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Thread: Gesshin Uraku, what's the steel?

  1. #41
    @mzer, I apologize for any frustration to you or others.

    This is a matter of "Danged if you do and Danged if you don't". Sometimes danged if you do hurts a lot more than danged if you don't.

    Hoss

  2. #42
    Quote Originally Posted by mzer View Post
    I think this misses the point completely. Not only is the level of intellectual property and research rather small, perhaps insignificant, but also the steel that the knife is made out of really isn't a trade secret since it is fully testable by anybody who purchases the knife. Other details, like the heat treatment etc, are much less so, and probably do represent some sort of intellectual property. The competitive advantage of any small business catering to enthusiasts is in the customer service more than the product.

    It's more of a balancing act. On one hand, the market for knives like this is relatively small so there is an interest in preserving the current monopoly and on the other hand the value of any good to a given consumer increases as it becomes more transparent, which is readily visible by people in this thread saying, more or less "I would pay for this if I only knew." It shifts the demand curve.

    Personally, I would be wary of buying something if somebody told me I didn't need to know what it was made of. I don't like the sentiment and I don't like the construction of a group in the know and a group out of it.
    You ignored my question and your analysis and reasoning are flawed. First of all, intellectual property is intellectual property. As small as it is, an owner of intellectual property has a right to protect it because, by its nature, it is valuable because no one else has it. That's why intellectual property can be copyrighted and particular names can be trademarked. The information has value.

    Second, you fail to recognize that the intellectual property that includes the heat treatment is unique to each steel. You don't use one heat treatment for all steels. The research and testing is unique to each steel. Therefore, by giving up the type of steel, you give up the first and critical step to the making of a knife.

    Since this is a kitchen forum, here's a particular food-related analogy. Only one place in the world has the real recipe for Oysters Rockefeller: Antoine's. And that's because no one from Antoine's has ever disclosed what herbs - it is not spinach - are utilized in the real recipe. The herbs are the foundation of that recipe, just like the type of steel a knife is made of. If a competitor knew the actual blend of herbs, the uniqueness of the real recipe would be gone because every competitor/imitator would be able to claim that they have the real Oyster Rockefeller recipe.

    And, just remember, dishes and names of dishes can be trademarked (see Chairman Bao). They're often not and that usually has to do with cost.

    While I am not an intellectual property attorney, I certainly believe that any specific heat treatment could be copyrighted. However, the actual process would have to be filed and consequently made public. But, as with any infringement, the cost of prosecution belongs to the copyright owner, not the infringer. So, for smaller companies or manufacturers, the cost of enforcing their rights is prohibitive.

    Third, you fail to recognize the cost of research, both time and money, by the makers and vendors and for competitors. What you propose basically eliminates the time and cost for a competitor to buy a knife, find a company that would test the steel, then pay to test the steel. A competitor that knows the type of steel can simply jump past all of these steps. In comparison, a competitor starting from scratch would have to choose a steel to try and master and determine the best heat treatment, forging, grinding, etc.

    Fourth, you fail to appreciate the competitive advantage of this intellectual property. Look at how other sellers, in particular, a competitor openly markets similar looking and identical grit stones to stones sold by vendors in this forum. But, they're not the same stones. The competitive advantage matters. Maybe this has an effect on the customer. But what this really has an effect on is the manufacturer and seller; in this case the smaller manufacturers and sellers of this forum as similar, but not identical, looking products are sold for less.

    Lastly, while the market may be "small" in your opinion. To each of the vendors trying to protect the uniqueness of their product, it's their livelihood.

    So, again, would you publicly share your trade secrets, intellectual property, proprietary research, information that gives you a competitive advantage, etc.?

    Ultimately, it's your money. So go shop at a competitor who tells you the steel type.

  3. #43
    Mhlee, I've noticed that you like to argue and get upset, so let's try to keep this civil. You make several assertions above, let's see if any have merit, or even relate to anything I have said. My original statement was that the type of steel is apparent to anybody testing it, so it is not a trade secret in any way. The heat treatment certainly could be considered a trade secret. Furthermore, I would add now that something like hrc is no different than weight or length, and really steel, it is a measurable part of a knife, so not a trade secret.

    So then, we have done away swiftly with points one and two. They are either not disputed, that heat treatment is some sort of trade secret, or they are refuted as easily measurable and therefore not secret. As far as the cost of research, as a consumer I really don't care about it. The quantity and cost of research are meaningless, what is meaningful is the quality of product created by the research. By paying for a good product and wanting to pay extra for research time, you are counting the same trick twice. As a consumer it doesn't matter if Jon took five years developing a knife or if an angel presented it to him one night in a dream. The product is still the same.

    Your fourth really isn't a point at all. I don't fail to recognize the competitive advantage of heat treatment or even maker or whatever. I simply dispute, and frankly have completely refuted, the idea that hrc and steel fall into this category. Your question is thus rendered meaningless, I am not claiming that anybody should share their trade secrets. Using your food analogy, I do not request that Coca Cola tells me their recipe, just that they print the ingredients. That way I know, as a consumer, that if there is something that doesn't agree with me, like a knife steel or an artificial coloring, I can avoid it with knowledge or inquire as to why I shouldn't worry about it.

  4. #44
    It stills baffles me how some people think that withholding basic information is a positive thing. It might not be harmful, but it is not positive for sure.

    Let's drop the knives for example and focus on the car analogy.... How would you feel if one of the vendors would not disclose some basic and trivial information like engine size or number of cylinders? For me - It would definitely make me feel uncomfortable purchasing from this vendor.
    Steel type as well as engine size is not a trade secret, especially if it's not your own steel. And if it is your own steel, you definitely can patent it. It's a trivial knowledge that does not say much but gives you some basic expectations of the knife.

    There is lot of information hidden from the customers in the kitchen knife world. This vary from vendor to vendor of course. I guess this is because most users do not care, and the "elite" feels cooler by having this shady area where they can shine the light. Nothing bad with it, this happens in all close/small circles. It does feel nice to educate others and pass the knowledge to the less experienced ones. I think its part of human nature.
    In addition to all that, I suspect that most good blacksmiths know each other tricks and correct heat treatment procedures. But there is something called skills, and this is something that cannot be copied.

    Letís look at the OP example. If Jon disclosed the type of the steel what would happen to the industry... nothing really. AFAIK the profile and the geometry of the blade is far more important than the steel type. What does it mean? It means - if I like the knife I can order very similar shaped blade from 420C or any other steel and start selling it as my own brand. So again, where is a harm to disclose the steel type?

    Now letís look from another side, marketing. Yes, here is where hiding or showing off some of the information/properties matter. In the OP case, the steel type is considered to be mediocre; hence hiding it makes perfect sense.

    Also from marketing point of view it makes sense to hide steel information on very expensive knives to add some enigma to that sweet looking baby. There is many marketing tricks that are used everywhere, and the customer never is the winner.
    The customer only wins when he/she has access to as much information as possible relevant or not. It becomes the customer's responsibility to filter it and make an educated decision to each own possibilities.

    So I strongly believe that the knives vendors should disclose as much information as possible and let the customer decide. And this applies to all the industries; it just happens that this is a knife discussion.

    P.S. This is not personal to anybody; this is just my overall view on the consumerís rights.

  5. #45
    I agree that more information benefits the consumer for any particular purchase. However, it may or may not benefit the seller. In the long run, it is also arguable how much it helps the consumer or not... though I suspect it would still end up on the positive side, just perhaps not spectacularly so.

    The ingredient list is an interesting analogy, but I think there's something significantly different there: your health and even your life may depend on what is or is not in a particular food item. No comparable impact is at play with the steel type used in a knife.

    The sportscar is also an interesting analogy... but to which we can apply a similar argument as used already: if what you're paying for is the performance and enjoyment of the car, what does it really matter how many cylinders it uses or the displacement? Yes, some of us are purists in some way and prefer a particular kind of engine, but really as long as the car does X, it doesn't matter how it does it.

    Likewise, many of us for knives are purists in various ways, and we want to know details about a knife that really have nothing to do with the performance. I'm as guilty of that as anyone else - hence having more knives than pure need would justify.

    But in the end I think it's a nice-to-know info, not have-to-know like the ingredients of something you're putting in your body. The harm to the customer of not knowing is negligible, while the harm to the seller of having the info out in the open may be quite a bit more than negligible. Very different from a food product, I would say.
    Len

  6. #46
    Quote Originally Posted by Ruso View Post
    It stills baffles me how some people think that withholding basic information is a positive thing. It might not be harmful, but it is not positive for sure.

    Let's drop the knives for example and focus on the car analogy.... How would you feel if one of the vendors would not disclose some basic and trivial information like engine size or number of cylinders? For me - It would definitely make me feel uncomfortable purchasing from this vendor.
    Steel type as well as engine size is not a trade secret, especially if it's not your own steel. And if it is your own steel, you definitely can patent it. It's a trivial knowledge that does not say much but gives you some basic expectations of the knife.

    There is lot of information hidden from the customers in the kitchen knife world. This vary from vendor to vendor of course. I guess this is because most users do not care, and the "elite" feels cooler by having this shady area where they can shine the light. Nothing bad with it, this happens in all close/small circles. It does feel nice to educate others and pass the knowledge to the less experienced ones. I think its part of human nature.
    In addition to all that, I suspect that most good blacksmiths know each other tricks and correct heat treatment procedures. But there is something called skills, and this is something that cannot be copied.

    Letís look at the OP example. If Jon disclosed the type of the steel what would happen to the industry... nothing really. AFAIK the profile and the geometry of the blade is far more important than the steel type. What does it mean? It means - if I like the knife I can order very similar shaped blade from 420C or any other steel and start selling it as my own brand. So again, where is a harm to disclose the steel type?

    Now letís look from another side, marketing. Yes, here is where hiding or showing off some of the information/properties matter. In the OP case, the steel type is considered to be mediocre; hence hiding it makes perfect sense.

    Also from marketing point of view it makes sense to hide steel information on very expensive knives to add some enigma to that sweet looking baby. There is many marketing tricks that are used everywhere, and the customer never is the winner.
    The customer only wins when he/she has access to as much information as possible relevant or not. It becomes the customer's responsibility to filter it and make an educated decision to each own possibilities.

    So I strongly believe that the knives vendors should disclose as much information as possible and let the customer decide. And this applies to all the industries; it just happens that this is a knife discussion.

    P.S. This is not personal to anybody; this is just my overall view on the consumerís rights.
    Just curious....

    so if a very reputable car company come out with a high end model for only 15k but would not disclose how they are able to produce that car at that price would you be wary? I for one would take a chance with a quality vendor.

    Not to say that his prices are cheaper just saying, i believe that the quality of the person you deal with is more important. I mean Jon and Sara hand-wright personal letter to each person for each purchase, he is quick on responding to emails having to do with questions, and will not recommend his products if he feels they are not the best for you. I mean i would shop with JKI before CKTG anyday just because they have earned my trust. Not that i don't shop at CKTG.

    And i want JKI to stay around, if he has to tell every detail of every knife and the maker where he buys them then CKTG will simply go there and start selling cheaper and JKI would have a much harder time staying in business, thats why i dont mind him not disclosing the information.

    It is up to the individual but like i said Jon only sells quality products.

  7. #47
    Senior Member labor of love's Avatar
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    i guess theres 2 arguments here. all ive been trying say is that there really isnt much of a logical reason to know the steel type. because knowledge of any particular steel shouldnt really be an indicator of a knives performance at all. that other guy at the other site can pretty much have any knife made with any steel for $150 or less. so consumers have a tendency to focus on a steel type and avoid other attributes a knife will have.
    It sounds like im hearing that you just want the freedom of knowing the steel type regardless of what repercussions that information could have. but those repercussions wont affect you, will they?they will affect individual craftsmen and mom and pop vendors. if you feel better protected by only purchasing knives that you are certain of the steel type then by all means do so. but i would expect the trend of making certain things of knife production proprietarty only to increase with the ever growing jknife american market.

  8. #48
    At least he's being up front about withholding the steel type. Some other vendors prefer to make up a name for what they want to remain mystery steel...

    For example, anyone here want to purchase a gyuto for 1000$ made of 'black' steel??? Sorry, can't post a link...

  9. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by labor of love View Post
    you and many other people are presupposing that the steel type will help you narrow down your purchase selection from a consumer standpoint. thats what you want to do with the information right? the point ive been trying to stress here is that steel type doesnt even belong in the equation.
    This. Kitchen knives are tools, performance is everything. Problem is, performance cannot be compartmentalised like names, letters and numbers can. That and the fact that people want to believe that their unobtanium wonder steel is the bestest thing ever, regardless.

  10. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by kartman35 View Post

    For example, anyone here want to purchase a gyuto for 1000$ made of 'black' steel??? Sorry, can't post a link...
    $1000 only gets you san-mai with Black steel hagane. It's that awesome/premium/rare/esoteric etc.

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