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Re: Hand forged knives - what to expect

Tue Jun 05, 2012 10:48 am

What? I am not misquoting you at all. This has nothing to do with KKF, I would prefer you do not lump me in a stereotype with other people. I am trying to wrap my head around what you are trying to say. I do not get the "culture" you are talking about.

I should probably tell you that it is best to just take what I say as explicitly what I mean. Subtext is not my forte and if there are motives beyond what I am saying, they are apparent in what I DO, not what I say. Asking you about the finish on a Moritaka is nothing like implying you beat your wife, unless you gave your life to Moritaka knives and hammered them yourself. If I wanted to offend you, I wouldn't waste my time with putting words in your mouth. I'm just asking a question about Moritakas, since they are the issue of the day. Which is what I said before.

I am still wanting to hear what the ideology is behind the discrepancy.


ken123 wrote:So let's focus on the hammer blows for a second. Yes some will land a bit harder than others and yes the surface may vary a bit in depth - especially so as one approaches the edge ... So you should expect some irregularity here.

ken123 wrote:Typically, you don't try to flatten these knives completely but gradually over a number of sharpenings.

ken123 wrote:Beauty is seen in imperfection. This is fundamental to understanding the Japanese psyche. Think of the beauty mark on Cindy Crawford's face.

And yet when they are sold, they look like this:


So either you have to even the bevels out and then you can put a nice Kasumi on it with a stone, or you have to use fingerstones to keep it looking new(which is what I would do).

If the appeal is in the imperfections, then why do they go through extra steps to clean them up so they aren't visible when they are new?

There is something similar in western knives, which is that it is common to see carbon steel knives highly mirror polished and oiled to prevent building a patina until you get it, which is selling a knife that will not look like that again(without undue work on the customer's part), and in the western world, a lot of people think patinas are ugly. HOWEVER, the difference here is that the imperfections are not created by the owner, revealing his personality, style, relationship, or cuisine--it would be like selling a carbon steel knife that is shiny and polished, but it's just a sticker over a knife with a grey, uneven patina.

That is what I am trying to figure out.

Re: Hand forged knives - what to expect

Tue Jun 05, 2012 12:53 pm

Hi Eamon,

Have you tried a Moritaka? I actually could use some sayas for the Kiritsuke/gyuto. Perhaps I could send you one. I also would like some sayas for my Addict.


Re: Hand forged knives - what to expect

Tue Jun 05, 2012 5:15 pm

Aw, man! I actually JUST made one of those(Moritaka Kiritsuke Gyuto). Shipped it out an hour ago.

Eh, it was used anyways. Might not be full dimensions.

I have only ever had moritakas that belonged to customers. I don't like them, but they are not the only knives I don't like. The reason I am asking is because I am having trouble getting my head around the ethos that Ken is expressing.

Re: Hand forged knives - what to expect

Tue Jun 05, 2012 5:17 pm

OK let's go through this a bit. This will probably be my last response to this thread for a while as I'm preparing to go to Blade, etc etc. (Out of time)

When they come new, they have a hazy, kasumi-like finish on the secondary bevel.

This is the cladding. The stones used (?? I don't know which stones they use) may well accentuate the difference between the cladding and the core steel. The finish on the knife is not designed to be a mirror finish or a highly polished natural stone finish either. Not quite sure why this is specifically pointed out.

When you sharpen them and they have dips and divots like you said they should,

Should? I really don't think this is what I said. It is not a requirement that the surface MUST be uneven with 'dips and divots' I don't remember using these words at all.

and you should not sharpen them out,

Actually I didn't say this either. More discussion below.

So, are these knives intended to have a scattered, disconnected finish?

No, there is no 'intent' here.

If so, why do they come looking matte and hazy?
Again this is a product of the stones used for finishing. There is no relationship between the type of stones employed and this implied 'intent' you speak of.

Is it suggested that everyone with one should have fingerstones? Something else?

Only by you. Fingerstones are not a requirement for these knives. Again I'm not saying I hate fingerstones either - quite the opposite. I actually have a nice selection of them (from various mines).

What I am saying is that as the knife goes through it's life cycle with normal sharpening, these variations will be ground out over time.

These knives or types of knives are not designed to be museum pieces or national treasures. They are designed to be working knives. Somehow my comments have been misconstrued to meaning that I somehow don't respect the works of other knifemakers like Shigefusa. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are a different class of knives, reflected in a different price too. Even there, some of the miscommunications regarding Kateji [sp] finish showed a disconnect between Western and Eastern expectations. He makes beautiful knives. Nenox make beautiful knives. I judge each by different standards. I don't lump all Japanese knifemakers in one bucket anymore than I do American knifemakers.

It really comes to this. If you want to take knives of this specific genre and I include Takeda too, who I also have great respect for as an excellent knifemaker, then you will often need to do a good bit of work including straightening flattening, etc if your goal is to make a perfect (perfect in whose eyes being the issue) edge out of it all. You will often have to straighten out your Masamoto and Aritsugu knives too. They do it in the store on their own knives when you get them before sharpening too. Is this something you see in American made knives when you go to a knife store in the mall? Nope. I submit that this is really more of an American obsession (note the nuance 'more of', not 'exclusively of'), one I am very guilty of having too. Surely they were not designed to be sporting 624,000 grit edges either. But we push these knives to beyond the maker's original intent - or at least some of us do, partly because they are capable of it. As knife owners that is our right to do. We use synthetic stones or naturals as per our tastes. We come up with these notions of what we expect of knifemakers. We rehandle them, not liking plain Ho wood handles, sometimes coming up with things I find appealing, sometimes these garish monstrosities. We fret that a finish isn't a perfect kasumi finish, perfectly even with just the right scratch patterns. Oh my - we HAVE to use fingerstones to even out the finish. Really? Will this make the knife cut better? No it will make it look better. Does the food care? Then we go and cut some food and resharpen it and this becomes wasted effort - even counterproductive. There is a middle ground here. The goal and value of these knives lies in their use, not their display potential. Instead I suggest a more functional approach to sharpening them. Make them sharp. If there is a bit of unevenness, over time this will get ground out. It will not affect their functional ability and over time you will achieve the flatness you desire and the uniform finish you may desire too. If carbon steel is something you can't deal with or you insist on Western handles or you can't cope with this more rustic style of knife, insist on cleaning your knife in the dishwasher, etc, the solution is really simple - don't buy it. If you have to have a knife with a perfect Kasumi finish out of the box, don't buy it. But if you want a knife that is a great cutter, sharpens easily, takes an absolutely screamingly sharp edge at very acute angles and sells for a reasonable price, these are knives you will treasure for years enjoying them all the more as you use them. I await comments on this here and elsewhere.


Re: Hand forged knives - what to expect

Tue Jun 05, 2012 5:56 pm

Ok that totally does not answer my question. Let me phrase it the vulgar asshole way, maybe that will make sense(the reason I did not do this before was because I was both trying to:
1. be cordial
2. not feed the impression that I hate Moritakas...again, I've only seen a handful of them).

If they look like crap when I sharpen them, why are they pretty when they are new? Who wants to buy a knife that looks pretty and then sharpen it and have it look like crap?

If what you are suggesting is that the crappy look is beautiful to someone, and perfect is not beautiful(like a clean tea-garden) then why do they SELL THEM TO YOU with the clean-tea-garden look? They look hazy, even, and nice.

It'd be like buying a car that looks like a new Cadillac, then hits a pothole and turns into a used Daewoo. What gives? It should be one or the other.

This is what I want you to explain.

Re: Hand forged knives - what to expect

Tue Jun 05, 2012 6:31 pm

Why would you care in the least if the knife is "pretty"? What matters is how it cuts. The knives are made to perform well and not look pretty. They don't look pretty when they're brand new. Kurouchi finishes are inherently rough looking and one reason they make them this way is because they don't want to spend all day making them pretty, they want to give you a good piece of steel that cuts stuff well. They can also keep the prices way lower than highly finished knives and use excellent steel so the knife cuts great at a good price.

The real question is why anyone that fancies himself a knife maker would want to spend anytime bashing another knife maker, especially a tiny, family run business? There aren't many of these guys left in the world. Believe me I look.

Re: Hand forged knives - what to expect

Tue Jun 05, 2012 7:53 pm

IM(very)HO, discussions of this nature will continue ad infinitum, ad nauseum until:

* everyone involved can claim a complete understanding of both Western and Japanese cultures

* everyone involved can come to a consensus as to what constitutes "pretty" and/or "acceptable"
Personally, "I" find Moritakas completely ugly AND stunningly beautiful.

* everyone involved understands completely the knifemakers' intended outcome.
e.g. WHY do the knives in question have the OOTB finish they do ?
Is it accidental, careless or intentional ??
Without asking the knifemaker directly, any answer is simply guesswork.

In fact, what ARE the "standards" to which a traditionally made knife should conform ?
Does the knifemaker pretend his product is anything other than what it is ?

When a western consumer buys a hand forged knife from a traditional Japanese knifemaker, what is he/she buying?

Who is it that expresses or implies the expectations of a certain level of fit/finish/quality ?

Re: Hand forged knives - what to expect

Tue Jun 05, 2012 9:39 pm

Littleroundman, you've framed this topic very well. Very helpful. Thank you.


Re: Hand forged knives - what to expect

Tue Jun 05, 2012 9:51 pm

This is confounding. It's like trying to ask where the bathroom is during a Town Hall meeting. I've never likely get the hang of these situations.

Re: Hand forged knives - what to expect

Tue Jun 05, 2012 10:24 pm

Potato chips are saddle-shaped. Lays doesn't make them saddle-shaped--there are no little elves grabbing the potato chips and bending them. Instead, when you heat up thinly-sliced cross sections of a potato, the starches enter a lowest-energy configuration that happens to make the macroscopic geometry of the chip saddle-shaped. There is no "intent." That's just how they come out of the oven. Similarly, although I don't know a ton about metalworking, I would guess that when you hammer and then grind out a blade, it comes out with some kind of "default" appearance that might very well be hazy, even, and pretty. However, as Littleroundman pointed out, we're all just guessing here without actually asking the knife-maker.
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