When Should I Buy a New Knife?

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Knives are the true workhorses in the kitchen.

Even if you had all the slicing and dicing machines new tech has to offer, you will still find it hard to make a whole lot of recipes without this amazingly versatile tool.

It is said that two factors really matter when choosing a knife: the steel it is made of and the feel in your hands. The steel and the feel are also the two factors that signal the need for a new knife. These two are specified into the following:

• Chips in the blade
• Broken or bent tip
• Rivets are loose
• Handles come off
• It’s not comfortable in your hand

Let’s discuss all five in detail:

1. The Blade is Already Chipped (Steel Issue)

All knives, whether made from high carbon steel or stainless alloy, may have microscopic chips along the edge for several reasons.

This can be remedied by re-sharpening so that the bevel angle can be restored.

But if you can already see the chip, you need to throw that away.

Aside from the fact that this won’t slice as well as it should there’s a possibility that this may break off completely when you’re in the middle of your chopping board chore. And that’s dangerous.

Related: Why do chefs smash an onion?

2. The Pointy Tip is Bent or Broken

(Also a Steel Issue)

This usually happens when the blade was accidentally dropped, tip first, on the floor, or any hard surface.

Some people might try and live with a flat tip, thinking the rest of the blade seems fine and can still work.

But chances are, there are gashes or shattered spots on the body which might get worse soon.

In fact, if any part is bent, you won’t be able to make those straight slices anymore so you need to let go of this ASAP.

3. The Rivets Have Come Loose

(Both a Steel and Feel Issue)

Rivets are the buttons that keep the wooden or plastic handle fixed to the tang, making this a feel issue.

When these rivets are wobbly, it’s quite hard to hold on to the handle.

But this is also a steel issue because the tang (although made from a different steel blend compared to the sharpened part, most of the time) is still part of the blade. Since it is part of the blade, it is important to the knife’s weight and balance.

This flaw, unfortunately, makes for a broken knife.

4. The Handle Comes Off

(Another Feel Issue)

When the rivets are unfastened, the handle will detach from the tang.

If that isn’t a full tang, you won’t be able to use the blade at all.

And even if it is, super-gluing the two together won’t help because that’s not going to last.

When this happens, your tool needs to go.

5. It Isn’t Comfortable to Use Anymore

(Definitely a Feel Issue)

Is the plastic handle a bit too slippery because of oil? Is the wooden handle quite rough to touch? Is the knife a bit too heavy? Or the blade a bit too long for you? Or it just doesn’t fit that well in your hand?

If your grip is not relaxed because of any reason, you need to let go and find a new one that is.

Safety is a must when you’re handling a knife. And that can only happen if you’re comfortable with it.

The Times When You Probably Don’t Need to Go Blade Shopping

If the knives you’ve got at home do not have any of the issues listed above, you do not need to spend so much on a new one.

For example, if your tool isn’t working as adaptably as you wished it would, it’s not your knife that has a problem. You might need to use the one that can work on a specific task.

Remember, a Chef’s knife is not that versatile. It can’t cut through bones, it can’t filet, and it definitely can’t slice bread. There are specific knives for all those.

If your tool isn’t in tip-top shape, maybe it merely needs re-sharpening.

A few runs on an electric sharpener, or even a manual pull-through one, and you can make almost translucent tomato slices again!

If you’re willing to spend $10 on a professional service (and we’re talking about using manual whetstones plus a strop finish here), then send your piece over. It will be returned to you looking and working like new.

If you think that your tool just ‘feels’ and looks old, then getting a new one is really up to you.
Just know that high-quality brands like Zwilling, Victorinox, and Shun, just to name a few, won’t deteriorate that fast because these are made from first-rate materials.

But when any of the issues noted above crop up, don’t wait long to get a new one.
It’s not just for efficiency. It’s also for your comfort and safety.

Last Updated on August 12, 2021

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My name is Andy Wang, and I'm a retired chef. I used to work at the City Vineyard restaurant in NYC. I also had a culinary degree from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. And this blog is where I share my love for knives and cooking with people like you.