For some reason the American kitchen is a breeding ground for useless gadgets, tools, and knickknacks. Do we really need a separate tool to make balls out of melons? (Actually, melon ballers are quite useful for many different tasks, but that's a subject for another post.)
Living in New York City, where most apartments have tiny kitchens with only a handful of cabinets, I am forced to be ruthlessly Spartan with my gadgetry. This is why I am generally opposed to cheese knives. I tend to follow Alton Brown's golden rule: never own a kitchen gadget that has only one use. So what kinds of knives do work well with cheese? My suggestions, after the jump.
Soft, Spreadable Cheeses
I simply use a butter knife or a spoon.
Soft and Semi-Soft Cheeses
This is the one case where I would recommend getting a knife made specifically for cheese. I own this Swissmar Soft Cheese Knife. The holes help prevent soft cheeses from sticking to the blade thereby maintaining the structural integrity of each slice. At $13.95, I think it's worth getting if you eat lots of soft cheeses such as Brie, Reblochon, and Fontina.
What about that venerable staple of 1980s party hosting, the Swissmar Cheese Plane? There are times when I like using it, especially for firm cheeses that taste good sliced really thin (like Gruyère), but it's certainly not a necessity when kitchen space is tight.
Semi-Firm and Hard Cheeses
I use my Wüsthof Classic 3.5" Paring Knife. It's small enough to fit on a cheese plate, yet sturdy enough to work well with lots of different cheeses.
The rest of the lot are pretty useless. Like this Swissmar Cleaver that is supposedly only for cheddar—a major violation of Alton Brown's rule. Or how about this Wüsthof Parmesan Cheese Knife for $80? You could do just fine with a regular chef's knife, which you could buy for only $20 more.
What about you? What kinds of knives do you keep around for cutting and serving cheese?