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It's seems as though it was just the beginning of the New Year, and already one month is almost over. With the recent announcements from our December newsletter, this newsletter will serve as a follow-up addressing the numerous questions we received. We hope that this fantastic article on White Steel will excite you for what lays ahead for Carter Cutlery.
Many connoisseurs of fine Japanese cutlery are well
acquainted with the terms white steel and blue steel. These terms refer to the
Hitachi high carbon steel
that is smelted exclusively for use in laminating to mild steel for the
production of the world's finest blades ever known to man. When skillfully
joined to the mild steel laminate through a process known as forge-welding, the
result is a blade with superior metallurgy that will sharpen easily, take a
scary sharp edge and hold that edge longer than others.
After the end of World War II the leadership at Hitachi Metals
decided to create a blade steel that was better than the best steel available
at that time, Swedish Steel. As
had a long tradition of samurai swordmaking, it was decided that the new steel
be modeled after the best blades ever forged. Several swords were analyzed for
carbon content and alloy composition. What was discovered was that the swords
averaged a little over 0.7% carbon and amazingly, they were very free from
alloys and contaminants such as phosphorus and sulfur. This was the result from
careful forge-welding and forging multiple times in a very clean fire made from
Unlike swords which must be designed to withstand a lot of
impact, the new steel was primarily going to be used in shorter lengths and
used for daily cutting tasks which were not as abusive in nature. With edge
holding capability in mind, a higher carbon content was considered, between
1.2% and 1.4% to be exact. To get the other advantageous qualities of the
swords in their new steel, namely superior cutting performance and ease of
sharpening via excellent carbide dispersion within the steel matrix, special
attention was paid to ensure minimal impurities (phosphorus and sulfur) were
present in each new batch of smelted steel.
The result of the engineer's efforts at
Hitachi was a brilliant success. The
old-school bladesmiths were quick to adapt to the new steel and apply their
long years of forging experience to bring out the best potential the white
steel had to offer. White steel #1(1.4% C) and White steel #2 (1.2% C) soon
replaced Swedish steel as the premium choice for forge welding to make the
finest blades on the Japanese domestic market.
However, there was one drawback to this new "White Steel".
The problem was when young apprentices and inexperienced smiths made blades
from it only a portion of the steel's potential was realized. These guys just didn't possess the skills to bring out all that the white steel had to offer. Edge
retention and edge keenness were lacking.
The engineers at
went back to the drawing table again to try to find a resolution to this
The engineers discovered that by adding small amounts of
chromium and tungsten they could alter the new steel just enough to greatly
enhance wear resistance in the finished blades. Wear resistance meant better
named this new innovation Blue steel. The great success of blue steel was that
it didn't take a masterful bladesmith to bring out this attribute of edge
retention in the finished blades. Average skill was all that was necessary. So
long as the smith forging the steel didn't do anything wrong during the forging
and heat-treating process, such as over-heating or forging while too cold, a fine
blade could be produced. However, the one drawback to this steel was that the
alloys chromium and tungsten affected the carbides within the steel in such a
way as to reduce the ultimate keenness of edge that the white steel was widely
So while white steel was regarded as the very finest
Japan had to
offer the cutlery world, it was openly recognized that it took a true
mastersmith to realize its full potential. Blue steel on the other hand was
regarded as the best choice for mass blade production by the majority of
smiths. Blade wholesale dealers came to realize that large orders of blades had
to be made in blue steel because the quality would not vary as much, even when
the blades were forged by multiple bladesmiths. While orders in white steel had
to be made by the mastersmith, hence large numbered orders were nearly
impossible to fill. The other option was to enlist the help of journeyman
smiths and accept varying degrees of quality.
The end result was that salesman marketing the blades, in
both catalogs and other media, pronounced blue steel as "superior" because that
is what the majority of their blades for sale were made from. When their blue
steel blades sold out it was a simple matter of ordering more. Production of
white steel blades was not as reliable or predictable, because of the rarity of
capable smiths who could produce them.
In conclusion, blue steel is a success from a marketing and
sales point of view, but white steel reigns from a purely metallurgical point
of view when its full potential is realized.
At Carter Cutlery, after having forged and completed more
than 16,000 blades in 24 years out of both steels, Murray has decided to drop
blue steel from his repertoire in favor of dedicating the rest of his career to
truly mastering white steel and harnessing its full potential.
||Did you get your book?|
Since arriving hot off the press we have sent out hundreds of copies of Murray's new book, Bladesmithing with Murray Carter, to past students of Carter Cutlery's Traditional Japanese Bladesmithing School. If you were a student and somehow didn't receive your copy, contact us right away at email@example.com and we'll send you a replacement signed copy right away! Thank you again for your support, and we look forward to serving you again in the future! Don't forget to ask about our Returning Student discount!
Send a request for your new class brochure today!
||Blade Sharpening Fundamentals|
Carter Cutlery is incredibly proud and excited to announce Blade Sharpening Fundamentals, the revised and improved version of our Introduction to Knife Sharpening video. Not only is this new video faster paced and conducive for practice, this video also contains incredible camera angles for better clarity and instruction, but most importantly, we revised this video to convey the new techniques and lessons that have been developed by Murray over the last eight years. We have proved that Murray's techniques can enable anybody to master freehand sharpening, and now with up-to-date techniques and a new 'Seven Step Procedure' for effective sharpening, this video will equip, entertain, and inspire you to join the ranks of countless other successful students.
Pre-order your copy here now for only $25 (regularly $35 + $15 domestic shipping) and receive discounted shipping for a limited time, or sign up for our New Product alerts to be notified once Blade Sharpening Fundamentals becomes available.
As you can see, if I didn't keep each news entry brief, there would be no end to the great
news at Carter Cutlery. We appreciate
that you are an integral part of our growth and positive news.
Until our next email news, stay sharp and may God richly bless you!