Paul Hellman, a mechanical engineer, surveyed 100 chefs about what they look for in a knife. Their answers—heft, balance, and a large handle—led Hellman to create Gunter Wilhelm knives. Designed in the U.S. and forged in Germany (of edge-holding steel), the cleavers and choppers are sharpened and polished in China. It's a smart set however you slice it: The wood handles are waterproof; each knife weighs an ounce heavier than others we've tried; and the balance will satisfy any kitchen technician. $425 for an 18-piece set; www.gunterwilhelm.com.