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.
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. Here's his first entry.
I once read a book by an American author, Richard Brautigan, called Trout Fishing in America. It was strange and funny and eye opening. It wasn’t really about trout fishing so much. I am going Squid Fishing in Japan with Shibata-san of Masakage Knives later today. Ika sashimi here I come.
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We caught nothing but a sunburn and lots of laughs. We did get a chance to shake the strawberries out of our heads though and that's something. We don't know much about Squid Fishing in Japan.
A squid lure:
Back in 2014 Kevin was asked to participate a project called Chefly Screenshots a collaboration between City Palate Magazine, Six Degrees Music and Sound, and Nur Films, celebrating 20 years of City Palate magazine. You can see Kevin's piece of the project below.
Calgary music scene veteran Chris Vail, along with other musicians at Six Degrees, wrote songs to accompany short films shot by Ramin Eshraghi-Yazdin of Nur Films, which showcase members of the Calgary food community
Here's a short making-of, showing how this cool project came about.
As you may know we have long been knife sharpening nerds. We have opinions and experience. After considerable efforts we are pleased finally announce Knifewear brand waterstones. We are extremely happy about how these have turned out, and can’t wait for you to try them.
These are made by Naniwa and have been hand selected by Kevin Kent. The selection is a mixture of reworked stones from Naniwa’s current line up, stones normally only available in Japan, and products from the back catalogue. We believe these stones are the best selection for sharpening anything you have. All of the stones work well with Japanese or European knives as well as carbon and stainless steel.
“These are the stones I travel with for off site sharpening classes/demos and Guerilla Sharpening events. I can do anything with this collection from simple sharpening to repairs to straight razors and axes.” — Kevin Kent
220 Grit Oni
This 220 Grit waterstone is the fastest coarse stones we’ve found. It removes steel efficiently and dishes slowly. You will still need to use a truing stone after every 2-4 knives sharpened, but that’s minimal maintenance compared to other stones on the market. This stone requires a 20-30 minute soak before use.
The box designed by Mason Hastie features an Oni, a devil-like figure from Japanese mythology. It was chosen because in some settings it can be seen as a symbol of strength, and of becoming stronger by using a strong tool. The 220 stone definitely is a strong tool.
1000 Grit Ramen and Gyoza
This is your Everything Stone. The one stone to rule them all. Every knife you sharpen will touch this stone. Either this is your starting point or it is used after repairs on the 220 grit stone. We recommend finishing most non-Japanese knives with this stone, but if you are the kind that wants to get an extra 20% of performance out of everything, you’ll want to take those Henckels to 4000 or 8000 and really have them sing. Please soak for 20-30 minutes before use.
Ramen and gyoza are depicted on this box. This is an every day stone, and let’s face it ramen and gyoza should be everyday food. Well, maybe not, but it is a staple of the Japanese diet, and we felt the analogy was appropriate.
4000 Grit Sake
This is a fast, hard waterstone that leaves a silky edge. Not many 4000 grit stones will raise a burr but this one does, it’s a race car of a stone. With this stone you start hitting the sharpness potential of your Japanese knife and make your European knives smooooth. Please do not soak, just splash water on it when it’s time to use.
Mason made a 70’s Japanese sake dream. Sake is a lovely drink that (to steal a phrase from Mike, our Operations Manager) “takes the edges off the world and makes me feel like I'm in a 1970’s album cover”. The 4000 stone takes the burr off your knives, and makes the edge that much smoother, just like sake.
8000 Grit Maguro (Tuna)
This is the first Naniwa waterstone Kevin ever bought. It changed everything. After using this stone for a day he claims he smashed his American made Norton 4000/8000 combination stone in the back lane out of frustration. He says that old Norton waterstone held him back and kept him from getting the results he wanted. Use our 8000 stone on any Japanese kitchen knife, hunting knife, woodworking chisel or straight razor. The mirror edge it leaves will impress. Enjoy smooth cutting. Do not soak this stone, just splash water on when it’s time to use.
From the moment we decided we were going to have our own waterstones, we felt one of the packages would have a fishing scene on it. Fishing and seafood have a huge role in Japanese culture. This packaging depicts fishing boats on a rough sea, along with giant blue fin tuna. (yum)
All our stones are a standard 210mm x 70mm x 20mm for easy storage and fit easily without modification into the waterstone holders we sell.
We are very proud to offer our customers this set of spectacular waterstones and have plans to add to it soon. Look for a Knifewear truing stone, nagura stone, rust eraser, and combination stones (220/1000 and 4000/8000).