August 15, 2022 3 min read
Yamagata Prefecture is located along the coast of the Sea of Japan in the Tohoku region. Yamagata is famous for its cherry production and traditional social gatherings over taro hotpot known as “Imoni”, but the area is also home to over 600 years of blacksmithing tradition. There are a ton of talented blacksmiths in Yamagata as a result, and one such maker is Tsukasa Suzuki-san, who produces some seriously wicked blades.
Suzuki-san at work forging his famous sickles.
Suzuki-san started his blacksmithing journey at 18 and has been hard at work perfecting his craft for 40 years now! He uses techniques and knowledge learned directly from his father, another maker who helps make up the rich blacksmithing tapestry of Yamagata. Suzuki-san was always fascinated with blacksmithing, so he didn’t hesitate when his father wanted to pass the torch. As agriculture is a primary industry in the region, most blacksmiths in Yamagata produce farming tools such as sickles and pruning shears, with Suzuki Sr. specializing in forging sickles for harvesting.
Suzuki-san's sickles are made from Shirogami (white carbon steel), so they're razor sharp!
Partially because of this unique history, Suzuki-san’s kitchen knives look pretty unorthodox compared to other Japanese blades, especially his nakiris. His knives are single bevel with a flat back and forged with a unique ridged spine which Suzuki-san calls the ‘ear’ of the knife. The spines on the blades are super thick at around 5mm, but the rest of the knife is uber thin, about 1mm. As soon as we started carrying them, knife nerds worldwide were eager to get their hands on them and try these Bizarro blades for themselves. Just about everyone who tries one falls in love immediately, and here’s why:
Thin blades glide through food effortlessly, but super thin knives can become almost flimsy and are far more prone to damage. The thick ‘ear’ spine gives the blade much-needed rigidity, significantly increasing its strength. The ‘ear’ ridge along the spine also pushes food away from the face of the knife, creating incredible separation, so you never end up with a huge mountain of food falling over the top of your blade. This seemingly blasphemous addition of traditional sickle forging techniques to kitchen knives is next level. Suzuki-san’s blades are some of the most exciting and inventive kitchen knives we’ve seen.
Check out the crazy pronounced spine on this bad boy! Combined with a thin blade and single bevel edge, it makes for a truly unique cutting experience!
Of all the steps of making a kitchen knife, he especially enjoys the forging process, both hot and cold forging. Hot forging is what we think of when we imagine a blacksmith: heating the steel in a kiln to make it red-hot and smashing it with a hammer to shape and thin the blade, sparks flying everywhere. Cold forging is a special, lesser known technique which gives the edge a nice tension of sorts, so they are harder to bend accidentally. He also loves new challenges, such as making honyaki blades, so we may see his honyaki knives in the near future! Besides knife making, he also loves hiking. Yamagata has an abundance of mountains and nature in his area, much like the area surrounding Calgary, where we opened our first shop. When exploring nature, he always makes sure to bring knives he has forged to peel apples and cut up food for snacking.
This ko-nakiri is an expecially unusual shape from Suzuki-san, and we love it!
We started to carry Suzuki-san’s knives relatively recently, and they definitely stand out among our collection as he uses such different forging techniques in addition to his knife-making philosophy and sharpening techniques. We look forward to seeing more of his knives in the future!
Naoto came to Canada in 2007 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 the 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 Cultural Ambassador bridging Japan and Canada. You can also see him in SpringHammer looking cool and holding it all together.
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