This has been sitting in my drafts folder for a long time, but I finally got around to finishing this blog post. The knife shop in a nearby city held a firesale, and my wife told me I could go and have a look and see if there was anything worth having… I don’t what I did to earn this but I wasn’t about to complain.
So after some consideration I decided to buy 2 kitchen knives with a 20% discount. Still nowhere near cheap, but not a bad price, and I had wanted to buy good knives for a long time already. The knives we had up until now are cheap made in china items, made from crappy steel, and way to soft to hold a decent edge. These are the kind of knives found in the average household. Honing, hones and staight razors are my main non-programming hobbies, but up until now, good kitchen knives were not on the household priorities list. Blessings be on my wife for being this generous 🙂
The first one I picked was the Kai Shun dm-0701 general purpose kitchen knife. It’s edge is 6 inches long, and it is made from pattern welded steel which was hammered and folded 5 times to end up with 32 layers of steel. Despite being stainless its Rockwell hardness is 61 +-1, which means that it should take and hold a near-razorsharp edge.
The second knife was the Wusthof 4972 Japanese style vegetable knife. It’s edge is also 6 inches long, and it is made from high quality stainless steel. It has a Rockwell hardness of 58, which should make it a bit easier to hone. I don’t know hat to expect of the edge retention qualities, though they should be OK.
The Kai, with the belgian blue whetstone on the background
The Wusthof, with the yellow coticule in the background.
Both knives are of a very good quality despite being stainless. The Kai factory edge was sharp enough for my taste, which is rare enough. Factory edges cannot be trusted. They might be sharp enough, but there is a variation, and the factory edge is in no way indicative of the quality of the blade.
I already used both knives, and the balance and the feel of them are excellent. I have already fallen in love with the Japanese knife after I used it to cut meat, and I didn’t feel any resistance from the meat. I am still undecided on the Wusthof. I have never used that blade style and I still have to get used to it. Atm my bias is positive.
Not much bad to speak of yet, except that the knives come without detailed information about the steel, and without honing guidelines. To be honest, this is a bit like complaining that the average car does not come with tuning instructions. 99% of the people wouldn’t know true sharpness or quality steel if it hit them in the face (it would be a brief experience :D).
Of the remaining 1% who do care, 99% think that honing a knife is no more complicated that drawing it through some e-z-sharp applicance with ceramic discs (shudder…) or whacking it against a steel ‘like they do in the movies’.
Only people with a passion for honing or knives will generally really care about the things I mentioned, so I don’t hold it against the manufacturers that they don’t supply it with the knives. The information was easily accessible on the internet on various kitchen knife blogs.
I was pretty disappointed with the sales pitch I got at the shop where I bought those knives. I quickly discovered that I knew more about knives than the sales woman when I asked questions about the steel that was used in the different knives.
Me: Hi, could you tell me a bit about the different types of steel that is used in these knives? Which kinds do you sell?
Her: Huh ????????
Me: Do you have any Japanese carbon steel knives?
Her: Huh ????????
Me: Ok do you have any knives that would rust if I let them stay wet for too long?
Her: Oh no. We don’t sell those. Why would anyone want to have such knives. That would be very unhiegenic I would think.
Now, while it is true that carbon steel knives will rust if you leave them wet, they will not do so if you care for them. Stainless steel lets you get away with a lot of abuse, but carbon steel doesn’t. A professional chef told me that I’d be appalled at how a lot of restaurants store their knives. Carbon knives can generally take better edges, and force you to care for them.
I’ve had these knives for a couple of months now. After honing them by hand (took awhile to find the best stone and technique to sharpen the wusthof) they are now very sharp, and excellent cutters. Both knives are superb, and welcome additions to my kitchen.
They are different though. The Kai takes the sharpest edge, and is a great pull cutter (i.e. you slice by pulling the knive across or through something) while the Wusthof -due to its shape- is a great push cutter.
Both knives are a joy to use once they are sharp (the wusthof was finicky to get right) and as with all sharp things: keep them safely away from curious kids 🙂