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Daughter graduating from Hampshire College

Thu Apr 17, 2014 6:19 pm

My daughter is graduating from Hampshire College (Sue Brown should know about Hampshire...) and about to embark on a years worth of traveling before she starts grad school. She is graduating with ZERO debt and her grad school is already paid for... (History of Economics at London School of Economics)

Any how I thought I'd get her a nice 20" strand of Tahitian pearls. She said NO. She wants a nice set of knives and all the accoutrements that go with them. she wants to tote them around with her so she can have nice knives where ever she goes. She likes to cook and hold parties where food is the feature. Also she likes to carve veggie garnishes. Currently she is a vegetarian and has been so for over a decade.

She is only 5'3" and grew up using my Henkel knife set. I have a 10" long chef knife. It is rather heavy, I love it and have had it for over 30 years.

1. Are you right handed? She is
2. What type of knife are you interested in (gyuto, nakiri etc..) I have no idea. I want to get her an entire set
3. What size knife are you looking for? I don't know
4. Do you prefer carbon or stainless steel? I suspect stainless but I am open to suggestions.
5. Do you prefer a western handle or a Japanese handle? Describe the difference please
6. How much did you want to spend? Between $10,000.00 and $15,000.00 for the set
7. Do you know how to sharpen? She can learn anything.

I do know that she likes eye candy. ( we saw some Shun knives at a store in Chapel Hill called A Southern Season. She liked the pattern on the blade) I don't think that eye candy should take precedence over functionality. If it won't hold an edge or rusts overnight if left in a high humidity area it's not going to be used.

Re: Daughter graduating from Hampshire College

Thu Apr 17, 2014 6:28 pm

That is a HUGE budget and I think we can get some people in here to get you a very nice set and sharpening to work with.
I'll chip in tonight after my split shift :)

Re: Daughter graduating from Hampshire College

Thu Apr 17, 2014 7:06 pm

Kaede - you won't need to spend anywhere near that to get a great set of knives, though I'm sure Mark wouldn't mind ;-).

I would suggest getting a set of knives that are from different makers and different styles. Don't get a matched set. Mark has too many great knives to not put together some variety for her. This way, she'll get a wider exposure to different characteristics, from which she can draw preferences.

Actually, if she's traveling with these, I wouldn't purchase uber expensive models just yet. Outfit her with a great set for the road, then after she uses them and learns her preferences, home in on some very special knives for the next stage.

How well does she handle the 10" Chef knife, aside from the weight?

Without getting too specific on knives just yet, I might recommend these types to add to the list:

A lightweight 240 Wa (Japanese) handled Gyuto

A middleweight 210 Gyuto - Yo (Western) or Wa

A high performance Santoku or Nakiri (IMO you don't need both)

A great 150mm Petty

A really good 90mm Paring

If she'll frequently be slicing hard crusted loaves of bread, a dedicated bread knife works extremely well. A nice sharp Gyuto slices softer loaves very easily.

I'd also recommend a good, portable, basic sharpening kit and a nice soft case as well for knife transport.

I'll think about some specifics for you and get back. Anything you can add on her preferences would be helpful. We love specifics :-).

Re: Daughter graduating from Hampshire College

Thu Apr 17, 2014 9:03 pm

I can't give you many specifics. When Dear Daughter left for college, she moved out, became self supporting and independent. I've seen her for less then 4 weeks in the past 4 years. When she was here she had no trouble with my knives. But she is the shrimp in a house of giants. All of the rest of us top 6 feet. Her "little" sister is 6'4". Her brother is 6 feet and her other sister is 6'1". Dad is 6'1" and I'm 6 feet. DD had no choice but to get use to super sized things. I do remember the time she hauled her St. Bernard (220 lbs 32 inches at the shoulder) off me when I tripped and fell. The dog decided to "keep me warm" by lying on top of me. She is a strong girl.

She does love baking. She said no to baking sheets 'cause they would be tough to pack. As would a Kitchenaid mixer.

Re: Daughter graduating from Hampshire College

Thu Apr 17, 2014 9:47 pm

Have you considered just hiring Mario Batali to accompany her as her private chef during her year abroad?

Re: Daughter graduating from Hampshire College

Thu Apr 17, 2014 11:27 pm

Well, depending on how much effort you want to put into researching the different aspects of all these different knives, and considering your budget...I'd suggest the opposite, more or less, and invest in a high quality matching set, with maybe a few exceptions. To keep things as homogeneous and predictable as possible.

These knives use exceptional, maintenance free steel (which imo, would be desirable while traveling) and are made by a company that this entire forum has agreed makes an incredible product.
She won't outgrow a set like this either...

http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kohhstfugy24.html - General purpose chef knife
http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kostna18.html - Vegetable knife
http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kowa271.html - Carving knife
http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kohdwa151.html - Small utility knife
http://www.chefknivestogo.com/todpbrkn21.html - Bread knife
http://www.chefknivestogo.com/tojiro-ki ... hears.html - Shears
http://www.chefknivestogo.com/imtwosi1kst.html - Combo stone low and high grits
http://www.chefknivestogo.com/ultimate- ... e-bag.html - Carry bag
Last edited by desol on Thu Apr 17, 2014 11:40 pm, edited 3 times in total.

Re: Daughter graduating from Hampshire College

Thu Apr 17, 2014 11:29 pm

Here are some specific recommendations:

These are all full-stainless or semi-stainless knives FYI.

Light, nimble 240 Gyuto: Konosuke HD 240 Gyuto - http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kohdwa24.html

Light, nimble 210 Gyuto w/slim handle and super sharp OOTB: Takamura R-2 210 Gyuto - http://www.chefknivestogo.com/takamura.html

Mid-weight 210 Gyuto that a great performer: Sakai Takayuki Ginsan 210 Gyuto - http://www.chefknivestogo.com/satagiwa21.html. I bought the 240 version & love it. This is sort of the other end of the spectrum from the Takamura. It's somewhat thicker, heavier blade, but with great convexing and really nice performance. Sometime you need to experience bigger differences to see which you prefer.

Another option for a mid-weight 210: Masakage Kiri 210 Gyuto - http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kiri2.html. Lighter than the Takayuki Ginsan.

Light, nimble 150 Petty: Takamura R-2 - http://www.chefknivestogo.com/takamura2.html

More traditional 150 Petty that's a little taller: Kanehiro Ginsan - http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kagipe15.html

Awesome 90mm (3.5") paring knife: Shun Classic 3.5" Paring - http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kepakn31.html

Sharpening stones/accessories with a thought towards weight and portability:

Shapton Pro 1.5K stone: http://www.chefknivestogo.com/shaptonpro1.html. It's case has a built-in stone holder that fits the Shapton Glass stones as well.

Shapton Glass 500 stone: http://www.chefknivestogo.com/shgl500gr.html. This would be used to remove smaller chips in the edge or other purposes where more metal removal is required.

Shapton Glass 3K or 4K stone: http://www.chefknivestogo.com/shgl40gr.html. This is optional, but good for a finer edge finish or to strop on to keep the knives sharp between full-on sharpening sessions.

Atoma 140 Diamond plate: http://www.chefknivestogo.com/at14dipl.html. The Atomas are much lighter than most of the other plate. This is for flattening the water stones.

Horse butt strop 8x3" sized to fit the Atoma plate: http://www.chefknivestogo.com/hobust8.html. It has a magnetic backing. This is used to touch up the edge slightly between sharpenings.

If done right, she could maintain sharp edges using only the Shapton Glass 3 or 4K and the horse butt strop. Unless she gets chips in the edges, this might keep her for an entire year of use. The other stones are need to learn to sharpen IMO and to perform edge repair as I mentioned.

Great knife bag w/plenty of room for all this stuff: http://www.chefknivestogo.com/ultimate- ... e-bag.html.

You might consider sending her an easy to sharpen knife for practice like the Kohetsu Blue #2 210 Gyuto: http://www.chefknivestogo.com/kohetsublue1.html. This has a carbon steel core, but stainless cladding. IMO it would be super easy to sharpen and not get frustrating when learning, plus it will give her an idea of how to maintain a carbon edge. It's a nice performer as well.


Re: Daughter graduating from Hampshire College

Thu Apr 17, 2014 11:30 pm

Ha, Desol - great minds think alike :-).

Re: Daughter graduating from Hampshire College

Thu Apr 17, 2014 11:33 pm

:D Indeed.

Re: Daughter graduating from Hampshire College

Fri Apr 18, 2014 12:45 am

While I'm a guy, I'm also short, a perpetual student, love to throw parties where cooking is featured, and I am actually geek enough to carry a knife to other dinner parties when I'm set to help out (where no one else would dare carry knives around, of course). So I think I can relate a bit. Oh, and while I have undergrad debt, I'm about to get my PhD debt free from one our fine state-side universities, although not in economics...still, a 350,000 education for free if there ever was one. :) I wish her the best!

Let me say this: in my experience, I really battle the height of the blade and its balance—this is especially true when using a nice cutting board, which tends to add another 2 inches to any countertop. I think being short often means the board is high, which means your wrist is higher (more parallel to your elbow than below it), and that you need less knuckle clearance (smaller hands). The higher wrist/elbow fulcrum also means that it is nice to have more of the weight forward on the blade; i.e., "blade heavy." And less knuckle clearance means that, for larger knives (such as long 210s and long or short 240s), you definitely want shorter heights/heels. You may also want to consider a taller suji or shorter kiritsuke—some people use these in place of gyutos occasionally, and they tend to offer shorter heights and more blade-heavy designs, although both of these are more "specialty" blades and not necessary by any means. All of this suggests that – for these larger knives at least – you may want to consider Wa – or Japanese – handles, which tend to be lighter than western ones and thus may offer some of these balance and size characteristics.

I would recommend getting Sayas for all of the larger knifes. I much prefer bringing a knife or two in a saya wrapped in a towel and placed in my tote or backpack than managing an entire knife roll. Sayas are great because they protect the blade, but are light and allow you to decide how many knives to carry based on individual decisions rather than always caring a large bag despite how full or empty it may be.

Next, I find that smaller pettys (i.e., paring knives) are mostly useless for my smaller hands unless they have tiny handles. There are a few designs that have nice, small handles. But many have large handles which, for small hands, means it is difficult to hold and balance the petty with a proper grip for peeling, etc. (in this case, I am still referring specifically to a "paring-size" petty). So: for the smallest petty, consider getting one with a nice, under-sized handle. This may suggest the opposite from above: you may find it is easy to get tiny handles in a western style handle here.

I'm sure you'll get tons of great suggestions here from people that have much more experience than I do with various brands. So far, I can already echo some great suggestions (all of my suggestions are in fact already made above, I'm just giving personal reasons and reinforcing their feedback here): opt towards semi-stainless or stainless of the highest quality, or stainless clad carbon; opt for at least one 240 and one 210 gyuto, and consider at least one mid-range size (150-80mm petty and/or Nakiri), and perhaps one paring (120mm or less petty). Consider at least one long specialty knife (suji or kiritsuke), even though many of these are kinda designed for "slicing" (i.e., meat more than veggies). Avoid Debas for a veggie-only eater. As for brands: I love my Konosukes, and I far prefer them to the other knives I've used, even when these other knives – Masamoto, Tojiro, various Shuns, Wusthof, Henckels, Forschner – were new, fresh, of top quality, and had their sharpest edges. I think bling is far less important than function, and I would only get something that has flashy steel if the knife itself performs better because of it. Avoid overly hard steel unless she already knows how to repair knives on the go. Finally, I think – since she'll be traveling – that good fit and finish, and particularly a good, solid handle that you know is epoxied, is a priority, but not a must—this is especially true if she'll ever be washing her knives and leaving the party with little time to let the handle dry completely.

And, above all, with that kind of budget, I second the opinion that you should buy her TWO sets of knives, so that she can leave her favorites at home, and take the ones that feel more durable – and perhaps are more easily replaceable or less custom – on the road. Only one set of good stone (to leave at home), and then perhaps a two-sider or a good strop set for the road—make sure this stone is "splash and go," or "no need to soak." I do not think getting two sets is outrageous, and the fact that many of us here (myself included, despite being a student with loans) have more gyutos than we have fingers on our cutting hand despite being home cooks attests to this fact. More is merrier, bigger is better, and variety is the spice of life. :) That said, I think it is better to have multiple of the same type of knife (good gyutos and pettys) than to just buy her all sorts of single-task or specialty knives (such a santoku AND a nakiri AND a 180mm funayuki AND a 180 chefs AND a 180 petty).

If you get two sets, I would suggest that you purchase at least one of the following for one of the sets, since they are kinda the gold standards for light, agile, relatively short (height), non-reactive 240mm knives that are great with veggies and terrific for smaller hands and shorter people due to their lightness, blade balance, and laser-thin qualities (just make sure to avoid the heavier ebony handles on the Konos). I think many people on the forum have or highly respect at least one of these knives, even if it isn't their "favorite" stainless knifes in their personal collection for whatever reason:
Konosuke HD 240
Suisin Inox honyaki 240

(Again, both already recommended by above.)

Of course, I'm trying to make this as personal as possible, based on my own "height-based" and "hand-based" preferences, so please don't take these recommendations as if they are the best knife options out there—this is just my 2 cents!

The number of amazing knives that are on CKTG and discussed on this forum that barely anyone has ever heard at top-end kitchen stores is astounding. Good for you to come here rather than going to Williams-Sonoma or somewhere else and buying the prettiest Shun set...you're almost certain to buy a much more interesting, colorful, versatile, and better-performing set from Mark!

Good luck, and congrats to your daughter! Tell her to say hi to Switzerland if she passes through—I spent over a year doing academic research in Basel, and loved every minute of it (with my Masamoto, in fact...:) )
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