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Lamson Knives Review (A Made-in-USA Brand)

By trk

Last Updated: August 16, 2023

American-made knives, Lamson knife review, Lamson knives

Lamson is an American kitchen knife brand that's been around since 1837. Some of their knives are beautiful--but are they any good?

We take a detailed look at the Lamson knife lines and discuss features, buying options, pros and cons, and more to help you decide.

Lamson Knives at a Glance

Lamson makes just two lines of knives, the Premier Forged and the Vintage/Brad Leone Signature Series, which are identical except for Brad Leone's signature etched onto the Brad Leone blades. Thus, if you're interested in one of these knives, we recommend going with the one that you find at the lowest price, which is usually the Vintage series. 

All Lamson products come with a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects.

Lamson Knife

Features

Lamson Premier Forged chef knife Fire handle

-4116 steel (high carbon German steel)

-Forged

-20 degree double bevel cutting angle, flat grind

-Full tang, full bolster

-Hardness rating 58 HRC

-Handles: acrylic, G-10, striated wood, walnut

-Triple riveted

-5 handle colors: fire, ice, midnight, sierra, walnut

-Made in USA

-8" chef's knife about 8oz.

-8" chef's knife about $160.

Vintage and Brad Leone Signature Series

See on Amazon

See full line at Lamson

Lamson Vintage chef knife II
Lamson Vintage Chinese santoku cleaver

-Identical except for Brad Leone's signature on blade of Brad Leone Series

-420HC-LAM steel (high carbon American steel)

-Stamped

-20 degree double bevel cutting angle, flat grind

-Full tang, "integrated" bolster (part of handle)

-Hardness rating 58 HRC

-Walnut handles w/2- or 3-rivet construction

-Made in USA

-8" Chinese santoku 12oz.

-8" Chinese santoku about $100 (Vintage) or $110 (Brad Leone).

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Other Lamson Products

We are looking at knives in this review, but Lamson makes several other kitchen products, which we listed and linked here. Links go to the Lamson website.

Knife storage (sheaths, rolls, blade guards, and blocks)

Knife sharpening tools (steels, stones, handheld sharpener, and more)

Kitchen utensils (all non-knife utensils, including Vintage and Tree Spirit lines)

Bbq utensils (tongs, turners, forks, etc., including sets)

Cookbooks

Silicone accessories (hot pads, handle covers, coasters, bowls, funnels)

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About Lamson

Lamson is an American company founded in 1837, making it one of the USA's oldest cutlery companies. Today their products are still made in the USA, although their forged blades are imported from Germany.

Lamson filed for bankruptcy in 2014, but was purchased by private investors and reorganized at a new manufacturing site in Westfield, Massachusetts. The company has about 35 employees and has sales of about $3 million yearly.

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Using Lamson Knives (How We Tested)

We tested the Premier Forged chef's knife, the Vintage Chef's knife, and the Vintage/Brad Leone Chinese cleaver. The first thing we did was measure out-of-box sharpness with a professional edge tester.

The lower the number, the sharper the knife. For reference, we're looking for a sharpness below 400 grams, per this table of sharpness standards:

Bess C knife sharpness scale

We tested each one three times and to make sure we got accurate readings. Here are the results:

Lamson Premier Forged chef's knife: 170g

Lamson Vintage chef's knife: 130g (razor sharp)

Lamson Vintage Chinese Cleaver: 133g

Maybe we could have assumed that the Vintage chef's knife and cleaver would have the same edge, but because they're so different, and because the Chinese cleaver is one of Lamson's most popular and best-selling knives, we tested them both.

After sharpness testing, we put the knives to work in the kitchen as you would use any chef's knife (or santoku cleaver), cutting many foods for about a month, including onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, apples and other fruits, plus cheeses, meats (cooked and raw), squashes, and more.

We also cut up whole chickens to test how the blades worked with bones, and cut partially frozen beef into thin (carpaccio-style) slices. You can find our results below in the more detailed reviews for each knife.

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Who Are Lamson Knives For?

Lamson knives are pretty good all-purpose kitchen blades. They are not the world's highest quality knives, but they are far from low quality. They are roughly equivalent to Wusthof knives as far as quality, cutting edge, and handle.

If you like a heavy, German-style forged knife, then the Premier Forged line is for you; if you prefer lighter knives, then go with the Vintage/Brad Leone line.

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Steel Used in Lamson Knives

Lamson uses two kinds of steel:

4116 steel: Also called X50CrMoV15, this is standard issue high carbon German steel. In fact, Lamson imports these blades pre-made from Germany for their Premier Forged line. This is good quality steel, very corrosion resistant, with a hardness of 58 HRC, which means it will hold an edge fairly well yet be soft enough so that it's easy to sharpen. This steel is seen in many, if not most, German knife brands, including Wusthof.

420HC-LAM steel: This is a high carbon American stainless steel. Like the 4116 steel, it is considered a mid-range quality steel that's very corrosion resistant and fairly soft, so it doesn't hold an edge very long but is easy to sharpen. Lamson uses this steel on their stamped Vintage/Brad Leone line of knives.

Also, though we aren't reviewing Lamson's line of kitchen utensils, they use a 301 stainless steel for those (presumably because they don't need to hold a sharp edge).

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Handle Material of Lamson Knives

Lamson uses a few different handle materials on their knives. Here they are in alphabetical order:

G10: G10 is made up of layers of fiberglass cloth soaked in phenolic resin, then compressed at high heat. G10 is extremely hard and strong, yet still lightweight. G-10 comes in many colors and has a firm, comfortable grip with a somewhat rough surface texture.

G10 is the toughest fiberglass resin laminate known and is also water and heat resistant. It is an excellent synthetic handle material. 

G10 is used on the Premier Forged Midnight series.

Pakkawood (aka Striated Wood): Pakkawood is a combination of layered wood and resin (plastic) that makes for a durable and hygienic handle. It is most often seen on Japanese knives but because of its durability is becoming more popular with Western knife makers.

Pakkawood is used on the Premier Forged Sierra line.

POM: POM stands for polyoxymethylene, a thermoplastic material (i.e., acrylic) with extreme durability and resistance to damage from heat and cold. POM is naturally resistant to bacteria, making it a hygienic choice; it is an choice option for most cooks. 

POM is used on the Premier Forged Fire and Ice series.

Walnut: Walnut is a dense, tight-grained, durable wood. Lamson infuses their walnut handles with resin, which seals the wood to protect it from moisture and improve durability. (On some of their other kitchen utensils, the walnut is left natural).

Infused walnut is used on the Premier Forged Walnut series and on the Vintage/Brad Leone series.

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Interesting Features of Lamson Knives

Here are some interesting facts about Lamson knives.

Oldest Cutlery Company in the United States

Founded in 1837, Lamson is the oldest cutlery company in the United States. They have been making knives and other kitchen and barbecue tools since 1837 and are close to entering their third century of business.

Made a Dinner Set for a US President

In 1869, Lamson presented new U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant with a fine 62-piece dinner set. They had ivory and mother of pearl handles, and were so extraordinary that today, some pieces from the set are displayed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

Used By Culinary Schools

Lamson knives are used in many culinary schools in the USA.

Still Have a 20 Degree Double Bevel (Cutting Angle)

Most German style knives have switched to a 15 degree double bevel cutting angle, but Lamson is still old school and has a 20 degree double bevel. These have fallen out of favor because a 15 degree angle feels much sharper (even if it isn't all that much sharper). But there are advantages to a 20 degree double bevel, too, such as being more durable and less prone to chipping.

If you don't like the 20 degree bevel, you can sharpen it (or have it sharpened) to a 15 degree angle. This is easy to do with a sharpener like the Chef'sChoice Trizor XV, or any pull-through sharpener with a 15 degree angle, or on a whetstone with 15 degree angle guides.

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Lamson Premier Forged Vs. Wusthof Classic

Lamson Premier Forged chef knife Fire handle

Lamson Premier Forged chef's knife.

Wusthof Chef's Knife

Wusthof Classic chef's knife.

Both Lamson Premier Forged and Wusthof are top quality German knives. Here, we compare the chef's knives of the flagship lines of each brand, which are the Lamson Premier Forged and the Wusthof Classic. 

See our Wusthof review for more information.

Steel: Both are forged. Lamson uses 4116 high carbon German steel and Wusthof uses X50CrMoV15 steel. Though they call them different things, these steels are identical (or nearly identical) in composition.

Sharpness: Both have a hardness rating of 57-58 HRC.

Edge Retention: Because the steel and hardness rating are identical, edge retention will be about the same.

Cutting Angle: The Lamson Premier Forged has a 20 degree double bevel cutting angle. The Wusthof Classic has a 14 degree double bevel cutting angle.

Blade Design: Both knives have a full tang and full bolster, with a similarly shaped blade (i.e., a fairly shallow belly). Both are good for the rock chop cutting style popular in Western kitchens.

Handle Material: The Lamson Premier Forged handles come in 5 colors and can be POM, walnut, striated wood, or G-10 (see section above for a discussion of Lamson handle material). The handle material of the Wusthof Classic is POM.

Weight: The Lamson Premier Forged weighs 8.8 ounces (this may vary with handle type); the Wusthof Classic weighs 8.5 ounces, so they are very close in weight. (The weightier Lamson is probably attributable to its slightly thicker bolster).

Fit and Finish: Both knives have similar fit and finish. The Wusthof may use slightly higher quality materials, but the Lamson is extremely smooth, polished, and solid-feeling. We think this is a tie, and you should go with the brand you prefer.

Price: Prices are comparable, and may matter on the day of the week or the time of year you compare them. In general, the Lamson Premier Forged 8-inch chef's knife typically costs about $160, and the Wusthof Classic goes for about $170, though it has been as low as $145 recently. 

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Lamson Vintage/Brad Leone Vs. Victorinox Fibrox Pro

Lamson Vintage chef knife II

Lamson Vintage/Brad Leone chef's knife.

Victorinox Fibrox Pro chef's knife

Victorinox Fibrox Pro chef's knife.

There's no question that Lamson knives are higher quality than Victorinox: Victorinox uses a slightly softer steel and plastic handles on their stamped knives. But Victorinox is probably the most popular brand of stamped knives, so we thought it was a good comparison. 

Here we compare the Lamson Vintage/Brad Leone chef's knife to the Victorinox Fibrox Pro (now the Swiss Classic) chef's knife.

See our Victorinox review for more information.

Steel: Lamson uses 420-HC-LAM steel, which is an American high carbon stainless steel. Victorinox uses a proprietary Swiss high carbon stainless steel. These steels are close in quality and performance.

Sharpness: The Lamson tested out of the box at an amazing 130g on the sharpness tester (see above). The Fibrox Pro tested at about 230g. Thus, the Lamson Vintage/Brad Leone is quite a bit sharper than the Victorinox Fibrox Pro when new. But long-term sharpness really depends on your sharpening tools and skills.

Edge Retention: The Lamson has a slightly higher hardness rating--58 HRC vs. 56 HRC--so it will have better edge retention than the Fibrox Pro, but the difference isn't great.

Cutting Angle: The Lamson has a 20 degree double bevel; the Victorinox has a 15 degree double bevel. 

Blade Design: The Lamson has a more curved belly than the Victorinox, meaning you may prefer it for rock chopping, but they are quite similar.

Handle Material: The Lamson Vintage has a highly polished walnut handle and is fairly narrow; the Victorinox has a plastic handle (probably polypropylene) that is fairly thick and a little bulky. Both handles are comfortable and feel good in most hands, but people with smaller hands may prefer the Lamson and people with larger hands may prefer the Victorinox. The walnut handles are much prettier, but performance wise you won't see much of a difference.

Weight: The Lamson Vintage chef's knife weighs 7.1 ounces; the Victorinox Fibrox Pro weighs 8 ounces. This is a fairly large difference, but some people prefer a lighter knife while others prefer a heavier knife. 

Fit and Finish: There's no question that the Lamson has a much higher quality fit and finish. It's a much prettier knife all the way around, and has a nice, solid, durable feel to it. The Victorinox handle feels a little cheap (but then, it costs significantly less than the Lamson, too).

Price: The Lamson Vintage 8-inch chef's knife is about $90; the Victorinox Fibrox Pro is about $45--so half as much for the Victorinox.

These are both nice knives. If affordability is your number one priority, then the Victorinox Fibrox Pro is a nice knife. But if you like the look and feel of the Lamson, this is also a really nice knife--though we do think it's a little overpriced.

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Sharpening Lamson Knives

Lamson Honing Steel with Fire Handle

Lamson honing steel (Fire handle).

Lamson Handheld Pull-through sharpener

Lamson handheld pull-thru sharpener w/adjustable angles.

All knives get dull with time and use, so sharpening tools are an essential part of having kitchen knives. 

If you already own a sharpener, or want to send your knives out for sharpening, then you don't need any sharpener at all--but you do need a steel, which is crucial to keeping your blades sharp between sharpening.Lamson sells two 10-inch honing steels, one with a walnut handle and one with a synthetic handle (different colors available at the Lamson website).

They also sell an Arkansas sharpening stone and a handheld pull-through sharpener with adjustable angles.

The pull through sharpener is reasonably priced, around $30. The honing steels and sharpening stone are closer to $80. 

Which sharpening tools do you need? Well, you need a honing steel for sure to keep your blades as sharp as possible between sharpening. We like the Lamson steels, but if you already own one of a different brand, then you should be good to go.

If you're going to sharpen your own knives, you have to decide on a method. Pull-through sharpeners are definitely easiest to use, but won't result in super sharp edge. Whetstones are great, but they can be hard to get the hang of using (practice on cheap knives first). 

You don't need Lamson sharpeners to keep your Lamson knives sharp. Any 20-degree double bevel sharpener will do (or any whetstone). So if you already own sharpening tools, don't worry about it--but if you don't, then Lamson tools are good quality and we recommend them.

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Review: Lamson Premier Forged Chef's Knife

Lamson Premier Forged chef knife Fire handle

Lamson Premier Forged with Fire Handle.

Lamson Premier Forged chef knife walnut

Walnut Handle.

Lamson Premier Forged chef knife Ice

Ice Handle.

Lamson Premier Forged chef knife Midnight II

Midnight Handle.

Lamson Premier Forged chef knife Sierra

Sierra Handle.

See Premier Forged chef's knife (Fire handle) on Amazon (about $160; same for all handles)

See all Premier Forged buying options on Amazon

See Premier Forged buying options at Lamson 

Out-of-the-box sharpness: 170g (utility razor blade) 

Weight: 9.5oz

Spine thickness at heel: 3.2mm

Note: This review is for the chef's knife, but will also apply to the other knives in the Premier Forged line.

Features: The Premier Forged knife has a German high carbon stainless steel blade (4116 steel) with a full bolster and full tang. The handle comes in five colors/materials: Fire (pictured), Ice, and Midnight are tough synthetic (probably all POM); the Sierra is pakkawood, which is a wood/resin combination; and the Walnut is varnished walnut wood. (See above for more handle details.) 

The handle is contoured to fit most hands comfortably and is triple riveted for durability (and great looks). They are a bit narrow compared to some other German knife handles, but this is not a drawback unless your hands are huge.

This knife feels solid and well made. It's fairly heavy at 9.5 ounces, but that is to be expected from a heavy German blade with a full bolster and thick spine.

The fit and finish is quite nice. Transitions between blade, handle, and rivets are smooth and both handle and blade have a high-polish finish. We particularly like the Fire color, but all the options are well finished and very pretty knives.

Cutting Performance: This knife has a 20 degree cutting angle, so if you're used to thinner blades (most today have a 15 degree double bevel) then this knife may feel a bit cumbersome. But it sliced through everything we asked it to: onions, garlic, tomatoes, meat, apples, squash, and more. 

It held its edge well with just some steeling after the first few uses.

It's a big, heavy knife, so if you want that, you will love how this knife performs.

Buying Options: These knives are available in five colors: Fire (red), Ice (white), Sierra (brown), Midnight (black), and Walnut.

Individual knives are available in most shapes, including chef's, santoku, utility, bread, offset bread, paring, slicer, nakiri, carving, fillet, Chinese santoku cleaver, steak, and cheese/tomato knife. The chef's knives are available in 4-, 6-, 8-, and 10-inch blade lengths, and the santoku is available in 5- and 7-inch blade lengths.

Sets include:

The block sets contain standard pieces, including a honing steel and take-apart shears. The larger block set includes 8 steak knives.

These links go to the Lamson site because sets aren't often available on Amazon. The good news is that the prices are the same, so you won't save anything by buying from Amazon. Shipping is free if you go with ground shipping through the post office (USPS).

Recommendation: Lamson Premier Forged knives are good quality German steel knives. With a hardness of 58 HRC, they will hold an edge as well as any Wusthof blade and be easy to sharpen. If you like a heavier German style knife with a full bolster, then you will love these Lamson Premier Forged knives--and they are very pretty, too.

Handle colors are limited on Amazon, so if you want something other than Fire (red) or Midnight (black), you may have to buy from the Lamson site (free shipping if you use USPS ground). 

Lamson Premier Forged 10pc block set

Lamson Premier Forged 10pc set in Fire.

buy lamson premier forged knives:

Amazon buy button

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Review: Lamson Vintage/Brad Leone Chef's Knife

Lamson Vintage chef knife II

See Lamson Vintage chef's knife on Amazon (about $90)

See all Lamson Vintage buying options on Amazon

See Lamson Vintage buying options at Lamson

Out-of-the-box sharpness: 240g (new high-end cutlery)

Weight: 7.1oz (the Lamson website says 8oz. but this was the weight we got)

Spine Thickness at heel: 3.1mm

Note: This review is for the chef's knife, but will also apply to the other knives in the Vintage/Brad Leone line.

Features: First off, why the two names for the same line of knives? Here's the story: Brad Leone is an Internet and YouTube personality from Bon Appetit who made the Lamson Chinese santoku cleaver (reviewed below) famous. Lamson had discontinued this knife, but after Leone used it in a video--and talked about how much he loved it--they re-issued it because there were so many requests for it. 

So now, Lamson makes a Vintage line and a Brad Leone line, but the only difference between the two is that the Brad Leone line has his signature etched on the blade, and typically costs $10-$20 more than the standard Vintage line. Also, the Brad Leone line isn't available in as many blades as the Vintage line (though it is available in more than just the Chinese cleaver).

The Vintage/Brad Leone knives are made from Lamson-proprietary American high carbon stainless steel (420-HC-LAM). If you look this steel up, you'll find that it is a mid-grade steel; not the sharpest steel available, but durable and a good choice for kitchen knives. It's a German-type steel that is corrosion resistant, holds an edge pretty well, and is easy to sharpen. It has a hardness rating of 57-58 HRC, which is right where a German-style knife should be. 

These knives are "precision laser cut," meaning stamped (not forged). However, they are high quality stamped knives and should be just as durable as any forged knife. 

The handle is narrowish, but most of our testers found it comfortable. The high polished finish adds beauty and feels smooth in your hand. At about 7 ounces, it's quite a bit lighter than the Premier Forged line, but has enough heft to be a real workhorse in your kitchen.

(Some handles are unfinished walnut with three rivets, as you'll find on their other kitchen utensils, but we strongly recommend going with the varnished walnut.)

The "integrated bolster," meaning that the bolster is part of the handle (not the blade, as with forged knives), as you can see in the photo above. It allows you to hold the knife just like a forged knife, and in particular use the pinch grip, which can sometimes feel awkward on a stamped blade.

Pinch grip with Lamson cleaver

The pinch grip.

Cutting Performance: This knife was quite sharp out of the box. It feels balanced in your hand and the cutting was excellent. We tried it on the basics, such as onions, garlic, and celery, and it was great. It also performed well on harder foods, and easily sliced through chicken bones (though a cleaver is a better choice for cutting through most bone). 

It holds its edge surprisingly well for a stamped blade. We used the steel on it throughout testing, but did not have to sharpen it in about 4 weeks of fairly regular use.

Overall, this is a really nice knife. It's not too heavy, not too light, sharp, durable, and has a comfortable handle. If you like a German style knife that's on the lighter side, these Lamson Vintage knives are a good choice.

Buying Options: These knives are available with the walnut handle only.

Individual knives: All the standard blades are available, including chef's, paring, utility, slicer, bread, boning, nakiri, steak, meat cleaver, and the now-famous santoku cleaver.

Sets: Lamson sells several small sets without blocks, and just one 7-piece block set. If you want a set, you'll have better luck finding it on the Lamson site than on Amazon.

2 piece Chinese santoku cleaver set (6-in/8-in, about $160))

3 piece Cook's set (about $200, chef's, utility, paring)

4 piece Chef's set (about $300, large Chinese cleaver, chef's, utility, paring)

4 piece steak knife set (about $190, smooth or serrated blade)

7 piece set with block (about $480, chef's, utility, paring, bread, honing steel, shears)

There are also some carving sets with knife and fork, some sheaths, several kitchen utensils, and more. See the Lamson site for all the buying options.

Recommendation: These knives are a bit pricy for stamped knives--about $90 for the 8-inch chef's knife--but the steel is better than you'll see in other popular stamped lines like Victorinox and Dexter, and the handles are better, too, being made of varnished walnut rather than low-grade plastic. 

If you like a fairly lightweight German style knife and like the looks of these knives--and they are quite beautiful as stamped knives go--then you will like these Lamson Vintage or Brad Leone knives. (Save a few bucks and choose the Vintage over the Brad Leone.)

Lamson Vintage 7pc Block Set

buy lamson vintage or brad leone knives:

Amazon buy button

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Review: Lamson Vintage/Brad Leone "Bad Boy" Chinese Santoku Cleaver

Lamson Vintage Chinese santoku cleaver

See Lamson Vintage/Brad Leone 8" Chinese santoku on Amazon (about $100, or $110 with signature)

See Vintage/Brad Leone 6" Chinese santoku on Amazon (about $80)

See Vintage 2 piece Chinese santoku cleaver on Amazon (about $160)

See Vintage/Brad Leone Chinese santokus at Lamson (and other Vintage/Brad Leone buying options)

Out-of-the-box sharpness: 133g (utility razor blade) 

Weight: 7.9 oz (the Lamson website says 12 oz., but this was the weight for the knife in its box)

Spine thickness at heel: 2.4mm

We tested the "Bad Boy" 8-inch cleaver for this review. 

Features: This is an interesting knife, and we certainly see how some people might find it an excellent all-purpose chef's knife. It's sharp, durable enough to cut through just about anything (including bones), and the tall blade can also serve as a scraper to transport chopped foods to a pan or bowl (one of the features that Brad Leone loves about it). 

This knife is made of the same construction as all the Vintage knives: American high carbon stainless steel (420-HC-LAM) and a varnished walnut handle. 

There are two different handle options on Amazon, one with a varnished handle and one with an unfinished walnut handle. We prefer the varnished handle, however, some. users complained that the varnish left residue on their hands (we did not have this problem).

Cutting Performance: Our tester knife was razor sharp out of the box, though many reviewers say theirs were not; this could be the wide cutting angle, which makes it feel less sharp than a thinner blade. This knife cuts fine, but not great. The tall shape made it a bit awkward, and the thick cutting angle made it feel almost like an axe driving through food: slow and steady, but it got the job done.

Sadly, we weren't terribly impressed by this knife. We read several reviews that said the knife was excellent after they'd thinned down the blade and sharpened it up. But if you want a thinner, sharper blade, then why buy this knife?--especially when you can find better options at a lower price (like this Dexter cleaver for about $40). 

If you are looking for an actual cleaver--a heavy blade to drive through bone and other very hard foods--then this blade might work as-is because the cutting angle is certainly right. And you may like that it's much thinner and lighter than a cleaver meant for bone, but will work just as well (maybe even better). And it is also quite good for crushing garlic and using as a scraper to transport chopped food to a pan or bowl.

Buying Options: This knife is available in an 8-inch blade (the "Bad Boy"), a 6-inch blade (the "Little B"), and a 2-piece set with both of them. 

Recommendation: In all honesty, none of our testers loved this knife. The blade is too thick (many online reviews say it's great after they've thinned it on a whetstone, which would take considerable skill and effort), and the balance feels off to most people. Also, if your hands are wet, the handle can get gummy and release a residue that sticks to your hands (this did not happen to our testers but we read about it happening to other people).  

It would work as an actual cleaver, but our testers found it to be their least-favorite Lamson knife for use as a chef's knife.

If you like the Chinese cleaver style, you can find them much cheaper from Dexter, and you'll be able to use the blade out of the box; this one is prettier, but it cuts like an axe and needs a lot of sharpening and thinning to work the way most people will want it to.

Lamson Vintage Chinese santoku cleaver

buy Lamson Vintage or Brad Leone Chinese Santoku cleaver:

Amazon buy button

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What to Look For in a Kitchen Knife (A Buying Guide)

Here's our buying guide on what to look for in kitchen knives.

Parts of a Knife

First: Sets or Individual Knives?

Maybe the first decision you'll have to make is this: should you buy a set or individual knives?

You may think a set is the way to go, but do you really need--and will you use--all the knives in the set? 

You might rather spend your money on a few different chef's knives and/or utility knives, all of which will usually come in handy. For example, you can own a nice chef's knife for your personal use, plus another one that you don't mind letting others use. Or one for meat and one for veggie/fruit prep. Or a chef's knife for meat prep, and a santoku or nakiri for veggie prep. Or, have a few different sizes, which are great for different tasks.

Or, if you've used one for, say, meat, you don't have to wash it again to prep your veg; you can just grab your veggie prep knife and wash them all later.

You get the idea.

Most cooks really only need three knives: a chef's knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife--but they might need more than one of each of these, depending on how they use their knives. At the very least, having another chef' knife is nice, so you may want to save your money and rather than buying a set of four or more different knives, you can get another chef's knife or two, which you'll probably get more use out of than all the other knives in a set put together. 

Of course, you can benefit from having different kinds of knives. Some people will prefer a santoku to a chef's knife and a utility knife to a paring knife, or a serrated utility knife to a non-serrated one. Having a variety of knives to choose from can be a good thing, especially if you're new to cooking and are still exploring all of your options.

The truth is, if you're into cooking and appreciate good tools, you may be trying and buying new knives for as long as you cook. So if you get a set and believe that's the end of your knife buying, you could be quite mistaken.

We think that, even though it's usually a little more expensive to buy individual knives, it's better to not buy a set, because buying individually ensures you're getting knives you'll use.

However, if you're sure you'll use all the knives in a set, or if you just want the basic tools to get the job done and don't care about trying different types of blades, then a set can be a good way to go.

Storage (What Do You Have Room For?)

Another good reason not to buy a knife set is storage space. If you're short on counter space, then don't buy a knife block. Rather, just buy the few knives you need and keep them in a drawer (in a knife organizer or with guards on the blades--never store knives free in a drawer to bang against each other).

If storage is not an issue for you, then by all means, get whichever knife block you want. 

For more on knife storage, see our article The Best Way to Store Your Kitchen Knives.

Overall Fit and Finish

What is the overall look-and-feel of a knife? Is it well balanced? Comfortable in your hand? Smooth and polished, with no rough edges or protruding rivets?

Inexpensive knives in particular can have odd finishing or poor quality rivets, meaning the knife may be uncomfortable to use and also may not last very long. Such knives are not a bargain at any price.

Look for features like this:

  • Smoothness of handle and bolster: no protruding rivets or unfinished spots that dig into your hand.
  • Smoothness of spine: the best quality knives have a rounded, polished spine that feels smooth in your hand.
  • Transition from handle to spine: no crevices or looseness where the blade meets the handle, so the knife is solid throughout and there are no spots to collect food and other particles. 

Lamson knives tend to have excellent finishes, though there are some complaints about the varnish on the Vintage lines leaving residue on your hand (we did not have this problem in our testing).

Blade Considerations

For most buyers, the blade is the most important consideration when buying a knife. At the least, you want high quality steel that will resist corrosion and stay sharp.

Here are other important considerations.

Forged or Stamped?

Lamson Premier Forged chef knife Sierra

Forged knife: note thicker steel at the bolster.

Lamson Vintage chef knife II

Stamped knife: steel is same thickness throughout.

forged blade is made from steel heated under pressure and then pounded or pressed into shape. Forged knives have a bolster, the area of thicker steel where the blade meets the handle. A bolster increases weight, improves balance, and protects fingers.

The heating and pressure of forging increase the strength of a knife, and can help it to hold an edge longer than a stamped blade.

stamped knife blade is cut from a sheet of steel. It has a uniform thickness throughout (except where the edge is ground, of course), and usually has no bolster--or, like Lamson Vintage knives, has an "integrated" bolster, which means the bolster is actually part of the handle. In the case of the Vintage line, the "integrated bolster" is a narrowing of the handle, meant to help improve grip. You can see this narrowing of the handle in the image above (on the right).

Stamped knives are typically lighter than forged knives (which some people prefer), and have a different feel when using. They are usually less well balanced, with most of the weight in the blade. The lightness of stamped knives can counteract an unbalanced feeling, so it is rarely a problem for home cooks, who tend to use their knives for only a few minutes per day. 

Are forged knives better? It really depends what you're looking for. There was a time when forged knives were always the better choice, but knife-making technology has improved significantly, so today, stamped knives can be a good choice.

Today, there are many reasons to go with a stamped blade, including lightness, comfort, and price. 

Any knife of reasonably good quality, whether forged or stamped, can be the right knife if you like how it feels and performs. 

Steel Type and Hardness

Type: We discussed Lamson steel above, and that's because it's an important aspect of choosing a knife.

There are three types of steel used in kitchen knives: stainless steel, carbon steel, and high carbon stainless steel.

Stainless steel is too soft to make good knives because it won't hold an edge very well, though you do see stainless steel on inexpensive knives.

Carbon steel is quite hard, and is often the choice of professional chefs because it holds an edge extremely well, which saves them time in the kitchen. However, carbon steel is not corrosion resistant, so it rusts easily. You have to be very careful to keep carbon steel knives dry between uses or they will rust (and it happens quickly). 

For most home cooks, the best knife steel is high carbon stainless steel. This is stainless steel with a higher percentage of carbon, which makes it the best of both worlds: hard, durable steel that also resists corrosion.

There are hundreds of different high carbon stainless steels used in kitchen knives, and this is a discussion beyond the scope of this article (though fascinating stuff). All you really need to know is that there are two main types of high carbon stainless steel: German and Japanese. 

German steel is softer and more durable, but needs more frequent sharpening. Japanese steel is harder and holds an edge longer, but can chip due to its brittleness. 

For most cooks, German high carbon stainless steel is the best choice, especially for your first knives. Japanese knives are better for more advanced cooks and require more care, but they are exquisite tools when you use them for the right tasks.

Lamson knives are made of German (and American) high carbon stainless steel. This makes them a good choice for all-purpose kitchen knives.

Hardness: Knife steel hardness is measured by the  Rockwell Scale in HRC units. Kitchen knife hardness can vary widely, from about 50 HRC seen in inexpensive blades, up to 65 HRC for high-end Japanese super steel. 

Good quality German knives have a hardness of about 55-58 HRC. This is hard enough to be durable, but soft enough to still be easy to sharpen. 

Japanese knives range from about 58-65 HRC. This hardness allows these blades to hold an edge longer, but the higher you go above 60 HRC, the easier a blade can chip, so you have to be careful how you use such a sharp knife. For example, you should avoid hard foods and bones, and be careful not to twist the blade or drag it across the cutting board.

Lamson knives have a hardness rating of 57-58 HRC, which is exactly what you should look for in a German style blade.

Sharpness

Sharpness when new should be a given, so if a new knife doesn't feel sharp, you should return it. 

However, sharpness alone is not an indication of quality. Any piece of steel can be made to be absurdly sharp with the right technique. So when considering sharpness, you want to think about how long a blade holds its edge. Softer steel will naturally need to be sharpened more frequently, so if you go with steel that's too soft, you will constantly have to be sharpening your knife. 

On the other hand, if you go with a super hard steel, it will hold an edge well, but may be too delicate to use as an all purpose knife. 

The sweet spot is somewhere in the middle, which is exactly what Lamson knives are: with a hardness rating of 57-58 HRC, they are hard enough to hold an edge well, yet soft enough to sharpen easily. 

How long should a knife stay sharp? It depends on many factors, such as its hardness rating, how you use it, how often you use it, and if you're steeling it regularly between uses (which you should be doing). A knife with a hardness rating of 57-58 HRC should hold an edge for at least a few months of regular before needing to be sharpened. And a lot of cooks can get away with sharpening their 58 HRC knives just once or twice a year, especially if they're using the honing steel on them regularly. 

Cutting Angle

The cutting angle is the angle to which the blade is sharpened. Today, the most common angle for kitchen 15 degrees each side, called "15 degrees double bevel" (30 degrees total).

Up until the 1990s, the most common cutting angle was 20-25 degrees/40-50 degrees total). The change is probably due to the introduction of Japanese knives to the Western market, which tend to have much thinner blades (some as small as 9 degrees/18 total). That, and the fact that people found they preferred a thinner blade because it felt sharper and moved through food more easily.

Lamson is an old school company, and the cutting angle on their knives is 20 degrees/40 degrees total. Some people prefer this angle because it's more durable (and probably because it's what they've been using all their lives). 

If you like Lamson knives but want a thinner cutting angle, it's pretty simple to put a new grind on a knife, either by yourself, or by sending it out to a knife sharpening service. So don't let the wider angle scare you off.

Also: it's not necessary to know a knife's cutting angle before you buy it, and it won't matter all that much to daily use. But when sharpening time rolls around, you should know how you want to proceed.

Shape, Size, Weight, and Balance

How a knife feels in your hand is affected by its shape, size, weight, and balance. It's a good idea to try different knives to learn which shape and size you prefer. 

Chef's knives, in particular, vary greatly in shape, length, width, spine thickness, weight, balance, and more. As one example, Lamson makes chef's knives in 4-, 6-, 8-, and 10-inch lengths, and they are all going to feel very different.

(The 8-inch chef's knife is the standard length, and the one we typically do most of our testing on. It's a good length for most cooks, not too long, not too short, not too heavy and not too light. Professional chefs and people with large hands may prefer a longer blade, and people with smaller hands may prefer a shorter blade, but 8-inches is the standard.)

Look at these features when buying a knife:

  • Blade height: A blade should be tall enough to provide knuckle clearance (the space between your fingers and the cutting board). 
  • Belly: The belly of the knife--where the cutting edge curves up to the tip--should provide a good rock chop motion. Surprisingly, not all chef's knives do this well (so try the knife out before you decide to keep it). Or, if you prefer straight up-and-down cutting, you may want the opposite of a curved belly, such as a santoku or nakiri knife, which have an almost flat cutting edge. (Japanese chef's knives also tend to have a straighter cutting edge than German chef's knives.)
  • Spine thickness: You want a knife that's thin enough to feel nimble, but you also probably want durability. There is a wide range of spine thickness among chef's knives, from 1.5mm up to about 3.5mm, so be sure to get the spine thickness you want. Lamson chef's knives range from about 2.5mm up to 3.2mm, so are on the thicker side.
  • Length: You can buy chef's knives as short as 4 inches and as long as 14 inches. Try a few different lengths before you decide what's best for your cutting style. An 8-inch blade is the standard length, but if you have particularly large or small hands, try other blades to see if something else is a better fit. With other blade styles there tends to be fewer options, but be sure to try different ones if they're available.
  • Balance: Balance is less important for home cooks who don't use their knives for hours on end like professional chefs. However, good balance can make or break how a knife feels in your hand. The center of gravity should be where the blade meets the handle. It's not a deal breaker if the balance is off, especially if it's a bit more toward the blade (as it tends to be with stamped knives), but if it's too far off, it can cause hand strain and fatigue.

Handle Considerations

Handle considerations include shape, size, and material.

Shape and Size

This is obvious, but it needs to be said: a handle should fit your hand comfortably. Knife handles are made to fit most hands, but if your hand size is above or below average, you may have to try a few different handles before you find one you like. 

If a handle doesn't fit your hand, a knife may be hard to use, causing fatigue, strain, and even blisters. A handle should be thick enough that you can wrap your hand around it easily. It should be long enough so your hand doesn't hang over the edge.

German knife handles tend to be contoured, with a swell on the under side that provides a spot for your fingers to grip. Japanese handles come in a few different shapes, including round, D-shaped, and octagonal, and some Japanese knives now have German-style contoured handles, too.

We've found that all of these shapes are comfortable, and this is true for thin, thick, and in-between handles. 

Material

The two primary options for handle material are wood or synthetic, although there are many different options in both categories. Wood handles can be made from cheap woods or very expensive woods, but all wood handles have a warm, soft, organic feel that most people like. Most wood handles are durable, but can harbor bacteria more easily than synthetics.

Synthetics vary from soft and grippy to hard and smooth. Cheaper synthetics like polypropylene are soft and not very durable, which means they can melt or crack when exposed to temperature extremes. Higher end synthetics, like POM, are quite hard and durable, and won't melt, crack, or discolor over time.

All synthetics make good, comfortable handles, including the cheaper ones. which you prefer is up to you. 

There are also wood/synthetic composites such as pakkawood, and fabric/resin synthetics like micarta and G10. These make excellent handles that look and feel organic, yet are also durable. 

For a discussion about Lamson handles, see this section above.

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Lamson Knives Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Made in USA
  • Good quality overall
  • Several beautiful handle options
  • Sharp out of the box
  • Lifetime warranty.
Cons
  • 20-degree cutting angle feels too thick to some users
  • Vintage line a little pricey for stamped knives
  • Brad Leone cleaver is too thick and awkward to use (and pricey)
  • Some reviewers said the varnish came off the walnut handle.

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Lamson Knives FAQs

Here are some common questions asked about Lamson knives.

Are Lamson Knives Good Quality?

Lamson knives are good quality, particularly their Premier Forged line. Their Vintage line is also good quality, but is a little pricey for stamped knives.

Where Are Lamson Knives Made?

All Lamson knives are made in Massachusetts, USA.

How Do Lamson Knives Compare to Wusthof?

The Premier Forged line is very similar in design and quality to the Wusthof Classic line. The Vintage stamped line is close in quality to the Wusthof Gourmet line; we think the Vintage line is slightly higher quality than the Gourmet line.

What Is the History of Lamson Knives?

Lamson is the oldest knife manufacturer in the United States. They were founded in 1837, so have been manufacuring knives for almost 200 years. 

Where Can I Buy Lamson Knives?

Lamson knives aren't as popular as some other knife brands, but you can find many of them on Amazon, and you can buy directly from the Lamson website. Prices are the same, and shipping from Lamson is free if you use USPS ground.

Are Lamson Knives Dishwasher Safe?

No, they are not, and for the record, you shouldn't put any kitchen knives in the dishwasher. Abrasives in dishwasher detergent can dull both the blade and the handle.

Furthermore, putting Lamson knives in the dishwasher will void their lifetime warranty.

Always wash your kitchen knives by hand. 

What Is the Brad Leone Lamson Knife?

Brad Leone is an Internet personality and chef who popularized the Lamson Vintage Chinese santoku cleaver. Lamson had discontinued this knife, but brought it back after Leone's cooking videos using the knife created a huge demand for it. Today, Lamson makes a Vintage santoku cleaver and a Brad Leone santoku cleaver, and they are identical except for Leone's signature on his model and a slightly higher price. If you want one of these knives, save a few bucks and go with the Vintage model; it doesn't have a signature, but otherwise is exactly the same knife.

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Final Thoughts About Lamson Knives

Lamson Premier Forged chef knife Fire handle

Lamson is an American company that still makes their knives here in the USA. They also make several other kitchen utensils, barbecue tools, knife storage and sharpening tools, and more. Lamson products tend to get good reviews, but their prices are a little high, especially for their Vintage stamped knives. However, the quality is excellent. 

We like and recommend the Premier Forged line if you like a durable, German-style blade; the Vintage stamped line is a little pricey for stamped knives, but excellent quality. 

Our one reservation about Lamson blades is the 20-degree cutting angle, which can feel a bit cumbersome if you're accustomed to thinner blades (most blades today are 15 degrees or less). But if you buy a Lamson knife for its beauty and durability and then find that you don't like the feel of the blade, you can grind it to 15 degrees easily with a pull-through sharpener (like the ChefsChoice Trizor XV) or numerous other ways, including sending it out to a professional knife sharpener.

We think the popular Brad Leone Chinese santoku cleaver is over-hyped and that there are better (and cheaper) options out there for this style knife (Dexter, we're looking at you). 

Thanks for reading!

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About the Author

The Rational Kitchen (TRK) is a collaborative effort, but the founder, editor, and writer of most of our articles is Melanie Johnson, an avid cook, kitchenware expert, and technical communications specialist for more than 20 years. Her love of cooking and the frustrating lack of good information about kitchen products led her to create The Rational Kitchen. TRK's mission is to help people make the best decisions they can when buying kitchen gear. 

When not working on product reviews, Melanie enjoys reading, playing with her dog Ruby, vintage video games, and spending time outdoors and with her family.

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