Over the past several months I’ve purchased a few inexpensive knives to take with me on trips. What has been my selection criteria? Mainly, price and that they come with some sort of sheath or blade guard.
I normally just take regular knives with me. If not my everyday Henkels, I have a few old Gerber knives that I use for travel. The thing is that I’ve gotten really attached to some of these knives – the Gerbers I bought while in college, and I’ve carried them through close to a dozen countries over the past 25 years. I’d kind of hate to loose one.
So I thought I’d try and find a cheap substitute, and the are plenty of options. For about the price of a knife safe, you can buy a knife with a sheath or scabbard — and if you leave it behind or forget it’s in your carry on luggage it won’t be terribly missed. Rather than piecing these out as little review fragments, here is a round-up of travel knife reviews.
This paring knife (the green knife in the image above) is part of the Kuhn Rikon Colori line, a series of brightly colored, plastic handled knives — ranging from a small paring knife up to an 11 inch serrated bread/slicing knife. The blades are made of a high carbon stainless steel, according to the product description. (In the video review I stated that they were a carbon steel, not stainless. This is because when left damp, surface discoloration quickly appeared on the honed edge of the knife. According to the product specification, I was wrong.) The blades are coated with a pretty slick colored coating. The overall feel of the knives is very light. It’s hard to discuss balance, as the overall sensation is, well, just light. Out of the package they are very sharp. I’ve used the Colori paring knife for basic prep on a half-dozen occasions, and can see a bit of edge wear under close scrutiny. If my normal, at home, paring knife was showing that type of edge wear I would certainly steel it, and probably sharpen it — but I haven’t done that yet with this knife. If I run them through the Chef’s Choice sharpener, I’ll update this review and let you know how it went.
One think I like about all the Kuhn Rikon knife scabbards is that they are ventilated. There are large air holes to allow the blades to dry a bit, if required. I still think that you should not put a wet or dirty blade into the guard, but if you did it would probably fare better due to the air holes. Also, since the blade guards are a hard plastic material they can be washed and cleansed easily.
For in the hand tasks, like hulling strawberries, the sharp blade and smaller size works great. For on the cutting board usage, the light weight and shorter blade length doesn’t work as well for me — but I have pretty large hands. As a knife that you can throw in your picnic basket, travel bag, or boat I think it’s hard to beat the price.
This knife came as part of a set that was so cheap that it was basically free — which is good, because I don’t really have any use for a bird’s beak shape blade. I tried… I used it for hulling some strawberries, and trimming fruit — I just have no interest at all in changing my current methods to adapt to the different shape blade. If you use that knife at home, then the comments for the paring knife apply, as the construction is identical save for the scooped out blade shape.
This is the larger, brown knife in the above photo. The overall construction is very similar to the paring knives in the same line. The Santoku is a 5″ blade, and adds air holes to the blade, which are beveled out on one side. This seems to be trendy right now. There’s a new Wusthof being advertised right now with holes and a ridge. I’m not sure I get it, but whatever — it doesn’t take away from the use of the knife so the holes are fine.
The 5″ blade length for me is a bit problematic. My normal paring knife is 4″. My normal utility knife is 6″. My normal chef’s knife is 10″. 5″ doesn’t really have a place in my working habits. It’s almost big enough do do some work, but not quite. I found that I couldn’t really replace my chef’s knife with it, but it was too big and the blade was too thick for paring tasks. I suppose as a utility knife replacement it’s fine, but I don’t usually take one with me when I travel. If you have a different blade preference, it’s a sharp little knife. It’s light, but the scabbard is a nice feature and has the ventilation as discussed above. I have a video review of just this knife available. I don’t dislike it, it’s actually very sharp and does a decent job – but with more use I just have a hard time working it into my habits.
The largest non-serrated knife in the Colori line is a 6.5″ chef’s knife, which I haven’t tried out and probably won’t. After using the 5″ blade, I just can’t see the point in trying out a chef’s knife profile that is 3.5″ shorter than I prefer.
These knives are very, very sharp out of the package — and almost ridiculously cheap. Actually, scratch that. As of right now, they are ridiculously cheap. They are so cheap, it makes me question the concepts of scarcity and demand. They are so cheap that it forces me to ponder the implications of globalization. But,hey, enough of that — you came here for a knife review.
The blade seems to be hollow ground, and I’m unsure what angle it’s ground at for sharpening. I hate to say this, but at the current price point on Amazon there is almost no point in sharpening it. With moderate use the edge is holding up well, although be careful about cleaning and allowing the blade to fully dry after each use. I got lazy once, and had to scrub off some surface oxidation. Additionally, since the scabbard is made of Oak (I misidentify the wood in the video review, the product description says oak) putting the blade away wet or dirty will be a big problem. An interesting tidbit is that they are actually made in Japan, not just a Japanese style made in China, if that carries any value to you. The feel of the knife is light. Balance is not an issue because of the lack of weight. Like the Colori paring knife, this is fine for in-hand use (which I try to minimize) but a bit odd on the cutting board.
The Openel (not shown in the image above, see video) is a completely different beast than the other knives mentioned above. First, it’s a folder, so it’s more akin to a pocket knife than a kitchen knife. Second, the blade is carbon steel, rather than coated steel or stainless. It will tarnish, it can pit, it can rust. Or, as I prefer to say, it will achieve a patina. It’s takes a great edge, and is a fantastic ‘picnic’ knife. I’ve used it on occasion as a paring knife, and it’s all right – the proportions and balance are a bit off for serious kitchen work, and the wood handle bothers me, in the abstract. I highly recommend owning one, although not as a general purpose paring knife.
Here’s a video review discussing all the knives above.