November 02, 2006

Now THAT'S a knife!

Miss Janis has been pondering lately what sort of edgedware to purchase (and finally decided on this), and now that I have some time to hold forth on the matter (and with the full knowledge that my opinion is rather meaningless) I have my own preferences for such things.

First of all, I love good knives, "good" being a highly subjective term, but one that I say means that it does the job it's suppposed to do. All the fancy stuff is nice, but if you can't use it, it's worthless. "Doing the job" also is subjective, but for a knife, to me it means that a) it will take and keep an razor edge, b) it is strong, yet flexible enough to take some abuse without snapping, c) it fits the hand, d) it balances properly.

I don't like stainless steel blades, or at least not any that I've ever used, and this includes the various Swiss Army makers. They seem to be quite brittle, and although they can be made sharp, they are difficult to sharpen if they get dull, or worse, if they get a nick in the blade.

I like a full tang knife, because it will always be marginally usuable even if the grip somehow manages to crack or come off. Something with a rod type tang is useless without a handle.

I like handles made out of something dense, and I like them pinned through the tang. I like having a good grip, but I've always like having the handle countoured enough to grip naturally even if the handle is wet or slippery, rather than trying to have soft or checkered handles for slip resistance. This one could go either way, though. I just like having a smooth handle that fits, rather than the squishy or the nubby.

I like a metal pommel that's hard enough to hammer with.

I like having enough of a bolster that my index finger can theoretically not slip off and get sliced, but I'm not sold on having a big one that goes all the way down to the blade edge.

As for the blade itself, I hate to say it but I like blades made from old files or industrial hacksaw blades. They're really too thick for swishy kitchen work, but for a dual purpose chef's knife, I really like them. As for real purpose made kitchen knives, I think stuff like this stainless-cored Damascus bladed knife are just nifty as all get out. I love the look of Damascus, and its toughness and ability to take a razor edge. These don't like to get nicked, though, so I wind up back where I was as to blade material.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at November 2, 2006 10:59 AM

Alton Brown is partial to the Shun knives.

Posted by: Janis Gore at November 2, 2006 11:10 AM

Boy, I lead a sheltered life--I had to go Googling to see who he was. He does seem partial to them--especially since they made him up his own signature model blades! (I'm dubious about the angled handle, though)

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at November 2, 2006 11:22 AM

At any rate, I did use the knife last night, but not intensely. I chopped a couple of teaspoons of fresh ginger, a couple of cloves of garlic, sliced a 10/15 onion, and sliced a couple of bell peppers.

The knife performed fine, but will take some getting used to. It's pretty heavy, and it's big.

I work barefooted or sock-footed in the kitchen most of the time, so I need to learn how to jump fast and high if I ever drop the thing.

Posted by: Janis Gore at November 2, 2006 12:06 PM

Well, that certainly explains a lot about my cooking.

I use a couple of old butcher knives that came from my Grandmothers. Plain wooden handles, probably hickory, and I suppose high carbon steel blades.

Posted by: Larry Anderson at November 2, 2006 12:07 PM

My mother cooked for a family of seven kids for years using nothing but a wonderful old finely serrated bread knife and a cheap paring knife. Nothing wrong with her cooking.

I'm just an uppity youngster.

Posted by: Janis Gore at November 2, 2006 12:10 PM

Say, if you really want to talk about Grandma's knives, hard to get much more old timey than obsidian...

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at November 2, 2006 12:20 PM

We have Sabatier as our 'good' knives, 3 of them so far. We also have a couple general purpose, wooden handled knives that were Kathie's parents', and possibly grandparents'.
#1 son likes Wusthoff knives. #3 son has mostly Henckels.

On the boat, the knives in the galley are a set bought from a high school fundraiser. I expected them to turn into slivers of rust in short order, but they've been OK.

There also utility knives on the boat, mostly stainless steel. I've got a set of dive knives in plastic sheathes for strapping to the mast, steering pedestal and locating near the anchor locker. The idea is to be able to cut the rope you're tangled up in in an emergency (assuming you've got a hand free).

Posted by: steevil (Dr Weevil's bro Steve) at November 2, 2006 12:38 PM

They're also handy for grasping in your teeth as you growl "ARRRGGGGHHHHHH!!"

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at November 2, 2006 01:02 PM

I have a few Japanese damascus knives but day in day out I use a forged german style blade 11" chefs knife by F. Dick the most. To bad they stopped making them as I'd love to give them as pressys to my g-kids.

Posted by: Tony von Krag at November 3, 2006 08:44 AM