patience he was:

              ***
              Hi XXX, the steel is the same and it is a 420 stainfree high carbon.

              The Rockwell on all of our knives range between 54 and 56, (60 would create an edge that would be very hard to bring back)

              Unfortunately most of the information you are asking for is above your average cutlery user.

              Feel free to contact me direct with any questions you have in the future.

              Best Regards,

              John A

              ***
              Hi XXX, it is a stamped blade,

              The optimum angle would 17.5%

              Best Regards,

              John A
              ***
              Hi XXX, the tang extends 40% into the handle. The knife will withstand a 500 lbs pull test.

              Best Regards,

              John A
              ***
              It extends about 40% into the handle, and the wood is walnut.

              The tang is in just far enough for strength, and balance.

              The deeper you penetrate the handle, the weaker the handle becomes.

              Best Regards,

              John A

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Thanks again. Yeah, I had some issues with registering this username so now I have two... have to delete one (or at least not use it).

                1. re: olynyk

                  Don't worry about deleting. I just want to know if I was talking to the same person or two different people. That's all.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    @Chemicalkinetics the moderators disabled the 'geoffolynyk' account anyway (you're not allowed two different accounts).

          3. It looks like this store carries all the CCK cleavers, does anyone have any experience with them?

            http://www.cookwarekitchenware.com/kn...

            2 Replies
            1. re: geoffolynyk

              Chem has forgotten more about knives and cleavers than I'll ever know, but I have an idea for you with regards to the squash. I use a 10" chef's knife and tap the spine with a rubber mallet. That way my fingers are not near the blade and I don't have to apply too much pressure and fear that something will slip.

              1. re: John E.

                <I use a 10" chef's knife and tap the spine with a rubber mallet>

                I agree. Whenever I feel like something can slip, I use my other hand to tap the knife spine. That way, nothing is close to the cutting edge. One hand on the knife hand, and one hand on the knife spine.

            2. "Should I just be going down to Chinatown and buying a $10 cleaver there? eBay? "

              Go to Chinatown and see what you can find.

              Some old American cleavers were "tweeners" not vegetable thin but not bone cleaver thick nor chef knife thin either.

              Usually this shape is a tweener but often old cleavers have a host of issues to fix.

              http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-MERID...

              1. Your local Asian market is worth a shot.  I've seen Chinese cleavers in 3 or 4 sizes or thickness.  The thinner / veggie slicers are great with squashes and smashing garlic, but can't handle bones.  Stepping up in weight class causes more wedging, but gains bone cutting ability. ~ middleweight == fish, chicken, light-heavy == pork, heavy == beef?  

                I think the heavy class Chinese cleavers are slightly less stout than a typical western meat cleaver. BTW, the wusthoff is in this range. In this weight class and up, I'd opt for a saw or a vintage one on eBay. 

                7 Replies
                1. re: JavaBean

                  @JavaBean that's great advice, thanks. It is unlikely that I will be chopping any beef bones, so I think the really heavy cleavers are not necessary. Like, the Dexter Russell S5288/5289 stainless heavy cleavers are ridiculous – apparently the spine is almost 10 mm thick at the heel and 5 mm at the tip. The 9" version (S5289) weighs almost four pounds! And it will wedge badly in squash.

                  The Wüsthof Classic 4685 heavy cleaver is 5 mm thick at the spine and comes in four sizes:

                  6¼" / 16 cm (weight 1.5 lbs / 680 g)

                  7½" / 19 cm (weight 1.8 lbs / 810 g)

                  8¼ / 21 cm (weight 2.1 lbs / 970 g)

                  9½" / 24 cm (weight 2.4 lbs / 1100 g)

                  The only issue is that it's expensive ($100–$190 depending on which size you get). But it seems like this is what I probably want.

                  That said, I also think it's always a good idea with any product to start with something cheap and learn what you like and how you use it, before upgrading to the more expensive one. So I'm leaning toward the Asian market / Chinatown idea.

                    1. re: GH1618

                      @GH1618 that's the model 4680, slightly lighter construction (4 mm blade thickness). That's a good option too though!

                      The eight-inch Wusthof "heavy" cleaver (model 4685) on that same site is $150.

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

                    2. re: olynyk

                      <the Dexter Russell S5288/5289 stainless heavy cleavers are ridiculous – apparently the spine is almost 10 mm thick at the heel and 5 mm at the tip. >

                      Thanks. I see you got the dimensions.

                      <That said, I also think it's always a good idea with any product to start with something cheap and learn what you like and how you use it, before upgrading to the more expensive one. >

                      Depending how often you will use your cleaver to cut bones, you may not need to spend a lot. I know many of us like harder steels for regular knives. However, it is nice to have softer steel for cleavers which often means cheaper.

                      <I'm leaning toward the Asian market / Chinatown idea.>

                      Where do you live? I assume you have a Chinatown near by. I would go straight to the kitchen supply stores, and not the supermarkets. Kitchen supply stores (in Chinatown) often sell products to the local restaurants, which means their stuffs are functional and inexpensive. You still have to pay attention nonetheless. Of course, if you have any kitchen supply stores (Chinatown or Not), then you can stop by.

                      Do you have a good butcher block or a thick cutting board? You probably will need one if you are going to regularly break bones with a cleaver.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        @Chemicalkinetics I've been in Boston for five years but moving (back) to Toronto this fall (2013). Boston has an okay Chinatown, but Toronto's is better, plus there's the gigantic Pacific Mall in Markham. So I may just wait until the fall and get something there.

                        1. re: olynyk

                          Oh I have been to Toronto just last Christmas. It has a pretty reasonable size Chinatown, but your Pacific has the famous CCK shop. :D I bought three knives there.

                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8830...

                          The CCK knives are going to be more expensive than your average Chinese knives though. You are looking between $50-80 for a CCK cleaver.

                      2. re: olynyk

                        I don't think it's necessary to spend alot on one...unless you're hacking through bones on a regular basis. As far as i can tell, a decent one ( in the appropriate size to whatever bones your cutting) will get the job done and survive to fight another day.
                        A better one should take and hold a better edge == withstand more blows before needing to be resharpened and should generated less bone splinters by cutting as opposed to crushing the bones.

                    3. I don't see why you want to combine the functions of chopping bones (even light ones) with cutting large squash. The latter calls for a long blade, which makes for a heavy cleaver. If you often cut winter squash, you might be better off with an inexpensive long chef's knife.

                      I prefer an eight-inch chef's knife, but for $10 I could buy this ten-inch knife solely for cutting squash:

                      http://www.cutleryandmore.com/miu/nsf...

                      As for crushing garlic, I have a large cleaver but never get it out for this purpose. I use the side of my vegetable knife and hit it with the heel of my hand. It may be satisfying to whack a clove of garlic with a huge cleaver, but it isn't necessary.

                      I would spend my money on the cleaver which is best for use as a cleaver. Since you like Wüsthof Classic, perhaps the seven-inch.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: GH1618

                        @GH1618 very good point. The two tasks (bones, squash) are different and probably call for different tools.

                        1. re: GH1618

                          I agree with you, you don't want to combine the functions of chopping bones with cutting vegetables. While a Chinese cleaver is the same general shape as the Western meat cleaver, it is a very different animal. The every day cleaver is too thin and fragile to be chopping bones! As Chemicalkinetics mentions,if you want to stick with Asian cleavers to hack at bones then you need to look for bone cleavers specifically.

                          For large bones, I think that scouring a line on a bone, than wacking it with a mallet to fracture the bone along the scour line generally works much better at home for most people than whaling on it with a cleaver.

                        2. Have not seem them on regular sites (non eBay) lately, but I love myThiers Issard Sabatier 6". It's spine is about 3mm. All my other knives are carbon, but it is SS. It is hefty but not unmanageable.

                          1. So here's what I ended up getting, at least for now: a cheap stainless (I think) "JQ #2" cleaver from Tap Phong Trading Co. in Chinatown on Spadina.

                            It's pretty dull, and the metallurgy seems really sketchy, like they just took a stainless bar stock, cold-rolled it, and ground the edges. Will update in a few months after I've used it and see how it is going.

                            I put mustard all over it (see photo) and it gave it somewhat of a patina, which shouldn't happen if it's real stainless, right?

                            It was only $20. If it doesn't last, I'll chuck it and get a CCK at the outlet store at the Pacific Mall. Good to be back in Toronto!

                             
                             
                            9 Replies
                            1. re: olynyk

                              What's with the mustard? Is that something about the patina?

                              1. re: John E.

                                @John E. yes, you can use mustard to put a nice patina on a carbon steel knife in a hurry (takes about 15 minutes). It doesn't have to be mustard, it's just that mustard is (a) acidic, (b) thick enough that it doesn't dry out in 15 minutes, and (c) lumpy enough that you get an interesting pattern of more/less oxidized steel. It's apparently quite beautiful in some cases: rainbow shimmers.

                                See e.g.: http://forum.multitool.org/the-mod-sq...

                                In the case of my new gangster-stainless cleaver, it sort of put a patina on there, but it's kind of rusty-looking in spots (brownish). It may have been a mistake, haha.

                              2. re: olynyk

                                Is your new cleaver a thinner vegetable type or a thicker type? Or in between?

                                "the metallurgy seems really sketchy, like they just took a stainless bar stock, cold-rolled it, and ground the edges."
                                _____
                                Chinese cleavers can be pretty simple, geometry-wise. Some of them, especially the very thin or very thick ones, can be little more than flat rectangles of steel with the edges ground in, or maybe with a large relief bevel on one side only. There may not be much tapering from spine to edge or distal tapering from handle to tip in some Chinese Cleavers. CCK slicers have a very, very subtle distal taper, and are basically flat ground otherwise, with relief bevels starting about an inch above the edge on either side (with a little more convexing on the left rather than the right for some reason). Nothing fancy, but it works well.

                                The point: don't necessarily be surprised that your cleaver seems a little rough around the edges. That's about par for the course. There are some very nice $20 cleavers out there, so don't let its simplicity fool you.

                                "It's pretty dull"
                                ______
                                It's not uncommon for Chinese cleavers to come with an edge that's poorly finished and/or much more obtuse than need be. Do you sharpen? That will be the first and probably most important test of your new knife. It should be able to take a wicked edge. If it doesn't, you probably don't need to test drive it for a few months before making your verdict. Obviously, you'd want to leave a thick bone cutting cleaver with a more obtuse and robust edge than a thin slicing cleaver.

                                "I put mustard all over it (see photo) and it gave it somewhat of a patina, which shouldn't happen if it's real stainless, right?"
                                ______
                                Not necessarily. Depends on how long you left the mustard on and how dark the patina is. Even 'stainless' steel will stain if left in contact with acids for long enough. On top of that, not all 'stainless' steels are equal in their stain resistance; 'carbon' steel knives vary even more. "Stainless" is essentially an arbitrary cut off point, meaning that the steel contains 14% or more chromium. More realistically, steels fall into a continuum of stain resistance. A 'carbon' steel with 10% chromium will still be pretty resistant to staining with normal use and care. And a highly stainless steel (so much chromium that it would make a poor knife) would still rust if you drowned it in the ocean for a year or two.

                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                  @cowboyardee Thanks for the advice! See my reply to John E. above re: patina, and my reply to Chemicalkinetics below re: sharpening.

                                2. re: olynyk

                                  I don't know about the JQ#2, and I cannot see the engraved characters on the blade. I doubt I have heard of this brand even if I can read the characters.

                                  <I put mustard all over it (see photo) and it gave it somewhat of a patina, which shouldn't happen if it's real stainless, right?>

                                  Mustard will probably do nothing in term of patina, but it may still able to dull the stainless steel shine. Stainless steel can still oxidize, just very slow. I am sure that you have seen rust on other stainless steel tools from time to time.

                                  I like CCK knives. If you are going to get one from the CCK store at the Pacific Mall, then you will be paying for about $45-70 depending on the size and shape. So what are you trying to get? What are you looking for in your knife? I may able to narrow down a few knives before you go in the store.

                                  I agree with cowboyardee that many Chinese knives do not have a good finish, and you are more or less required to sharpen on your own. In fact, some of the Chinese and Japanese knives are completely unsharpened at the store. For the Chinese knives, it assumes the users will sharpen on their own. For the Japanese knives, the knives are sharpened at the store after you pay for knives. I am not saying this is always true, but this is not uncommon.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    @Chemicalkinetics, well, that was a high-resolution photo, but I guess chow.com reduces the size. I might upload another photo of just the stamped characters to see if someone can translate it (maybe it says what material it is)?

                                    And yes, I'm going to sharpen it myself. My diamond stones (see attached image) that I use on cheaper knives should work, although they're awfully small for this massive cleaver. I might try to pick up some larger ones.

                                     
                                    1. re: olynyk

                                      I would recommend you to use a waterstone. There is a rumor that diamond plate does not work well for softer steel knives. I think something along the line that the diamond cut too deep into soft steel blade....etc.

                                      Anyway, I would think you get better results from typical waterstone anyway.

                                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      "Mustard will probably do nothing in term of patina, but it may still able to dull the stainless steel shine. Stainless steel can still oxidize, just very slow. I am sure that you have seen rust on other stainless steel tools from time to time."
                                      ______
                                      Hey Chem. As you probably know, some people use mustard to create or darken a patina on carbon steel knives. Just in case you (or anyone) haven't seen it, this thread over on kitchenknifeforums demonstrates this, and it's interesting:
                                      http://www.kitchenknifeforums.com/sho...

                                      Anyway, my guess would be that olynyk's cleaver is probably made of a semi-stainless steel, kind of like how Carbonext's steel is also semi-stainless. It wouldn't surprise me that it would be advertised as stainless anyway, since it's a Chinese knife and the distinction is fairly academic.

                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                        Yeah, I have seen people use mustard to create interesting pattern on carbon steel knives as well. Maybe you are right that this knife is not a typical stainless steel knife.

                                  2. We have a Dexter Russel. I can't remember the exact size off the top of my head. They had it at the local restaurant supply and was the only size in stock.

                                    It works great and I wish we'd bought it sooner since my husband ruined a couple of my knives hacking raw meaty bones for the dogs.