There’s not much going on in cutlery design these days. The same shapes and styles are continually tweaked by one manufacturer or another, mostly with an eye to style or to upping the price. It’s different at Fiskars, a company probably best known for making rugged, inexpensive scissors that not only make short work of plastic clamshell packaging but seem to last forever. Fiskars is a Finnish company, and that should tell you a lot. That, for example, they’re devoted to refined modern design; that they make lots of stuff for gardeners and DIY types, who thrive in heavily wooded countries; and they make the unusual Summit line of kitchen knives: an 8” chef’s ($35), a 5” chef’s ($22), a 6-1/2” serrated utility knife ($28), a 3-1/2” parer ($18) and a 6-1/2” non-serrated utility ($25). The first four are available as a set for $75 (way less from Amazon); buying them separately would set you back $103, if you want them all. But do you?
Chowhounds hosts a large and thriving clan of knife devotees who are formidably well informed and fanatically devoted to the hand-craftsmanship of Japanese knives. These knives are not for them. For one thing, they don’t cost nearly enough; for another, they aren’t made by superannuated Oriental craftsmen wearing leather smocks in dim smoky caverns of this or that remote prefecture. No sir. The Summit knives are machine-made items, stamped out in tsunamic quantities and packed neatly in cardboard rather than hand-made fitted boxes of rare cedar held together with wee little pegs. Their audience is the workaday person who wants to get straight through the slicing and dicing and the stirring and cooking and finally to the eating—all this without any distracting palaver about edge angles, steel formulas or the advantages of the distal taper.
The design difference is immediately visible: save for the parer, all have superposed handles: mounted above the blade. That provides great knuckle clearance and excellent visibility from end to end of each blade. Handles of soft, plastic-rubber stuff, taper gently to the rear and offer a comfortably soft but solid texture. And no more pinch-grip calluses!
They take a little getting used to—but not much, really. The blades have a bit more rocker than usual; this speeds chopping but requires a slightly longer push when slicing. They are fuss-free, actually intended for both dishwasher and kitchen drawer, protected by lock-on blade guards. A word of caution here: the guards are a bit fiddly at first. Be careful sliding the blade in and using the locking tab, because the back corner of the blade is sharp; there’s no bolster. (This is a very useful feature. To cut many slick-skinned items (tomatoes, for example) you have to make a separate starter cut, or use a serrated “tomato knife. With the Summit, you just sink the corner of the blade into your tomato and pull straight back. Presto.)
Do they do the job? Yes, they do. My 8” chef’s knife cut paper right out of the box, and thereafter spent two weeks capably handling almost all of the chores I normally do with a famous-brand 8” that cost four times as much. I do think Fiskars would have done well to go whole-hog and make the chef’s knife a santoku. The straight-handled parer, is also handy. Its blade is rather wide at the handle end, but that doesn’t impede maneuverability.
Other knives in the set flummox me somewhat. The serrated knife whizzes through vegetables but is not quite up to handling a baguette and its blade is way too short. The utility knife is plain-edged but otherwise identical to the serrated job, so why are both included? As for the 5” chef’s knife, I just can’t see much use for it in my kitchen beyond chopping herbs and the smaller fruits and vegetables.
Far better are the heavy-duty butcher’s or poultry shears (not part of the set). They’ll make any chicken quail—turkey too—so you can file and forget your cleaver. They’re spring-loaded for easy use, and the come apart for easy cleaning, and the handles will suit both lefties and righties. List: $30, but half that at Amazon.
All in all, the Summit line is a very good starter set for brides and new cooks. They don’t equal super-cost blades and don’t try to. They represent value for money and a little more Can’t say fairer than that. You''ll have to go to Amazon to see what these things look like because I'm too dumb to post pix here. Sorry!