I never would have guessed that of all the knife shapes out there, I’d become obsessed with the sujihiki. Every knife nerd has their vices; some love ultra-hard steel, others are obsessed with gigantic knives, and others love super rare and exclusive knives. Me, I’m a sujihiki guy.
A sujihiki is a long and slender knife designed for slicing meats and fish; the name gives it away if you know a bit of Japanese, it translates to “flesh-slicer.” In western kitchens we sometimes call them slicers or carving knives and they usually see a lot of action in front of a crowd; grandpa carving a Christmas turkey, your BBQ-obsessed neighbour slicing a brisket, or giant ribeye tableside at a fancy steakhouse.
We generally judge a knife based on performance (ie: harder steels make sharper knives that will stay sharp longer) but I think it’s okay to let good-looks factor in with a knife that’ll draw a crowd.
Kumo means “cloud” in english and this line of Masakage knives takes its brooding name from the stormy look of the awesome nickel-damascus blade. These are some of the thinnest knives we have seen made from VG-10 steel, a harder than average stainless steel specially designed for kitchen knives, and thanks to Anryu-san’s decades of blacksmith experience, some of the sharpest too.
One of the coolest things about a Masakage knife is the special edge that Shibata-san creates. He likes to sharpen one side of the blade with an 800 grit stone and polishes the other side of the knife up to an 8000 grit. These leaves an edge that is toothy enough to cut into the crunchy bark of a smoked prime rib but silky enough to slice a delicate piece of salmon without tearing.
This knife is perfect for someone looking for an ultra-sexy but relatively easy knife to care for. The octagonal handle adds another layer of class and the 270mm long blade makes it the perfect size for most tasks.
A couple of years before starting at Knifewear, I was the chef of my own restaurant and looking for a change of scenery. I had just bought a gigantic smoker with the idea of getting into competition BBQ and eventually opening a BBQ joint of my own. One of the things I discovered early on in my research was that you are marked on the quality of your slicing in competitions; you lose points for uneven and jagged slices. I decided that I needed a slicer just as big as my smoker so I would be able to slice even the biggest brisket with one motion. — Enter the Moritaka Ishime.
Moritaka-san’s sujihikis have the greatest range of sizes of all of the lines we carry. He makes everything from a baby-sized 210mm slicer all the way up to the gargantuan 360mm slicer that I bought for briskets. Moritaka knives seem to be a little more rugged compared to other knives made from similar steels. Maybe it’s because of the cold hammering process that gives these knives their rocky appearance helps with edge retention or that they are a little thicker and heftier than other knives.
If you’ve ever been hesitant in getting a carbon steel knife, a sujihiki could be the perfect shape to take the plunge on; when you’re slicing fatty hunks of meat, rusting doesn’t tend to be as big an issue.
Don’t let the relatively plain appearance steer you away, these are some of the sharpest knives we’ve got. When Shibata-san designed the Kotetsu line he had only sharpness on the brain; every decision along the way was made by answering, “Will it make it sharper?” The type of steel, the style of finish, and the way it’s sharpened all lend their hand in making these blades kitchen lasers.
While these are the sharpest, they are definitely not the most durable choice. I wouldn’t choose a Kotetsu for filleting a large salmon and cutting through it’s ribs for fear of putting tiny chips in the blade. But it would be perfect for slicing the gravlax you made from the same fish.
One of my favourite things about these knives is that you can get a black saya, a traditional wooden sheath, to protect your knife. Nothing makes you feel like a culinary ninja quite like pulling a knife out of a saya. Go try it, you’ll see.
One of my favourite blacksmiths that we work with is Masashi-san. Not only are his blades spectacular, he’s a really nice guy and a riot to hang out with. He prefers to work with SLD, a stainless steel from Hitachi that is usually used for punching shapes out of other steels (so you know it’s gunna be sharp). He also has a couple of stellar finishes up his sleeve that I just love.
I think that the sexiest slicers come from Masashi-san’s workshop and I don’t care who knows it! Check out the mirror polished Shiroshu and etched kurochi Kuroshu lines; both are beautiful damascus with their own appeal. I would give my left foot for a 270mm Kuroshu sujihiki, no questions asked.
Masashi-san’s knives really appeal to culinary professionals. They are easy to care for, slightly more rugged than other knives of a similar hardness, and draw a crowd when in use. If you sliced an Easter ham for you family with one of these, you would go down in family history. For those who want something even bigger, check out Masashi-san’s maguro bocho. Technically it’s for cleaning large fish like tuna but I’ve used one on Montreal smoked meat and I’ve never felt like more of a bad-ass.
A lot of chefs choose the Fujimoto Nashiji as their first hand-made knife because it makes a great introduction to carbon steel. The aogami #2 (blue carbon steel) core has a protective jacket of a softer stainless steel that helps keep the rust away and serves as a cushion in the event of a fall onto a tiled kitchen floor. The slanted kiritsuke-style tip usually adds a couple of testosterone points for kitchen folks and of course, customers can’t ignore how affordable these blades are.
I also love that it’s available as a smaller slicer. Depending on the kitchen you are working in, a 270mm slicer might be too long but a 240mm is perfect. Kitchens can be cramped and something to consider when choosing a slicer is knowing whether you’ll have room to use it.
I’ll be honest, there aren’t many of these guys left; probably only one or two in the whole company. I had to throw it on the list because you’ll be hard pressed to find a better looking knife made from a harder steel; HAP40 is the hardest steel we carry and that makes these knives one of the sharpest you’ll ever come across. These guys are a breeze to care for too, the steel is semi-stainless (I’ve never seen it rust though it does develop a blackish patina) and the western-style handle is perfect for someone who prefers a heavier knife.
This type of steel is nearly impossible for blacksmiths to work with and you’ll never see one with a damascus finish in the wild, unless it’s from this line. I would have loved to have one back when I was still cooking, I just might have volunteered for the carving station during those Christmas parties and buffets instead of hiding in the walk-in.
The most important thing when selecting a sujihiki, or any knife for that matter, is that it feels good in your hand and you are excited to use it. You should look at your slicer and imagine cutting into a perfectly roasted prime rib. You should feel inspired and proud. A sujihiki is a knife that you get to show off with, impress your friends and family, and eventually becomes a family heirloom. Take your time and find the right one.