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The Ultimate Knife...


pjackso
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The topic of the thread asks for what, in your opinion, is the ultimate knife.  I respond that my Japnese knives are the ultimate knife.  Then you tell me I can't say that, and that there really is no ultimate knife, and go into a rant about how your coarse edged knives are better for allround kitchen use and that polished edges are for making sushi.

Give me a break.

Humor me.

Which Japanese blades have you used?

You want to see a damaged blade?  Try putting a 15 degree bevel on a Henkels.

Those old Sabatiers have quite a lot in common with some of the Japanese blades.  They do not have as much belly as a German knife.  They, like many gyutous, are high carbon and thin bladed.

Mr. Kinsey, I am sure your custom knives are just dandy.  They are designed for a course edge.  Fine.  You like them, and that is great.  I just don't think you are qualified to compare the performance of western knives to that of a quality Japanese blade.  I may be wrong, but you show no understanding of how well the Japanese blades perform.

If I might interject please... as you have seen I have a few different kinds of knives and I like them all (even the ones from Ikea). Sure they are different from each other and some are better suited for certain jobs than others. I say, vive la difference! Maybe the answer is that one knife can't be superior to all other knives.

One thing I have learned by this forum is that a good vintage Sabatier is a very well respected knife. What I am surprised by is the relatively little support Wüsthof knives have garnered.

When I was cooking professionally ten years ago I worked in a kitchen with 28 NECI and CIA grads and Wüsthof was the only knife you would see. I remember bringing in my Sabatiers once and everyone wanted to look at them. At that time they were like freaks to the other chefs and I was kind of embarrassed to use them.

Knives really have come a very long way in the last ten years and I would be happy to try some Japanese knives but at this point if I even pick up a new knife my wife gives me "that" look.

So let's enjoy our knives and not pull out our daggers!

:smile:

(Typical neutral Swiss, always trying to defuse unrest)

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I can see how someone who cuts sushi, for example, would want a highly polished edge.  This is a largely push cutting task, and a major concern is doing minimal tissue damage to the flesh....

Cutting fish for sushi is a slicing rather than push cutting task. You place the heel on the object you're cutting and mostly let the weight of the knife do the work as you draw the knive towards you, most preferably in one pass. That's why those yanagi-ba are so long.

Well, I learn something new every day. :smile: Still, though, you'd want a highly polished edge to do minimal tissue damage.

--

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  • 2 weeks later...
Still, though, you'd want a highly polished edge to do minimal tissue damage.

Speaking of tissue damage... (I posted a similar query in the knife section of foodieforums.com and I see some similar handles/names here.)

I have a repetitive stress injury known as radial tunnel (similar to carpal, but originates in the elbows) which causes pain and fatigue in my fingers/wrists/elbows. Generally I have some loss of sensation in my thumb and pinky finger on my right hand (my dominant hand) and they frequently feel as if they are just a little bit "asleep".

My Wusthofs are feeling mighty heavy these days, I've been thinking about replacing my Chef's knice and my Paring knife with lighter Japanese knives, as I thought this would stress out my hands less.

Ergonomic handles/easy of use (to prevent fatigue and "overuse") are the performance criteria that matter most. (While people say Shun, for example is better than Global in terms of the steel, since both are probably sharper than my Wusthof's, I want the one that will be more comfortable to cut with).

Is my reasoning sound in thinking I'd be less fatigued/stressed with Japanese knives?

If it sound like a good plan--what do you think have the most comfortable handles/are easiest to use? (Note--not asking what is the sharpest, I am going to have to choose comfort handle and ease of use over sharpness--unless, of course, the knive has to be sharpened so much that the act of frequent sharpening would make my hands even worse.)

FWIW, my hands are on the "small" side thought are not "tiny", and I am right-handed.

~Cynthia

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Speaking of tissue damage... (I posted a similar query in the knife section of foodieforums.com and I see some similar handles/names here.)

I have a repetitive stress injury known as radial tunnel (similar to carpal, but originates in the elbows) which causes pain and fatigue in my fingers/wrists/elbows.  Generally I have some loss of sensation in my thumb and pinky finger on my right hand (my dominant hand) and they frequently feel as if they are just a little bit "asleep".

My Wusthofs are feeling mighty heavy these days, I've been thinking about replacing my Chef's knice and my Paring knife with lighter Japanese knives, as I thought this would stress out my hands less.

Ergonomic handles/easy of use (to prevent fatigue and "overuse") are the performance criteria that matter most. (While people say Shun, for example is better than Global in terms of the steel, since both are probably sharper than my Wusthof's, I want the one that will be more comfortable to cut with).

Is my reasoning sound in thinking I'd be less fatigued/stressed with Japanese knives?

If it sound like a good plan--what do you think have the most comfortable handles/are easiest to use? (Note--not asking what is the sharpest, I am going to have to choose comfort handle and ease of use over sharpness--unless, of course, the knive has to be sharpened so much that the act of frequent sharpening would make my hands even worse.)

FWIW, my hands are on the "small" side thought are not "tiny", and I am right-handed.

~Cynthia

Hi Cynthia,

I'm sorry to hear about your troubles. I just thought I would also suggest you check out vintage (perhaps new ones too) carbon steel Sabatiers. Mine are VERY light and well suited for smaller hands and take a good edge quickly and there is just something special about working with old knives. My 8 inch Wüsthof weighs in at 234 gr. and my 8 inch Sabatier is only 150 gr. Big difference!

Good Luck, Ed

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I would also suggest you check out vintage (perhaps new ones too) carbon steel Sabatiers. Mine are VERY light and well suited for smaller hands and take a good edge quickly and there is just something special about working with old knives. My 8 inch Wüsthof weighs in at 234 gr. and my 8 inch Sabatier is only 150 gr. Big difference!

Ed,

Thank you, I hadn't thought of that option. Where to find vintage=eBay? (Of course, that would mean not being able to try before I buy...) As for new ones, what is the deal with Sabatier--I recall reading somewhere on egullet that Sabatier is actually a "type" of knife rather than one brand (sort of like aspirin).

Thanks!

Cynthia

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You actually have a combination of things, affecting more than one nerve. The Radial nerve will affect how you lift your thumb and fingers dorsally, that is, toward the top.

On the palm side, the Median nerve affects the thumb, index, middle and half of the ring finger. The Ulnar nerve affects the outer half of the ring finger and the small finger or pinky.

You can stick your finger in the roove on the underside of your elbow (the part next to your side) press and feel the numbness in the pinky and outer half of the ring finger.

Radial epicondylitis, at the elbow on the upper or outer side, will affect you if you do constant gripping with your fingers/hand cocked up.

You can relieve these symptoms by keeping your wrist and hand in a neutral position or in a straight line from the forearm to the base of the fingers. Sometimes, something as simple as a figure-8 wrap, across the top of your hand, crisscrossing the wrist and fastened on the top of your forearm just above the wrist is enough to remind you to avoid the position that causes the stretching of the nerves.

For radial epicondylitis, at the elbow, a strap, fitted snugly around the forearm 2 inches below the bend of the elbow, where the dorsiflexor muscles attach, will help relieve that stress.

I have worked for an orthopedic surgeon for 37 years and he always was extremely conservative about surgery in these areas - he said that if you give the body half a chance, it will heal itself. He has always been very good about educating patients about the mechanics of the body that cause problems and how to correct them.

He said the carpal tunnel problem that many people have nowadays, stems from the so-called "ergonomic" placement of computer keyboards lower than desk height.

Women and men too, typed on regular typewriters, set at desk level for as much as 40 years and never developed carpal tunnel - because with the typewriters in that position, the wrist is straight, not with the hands cocked up putting the wrist at an acute angle.

It is all in the mechanics of musculoskeletal use.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Sadly enough if I had knives that are as lovely as some of the photos posted here they would be gone in a week, cooks are notorious thieves. :angry:

That being said, after my third knife was stolen while at work I decided that all of the cool tools were coming home and I would replace them with less expensive versions. I've found that the Mundial brand is a reasonable alternative to the German style knives. They weigh less and need some more love when it comes to maintaining a sharp edge but the trade off is when some punk kid, er, I mean co-worker decides to jack your tools, the replacement cost is 25 to 35 percent the cost of a Wusthof or the equivalent.

As for paring knives, I buy a couple of the Victronox or Nogent knives at a cost of 4 to 6 dollars and toss them when they become too dull to steel back into shape. A lot of cooks that I've worked with have adopted this less is more technique. Many have one knife which is their go-to knife that they use for fine work and then a bunch of cheapies that they use for whatever else needs to be done.

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Ed,

Thank you, I hadn't thought of that option. Where to find vintage=eBay? (Of course, that would mean not being able to try before I buy...) As for new ones, what is the deal with Sabatier--I recall reading somewhere on egullet that Sabatier is actually a "type" of knife rather than one brand (sort of like aspirin).

Thanks!

Cynthia

Hi Cynthia,

Thats correct, Sabatier is a style of knife not a company. Just like Laguiole knives, lots of different companies make them. I guess its a "French" thing. I suggest looking on e-bay. Look for a brand called "Chef au Ritz". Mine are 50 to 80 years old. They are very nice and should be quite affordable on e-bay. Its like collecting antiques only they are usefull! :smile:

Have fun, Ed

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They are very nice and should be quite affordable on e-bay. Its like collecting antiques only they are usefull! :smile:

Have fun, Ed

Hey, watch it! :shock: I'm an interior designer--specializing in the re-use of antiques and vintage items for modern-day life! :raz:(but, of coures, I only deal in *nice* ones, I agree that there is a lot of garbage out there, the best thing that can be said about which is that it is OLD!)

Anyway, because of my "day job", the idea of getting vintage knives sounds like an attractive option. My current set of dishes are gorgeous colored glass from the 1950's (Fire King Charm pattern, color: Azurite blue--they were meant to look "Space Age" at the time, but to my eye, they look very Zen with their square shape and simple design). Of course, the knives are going to need to be well priced enough that if they aren't a good fit for my hands, that I haven't spent too much... (as I will have to resell them on eBay)

Any ideas on how to sell my current knives once I've replaced them? Ebay has *new* Wusthof Classics for reasonable prices, so I am not sure if I could sell mine there.

Off to ebay...!

P.S. Can someone please explain WHAT makes a Sabatier a Sabatier, if "brand" isn't the criteria? In other words--how would one recognize a Sabatier knife? How are they different from German knives? (Perhaps Sam Kinsey has more of those fabulous graphics up his sleeve?)

Edited by cake (log)
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Cynthia,

I suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome off and on for about three years. I made some changes and haven't had any symptoms in over a year. I do remember quite well what it was like. It was pure hell. The way I've avoided a relapse is by trying to keep my wrists neutral when possible while typing and doing other repetitive tasks. Applying that idea to using a knife in the kitchen, here are a couple things you might want to consider.

1. Adjust the height of your cutting surface

I'm 5'10". If I hold my chef's knife with the blade vertically against my standard height countertop, my wrist is arched. If I were to chop at that height, my wrist would keep bending upward which is exactly what you don't want. I have a chopping block that raises the cutting surface four inches above the countertop. If I hold my blade against that surface, my wrist begins the chop in a nearly neutral position.

2. Think about using a longer knife

Here's my theory. When you're using a shorter chef's knife and pivoting it on its point, you need to lift the handle pretty high to fit a large item underneath. Your wrist can remain relatively neutral only part way through that motion. With a longer knife, the necessary range of motion is less for the same item. You can avoid this problem by switching to a push cut with larger items but having a longer knife lessens the need to do this. In any case, let the muscles in your shoulder and upper arm do the work rather than your wrist.

Edited to add: I re-read your message and see your problem is in the elbow rather than the wrist. My #2 may not apply to you but I'll leave it there anyway.

Edited by esvoboda (log)
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A question for you folks with larger knife collections (thank you for posting the pics...must...suppress...jealousy) - do you have any interesting storage solutions?

I have 3 larger (chef's size) knives and 5 or 6 others and my regular ol' knife block is overflowing. They make blocks with more slots for larger knives, but I haven't been able to bring myself to spend the same on a block that could buy a decent new knife.

I've seen the magnetic racks - any good? Nasty to the knives?

Do you just keep them in a roll?

Maybe you own stock in Acme Knife Block...

Surely if I come up with some more room it will be easy to justify to my darling that I need to fill it? :biggrin:

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I have 4 magnetic knife racks, 3 in various places around the kitchen and one in the pantry because I like to have the knives I use in a particular place in reach so I can take a single step and grab, rather than trek to the other side of the kitchen, open a drawer, etc., etc., etc.

The ones I don't use very often are in a case - I think I got it from The Knife Merchant or the other knife place online. I have had several knife blocks, tossed them all out, often my knives did not fit and having something sitting on the counter with only a few slots filled seemed a waste of good space to me.

The magnetic bars I have are 3 24-inch and 1 18-inch (longer wouldn't fit in that area)

I haven't noticed that they have harmed any of my knives. They certainly hold the Chinese knives (the ones like a cleaver) easier than any place else I have found.

The ones I have are like this

which apparently has them on sale right now.

I do have one of these knife racks with the wire cage (bottom) somewhere on a shelf and have intended to put it up in the pantry for my butchering knives (the big ones) but haven't gotten around to it.

It seems to be well made but since I have yet to use it, I can't say for certain.

There is one made of stainless steel this one

which I ordered in mid December but kept getting back order notices and finally cancelled the order. I thought it would be good to take out to my outdoor kitchen so my knives won't be laying around on the counters or tables.

Dave the Cook bought one and I believe he is pleased with it.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Can someone please explain WHAT makes a Sabatier a Sabatier, if "brand" isn't the criteria? In other words--how would one recognize a Sabatier knife? How are they different from German knives? (Perhaps Sam Kinsey has more of those fabulous graphics up his sleeve?)

it's very complicated and tangled. sabatier is not a company, and neither is it a style of knife (they make everything from detail parers to huge "hachettes" and in a wide range of materials). so who are "they"? the best way to explain it is that sabatier is a very loose organization of individual companies that share a master trademark. each organization also has its own sub-trademark ("elephant brand", "au carbonne", etc.). these organizations also have extremely different quality standards (as with laguiole). so buyer beware.

in general, vintage sabatier chef's knives follow the french pattern rather than the german--their cutting edges tend to be flatter and less rounded, more designed for detailed mincing and dicing than chopping.

i love my japanese gyutou (misono ux10). but i also love my old sabatiers ... i picked up a raft of them several years ago when a tool catalog found a bunch of them in a warehouse. sweet. in fact, my "go-to" paring knife is a french housewife's knife from between the wars. it's about 5 inches with a thin blade. carbon steel, of course. does everything well and fits in my hand like it was made for it.

and that, of course, is the most important question for any good knife. knife geeks (a term i use affectionately and referring to myself as well) are like geeks for anything else and they love to debate incredibly fine points of doctrine. but what your choice of knife should ultimately come down to is: do you love it? i used to be a wusthoff guy for most knives until i tried japanese. i am converted, but i recognize that others might feel differently with some validity--as long as they've actually tried the japanese before passing judgement.

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I've been using magnetic knife racks for a couple of years and have not seen any damage caused by them. My local knife dealer has an entire wall with hundreds of knives on magnetic racks and I've never seen damage to those either. I'd guess that one could damage a knife by sloppily placing it on the rack blade first but that can be avoided just like dropping a knife on its tip can be avoided. Even the cleavers hold firm. My racks are not anywhere where the knives can be bumped hard enough to knock them off.

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99%+ of my everyday cutting is handled by these, roughly in order of preference, top-to-bottom:

gallery_6594_807_4659.jpg

(Shun Chinese Chef's knife (aka cleaver), Shun 10" chefs knife, Shun 4" parer)

Others in regular rotation: Bread knife (Forschner), filet knife (Forschner), old cleaver (generic cheap but good Chinese, ca. 25 years old).

Retired, on standby: 30 yr-old MACs.

I haven't tried the Shun cleaver on chicken leg bones; I don't think it would be permanently damaged, but I have my old cleaver for that.

I wasn't aware that cleavers were a fad. IMHO, santokus are a fad; too short to be a good chef's knife, not enough belly to be a good scoop/carrier for prepped stuff. I bought a santoku once to try, but returned it immediately without even cutting anything after realizing it's (again IMHO) essential uselessness.

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What, no picture of the MAC's????

By request:

gallery_6594_807_5836.jpg

(Top: 6.5" MAC, bottom: 4" MAC. Not Shown: 9" which is past its prime, and may be useful as a slicer but not a chef's knife).

These are ~30 years old, and probably the first knives they imported. These models are still available, but unlikely to be the ones the celebrity chefs are endorsing. They have thin (stamped) blades, and take and keep a better edge than the Euro-knives.

What may not be obvious in the picture is that these knives have a very flat edge, and it is not really possible to rock them at all when chopping.

It is interesting though that the smaller knife has an angle between the handle and the blade that MAC promotes, and is seemingly copied in the Shun "Alton's Angle" model Shun knife. The angle works for me, but the flat edge on the MAC doesn't. I haven't tried the Shun "Alton's angle" though.

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For all you cats who want vintage Sabatiers, the folks at a cookery shop near me sell new Sabatiers in both carbon, and stainless, steels, in nearly every size imaginable up to 13 or 14 inches.  The brand is not one I find a lot of (Sabatier 69 ring a bell with anyone?), but I'm astounded by the quality of the ones I have.  They're far better than the carbon-steel Sabatier I picked up on Amazon.com.

how do they differ from the amazon.com ones (i think that must be the "au carbone" brand)?

christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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For all you cats who want vintage Sabatiers, the folks at a cookery shop near me sell new Sabatiers in both carbon, and stainless, steels, in nearly every size imaginable up to 13 or 14 inches.  The brand is not one I find a lot of (Sabatier 69 ring a bell with anyone?), but I'm astounded by the quality of the ones I have.  They're far better than the carbon-steel Sabatier I picked up on Amazon.com.

how do they differ from the amazon.com ones (i think that must be the "au carbone" brand)?

Do they have a web site?

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Do they have a web site?

this one: http://www.lacuisineus.com/

I spoke with the nice people at La Cuisine shortly after their web site was posted here. I wanted to buy a Sabatier carbon paring knife. Unfortunately there were out of stock. The woman on the phone was VERY nice, patient, answered all my questions, etc.

Today, I was shopping near Sur La Table, and as I had a gift card, I bought a Shun paring knife (the 4" Alton's Angle version). So far, I really like it even though I've only used it one time.

Sadly, I handled the Shun chefs knives in the store and they felt really big in my hands. Which leaves me back to looking at the Sabatiers on ebay.

Of course, I have no idea how to know if I am going to like a knife like that without holding it in my hand first... (Sigh)

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