Martin Yan  —  You cannot talk about chicken and cleavers without mentioning the Dean of Cleavering, Martin Yan.  I can gaze over the myriad of knives I have in my collection. A favorite is my Chinese Cleaver.  I  learned its usage forty-five or fifty-five, long time years ago.  Many times I reach for a cleaver, more correctly a  Chinese chefs knife. In this section I will be opening your mind to the use of the cleaver in the culinary arts.  The word cleaver itself means “ To split”. 


Charity Work  — I still bring my Chicago Cutlery 8x3 cleaver, if we are doing whole small to medium birds and ducks etc. mostly chicken. It’s still alive and never out of sight. It is old Damascus and stays sharp as a razor.  I have two others made by Forschner.

For Big Tom Turkeys  —  and volume, as in charity gigs, I learned a neat trick from the dean of charity work.   Most use a bigger cleaver, something a Viking might use and splatter the whole place, with parts flying and cross contamination. Not a very good idea, impressive but stupidity usually is.

I Use A Branch Trimmer —  a trick I learned from a chef who worked at a restaurant big on Sundays, Holidays, Birthdays, Anniversary catered dinners, and for Pterodactyls I bring a chainsaw.   I just cooked a twenty-four plus pound monster Tom and had to break the legs with the two handed branch trimmer, rated for 1.5 inch branches, this was the Arnold Schwarzenegger of Tom Turkey’s.   Tough bastard and I spatch-cocked him onto four trays.   This was the  toughest turkey I ever destroyed and with a limited oven I Spatch Cocked it.… My light cleaver didn’t dent it, my meat heavy cleaver got nowhere and I finally dragged out my Fiskar's El Branch-O.   Finally,  my Home Depot tool got it done and only 19-21 dollars, made by Fiskar’s a very reputable brand and it was easy, Grandma could do it.  No mess, no fuss, no contamination.

Assembly Line Tricks  —  Later a big thanksgiving dinner for charity, this was a life saver.  An assembly line, twenty-five turkeys, spatch cocked, dispatched and the branch trimmer does a safe easy break without turkey parts flying all over the nice clean floors and kitchen of the institution.  

This was clean and no mess the cut exactly where I wanted it to be and no lost fingers or chipped blades. I have some nice ($$$) cleavers and use them more so as chef's knives

I nicked the blade on my beloved clever cracking the backbone to flatten the birds. We switched to a heavy clever and a sterile Short Sledge Engineers Hammer.  Our assembly line busted and prepped 25 turkeys in under a half hour

Time to fix my clever.  I wet stoned and reground the blade to specs removing the ding, and it's like new.  By hand I don’t like grinders, a small belt sander with an angle edge control is OK if you have the skill levels to use it,  and the knife is really bad.  But if you don’t know how,  watch the TV show  Forged in Fire" and see how they shape a blade.   Practice on cheap knives you find at Charity stores like the Salvation Army before you screw up a good one.

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I store my cleavers (3) near my work table and chopping block, on a magnet. Cleavers don’t get along with storage blocks and drawers well since most don’t fit into blocks.  

Thats what magnets are for as long as children aren't allowed in prep areas of your kitchen and mounted eye high, your eye, not theres.

I am building a custom cleaver holder of my own design for my tools just as I do with almost everything, organization means little wasted time and thats what believe in. At 79, I value every moment. Looking for something misplaced is a waste.

I have a fascination for these things probably after watching Chinese Chef Martin Yan years ago dismembering a chicken in well, 16-18 seconds flat. Rumors are It is still not the record.  

Another world class Chef named Hung Huynh on Bravo Top Chef was also fast, not as neat, but faster.   ( Pic: Lower Left)   Find him on the web on YouTube.  When these two go at it, parts fly.  All I can see is flying chicken.  If I tried it, the only fast part would be the trip to the ER to sew my fingers back on. 

In contrast to the celebrated French Chefs who on YouTube do a two/four/eight traditional splitting chicken at the speed of cranial surgery, I would starve to death by the time we cooked them.  

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ABOVE PIC: JACQUE PEPIN and MARTIN YAN  “Both Worlds” Same result good food  —  In China and Vietnam Food and techniques sometimes mingle due to the French influence in that region decades ago.

LEFT PIC:  CHEF HUNG HUYNH ( Vietnam) and GEORGE TAKEI of ( Star Trek) savoring some fine Klingon wine. HUNG won Bravo’s Top Chef Competition and travels World wide — 

Martin Yan Personal Beliefs  —  I met him a couple times, he is always on.  What you see or hear is Martin Yan, the real thing.  In his show or off stage, thats him, he is a man of many quotes one which made so much sense to me… A quote should be truth, this is…and you gotta love this.  

  • “ Oriental style food is better for young people because the meat and vegetables are together  normally with Western cuisine, you’ll serve vegetables separate from the meat,  so kids will eat the meat and never touch the vegetables”.   So true.
  • Happiness is within. It has nothing to do with how much applause you get or how many people praise you. 
  • Happiness comes when you believe that you have done something truly meaningful.
  • Chinese culture has a lot of virtues that are tremendously valuable to not only us as Asian-Americans, but also the world in general.
  • When you have good stock, you can make a good soup.
  • I also have a lot of preserved foods, things that will keep for a long time like dried fish, seaweed or lotus seed.
  • In general I love to eat anything. I enjoy anything that is well prepared, a good spaghetti, lasagna, taco, steak, sushi, refried beans.
  • A lot of people don’t enjoy their job, they may even hate it, but I am lucky enough to be able to make a living through my passion.
  • I don't like to waste anything. Any food left over from the night before is always eaten the next day.
  • Just like if you were brought up on a farm, you would most likely carry on your father’s business as a farmer; I was brought up in the kitchen and ended up becoming a chef.
  • I can represent my culture while helping not only the Chinese-American community, but also the community at large.

ED:   “Wisdom does not have territorial, spiritual, physiological nor racial boundaries,  the only border for wisdom is truth”.  I said that,  and approved my own statement.


The Chinese Cleaver  -  Lighter, Thinner, Faster And Scoop-Able  —  The Chinese cleaver is made in a myriad of sizes, blade widths, metallurgy, handle design and purpose. In other words what they may find in their backyard, on the battlefield or junkyard that they can recycle into cleavers.  

  • In China and most Eurasian countries there are also style points such as seen on Thai Knives which have a pointed front.
  • They look like a butcher’s cleaver but lighter, usually with no hole for hanging, since it never stops working, but it doesn’t mean you can use it to chop bones. 
  • The larger heavier cleavers are made for this act with thick blades that are not very sharp; they are meant to be used for splitting bone.  But it can get messy and then you clean the mess. That why usually heavy cleavers are in restaurants which get ( hopefully) washed down at night.
  • Chinese Cleavers are the Asian version of the French chefs  knife. Again, they are slicers and treat them as you would a chef knife, Slicing, cutting, dismembering, chopping and scooping.  
  • The sharp edge of the blade is used for cutting.
  • The blunter top edge is used to pound and tenderize meat. 
  • Turned on its side, the cleaver is an excellent tool for smashing garlic and ginger.
  • You can even use it to transfer food from cutting board to wok. 
  • An added bonus is that the flat end of the handle nicely substitutes for a pestle.
  • The Chinese used the cleaver since the beginning of time and the Japanese combined it with their metallurgy and created some really nice cleavers of their own. 
  • I know members of the Knife Sharpening Guild probably could shave with theirs. The basic Japanese Nakiri style is thought of an ultra light cleaver design. Another favorite tool of mine. I’ll start with a traditional Chinese made cleaver with a non-traditional history, the knives of Maestro Wu. 

The Maestro Wu - The Kinmem Story (Boom-Boom)  —  The Kinmen Knife (金門菜刀) is a knife exclusively made in Kinmen County in Fuchien Province of the Republic of China. The knives are made from the remains of artillery shells fired by the US and Allied forces in World War II, and by mainland China between 1958 and 1978. As many as 500,000 bombs were dropped on Kinmen during the war.  I told you battlefields. There is no shortage of inventory steel.

The second shipment arrived during the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, the People's Liberation Army of the People's Republic of China fired around 450,000 shells at the Quemoy Islands in its conflict against the Republic of China which controls the islands. The shells have become a natural resource of steel for the local economy.  

This amounted to a very expensive or inexpensive ( depending on whose side you were on) way to deliver raw steel of good quality including stainless compounds and for those who “Bablically” wish to explain this, we promote and researched the theory of “ Beating Swords Into Plowshares".  

Swords to plowshares is a concept in which military weapons or technologies are converted for peaceful civilian applications. The phrase originates from the Book of Isaiah, who prophesies of a future Messianic Age where there will be peace amongst all humankind:  It reads: They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. 

Each shell usually took out a building or bunker adding to the cost of each shell in damage and casualties.  Thats the usual bottom line in war.  

Kinmen, found itself a storage center for high-quality steel. The industrious Chinese being basically steel and iron users and needing all they could find turned this windfall into the hands of knife-maker Wu Tseng-Dong.   Kinmen had a new business.

They are quite well made, for the price, after all most countries put some of their best steel into artillery shells, as we do with all weapons of war.  Bombs ARE NOT A LOW-BID ITEM.  

A knife is only as good as what it is made of, not who swears by it, as we have many cheap knives out there with endorsements by celebrity chefs. 

Quemoy has become famous for its production of "boom-boom cleavers" as they are nicknamed. A single shell, these are heavy 155 mm casings, I know I loaded a similar few, generally produces 60 cleavers from one bomb shell. They do a good tourist trade for the kitchen and for the souvenir market. With all the bombs on hand they will run out in 2196.

Wu Tseng-Dong, as the third-generation owner of the Chin Ho Li Steel Knife Factory, currently markets its knives under the label of “ Maestro Wu" goes back much further than 1958. Knifemaking , the art relates to his ancestor, Wu Tsong-Shan, late 19th century.

These knives are hand forged steel.  Smelted down to a red yellow mass and using his knowledge of hand working steel, he literally rough shapes a billet of the steel.  He flattens it on a mechanical hammer through several stages, flattens it and shapes it more, rolls and works it into shape for the hand grinding and shaping process.

He was quoted as saying , this is a learned skill. "We must judge the heat of the steel very accurately, and the color of the red hot steel tells us what we need to know".  I thought to myself, heres one thing the computer doesn't know or does it? 

These knives are still hand forged, ground, shaped and sharpened.  Walk into any kitchen in the world where real Chinese food is prepared, and you’ll most likely find only three knives - 1) Vegetable Cleaver,  2) Meat Cleaver  3) Fruit knife. 

All variants are offered, differing in size, width and shape. And I’ll tell you a secret, many were using these products made by the master.  Its like a cult following but his knives are great and do the job.  

In 1998 the Maestro WU cleavers and others designs went to Western style knives for export.  One or two companies seems to have the stock in whats called the "Maestro Wu" lineup.  

Today Mr. Wu continues his craft and sells his knives internationally. He is respected worldwide for his ingenuity. Visitors to his shop can actually assign a shell and observe a knife being forged from it. 

 In all, his knives are collected by knife enthusiasts for their quality and their interesting and meaningful history. The collection includes both the "Bombshell" and "Damascus" lines. 

Another source is Jende Industries LLC.  I strongly suggest you call these two vendors first and see if what you wish is in stock and or available. Both sites have videos and other photos of what available in these unique blades.

These brands all make fine Chinese Chefs Knives. We liked for the way they worked and in some cases the value for the frugal buyer. Cleavers are fairly priced, not unreasonable unless you get into the high end named brands. 

FORSHNER — Domestic Cleavers  —  
If you are not enthralled with bomb making  Forshner probably has one of the largest selections of cleavers, I have two of theirs. One with a wood handle and one with a slightly heavier composite handle. 

These are very reasonable and you can get a decent one starting at 24.00 up to 80.00 on Amazon. This one has a standard poly handle, the one higher up on the page has the round handle, and I have them in wood and nonslip. They are excellent buys for the money.

My Oldest Knife Is A Chicago Cutlery Cleaver — 

  • I still have my Chicago cutlery cleaver I purchased fifty (maybe the sixties or more) years ago. It is laying on my block on left side of the page for my first Sushi and Sashimi setup.  I think, well I know it is now is the oldest knife I own and still does a great job every day. 
  • Whatever steel it has, I have not seen anything like it today. I know it is layers of rolled steel similar to Damascene.  
  • I have used it just about every day and earlier I explained I made a mistake one day taking on a super turkey leg bone and scared the edge in two places.  Thus: 

Clever Repair
— Su-Shi vs Sashimi

  • Cleaver repair of my cherished 50 year old cleaver.   Out comes the sharpening stones,   Japanese wet stones in various grades to 12000.  
  • Using the right techniques, counting strokes  for even surfaces and similar leverage.  Five one side, turn over, five the other maintaining the same pressure. 
  • NO POWER TOOLS  —  No blade heating, no mistakes, slow and steady 
  • I used a jig on my vise and a rough metal removing domestic stone to create a new profile even and straight
  • It is barely or  slightly angled 2°  度  
  • Then went to work on finalizing the angle and the sharpness, then polishing like new.
  • I could shave with it again
  • This was the first time in 50 years, that I resharpened the blade. It has been honed religiously and taken care of.  
  • On a big Sushi day, my favorite Orientals are in the picture.
  • This is the layout plus cups of rice wine or vinegar and water for rinsing the long pointed Sashimi knife after each cut so as not to stick, cutting the Sushi or Sashimi.  
  • Su-shi means fingered rice and Sashimi means raw or uncooked fish on a bed of rice. 

About Japanese Knives - The Art Of Knife Making Is In The Steel  —  

  • Since the end of World War II, western-style double-beveled edged knives have become much more popular in Japan, the best example being that of the Santoku, an adaptation of the Gyuto, as used as a French chef’s knife. 
  • While these knives are usually honed and sharpened on both sides, their blades are still given Japanese-style acute-angle cutting edges with a very hard temper to increase cutting ability on specialty knives and designs.
  • Professional Japanese Chefs usually own their personal set of knives, which are not used by other cooks.   
  • Some chefs and I have heard this before, and even witnessed it on Iron Chef as they treat their knives as an extension of their hand. 
  • Some even own two sets of knives, which they alternate every other day so as not to retain any food particles. And not ruin the patina. Most are not stainless steel .
  • After sharpening a carbon-steel knife in the evening after use, the user normally lets the knife “ Rest” for a day to restore its patina and remove any metallic odor or taste that might otherwise be passed on to the food. 
  • They are very fussy about their cutlery. On the Iron Chef, I believe the famous Japanese world acclaimed chef Morimoto used a sharpened abalone shell to cut the fish and not let the knife steel change the taste of the delicate Abalone which is a very absorptive flesh to work with.
  • If you work in the culinary arts you make a living with the only real tools you bring and take home every night. It is important to take care of those tools because they are expensive, can ruin easily and dull knives will get you cut faster than sharp knives.   
  • As a fellow friend chef and Black Belt Fifth Degree martial artist says to me all the time, “  You are one with the knife”. I replied, "Yes, Sensei”.  I replied back, "That a knife can be like a rattlesnake, the minute you forget what you are holding, it will bite you”.   —    He replied, “ Keep writing recipes, leave the eastern philosophy to me”…
  • The Japanese call finish sharpening “  Honbatsuke”   "Hon" means real, formal, professional and genuine. "Ba" means edge and "Tsuke" means making or finishing in this case. In short, Honbatsuke means sharpening or finishing the edge. 




With a cult following,  some of the cleavers like the CCK lines in Carbon and CRES steel are very popular. “ The Chevrolet of the Chinese Buffet".  

NOTE:  The authentic pure or plain carbon steel ones can and do rust, they will develop a patina and require a simple but special amount of attention.  No dishwashers, rinse and wipe dry immediately after usage. . If storing a little mineral oil works great and will not rot like veggie or peanut oils and reward you with the sharpest blades of all. 

CCK is a famous brand of Chinese professional kitchen knives used in Chiuchow and Cantonese Cuisine.  This is like a cult and some Chinese Nationals, are devoted to CCK.  

Copies, cheaper knockoff  versions are bought by big chains and restaurants  like the  Chef at the Luxor using one chopping ribs faster for portions,  then I could comprehend, and I saw another at the M hotel, Vegas finest smorgasbord using them.  Almost all the Asian staff was using the cleavers.

There are millions literally of knockoffs but not the same steel and attention to fit, finish, steel quality, hardness and since the food is out front, they were using the Accusharp sharpener, which is fast and accurate, but surprised me but as busy as they were this was not a Sashimi exercise,  but getting a ton of ribs out front. 

No steels, no files, no stones...just an Accusharp.  I guess my adoration of knife making goes beyond the average and their appreciation of a tool makes them a living.

Surprise… I spoke with the number three chef and he said when you cook for thousands of people a day sometimes, we use our knives a lot,  and since many of our chefs are from the orient, this is their tool, and we regrind them as needed on the serving line, two passes and sharp again.   Accusharp sharpeners do fit in the pocket, then rinse the knife and back to work.   We have a commercial jigged belt sander and dedicated knife guy, you need that when you cook for 3000 people a day in a 24/7/365 operation he keeps busy.

CCK knives one of the most popular cherished brands come in a variety of styles, for brevity they offer the following: 

  • A Kitchen Slicer
  • Kitchen Chopper
  • Kau Kong Chopper
  • Dim Sum Knife
  • BBQ Chopper
  • Bone Chopper
  • CCK Small Stainless Cleaver
  • Vegetable Knife
  • Duck Slicer
  • Butcher’s Knife
  • Butcher’s Bone Chopper
  • Butcher’s Knife
  • Scraping Knife


  • Due to demand and monetary exchange numbers the price of these Carbon choppers and slicers went from the thirties to the fifties and sixties.   Most of the CCK knives come with wooden, steel, or plastic handles. If you buy them for yourself we strongly recommend using knives with wooden handles.    Google CCK Knives For more views of some outstanding cutlery.
  • Chinese foods and Western Foods are prepared totally different, if you’d like to use knives with steel handles or plastic handles fine, but wood is preferred by Chinese chefs and they are fussy about what wood is used. Plastics, especially cheap hard plastics and steel polished handles slip when wet or greasy and these knives have leverage and the ability to cut very well if you are what we call in Yiddish a “ Klutz” and you might be visiting the ER.

  • Please make sure you know that CCK’s knives with steel handles and plastic handles don't offer immediate shipping, sometimes knives with wooden handles get sold out, they need about 7 days to prepare the knives for you.  
  • I can tell you now, with some patience and a knowledge of making a good edge…  You can shave with these guys so be careful.  Many American chefs I know have converted some of their food handling and prep work to the Chinese knife using it as a knife,  lesser as a cleaver.  
  • They discovered a thousands years tool that works well.  You will get used to it quite easily.  There are many variants of the cleaver in the oriental part of the world.  And there are many variants of the steels used as knives generally come from the Orient and reflected in regional usage and preferences.  
  • Few other places in the world make knives with such diversification.  Germany used to lead the world in fine cutlery, as some products from France which were very esthetically pleasing but not suited well in a commercial kitchen.    But the artisans of metal, the  Japanese closely imitated by the Chinese, but not even close yet in the quality of the steel except for a few using bomb shells and meteorites.

Tamahagane Steel  —    is made of an iron sand (satetsu) found in Shimane, Japan. There are two main types of iron sands: akame satetsu  (赤目砂鉄)  and masa satetsu  (真砂砂鉄).  Akame is lower quality, masa is better quality. The 'murage' decides the amount of the mixing parts. Depending on the desired result, the murage mixes one or more types of sands.

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The iron sand is put in a tatara, a clay tub furnace. The clay tub measures about 4 feet  tall, 12 feet  long and 4 feet wide. The tub is dried and heated to about 1,800 °F. Then, it is mixed with charcoal to add carbon to the steel so it can be hardened.

The process of making tamahagane continues for 36-72 hours depending on how many people work and how much metal is to be obtained. 

Within an hour of smelting, the iron sand sinks to the bottom, called the bed of fire, in which it will be assessed by color on whether it became Tamahagane. The iron sand is added every ten minutes, and the mixture is frequently turned over. 

After the tamahagane is finished, the clay tub is broken and the steel is removed. The best steel is on the edges of metal block; in this area, the oxidation process is stronger. The quality of tamahagane is determined by its color: bright silver pieces are very good for making blades and charging accordingly.

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Thai Style Chefs Knife's  By Verve — 

Thailand does a unique twist on the cleaver and range in price less expensive than the Chinese feature wise but China will always have  a  ” Three dollar knife for sale” but wait if you buy today we’ll double the offer and free shipping !



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Thailand responded —  I have two sets KIWI of these shown below in pairs on Amazon and lots of times when doing veggies they are something else.

KIWI BRAND Ultra Slim Spring Steel with a razor edge attitude that blew me away with their sharpness and edge holding retention. Doing a lot of Charity work and getting called, volunteering when mother nature decides to have a hurricane, tornadoes and floods, our volunteer mobile kitchens know we are available.  

I am a collector of knives and have a few that go into multiples of hundred dollar bills, like Wusthof and Shun collections, and a few Japanese works of art.  I have one Kramer.  They do not leave my home and if you are nice I might show them to you.  

But when I work the gigs I bring two things along .   My commercial Plain Jane Tramontina Chef kit shown under 100.00 with my name etched on each blade against theft and a host of THAI KIWI brand inexpensive plain handle, stainless LITERALLY RAZOR BLADES in cutting ability for prep work shown and described below.

They are available on Amazon and under seven to ten dollars and here are a few comments from other cooks and chefs. They are fashioned in several styles, a pointed Chef’s knife and a Nakiri style vegetable knife. Nothing does veggies better and two swipes with my ceramic steel restores them to new.


  • My expensive knives have been retired since discovering the Kiwi.  I used to be a professional chef and I have worked at many different restaurants and have used knives that range from $100-$500 each.  Expensive knives are definitely nice and they are usually great quality tools, but it only takes dropping one knife and breaking or bending a tip to realize there is no place for such expensive knives in and actual working kitchen. 
  • I found that nobody in a commercial kitchen will respect your tools as much as you do. Whether it is dishwashers dropping them and running them through the machines or other chefs picking them up and using them with reckless abandon, I got fed up with my expensive knives being ruined.
  • I came across these Kiwi knives about 10 years ago in a local Asian market and I have never looked back. They are affordable and pretty tough. I actually still have the first one that I purchased. They are hollow-ground, so they are very easy to resharpen to a razor's edge. 
  • They are just regular stamped blades that are full-tang and riveted to a wooden handle. The beauty is in their simplicity and cost. I never really cared for stainless knives. I always felt that they took too long to sharpen because the steel is too hard. I had always preferred carbon steel because of the nice edge that can be achieved with minimal effort. 
  • The fact that these Kiwi knives have such a thin blade means that they sharpen very quickly and slide through the material that you are cutting effortlessly. I still use heavy carbon or stainless cleavers to chop through harder things like bone and ice. 
  • But the standard Kiwi knife has been the only knife I use for general knife work for the last 10 years, Whether I am cooking at home or on the job. My expensive knives have been living in the knife drawer since I got my first Kiwi. Great value.  Great knives!
  •  I had never heard of the Kiwi brand knife until I recently read an article on the SeriousEats website entitled "In Defense of Cheap Knives". The Kiwi and Dexter Russell brands were mentioned not only in the article but also in the comments, so I decided to try these as an experiment. 
  • My go-to knife for the last 6 years is the ATK recommended Victorinox Fibrox Handle 8" Chef's knife. It's a great knife with a great handle and sharpens well. I paid about $30 for it so it's not that expensive.    ( ED:  I use the same knife and have two cleavers from Victor Fibrox )
  • Honestly, right out of the box, these Kiwi knives don't feel "crazy cheap". Yes, they are very lightweight, half tang, wooden handles, and seriously sharp. The wooden handle is nicely finished and smooth in the hand, but obviously will need some care with washing so it doesn't split or crack. Time will tell with usage and sharpening but this could could be a real budget friendly knife for the average home cook.
  • You essentially are given razor blades as chef knives. A beautiful accomplishment! You can produce some outstanding results with these little knives. Seamless cuts, excellent brunoise cuts. Only fault, and it's a big one: in a commercial setting these can take a beating quickly and can deform and bend with the most minimal amount of abuse.  I say this as someone who has utilized a multitude of steel for cooking professionally as well as home use. 

EDITOR:   Solution:  I disagree, simply don’t abuse them, I have eight of them and one I am using for three years and can’t wear it out, I really don’t know how you abuse them unless you are Bulbar the Barbarian and pick the wrong tool for the job.  Three things I do to keep them in good shape.  Hand wash, I used Acrylic Rustoleum Clear Paint to seal the wood handles and keep them on a magnetic holder.

  • They range in price and package sets from 7.00 to 14.00 dollars and free shipping from Amazon.