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The Kitchen Cabinet

New Knives on the Cutting Edge of Style

January 29, 1987|MINNIE BERNARDINO | Times Staff Writer

Taking a turn from its understated traditional design to innovative styling is the kitchen knife, the oldest cutting tool in the household. Making a fashion statement are knives with handles in wild and bold colors, ones crafted from blond woods, or trimmed in brass or gold rivets. Modern cutlery offers high-tech shapes with stain-free black handles and sleek, slim blades.

Aside from fashion, new knives feature a good balance in function and durability. The following introductions offer extra uses other than straight cutting.

Soon to hit the culinary marketplace is the Stripper (from $8.95) from Chantry in Clearwater, Fla. Made in Sheffield, England, the little knife peeler was designed by Robert Welch, British master craftsman.

At first glance, the Stripper looks as if a safety pin has been attached to its blade. Actually, the pin, which is as long as the blade, is a detachable thumb protector. Designed with double coils at the end, the pin acts as an adjustable gauge so one can regulate the thickness of the peel or slices.

The Stripper seemed gimmicky and even unsafe-looking initially. Now I find it extraordinarily useful, as well as fun, for peeling apples, tomatoes (including ripe ones since the knife blade is sharp) and for peeling woody skins off broccoli, celery and asparagus. For garnishing tricks, the unique peeler outperforms other knives in peeling off thin strips for making lemon or tomato roses.

New Kid on the Block

Always used with the knife edge against the food, the gauge pin is reversible, a convenience for either right- or left-handed users.

Another new kid on the block is the Original French Baguette Knife ($29.95) imported by Invec International Inc. in Santa Monica. Impressive as a handy and safe knife to carry on a picnic or camping trip, the baguette knife is quite a conversation piece. The protective case is hand-crafted in France out of solid pine, and the serrated knife is made of stainless steel.

Although great for baguettes, fruits and vegetables, the knife, with a slightly thicker edge, has some limitations in carving thinner slices of meat and crusty bread with soft interiors.

Getting a sharp edge over other knives for their self-sharpening ability are the Wiltshire Staysharp knives (from $12 to $100) from Wiltshire International in Westfield, N.J., a subsidiary of Mcpherson Limited in Australia. Popular Down Under, where it was first introduced about 12 years ago, the Wiltshire knife resharpens itself each time it is removed from its protective sheath. The case houses a sharpening cassette, which contains two tungsten carbide pivoting sharpening stones that are set at a 20-degree angle in a spring-loaded mechanism. The cassette moves up and down as the blade touches it to create a sharper edge.

Top of the Line

There are four numbered series of knives (400 series, 700 series, 1200 series and 1500 series) ranging from low to high end specifications. The top of the line series 1500 model and the next in line series 1200 have molybdenum vanadium stainless steel blades that are fully forged and riveted into the handle. The 1500 model is sheathed in high-tech black and polished steel, whereas the 1200 model has rosewood handles, brass rivets and bolster.

Each of the Wiltshire series includes: a paring knife, a utility knife, a vegetable knife, a carving knife and a chef's knife. Carving sets, steak knife sets and combination knife sets also are available. Storage cases can easily be mounted on the wall or in the cabinet, or placed on the work counter or in a drawer.

Another advantage with the housing, aside from safety, is that the knife is protected from nicks. Coming soon from Wiltshire are Staysharp knives stored in wood blocks with slots that have sharpening cassettes.

People have raised questions about frequent sharpening of the knife as it is pulled out of the casing and the resulting tendency to reduce it to a slim blade. According to the manufacturer, shavings do come off but the chance of reducing the blade to an unusable tool is nil.

The Wiltshire knives are available at Buffum's, Bullock's and Cutlery World.

Information on the Chantry Stripper, which is forthcoming in Los Angeles stores, can be obtained from Chantry L i mited, 59 Baymont, Box 3344, Clearwater Beach, Fla. 33515-0344, (813) 446-1960.

The Original French Baguette Knife is available at Buffum's and Gelson's (North Hollywood and Encino only).

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