Dollar Tree chef's knife and santoku knife

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Dollar Tree chef's knife and santoku knife

Post by Admin on Fri Sep 05, 2014 11:11 pm

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The chef's knife is 7.5 inch blade. The santoku knife is 7 inch blade. Both are full tang with plastic handle that is supposed to look like wood. They were $1 each plus tax.

I got these two knives after reading some comment on amazon about dollar store knives. I figured if I could put a really sharp edge on $1 knife, then I had my sharpening skills nailed.

As they come out of the package they are fairly dull, I mean you can sort of cut with them, but they are hard to control and act nothing like sharp chef's knife should act.

It took a few tries but I finally put a nice sharp convex edge on them with my little Harbor Freight 1x30 belt sander. Need to start with fairly coarse grit belt (I used 120 grit aluminum oxide) to get a sharp raw wire edge, then ran up through increasingly finer grit belts to refine edge, until 2000 grit for final polish. Such a difference. Very controllable now and rather pleasant to use. They are little too light weight for my tastes but I could certainly live with them as they are now. The edge seems to hold up fairly well after a short run of using them exclusively.

Would I really recommend these for daily use. Only if you know how to truly sharpen, then maintain a knife and then only if you like the feel of them when using them. Once you have aquired knife sharpening skills, you can get much better used knife at thrift store or off ebay and put good edge on it. But like I say I could be fairly happy with these if no better alternatives. Still amazed one can get a new usable chef's knife for $1 (usable after sharpening it that is).

I also bought a paring knife that was made to look like it had a stainless steel handle. Do not buy this. Its a thin metal shell of a handle has weak plastic frame inside to hold the blade and keep the metal shell handle in place. The end of the blade being held in plastic is definitely not full tang, in fact its very short with one hole in it, much like a jigsaw blade. The blade becomes loose with first attempt at actually using the knife as the plastic cant hold on to the very short tang, and the blade leverages against the plastic. One would need to design a new wood handle to actually use this long term. It also came absolutely blunt. Just for grins and giggles, I tried sharpening it. Yep, it is tempered and you can put decent edge on it. But really you can get a much better used knife at thrift store for your $1 and put an edge on that and have much better knife. Heck those 4/$1 paring knives with colored plastic handles that Dollar Tree has can be properly sharpened and be lot better knife than this one. I found a very similar China paring knife in my junk drawer that came as a "bonus gift" with something I mail ordered. It was most pathetic knife I have ever experienced and useless. I put a real edge on it. Still nothing wonderful, but at least it now is usable as a paring knife if one was desperate and no other paring knife available.

I will say that yes there are better and worse steels that cheap knives are made of. But that most any modern stainless knife is good enough that with proper sharpening, it will hold edge ok. some cheap knives are made of very hard steel that IF you can sharpen them, their edge is razor sharp and will hold up as well as some of best kitchen knives out there. My existing set of Aldi "Kitchen Living" forged santoku are such. Come dull out of package, and next to impossible to sharpen by hand due to extreme hardness of the steel, but got very nice edge with sander, again starting with 120 grit aluminum oxide. And they are nice heavy weight knives and have comfortable handles. They just arent polished up nor sharpened when you buy them. Want something bit more sporty out of package, can try the Farberware PRO forged knives with fibrox handles (not the soft hollow plastic handle version) or the Norpro Kleve knives (look like the Aldi knives only bit more polished) or the Guy Fieri knives (again like the Aldi and Norpro knives only super polished and decorated handles) Or Winco forged knives. Probably more brands, but those are ones I have run across on Web. The Dexter Sani-safe and the Victorinox with plastic handles and the UpdateInternational offer thinner stamped blade knives of similar metal though much lighter weight. They hold edge very well. I just dont like lightweight knives beyond the paring knife level.

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Re: Dollar Tree chef's knife and santoku knife

Post by Admin on Sun Oct 19, 2014 5:12 pm

Ok, have to do slight update on the $1 Dollar Tree mini-santoku paring knife. I got to experimenting more with sharpening techniques. I noticed my favorite USA Chicago Cutlery 102S and Pioneer Seeds Quickut paring knives had one thing in common, well besides being same stubby 'fillet knife' shape blade. They are both extreme hollow grind edges where hollow ground edge is most of height of blade with only narrow area of unground material. The unground material acts as stiffening spine that keeps blade from being too flexible.

I especially figured the extreme hollow grind on Quickut knife was the key. These were made as super cheap advertising premium. Quickut made lot cheap knives, maybe their Ginsu line of knives sold on late night tv are most well known. So you know the steel wasnt anything special. The cost of manufacturing these had to be very cheap to make money on them. They were one of those occasional cheap/free items that way outperform their pricepoint level and became a favorite item for farm wives in another era. The double bevel, hollow grind version of these quickut knives only applies to ones made in 1960s and 1970s. After that they went to a single bevel design like you find on steak knife. I think the last/latest Pioneer knives are now China made clones that arent hollow ground. Quickut still produces this knife in USA in a hollow ground, single bevel version, sold both under Quickut and Pampered Chef brands (look on Amazon), but hollow grind only on one side. I really dont like single bevel knives at all. Especially a problem if you are left handed. They can be modified to double bevel, but more difficult where one side is hollow grind and other is flat. The Chinese clones might be easier to modify since they are not hollow ground on either side, just flat on both sides of thin blade with a shallow single bevel edge at bottom.

Well without designing and making a special jig, not really possible to extreme hollow grind the Dollar Tree paring knife. But I could do regular convex edge grind further up the knife. Using a very coarse grit belt on sander I got edge taper almost half way up the blade. Looks little odd since this is just opposite to more usual convex hollow grind. But it does taper a goodly amount of the blade. This seems to be part of the key. Note this also reduces edge angle to a much narrower one, the other part of the reason for improved performance. Note this is on a paring knife. On a large chef type knife, a very narrow angle edge on low grade steel blade would make the edge very vulnerable to damage if not treated with lot care. Thats why most cheap knives are shipped with a very wide angle blunt edge that dulls very quickly, if they bother to sharpen them at all.

Anyway this has transformed this knife from so-so somewhat sharp edge knife, to one that is actually super sharp and very pleasant to use. It had absolutely no problem chopping up raw onion on cutting board, making quick straight cuts. I still am not that thrilled with tall chopping blade style paring knife compared to stubby fillet knife style, but it is very usable.

I may try to post pic of knife after modification, not sure my camera is capable of enough of close up so one can see the difference.

Do I now recommend this knife? Not really, you still need to replace the original poorly designed handle that becomes loose almost first time you try to use the knife, and you arent going to remove enough material without access to a belt sander with an aggressive grit aluminum oxide belt or a bench grinder with aggressive grit aluminum oxide wheel. But if you have one of these tools or perhaps an aggressive grit diamond dust hone, then yes you can transform this very cheap knife into a very usable one.

And if you are this into modifying/sharpening knives, you can get a used garage sale knife made from much better materials with existing good handle and just reshape and sharpen it as I describe.

Have to admit I am very into the proverbial "making silk purse from a sow's ear...." and figuring why some designs work so much better than others without using some rare exotic high priced materials. Most people just want to plunk down their money and have something to work well right out of the box, end of story. Again this $1 knife is worthless as it comes new out of package.

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