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  • Blacksmith Profiles: Munetoshi

    August 23, 2023 2 min read

    Blacksmith Profiles: Munetoshi

    There are two types of bladesmiths in Sanjo: one called Atsumono’, makers who specialize in thick blades such as hatchets, plane blades, hammers and chisels. These blacksmiths make up the majority in Sanjo, while the ‘Usumono’ blacksmiths, who specialize in thinner kitchen knives and sickles, are the minority. Koichi Tsurumaki is one such Usumono blacksmith. 

    Like many knife makers, Tsurumaki-san was born into a blacksmithing family as the third generation of Tsurumaki specializing in sickle forging. As is tradition, he started working with his father when he was 16, but almost a half-century later, he started making kitchen knives! As kitchen knives and sickles are both considered Usamono (thin blades) and require similar techniques to forge, he was well equipped with the skill and machinery needed to make kitchen blades. The name Munetoshi is a moniker used in the knife world, sort of like a stage name.

    When we visited Tsurumaki-san, he welcomed us with a tour of his rather large workshop containing FIVE springhammers (powered hammering machines for forging). Nigata is super famous for rice farming, and before heavy machinery was introduced to the region, most of the rice harvesting was done manually with sickles. Thus, the super sharp sickles that Munetoshi makes were in such high demand. With such high demand, they expanded their production; hiring and training new workers and installing several spinghammers for them to work with. Today, Tsurumaki-san is all by himself, so he uses each springhammer for a different step of the process. Each hammer has a forge right next to it for heating the steel, an anvil, and even a different set of Tsurumaki-san's prescription glasses at each station. The epitpomy of 'work smarter, not harder' (although he still works very hard, blacksmithing 'aint easy).

    Sticking to proven methods and materials, he forges his blades from Shirogami, also known as white carbon steel. I’ve been using knives made from this steel for nearly two decades, and it still blows me away every time I cut with it. It gets about as sharp as a razor, flying through meat and vegetables with ease. Tsurumaki-san has given these blades a really clean finish and handle, really letting the knife blade speak for itself when it’s time to get chopping. He gets nothing but respect from me, because these knives cut like crazy.

       Naoto Fujimoto
    Naoto Fujimoto

    Naoto came to Canada several years ago and we aren't letting him go back. After getting angry with his roommate's dull knives, he started to dream of sharp Japanese knives. Naoto graduated from University of Calgary with a bachelor degree of art, majoring International Relations and finds that selling Japanese knives is his own way of doing international relations. Naoto is our Head of Shipping and receiving. You can also see him in SpringHammer looking cool and holding it all together.

    Naoto's Knife Sharpening Instagram