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Apr 17, 2013 11:04 AM

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:


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:


      <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.



      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!)



            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?


            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.


              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.


                    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.


                          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.