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Last year, we were able to visit a historic, genuine Japanese sword smithing family in Fukuoka Prefecture (Kyushu Island) — a real family of artisans, who are devoting their life and energy to inheriting and preserving the Japanese sword making and knife making traditions that have been maintained by their family since the year 1786. Currently, a total of 4 genuine sword smiths are passionately working together to create the finest Japanese swords, and kitchen knives with outstanding cutting performance and practicality. To become a genuine government-licensed Japanese sword smith, you must undergo many years of hard training and pass a very difficult examination, so you must have great fortitude and talent.
During our visit, we got to see their forging and knife handcrafting processes, hear their personal stories, and learn about their history and making policies. We were very impressed by their craftsmanship and we could really feel their passion.
The current generation of traditional hammer forged knives have become more and more distinctive in order to differentiate themselves, and we believe this will always be one of the most important tasks and decisions for those who inherit and practise traditional knife making. Given these circumstances, and the current environment, we are amazed there are still genuine reputable sword smithing families who aspire to make kitchen knives with the best possible cutting performance. Mr. Komiya is the Master sword smith and head of this sword smithing family, and their company is called SHIROU-KUNIMITSU (四郎國光).
As we have said, this family of genuine sword smiths are very serious and passionate about creating kitchen knives with the best possible cutting performance. Since long ago, the family has been producing traditional forged kitchen knives while also passing down their Japanese sword making skills and experience, from one generation to the next. It was obvious to us that this family has made a tremendous effort to research, develop and craft great, practical knives.
WABI-SABI (侘寂) is the best way to succinctly describe the characteristics of SHIRO-KUNIMITSU’s handmade, traditional hammer forged knives. WABI-SABI is a Japanese aesthetic / sensibility that suggests there is beauty within simplicity, imperfection and impermanence.
Each one of the unique Kurouchi ("Black forged") finished blades has an uneven surface and a non-uniform finish. So, if you are looking for a very neat knife, with precise details and great 'fit & finish', these Shirou-Kunimitsu handmade traditional forged knives are not well suited to your preferences. However, at the same time, we really appreciate the originality and artisanal spirit of these knives and we think the traditional Kurouchi finish is something really special — We can feel the WABI-SABI aesthetics striking at our hearts and we hope our customers will feel the same way.
To achieve his goal —Making superb, practical knives with outstanding cutting performance— Master Komiya has selected Hitachi “White Steel No. 2”, a very pure and high quality Japanese High Carbon Steel. This steel is widely used by experienced craftsmen and great forge smiths because it allows each smith to showcase how their particular forging techniques and heat treatment methods can make a difference to the sharpness, edge holding and toughness of the blade.
The Hitachi White Steel No. 2 high carbon steel blade core is sandwiched between two layers of soft iron. In addition to increasing the toughness of the blade, the soft iron also makes the blade easier to sharpen than an unlaminated, solid steel blade.
SHIROU-Kunimitsu knives have a 50/50 blade grind and a simple edge shape. Each knife is carefully ground by hand and is then hand sharpened with a water-cooled whetstone wheel to create an even, natural and specially tapered 50/50 edge shape. Both sides of the blade have a SHINOGI line (The line that is created where the ground blade bevel and the blade face / side meet), below the SHINOGI you can see the expert hand grinding and hand sharpening of the specially tapered 50/50 blade bevels and the handcrafted, custom created edge shape.
Since there is no secondary bevel or micro-bevel, we found the simple bevel geometry of these knives was very easy to hand sharpen with a whetstones and the 50/50 blade bevels naturally guided us to create an outstandingly sharp edge. The cutting performance of the knife also impressed us and we could feel it cut deeply in to the foods that we tested. We noted that while these knives might appear to be a simple and rustic looking, they are actually very sophisticated, very practical and thoughtfully designed products — Products that could only be made by an experienced, sophisticated forge smith. We particularly admire the highly skilled hand grinding and sharpening of the original blade profile, bevel and cutting edge, which is thin behind the edge but also feels strong and sturdy in use — An uncommon combination of features.
After 6 months of detailed discussions with Master Komiya of SHIROU-KUNIMITSU, and a long time waiting, we finally received our of first batch of JCK exclusive, special made-to-order SHIROU-KUNIMITSU knives. The following blade styles and sizes are currently available:
Wa Gyuto 210mm
Wa Gyuto 240mm
Wa Sujihiki 270mm
Each Knife comes with a classic Octagonal Japanese Magnolia Wood Wa Handle, which has a Water Buffalo Horn Ferrule.
Our special edition SHIROU-KUNIMITSU knives are fitted with a more luxurious, contemporary style Maple Burl Wood Octagonal Wa Handle with Water Buffalo Horn Ferrule. Unfortunately, these special edition knives will only be available occasionally, and in very limited quantities.
We are very proud to be introducing these 7 different kinds of special traditional forged knives from the highly reputable, genuine Japanese Sword Smith’s, SHIROU-KUNIMITSU!
A Note About Sharpening Shiro-Kunimitsu Knives: Please do not add a micro-bevel, as this can lead to micro-chipping of the already fine, sharp cutting edge. To maintain the flat factory bevel and bevel angle, we recommend placing the whole bevel flat on the whetstone and applying finger pressure between the cutting edge and Shinogi (The line formed by the bevel and main blade face / cheek) during each sharpening stroke. Please use the same number of sharpening strokes on each side of the knife and de-burr the wire-edge using very light finger pressure, alternating between bevels every few strokes until it is removed.