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Utility Knife for Non-Knife Person

So I've been tasked with finding a knife (or a couple of knives) for my mother-in-law for Christmas.

She is the type who, for years, primarily used a steak knife to do her chopping, which she threw into a drawer. Maybe 8 years ago she upgraded to a very low-end set of Henckels knives with micro-serration. She was relatively happy with those but abused the hell out of them and they're now totally dull and completely dinged up.

She doesn't understand why anyone would use a cutting board instead of cutting on a plate or something (we have that discussion every time she reaches for MY knife block), and I'd be shocked if she would ever take a knife to be sharpened.

I'm thinking that one or two knives on the short side -- maybe a paring knife and a 6" blade of some sort -- would be ideal for a large enough range of tasks. That leaves the question of durability. Can anyone suggest something that can be tossed around and abused, that will last her for a handful of years? Ideally not extremely expensive.

Thanks in advance for help with this seemingly impossible task!

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  1. Dexter Russell knives are good for this. A Komachi is good too:


    1. If I could only keep one of my many, many (too many) knives it would be the 6 inch chef's by Forschner/Victorionox. It's a beauty, and cheap:


      1. Here's a good deal on a paring/utility set:


        No knife wants to be abused, but these will be worth fixing if they are.

        1. Havalon Knives, they come with disposable blades. They are not traditional kitchen knives.

          A friends cabin had similar knife problems, no sharpening no regard for cutting surface no "chef's" knife skills

          1. Victorinox. I have a few of these paring knives (under $4 each) that use every day and then throw into the dishwasher when I'm done. They easily go a year without needing to be sharpened (however they are generally much sharper than an average-person's knives even when dull).

            1. Thanks all!!

              The Victorinox and Komachi both look like perfect choices for this situation.

              I don't think she'd be up for the Havalon look and feel :-)

              1. With utter disregard for cutting surface go with a serrated utility like these...




                The fact they are serrated will hold up cutting ability longer than a straight edge under abuse.

                The V-Lo is a more comfortable handle.


                1. I agree with knifesavers. Go serrated.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    Absolutely. If she's not going to take care of her knives, that's the way to go. You want the wavy kind of serration, not the hacksaw toothed ginsu knife crap. And it's hard to go wrong with Dexter Russell or other commercial-quality brands. My one serrated knife is a Victorinox bread knife (purists, please don't hate).

                  2. seems that if she was having trouble cutting things, she would have bought herselft something by NOW... hoping this doesn't offend her that you would give knives???

                    maybe go to ross or marshall's and get her a knife that doesn't cost much, but spend some of your budget on a sharpener too: sounds like she could use it!

                    1. A dozen $5 Kiwi knives. They cut well, and cost little. Throw the bluntest one away each time you visit.

                      (Probably don't actually do this. I hear humans take offense at this sort of thing.)

                      Actually, a ceramic knife might make sense. I hear they don't need much maintenance.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Scrofula

                        Ceramic knives are certainly interesting, but not a good option here. I own a Kyocera Kyotop (black) santoku, which I find to be a relatively useless knife all in all. (I use it only for cutting fruit these days.)

                        Biggest complaint: The blade is extremely brittle, and none other than my MIL has chipped it on two different occasions, cutting directly on our granite countertops. A steel blade might have dulled; the ceramic chips right off. Definitely not a knife for someone like that IMHO.

                      2. In many cultures gifting of knives is considered unlucky. It's considered "cutting off" the relationship (maybe that's what your intention is, considering it's your MIL). We never give knives or other cutting instruments.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: PeterL

                          Very interesting! No comment on my intentions, but which cultures are you referring to? I'd love to read up on that.

                          1. Victorinox. I've now bought 3, and I'm very happy with them.