STYLE: Edo Unagi (River Eel), Right Hand
STEEL: Kasumi, White Steel #1
HANDLE: Traditional Style Handle (short). Ho Wood handle with a Water Buffalo horn ferrule and custom wood inlay
BLADE LENGTH: 6.37sun, 193mm (7.6″)
BLADE WIDTH: 40mm
BLADE THICKNESS: *4.9mm
Carter Cutlery “Shiro” brand knives by Kenichi Shiraki
I was introduced to Kenichi Shiraki in 1993 by a vendor who traveled all over Japan selling steel. I was just an apprentice smith at that time and hungry to learn all I could about Japanese traditional cutlery. I asked the vendor candidly who he thought was the very finest bladesmith in the country. He told me about Mr. Shiraki, but I was disheartened to discover that he lived and worked so far away from where I was living in Japan at that time. I was down south in Kumamoto and he was up in Osaka, the industrial capitol of the nation.
Although I have made close to one hundred kata-ha blades in Shiraki’s style, I have realized that it takes thousands to master what is the uncontested world’s most complex blade to make properly. Compared to my hundred blades, Mr. Shiraki has made more than 700,000 kata-ha blades. (50 years X 60 blades/day. In his prime he could forge over 250 blades per day, so this estimate is very conservative). Kenichi Shiraki has made every possible shape, form and size in this style of blade-forging. To date, he is the only bladesmith in Japan that can successfully complete any quantity of Hitachi White Steel #1 Honyaki blades at will. There is no more difficult blade in the world metallurgicaly.
Kasumi means “mist” which refers to the hazy contrast between the soft iron body of the blade and the glossy appearance of the carbon steel. Craftsmen forge kasumi knives by joining a piece of gokunan-tetsu (soft iron) with a piece of carbon steel. After forging, hammering, and shaping, the result is a body and spine of the blade composed of soft iron and hard carbon steel along the edge. This construction style makes sharpening and maintenance easier. Kasumi knives are much easier to sharpen than honyaki knives, but honyaki knives cut some fatty foods better such as tuna belly and pork fat.
*NOTE: Shiro knives are forged with a distal taper (thicker in the middle, more thin towards the tip), the blade thickness given is dependent on what part of the blade is measured. On these knives the blade thickness is measured above the carved blade markings.