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Why are so many knives 'clad' (san-mai or others)
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Thread: Why are so many knives 'clad' (san-mai or others)

  1. #1
    Senior Member Matus's Avatar
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    Why are so many knives 'clad' (san-mai or others)

    I have a relatively simple question - what are the main drivers (from point of knife makers) to produce clad knives? I can indeed understand that lower-end market may prefer damascus-clad blades because they look nice (I am thinking of Shun knives here, for example), or - at the other end of the spectrum - stainless clad carbon core (easier care).

    My understanding (in particular with stainless-clad knives) is that the cladding can not really be hardened and so at the end the knife may be easy to flex or even not too springy (= after even light flexing it stays flexed) - that is the case with the Shun knife I have (150mm Petty).

    I also understand that - in particular with hand forged blades - it is far from easy to forge the clad blades.

    However I do not quite understand stainless clad knives where the core is stainless as well (though I am about to get one ) - Why just not use the 'core' steel for the whole knife? Or are these steel so expensive?

    I am just curios.

  2. #2
    To sharpen it easier and as you mentioned to be able to bend it back. Instead of braking it. If you harden whole knife with that steel it will be way to brittle. That is main reasons.

  3. #3
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    It's the cheap modern implementation of real damascus. In the old days, soft steel and hard steel were folded over many times to produce a blade with thousands of layers of hard layered with soft steel, and this resulted in a hard sharp knife which was also tough. As Maxim said, it prevents the blade from fracturing.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Chefdog's Avatar
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    Efficiency and economy, without sacrificing performance.

  5. #5
    hmm I will not say it like that, Japanese have never liked make mono steel knives or mono steel damascus. Even Tamahagene sword is laminated, Just other way around (soft steel inside and Hard outside)
    As i been told it needed to be done to get that crisp edge without braking the blade. In many cases Swords was bend and they had to bend them back to repair them. It is much better that sword got bend then it was broken in the battle
    Then they took that idea and transferred it to kitchen knife.

  6. #6
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    The cladding is often chosen to make it easier to machine to a nice finish or for contrast since some hardened "stainless" steels will discolor somewhat.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by bkdc View Post
    It's the cheap modern implementation of real damascus. In the old days, soft steel and hard steel were folded over many times to produce a blade with thousands of layers of hard layered with soft steel, and this resulted in a hard sharp knife which was also tough. As Maxim said, it prevents the blade from fracturing.
    Cheap implementation and prevents the blade from fracturing? These are two extremely incongruous statements.

    Even if it's a cheap implementation, which these cheaper damascus clad knives can be, not everyone can afford real damascus. And isn't any process that's used to prevent a blade from fracturing worthwhile?

    Whether it's done for aesthetic or practical purposes, if it's done for the benefit to the knife in terms of quality or price, and to the knifemaker (less loss), it's going to be worthwhile to someone. How about less opinion and more facts?

    I'm not a knife maker so I'll write what I recall reading here. I may certainly be incorrect in my recollection.

    But, from what I recall from what makers have written, "san mai" construction is done for a number of reasons, including these reasons. IIRC correctly, the use of softer steel for cladding also helps the harder core steel absorb shock when used and it's also done because some core steels are extremely difficult to put a good finish on. And, yes, from what I also recall reading here, some core steels are just really expensive.
    Michael
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  8. #8
    It is really not that expensive (the core steel)
    Most expensive is labor and it take a lot of time to hand-forge steels together.
    Pre-laminated steels is another story

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Chefdog View Post
    Efficiency and economy, without sacrificing performance.
    +1

    In the old days, good steel was expensive, so it had to be rationed and used only on the edge.

    Nowadays, steel is relatively inexpensive, but san mai construction reduces cost of producing a knife by making polishing easier (soft cladding is easier to polish than hardened monosteel), and making it easier to straighten the blade. Factory made prelaminated blanks that many companies and makers use offer even more efficiency in production.

    The drawback of a san mai is that it can be bent and cladding could be easily scratched if laminated with soft steel. Also, lamination often doesn't bode well with cryogenic treatment - an important step in heat treating process.

    M


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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by mhlee View Post
    Cheap implementation and prevents the blade from fracturing?
    The old samurai implementation would be to take two steels (one hard and one soft) and fold it over and over and over again until you're left with 2 to the nth power of layers of alternating hard and soft steel. This would result in a brittle steel and a soft steel in many microscopically thin layers. The soft steel would make the blade tougher. I don't think this is economic or in line with modern manufacturing. But it sure would be expensive. I stated that it is a cheap implementation of damascus. Damascus meaning to fold steel over and over.

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