Honestly, I have never hard of the Gude knives or knifemaker named Gude or his knives until summer 2008. And that happened because of my kitchen knives upgrade project that I started during the spring 2008. Anyway, since it was an upgrade I was looking to upgrade my bread knife as well. For my previous piece check out Global G-9 Bread knife review. I did some research and several candidates were defined. Two main contenders: Mac and Shun bread knives. Then, I've researched on knifeforums and as most of the knife guys there agreed, Gude bread knife was the real thing to have. So, I've decided to get it. However, it wasn't as easy as I expected. Basically, nobody in US sell that. At least not in 2008 and not in 2009. So, I've had to order one from Denmark. That pleasure was around 175$. However, later on, in 2009, lehmans.com had a few for sale. Again, I found out about that on the knife forums. For the record, Lehmans does sell Gude knives on their site, and there is a Gude bread knife as well, however it isn't the 320mm model, but a shorter one. To get the 320mm specimen, which wasn't listed, I've had to call and talk to the sales person, which was a nice lady and I've got my second one. The olive handled Gude bread knife went as a present to my family. I got the second one, because the original one had an olive handle, and I wanted Gude knife with black handle :) Yup, I couldn't even get the knife with the handle I wanted in 2008.
General- Since I've had two of those I'll try to cover both. Although identical knives, there was the difference in handle color ;) Main difference besides that was the packaging. Olive handled Gude came from Denmark and for 175$ bread knife the packaging was really disappointing. Piece of cardboard and that's it. US version, or whatever I got from Lehmans was packed in a nice black box, as you'd expect from expensive piece of kitchen cutlery. Other than that, the first impression I got when I've opened my first Gude bread knife was WOW! I've seen and had my share of big and really big knives, but to see and hold a bread knife with 320mm is really memorable experience for the first time :) The knife is a monster. It's big and hefty, weighs almost 400g. Full tang and full bolster, and fully serrated at that. Although I am no fan of full bolsters. As far as fit and finish go, mo complaints. No visible defects neither on the blade, nor on the handle. Slabs were very well fitted and flush with the tang. No loose parts, no scratches. That was the case for both of the Gude bread knives I've had. Overall, as far as the bread knives go, this one is definitely on top of the list. My old Global G-9 Bread knife looked like a small toy next to it.
Strange problem became the model identification. The Olive color handled Gude bread knife had the model number 7431/32 etched on the side. That does match what Gude themselves have in their online catalog, Olive Alpha series have Olive wood scales, which According to Gude catalog is 100-200 years old. The problem is the black scaled breadknife. Black handled models are listed as Alpha models in Gude Catalog and their model number starts with 1, not 7. So, theoretically my black handle scaled model was supposed to be model 1431/32, but instead it has 7431/32 etched on it. You can see that on this image of the Gude bread knife. It's nothing critical obviously. Although, I am curious, is that a typo, or 100-200 year old Olive trees come in black color as well ;) By the way, if someone could tell Gude that their site design is extremely user unfriendly, and it takes over a dozen clicks to get to the knives at the end of the lineup, like larger ones, it'd probably serve Gude the best. Let alone the fact that flash pages pretty much obscure to the search engines and Gude kitchen knives query returns bunch of sites, but not Gude's official website!
Steel- And once again the maker decides to be a little obscure and not to disclose the steel used in the knife. And once again, this has nothing to do with competition, because even with my troubles getting few knives tested for composition, it is a simple matter of time and money to determine what it is made of. So, if any competitor wants to find out the exact chemical makeup of the Gude Alpha series steel, they can readily do so. Which leaves just us, customers being in the dark. When I wrote the original version of the review, I got several emails asking why did I assume it was X50CrMoV15 stainless steel. Well, it's a valid question, if you are not familiar with German kitchen cutlery. My guess was based on several facts, and Gude web site, which I just found out about, (after asking German friend to find it for me) just reaffirms my initial hypothesis.
Assuming Gude knives are made in Germany, naturally the most cost effective would be to use relatively inexpensive German steel, for entry level knives that is. Second, majority of mid/high end German kitchen knives use X50CrMoV15 stainless steel, or some variations to it. Third, the description given by Gude says Chrome-Vanadium-Moly cutlery steel, and I've seen exact same description of X50CrMoV15 on many occasions. Admittedly, there are many steels that have Cr, V and Mo in their composition, but a lot of them can be excluded since they're never used in mass production knives, too expensive to begin with, heat treatment is expensive, machining is expensive, etc. Fourth, if it was anything better than X50CrMoV15 steel, most likely Gude would advertise that. They do advertise openly the use of much better VG-10 Steel, which by the way also satisfies CrMoV formula ;) Except VG-10 steel also has Cobalt and almost twice the Carbon, Molybdenum and Vanadium in it. For those who like precision, here you go VG-10 steel vs. X50CrMoV15 steel composition comparison. So, given all that, it is pretty clear, the steel is very likely to be X50CrMoV15, or slightly worse X45CrMoV15 stainless steel. If Gude-s were made in China, then the steel very likely to be 5CrMoV15 which is Chinese equivalent of X50CrMoV15 or something similar. Here, 5Cr15MoV steel vs. X50CrMoV15 steel composition comparison.
Now about the hardness, 54-56HRC was my estimate. let's start with the simple fact that some of the Gude dealer sites do list Rockwell Hardness for Gude knives as 54-56HRC :) I've already used and sharpened Gude Bread knife a lot. I can guarantee that steel is nowhere near 60HRC. The 60HRC hardness and above stated on Gude website refers to VG-10 steel, not the default option which is that CrMoV stainless, i.e. X50CrMoV15. It is way too soft for that. Besides, absolute majority of Western kitchen cutlery is in 54-56HRC range. Sure there are embarrassing examples of 50-52HRC as well, but mid-range and better kitchen knives are 54-56HRC, sometimes even claimed to be 56-58HRC. The sad reality is that with mass production knives, you are 95% likely to hit the lower range, or even slightly below. I have tested on Rockwell tester several knives and I specifically collect RC testing results from other knife enthusiasts too. That's the spread based on those results. I've never seen Rockwell tester result report on a knife that hit the upper limit of the advertised hardness, except a few Spydercos. Another fact is that, X50CrMoV15 is pretty much not hardenable at 60HRC. It will be too brittle, especially at 320mm blade length. And finally, another real fact of life is that Western kitchen knives are aimed at different ends of the advertised hardness, in other words, small knives will be closer to the upper limit, i.e. 56HRC or 58HRC, and anything bigger than 7" will be closer to the lower limit. That's done to protect knife makers from the complaints of the abusive users who manage to use chefs knives for splitting coconuts. Also, softer knives are easier and faster to make, and cheaper.
Blade- 320mm(12.6") long, 4mm thick blade is quite wide at the heel, about 47mm wide at the heel. Blade is fully serrated as you'd expect on pretty much any bread knife today. Serrations are standard type, which is good, because I can easily sharpen and maintain them. The Blade is flat on the left side, serrations are ground on the right side. Not so sure what to call the blade geometry, well it's a typical bread knife blade geometry, except for the super large size. This is the huge bread knife and even though I like exotic and high performance steels like CPM S110V or ZDP-189, I can live with mere X50CrMoV15 in a serrated bread knife. That's not to say I would mind better and steel in Gude though. However, considering that hard crust breads can be very rough on the delicate edge, I'd opt for a tougher steel. However, tougher doesn't necessarily mean 54 or even 56HRC on Rockwell. Blade and edge geometry define how will the knife perform for a given task. With the serrated edge that thick, hard steel, around 60-62HRC, would have fared a lot better than X50CrMoV15 does at 54-56HRC. For example, Kobayashi Hontan Seikon Dojo Deba, thick blade with a thick edge (although, it's not that much thick of an edge compared to Gude), is made out of the Hitachi YSS Aogami 2 steel. That knife can chop through small and medium size bones with absolutely no damage to the edge. Given the fact that Rockwell hardness scale is not linear, but exponential, you can deduce how much harder 61-63HRC steel will be compared to 54-56HRC, and if that can withstand bone chopping, Gude would've done a lot better too. Separate question is what to do with the knife users who would bang 320mm long blade that hard on hard objects sideways, that'd clearly snap the blade in half. So, if one plans on that, well, then X50CrMoV15 steel at 54-56HRC is much safer choice.
On the photos attached here you see the serrated edge of the Gude bread knife just one week after using. As you can see there is no visible damage, even under 25x-30x magnification. You can see the rest in the sharpening section. For the record, I don't consume very hard crust bread, and I've seen carnage caused by those, it's nowhere near to what you see on the images attached to this Gude bread knife review.
Sharpening- As mentioned above I regularly sharpen my Gude and before that I did sharpen my Global bread knife as well. It is not such a big deal to do that. You just need a proper tool. And there's a variety of sharpening devices out there to help you with sharpening the serrated knives of various types. The needle like teeth serrations can not be sharpened, at least I don't know how, but serrations like on Gude or Global bread knives are fairly easy to sharpen. You just need one of these sharpening devices: DMT Serrated Diamond Sharpener, DMT Diamond-Ceramic Triangle Sharpener, or DMT sharpening steels, Spyderco Sharpmaker or something like that. I've used every single one of the sharpeners listed here to sharpen various serrated knives, including bread knifes and serrations on my Benchmade 710 HSSR. Flat side of the blade sharpens even easier. Just lay it flat on ceramic or other high grit stone and do a few strokes. Serrated side is more cumbersome, you have to sharpen each serrated section, but doesn't have to be individual, just go along the edge, few inches at a time. Overall, I have to touch up the edge once a week or may be two weeks. That's just because I have my rather strict requirements about the edge sharpness. Pretty good result for a bread knife.
As for the naysayers, who claim that serrated knives don't ever need sharpening, this is my answer, take a look at the pictures attached to this paragraph. First one is 100x magnification of the serration on the Gude knife after 1 month of use without sharpening and second one is the same spot, except at 300x magnification. You can very clearly see the folded edge. That's just from bread. And I know most of the people abuse their bread knives far worse than that. Yes, it is how knife edges dull and serrations are nothing else than the edges with some teeth. They dull just like any other edge. Same physics, same metal deformation. In the end, you have to sharpen your serrated knives, or alternatively throw them away. That's how it works. Different geometry doesn't change physics. Bear in mind, this is a better bread knife, 5$ cheapos will fold a lot sooner than Gude bread knife did.
Handle- Full tang, ~140mm long handle has wood slabs and they are riveted with three rivets. Handle ends with satin finished pommel. Just like your favorite knife salesman would describe a perfect handle ;) Ok, that has a little to do with reality, stick tang handles are just fine in the kitchen. Anyway, since this is an expensive western knife it does have those features. Not that it hurts anything. Can't say the handle is super comfortable, but I have no complaints with it either. It's ok. Besides, this isn't a knife that I'd use for hours. Few cuts and that's it. Although, even with this monster I have to apply significant force to cut through some hard crust bread types. So, it is a good handle, not giving any sore spots after that. No other significant features about that handle to speak of.
Usage- I've been using this knife pretty much just for its designated work, which is bread slicing. Couple times I've experimented with slicing tomatoes, but it was clearly outclassed and outcut by thin edged Nakiri, Gyuto, Yanagiba. Honesuki also performed better despite being more than twice as short. In the end, it's all the sharpness of the edge that matters the most ;) However, for its designated role Gude bread knife performs just superbly well. I can't really recall the bread that I was unable to slice through with a single swipe. 320mm long blade is a lot of cutting edge. Slicing translucent slices of bread with Gude is pretty much trivial task. 4mm thick blade helps a lot with flexing. That is, prevents blade flexing during the cut, and with bread that's exactly what you want.
For soft and sticky cakes I prefer to use one of my Sujihiki-s, but for any type of bread Gude is irreplaceable in my kitchen. On the other hand, as I have mentioned above the steel is rather on the softer side, at least by my standards. I've seen quite a few deformations thanks to the homemade bread that my friends cook sometimes. Grains sprinkled on the crust are hard as small rocks, and do inflict some damage to the edge. Well, unless you carefully examine the serrations you wont' see or feel it, but I am used to using Gude bread knife real sharp and whenever I use someone else's duller knife I can tell the difference. Besides, by now it is my habit to examine the edge of any knife I have to handle. So, as a bread cutter this is a very good knife. Knowing average kitchen knife users it will also do great as a slicer, in the absence of a dedicated slicer. Other than that not much to comment on. If I find something interesting about this knife I'll update this review, as usual.
- Blade - 320.00mm(12.6")
- Width - 47mm
- Thickness - 4.00mm
- OAL - 480.00mm(18.9")
- Steel - X50CrMoV15 54-56HRC
- Weight - 390.00g(13.19oz)
- Acquired - 07/2008 Price - 175.00$
Last updated - 09/01/11