Home & Design
Nov 30, 2015
Tradition of fine cuts
Japanese blacksmiths have been known around the world for their craftsmanship while forging weapons for armies and specially Samurais. The Katana, the samurai sword of excellence, became the symbol of the expertise needed to craft the finest blades. Today this tradition lives on the japanese cooking knives.
Unlike the knives you find in today's retail stores, every Sakai knife is unique. The steel is forged by master blacksmiths which is then shaped and honed with great care to its specialized form.
The close connection between Japanese food culture and knife making is responsible for the evolution of japanese blades throughout History. Japanese cooking requires great care and focus on details and the cutlery is of great importance. It takes time and great care to achieve the high quality and standard of a handmade Japanese knife. Knowledge acquired over centuries is at risk of extinction and makers like Sakai are very proud and honored to contribute to the survival of this great tradition.
Traditional Japanese knife making includes several steps which all require great skills. The smith forging (hizukuri), when the metal is heated an hammered to its shape, the sharpening and honing (hazuke or togi), when the blade gets it sharp edge and finally the hafting (ezuke), when the blade is attached to a haft, or a handle, of magnolia wood.
Today's processes uses the same technique as the masters of old did. Sakai cutlery consists of layers of soft ferrite and hard steel, heated to 1300°C and hammered together. The most difficult aspect of the process is maintaining the heart at the exact temperature; too hot and the blade will chip easily, too cool and the steel and the ferrite will fail to bond properly.
The blade is heated, hammered and cooled in different steps and at different temperatures. Asymmetries are not accepted and the blade is meticulously treated with hammers of different size to make it no less than perfect. It takes long practice and great skill to make an excellent blade.
The blade is then sharpened and any remaining asymmetries removed by using increasingly finer whetstones, giving the edge its right angle and sharpness. The last step is to carefully hammer the blade into a haft of rot-resistant magnolia wood, marked with the manufacturers seal.
The Honyaki is the knife that legends and myths are made of. This series of knives is a treasured part of Japanese Cultural heritage. The Honyaki is not intended for the casual chef. This is an object of admiration that represents a long history of Japanese pride and craftsmanship. Encoded in the steel are centuries of experimentation, and a commitment to perfection. The Honyaki is forged from a single piece of steel, using the traditional method of differential hardening and tempering. The Japanese have developed a method to insulate parts of the knife, so that the metal cools at different rates. There is no room for error, lest the blade be destroyed
There exists a belief that Japanese knives are very hard to sharpen; only in this case, is it true. The edge of the Honyaki is so hard, it will break, chip, or crack if dropped or abused. While the blade is delicate, it is also true that the harder the edge, the longer it maintains its sharpness. Thus, while the Honyaki requires skilled hands, it rewards the individual who treats its blade with respect.
The Honyaki is an object of skill and accomplishment, beauty, quality, and history.
Like the Honyaki, the Kasumi is part of the Japanese cultural heritage, and is a traditional single bevel knife. Here, form and function dictate beauty. During the forging process, the Kasumi is formed by cold welding (hammering) a softer steel onto the hardened, supporting, high carbon steel edge. This softer steel forms the body and spine of the knife. The Honyaki, is differentially hardened and tempered, whereas the Kasumi's edge is uniformly hardened and tempered. The Honyaki is made from a single type and piece of steel, whereas a Kasumi is made with two different types of steel. Sharpening the Kasumi is easier, because only the cutting edge is high carbon hardened steel. The "Mist" or "fog" refers to the soft sheen where the softer steel meets the highly polished cutting edge.