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Carter Cutlery News
August 14, 2008

InFo CoLuMn


What is that picture you have on YouTube?

Click on the image above to get a larger view. You'll see three Japanese men working together on forging a knife, the way they used to do it during the Edo Period. Rugged men back then, in their bare feet working with hot coals and metal. Cute toes, though. The script at the top is really hard to decipher, but it basically says they are hammering a knife. Subtle, isn't it?

All humor aside, though, the title of this sketch is kajishi, or blacksmith, one who played an extremely important part in Japanese life hundreds of years ago. The script at the top is a poem, or a song, perhaps sung by the men as they pounded away in order to keep in rythym. The rolls behind the master smith are charcoal, and the pot hanging above the fire could be their cooked rice, keeping it warm for lunch.

Visit Us Online!
Carter Cutlery
Slide Show

Now Showing! The Making of a Kuro-uchi

We've put together a slideshow for you on the various steps of making a Japanese Kuro-uchi Funayuki kitchen knife. Grab your popcorn and drink, click on the photo below, and sit back for a very interesting and thoroughly educational presentation.

Carter Cutlery Slideshow

Next Batch: Neck Knives

All the knives in our latest production group of kitchen cutlery, the Stainless Fukugozai Riveted Handle (SFGZ-RH) Series, have been posted. Take a look at those if you haven't already. There are quite a number of knives in the 5- to 6-sun range, an ideal size for doing all-around cutting tasks. We also have some shorter ones that are great for taking on a picnic or campout.

Neck Knives

Our next batch of knives to be posted will be an assortment of Neck Knives in various styles, including quite a few Wharncliffes. Keep an eye on our Neck Knife Category Page for upcoming additions.

2008 Blade Show West

Our next big show, Blade Show West, will be held right here in Portland, Oregon, September 26 - 28. We'll be featuring some of our latest kitchen and outdoor knives, plus a number of other one-of-a-kind blades and cutting tools. If you are able to attend, we'll meet you there! We still have a few VIP passes left to give to our loyal patrons that will allow them free admission and an early shot at the nicest knives. Contact us either by email or by phone and we'll send you a VIP Pass. Hope to see you at the Show!

They Carry a Carter

BladeMag08-10-t Ian Rabin, one of our customers, carries a Carter. Ian sent us this photo of him and his Carter neck knife which appeared in the recent issue of Blade Magazine. Click on the photo for a larger image. Thanks, Ian, for sharing and showing all of us, and the whole world wide web, the knives you carry. Glad to see you are another proud owner of a Carter creation.

The Hard Truth About Steel:
Defects in Japanese Blades

We received the following questions recently:

Could you shed some light on the types of makers who contribute to the knife-making process in Japan, and how the quality of their product is viewed within the context of Japanese culture?

To clarify, it is my understanding that there is a spectrum of knife makers. One might work in a small village. Their product might range beyond kitchen knives to anything that needs to be forged with metal.

When they make knives, what types of knives would they traditionally make, who would be their customers, what types of steel, and how many parts of the knife-making process would be under their responsibility (i.e. forging, finishing, handle making, saya making, sharpening, etc.)?

On the other end of the spectrum, there are areas where the knife-making process is divided among many different artisans. The forger only forges the rough blank of the knife. The sharpener/finisher grinds the knife into its final shape and polishes it to it desired finish, etc.

Generally, are there any other types of knifemakers in between the two ends of this spectrum? How are the products of the different types of makers viewed by chefs, knife collectors, and the general public? Where do you feel you sit on this spectrum?

This is an astute observation by the writer. As he mentions, there are small Japanese village bladesmiths who will conduct every aspect of knife production themselves, either to fill out a custom order or to fill his meager shop display of goods for sale. On the other hand, cutlery centers such as Seki City or Sakai City tend to operate on the principle of specialization -- the bladesmith, the heat-treater, the grinder/polisher, the assembler and the marketer.

Carter Cutlery products are completely made 'in-house,' with the exception of the raw steel used and a few traditional Japanese kitchen knife handles which are sourced from Japan.

Ultimately, cutlery is judged by chefs, knife collectors and the general public by how it performs for them, rather than by the manufacturing process.

Finally, how are defects handled and viewed?

I have handled hundreds of knives by various makers and I have found a high percentage of what many people feel are defects, namely, poor grinding, so that the edge is not perfectly straight, curved or bent blades, and poor attachment of the blade to the handle. All of these have been in single-beveled yanagis, debas, and usubas ranging from the inexpensive to the very expensive honyaki.

Are these considered acceptable in Japan, or is something else going on? If a user has enough experience, a bent blade can be made straight and one can sharpen the edge until it is straight. Am I nit picking?

Ultimately there are inherent imperfections in every piece of cutlery made by the human hand (and perhaps even more in automated cutlery production). However, most imperfections go unnoticed. Let me divide defects into three categories:

1) barely perceptible
2) obvious but not relevant to the performance of the blade and/or are correctable
3) defects subtracting from the performance and/or value of the knife

Barely perceptible defects include all blades which are not ideally straight (in other words 99.99% of blades), all blades which are not perfectly symmetrical or which have imperfect blade geometry, or blades which are not heat-treated to perfection. These defects exist, yet most customers will never notice them without a properly trained eye.

Obvious defects might include any of the following: a bent or twisted blade, uneven grinding, discrepancies in the blade profile, evidence of slight slag inclusion between two forge-welded layers, rust/discoloration and inconsistencies in the hardness of the blade from one area to another.

These blades can usually be used (to cut things) "as is," but slight tweaking by the experienced user through sharpening and straightening will greatly improve them.

Defects that subtract greatly from a blade might include a severely bent or twisted blade that cannot be easily remedied, gross forge welding errors, and blades that are either not hard enough for normal cutting, or are brittle from large grain growth that comes from over-heating it during manufacture. This is not to be confused with the two other causes for blade chipping, namely, a) improper tempering or b) improper edge geometry.

Do you have questions about steels, knifemaking, or just cutlery in general? Shoot us an email and Murray will be happy to answer them for you.

Until our next email news,

Stay Sharp and may God richly bless you!

Carter Cutlery

P.O.Box 307
Vernonia, OR 97064
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phone 503-429-0447

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