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In need Knife-guidance for a complex household

Hi guys,

I've found myself suddenly and unwillingly thrust into the knife world. You see, I hadn't been planning to think about knives at all until such a time that I lived primarily by myself - and right now I live in a house with five other roommates.

We've been making due with a ragtag assortment of *terrible* knives, that until yesterday was more or less an okay situation. We had been relying almost entirely upon one of my roommate's Kyocera 5.5'' Santoku for practically all our needs. Unfortunately, yesterday as we were trying to half some gigantic onions, the blade just snapped right off in my hands.

So now I'm responsible for solving our no-knife problem... and frankly, I'm not sure what to do about it. Clearly it wouldn't be advisable to spend the money on a really nice knife considering the amount of abuse it would get in our kitchen. Several of my roommates dishwash everything indiscriminately, and they won't believe me when I tell them it's bad for certain kitchen items. On top of that none of us have any experience with competently sharpening knives.

I'm kind of tempted to go on the ceramic knife route again because they seem to hold an edge the longest, but I'm afraid we'll just break it again. I don't know much about steel knives, but it sounds like the affordable ones would be a "soft" steel that would demand frequent maintenance to keep an edge and wouldn't respond well to the abuse my roommates would put it through.

Should I just buy terrible 10-20 dollar knives and replace as necessary? What would you do in my situation?

Thanks!
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  1. My advice would be to buy yourself a "personal" knife just for your own use. In college I kept my kitchen knives in my room so that my roommates wouldn't use them--since I, too, would not have trusted them not to cut on stone, put them through the dishwasher, leave them in the sink, etc.

    On the other hand, buying an inexpensive knife and an inexpensive sharpening stone might be a good idea. You can practice sharpening on a knife (probably pretty frequently with the conditions that you describe of your kitchen) until you get very good. If you wanted to continue the tradition of communal kitchen knives, this is what I would recommend.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cynic2701

      I agree. You could also probably get some decent knives at thrift stores, I know friends have. Get them sharpened commercially once so you and the roommates know how sharp a good knife is. The learn to sharpen as Cynic has recommended.

    2. <the blade just snapped right off in my hands.>

      You broke it. :)

      <Should I just buy terrible 10-20 dollar knives and replace as necessary?>

      I would get either a Dexter-Russell or Victorinox/Forschner knife. They are about $25-35. They are restaurant workhorse kitchen knives, so they can take up abuses. They will need sharpening about once every 6 months to once every 2 years.

      If $25-35 is too much for you, then try something like the Komachi or Kuhn Rikon or Kiwi knives for about $10 a piece.

      10 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Oh yeah, it was totally my fault. The onion was rolling as I cut through it and I didn't pay enough attention and the sideways torque snapped the blade like it was peanut brittle.

        I don't think it would have happened with a steel knife though, and considering I might be the most conscientious cook in our kitchen I wouldn't be surprised if a new ceramic knife wouldn't suffer a similar fate.

        I think I've read that the Victorinox Fibrox knife has 15 degree edges as opposed to the traditional 20 degree western blade edge... would that change how we would sharpen them?

          1. re: Cynic2701

            Ha...we...dont :( Though to be fair we were using the ceramic knife mostly which we couldn't sharpen ourselves according to the manufacturer.

            We did have a roommate that moved out who had a nicer set of knives with a honing steel, but that isn't really sharpening I guess. I think it's fair to say we will be starting from square one here.

            1. re: sancor

              The best way to learn to sharpen is to start ;)

              If you are interested in learning, then I would wholeheartedly recommend beginning with an inexpensive knife. I'd suggest picking up a King 1000/6000 stone to start with:

              http://www.amazon.com/King-47506-1000...

              Look around on Youtube for knife sharpening videos. MrKnifeFanatic has a few good sharpening videos.

              And then just pick up a suitably sized chef/santoku knife on the cheap since you will likely mark up or make mistakes while learning to sharpen. From experience, I can say that learning to sharpen on a $200+ knife can be painful in a variety of ways.

              As pointed out by others, garage sales and thrift stores might be a good idea. Recently a friend suggested looking through a store like TJ Maxx and I was quite surprised at the kinds of finds you may come across, so this could be another place to look as well.

          2. re: sancor

            <Victorinox Fibrox knife has 15 degree edges as opposed to the traditional 20 degree western blade edge..>

            I don't think it has a 15 degree, but I could be wrong. The skill to sharpen knife by hand (by hand and flatstones) is pretty much the same. If you currently is using one of those pull through gadgets, then the gadgets will change the angle, which isn't really the end of the world. The knife with the new angle will function.

            1. re: sancor

              <the sideways torque snapped the blade like it was peanut brittle>
              LOL...mine developed hairline cracks and broke like a windshield. Anyway, i'd suggest going with something cheap & decent like the Forchner/ Victorinox and a sharpmaker or lansky.

            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

              I second dexter-russell, great knives...if they can survive a commercial kitchen, they can survive your place

              1. re: BiscuitBoy

                +3 on dexter-russell.

                go to local restaurant supply and get a few good knives.

                or, places like ross and marshall's will have cheap stuff this time of year - i have a cuisinart chef's knife that would be just fine for your situation. got it for $20 or so at ross a few years ago.

                1. re: rmarisco

                  +4

                  DR knives from a restaurant supply store is the way I'd go.

              2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                I now have 3 Victorinox knives, and I'm very happy with them. After decades of horrid knives and multiple cuts to my hands, I now slice, dice and chop with speed and precision. And fewer scars.

              3. Having been thru this scenario with my kids' roomates, I'm going to say get an inexpensive set. Something like a $29 block/set from Marshall's/TJMaxx/Homegoods would be a step up from old junk, & should last several years considering the simple fact that you'll have 5 to 7 different knives to spread the abuse across.

                Yes, I've shopped at thrift stores & found nice knives at great prices ($150 10" Wusthof chef for $2; $50 6" Mac cook for $2; $25 4" Mac paring for $1; several older Chicago Cutlery chefs for $2-$3 ea), but all require some work to bring back to usable cutlery. (The Wusthof is the worst, needing both blade repair & handle replacement.) Most people in your situation are not prepared to deal with pre-abused knives, so I don't recommend it for your situation.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Eiron

                  If you ever find a Wusthof with a broken handle you can mail it back and they will replace the entire knife without charge.

                2. I highly recommend the Wustof Pro line. Yes, the are stamped blades but oh so sharp, and easy to maintain. A 10" chef will run you $45. At that price you can add the santouko for an additional $40. Check out eversharpknives.com, or SLT has them also.

                  1. Get yourself a decent german bladed knife as well as a good sharpening stone, a steel and USE THEM!