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Japanese Bladesmiths (page 2 of 2)

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A unique behind-the-scenes visit of the crafstmen who hammer out the best and most expensive kitchen knives in the world in the city of Sakai, Japan.
Page1  2  

III. Hafting

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With the knive blades know finished, we need to get a firm handle on this things. We walk some more across Sakai and enter the workshop of TATSUMI MASARU, master handlemaker.

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Mr Masaru makes knife handles from Magnolia Hypoleuca (Whitebark Magnolia), a fine and expensive wood called honoki in Japanese. His timber merchant cuts the centenary tree trunks into smaller logs ready to shape into handle knives. Let's see how.

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Entering Mr Masaru's workshop is like stepping into a Japanese print or a Samurai movie. Were it not for the electricity, you'd think this was Edo time. The craftsmen are all absorbed in their work, not one word is spoken. They move with a that sense of purpose you find in gestures that have been repeated every day for the last couple hundred years.

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A man feeds a machine older than his father with the little pieces of Magnolia, and a the machine sprays a geyser of wood shavings in a huge pile, contrasting with the timeless order of the scene.

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The now roughly circular wooden handles are ground down to a smooth circular surface ...

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... then handed to a man who works kneeling Japanese-style with his shoes off, to drill a little hole inside.

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We step outside where Mr Masaru shows me how the bolster, that ring between blade and handle is made, using a buffalo horn. We only use about an inch of the horn for our knive handles, says Masaru, the rest is used to make combs.

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A horn ring is boiled in hot water ...

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... then the knive is inserted into the horn ring for a perfect fit.

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Finally another man sands the completed handle to ensure an even surface on both the wood and the bolster. When you pass your fingers on the handle of such knives, you can't even feel the crevice between bolster and handle.

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The completed handles wait ...

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... until Mr Masaru can heat the knive's tang until red hot, then inserts it into one of his handles. A pipe blows fresh air onto the handle so that he may continue his work without being smoked out of his own workshop. He then bangs on the handle with a wooden mallet, carefully listening to the sound to see how far the tang has gone up the handle. Too far and it will split.

Why divide the manufacture of knives into four different workshops? Are these men bound by tradition or by plain economic common sense? All you need is read my good friend Adam's ramblings on the English Pin Factory:
To take an example, therefore,*19 from a very trifling manufacture; but one in which the division of labour has been very often taken notice of, the trade of the pin-maker; a workman not educated to this business (which the division of labour has rendered a distinct trade),*20 nor acquainted with the use of the machinery employed in it (to the invention of which the same division of labour has probably given occasion), could scarce, perhaps, with his utmost industry, make one pin in a day, and certainly could not make twenty. But in the way in which this business is now carried on, not only the whole work is a peculiar trade, but it is divided into a number of branches, of which the greater part are likewise peculiar trades. One man draws out the wire, another straights it, a third cuts it, a fourth points it, a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations; to put it on, is a peculiar business, to whiten the pins is another; it is even a trade by itself to put them into the paper; and the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations, which, in some manufactories, are all performed by distinct hands, though in others the same man will sometimes perform two or three of them.*21 I have seen a small manufactory of this kind where ten men only were employed, and where some of them consequently performed two or three distinct operations. But though they were very poor, and therefore but indifferently accommodated with the necessary machinery, they could, when they exerted themselves, make among them about twelve pounds of pins in a day. There are in a pound upwards of four thousand pins of a middling size. Those ten persons, therefore, could make among them upwards of forty-eight thousand pins in a day. Each person, therefore, making a tenth part of forty-eight thousand pins, might be considered as making four thousand eight hundred pins in a day. But if they had all wrought separately and independently, and without any of them having been educated to this peculiar business, they certainly could not each of them have made twenty, perhaps not one pin in a day; that is, certainly, not the two hundred and fortieth, perhaps not the four thousand eight hundredth part of what they are at present capable of performing, in consequence of a proper division and combination of their different operations.
Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776)
Answer: by splitting the work so that each artisan gets to work one set of tools and always performs the same gestures, they make many, many more knives

 

IV. Engraving

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The last stop in the crafting of these fine knives is HARADA TAKAYUKI's shop, the master engraver. He was not in town but we could have a look at his shop, a luminous room in downtown Sakai.

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Knives are placed one by one on a little anvil and the craftsman engraves them with the Haiku logo - a falcon - or the chef's name.

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They can engrave a fair amount of text, all by hand, such as on this knive with a whole chapter from a book of philosophy.

Chroma Cutlery
http://www.chroma-cutlery.com
These knives are sold as the Haiku traditional Japanese knives by Chroma Cutlery Inc.
I love Chroma's Porsche knives which you see often in my articles, although they are not made in Japan.
They don't sell directly to individuals but you can buy these knives in various online and regular shops such as www.kochmesser.de in Germany. At 400 Euros a pop, these are not disposable knives but serious professional tools. Only about 250 are sold a year by Chroma. I have two of those and am very happy with them. I'll show you how they work in a later article!

A reader pointed that you can buy some "Chroma Haiku" knives on Amazon for only 99$. I asked Bjorn Heiberg of Chroma Cutlery if these were the same knives: The standard Haiku knives you sent a link to are stainless steel. Those are from Seiki City (Gifu prefecture) not forged.. They are stamped in the shape and of a stain-resistant steel.. Great knives, light and sharp, and easy to maintain, but the sharpness is not to be compared to the incredible edge you can put on a handforged Haiku Pro or handforged Haiku Itamae knife from Sakai.

Life is too short for cheap knives.

Published 21/01/2009
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93 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by Hazri
  • on: 21/01/2009
Hi Francois,
Thank you very much for this informative writing. Keep up the good work. :)
  • FX's answer→ Thank you Hazri!

  • #3
  • Comment by Judy
  • on: 21/01/2009
A very interesting article.  I am so envious as we cope with rather ordinary knives that require constant sharpening.  I wondered: when the bladesmith breaks a long blade, can he not then turn it into a paring knife?
  • FX's answer→ Judy, I am not sure what happens with the broken pieces of steel. If it's any consolation, those knives also require constant sharpening, and they are more fragile than regular Western plastic-handled professional kitchen knives.

  • #5
  • Comment by ND
  • on: 21/01/2009
Hey FX, awesome article! The following question may seem like sacrilege after an article like this, but what's your take on these Japanese ceramic Kyocera knives? Also, the way you sharpened your knife in the Fois Gras movie was a bit novel to me (I've only ever seen people running a knife slowly along a knife steel, in a single direction); would you care to elaborate please?
  • FX's answer→ Nathan, I have a couple ceramic knives, they are very sharp but very brittle, much like a Japanese knife might be if it used only hard steel. I gave one to my father and he broke it within a week!

    There are two different "sharpening" for kitchen knives. One is what you saw in my foie gras video, you just bring the edge's sharpness back to life by rubbing it with the cylindrical tool you saw. The other is to regrind the cutting edge, and this is done with a stone. As far as I know, but there are people out there who live by the (kitchen) knife and who know more about it than I ever will!

  • #7
  • Comment by Chris
  • on: 21/01/2009
Great post Francois. Now I have another item to add to my wish list. What a great glimpse into the artisan knives of Japan. Keep up the great work.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Chris, glad you enjoyed the visit!

  • #9
  • Comment by thuan
  • on: 21/01/2009
I've seen a few different travel shows exhibit the artisan knife making there.  I was waiting on you to do an article.  it is most fascinating.  When I visit japan im not coming back without one :)
  • FX's answer→ Thank you, but please pack the knife in the luggage and not in the carry-on bag, this happens all the time in Osaka!

  • #11
  • Comment by thuan
  • on: 21/01/2009
And a P.S., it is most unfortunate that young folks do not want to pick up this craft and it may very well "die" off in the near future
  • FX's answer→ ... but they will pick it up!

Fascinating article (with excellent photographs) as always!
Last year I attended a japanese knife sharpening demonstration where I was told that Itumae-san will often buy a knife without the final edge (sharpening) put on -  their responsibility is to sharpen the edge (typically on one side only) to their preferred angle/specification.
The thought of sharpening a blade such as the ones you show in this article would intimidate me. What do you do as far as honing/maintaining such fine knives?

FP


  • FX's answer→ Poolish, there are couple videos of German gentlemen sharpening their Japanese knives out there, it is not difficult provided you understand what you are doing, you know the angle and you use water as a lubricant.

  • #15
  • Comment by Kai
  • on: 21/01/2009
Do these knives require resharpening? How often? And how do you go about it?
  • FX's answer→ Kai, every knife needs resharpening now and then, how often depends how often you use it. Professional chefs hone their knives every day. These need sharpening with a stone, there is only one edge and it has to be held as flat as possible on the stone with water.

  • #17
  • Comment by James Wang
  • on: 21/01/2009
A superb article!

Please follow up with a shootout between these, other Japanese knives (Shun, Global) and the German masters!

I would love to know just how they perform, and what point do their differences become miniscule.

Great work once again.
  • FX's answer→ James, I think the German knife makers would make a great article, but I don't know much about them. Which would you recommend?

  • #19
  • Comment by Donna Young
  • on: 21/01/2009
So interesting to see—such skill! Let's hope that there will be a new generation of craftsmen to take over their expertise! Thanks, FX!
  • FX's answer→ Donna, in fact these old guys go visit local vocational schools to have smithing classes, and it seems some people are there to take over - some day!

  • #21
  • Comment by Rosa
  • on: 21/01/2009
Extremely interesting! It must have been great to witness such an old tradition. Thanks for sharing these moments with us!

Cheers,

Rosa
  • FX's answer→ Thank you Rosa, glad you enjoyed it!

  • #23
  • Comment by Wandering Taoist
  • on: 21/01/2009
Awesome post, the knife lover in me always rejoices when reading and seeing such things.
I have two Japanese blades at home, of cheaper type though, and they are the best kitchen knives I have ever used (and I already tried a fair amount of them). Razor-sharp, unbendable and so easy to cut anything into almost any form with.
  • FX's answer→ Taoist, your Japanese knives must be prized possessions! I find sometimes they are unwieldy when used with our Western knife techniques, but the other day I used one to cut a large piece of meat, it went through it like if it was a warm mound of butter!

  • #25
  • Comment by Maria J
  • on: 21/01/2009
François, I was glad to see that big animal horn being used later in your post-- I was afraid you were using it to persuade the craftsman to reveal his secrets! Quite interesting (and a bit nerve-wracking) to see all of that dangerous work being done with practically no protective gear-- goggles in particular. Also, the bare hands using that handle sander-- eek! All quite fascinating. And now, back to savoring our new President here in the USA...
  • FX's answer→ Maria, aye, I remember the lady dealing with the public relations at Wenger, the Swiss knife factory, nearly had a nervous breakdown when she saw a picture - now removed - of a worker grinding a knife with his bare hands. "It's a secret technique" she said. No such fuss from the Japanese!

  • #27
  • Comment by John McCann
  • on: 21/01/2009
If you ever get to Frankfurt there is a great food market called the "Kleinmarkthalle".  In this market there is a Japanese kitchen utensil purveyor who specializes in knives.  He mainly specializes in one manufacturer "Aritsugu".

The Aritsugu knives are the best I've ever used (the blue-steel Santoku is always in use in my kitchen ;-)) and it appears that the culture of Aritsugu is very similar to that of the gentlemen you are showcasing here.

As always, thanks for the education and keep up the good work ;-)
  • FX's answer→ John, I have visited Aritsugu's shop in Kyoto a few times and included pictures in an earlier article. You are very right, they use the very same methods to make their knives. I'll definitely visit the Kleinmarkthalle next time I'm in town!

  • #29
  • Comment by Ricardo
  • on: 21/01/2009
Hello Francois.

Francois, I loved he article.  A few years ago, I bought a sushi knive from one such master in Tokyo. But a bit different process: once I chose the blade, he told me to come back two hours later after he had sharpened it, then he artfully signed it in front of me with his chisel, kneeling barfefoot japanese style in a hollowed rock with water at the center of his shop. Only then he chose the perfect handle for it and adjusted it. Very seriously he handed me the knife like hatori san.  600 dollars worth of knive and show, Beautiful.   Ricardo
  • FX's answer→ Ricardo, what a memorable buy you made! I always regretted that Mr Tarantino did not shoot any steel-forging scenes and only some cheap sushi bar set when Uma Thurmann buys her sword from Hattori Hanzo. That would have made for a much better scene in Kill Bill!

  • #31
  • Comment by Rudi
  • on: 21/01/2009
g'day to you from the land down under...

A mate and myself have been enjoying your site for a while now, its definetly one of our top bookmarks. As a 'loyal loader' of your page, i thought i'd drop in my two bits on knives.

I've been using global knives for the last 5 years now, every day in every way, and they've never touched a grindstone.  I give them a quick flick on the sharpening steel every 2-3 weeks (takes 10secs) and they're brand spanking new.  I also never wash them in the dishwasher, and leave food stuck to them...especially tomatoes! My friend has a set of Shun's and he swears by their value.  The knives weren't cheap, but I think this highlights a big point.  Save heaps and spend lots on the perfect knife for yourself and it will last a lifetime.  I also don't bother with knife sets as you end up with knives that are never used and they just take up space.

thanks for the article.
  • FX's answer→ Rudi, thanks for coming out of the digital cloud to say hello! I am glad you guys like my website and found the article interesting. Indeed, who is rich enough to be able to afford cheap knives which need constant replacing? Much better to have a few quality knives you can use for a lifetime! Do your knives rust or are they stainless? I have a really good Japanese stainless steel knife, it is easier to maintain than those discussed in this article although not really as sharp, but both are really cool knives I use a lot.

  • #33
  • Comment by macha
  • on: 21/01/2009
Amazing how they make them! I have one of these hand-made knifes(different, less expensive maker) but I find the rusting and thickness of the blade a little annoying. (Some department stores have knife-sharpener guys where you can bring your knife to when it's a little blunt.) Well, I know it's sacrilegious but I prefer a good standard cooking knife!
  • FX's answer→ Macha, yes the rusting is an issue. I always clean my Japanese knives right after using, then coat them with a little oil. I think if we knew how to use them the shape would no longer be a  problem, but like you I find myself trying to use them Western-style and it doesn't always work fine. For the rust stains you can remove them using a gritty rubber eraser (architects used to use these).

  • #35
  • Comment by chef4cook
  • on: 21/01/2009
Francois, Thank you for always being informative and interesting. Good luck to you in this new year.
  • FX's answer→ And you!

  • #37
  • Comment by Feyoh
  • on: 21/01/2009
Here I was, thinking that this was just a post about supersharp knives, Francois, but you've hit the nail on the issue about young people seeking the definition of themselves in dead-end jobs.

And... Thank you for showing how these knives are forged; I've always wondered what purpose the soft metal/hard metal combination in Samurai swords must serve. Now I know. Another lesson learned from FXcuisine, the "educational" food blog.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Feyoh! Yes the softer iron is needed otherwise they would be as brittle as a ceramic knife which you break all the time. But these knives are not meant to cut through bones nor even frozen food. where they really excel is through soft organic tissue - fish fillet, meat or vegetables.

  • #39
  • Comment by MICHAEL
  • on: 21/01/2009
I'm not the "Handelman" you mentioned ("el & not "le"!)
Do they also make knives for Rabbies? - I hope not, ouch!!!
As usual an interesting and well photographed article!
  • FX's answer→ I'm sure they have a knife for absolutely everything down there. Have you seen the huge array of knife shapes the forger has?

  • #41
  • Comment by michael
  • on: 21/01/2009
I'm reminded of the story about the Japanese Guy, the Swiss Guy, and the Jew ...
They are boasting about their skills with a knife - "Watch this" says the Japanese Guy, and he slices a fly that happened to be flying around, into two pieces - right down the middle!
"That's nothing" says the Swiss Guy, and on seeing another fly buzzing around, he takes out his knife  - two quick strokes, and he cuts the fly into four pieces - right there during flight!
To which the Jew takes out his knife and takes a quick swipe on another fly, which flys off on a very swervy route!
"So what's that?" asks the Japanese & Swiss Guys.
"Circumcision!" replys the Jew.
  • FX's answer→ That's a good joke - too bad the Swiss doesn't win the fly-quartering contest!

  • #43
  • Comment by parshu.narayanan
  • on: 22/01/2009
I always leave an fx photo-essay feeling enriched and this beautiful one on knife makers left me wistful. When I was a little boy, in the 70s (!) the mall & supermarket revolution had still to take place in india and our house had a constant stream of door-to-door tradesmen and artisans. kashmiri shawl-sellers, bengali muslin-saree sellers, a man with a lute shaped instrumment who would refluff the cotton in the house quilts before winter( which he would twang to advertise), a man who would beat out silver-warq from a small lump of family silver before festivals, a man who would de-carbonize the family kadhais(woks)and the knife sharpener - who would drive the grindstone with his bicycle. We cant go back to the artisan's age, but what we have lost to mass-production is part of our heritage.
  • FX's answer→ Yes, I very much like India in this respect too, strolling through the streets of Indian towns feels like being able to enjoy that age when the tools and foods we bought were made right on our doorsteps and you would buy it directly from the man who made it! I saw a billboard in India praising the advantages of processed food, hard to understand for people who have never experienced the opposite. It has its advantages too - reliability, constant quality but so boring!

Great article. I've been hankering after one of these knives for a while.

I read an article a few years ago about Japanese National Living Treasure swordsmiths. Apparently they still make a number of swords per year (which at the time retailed for somewhere around about 50000USD) but are limited by legislation to only creating a certain limited number per year. To maintain a decent living they make chefs knives instead. That's something I want to check out when I visit Japan, and your article is the perfect intro.
  • FX's answer→ Tim, sorry for the late reply! Yes they also do swords but knives are sharp and expensive enough for me. Hope you get to visit this place!

  • #47
  • Comment by Alex
  • on: 22/01/2009
Wonderful piece, as always

  • FX's answer→ Thanks!

Wonderful article, great subject and story. Great image of the engraved blade (the others too, but the engraved blade is my favorite).

I was wondering in this production system are there one smith, one grinder, one handle maker and one assembler? (Doesn't it take longer to forge a blade then to sharpen one?)

Anyways, keep up the great work, I love your diverse articles and different subject matter and exotic locals.

  • FX's answer→ Geoff, I'm glad you liked the engraved blade picture, it took me many trials to get it and I wasn't so happy in the end. Not sure about what it says exactly on the blade though! Yes I think it takes perhaps half a day of combined efforts from all 3 professions to make one knife.

Fantastic photo journal as always!
  • FX's answer→ Thank you Jaden, I hope your kitchen keeps steamy in 2009 and wish you all the best!

  • #53
  • Comment by barbara
  • on: 25/01/2009
Engrossing article, the whole process very well photographed and described, it's almost as if I was there, too.
I remember when I was small (in England), a knife-sharpener used to come round the streets once in a while, and all the housewives would gather up their knives and scissors to get them honed.
  • FX's answer→ Now when I use my Japanese knife, I see the face of the men who made it. Very pleasing sentiment in the times we are living!

  • #55
  • Comment by barbara
  • on: 25/01/2009
oh I said knife-sharpener, I meant knife-grinder - he also did tools such as axes to give them a sharp edge.
  • FX's answer→ Yes indeed!

  • #57
  • Comment by Ben
  • on: 26/01/2009
Hi FX

Great article and interesting, although I should point out that the Japanese keep the wires above ground rather than buried because that way its easier to replace/reconnect in the aftermath of an earthquake which they are prone to!

  • FX's answer→ Ben, I was sure the Japanese had some good reason to keep the wires above their heads, and it could not be aesthetics!

  • #59
  • Comment by Rasmus
  • on: 30/01/2009
Another fine article from your hand. Always a pleasure to see what you will cover next.
Thank you.
R
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Rasmus, more articles are on the way!

  • #61
  • Comment by Mami
  • on: 13/02/2009
This is a very interesting article for me as a Japanese.  I've been a secret fan of FX cuisine for quite sometime but today's is the first time I posted some comments.  

I first found that Japanese knives are popular among chefs when  Kitchen Confidential first came out.  It was almost like a proud moment in my life :)  

I love cooking and eating and I can't live without my razor sharp knives.  A set of Japaness knives has become my standard wedding gift to my UK friends - and they all seem to love them :)
  • FX's answer→ Mami, I really started using my Japanese knives a lot more, they are sooooo sharp, and works of art!

  • #63
  • Comment by Liudas
  • on: 29/03/2009
i'm one off those hoo will pick up on bladesmith masterys starting tula finishing japan adn finding my one way to make a perfect as posible knife ore sword ore axe and sites like this helps me to aunderstand hou all this worcks
sory for gramar english is only secoud language.
  • FX's answer→ Well Liudas good luck on this long road!

  • #65
  • Comment by joel
  • on: 22/05/2009
Wonderful sequence of pictures. One comment. You are calling the horn ring a "Bolster" In the west we would call it a Ferrule. The Bolster in Western tool terminology is a flange that is part of the tool itself which is seated against the handle. A ferrule is a ring on the handle that keeps the handle from splitting. I am wondering if there terms are different in Japanese or in Knifemaking.
  • #66
  • Comment by Constance Condit
  • on: 27/05/2009
Great article! So I was interested in pricing the knives. But, your article in English on Japanese knives referred me to a German company. Their website is only in German, no English section. Any way to purchase knives when you can't read German?
  • #67
  • Comment by gourmet
  • on: 29/05/2009
Dude, i love your Articles. Very nice. I was also in Japan for some month, how can you met so many nice people, very nice indeed!
Greets from Cologne
  • #68
  • Comment by chris
  • on: 12/06/2009
Lovely pictures -- you got a wonderful opportunity to really see what's going on in Sakai.

A few small corrections to some things, mostly from the comments section:

1. A knife certainly can be made from entirely hard steel, but it is difficult, expensive, and liable to breakage in the forging. Such knives are called "honyaki" knives, as opposed to the "kasumi" knife you saw made. They cost a fortune: you think that kasumi knife is expensive, you have no idea!

2. The knife you purchased, pictured in the other article, is a vegetable knife, an usuba made in the Tokyo style. It is not well designed to cut flesh, nor intended for that purpose.

3. Some of these knives are designed to cut bone, especially fish bones. The most common, the deba, shears through fish bones and heads like nobody's business. But the knife you have purchased -- the usuba in the picture at least -- will chip badly if you try it: it's not designed that way at all.

4. Oil is not necessary unless you are storing your knife for some weeks. Lay it flat and scour the face with a very mildly abrasive nylon pad, such as a ScotchBrite pad, with a little plain dish soap. Turn the knife over and tilt it so the bevel of the blade is flat, then scour the other side. Scour the handle if it seems like it might need it. Rinse very well in hot water. Dry (carefully!) with a clean, dry terrycloth towel. Now place the knife in a clean, dry place, out of the way of people, for about half an hour -- perhaps longer in a very humid climate. This allows the blade to dry completely. At this point you can store your knife -- edge upwards if at all possible -- in a block or other safe storage device. Rust should not happen if you treat your knives this way.

5. Last, a perhaps minor point. The back of the knife is not flat: it is ground slightly concave on that giant wheel. If you look at the back of your knife, you will see a shiny outline all the way around, and the main middle of the blade will reflect light differently. This is the concave section. When you sharpen the knife, after grinding the main bevel to bring the edge up, you turn the knife and place it flat on its back and grind very briefly to remove the used metal. If the back were truly flat, it would scratch the whole thing every time. Beyond this, the slight concavity acts like the dimples or grantons on some slicing knives in the West: things don't stick because the knife is concave.

Thanks again for a lovely article and fine pictures!
  • FX's answer→ Chris, thanks a lot for these most learned and useful comments! How come you know so much about Japanese knives?

  • #70
  • Comment by pixen
  • on: 21/06/2009
I'm sending this link to my friend who's loves quality knives...and samurai sword too! Thank you for sharing such interesting adventures of Japan. I wished I was there :-D I'm looking forward to travel to Japan soon.
  • #71
  • Comment by Patrick Pappano
  • on: 17/09/2009
Gangbusters. The article on Japanese knife making is ineffable.
  • #72
  • Comment by Pam
  • on: 05/12/2009
GREAT article. Thank you very much.
  • #73
  • Comment by wdf
  • on: 21/02/2010
I lived in tokyo and osaka for 5 yrs. The reason i got for all the wires not being buried, is because of all the earthquakes...
  • FX's answer→ Yes I suspected that, but it does not do much for the landscape...

  • #75
  • Comment by About the metallurgy of steel...
  • on: 22/03/2010
This is a very interesting article. I enjoyed it a lot.
I think that there is a small imprecision regarding the amount of carbon of the steel used to conform the edge and the core of the blade.
The ferrite in the center of the knife should probably contain LESS carbon than the edge. In a quenched steel you get martensite, and the amount of carbon is directly related to the obtained hardness. If the steel is not quenched but cooled slowly, you will get ferrite (which is softer). Basically there are two ways of obtaining different hardness levels:
-modifying the composition of the steel (i.e. the amount of carbon or chromium, in a stainless steel, which is not the case here)
-modifying the velocity of cooling.
In a blade, the edge should be hard. Unfortunately, if a piece of steel is very hard, it will probably be brittle, hence the necessity of a tenacious and relatively soft core.
So, having less carbon in the core makes more sense, considering the metallurgy of steel, than the other way around. Having less carbon will make for a softer (but more tenacious) core given the same cooling rate.

  • #76
  • Comment by Steel metallurgy
  • on: 22/03/2010
Things are even more complex, because by means of differential heat treatment techniques artisans can obtain different degrees of hardness, in the same piece of steel, without modifying the amount of carbon.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks! If I ever do a video piece on this I'll contact you for more information.

  • #78
  • Comment by Malissa
  • on: 15/04/2010
Hi FX, Is this  called a Haiku Damascus, the damascus Japanese knife series from Chroma? I found a site that caries chroma haiku knife but wasn't sure if it is "Haiku Damascus"? Would you know?
Thanks so much,
Malissa
  • FX's answer→ No, these are other knives. If in doubt just look at the price, they cost about 500$ a blade.

  • #80
  • Comment by Liberto
  • on: 29/05/2010
Ayer conocí casualmente esta página. Como cocinillas que soy, estoy absolutamente encantado. Un saludo desde Berna.
Hi FX,
I just saw the article and like it very much.
I would like to get some handles from TATSUMI MASARU.
How can I contact him?

Richard
  • FX's answer→ Sorry, I don't have his details and was walked to his shop.

  • #83
  • Comment by Anita
  • on: 18/06/2010

can you provide me the address of Master Kouhei in Sakai?
  • FX's answer→ I don't know his address, even the gentleman who took me to him had a hard time finding the house and he lives in town!

  • #85
  • Comment by jack malin
  • on: 11/07/2010
is it correct that when you buy an aritsugu wrought iron knife as a gift you must know  if your friend is left handed or right handed,,is this correct??? i enjoyed your article and the photos are great... thank you jack malin
  • FX's answer→ Yes it is very correct, blades are assymetrical. But let's face it, who will use these knives correctly?

  • #87
  • Comment by Joel
  • on: 28/07/2010
your article was fascinating and educational  indeed..i'm  an avid traveler, hardly a cook,  but having visited Japan a few times in my life for vacation, i wished to have observed these master artisans at work.. thanks for enlightening us all... J
  • FX's answer→ Tanks Joel, indeed it is not possible to visit these artisans (you have seen the tiny premises they work from!) so I'm really glad to have been able to give you a good, hard glimpse at their life and work!

  • #89
  • Comment by Chris
  • on: 09/10/2010
Dear FX,
as a new fan of your blog, who also travels a lot and brings
home new cooking ideas then and again, I have to applaud
the way you manage to transcribe your experiences into this
projetc with it's stunning pictorials and videos. Well done!

To add something to this particular article, I would like to recommend www.japanesechefsknife.com and www.mehr-als-werkzeug.de. The first is a mail order in Seki, Japan, with a tremendous choice of knives from amateur level to $3000.00 blades. They are specialized in foreign customers. The value for money is very good, including a shipping flatrate of $ 7.00. The latter is a German mail-order for fine tools and knives, who also carry a lot of materials, in case you want to make your own knife. Blades, antlers etc. (click on the little union jack, if your German is a little rusty...)
I'm not employed or related to those firms, in case you wonder... I deal with a lot of artisans professionally, but more in the shoe and clothing world, than in the kitchen.
Goodbye,  I have to sample my 300 min eggs now…
Chris
  • #90
  • Comment by Paul Tweeddale
  • on: 06/12/2010
great article mate,

Am heading over to Osaka in a week or so and wondered if there were any places in Sakai where one can pick up a knife that's been made on-site or if all knives are reserved for large shipments?

Also have been reading about Japanese knifes and others claim that Seki is the knife-making capital of Japan. If I'm looking for a truly authentic Japanese which city should I opt for?

cheers
  • FX's answer→ In Kyoto you can go to Aritsugu in Nishiki Market, they are authentic enough!

  • #92
  • Comment by Amelia Gordon Byers
  • on: 10/01/2011
I was in Sakai City, at the Edged Tool Museum - Homono, on 7 Jan 2011.  They sell knives there.  Sakai is an easy journey from central Osaka.  BUT - for the last 12 years while I've been lucky enough to travel to Japan for work on a regular basis, I've been haunting the flea markets for used knives.  Have made some great purchases of knives that "already know how to slice."  I love the sense of history that comes from things passed down by others - especially skilled grandmothers.  Although I have rarely met the previous owners of my "new" knives, I know that they have had their day in the kitchen.  Under the careful ministrations of my husband who sharpens and tends them, they have brought me to a new level of joy in chopping (yes, I already liked to cook.)  And they make spectacular gifts for friends who have spent time in our kitchen.  And perfect souvenirs.  Something I use everyday that reminds me of my travels and the good fortune I have enjoyed.  And I love knowing that my knives may have been rescued from the landfill.  What a travesty for a Sakai knife to end up unused in the bottom of a drawer, or in a box of discarded stuff on the way to the dump.  Well cared for, a good Japanese knife will last for many generations.  Thanks for a great article!!
  • #93
  • Comment by Sebastian Egger
  • on: 16/02/2011
Wonderful Article, thanks a lot!
Heading to Japan in June and looking forward to stroll around in Sakai :)

One question: Is there a reason why you do not write anymore articles? It's really a pity as they are super informative and also the pictures are wonderful to watch :)

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