Guest blog by Ray Shortridge
Skilled in hand forging blades, craftsmen produce knife blades employing Edo Era tools at Takefu Knife Village in Eichizen, an area in Fukui Prefecture in west central Honshu Island. The Takefu smiths produce world class quality kitchen knives by hand and travel the world instructing gourmet chefs on the appropriate use of the wide variety of blades they craft.
Today’s Takefu knife makers benefit from the history of Eichizen blade production that stretches back 700 years. As legend has it, in 1337, a master swordsmith from Kyoto, Kuniyasu Chiyozuru, discovered water suitable in the forging of blades and settled near Takefu. He and his successors smithed Eichizen blades for farmers to use in harvesting grains and for Samurai warriors to wield in protecting their shogun lords.
In the past blade smiths forged the blades by hand. They beat the heated steel with a hammer, laminating iron and steel into a blank that is light and tough and with a keen edge. Today, the Takefu smiths grasp the white hot blanks with tongs and operate electrically powered hammers to pound the metal.
After we helped staff put handles on finished knife blades, we got to help finish our knives. Our tour of the foundry included instruction on the proper way to sharpen the finished kitchen knife blade so that it would cut paper. We came away with a kitchen knife that passed the paper slicing test and, we found to our delight, also sliced and diced veggies in our own kitchen.
What aspects of a knife do you find important? Do you think it would feel different to slice vegetables with a knife you had helped make?