The Knifemakers of Sakai

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A Japanese shokunin, or knifemaker, forges a knife blade which will pass through several sets of hands before it is finished.

Today’s knife history and culture lesson comes to us from reader James. It is the story of a quartet of Japanese knifemakers, or shokunin, who each has specialized in one aspect of collaborative knifemaking: forging, grinding, sharpening, and crafting a handle. Each has refined his art through more than a half-century.

From Saveur.com:

“Sakai is a smaller, more residential prefecture 20 kilometers south of Osaka, the perfect place for these shokunin to “toil in obscurity,” Magers says. There he met four shokuninwho’ve made knives for chefs around the world like David Bouley and Michael Romano, each craftsman in his 60s or 70s with their own personal “factories” devoted to different stages of the knife-making process: forging, shaping, sharpening, and finishing the blades.”

Saveur continues:

“Tahara’s own factory, also small and cluttered, doesn’t have any modern machinery. “He uses an ox bone grinder for part of the shaping process,” Magers says, “and he powers it with an intricate system of belt-driven motors.” Next, a short drive away is Koichi Morimoto, who, in his early 70s, is one of the eldest knife shokunin. Barefoot, he uses a wet stone for the final phase of sharpening before the blade is sent to Susumu Wakai, the finisher. “Wakai sits like a Buddha all day long and attaches handles to blades,” Magers says. The final step is to engrave the blade.”

Read the whole thing.

comments

  1. Sam L. says:

    “Exquisite” takes time. Lots of time.

  2. sagebrushracer says:

    good read, thanks for the info.

    1. We try to mix it up. I enjoy finding history/culture posts.

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The Knifemakers of Sakai

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