ALL OF JULY: All Masashi knife lines are 10% off
July 14 & 15: Forging demonstration and pop-up store at the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden in Lethbridge
July 17: Engraving at the Calgary shop (1:00 p.m to 4:00 p.m.)
July 19: Engraving at the Edmonton shop (1:00 p.m to 4:00 p.m.)
July 22: Engraving at the Ottawa shop (1:00 p.m to 4:00 p.m.)
July 23: Natsu Matsuri Japanese festival in Ottawa. Demonstration times TBD see jetaaottawa.ca for details.
Japanese knife making has a 1200 year old tradition of raging forges, glowing steel, and back-breaking work. It involves honing craftsmanship and expertise over not just years or decades, but a lifetime. There aren’t many people who carry the weight of history and tradition as intensely as the blacksmith, and there aren’t many nearly as revered and mimicked as the Japanese blade maker. Knifewear is lucky enough to work with the people that keep this trade alive in Japan. We are very proud to be bringing Masashi Yamamoto, master blacksmith and one of our most popular knifemaking partners to Canada. Also, to celebrate his visit, all Masashi knives including his SLD, SLD Damascus, and VS1 Tsuchime lines are 10% off. We’ll also have special Masashi stickers and t-shirts available!
Masashi-san started his own workshop in 2013, after learning the family trade alongside his older brother Kazuomi at Yoshikane Hamono (Yoshikane Knife Factory). Only in his mid-40s, Masashi is still a young man in the context of a blacksmith’s career. Despite his youth, he makes beautifully polished and sharp blades one would expect from a knifemaker more advanced in age. Another truly remarkable thing about him is that he works entirely by himself, hand-making all of his blades, sharpening and polishing them, putting on the handles, the whole enchilada. Finally, his coolness goes beyond his talent. He’s a risk taker, and a classic macho bad boy. He likes to forge knives in his flip-flops as well as light cigarettes off the glowing pieces of steel he works with. We can’t wait for Masashi’s visit when we can hang out with this legend.
When you are sharpening single bevel knives like Yanagiba, Deba, and Usuba, there are definite right ways and definite wrong ways of doing it. If you sharpen single bevel knives the wrong way, not only will the knife not get as sharp as it should, but you can also ruin the knife forever.
Single bevel knife sharpening is quite simple. All you need to do is to follow the bevel that is already there. Problems arise when it is sharpened like a regular Western-style knife. I’ll explain here why you do not want to do that.
As you can see, the knife is made with two different type of steel, soft and hard. Hard steel is is used for the edge while soft steel protects the hard steel from breaking. There is also a part called Urasuki, which is the concave part on the back and Uraoshi which are the tiny flat areas at the top and bottom edges of the knife.
When you sharpen single bevel knives, you want to sharpen the Kireha and Uraoshi parts flat on the stone, then on the last finishing stone, you put a Koba or micro bevel on the Kireha side. The Koba is like a hem on fabric, it makes the edge stronger. When you sharpen the Kireha part, you want to make sure the Shinogi remains nice and straight. The width of the Kireha stays the same as as you sharpen. What this means is that the Shinogi should move up the knife at the same rate that the edge steel comes off. See the diagram below.
The height of the Uraoshi parts should not exceed 2mm or so. If you sharpen the Uraoshi too much, you shorten the life of the knife. The concave area, called the Urasuki, has 2 functions. One is to create an air pocket so that food does not stick to the blade. The second is that the steel on the back of the knife is quite hard, and having a concave area makes it easier to sharpen because you don’t have to take as much steel off.
This section is to illustrate what is required to repair an improperly sharpened single bevel. As you will see, it is a very long and arduous process, one that I don’t recommend home sharpeners attempt.
A customer brought a single bevel knife into the shop for repair. Instead of following the Kireha or Uraoshi, it was sharpened like a normal Western-style double bevel knife from both sides. Repairing a knife damaged this way is quite challenging.
If a knife is sharpened like this too often, it can ruin the knife forever. As mentioned above, these knives are made with two different hardnesses of steel and the softer steel is not appropriate for the edge at all. If this knife is sharpened like this for too long, the softer steel will soon reach to the edge and ruin the whole knife.
First you need to get the Uraoshi back. To do this, place the knife flat on its back side and grind until the inside beveled part of the edge is gone. Because the back side is all hard steel, it is a long and difficult process.
Then, to make it easier to maintain in the future, I made a new Urasuki. I did this using unconventional tools, and it was very challenging. I do not recommend home sharpeners attempt this, this should be done by professional knife makers only.
The Kireha bevel was also sharpened at the wrong angle, so I removed a great deal of steel from the front side and made the bevel more acute. You can see in the above diagram how much steel needed to be removed to accomplish this.
While we learned a lot about how to repair single bevels, doing this repair, we would rather not see knives come in like this in the first place. What we do recommend for people interested in learning about sharpening single bevels is to join us for our Advanced Sharpening Class. If you’re still learning about sharpening, and need to learn conventional knife sharpening we also offer a standard Sharpening Class where even true beginners can start learning the art of knife sharpening.
GlossaryHagane: harder, edge steel
Jigane: softer, protective steel
Kireha: the flat part from the Shinogi line to the edge
Koba: micro bevel. Usually hair thin.
Shinogi: the line where the bevel starts.
Uraoshi: the small flat parts on the back (<2mm)
Urasuki: the concave part on the back
We're gonna crank it to 11 and get summer off to a proper start. We appreciate all of the support you've given us and want to say "Thanks!" the best way we know how, with beer and hotdogs. A hotdog is the guilty pleasure of every chef/foodie/rockstar I know.
Please RSVP to your local Japanese knife emporium by Eventbrite, telephone or email so we know how much beer to get.
1316 9th Avenue SE • 403-514-0577
4215 Main Street • 604-215-1033
800 Bank Street • 613-695-4200
10820 82 Ave NW • 587-521-2034
SPRINGHAMMER is a documentary about Japanese blacksmiths who dedicate their lives to making culinary knives [it's also the actual mechanical tool used by the blacksmiths]. At the end of WWII, Japan was faced with a burdensome repurposing of many industries, and with military swords no longer in demand despite a tradition carried on since the samurai, the industry turned to the kitchen. Craftsmen, now applying ancient trade skills of blade making to cookery, go largely unnoticed by their countrymen, and have to find a new place in the world for their craft. Thankfully, the world seems to be starting to listen.
We like to call Springhammer an ‘accidental documentary’ – one that kind of happened rather than was intentional. The project came into existence when Kevin Kent, owner of Knifewear, took a leap of faith that bringing cameras into the blacksmith shops on one of his regular visits might end in something cool. He was right. Springhammer was produced by Story Chaser, directed/scored/edited by Kevin Kossowan, interviewing/post-translation by Naoto Fujimoto, executive production by Kevin Kent.
Updated May 2017:
Listen, I have a lot of knives. Really the number is quite embarrassing and sometimes I forget about some of them. The collection is like a museum’s collection in that not all knives are on display at all times. I read this article last night and remembered the Masashi gyuto. I dug through a few boxes and found it. I’ve used it to prepare dinner, breakfast and now lunch. It’s as fabulous as I remember. Silky cutting, feels solid and that polish gets me every time. I know this will be my number one knife for the next while.
Every knife set starts with a chef's knife (multi purpose knife), also sometimes called a French knife or gyuto. People often ask for a santoku, as it’s a name they’ve heard before but I find them a bit small for use as a multipurpose knife as they generally come in a 165mm (6inch) size only. They are far too small for cabbage or watermelons, and those large onions from the farmer’s market for example. I think a 210mm gyuto is the best knife for home sized jobs. If you are a chef I’d suggest a 240mm or 270mm but that’s a different story, as chefs demand more and a larger knife makes turning 100kg of potatoes into hash browns a much easier task.
I love mirrored knives. I do. They look great if you're gonna be on TV and great when cooking for friends. Masashi-san makes knives that slice through food like magic but are also a more rugged than one would think. This knife is super fun to use when cooking by yourself, but even more fun when someone is watching you cook. We all get dressed to impress on special occasions, why not have a knife for those occasions as well?
Kato-san who makes this knife is one of my fave blacksmiths because of his skill, and because he is a cool guy. He’s been a blacksmith for over 50 years and figured something out by now. This line of knives gives incredible performance and doesn't break the bank. Chefs all over the world swear by this knife.
This is a handmade knife with all of the romance that brings but has a very gentle price tag. I think it's a great knife for home chefs as it's easy to keep sharp and easy to care for. It, like the Masashi blade above is a bit heavier and therefore slightly more rugged than some of our other knives.
Want a great looking knife that is easy to take care of and doesn’t break the bank? This is for you. This knife is the easiest to sharpen of the bunch (but sadly will also need to be sharpened more often) and looks awesome. I love how these knives feel and I think they are great for home and especially for a gift.
And finally heres a pick of what I'm using at home right now.
Chris from Knifewear Ottawa was on CTV Morning Live this morning doing demos and talking about our work with Operation Come Home!
Operation Come home is an inspiring organization that helps get homeless youth off the street. It's truly an honour to work with them. You can find out more about them and the work they do here: operationcomehome.ca
Garage sale is a super fun week at Knifewear. Over the years the event has grown to be legendary amongst Chefs and Knife aficionados.
The items at the Garage Sale are all the items that Kevin pick's up on his trips to Japan. He buys prototypes (new products that blacksmiths are experimenting with), One of a kind knives (like all of the Takeda knives in this sale); retired sample knives (and some repaired knives), scratch/dent items, and unique things Kevin finds.
It's our favourite way to bring great knives at great prices to chefs. It's also a nice thank you to our best customers. And it's a great way to introduce new customers to our knives and shop!
Follow Kevin's trip to Japan through his twitter @knifenerd and let him know if you are looking for anything particular! Knifewear social accounts on instagram, twitter, and Facebook will be posting pics of knives before the big day!You'll want to arrive early to check out these exciting, one of a kind knives!
Kevin Kent, CEO and owner of Knifewear, is currently on a business trip to Japan. He wanted to tell you about some of his experiences while he's there. This is the first we’ve seen him blog about work, so we’re going to assume this is the first work he’s done since getting there.
Takayuki Shibata is the President of Masakage Knives, Haruyuki, and Kotetsu knife companies. He is a busy guy and his shop has a lot of plates in the air. At his factory in Hiroshima area his team sharpens knives, engrave blades, grind knife blanks, attach handles, straighten blades, do final quality checks, box the knives, and ship out orders.
He runs a slick machine. And he has enough coffee on tap to keep even me happy. I certainly learned a ton about knife sharpening here. Shibata-san is seen as one of the best knife sharpeners in Japan. I’m merely adequate in the big picture.
Kevin Kent, CEO and owner of Knifewear, is currently on a business trip to Japan. He wanted to tell you about some of his experiences while he's there. Prepare yourself for a little bit of farmers’ market envy.
When I think of the great food markets of the world my mind immediately goes to Burrough Market in London, the big market in Barcelona, and Nishiki market. Salted fish, traditional pickles, nihonshu (sake), grilled fish, fresh fish, perfectly spherical melons, huge grapes, chopsticks of every description, tea, everything a Japanese kitchen might need, really.
My fave shops are the togarashi shichimi (a Japanese spice primarily made with chilis and sesame, plus other spices) joint where you can mix your own personal blend, the sake shop with tons of delicious, locally made, crazy juice, and all of the tsukemono (Japanese pickle) makers, who make the best tsukemono in the world.
I think Japanese food is one of the top cuisines of the world and the food in Kyoto is the tops in Japan. Nishiki market is proof of that.
Kevin Kent, CEO and owner of Knifewear, is currently on a business trip to Japan. He wanted to tell you about some of his experiences while he’s there. This one is brief because when things move fast you don’t have much time... or something.
Ok, the Shinkansen (bullet train) in Japan is beyond cool. It really is. I love traveling on a comfortable train at 300km per hour. Who wouldn't? I especially love answering emails on pocket wifi and eating a delicious train station bento box at 300km per hour. Every 20-40 minutes a lady in a perfect uniform pushes a little cart up the aisle to sell us scary fish snacks, beer, coffee, phone cards, or anything you need. Did I mention they travel up to 300km per hour? I don’t know what that is in miles per hour but it’s quick, matey. Shinkansens are the best.