History of Sakai Knives
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Sakai knives have a history spanning over 600 years dating back to the 14th century. They were originally made in Sakai, a city in the Osaka Prefecture which until today still makes approximately 90% of Japan’s handcrafted knives and is a major industry in the city.
In 1868, after the samurai were banned from carrying swords…
Sakai bladesmiths refocused their skills to cutlery production. Sakai knives today are designated as a traditional craft item and its quality is widely recognized.
In the 16th century, when tobacco was first introduced to Japan by the Portuguese, the first tobacco knife was made using the same techniques found in the traditional sword making. Following a high demand for these knives back then, Sakai knives become well known over Japan for its unique sharpness and cutting performance. The Tokugawa Shogunate even awarded Sakai forgers with a special seal of approval for their excellent craftsmanship.
The distinctive features of Sakai knives are a single bevel blade which is sharpened at an angle on only one side.
The blades are uniquely designed so that they will push the food away only on the side that is used to slice. Made with high carbon steel through a special forging technique, the main characteristics of Sakai knives include toughness, sharpness, and excellent edge-life.
Highly skilled craftsman uses several different processes to make traditional Sakai knives with at least four master crafts during processing.
Let’s start with forging.
This process is to combine a softer iron with carbon-heavy steel to create a superior blade. The metals are first heated together with coal in a furnace using a special technique at a precise temperature. To form the knives’ shape, the metals are then beaten and stretched out using a belt hammer.
The most difficult part of this process is ensuring the temperature of the blade is the exact same, which is extremely important as it helps increase the density of the metal and improves its strength, toughness, and durability. At the end of the process, the soft iron becomes the body of the blade, and the carbon steel becomes the edge of the knife.
Next is the sharpening process,
where the forger uses rough grindstone to sand the blade down to its preferred thickness and sharpness, while forming the final shape of the blade. At this point, cutting edges should be perfectly straight from tip to handle. Then comes the main sharpen, where the forger further sharpens the blade using fine grindstone. The forger will then follow-up with a paper, buff, polishing the blade to give it shine, then coat the blade with anti-rust solution before sending to the final next process.
Lastly, the blade is placed into a rot-resistant,
magnolia wood handle by heating the blade and inserting it into the handle by using a mallet. Brand names or signatures are engraved into the blade with a hammer and chisel, followed by a final quality inspection. Afterwards, the knife is ready to send out to the market.
These traditional Knifemaking techniques have been passed down from generation to generation. Today, most Japanese chefs choose professional knives made from Sakai due to its high quality and beautiful craftsmanship.
Sakai knives have also been used by many chefs around the world as well.
If you are passionate about cooking, give these knives a try as you will be impressed with the quality and it will make your cooking preparation more enjoyable.
To learn more about the history of Sakai knives, you can visit the Sakai Traditional Crafts Museum or experience making a knife for yourself at a knife shop or studio. You can also shop for original Sakai knives in Sakai in Osaka Prefecture, Japan.