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Knife Buying Blog


Varmint
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In my collection at present I have a Japanese knife I really, really dig. I'm not sure it's what you're looking for, because the blade is thick at the top and tapers down, but I actually find it easier to use for precise cuts. It's a Bunmei 7" usuba. I like the balance of it; the handle is light and it doesn't have a bolster. The thing feels like a finger extension to me. I use it for pretty much everything at work (since I work in the pantry, almost all of my chopping is limited to things vegetable). If you can feel one in the store, give it a try.

It's some kind of crazy molybdenum stainless steel, and I haven't sharpened it yet. After four months of daily use (about a good solid three hours' worth each day) I can still use it to take hair off my arm. The disadvantage is that if you leave anything acidic on the blade it develops little rust spots.

I also like the MAC knife of similar shape. That one doesn't belong to me so I'll have to find out the exact specs, but the blade is very thin and very sharp. I'll ask my boyfriend (who works two kitchen jobs, one mostly prep, so it sees a lot of use) how the edge is holding.

My chef has a Messermeister usuba, also very thin and very sharp.

I haven't been online in forever. I think I've forgotten how to write message board posts, so forgive me if this is overlong.

Jennie

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Man do I feel your pain. I am also starting a chefs knife quest with some Christmas loot and it is driving me nuts. I have had very similar experiences going into knife and cutlery stores where I am just about begging to be given the hard sell and they barely want to give you one knife laid out on a velvet pad like you are in a jewelery store. I keep hoping to find a visionary shopkeeper who pulls out a cutting board and a bag or carrots and tells me try out a few!

This is really unhelpful but Harrods in London has a good knife department with a rather bored Indian knife geek as salesperson who loves to have a long convesation about carbon levels and rockwell numbers and has a few ripe tomatoes and some waterstones in a bucket of water and a good selection of Japanese knives anad a fulllish set of Wusthofs etc etc

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Cool blog Varmint.

I just started looking around at various knives yesterday afternoon as a result of the holiday visiting of family and friends' families which evidenced that many of these kitchens are seriously lacking at least one decent knife.

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Kitchen knives are very personal.

I think that choosing one requires attention to three things: the steel, the architecture, and the aesthetics.

The steel is most important. Soft steel kives, like the carbon steel ones prevalent before 1960, are easy to sharpen and can maintain their sharpness if you use a steel on them before every use. But they stain easily, react to acid and eggs, and sometimes discolor foods, like onions.

The harder the knife, the harder it is to sharpen and the less good a steel does to keep them keen. High carbon stainless is the reasonable middle ground between straight carbon steel and the really hard alloyed steels.

Architecture is next. A knife has to be designed to do a job. The two best shapes are the common chef's knife with the (generally)triangular blade, curved gently along the cutting edge, and the Chinese knife (commonly misnamed a cleaver). It has a rectangular blade, not very thick, also curved gently along the cutting edge. Generally it's about eight inches long and can vary in width from one to almost four inches. A number two knife, about seven by two inches, is ideal for me.

Aesthetics is the least significant concern, but weighs heavily with the public relations and advertising departments of the big producers like Henckels, Wusthof, Forschner, and Sabatier. They sell looks, especially in beautifully matched sets, and they charge outrageous prices for beauty.

I don't buy knives these days; my main three are very old, and all have carbon steel blades stained to a blue-grey-brown camouflage patina. They comprise an eight inch chef's knife (of no brand I remember) bought at a knife shop in Thiers, the knife forging center of France; a ten inch slicer I bought at a yard sale in Kansas City, and an old Lamson and Goodnow four-inch utility /paring knife that I bought thirty years ago in New York.

I had a great Chinese number two knife I got for a couple of bucks in San Francisco's Chinatown twenty or so years ago, also carbon steel, but I left it by accident in an apartment I rented in Paris a while back. I took it with me because I regarded it as my most indispensable knife, with which I could do almost any kitchen chore, from dicing onions to boning chicken.

I have other knives, more expensive and more beautiful, from the big German and Swiss and French producers, gifts, mainly. But I don't use them much, except when I have to cut acid foods I don't want to discolor.

Edited by Maurice (log)
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I dreamed of knives last night. Seriously. Talk about obsession! I really, really want to try some Japanese blades. The more I look, the more I think that the Japanese are making the sort of knife that I want to use. Whether it will feel good in my hand is another matter -- something that I must thoroughly investigate.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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I'm a huge fan of globals, and Varmint, since i'm in the neighborhood, I'd be happy to loan you my 8 inch. The blade lasts so much longer than any german couterparts: I've used Wustof for years, and they just don't hold an edge like the Japanese. And please.....get rid of that electric sharpener, there's a place in Cary that will do it for you if you don't want to invest in a stone and steel.

"Godspeed all the bakers at dawn... may they all cut their thumbs and bleed into their buns til they melt away..."

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I'm a huge fan of globals, and Varmint, since i'm in the neighborhood, I'd be happy to loan you my 8 inch. The blade lasts so much longer than any german couterparts: I've used Wustof for years, and they just don't hold an edge like the Japanese. And please.....get rid of that electric sharpener, there's a place in Cary that will do it for you if you don't want to invest in a stone and steel.

Is that place in Cary Becks' Cutlery, which I discussed in my opening paragraph? If they read this thread, they may never let me back in their shop.

Anyhow, I'd love to try the Global! Thanks!

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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I bought a damascus usuba (damascus)

which is so good for cutting things like ginger -- literally paper thin slices. I love it. But it's a specialist tool not a general purpose knife.

just wondering if cutting ginger into paper thin slices would be a task better suited for a Mandolin or would that just simply be too pedestrian :)

Do not expect INTJs to actually care about how you view them. They already know that they are arrogant bastards with a morbid sense of humor. Telling them the obvious accomplishes nothing.

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it's not Becks, it begins with an M, maybe...near the Fox and Hound...I'm going into work later today so I'll find out the name.

That's Becks', and it's near the Fox and Hound. I should take the knives there anyway.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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I bought a damascus usuba (damascus)

which is so good for cutting things like ginger -- literally paper thin slices.  I love it.  But it's a specialist tool not a general purpose knife.

just wondering if cutting ginger into paper thin slices would be a task better suited for a Mandolin or would that just simply be too pedestrian :)

Well, then you cut the paper thin slices into tiny thread like strips ...

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Varmint, get in contact with the guy at Epicurean Edge. I visited his shop last night to pick up some late Christmas presents and found him to be super enthusiastic and knowledgeable. I checked out some fantastic Japanese made knives and loved them. In particular, check out the Shun collection, which seems to be very well crafted for the price.

Gimme what cha got for a pork chop!

-Freakmaster

I have two words for America... Meat Crust.

-Mario

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Maybe Chad should start an eGullet loaner program like Netflix for knives. I'd subscribe.

I think feel is overrated unless you really have become use to a certain style over the years. But even there, if you're willing to retrain yourself, it's worth it for a better knife.

btw, Bed, Bath, and Beyond has a very generous return policy and usually sells Globals, Henkels, and Wustoff. Anyone know what Sur La Table's return policy is like? They carry the Kershaw/Shuns and a few other brands that might be worth trying out. btw, if you do decide on BB&B's carried brands, they always seem to have 20% off coupons which can save you a pretty penny on a $80+ knife.

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Man, it wasn't easy. I had the knife secured in a heavy plastic blade guard and the steel was in a leather sheath. The lovely folks at the post office made me buy about 30 feet of bubble wrap -- even after I demonstrated how the knife guard works -- before putting the knife in the priority mail box. Oddly enough, they were even less sure of the steel :blink:. None of them had ever seen a smooth steel, so they assumed that it was some sort of horrific weapon.

Actually, after a couple of minutes of converstation they were very helpful. It's a post office regulation that any knife has to be fully swaddled in bubble wrap so it doesn't poke out of the box and whack a carrier. That's fine with me. But when I pulled the steel from the sheath I felt like Clevon Little in Blazing Saddles -- "pardon me while I whip this out . . . " :laugh:.

Anyway, they were very helpful and actually interested when I explained that it was a custom chef's knife. They thought that was pretty cool, if a little excessive.

Chad

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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I just received in today's mail Chad's custom made Mullin 8 inch chef's knife and a smooth steel. What a guy!!!! I can't wait to get home and try it out.

Dean,

You've got my addresss to forward Chad's knife to when you're done. The person who gets it after me needs to PM his or her address.

;)

Dave

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OK, I've got to get me a real knife. I just took out a carrot, and it's the first time in my life I've ever been able to get paper thin slices. And a perfect brunoise, too. It almost sickens me to think of how bad my knives are. I think that I need to invest in a good sharpener as well.

The Mullin is beautiful. The handle is a tad too small for me, both in girth and length (keep those jokes to yourself, please). But the blade -- oh, the blade!!!

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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I'm afraid once you try a japanese knife with a western style handle you'll never look back. I bought a bunch of Hattori's about 3 months ago and they are beyond reproach. While lighter than my Henckel Pro S were, they are very accurate and easily controlled.

Chad has one of these knives too I beleive, maybe he can chime in. Chad how would you rate the sharoness of the MUllin to the Hattori? Also the place I bought it from has a 10 day no questions asked return policy.

I Also had a Tichbourne Santoku but I returned it for the same reason as Chad. Just too big especially in blade width. It would just end up splitting the food rather than cutiing it.

Joe

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The handle is a tad too small for me, both in girth and length

Dean, how do you hold a knife? Do you hold it like this:

knifeskillsimage5.jpg

Or do you tend to hold it mostly on the handle? If the latter, you might consider switching to a "pinch grip" as shown above. It provides much better control. Also, for knives that don't have a bolster (and I think that applies to Chad's Mullin), you can "choke up" on the blade even more than the picture shows. I also tend to hold my thumb and forefinger much further down the blade, closer to the edge.

--

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