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Anatomy of a Japanese knife

This webshop is aiming at the professional, but also at the ethousiastic homecook. No, I am saying it wrong, this webshop is open to anyone who is interested in and curious about high-end Japanese kitchen knives. Quite a bit of technical terms is being used discribing our knives, so we created this page for beginners and using our own language to explane them.

Since 1994 I have been sharpening chef's knives. It is now 2020 as I write this, so as you can imagine I have had a  quite a few models in my hand, while sharpening. Early in my career I found out that I preferred Japanese knives over Western models.



Japanese chef's knife terms:


tang: connecting bolster and butt of handle


bolster: connecting handle with blade


ats314 steel: Hitachi steel, designed to out perform VG10


carbon steel: less chrome, more carbon, more oxidation. Most traditional Japanese steels.


clad: Layered, mostly to protect the core for breaking, oxidation and adding a little flexibility


core: middle layer


coreless: all layered steels are uneven in layeres, coreless is even amount of layers. Two kind of steels will be on the cutting edge.


damascus steel: layered steel, can be stainless or full carbon.


matte finish: polishing by hand, using a stone or a glass blaster will give an certain matte finish to the steel. 


handle: part where one holds the knife.


hammered: the outside layer of the knife is hammered to create an estethic look or profile.


heel: beginning of cutting edge, close to bolster.


honesuki: Japanese boning knife for poultry


honyaki: forging technique using one full high end steel


HRC Rockwell: hardness measured in Rockwell by a puncture in the steel


classic western: classic western handle uses rivets and scales


core: middle layer of damascus steel


rivets: pins to connect scales to tang


alloy: different ingredients of steel will create a certain characteristic


length: size in mm of the blade from heel to tip


blade: the part of the the knife from bolster to tip


micarta: layers of cotton glued together under high pressure.


mirrorpolish: polishing of the steel to almost a mirror reflection


mozaikpin: rivit with an esthetic element of design


office knife: 'couteau d'office' in French, small in size, cut while holding the knife, not for cutting on a board


O-handle: crosssection of a modern handle ‘O’


pakka: layered wood with glued and connected under high pressure. 


Butt: end of the handle


precious finish: by polishing the blade extra and dipping the knife in edging flued, contrast of layeres of steel appear.


tip: beginning blade


spine: top of blade


saya: wooden scrabberd to protect knife while stored


SG2: Japanese mettalurgical powder steel


cutting edge: sharp part of blade from tip to heel


sub-zero treatment: by cooling the blade extremely after forging, required hardness will be obtained


bird's beek: decoration knife.


v sharpened: bothe edges sharpened under same angel


VG2: little brother VG10


VG10: very GOLD steel, with high percentage of carbon, still is known as stainless steel. Designed for Japanese knifemakers


WA handle: classic Japanese handle


Yo handle: classic western handle


friction: resistance while cutting a certain product


Sharing knifeknowledge: 

White steel and Blue steel

A short introduction os teels that are used in many Japanese traditional knives. In short: steel is made out of iron, added with ingredients like chrome and carbon. A quality steel is added .5% of carbon up to 2.1 % . Stainless steel has minimum of 13 % chrome as ingredient. 

New technologies are used to create new high end steels, knifemakers are not standing still in developing new combinations and alloys. Still, all knifemakers need to buy their steel at the steel factory, before they can start forging by their own recipe. Eventually many will use VG10, but all VG10's are different. Some knifemakers want their knives to be very sharp, some prefer great edge retention, while others think of a very strong blade, that can resist an impact. 

Here an explenation of steel in our ownd words, not a wikipedia:

‘Non stainless carbon steels’

White steel, also known as: Shirogami/White paper/Shiroko steel

This traditional steel is not named after it's colour, but named after the colour of it's paper wrapping, in which it is stored in the Hitachi steel factory in Japan. There are 3 grades of Shirogami white steel: #1,#2 & #3. From these 3, #1 contains the highest amount of carbon and #3 the lowest. Generally we say at our knifeshop, grade #1 can be made extremely sharp, but whill be a little more fragile as #3. While #3 is a little softer, also easier to resharpen, but has less edge retention. Grade #1 & #2 is most common in white steels. White steel is a refined steel with a low percentage of iron, loved by many,  as it is relatively easy to maintain. In practice it can be maintaine with a whetstone and in a short amount of time it will become very sharp. This does not mean that these knives never have to be resharpened by a professional, even all knives in Japan need to be refurbished at a certain moment. This Shirogami steel is embraced by shushi chefs who demand extreme sharpness of their knives. White steel oxidates relatively quick and there fore needs to bee maintained more often, but on the other hand you will get all benefits of this beautiful steel characteristics. 

Blue steel, also known as Aogami/Aoki steel

This traditional steel is not named after it's colour, but named after the colour of it's paper wrapping, in which it is stored in the Hitachi steel factory in Japan. Three different grades: super, #1 en #2. Blue steels use a high grade of carbon, chrome and vanadium added in their alloy. Aogami super even added with extra tungsten. Aogami super is here " Best of both worlds" Blue #1 is for sharpness, Blue #2 for toughness. Blue steels mostly seen in deba or usuba knives, white steels often in yanagiba's. Aogami super is regarded as one of the best traditinal steels by Japaese knifemakers, but difficult to work with. Blue steels are difficult to sharpen on a whetstone, but they remain sharp for a longer period, compared to white steels.  

GINSAN /Gingami No.3 ("Silver Paper No.3”) / Gin#3 ("Silver#3") / Ginsan-kō ("Silver 3 Steel")

Gingami No. 3, known as ginsan steel silver steel (manufactured by Hitachi Metals Ltd.) is a semi stainless steel. It has a very fine structure, which can be maintained easily and can be sharpened to extreme sharpness. Hitachi steel factory disigned silver to position it next to the well known VG10 steel, same characteristics, but a little less chrome and more refinement. The ginsan silver steel becomes more and more popular with home cooks and professionals.

Swedish steel 

For a long time, the Swedish steel have had a high reputation for their quality and purity. The Swedish steel or also known as European steel is also available in a stainless version. This steel is popular among Japanese knifemakers, due to its predictable behavior during forging and the fine structure of the steel after the hardening process. Thanks to this structure, the steel excels in extreme sharpness and sharpness retention. MISONO uses this steel in their Carbon series, where it is called European steel, which is an oxydating steel. Takayuki uses the Swedish Uddeholm steel, but then a stainless version. Again, both steel variants, excel in their purity and structure and can be sharpened like a razor.