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Windmuehlenmesser Carbon Bird's Beak
Curved blade for peeling and coring. The real carbon steel blade is drop-forged and razor sharp. Rustic and effective, this will peel thousands of potatoes. Handmade in Solingen, Germany. (
The bird’s beak is a modified paring knife, curved to peel and shape rounded fruits and vegetables quickly. This knife is made with real carbon steel. The metal may need a bit more maintenance than a stainless steel blade, but what it lacks in shine it more than makes up for in sharpness.
The knife's high carbon content means they will develop dark stains, and if treated carelessly, will rust. But it’s the carbon that allows the blade to be tempered to a greater hardness and be ground thinner and sharper. Cutting with a carbon steel knife is like cutting with a razor blade.
Windmuehlenmesser has been making carbon steel knives since 1872 in the German city of Solingen, a place that has been known for blades since the Medieval era, and where sharpness of edge and quality of material is literally decreed by law.
The bird’s beak knife is 59 mm (2.32 inches) from tip to heel, with a native copper beechwood or cherrywood handle, beautifully grained and lightweight for agility. The handle lays comfortably in the hand and doesn’t become slippery when wet.
As opposed to the steep and narrow bevel of industrially produced knives, the Windmuehlenmesser blade is taper ground, meaning it is a single piece of metal that seamlessly gets sharper and thinner from heel to tip, and from spine to cutting edge. This technique creates a more stable, sharper, longer-lasting edge, and is achieved by master grinder Wilfried Fehrekampf and his team of journeymen and apprentices. The skill is so specialized that Fehrekampf has been working at Windmuehlenmesser for nearly fifty years.
Use & Care
Bird's beak knives are best suited for anything that you peel or cut in your hand. Originally the knife was designed to execute the decorative tourne cut-- a technique that carves potatoes into barrel shapes. Yet, the bird's beak knife is handy even if you aren't aiming for the heights of formal French cuisine. Bird's beak knives quickly peel apples and cucumbers, core tomatoes and strawberries, and carve off chips of lemon peel for homemade martini twists.
Never put a carbon steel knife, or any knife, in the dishwasher. Exposure to harsh detergents, clanking around against other dishes, and sitting wet in the machine all contribute to degrading the knife's edge.
Hand wash and fully dry a carbon steel knife after use. If you've been using it to cut acidic fruits or vegetables, wash and dry it immediately to keep orange rust from forming. Never let the knife sit around wet, this will cause it to rust. Keep the blade and the handle lightly oiled with an edible mineral oil, or olive oil.
Over time, the carbon steel blade develops a dark gray patina. This is the kind of oxidization you want. It doesn't make the knife any less sharp and is completely harmless. In fact, this discoloration reduces the knife's reactivity with fish and acidic ingredients, and helps prevent further rusting.
If the knife does rust, or if the dark grey patina begins to wear on your aesthetic sense, rub the blade with the Windmuehlenmesser rust eraser, or a scouring agent and coarse sponge. This should bring the knife back to its original shine.
A sharp knife is safer and less accident-prone than a dull one, so sharpen knives as soon as they begin to lose their edge and well before they are truly dull. Carbon steel knives will need to be sharpened less frequently than stainless steel, and it is easier when you do have to. If you aren't comfortable around a sharpening stone, send the knife to a reputable professional. Otherwise, sharpening it yourself will only take two or three strokes on each side (as opposed to ten on a stainless), to bring the edge back.
Production & Design
In Europe, the evolution of the kitchen knife was closely intertwined with sword-making, and Solingen has been synonymous with blades for centuries. To preserve the integrity of this tradition, in 1930, the city issued a decree that commanded any blade that associated with the Solingen name meet high standards for materials and sharpness. Windmuehlenmesser is only one of five companies allowed to associate with the city's pedigree.
In 1872, young up-start Robert Herder, descended from a line of steel tempering workers in Bergische Land, decided to venture beyond tempering into the craft of knife-making. He moved the operation to Solingen, Germany, and founded Windmuehlenmesser. Four generations later, his family still runs the company, and their knives are still made as they were over 100 years ago. The company's sweet and simple motto: "Good knives are made by hand."
Windmuehlenmesser's knives are drop-forged, the traditional European process for forming metal. Huge hammers slam down onto steel bricks heated to thousands of degrees, compressing the metal into heavy and durable knife blanks. In Solingen, you can feel the ground shake when these machines are operating.
After the blanks are formed, the steel is tempered, a heating and cooling process that hardens the metal. This is a critical step, because a harder metal can take a thinner and sharper edge, and the taper grind on Windmuehlenmesser's knives enhance the capacity for sharpness of their metals. The copper beechwood or cherrywood handles are riveted to the blade extension, then fine-glazed for a smoother surface.
All Windmuehlenmesser's knives are handmade by skilled master craftsmen, journeymen and apprentices. Wooden handles are hand-milled on-site, and scrap wood chips are given to paper and particle board manufacturers for reprocessing.
The industry is not waste-free, but Windmuehlenmesser works to keep the amount of waste in their production process as low as possible. Steel scraps left over after the blades have been cut are sent back to the steelworks to be reused. Their grinding shop works in a closed water cycle with nitrate-free coolants for grinding. Fine steel chips in the grinding water and abrasives from the grinding stones are filtered out by an on-site filter, and the water is returned to the cycle.
Rockwell scale, Wikipedia
Carbon Steel Knives, Kaufmann Mercantile Blog
"Cutting," Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Simione Beck, Louisette Bertholle, and Julia Child
Caring for Carbon Steel Knives, Mizugaeshi
By the Sword: A History of Gladiators, Musketeers, Samurai, Swashbucklers and Olympic Champions, by Richard Cohen, Google Books
59 mm (2.32 inches)
–Carbon steel blade
HRC 58 on the Rockwell scale
–Wash and dry immediately after use to prevent rust; hand wash only
–Lightly oil with an edible mineral oil before storage
–Use rust eraser if needed
Note: Over time, a dark patina will develop on the blade. This natural oxidization does not affect food or the knife's sharpness. If desired the patina can be removed with the rust eraser.
Handmade in Solingen, Germany