The roots of Japanese craftsmanship and the art of Japanese knife making originates from the techniques used to craft Samurai swords (Kata-na in Japanese) dating back to the 14th century. After the second world war it became illegal to carry swords based on which the swordsmiths in Japan slowly transformed into some of the finest and best kitchen knife makers in the world. The process of making these knives is both an art and a science, requiring skill, precision, and attention to detail.
The first step in the process of making a Japanese knife is selecting the right materials. The most commonly used materials are high-carbon steel and stainless steel. High-carbon steel is known for its ability to hold a sharp edge and its ability to be sharpened to a fine point. Stainless steel, on the other hand, is known for its durability and resistance to rust and corrosion.
Once the materials have been selected, the blades are forged. This is the process of heating the steel and then hammering it into shape. The blades are then cooled, and the process is repeated several times. This process is known as "tamahagane" which means precious steel.
After the blades have been forged, they are ground and polished. This is a crucial step in the process as it determines the final shape of the blade and its sharpness. The grinding process involves using various types of abrasives to shape the blade and remove any imperfections. This can be done by hand or by machine.
Once the blade has been ground and polished, it is time for the hardening process. This is where the blade is heated to a high temperature and then cooled quickly. This process is known as "quenching" and it hardens the steel, making it stronger and more durable.
After the hardening process, the blade is tempered. This is a process where the blade is heated to a lower temperature, and then cooled again. Tempering helps to remove any brittleness in the blade and makes it more flexible.
The final step in the process is sharpening and honing the blade. This is done by hand using a variety of different sharpening stones. The sharpening stones are used to hone the edge of the blade to a razor-sharp edge.
In conclusion, the process of making a Japanese knife is a complex and time-consuming process that requires skill, precision, and attention to detail. The final product is a knife that is sharp, durable, and beautiful. It is a true testament to the craftsmanship and skill of the Japanese knife makers.
For a detailed guide with everything you need to know about (Japanese) kitchen knives read our ultimate kitchen knife guide here.