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Best bang for the buck. $100 budget.

Mon Jul 01, 2013 6:48 am

Mark – I’ve recently started to explore the world of Kitchen knives and have discovered the Japanese style knives and their advantages. But, there’s so much information on every side of every argument that I can’t weed thru it all. Your reputation online is excellent, and as such, I’m going to take a risk and put myself in your hands.. I’m a big guy with big hands 8 inches from the tip of my middle finger to the bottom of my palm. I love to cook, but I have no professional aspirations. So it’s just for the home. I have a kitchenaid set of kitchen knives and old Case XXX Chef’s knife. I’ve just started taking formal cooking classes and as a result became of aware of all the new options, especially Japanese style knives. But, being an old f’er I have a hard time seeing myself spend more than 100 bucks for a knife. So, what do you suggest. I want a knife that will fit my hand, (I’m left handed) and I can use to cut/chop vegetables and meat. From what I gather that sounds like a Gyuto, but I haven’t really understood when you would use a gyuto, a deba or a santuko. I’m thinking about either a Tojiro or one of your Richmonds. But, I’m open to anything. In addition, I’m considering a sharpening stone (or device). I saw your video for a Shapton but you’re out of the 1000’s and I’m not sure if I will really sharpen them myself and don’t want shell out much money (some would say I’m cheap)– so there again, I’m open to your advice.
Thanks in advance.


Re: Best bang for the buck. $100 budget.

Mon Jul 01, 2013 6:52 am

Hi Russ,

There are 3 knives you should consider.

Tojiro DP
Fujiwara FKM
Richmond Artifex

All of these are in the price range and would be good knives for you.

Re: Best bang for the buck. $100 budget.

Mon Jul 01, 2013 7:40 am

Mark's recommendations are good ones and if you want an inexpensive introduction to water stones try the Imanishi 1K/6K combo stone. http://www.chefknivestogo.com/imtwosi1kst.html

Re: Best bang for the buck. $100 budget.

Mon Jul 01, 2013 1:21 pm

Gyuto is your primary knife... A chefs knife if you will.

A santoku is a multi purpose knife, but typically smaller, flatter profile. Most real cooks don't like these.

Debas come in two varieties. True Japanese Debas are uses for the preparation of fish. Western Debas are double beveled and essentially a thick gyuto.

Of those you listed, I like the Fujiwara and Artifex. Artifex is slightly thicker, but I like it a bit better with a little thinning.

Re: Best bang for the buck. $100 budget.

Mon Jul 01, 2013 5:34 pm

I think you may be on to something when you picked $100-ish for the price of the knife. That is sort of the first price-point where, if you are careful, you can get a great knife.

The tricky part is that the best knife is no better than the edge that goes on it. Something like the http://www.chefknivestogo.com/imtwosi1kst.html and a stone holder, for a bit under $100 total, is sort of "entry level" there -- a great set of stones is going to be more around $200-275 (and up, if you find the need).

You could also find someone that can sharpen your knife for you -- I'd recommend against anyone that "the butchers have been using for years" unless you have butchers that use Japanese knives -- what a butcher needs from a knife to break down cows all day long is very different than what you need to cook a great steak and potatoes! Same goes for the guy that comes to the farmers' market with a belt sander and grinder in the back of the truck. There are some great sharpeners here, no, make that world class, and several have listings in the sharpener's forum. Working with one of them on a mail-in basis would be a good option if you didn't want to learn to sharpen yourself.

Re: Best bang for the buck. $100 budget.

Tue Jul 02, 2013 4:59 am

Jeff - Thanks for the stone recommendations. Since I'm going to purchase this knife without having held it in my hand, can you guys tell me how these knives differ functionally? Is one more easily chipped/damaged? Is one more easily controlled? Do they differ in how often they need to be re-sharpened?



Re: Best bang for the buck. $100 budget.

Tue Jul 02, 2013 5:16 am

You didn't talk about length of knife, but I think that most folks on this site would recommend a 240mm for your request.

My first knife from Mark was a Fujiwara FKH (the carbon version of the FKM) and even though I have other "better" knives, I still like to use it. It is not as hard as my other knives and very easy to sharpen. Any Mark suggested would work well for you.

+1 on the water stones and learn/practice on your old knives before sharpening you new one. In fact, you might ask Mark's sharpening service to sharpen your knife before they ship it so it will be good to go out of the box.

You will need to be able to hold and flatten your water stone, so you will need one of these too http://www.chefknivestogo.com/xxcdiplandun.html

Re: Best bang for the buck. $100 budget.

Tue Jul 02, 2013 6:48 am

That diamond plate and holder is a good idea if you're going with the combo stone.

You might want to learn a "pinch grip" for holding the knife. Most find it gives them better control over the knife and is easier on the body for long stints. It also means that the handle size isn't really important if the knife balances well. Those little, round Japanese-style handles would be fine for you even with big hands.

The various knife steels try to balance out sharpness (harder is generally better), resistance to chipping (harder is generally worse), wear resistance (harder is sometimes better), and ease of sharpening (harder is usually worse). The last two are really important for professional cooks that may need to sharpen every day because of how much they cut up. There is no perfect steel.

There are some good videos in the "Kitchen Knife Basics Videos" sticky in this forum that go over knife terms and construction that can help to make sense of some of the apparent babble here.

Specific knives of the same type and size, appearance aside, can have subtle differences in shape (curves, height), balance, flexibility, weight, sort of like golf clubs. One you're out of the cheap ones, they all hit the ball pretty much the same way, just that certain ones feel better for your own swing and the courses you play.

The knives you're looking at are all good balances of metal and design characteristics.

Re: Best bang for the buck. $100 budget.

Tue Jul 02, 2013 7:28 am

Jeff - Well since my swing has never dramatically improved over 40 years, I'm not sure your analogy works for me! ;-D That holder/flattener combo looks good.

Guys - thanks for the info, I'm almost ready to take the plunge. I think I'll go with the 210mm, that's the size I'm used to and I think I'll stick with it for now.

Mark - Does the 210 Artiflex come in a Wa version. Is the only difference the handle or is the geometry of the blade different as well?



Re: Best bang for the buck. $100 budget.

Tue Jul 02, 2013 8:02 am

I haven't had an Artifex in my hands, but I have no doubt that they are great knives. Mark or one of those that has seen them both will have to comment on wa- vs. yo-handled versions. (I personally prefer a wa-handled gyuto these days).

My suggestion is to go for the 240 mm gyuto. Japanese knives generally "feel" a lot smaller than a Western-style knife of the same length. In my opinion, unless you've got a special situation, like working on 10" deep counters in a boat galley, sandwich station, or something, that the length of the 240 mm gyuto is just about right for most people. It still fits comfortably on home-size cutting boards, yet is long enough that you can use it for basic slicing tasks as well.

The wa-handled, 240 mm, Artifex gyuto is on sale right now -- http://www.chefknivestogo.com/fufkm24wa.html -- The reviews look great on it, even better at the $80 price!
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