One more time I was curious about specific feature of the knife and I bought it. In this particular case, subject of my curiosity was the type of the serrations on the mac bread knife, plus relatively curved overall geometry of the knife. For last few years, Gude 7431/32 320mm(12.6") bread knife has been my primary bread knife, and even though I have used it for cutting things other than bread, that was mainly for testing, I have more than enough kitchen knives to pull out more than one knife per kitchen cutting task. Anyhow, this time I wanted to test and compare scalloped serrations on the Mac bread knife vs. standard serration pattern on Gude bread knife. Each have their pros and cons, and I just wanted to see/feel them first hand, besides I needed a present for a friend and this bread knife was one of those knives(designated presents).
General- Mac Superior bread knife arrived in an decent packaging. I suppose at 80$ price it isn't exactly a high end knife, although for most of the non knife people that's way too much for a bread knife, but that's besides the point. Mac bread knife is a rather large, ~270mm blade(10.5") long blade is quite respectable for any knife, although compared to Gude which is 320mm(12.6") it looked a bit small :) As usual I've performed quite thorough visual inspection, and to my satisfaction I've found no defects or blemishes. Overall build quality is very good, and you do get the feel of quality knife in general. Handle slabs are smooth and there are no rough edges anywhere. No gaps or irregularities, everything fits well. Continuing comparison with the Gude knife, Mac was both, considerably thinner and lighter, pretty much twice as light. You might've read my other kitchen knife reviews, so you know I am all for light knives except the ones used in heavy duty chopping. Personally, I don't think heavy weight adds anything to the cutting qualities of even the bread knife. I use the word "even" since the opinion that heavy knives are better somehow seems to be applied more often to the chef's and bread knives. In short, if the knife is sharp, that's all you need, at least according to pure physics and physiology, however, as one reader pointed out heavy knife feels more balanced and in control. So, as most of everything, that weight issue seems to be very personal too.
Blade- The blade measured exactly 266.70mm(10.5") in length, that is on the straight line, obviously the curve is a bit longer. At its thickest, at the heel the blade is 2mm thick, and it's 38mm wide at the same spot. Like I said above, it's shorter, thinner and narrower compared to the Gude bread knife. Blade finish is quite nicely done satin finish. On the right side there is Mac logo and on the left there's some Kanji, although I have no clue what is it. The blade geometry can be described as long curve. Visually, looks like the curve of the belly is more prominent that on the back. And the handle is also raised above the blade, in other words tang section is a part of the curve to certain point. I'll discuss the handle below, but as for the curved blade, I think it works better for slicing bread compared to more straight Gude, although extra length of the Gude read knife has its advantages. Like I said above, the reason I got the Mac superior bread knife was its scalloped serrations. As far as cutting performance is concerned they(scalloped serrations) are better. When they are sharp, cuts are cleaner, and require less effort. main problem to me is the sharpening process. Majority of the people never sharpen serrated knives, even though they do dull just like any other knife, but those few, myself included who want their serrated knives sharp, do need to concern themselves with sharpening issues. Unfortunately, there isn't much one can do for Mac Superior and other serrated knives with similar serrations type. It is not impossible (unlike needle tooth serrations), but more difficult than sharpening the wider, single bevel serrations on the Gude. In short, you are very limited in sharpening equipment, and that's compared to already limited sharpening options for "easy to sharpen" Gude. You need very narrow edged sharpener to be efficient and get in between the serrations. In the end, I think it was not worth it for me, all the hassle compared to faster, more efficient sharpening of the Gude bread knife. However, you might consider Mac Superior a better knife, like I said, cuts better, and it actually cuts, not rips thanks to different serration pattern. Also, on the positive side, Mac uses better steel than Gude, not exactly sure what it is, they keep it secret, and I still can't find reliable lab in SF Bay area to conduct steel composition analysis for reasonable price... Anyhow, point is, Mac Superior steel is about 60-61HRC, while Gudes are few RC points softer, which is very significant difference. I have to sharpen and touch up my Gude at least one a month to keep it in shape. Mac will last a lot longer, especially in normal household use.
Handle- The handle of the Mac Superior bread knife is considerably different from the one found on the Gude. As far as construction goes, it is quite standard, black, pakkawood handle, attached to the tang using three rivets. Can't say it looks very artistic, but still, looks pretty good if you ask me. Overall design fits well into the whole curvy theme of the knife. As you can see on the photos, the handle is raised above the blade spine. Can't say everyone likes this feature, but overall it is considered to be helpful, in that it doesn't require the user to raise the hand or twist the wrist as much as it would be required with the straight handle, and curved blade helps in that aspect too. As far as handle raising goes, Mac superior is somewhere in the middle between straight handles and more extremes like on Shun Alton's angle series. Obviously it is a matter of personal taste, for me it's not too important, most of my knives are straight handle design. I've used the knife for prolonged period of time, that'd be couple hours of use, including bread, vegetables and even slice of meat, all for testing, but still, I can say it is quite comfortable and I didn't have any sore spots or complaints about handle geometry. As far as grip security is concerned it is reasonably good. I didn't encounter problems with excessive slippage, but that's actually not very important for a bread knife, although I've seen quite often how bread knives are used for all sorts of tasks, because they are serrated and appear to dull later than straight edges.
Usage- Initial sharpness of the Mac Superior bread knife was quite high, never the less I could improve it a bit by simply stropping it on the 0.25µm diamond loaded leather strop at very low angles. That was possible because the pad was soft and the edge could dig into it slightly. Same method works as a viable solution for minor touchups and routine maintenance and it would extend edge lifespan considerably, but it is no substitute for real sharpening and if you are cutting on hard crust breads, the edge will receive considerable stress. Still, Mac superior knife will last longer than the Gude knife, because of the harder edge.
Being a dedicated bread knife, obvious test number one was to cut the bread. I didn't have large variety of breads at home during the first test, in fact I only had one variety of bread, which wasn't particularly had crust, but not very soft wither. Sliced the bread into very thin slices, pretty much translucent pieces, and thanks to very high sharpness the job was very easy. After that I went to search for other types of bakery at home and the only thing I've found a single Panettone, which is quite soft and tends to crumble way too much if the blade isn't sharp. Mac superior handled the task very well. That concluded the bakery section of the tests that day. Although, as an update have to add that two weeks later I had a chance to cut hard crust bread with the Mac Superior knife and at that time even though it has been already used for other works(not by me, but by its owner), the knife still retained much of its initial sharpness, cutting through really hard crust bread easily. That's one of the very few things where serrations work much better compared to even the sharpest and thinnest edges. Mainly because of the damage inflicted to the edge by hard crust. Like I said, personally, I have no reason to use bread knife for anything but bread cutting, for all other cutting jobs I need to deal with in my kitchen I have more than one knife per task at my disposal, however, majority of the people, especially those who are not really into kitchen knife collecting and pampering often use serrated bread knives for variety of curing chores including meat, vegetables, and sadly, other no food related items such as packaging and whatever else. So, because of those reasons, and because I wanted to use the knife for longer period of time to properly assess handle comfort during the use I've decided to conduct the rest of the test during the weekend, when I was making the mega salad with 20 different kinds of veggies in it, and at the same time I'd have a chance to use it as a meat slicer.
Usage - Vegetables Simply put, serrated knives are no good choice for vegetables compared with more specialized vegetable knives such as gyuto, nakiri, usuba or santoku. Still, Mac superior fared much better that Gude bread knife for this part of the test. Smooth, clean cuts, little effort making them, overall it was pretty good. I am well aware that there are more than one sources advising to use serrated knives for vegetables, but frankly, I doubt any of them had used truly sharp knife. At least from the personal experience there is no comparison. Anyway, back to the Mac Superior bread knife. Veggie test started with the harsh stuff including carrots, cut into batonnet, followed by broccoli, which was minced rather finely. Crowns were minced off the board, and after that I've proceeded with the stems, slicing them into small cubes about 5mm in size. Overall performance was very good. Next step was the Brussels sprouts, first cutting the ends, then cutting them in halves and finally mincing them. The knife does fine with slicing things, but if you have to use chopping which is handy when trying to mince stuff finely serrated edge isn't the best choice, straight one does much better. That was pretty clear after trying to mince Brussel's sprouts for a while. Next up, Italian parsley. based on the previous test, I've skipped mince on the board part and tried to use just slicing motion to cut is as finely as I could. Took some time, but whatever. Chiffonade from collard greens was a similar experience, slicing was easy, cuts were very clean. I've processed few other type of vegetables including bell pepper, baby spinach, green onions, red radish etc. In the end, main problem was the absence of the sharp point, which is occasionally needed when working with vegetables.
Usage - Meat I've had about 4lbs of meat, which I wasn't really gonna cook all at once, but for the sake of testing and because I was running out of time, as in I had to present the knife to its future owner. First I've sliced the large pieces intro stripes, about 1" thick, then examined the slices, plus I've made couple slices with much sharper, designated meat slicer which in this case was Watanabe Kintaro-Ame Sujihiki knife. You might wonder why did I have decide to continue comparison with sujihiki in this case, but at that time it was abundantly clear Mac Superior was indeed superior over Gude in terms of making clean cuts and there was no point in continuing the same test. Gude is better at ripping stuff and Mac Superior is better at cutting. At this time I wanted to gauge slicing performance, hence the choice of the sujihiki. Obviously, slicing with Watnabe sujihiki was easier, simply because it is longer and has thinner and sharper edge as well. Chunk of the raw meat was approx 8" long and I could slice though it in a single motion with Watanabe Sujihiki, while it took two slices with Mac superior to do the same. Visual comparison of the cuts showed what I was expecting and was every obvious, thin, sharp edge of the sujihiki made cleaner cut. Other than that, nothing really interesting. Mac superior did respectable job, and unless you are really demanding about clean cuts you wouldn't complain about it, but the point is, the knife was very sharp, and that was the key. Once the knife gets duller, results will be worse and like I said, sharpening this type of serrations is no joy.
Conclusions- As a bread knife, Mac superior is a really good piece. In my opinion it is a good mid range knife, although I do realize that classification is rather personal. Well, whatever it is, street price is 80$ or less. If the price is acceptable, then build quality and performance are definitely good. One aspect to consider is the sharpenability of the knife, and while not impossible, it is more difficult that sharpening the Gude bread knife serrations.
- Blade - 266.70mm(10.5")
- Thickness - 2.00mm
- Width - 38.80mm
- OAL - 400.70mm(15.78")
- Steel - Tungsten stainless steel at 60-61HRC
- Handle - Pakkawood
- Weight - 165.00g(5.58oz)
- Acquired - 04/2010 Price - 80.00$
- Gude 7431/32 320mm(12.6") Bread Knife Review
- Global G-9 Serrated Bread Knife Review
- Watanabe Sujihiki 300mm(12.5") Knife Review
Last updated - 01/06/13