Author Topic: Japanese Kitchen knives  (Read 5964 times)

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Offline Bob Marino

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Japanese Kitchen knives
« on: April 22, 2019, 08:12 PM »
 
 I have had a set of Classic Wusthof for quite a while, but my wife ended up chipping the Chef's knife beyond repair - well, still usable but with a heavy chip mid blade, soooooooooo I went to Williams Sonoma and bought a Shun Prestige Chef's knife. I'm pretty familiar with kitchen knives as well as being careful with them.
 
 This knife is in a whole different category of sharp. It sliced through whole uncooked potatoes like nothing. In this case the old saying  "like a hot knife through butter" is literal. Within a few minutes of chopping leeks and potatoes I knicked my left hand twice, drew a little blood - never felt a thing - the actual tip/point of the blade simply "touched" my hand. Lesson learned.

 These Japanese knives are just so insanely sharp, there may be a handling adjustment needed until you get used to cutting with them. Worth a look.
Former Festool  Dealer since 2002; user well before that!

Offline Cheese

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Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2019, 08:47 PM »
I’ve owned and used Wusthof knives for over 40 years, always been a big fan. Then about 8-9 years ago I picked up a Shun Premier 7” Santoku from Sur La Table.

What a difference, what a huge difference. The blade is a lot thinner and they’re sharpened on a different angle than Wusthof. I think they also hold an edge 3-4 times longer but they are more delicate because of the thinness of the blade.  I steel them every time I use them and the edge never goes away.

Interestingly enough, I prefer using the Shun paring knife for slicing tomatoes rather than using the Wusthof tomato knife.

Offline Bob Marino

  • Posts: 3253
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2019, 08:54 PM »
I’ve owned and used Wusthof knives for over 40 years, always been a big fan. Then about 8-9 years ago I picked up a Shun Premier 7” Santoku from Sur La Table.

What a difference, what a huge difference. The blade is a lot thinner and they’re sharpened on a different angle than Wusthof. I think they also hold an edge 3-4 times longer but they are more delicate because of the thinness of the blade.  I steel them every time I use them and the edge never goes away.

Interestingly enough, I prefer using the Shun paring knife for slicing tomatoes rather than using the Wusthof tomato knife.

 Last year I bought the Shun Fuji Santoku, but for some reason I prefer the Chef knife. Mine is sharp but the chef is way sharper.
Former Festool  Dealer since 2002; user well before that!

Offline tjbnwi

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Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2019, 10:36 PM »
Be careful around bones it’s Japanese knifes, what makes them so sharp also makes the susceptible to chipping against bones.

Tom

Offline Cheese

  • Posts: 8567
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2019, 11:37 PM »
Be careful around bones it’s Japanese knifes, what makes them so sharp also makes the susceptible to chipping against bones.

Tom’s got this one right. Because of the extremely thin profile of the blade and because of its hardness, the Shun knives around bones are a no no. My preferred knife for this environment is a Wusthof flexible filet/boning knife. It’s the thickness of the Shun but flexible, has a different grind and will withstand encounters with bone because it has a slightly less hardness level. Works great for removing the skin from salmon.

Online rvieceli

  • Posts: 1448
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2019, 06:52 AM »
Be vary careful Bob, if you thought that Festool was an expensive slippery slope, getting into the Japanese knife world is daunting indeed.

While the high production houses like Shun and Global make great knives, the real deal is in the limited production runs of the small producers by a master knife maker. Layers of Damascus steel among other things.

Here is one my favorite places to get Japanese knives. They have an online shop and their main shop is in one of my favorite cities, New Orleans LA they have recently opened a shop in Nashville TN

http://couteliernola.com/

Ron

Offline Bob Marino

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Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2019, 07:44 AM »
Be careful around bones it’s Japanese knifes, what makes them so sharp also makes the susceptible to chipping against bones.

Tom’s got this one right. Because of the extremely thin profile of the blade and because of its hardness, the Shun knives around bones are a no no. My preferred knife for this environment is a Wusthof flexible filet/boning knife. It’s the thickness of the Shun but flexible, has a different grind and will withstand encounters with bone because it has a slightly less hardness level. Works great for removing the skin from salmon.
 

 Yep, harder, sharper. thinner and that means (generally) more brittle.

 I bought a nice (butcher type) knife from Garret Wade a couple of months ago. Apparently, they found a supply of old but  never used French kitchen knives and are/were selling them at fantastic prices - nothing fancy, but sharp, well made, professional kitchen knives. Mine is very good at filleting. At those prices, for sure worth a look.
Former Festool  Dealer since 2002; user well before that!

Offline Bob Marino

  • Posts: 3253
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2019, 07:49 AM »
Be vary careful Bob, if you thought that Festool was an expensive slippery slope, getting into the Japanese knife world is daunting indeed.

While the high production houses like Shun and Global make great knives, the real deal is in the limited production runs of the small producers by a master knife maker. Layers of Damascus steel among other things.

Here is one my favorite places to get Japanese knives. They have an online shop and their main shop is in one of my favorite cities, New Orleans LA they have recently opened a shop in Nashville TN

http://couteliernola.com/

Ron

 Hey Ron,
 
 Oh, I'm very aware of way high prices for the limited production runs or more low production knives. And it can be a slippery slope, unless you are mindful. Right now, I have all my bases covered and will concentrate on keeping all my knives sharp, but those knives sure are nice looking.
Former Festool  Dealer since 2002; user well before that!

Offline Cheese

  • Posts: 8567
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2019, 09:28 AM »
Right now, I have all my bases covered and will concentrate on keeping all my knives sharp, but those knives sure are nice looking.

Hey Bob that's what got me looking at the Shun Premier line in the first place. Shun has been available locally for a long time but most of their knife lines have weird shaped blades and handles. After using Wüsthof for so long and developing knife skills that worked with the European blade shape and handle style, I didn't want or feel the need to change. The Premier line was literally the crack in the veneer.

Having used and owned just about every Wüsthof produced, I've settled on this small selection of knives that gets me through 99.9% of the cutting tasks. It's so nice to go from a clunky knife block that holds 20+ knives to a small wall mounted one that only holds 8.  [big grin]

Paring.....Santoku.....Carving.....Bread.....Flexible Boning.....Decorating.....Fork.....Steel


Offline Bob Marino

  • Posts: 3253
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2019, 09:43 AM »
Right now, I have all my bases covered and will concentrate on keeping all my knives sharp, but those knives sure are nice looking.

Hey Bob that's what got me looking at the Shun Premier line in the first place. Shun has been available locally for a long time but most of their knife lines have weird shaped blades and handles. After using Wüsthof for so long and developing knife skills that worked with the European blade shape and handle style, I didn't want or feel the need to change. The Premier line was literally the crack in the veneer.

Having used and owned just about every Wüsthof produced, I've settled on this small selection of knives that gets me through 99.9% of the cutting tasks. It's so nice to go from a clunky knife block that holds 20+ knives to a small wall mounted one that only holds 8.  [big grin]

Paring.....Santoku.....Carving.....Bread.....Flexible Boning.....Decorating.....Fork.....Steel

(Attachment Link)

 Very nice blades but what are you doing with the Wusthof's?
 The Premier Chef was what the guy at WS recommended an easy move from the Wustohof.
Former Festool  Dealer since 2002; user well before that!

Offline Cheese

  • Posts: 8567
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2019, 10:07 AM »
Very nice blades but what are you doing with the Wusthof's?
The Premier Chef was what the guy at WS recommended an easy move from the Wustohof.

I don't know Bob...that's the conundrum.  [tongue]  Not only do I have them in black, I also have about 6-8 of them in white.

I prefer the Premier Santoku to the Wüsthof Chef. When I used the Wüsthof Chef I always found myself choking up on the handle whereas I use a more conventional grip on the Santoku.  I haven't tried the Premier Chef because I have no issues with what I have.

You make an interesting point though...maybe I should try the Chef at WS. [smile]


Offline GoingMyWay

  • Posts: 1220
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2019, 10:10 AM »
I've got all Global knives.  They too were insanely sharp out of the box.  As I mentioned in my Sharpening Kitchen Cutlery post, I use the Worksharp Ken Onion Edition to sharpen my knives.  Though I'm not able to get it as crazy sharp as it was when brand new.

I've been wanting to try/get a Shun for awhile, but I've kinda got OCD and don't want to have 1 knife of a different brand.  I really could/should get a Global Chef's knife.  We only have a Santoku knife that we use as our main knife.  A brand new knife would also give me the opportunity to do some inspection with some of my gadgets I got that might help me understand how it's been sharpened from the factory.
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Offline Cheese

  • Posts: 8567
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2019, 10:33 AM »
Here's an interesting video on using a Shun steel.



I've been wanting to try/get a Shun for awhile, but I've kinda got OCD and don't want to have 1 knife of a different brand. 

I've always had a serious medical condition of feeling the need to have all of my handles match. [smile]  That's the reason I invested so heavily in Wüsthof over the years. Using the Shun kind of alleviated the normal angst I feel.  [cool]

Now if that same treatment could be applied to the green tools downstairs...or even my sock drawer.  [wink]




Offline rmhinden

  • Posts: 456
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2019, 10:37 AM »
I've got all Global knives.  They too were insanely sharp out of the box.  As I mentioned in my Sharpening Kitchen Cutlery post, I use the Worksharp Ken Onion Edition to sharpen my knives.  Though I'm not able to get it as crazy sharp as it was when brand new.

We have also been using Global knives for the last ten years or so.   Have about six of them.  I use the MinoSharp 3 Sharpener (has three wheels: rough, medium, and super-fine) to keep them sharp.   Easy to use.

Bob

Offline Bob Marino

  • Posts: 3253
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2019, 11:28 AM »
Right now, I have all my bases covered and will concentrate on keeping all my knives sharp, but those knives sure are nice looking.

Hey Bob that's what got me looking at the Shun Premier line in the first place. Shun has been available locally for a long time but most of their knife lines have weird shaped blades and handles. After using Wüsthof for so long and developing knife skills that worked with the European blade shape and handle style, I didn't want or feel the need to change. The Premier line was literally the crack in the veneer.

Having used and owned just about every Wüsthof produced, I've settled on this small selection of knives that gets me through 99.9% of the cutting tasks. It's so nice to go from a clunky knife block that holds 20+ knives to a small wall mounted one that only holds 8.  [big grin]

Paring.....Santoku.....Carving.....Bread.....Flexible Boning.....Decorating.....Fork.....Steel

(Attachment Link)

Were you curious about their other lines?
Former Festool  Dealer since 2002; user well before that!

Offline Tinker

  • Posts: 3762
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #15 on: April 25, 2019, 01:28 PM »
Our ex-son in law was a gourmet chef/caterer. He evidently was used to Wustoff cutlery and wanted a Japanese knife. I went to W&S and looked over the Shun line and bought one that I would want for myself. (I don't remember what the name of the knife) He was all excited and was showing our daughter how to chop veggies. He was not used to the feel and almost immediately chopped the end of a finger. I then went to a sewing store where my wife goes for her sewing supplies and bought five thimbles for him.
Tinker
Wayne H. Tinker

Offline Bob Marino

  • Posts: 3253
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #16 on: July 20, 2019, 08:10 AM »
Our ex-son in law was a gourmet chef/caterer. He evidently was used to Wusthof cutlery and wanted a Japanese knife. I went to W&S and looked over the Shun line and bought one that I would want for myself. (I don't remember what the name of the knife) He was all excited and was showing our daughter how to chop veggies. He was not used to the feel and almost immediately chopped the end of a finger. I then went to a sewing store where my wife goes for her sewing supplies and bought five thimbles for him.
Tinker

 When I bought my Shun Chef's knife as well a a 3 pack of super cheap but super sharp Wusthof paring knives, I did not take proper heed to myself and cut my hand (very slightly) twice y just having the tip touch my finger. So with that in mind I was very careful with those scalpel  sharp Wusthof  paring knives and warned my wife to be super careful, well 3 cuts later she has a new respect for those knives.
Former Festool  Dealer since 2002; user well before that!

Offline tjbnwi

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  • No longer in Cedar Tucky Indiana
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #17 on: July 20, 2019, 09:05 AM »
I use Schmidt Brother knives. My daughters are vegetarians, they use Shun knifes. I'll put my Schmidt Brothers up against them any day.

For the record, my wife will not touch my knives, I've been away from home for over a year. The knives have gone untouched.

Tom

Offline GoingMyWay

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Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #18 on: December 10, 2020, 10:46 AM »
I had been considering getting a Japanese Nakiri vegetable knife after seeing it used on some cooking shows.  I liked that the wider blade makes transferring ingredients from the cutting board to the bowl or pot easier.   I ultimately decided to get a Chinese CCK cleaver so we can try to pretend to be like Martin Yan with his lightning fast chopping skills (and also trying to seemingly liquefy garlic and ginger by smashing them with the cleaver).



I bought a tiger wood stand to store the cleaver since it wouldn't fit into a knife block and I didn't want it banging around in a kitchen drawer.  Now the cleaver sits out on the counter behind the cutting board.  It's become my wife's go to knife.  I jokingly tell her we can throw away all of our Global knives since the cleaver can do just about everything all those other knives could do.

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Offline demographic

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Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #19 on: December 10, 2020, 01:15 PM »
My lovely wife bought me one of these Ryusen Santukos a few years ago.
The edge steel is very hard, not for eejits to sharpen with odd contraptions but it holds a great edge as long as no berk cuts against a plate or something else hard.


The only knife I've used with as good edge retention is my Fallkniven U2 and the Global knife I was gifted by an old girlfriend many yeats ago, although good isn't  a patch on the Santuko.

Offline hdv

  • Posts: 327
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #20 on: December 10, 2020, 04:56 PM »
Biggest mistake I ever made in my life was to give away my Miyabi Birchwood knives!  [eek]



A very good friend of mine, who at the time was having a very bad period in his life, saw me using the Nakiri and wanted to try it out. After warning him about its sharpness and showing him the proper technique to hold and cut with the knife he proceeded to cut of about 5 mm of the knuckle (tissue and cartilage) of the first digit on his left index finger. He still can't bend that finger properly anymore. Weirdly though, he still fell in love with those knifes and I gave them to him. That is a couple of years ago and I still pine for those knives. Just writing this makes me think I should be buying another set in the near future. In these unsure times I am not sure about spending that kind of money on kitchen knives though.  [scared]

Offline GoingMyWay

  • Posts: 1220
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #21 on: December 10, 2020, 05:09 PM »
Wow that's such a nice looking knife I might not want to use it for fear of ruining it or messing it up.

Did you give your friend the knives because you felt bad about him cutting himself so badly or because he was having a bad period in his life?

That was a very nice gift to give in either case!
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Offline hdv

  • Posts: 327
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #22 on: December 10, 2020, 05:23 PM »
He was having a seriously bad time and I've known him for over 30 years. He was less lucky in life than I am and does not have the means to get his hands on such knives. A few days after the incident (his finger was still in bandages) he was at my home again and I gave them as a present to him. He was and still is over the moon about those knives! And, I am happy to say, he hasn't cut himself with them after that anymore (as far as I know  [wink] ). I never regretted giving them to him. You should have seen his face. But I do regret not having them myself anymore!!!!

Offline Tinker

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Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #23 on: December 11, 2020, 05:15 AM »
My wife, as many of you know,is from Germany. For  many years, while our kids were growing up, she made all of our bread the old fashioned way. She cut her bread the same way she learned from her mother. She would put a loaf against her chest and saw away. I would go out of my head when she did that.

I always kept my knives sharpened so I could shave with them. After couple of rounds of "explaining" the falacy of cutting bread against her chest, I bought a serated bread knife from the hardware store and showed her how to use that. Once she used that knife, she found out that she could not only saw thru the bread against a cutting board, but it kept me a whole lot quieter. She still does not cut straight, but I have learned to not be quite so noisy about her methods of cutting bread.
Tinker
Wayne H. Tinker

Offline hdv

  • Posts: 327
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #24 on: December 11, 2020, 07:03 AM »
Ha!  [big grin]  Having lived for a few years in Germany myself, I do recognise that strange cutting habit! I never understood it, but I have seen it being done like that many times. Especially in the older generation.

Offline Tinker

  • Posts: 3762
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #25 on: December 11, 2020, 10:03 AM »
My MIL lived to 93 and until 90 (the last time I visited her in Germany) she was still cutting bread that way.
Wayne H. Tinker

Offline GoingMyWay

  • Posts: 1220
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #26 on: December 11, 2020, 10:19 AM »
I watched the movie Fatso a couple of weeks ago and noticed that was how Dom DeLuise cut the bread: https://youtu.be/VjOOqjplprk?t=1806.  I thought that might have been done just for the movie, but then I discovered that Dom DeLuise was actually quite the cook, who even had his own cooking mini series.  He peeled his eggplant in the same manner: https://youtu.be/Q-B8_-CTImg?t=1438.  I had never seen this technique before, especially not with such a big knife!

I'm always impressed when I see older cooks who cut most vegetables with a small paring knife toward their finger directly over the pot, which pretty much eliminates the need to even have a cutting board:  https://youtu.be/7gCvNw_HYjk?t=72
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Offline Cheese

  • Posts: 8567
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #27 on: December 11, 2020, 07:57 PM »
I had been considering getting a Japanese Nakiri vegetable knife after seeing it used on some cooking shows.  I liked that the wider blade makes transferring ingredients from the cutting board to the bowl or pot easier.   I ultimately decided to get a Chinese CCK cleaver so we can try to pretend to be like Martin Yan with his lightning fast chopping skills (and also trying to seemingly liquefy garlic and ginger by smashing them with the cleaver).

It's become my wife's go to knife.  I jokingly tell her we can throw away all of our Global knives since the cleaver can do just about everything all those other knives could do.

Over 40+ years ago I purchased this Wusthof Chinese cleaver. At that point I already owned a complete selection of Wusthof knives, however, this cleaver became my go-to knife for 80% of my cutting tasks. As you mentioned, this is fantastic at transferring ingredients to the pan/bowl.

So for the last 30+ years, my cutting utensils have been this Wusthof cleaver, a serrated bread knife, a filet knife and a paring knife. That's really all I needed. Check out the thinness of the blade.






Then about 8-10 years ago I picked up a Shun Premier 7" Santoku knife. This knife is noticeably sharper than the Wusthof and it holds an edge longer because the steel is harder. The Shun has now replaced the Wusthof cleaver.

Here's an edge photo of a Wusthof 8" Chef and the Shun 7" Santoku.




The only issue is because the steel is harder and thinner in the Shun knives vs Wusthof, small edge chipping can be an issue. I exclusively use an Epicurean cutting board (wood pulp matrix and it can be washed in the dishwasher) to minimize the damage and I never use a different cutting surface. I also don't chop but rather slice the vegetables to minimize damage.

This photo looks worse than it really is as these are very tiny chips and the blade is still extremely sharp.



Offline demographic

  • Posts: 689
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #28 on: December 12, 2020, 01:59 AM »
One habit I've developed with decent knives is after I've cut the veg up and I want to scrape them off the chopping board and into a pan/salad bowl/whatever I use the spine of the blade instead of the edge.
Its dead simple to do and keeps the edge of the blade in better condition.


Or out it this way, you wouldnt use a cabinet scraper with such an acute angle and expect it to last.

Obviously I don't use one of those dodgy glass chopping boards either and nor do I cut against plates, thats just basic common sense.

Offline GoingMyWay

  • Posts: 1220
Re: Japanese Kitchen knives
« Reply #29 on: December 12, 2020, 08:39 AM »
I had been considering getting a Japanese Nakiri vegetable knife after seeing it used on some cooking shows.  I liked that the wider blade makes transferring ingredients from the cutting board to the bowl or pot easier.   I ultimately decided to get a Chinese CCK cleaver so we can try to pretend to be like Martin Yan with his lightning fast chopping skills (and also trying to seemingly liquefy garlic and ginger by smashing them with the cleaver).

It's become my wife's go to knife.  I jokingly tell her we can throw away all of our Global knives since the cleaver can do just about everything all those other knives could do.

Over 40+ years ago I purchased this Wusthof Chinese cleaver. At that point I already owned a complete selection of Wusthof knives, however, this cleaver became my go-to knife for 80% of my cutting tasks. As you mentioned, this is fantastic at transferring ingredients to the pan/bowl.

So for the last 30+ years, my cutting utensils have been this Wusthof cleaver, a serrated bread knife, a filet knife and a paring knife. That's really all I needed. Check out the thinness of the blade.

(Attachment Link)

(Attachment Link)


Then about 8-10 years ago I picked up a Shun Premier 7" Santoku knife. This knife is noticeably sharper than the Wusthof and it holds an edge longer because the steel is harder. The Shun has now replaced the Wusthof cleaver.

Here's an edge photo of a Wusthof 8" Chef and the Shun 7" Santoku.

(Attachment Link)


The only issue is because the steel is harder and thinner in the Shun knives vs Wusthof, small edge chipping can be an issue. I exclusively use an Epicurean cutting board (wood pulp matrix and it can be washed in the dishwasher) to minimize the damage and I never use a different cutting surface. I also don't chop but rather slice the vegetables to minimize damage.

This photo looks worse than it really is as these are very tiny chips and the blade is still extremely sharp.

(Attachment Link)

The CCK cleaver is also very thin.  It should definitely not be confused with a more traditional Western Cleaver that's used for chopping bones.  The Chinese cleaver is really just a Chinese chef's knife.  I learned that the Chinese cleaver was used in the past to slice things very thin, but I think that's been mostly replaced with a mandolin.  I was able to hold the cleaver parallel to the cutting board and make extremely thin onion slices (I think even thinner than the Benriner mandoline, but obviously much much slower).

I read on some knife forums that these CCK Chinese cleavers usually sell for $30 in Hong Kong (I wish I had known about this last year when we were on vacation in Hong Kong and Taiwan).  These are very simple utilitarian cutting instruments that work well.  Lots of people have found out about these CCK cleavers (and other similar variants) so there's a lot of demand for them and now they're being sold online for a lot more than $30.   I paid $90 for mine.

One habit I've developed with decent knives is after I've cut the veg up and I want to scrape them off the chopping board and into a pan/salad bowl/whatever I use the spine of the blade instead of the edge.
Its dead simple to do and keeps the edge of the blade in better condition.


Or out it this way, you wouldnt use a cabinet scraper with such an acute angle and expect it to last.

Obviously I don't use one of those dodgy glass chopping boards either and nor do I cut against plates, thats just basic common sense.

That's a very good point about trying to avoid scraping ingredients with the edge side of the blade.  That isn't great for the knife as it tends to roll the edge.  Based on my own observations and personal experience it seems most people are guilty of scraping with the edge side.

My wife hand washes the cleaver and our Global knives, but then she lays the longer knives edge side down against the metal drying rack.  That explains where some of those shiny spots on the blade edge come from.  In a perfect world you'd immediately wash and dry the knife and put it back into the knife block, but I don't think many people do that unless they have a very high end expensive/custom knife.  The good news is that I'm able to sharpen the knives myself so I have no concern/fear when the knife hits a bone by mistake or occasionally cutting on a plate or having the edge bang against the metal drying rack.  I find it more convenient and less stressful to be able to just use the knife and not have to be overly concerned about babying it and worrying about dulling the knife. 

You are absolutely right though - using a little common sense when it comes to the knives will reduce the frequency of sharpenings and possibly avoid a big chip that will require a lot of the knife to be ground away to fix.

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