On April the 1st and 2nd, 2006, we had a “Spring Knife Show” in Seki City, Gifu Prefecture. Around 40 custom knife makers from all over Japan attended the event and amongst them we found an interesting gentleman who is custom hand making Gyuto knives using a special Powdered Metal (P.M.) steel called “R-2”. His name is Hiroo Itou and he comes from Fukui City, Fukui Prefecture. He explained to me that this special powdered steel is made by Kobe Steel Co., Ltd. (Kobelco), which is one of the largest steel producers in Japan. He told me that Kobelco will not tell him about the chemical composition of the steel (The information is kept confidential to prevent it being copied by other steel producers).
When I asked Mr. Itou how well R-2 compares against other powdered steels, such as “Cowry X” (Daido Steel Co., Ltd) or “ZDP-189” (Hitachi Metals, Ltd.), he told me that although Cowry X and ZDP-189 have a richer chemical composition and can attain a higher Rockwell hardness than R-2, they are also much more difficult to sharpen. Mr. Itou stated that, of the various powdered metal steels he had tested, R2 was the best suited for making kitchen knives because, in addition to possessing great edge sharpness, edge retention and corrosion-resistance, it is still relatively easy to sharpen. This is especially important to Mr. Itou, because his guiding philosophy is to produce knives that are very practical to use. He also stated that, due to the special hammer forging and knife making techniques that he uses with R-2, he has great confidence in the sharpness, durability and cutting performance of his knives.
In addition to using R-2 steel for the cutting edge of his knives (HRc. 62), Mr. Itou also creates the incredibly beautiful and powerful appearance Damascus knives.
As seen on other expensive full tang custom knives, Mr. Itou hand tapers the blade tang in order to reduce weight and to perfectly balance the blade and handle. Because they are custom handmade, the blade and handle of each knife is slightly different, so, Mr. Itou has to carefully decide which handle materials will work best with each specific knife. Finally, he contours and polishes the handle to ensure a perfect grip and an attractive finish.
Mr. Itou is fanatical about knife making and he loves to collect rare and unique materials from all over the world to use in his custom knife handles. The most expensive and distinctive handle material that he uses are Mammoth Molar Teeth, Mammoth Ivory and Narwhal Horn, but Mr. Itou also uses a wide variety of other high quality materials (Both manmade and natural) to make his unique knife handles such as Turquoise, Abalone and Stag Handles.
Each one of Mr. Itou’s knives is a unique ‘one-off’, or ‘one-of-a-kind’ knife, that is 100% custom handmade and hammer forged.
Mr. Itou’s knives are very popular, so please do not delay your order for too long if there is a particular knife that interests you. If you would like to be notified as soon as we receive new stock from Mr. Itou, please contact us.