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A Knife in Two: What To Do?


Chris Amirault
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I have two prized Wusthof knives, the first two major purchases I made as a budding home cook over 20 years ago. One, the chef's knife, is still alive, well, and hacking up poultry. Here's the other, a paring knife:

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This thing has gotten a lot of hard work over the years, as well as a lot of love. It's never seen a dishwasher or a sink bottom, and it's been hand-washed within the hour 99% of the time. When it went missing two years ago (it was on a high shelf in the foyer for a few weeks) I panicked and bought a MAC paring knife. I love that MAC knife, don't get me wrong, but when this little guy turned back up, I nearly cried out of relief and happiness.

Then, yesterday, my wife picked it off of the magnetic strip and, well, this happened:

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Wiping tears away, I ask you:

1. What the heck happened? It was spontaneous and utterly unprovoked. Ideas?

2. What should I do about it? I think I got it at William Sonoma in NYC back in 1988, but honestly I'm not sure. Has anyone ever returned a knife to Wusthof? Adobe isn't liking my work computer right now so I can't download the lifetime warranty pdf.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I think there's a good argument that you're looking at a manufacturing defect. Wusthof knives are supposed to stand up to decades of professional use. Under home-cooking circumstances, they should never break like that. My guess is there was a small defect in the metal that, over the years, developed into cracks and then a break. It's certainly worth sending it to the manufacturer. I'd be surprised if they didn't offer a replacement.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Correction: I would take it to Williams-Sonoma. They're very good about backing the products they sell.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I hallucinated that you said it was from W-S. They never seem to care about receipts, though.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Wusthof is very good with returns from the retailers it sells to, and because of that, customer-service-oriented retailers like W-S or Sur La Table will generally replace anything that's defective, regardless of how old it is.

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I was given a Henckels 9" chef's knife back in around 1980. The tip broke off it around 2001 or so. I didn't drop it - it just broke off. I took it to a store that sold Henckles and they replaced it then and there - no questions asked. My Wustoff kitchen shears went shortly after we got them and they too went back - same thing. Instant replacement. Thought this might cheer you up. I'm sure you will get a replacement.

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Presuming you weren't trying to pry open a car door or something with it, I agree, it probably is a manufacturing defect. You've got nothing to lose by seeking a replacement.

That said, it looks like it was long overdue for a professional sharpening. If the bolster isn't ground down periodically, it starts turning into a boning knife.

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I had decided not to get the bolster ground down because the last guy who did it to my chef's knives "sharpened 'em all for free." Erp.

And, no, no car doors, loose screws, or otherwise inappropriate deeds.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Yeah, it's very tough to find someone who not only gets paid to sharpen knives, but actually does a professional job. I've sharpened my own knives for years, but recently got a bit more adventurous and have been experimenting with reshaping and bolster grinding with a few old ones. I haven't made a knife worse than it was before I started, and I've reshaped a couple of old Sabatiers that are now better than they've ever been, for as long as I've owned them.

Edited by David A. Goldfarb (log)
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100% manufacturing defect. A some kind of forging or heat treating mistake. Time bomb waiting to go off. Even if you'd used the knife to pry open a vault, I doubt it would have broken in that spot.

I've seen spontaneously snapped knives before, but never quite like that, south of the bolster.

Maybe it's time to let go? You might be able to get Wusthof to replace it, but it wouldn't be your baby anymore. And there are many knives that perform much better for the same or less money.

Notes from the underbelly

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  • 4 weeks later...

Correction: I would take it to Williams-Sonoma. They're very good about backing the products they sell.

Not sure they sold it, though.... And no receipt, that's for sure.

I hallucinated that you said it was from W-S. They never seem to care about receipts, though.

Steve,

You must not be aware of W-S policy on items without receipts. If they do not carry precisely the same product, yes even knives lines change a bit over time, they will give you a credit for the lowest sale price that your purchase was sold for at any W-S store. This can be a bit disturbing.

The Bron Mandoline that we received as a gift was slightly warped making it impossible to properly cut potato gaufrettes. We had owned it a few years before we took it into one of W-S's larger stores. The box still had the Williams-Stonoma product number and we anticipated no problems. Alas, the Bron had been replaced in the product line with a Matfer but that was not a problem in our eyes. They then went through their efficient data base and the very last Bron was sold at some W-S Outlet Store for $35.

They offered us a $35 trade-in for the $150 Matfer.

The moral is "do not lose those receipts and return and re-purchase gifts as soon as they are received.

Tim

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I once had a blade break off a Henckels Four Star steak knife... I wrote to Henckels' US office, who asked me to send it to them for examination (I did) and immediately dispatched a replacement. I would expect Wusthof to respond the same way.

John Rosevear

"Brown food tastes better." - Chris Schlesinger

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In 17 years of working very closely with Wusthof, I have never seen a forged knife fail in this way. But I can tell you that there is no doubt that Wusthof would replace this knife. In fact if you PM me your address and confirm the length of the blade, I will be happy to send you one on their behalf. I know for sure that they will take my word and send another to me at my store.

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I once had a blade break off a Henckels Four Star steak knife... I wrote to Henckels' US office, who asked me to send it to them for examination (I did) and immediately dispatched a replacement. I would expect Wusthof to respond the same way.

The very same thing happened to me about 3 years ago. The blade of my favorite Henckels paring knife snapped. I wrote to Henckels online. Apparently reaching Germany. They offered me the US email and an address to send in the broken knife. They also wrote Henckels USA a note to do an exchange when I send in my broken knife. They said they would like to see the break to see if there was a defect, for their own edification. Very nice, and pretty quick as I remember. I am so happy to have that knife back. It truly was my favorite.

...now if I could only find someone I could trust with sharpening.

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In 17 years of working very closely with Wusthof, I have never seen a forged knife fail in this way. But I can tell you that there is no doubt that Wusthof would replace this knife. In fact if you PM me your address and confirm the length of the blade, I will be happy to send you one on their behalf. I know for sure that they will take my word and send another to me at my store.

Thanks, Tony. It's a Wusthof Classic 3.5" paring knife. Let's track its travels and replacement here.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I once had a blade break off a Henckels Four Star steak knife... I wrote to Henckels' US office, who asked me to send it to them for examination (I did) and immediately dispatched a replacement. I would expect Wusthof to respond the same way.

Henckels had problems in the past as a result of their change from one piece construction to welding. If the break was on the blade close to the bolster, that was probably the weld failing. I believe they have reverted to forging since the, for their top end lines, but not necessarily for their outsourced production.

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Can anyone say if a break like this could result from improper handling while sharpening the knife?

Could the metal become stressed during the sharpening procedure?

Just wondering if there is something else to be worried about when I hand the knives over for sharpening.

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I have bult up my Wusthof collection over the last few years and I finally needed all the large slots on my knife block. I discovered there was a small piece of wood inside one of the slots obstructing the slot. I called Wusthof last Friday and they sent a replacement which arrived this Friday. No hassles, no proof of purchase required, simply excellent customer service.

Mark

My eG Food Blog

www.markiscooking.com

My T shirt site: Guy Bling

My NEW Ribs site: BlasphemyRibs.com

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Can anyone say if a break like this could result from improper handling while sharpening the knife?

Could the metal become stressed during the sharpening procedure?

Just wondering if there is something else to be worried about when I hand the knives over for sharpening.

I don't think there's anything besides a major defect that could cause this kind of break.

There are many, many ways that you might inadvertently mess up a knife ... this isn't one of them!

Notes from the underbelly

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