I'm going to be buying a new paring knife soon. I use my current knife mostly for "air work" - things like coring strawberries, trimming fruits/vegetables, etc. I rarely (or never) use it for work on a cutting board.

I've been looking at different styles/brands of knives and saw in a (printed, not online) article a comment that Japanese-style paring knives were "not good for air work." There was no elaboration.

This caused me to pause and ultimately brought me here to ask, what criteria go into choosing a paring knife specifically for work in the air? Heavier/lighter? Larger/smaller handle? Handle shape? Blade shape?

(Ultimately I'd love to buy a range of knives and decide for myself, but that isn't practical financially. And I don't have any stores nearby that allow test-use of knives, so I have no way to "test drive.")

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    Thank you thank you thak you for using paragraphs !!!! +2 if I could !! (Good question, btw) May 22, 2018 at 18:20
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    There is actually a big japanese knife that is used both on board and for in-air work, the usuba ... smaller single bevel japanese knives (ajikiri, ko-deba etc.) are a matter of taste when it comes to handheld work - the downside is that they easily get stuck when jarred, the upside is that by the same effect, the knife is usually stopped in case you lose control of it. May 22, 2018 at 18:42
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    As a professional cook I live by the cheap paring knife, Henckel ones are sold at Walmart for $5. You could go spend a fortune on a really nice paring knife, but the reality is the ones I mentioned work perfectly fine - my boyfriend does fruit carvings with them "in the air".
    – soup4life
    May 23, 2018 at 0:09
  • @soup4life I'm not planning on spending a ton - more concerned about features/design than price. What shape/size/style is that cheap Henckel and why do you like it in preference to other cheap knives, specifically for working in the air?
    – dwizum
    May 23, 2018 at 12:32
  • @dwizum It has a fairly thin and flexible blade, which is great for those less dense objects you would be cutting in the air as opposed to on the board (strawberries vs carrots). They also aren't dangerously sharp - I hesitate to use the Miyabi paring knife in the air but not the Henckel. It's a really simple plastic handle, so it can go in the dishwasher a hundred times and be fine, so it's easy to clean and durable. They are comfortable in the hand as well. Overall, I have found these to be good value for money! TWIN Henckel 4", like this : zwillingonline.com/38024101.html
    – soup4life
    May 23, 2018 at 21:28

2 Answers 2


'Air work' is an interesting term that I am not used to hearing, and I do a lot of it. The trick here is where will you be holding the knife as you work. A long thin blade will mean you are holding the blade as you work, which is not a problem, per se.

Small bladed and hook beak knives are well suited for this, as you can comfortably hold the handle. I love hook beak knives for mushroom garnishing, coring, small veg peeling and trimming, etc...

Small straight paring knives are the standard choice for this, if you don't like the hooked blade.


For paring knives , I go "cheap" since I tend to loose them often (in the garbage bin).

At my local store they have the Nogent brand, with regular wooden handle and regular blade. I also have some Victorinox ones with plastic handle, I don't like them as much, even if they hold their sharpness better.

I tried some knives with the bird beak blade and did not like it at all (maybe because I don't do precision knife work).

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