Skinning Knives in the Kitchen

Jun 29, 2000
I was rereading Ken Warner's book, "The Practical Book of Knives", this past weekend. He mentioned that he used a Herter's "crooked knife" 6-inch(?) "beef skinner" knife in his kitchen to cut up vegetables. Well it just so happens that I have an old Herter's crooked knife that has not seen a lot of use, lately, so I decided to "field test" the knife in the preparation of some stew. The experience was extremely gratifying. The old knife was surprisingly easy to handle. The vegetables were diced even more easily with the skinning knife than they would have been if I had used an 8-inch chef's knife and even peeling was relatively easy with very little more waste than would have occured had I used a paring knife or potato peeler. The only problems that I encountered were that the carbon steel blade dulled a bit faster than a high carbon stainless steel blade would have when high acid vegetables were processed and the same vegetables turned the blade a rather pretty shade of blue. No big deal in either case. The minor dulling was nothing that a few seconds on a set of crock sticks could not fix and I kind of like the blue color. Of course, if I ever do get tired of the new color scheme it can be removed easily with a Scotch Brite pad.

I think that we may be missing a bet with this old classic as a food preparation tool. I know that my old beef skinner will get a lot more food preparation time, in the future, even if it means that my chef's knive will get less. You can't beat these old-fashioned knives on the price front, either.

Two final thoughts: First, I really like the handle ergonomics on my old Herter's. I have handled a number of beef skinners, made by several manufacturers, and, while they felt good in my hand, they did not feel nearly as good as the Herter's knife. Second, I am truly sorry that "The Practical Book of Knives" is now out of print. It was the best "Knives for Dummies" book that I have ever encountered. Perhaps, with a little encouragement, Mr. Warner can see his way clear to update and reissue this fine little book. I certainly hope so. I had the privilege of talking to Mr. Warner about the book, a couple of years ago. He told me that the book was very little more than any grandfather could have told his grandson. I replied that, somehow, neither of my grandfathers had ever shared this kind of lore with me and, now that I am "of grandfather age", myself, all that I have to go on is what little I have learned on my own, supplemented by books like his. I just wish, now, that I had purchased the book when it first came out. It would have made my "knife learning curve" a lot less steep than it ultimately turned out to be.

I think we're talking about the same blade style- mine is a Russel Green River skinner, one of the first "kit" knives I ever put together. And for all the reasons you state it is a fantastic kitchen knife! Mine also goes along camping and fishing, lots of utility chores it is good for also.
A Ken Durham skinner that sees daily use in our Kitchen...

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When I started reading this thread I thought of this forged skinner.

Goshawk by Bob Hollar , MT, 52100 bearing hc steel

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I have used it in the kithchen and it worked fine. It did stain easily. I polished it out easily with the polish that A.G. Russell likes. As I recall I wanted to take this picture before I let it get stained. Since I do not have a sheath for it, and do not use it much, there was also no particular reason to leave it like that.

There is a thread on Herter knives in the Bernard Levine Collecting forum on Knifeforums. Further, there was recently an annual put out on European knives which mentioned Kopromed of Poland. Apparently, the hump which appeared on many Herter knives, was common in Europe. At least one of the Kopromed knives has a thumb rest hump. I did start a thread on Knifeforums regarding Kopromed knives and Sergiuz posted the link to the company.