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Honyaki knives are most appealing to experienced users and professionals that demand the very best knives available. As we shall explain below, Honyaki knives are also the most challenging knives for forge smiths and craftsmen to produce.
The ‘one-piece’ blade construction of the Honayki knife is handcrafted using processes which are similar to those used in Japanese sword making, such as the Tsuchi-Oki process. This method involves heating the blade to around 800°C, quenching it in water to increase its hardness and then placing it in rice-straw ash to slowly cool down to room temperature; This detail is important since it helps to prevent uneven tension from developing in the blade. A skilled craftsman then carefully applies a special mixture of semi-liquid clay (Which typically includes clay, water, and pulverized charcoal, powdered stone and other secret ingredients) to the blade, applying a thin layer of clay on the cutting edge and a thicker layer along the Shinogi-ji and the spine. By varying the thickness of the clay, the craftsman can control the speed at which the steel cools when it is quenched during the tempering process and thus manipulates the hardness of individual parts of the blade (Differential tempering). Skilled artisans can also use this technique to create a variety of beautiful Hamon patterns in the steel of the blade.
Since it is difficult to control the large number of variables involved in this heat-treatment method, it is common for blades to develop small cracks or distort severely. Consequently, the production of Honyaki knives is expensive and time-consuming. Indeed, there are currently only a few companies who have craftsmen skilled enough to make true Honyaki knives. Master Nagao (President of Hiromoto Company and Master Bladesmith) once explained that Sukenari produces some of the best Honyaki knives he had ever seen. After visiting the Sukenari workshop and witnessing their fine craftsmanship for ourselves, we understood why he respects them so much.
Sukenari have used their rich experience and knowledge to determine what methods work the best when making Honyaki knives and have also managed to develop a keen sense for what variables are important: The traditional hammer forging techniques used to shape the blade; the special ingredients for the Tsuchi-Oki (Clay mixture) and its application to the blade; carefully managing the temperature of the blade during the water-quenching process. Every step of production is perfectly demonstrated by Sukenari’s Master forge-smith and faithfully passed on to the next generation.
Each one of Sukenari’s Shirogami #1 Honyaki knives is beautifully mirror-polished and has an impressive wavy Hamon pattern. The blades are very thin just behind the cutting edge and have a rounded finger choil that is very comfortable. Each knife is fitted with a traditional octagonal wood handle that has a water buffalo horn ferrule. A matching wood Saya (Sheath) is also supplied for safekeeping.
As you may know, Sukenari produced a Honyaki White Steel No.1 Series of knives up until a few years ago, but they unfortunately had to discontinue production because they used up all of their White No.1 steel stock and had trouble securing more steel.
Fortunately, Sukenari recently decided to make a new series of Honyaki Knives with White Steel No.2. There is long, good story and history which explains how these Honyaki White Steel No.2 knives were originally created and by Sukenari:
About 5 years ago, when we started to do business with the historical and reputable Traditional Forged Knife Maker Sukenari, we had a meeting with Master Hanaki, the president of Sukenari). At that time, Master Nagao, our favorite knife maker and president of "Hiromoto", had decided to retire and close his company. Master Nagao decided to pass down his tooling and precious blade steel stocks to his partners, fellow craftsmen and knife makers, in order to aid the next generation and their future business. Master Nagao decided to pass his White Steel No.2 on to Master Hanaki, the president of Sukenari - I was excited to be with Master Nagao and Master Hanaki during this special moment, when a great Master Craftsman passed on his passion and best wishes for the next generation of talented, experienced knife makers and the future of the Japanese knife industry.
Now, nearly 5 years have passed. Master Hanaki and Sukenari are now producing true masterpiece White Steel No.2 Honyaki knives and we are very proud to introduce the Sukenari White steel No.2 Honyaki knives.
Please note that while Honyaki knives offer truly remarkable hardness, edge sharpness and edge retention, they are also difficult to sharpen and can be easily damaged by incorrect usage. In Japan, they are normally only used by very experienced top-star Chefs, so we similarly only recommend them for people who have extensive experience with traditional Japanese knives, or to knife collectors.