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Review Dexter Russell Vegetable Cleaver/Chinese Chef's Knife

Discussion in 'Knife Reviews & Testing' started by Eli Chaps, Oct 4, 2018.

  1. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps

    254
    Apr 20, 2018
    Why Review A $30 Kitchen Knife? Well a few weeks ago I was getting revved up to commission a knife for my wife's birthday from @Eric J.S. when I had an unexpected expenditure that made it infeasible to continue. My wife saw the communications I was having with Eric and politely informed me that she didn't want a custom kitchen knife. As much she would love the red handle and such, she said, knives are my thing and she doesn't want to fret over a fancy knife. Hence, why she always leaves my knives alone and just uses her couple that she likes. So, that frees me up to look into what I am interested in next.

    I'm very intrigued by nakiri. After decades of western-style chef's knives I bought a gyuto a while back and have been really enjoying the exploration of "push" chopping vs. rock chopping. But, before I go dropping a fair amount of coin on the blade type, I wanted to test it out. Just the shape and style, how do I like it?

    I stumbled across the Dexter Russell 7"x2" Chinese Chef's Knife (aka vegetable cleaver) Product #S5197 for $30USD and decided it was close enough to what I wanted that it was worth a try.

    Here's the knife compared to an 8.5" gyuto, 8" chef's knife, and a pairing knife:
    [​IMG]

    Observations: I didn't take a picture of it but the knife comes with a large sticker on the side of the blade that informs you that the edge has been carefully applied by skilled craftsman, etc., etc. The edge is not refined and you'll find yourself cussing as you scrub the sticker off (acetone is your friend). Irony. But, the edge was evenly ground and easily brought up to a high level. I used a soft Arkansas and a strop and was quite pleased. The steel is obviously stamped and I would say it is in the ~55-57HRC range like Fibrox, Wusthof Gourmet and others.

    In the pinch grip the blade actually feels pretty good and balances well. Laying the blade across your finger about an inch forward of the back of the blade will balance it. It's perfectly acceptable, especially given the general lightness of the knife. The wooden handle is a little bulky but I found I adjusted to it pretty quickly. I did put a couple coats of mineral oil on the handle.

    The spine, front and back edges were pretty square and fairly sharp. I expected that at this price point but I have to say it was no worse than knives I have that are three times the price. A little time with 100 grit sandpaper and a SiC stone smoothed things out nicely.

    I can't find my calipers just now but I'd put the spine around 2.5mm. Keep in mind, there is no lengthwise distal taper so the spine width is consistent along the entire length. This is true of all knives of this style, not just this model.

    One thing to be aware of is the brass (?) end on the handle has gaps along the blade. This can allow water to get in there so be sure to tip it downward after washing to ensure there's nothing left in there.

    I've been using the knife pretty much everyday since it got here.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    It slices and dices pretty well. :)

    I'm still not sure how I feel about the nakiri/cleaver design yet but within that design concept, I am quite pleasantly surprised by this knife. After a little massaging it really is light, tough, sharp, and enjoyable to use. I wish I would've bought this knife back when my kids were still at home as at this price point and the forgiving steel, I wouldn't have had any issue with them using and washing it.

    I'm thinking this might be a good platform for me to experiment with blade thinning as well.

    All in all, based on a few weeks, I recommend this knife and am happy I bought it.

    It sure is making me consider what something in this design from Eric would be like!
     
    sodak and WILLIAM.M like this.
  2. Eric J.S.

    Eric J.S. Knifemaker/Craftsman/Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    131
    Jan 20, 2018
    Awesome write up Eli! I would love to make a Nakiri for you to try out. Ive started a design several times but it always turns into something else half way through lol
     
    Eli Chaps likes this.
  3. Ourorboros

    Ourorboros

    151
    Jan 23, 2017
    Are you sure you didn't get a longish nakiri or a duck slicer? It looks short (height, edge to spine) for a Chinese Vegetable cleaver.
     
  4. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps

    254
    Apr 20, 2018
    It's 7"x2" and it isn't listed as a true nakiri nor as a true Chinese cai dao. D.R. calls it a Chinese chef's knife and some of the vendor sites refer to it as a vegetable cleaver. But, it is a close enough approximation to a nakiri for my desires.
     
  5. Smaug

    Smaug Gold Member Gold Member

    753
    Jun 30, 2003
    Chinese chefs might use a knife like that, but regular Chinese women don't. They use a big heavy cleaver and a paring knife, and that's it.

    Like the one in the left of this pic:
    [​IMG]

    It's a Shibazi, probably a lifetime purchase for her:
    [​IMG]
     
    marchone and Eric J.S. like this.
  6. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps

    254
    Apr 20, 2018
    @Smaug, understood and I agree. This wasn't about being authentic to Chinese cutlery but a cheap way for me to try out something close to a Japanese nakiri. There's a few cheap nakiri's out there but there were things about them I didn't like so I decided on this one.

    I tell ya though, using this has made me seriously consider a traditional Chinese style cleaver!
     
  7. Smaug

    Smaug Gold Member Gold Member

    753
    Jun 30, 2003
    It's nice to be able to just hack through a joint, (which they do a lot of in traditional Chinese cooking) and also chop vegetables and slice meat. But keeping that soft steel sharp is a challenge. (Did you notice it starts with "4Cr"?) And the blade stock is so thick...

    It's a perfect case for a Worksharp.
     
  8. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps

    254
    Apr 20, 2018
    Yeah, I'd think you could almost strop that on your cutting board. Me, I'd just keep a strop handy and then the occasional few passes on a soft Arkansas stone.

    Victorinox has fielded a cleaver that caught my eye.
     
  9. Ourorboros

    Ourorboros

    151
    Jan 23, 2017
    Actually with the proper grip (a three finger pinch grip with extended fingers and thumb) it isn't that heavy in hand.
    Of the Chinese ones, the CCK is the best. The Japanese versions (chuka-bocho) tend to be taller than what I see in most (East) Asian households. They will also use harder, chippier steel.
    There is a reason Chinese use softer steel though, as they will chop through cooked duck and chicken bones as well as the raw backbones of a chicken.
     
    Eli Chaps likes this.
  10. hodges

    hodges

    64
    Feb 14, 2009
    Ourorboros is right, that’s not a Chinese clever/chef knife it’s their take on a nakiri. People often confuse Chinese cleavers, they are very light and thin and very slicey. cck makes the best affordable one, they are not for hacking bones at all, they make thick ones for that job but from the side profile they are the same shape so people think they are all the same. I vastly prefer a nice Chinese chef knife to a nakiri for a bunch of reasons but whatever you enjoy you should use, but if you can find one grab a cck carbon version it’s a great knife.
     
  11. WILLIAM.M

    WILLIAM.M Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 14, 2006
    Excellent review Sir!!!
     
    Wardo46 and Eli Chaps like this.
  12. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps

    254
    Apr 20, 2018

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