One more loaner review. Came to me with bunch of other knives to be sharpened and played with. To be honest, I wasn't all that excited with the prospect, just my curiosity of a knife nut and reviewer. One way or another, Wusthof kitchen knives are one of the most widespread knives in the world, at least western world and making their way into Asia as well. Although, that's not to say they don't have their share of problems, mainly related to the same style and steel for decades. Well, we'll talk about that later. The knife was given to me for sharpening and I had it for about 2 weeks. Can't say I've used it all the time, but I've had a few cutting sessions with it, one of them was mandatory(for reviews) approximately hour and a half long vegetable cutting session. Other cutting sessions were shorter, but in the end it was more than enough to get the feel for this knife and form an opinion. After all, it wasn't a new type and I didn't have to learn how to use it properly.
General- Wusthof Grand Prix 4189 knife is your typical western santoku, even if that's an oxymoron. To be precise, it is a granton edge santoku, which is increasingly popular in western and Asian knives of all types. I've had my fair share of Santoku knives reviewed, and Wusthof's santoku wasn't something extraordinary compared to those. Most closely it resembled another German made(surprise!) santoku knife - Henckels Granton Edge santoku. Overall, it is a medium size knife, about 300g(12oz) heavy, wide blade, polypropylene handle. For the santoku knife it is almost as big as it gets, 170.00mm(6.69") long blade, the biggest santoku I've ever seen or heard of was 180mm long. Nothing else to speak of, fit and finish are ok, and the same complaint as with the Henckels granton edge santoku, the scalloping is not very evenly spaced from the edge, and in some places too close to the edge. That poses knife life expectancy issue, in simpler words after N number of sharpenings, the edge will be hitting the scalloped sections and the knife will be pretty much useless and not really sharpenable either.
In 2012 I got couple emails regarding the statement above. So, I'll expand a bit. My opinion has not changed, however, I didn't say it was impossible, however the issues that
arise after the edge is down to the scalloping make it troublesome to use and maintain it, and given the price of the knife, it is not worth it. As for the issues, number one is
sharpening itself. You have irregular surface because of the scalloping, so sharpening it will be problematic using edge pro sharpening system, flat sides of the Spyderco Sharpmaker and even worse with much
wider whetstones. You'll need the triangular or rod sharpeners to get into the depressions. Another issue is the behind the edge thickness, inside the scallops metal is
thinner, obviously so, because scalloping is formed by depressions in the blade. Even though depressions on either side of the blade are not aligned, but shifted, the blade is
still thinner. So, once you start sharpening the scallops, you have an edge which is supported with variable thickness behind it. Thinner sections will be more damaged, that's also
obvious. So, those are the reasons I'd avoid using/maintaining a knife that was down to the scallops, and I am not just theorizing here. I've had the exact same knife(although from
a different owner) worn down to the scallops. I've sharpened it twice in 6 months. Neither sharpening was much fun, if I went with large surface flat stone I'd have to remove way
too much metal to get the uniform edge, and with triangular sharpeners I could do better, but still, compared to normal edge, it was pain. Inexperienced folks will have far more
problems with that. I didn't use the knife extensively, the owner did, and on the second sharpening I've had numerous chips and rolls primarily in the scalloped sections, which was
expected, because the edge was designed for a thicker blade, and definitely not for the variable edge support... Bottom line is, if you try you can do both, sharpen it and use it
very carefully, or not so carefully and sharpen often :) IMHO not worth the bother.
Given the X50CrMoV15 steel, which is hardened at 54-56 HRC, reducing behind the edge thickness is hardly a viable option. Japanese knives I've tested and examined always had better and more even alignment of the scalloping, e.g. Tojiro Flash Santoku Knife. Well, the Wusthof costs less than half of that too.
Blade- Wusthof Grand Prix 4189 santoku has 170.00mm(6.69") blade, which is ~2.8m thick, not very thin compared to other santokus I have seen, but not the thickest either. Henckels was thicker at 3.17mm, Tojiro, Fallkniven, Henckels Miyabi santoku were al thinner. I've already commented on the placement and quality of granton feature of the edge, Other than that, it is a typical santoku blade geometry. Nothing interesting or different to speak of. The steel used in the Wusthof santoku is the good old X50CrMoV15 stainless steel, used in majority of mid/high range western kitchen knives. I've commented on that steel quite a bit in kitchen knife steel FAQ and other reviews. For details - X50CrMoV15 steel composition and alternate names.
Sharpening- As far as sharpening goes, X50CrMoV15 is quite easy, I never had any problems with it, although it never has problem dulling rather quick on me either. I've used standard set of sharpeners, except didn't go with 0.25µm diamond loaded strop, stopped at 0.3µm and stropped on the plain leather. So, the procedure included: 1200 grit King whetstone, followed 3000 grit synthetic (blue) aoto waterstone and, few strokes per side on the 5000 grit Naniwa Chosera waterstone and 10000 grit Naniwa Chosera Super Finishing waterstone. For the record, I had to keep 40° total angle on the edge, since the knife wasn't mine and I wasn't counting on original owner's intention to use it very carefully.
Handle- Simply put plastic handle, more precisely Polypropylene if that makes any difference for you. It is not dishwasher safe that much is clear. As for the ergonomics, it's pretty simple handle, not as complicated or ergonomic as the one on Henckels granton edge santoku. From what I remember about using Henckels santoku, I can't say it was better than Wusthofs, but as far as comparisons go, I do prefer both Miyabi and Tojiro handles over the Wusthof handle. They feel a lot more solid and comfy in hand. Grip security is ok, the surface isn't very smooth to become slippery. Although, when I rubbed some olive oil on my palm to test the grip, it was problematic. Anyway, that was a test, and in general you should avoid working with oily hands on knife.
Usage- As mentioned above, the longest session was my relatively standard veggie cutting test, which includes about 20 different vegetables and lasts anywhere from an hour to hour and a half. Given the variety of the ingredients and the fact that Santoku is more or less general purpose knife, that is a pretty good test of its abilities. I figure, I have to mention again, Santoku is not a dedicated vegetable knife, as many western knife manufacturers and dealers claim, Nakiri and Usuba are dedicated vegetable knives, but Santoku is a general purpose knife, closer to Gyuto or a chef's knife. Anyway, the test started with the broccoli. I've chopped and minced it. The stems became more challenging compared to the gyuto knives I use routinely. Mainly because of the lack of the length, and consequent lack of slicing ability. So, I had to rely on push cutting more. Except X50CrMoV15 and any other steels hardened to 54-56HRC will not have great edge stability and the edge holding suffers form that. Things went better with Brussels sprouts, because they are smaller. Green onions and parsley were also ok to chop and mince, but the celery was a trouble, it's rather harsh, and the knife was struggling if I tried to chop few stems together, so I had to work with them individually and therefore spend more time on the job. Radish and artichoke hearts went easy, with asparagus same story as with celery, had to work on small bunches, as soon as the stack was higher than ~3 inches the knife was too short to slice down and I had to switch to push cutting. Julienne from Basil was easy, the knife has wide enough blade and length was no problem either. Carrots were a trouble, at least when I was cutting batonnet. Just slicing off circles was alright, but batonnet was more problematic, thicker edge than what I am used to, half the length...
I've used Wusthof Santoku few more times, but mostly on the items that it worked well for in the tests described above. I can't say I really enjoyed using it, partly because santokus are not my favorites to begin with, partly because of the thicker edge and frankly edge holding isn't that great. Nothing specific to this particular Wusthof 4189 santoku though, it's the steel and heat treatment. At the end of the first cutting session which lasted a little over an hour and a half I could tell the edge degraded considerably from the original sharpness. It's on par with Henckels granton edge santoku if you want the closest match.
Conclusions- Well, it's not too bad, not too good either. I wouldn't buy it for myself unless I was constrained somehow. Besides, I figure it is not even produced anymore, although Wusthof introduced subsequent model, 4173. There are better choices out there and even if they cost more those are better knives. So, basically consider this a budget, entry level santoku. Sure, there are much cheaper ones as well, but that probably goes into junk category anyway.
- Blade - 170.00mm(6.69")
- Thickness - 2.67mm
- Width - 47.00mm
- OAL - 297.00mm(11.69")
- Steel - X50CrMoV15 54-56HRC
- Handle - Polypropylene
- Weight - 157.00g(5.31oz)
- Acquired - 06/2007 Price - 60.00$
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Last updated - 07/23/12