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Calphalon 115mm(4½") Paring
Kitchen Knife Review

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Calphalon 115mm(4½") Paring Knife

During my knife collecting years I've conducted numerous tests on quite large variety of knives, hundreds of them to be precise. Some were more scientific, others not so much, but I did learn more and more with every test, if anything, at least from my mistakes. Still, despite of that many tests, I almost never do significant damage to the knife, destruction tests are not exactly my area. I am more interested in other aspects of the knife performance, and on the other hand, I'm not sure what type of knife task would be required to destroy quarter inch thick Busse Battle Mistress made out of the INFI steel, or even thicker Himalayan Import Kukris. Having said all that, on occasion, I do inflict considerable damage to the test knives, although in best interests of science, amateur science, but still :) Calphalon paring knife was one of the test subjects that had to go that type of abuse. I'll discuss details and the results later in the review. Everything begun with the present I got from my coworker, which was the said paring knife. My coworker, matter of fact, all of them knew I'm collecting and researching knives, I've sharpened plenty of my coworker's knives too, so he decided to give me a present, which was very nice of him. This particular knife was his favorite in the kitchen, and he was curious what would I think of Calphalon paring knife as a primary knife in the kitchen. I did tell him honestly, that my favorites at that time (and now too) were 270mm long Japanese gyutos, followed closely by vegetable cleavers a.k.a. Chukabochos, but turning down a present wouldn't be a nice thing to do. Thus, I got the knife for kitchen evaluation first, which I diligently did, and then later on I did evaluate it against two super hard steel knives to test edge endurance and damage on hard materials. That test is described in great detail in the Super Hard Vs. Soft Edges. In this review, I'll focus more on the kitchen knife properties of the Calphalon Paring knife, as the other subject, are very hard edges also all that brittle is well covered in the article linked above.

General

- I've received the Calphalon paring knife in person, wrapped in plastic, packed in a box. Not quite sure about the original packaging, but given the price I wouldn't expect ebony giftbox, but on the other hand, if that matters, budget knives aren't the right place to look for them. Initial inspection was postponed until the time I got home, because inspecting knives, even as inocuous as small paring kitchen knife wouldn't be the most appropriate exercise :) Although, I have to mention, despite of all the bad stories I've heard, about the people freaking out at the first sight of the knife, reporting swiss army knives to HR and stuff like that, I've never had a problem at any of my workplace(s). Coworkers always knew I was collecting knives, they knew I was always carrying a couple of folders on me, checked them out, asked me to sharpen their knives, or help and conslutationwith purchasing. And I've been working in hitech offices pretty much all my life. In short, coworkes were cool with knives. Ok, enough about office, let's get back to the Calphalon parer. Once I was home I've performed full inspection. For its price, the knfie is quite well made. As ti was, I couldn't find somethign that I'd call a defect. Parts fit nicely, no gaps or deformaions. Sure, materials are not the top of the line, but neither is the price. Worst part of the knife was the edge, which was rather thick and on the dull side. Other than that, especially, considering the price, Calphalon paring knife was all good.

Blade

- The blade on Calphalon parer measures 115.00mm(4.5") in length, and it's about 18.5mm wide at the heel, where it is also the thickest, 1.9mm. Purely form the design view point, it is a quite slick knife. However, I am not exactly convinced that 115mm is the best length for the paring knife. IMHO a bit too long. On the other hand, as I always say, length, handle comfort and all those things are very personal and subjective matter. My coworker loved Calphalon parer, although as I already knew at that time that he was using it as a primaty knife in the kitchen, which means much wider variety of the uses vs. simple paring knife. As such, Calphalon parer was more useful to my coworker than to me. I'll discuss testing in later on, but generally speaking, I was never good in using such a small knife as a general purpose kitchen knife. As for the rest, the blade had pretty decent satin finish, although I could see grind marks, actually you can see them on the photo as well. I'd complain about that on a 200 or even on a 100$ knife, but not on 20$ piece. On the left side there's Calphalon logo and model description, and the right side states that is'a German steel mande in China. Obviously, nobody would be shipping steel bars to China to stamp the knives out of them, so what I can deduce is tha tthe steel formula originated from Germany and it was made in China. It's a safe bet to assume it is some sort of variety of the good old X50CrMoV15 steel. As far as its behavior goes in terms of edge holding and sharpening, it's very close. Can't be 100% sure, but if it was something better it would be on the blade for sure.

Sharpening

- In short, it was very easy, metal is soft, easy to grind and I've done it many times before. At least it isn't so soft that sharpening becomes a problem. Main reason I mention it, the edge wasn't good enough, so I went with 15° per side, mirror polished edge. It's a paring knife, and you shouldn't need an edge thicker than that. Well, I have much larger gyutos at considerably steeper edges, including Watanabe Honyaki Gyuto which is about 5° per side. Anyhow, point is, you can safely use paring knife with 15° per side edge, or 30° total. Later, I've used the same edge in the experiment I've linked above, while I was comparing very hard edges vs. soft ones and induced edge damage. For the experiment, I wanted to have a very precise edge, which despite my best efforts isn't obtainable freehand :) Not until my hands math those of robots, so before that, I use trusty Edge-Pro Apex sharpening system. Went through the complete set of stones, ended up with polishing tape, and then stropped on the plain leather. Overall, the whole thing took less than half an hour. Like I said, the steel is soft enough, not very wear resistant either, nothing to impede sharpening process. Thus, the knife was ready for experiments and testing.

Handle

- The handle on the Calphalon parer is made out of the Fiberglass Polyresin. Nevermind the complicated name, it's fairly durable and quite user friendly. Not all that slippery even with wet hands. As far as the ergonomics go, it's rather simple handle, slight curve towards the butt and flattening at the bolster. It's not completely round, so there's no unwanted rotation in had when cutting. Bolster is well fit with the handle and it's not one of those oversized bolsters that hamper proper sharpening. Flat, stainless steel buttcap ends the handle and it is useful for crushing small stuff, like garlic cloves. I have used the knife continuously for about an hour at most. That was the kitchen use, other than that, as I mentioned above, I did use it for cutting metal strips and other quite harsh materials. In short, neither for prolonged use, nor for hard use I didn't have a problem. Manufacturer doesn't specifically warn against dishwasher use, but I don't think it will hold up too well against the chemicals and the heat, especially if the drying cycle is used. Eventually the handle material will crack. Despite of the price, I'd still keep it away from the dishwasher, better for the edge longevity too. Alright, that's it about the handle, now about the kitchen use.

Usage - As A Paring Knife

- I mentioned above, the blade seemed kind of long for a paring knife. In reality it's not that long, I've tested and own a few paring knives which are even longer, for example Watanabe Kamagata Paring Knife, Yoshikane Hammer Finish Utility Fruit Knife, but Calphalon paring knife is the narrowest of them, and that does make it look longer. Overall, I am fine with its shape, but I think it would've been a better paring knife it was a tad shorter. Anyway, extra length didn't really affect Calphalon's paring knife abilities. Normally, my testing of a paring knife starts by preparing and cleaning large number of vegetables which get minced and shredded later in the evening. So, lets go by order. I've started with cleaning broccoli, simply put cutting leaves, and trimming ends. Except for the end trimming part, everything was fine, for the later, I had to put the broccoli on the board, I wasn't really feeling like cutting through the thick stems in air. Next up was celery, I cut the ends of the stems and this time paring was alright. After that, I've picked up red radish, washed it thoroughly and cut the leaves and the ends. So far so good, although for choking grip blade seemed a bit long. Cutting the ends on the green onions was no biggie, that's obvious. And the final, pretty grueling test - Brussels sprouts, about 4 lbs. During the prep session I simply cut the ends, which are the harshest parts. Generally speaking, Brussels sprouts shredding is where most of the knives fail, as in the edge shows the most significant degradation, not that they break in half. Calphalon paring knife was no exception. Well, I did expect that anyway, based on the steel. However, thin edge did help. After processing all that it was still quite useful edge, but I could tell the edge was degraded. To complete the list, I have to mention Italian Parsley, just cut the ends on the bunches, but here length is helping, due to the size of the parsley bunch.

Overall, for purely paring tasks Calphalon parer performs alright, and considering its price you could say it is a real bargain. Plus, it can serve as a utility knife, given its longish edge. Basically, you are not limited to strictly paring tasks, and given the medium or a product of the right size it will manage. On the other hand, cutting bread with Calphalon knife is rather a bad idea :) To me at least. I did try to use it as a primary kitchen knife, but I knew it wouldn't work, I've tried before. I couldn't really find variety of tasks in the kitchen to describe as utility cutting, and for most of the things paring knife seemed to be small, or not suited.

Usage - As A Primary Kitchen Knife

- Like I said, I didn't think it would work, but I gave it an honest shot :) I've tried to accomplish the same feat with Watanabe Sujihiki knife with some success, and later several times attempted to use Aritsugu 300mm Honkasumi Yanagiba knife. Even though neither knife lacked the length, sharpness and edge retention, I still wanted wider knife for guiding hand during cutting. Paring knife lacked both length and width, nevermind the edge holding and other aspects of performance or lack thereof. My coworker was adamant about this knife, and he does use it as a primary kitchen knife, complemented with 300mm meat slicer, for well, you guessed it, slicing large chunks of meat. I've tried to follow the pattern, lucky me I have no shortage of 300mm long meat slicers of both types, traditional double edged Sujihiki Knives and more exotic Yanagiba knives, also known in the western world as sushi knives. Initially, I've tried to limit myself to just two knives, Calphalon paring knife for everything, except for meat slicing where I'd use one of those yanagibas or sujihikis. I've dropped that rule real quick, basically after trying to slice a piece of bread. Unless you are cutting something like a French bouquet it's not really working, you have to make too many motions and slice won't come out even. So, I've increased knife limit to 3, adding my 320mm long Gude Bread knife to the set. Later in the evening I went on with salad cutting, the same 15-18 lbs of vegetables of about 20 different kinds. Some of them were already prepped in the morning using the same Calphalon paring knife. Well, my respects to everyone who can manage to do all those cutting jobs with a puny 115mm long paring knife, as I've failed miserably, again. In theory, each individual task is manageable with varying degree of difficulty, but doing that continuously for an hour or two it becomes a nightmare. I came very close to cutting myself more than one while shredding the Brussels Sprouts. Cutting carrots took 3 times as long, and thin, short blade was difficult to use efficiently. Easiest parts were soft veggies, like green onions, but even there I did wish for a longer, and wider edge. My main gripe was the very narrow edge, where I had virtually no support for the claw hand. Because of that I was more concerned with avoiding cutting myself than cutting efficiency and techniques. Even cucumbers were a problem, well compared to a Nakiri or a Gyuto it was a problem to cut them with a knife that narrow. Well, I'll spare you the details, in the end, pretty much for every single item in the salad, it was obvious that larger knife, nakiri, gyuto, even sujihiki would work a lot better.

Yes, a lot depends on the user techniques and preferences, and I do know my kitchen knife skills are not the best, but they're not the worst either :) Physics also are independent of the user. I can see how someone can get by Calphalon parer for daily use if it involves very little cutting. And I think that is the case with my coworker. Otherwise, I can't imagine someone cutting 18lbs of vegetables with that type of a knife and not reaching or wishing bigger one. There was a time when my primary, do it all kitchen knife was the Global GS-1 utility knife, which had almost identical length with Calphalon parer, but there was a curved edge on the Global GS-1, which gave more cutting edge, and it was somewhat suitable for rocking motion. Still, even then I had a dedicated bread knife, and for meat and large items I constantly used Global G-61 chef's knife or Global GF-33 forged chef's knife.

Conclusions

- Decent, budget paring knife, that would be mu short conclusion. I still have it, although it's mainly a knife reserved for non knife aficionados, when I have to lend knife or knives to guests who help with cooking on big parties. Otherwise, I have very little use for it. I have better paring knives for purely paring tasks, and a lot of other types of kitchen knives for all sorts of cutting. As for you, if you want a budget paring knife which won't fail too soon this can be the one. Edge holding is nowhere near of what I demand from my kitchen knives, but then again, most of the people are okay with mainstream kitchen knives and their edge holding ability, that's why they are mainstream after all. If you want better edge holding and performance, you might look elsewhere.

Specifications:

  • Blade - 115.00mm(4.53")
  • Thickness - 1.90mm
  • Width - 18.48mm
  • OAL - 225.30mm(8.87")
  • Steel - X50CrMoV15 steel at 54-56HRC
  • Handle - Fiberglass Polyresin
  • Weight - 85.70g(2.9oz)
  • Acquired - 10/2009 Price - 20.00$

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Last updated - 12/24/13