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Ask A Chef Anything
(03-28-2017, 08:12 AM)silverado_mick Wrote: My buddy and I are slowly putting together a forge in my back yard/shop. One of the first things I'm going to attempt making will be a proper chefs knife and a medium sized paring knife, out of good, high carbon steel. Talk to me a little about the features of a "good" kitchen knife, if you don't mind?

Note, not a bladesmith, and I would STRONGLY suggest talking to an actual smith about the metallurgy parts. My notes here are primarily "things to think about", more than "must have".

Size and Balance

How big do you intend your chef's knife to be? Most adults tend to be comfortable with an eight or nine inch blade (I personally usually go with eight and a half to ten...on the bigger side for a woman, about average for a man), but if you have unusually big or small hands you may need to adjust accordingly. If it's a knife that both you and your wife will use, it needs to be a size that's appropriate for both of you - are her hands much smaller than yours?

We have several sets of knives at our place, partly because I'm outrageously protective of my work tools (I'm more likely to let someone touch my boobs than touch my knives) but mostly because "my" Mick has very big hands!

Most of the balance for the blade's weight will be in the handle. I'd advise a full tang (not a rat-tail tang) to give it strength, and POSSIBLY consider weighting the butt of the handgrip?

The Handle Itself

You need to have space on the grip for your fingers to rest easily. You have knives you use now...are they comfortable to hold? Have a good look at how the grip on the knife you use now is made - the length, the shape. If you don't like the knife you use now (for all I know, that's why you're making one!) go to the nearest kitchen supply store, experiment until you find a knife with a handle design you DO like and use that as a model. If it's not good to hold, it's not a good knife.

Think about materials too. What were you planning to make the grip out of? If it's antler, bone or timber, you may want to look into treatments to protect it from warping or cracking when it gets wet; kitchen knives naturally live in an environment that can get hot and steamy, so they take a beating in that department surprisingly often, far more so than hunting knives! If you were planning to use steel, how would you make it non-slip? A rubber or polymer grip (like Micarta) might be a good choice, but you'd have to make sure it was firmly attached, and attached in a way that wouldn't deteriorate under extended exposure to water or heat. Rivets, rivets everywhere.

Blade Shape and Profile

Can you show me a picture of the kind of knife you want to make? Do you know what you want to make? There are a lot of possible shapes for a chef's knife, and each one is slightly different in how you would use it (the cutting technique that comes most easily) and look after it (the angle you sharpen it at and how frequently you do it). If you don't know, look at the shape of the knife you use now.

Most Western chef's knives have an even double grind (a flat grind, a compound bevel...something like that). Many Japanese style or hybrid chef's knives have asymmetrical single grinds, so they're specifically right or left-handed rather than being ambidextrous - some of my knives are things my left-handed husband simply can't use even if he wants to. He can't hold them right.

Show me what you have in mind?
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[Image: IMG_3463_zps8evngx5g.jpg]
These are my three most commonly used kitchen knives.  Rada cutlery makes them, and they are by no means expensive, but they are functional and take a decent edge.  The "stainless" they use isn't very stainless however, and the edge retention sucks.  I find myself sharpening way too often.  The small and medium peeling knives are great for general use, and the chef's knife is awesome for processing veggies and stuff.  I'd like to make something similar to the top two, and also a larger, thicker (from belly to spine) version of the top one.  I'[m definitely open to any input you've got from the users standpoint.  The metallurgical side I've got covered.
[Image: military_signature-1.png]
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(03-30-2017, 09:10 AM)silverado_mick Wrote: [Image: IMG_3463_zps8evngx5g.jpg]
These are my three most commonly used kitchen knives.  Rada cutlery makes them, and they are by no means expensive, but they are functional and take a decent edge.  The "stainless" they use isn't very stainless however, and the edge retention sucks.  I find myself sharpening way too often.  The small and medium peeling knives are great for general use, and the chef's knife is awesome for processing veggies and stuff.  I'd like to make something similar to the top two, and also a larger, thicker (from belly to spine) version of the top one.  I'[m definitely open to any input you've got from the users standpoint.  The metallurgical side I've got covered.

That big knife is a type called a "santoku". It's not strictly speaking a chef's knife (they tend to be at least an inch or two smaller in blade length [six or seven rather than eight or nine] and the chopping motion is much more straight-up-and-down compared to what you'd see French or German knives do) but it fills a very similar generalist role in Japanese kitchens, so for your purposes it will do.

If I was looking for a santoku, I'd have a few choices to make. In Japan they're often made with a single bevel, on a very tight (ten to fifteen degrees is common) angle. In the West, double bevels sometimes appear; people wanting the toughness of a thicker blade will prefer this, and it would be something like fifteen degrees on each side, even potentially twenty for really heavy duty. The first blade will be thinner, lighter, slightly sharper and more nimble, but also more fragile and prone to chipping - brilliant with softer vegetables and fish, not so good at boning meat or breaking down a pumpkin. The second blade will be a much more general purpose knife, but less suited for really fine tasks. You can still do them, but the knife doesn't help you as much.


Double

[Image: AngleF2-15edge1-221x300.jpg]

Single

[Image: AngleF5-Asian-300x289.jpg]

See the difference in shape? Which do you think suits your needs better, and which does your metallurgy buddy say your steel is better for?


The parer I think will be much simpler. 3.5 inch blade with a nice simple double bevel, 15 degrees on each side. Were you planning to have that collar at the base of the blade that the knives in the photo had? It's good for strength and control (it keeps your fingers from slipping onto the blade) but can make sharpening harder.

You HAVE to get the grip right on the parer. Such a small knife, doing such fine work...you'll notice very quickly if it doesn't sit quite right in your hand.
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Hey chef, what's you're primary fat to cook with?

Do you go French and finish everything with butter?


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Saru mo ki kara  ochiru
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(04-08-2017, 06:38 PM)hussaf Wrote: Hey chef, what's you're primary fat to cook with?

Do you go French and finish everything with butter?


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It depends what I'm doing. Butter is fantastic as a cooking fat, and I do use it a lot, but it does add a flavour of its own, and there are times when something more neutral is a better fit.

When I roast vegetables, it's duck fat. Delicious, delicious duck fat.
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For future reference.




A penis lives a terrible life. His hair is a mess, his family are nuts, his neighbour is an asshole, his best friend is a pussy, someone keeps beating him...

Poor thing.
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