We have a lot of mid-grade knives in the house by Wusthof and Henckles. All but one are forged instead of stamped, and we have the core knives you need in a decent kitchen: chef knife, santoku knife, serrated knife, and a reverse-serrated utility knife. We have a honing steel and I sharpen the knives with three Japanese water stones. The knives all do a good job for the price we’ve paid, and we expect to have the knives for many years to come.
I don’t mind paying a little bit more for a quality knife — most of our knives are over $100 each and that’s a far cry from the 19-piece Cuisinart knife set I bought in college for $35, including shears and a knife block.
The GNISTRA paring knife from IKEA retails for about $8. Here are the basic specifications:
- 4″ length blade
- Grippy handle (feels like rubber, but according to IKEA it’s a synthetic)
- The blade is made out of a molybdenum/vanadium stainless steel
- The knife has a 15 year warranty
- The blade appears to be forged and not stamped
- It’s $8.
The last two things is what really drew my attention. Given the bolster on the knife and its overall blade profile this knife appears to be forged and not stamped, like less expensive blades you find for $50 and under. The equivalent Wusthof forged paring knife is five times the cost.
Aside from the price, there are two big differences between my Wusthof / Henckles blades and this IKEA one: the composition of the steel and the edge of the knife out of the box.
The IKEA blade is made out of a stainless steel alloyed with molybdenum and vanadium. Moly is used to help guard against brittleness, and vanadium is used for wear resistance and edge durability. There are a hojillion types of moly/vanadium alloys used in steel, and I have no idea what specific alloy was used in the GNISTRA. The blade has an 1136 on the side, but I couldn’t find any additional information about this steel on the Web (assuming the 1136 has anything to do with the steel composition at all). The most common types of moly/vanadium blades don’t have any similar nomenclature.
Anyway, the long and short of it is that the blade material is of unknown composition. This may not be a big deal to you, but if you’re into knives then one likes to know what they’re cutting with. In usage, I’ve found the steel to retain its edge, especially when I keep up with honing the blade before every use.
The second thing, and something that’s fixable, is the sharpness of the edge. The knife isn’t very sharp out of the box, at least in comparison to my other knives. I couldn’t estimate how sharp the IKEA GNISTRA is compared to other budget knives. All I knew was that I’d have to do some work on the blade to get it up to my standards.
The blade was not easy to sharpen. I had to go through multiple rounds of sharpening on my Japanese wet stones. I use 250, 1000, and 6000 grit stones in that order. You can see the effects of the more coarse grit on the blade’s finish:
I’d say I put about forty five minutes of sharpening time into the blade before I got it to where I wanted it. My technique still has a long way to go, but the knife is much much sharper than when I purchased it. The tip has been hard to get to a super sharp point. I thought this was a problem with my technique (and I’m still sure it has something to do with it), but a common complaint about moly/vanadium blades is the difficulty in getting the steel to a sharp point.
Once the blade’s edge was squared away, it’s stayed pretty damn sharp.
All in all, I really like the GNISTRA 4″ paring knife from IKEA. I think it’s an excellent value for people with sharpening tools and the time to turn a lump of coal into a diamond. If you’re short on time or skills I’d say skip the GNISTRA and purchase the Wusthof equivalent, as it has a better edge, a better warranty, and probably better steel.
If you’ve got the tools and the time, the IKEA GNISTRA is strongly recommended. Otherwise, you might want to turn your eyes elsewhere.