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Thread: Honyaki question

  1. #21
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    i'm still not sure what the real world benefit of honyaki in a kitchen knife is, if any.

  2. #22
    So here we are. These pictures are examples of just one pitfall which might befall an inexperienced, impatient, otherwise unprepared, or just plain unlucky smith who attempts to differentially harden a kitchen type knife. Even worse, this steel is 1075, which is incredibly forgiving due to its rather moderate carbon content, and general lack of complex alloying agents.


    Overall blade.


    The heel. If you look at the crack to the far right, you can see what I meant by the harder...quickly cooling edge steel trying to rip itself away from the softer, more slowly cooling steel of the spine.


    More of the edge.


    And the tip.

    What happened with this blade, is the clay layout allowed extremely rapid cooling in the precise areas where the cracks propagated. Imagine clay lines stretching down and insulating between the cracks, channeling the quenchant towards the steel in those areas. In addition, it was a bit (perhaps 100°-200°F) too hot when going into the salt water, and was held in perhaps a second too long. All three of these are very small errors, which are very easy to make.

    This brings up another point. American made honyaki blades, from custom makers, are almost invariably heat treated in a PID controlled oven, allowing thoroughly precise temperature control, and timed soaks at that temperature. When you know what you're doing, this helps tremendously with the success rate, along with ENSURING that each blade reaches the utmost potential of the steel its made from. The few Japanese smiths capable of pulling off honyaki blades (I've read there are only five?), do so without the benefit of temperature control. Everything is by eye (color), and feel (the blade just feels different...I don't know how else to describe it...). That is how I taught myself to do it initially, and believe me...was I ever grateful to be able to eventually build my oven. I would never, EVER want to go back to doing it that way, and have nothing but respect for those Japanese smiths who continue to do so.

    I think when you're purchasing a Japanese honyaki blade, that's a large part of what you're paying for. Not only the properties in the knife itself, but the skill that allows a master of his craft to find success in a task where most other practitioners find only failure.
    I try to be the man I am..in times of broken lives. Shattered dreams and plans..standing up to fight. Pressures and demands..staring at the knife. Holding in your hands..

  3. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by panda View Post
    i'm still not sure what the real world benefit of honyaki in a kitchen knife is, if any.
    I think the real benefit is more personal. As a non chef type person, I've cut the same foods with both types (of equal quality), one after the other...and a differentially hardened blade just feels like it cuts differently. The edge seems keener, and seems to last longer. This could be perception of course, and without some real form of testing the actual results can't be proven. I will say that since honyaki blades are generally tempered to a greater hardness, the benefits I noticed are likely real...if something less than measurable. In addition, as I mentioned...a person making a honyaki blade is virtually guaranteed to know what he's doing. They aren't something you make in batches...and as such, the greater level of attention could very easily add something to the finished product. Similar to a factory built Ford Mustang, versus a Rousch or Shelby version.

    The same thing can be said of most if not all through hardened custom knives sold on this forum as well though.

    So in the end, I'm sticking with personal benefits when compared with other, high quality customs lol...and more measurable benefits if its compared with a more generic knife of course.
    I try to be the man I am..in times of broken lives. Shattered dreams and plans..standing up to fight. Pressures and demands..staring at the knife. Holding in your hands..

  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by panda View Post
    i'm still not sure what the real world benefit of honyaki in a kitchen knife is, if any.
    Panda I used a Takagi Honyaki in production kitchen,admit I bought it because it was a good deal on JWW had some superficial flaws & cheap handle that I changed.Best Lobster blade ever for me.It keeps a sharp edge longer than any steel I have used in a kitchen knife,Carbon or Stainless.Once it is trained like any other carbon blade sharpening is not a problem at all.

  5. #25
    Cool pictures. You can picture the huge strain in the steel while quenching the blade nonuniform.

    As for real life benefits of a Honyaki blade, i don't see really important ones. One attribute that may be a benefit for certain knives is a blade being made out of hard steel entirely may have less flex as compared to a clad steel blade. This might enable a thinner blade while still being quite stiff.

    Other than that, i'd bet a nice Ardbeg that it would be impossible to identify a Honyaki blade against an otherwise identical clad blade (shape, geometry, steel, hardness, similar weight) in a cutting blind test (test flexing not allowed).

  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrisAnderson27 View Post
    I think when you're purchasing a Japanese honyaki blade, that's a large part of what you're paying for. Not only the properties in the knife itself, but the skill that allows a master of his craft to find success in a task where most other practitioners find only failure.
    Quote Originally Posted by CrisAnderson27 View Post
    In addition, as I mentioned...a person making a honyaki blade is virtually guaranteed to know what he's doing. They aren't something you make in batches...and as such, the greater level of attention could very easily add something to the finished product.

    This is the exact reason I bought my honyaki knife. Your posts have reminded me just how much I value what it took to craft mine, thank you for that.

  7. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by TaJ View Post
    Cool pictures. You can picture the huge strain in the steel while quenching the blade nonuniform.

    As for real life benefits of a Honyaki blade, i don't see really important ones. One attribute that may be a benefit for certain knives is a blade being made out of hard steel entirely may have less flex as compared to a clad steel blade. This might enable a thinner blade while still being quite stiff.

    Other than that, i'd bet a nice Ardbeg that it would be impossible to identify a Honyaki blade against an otherwise identical clad blade (shape, geometry, steel, hardness, similar weight) in a cutting blind test (test flexing not allowed).
    Actually, stiffness is more a factor of geometry...rather than hardness. For example, a through hardened western sword blade with a fuller, will be much stiffer than a through hardened western sword blade without one, at the same hardness. Another example...stainless steel, mild steel, and hardened tool steel rods all have a similar stiffness (resistance to bending) rating, although the hardened steel will snap at a much earlier limit, of course.

    Stiffness and flexibility are also both highly subjective, and often mistaken for each other. Do you mean resistance to flexing (stiffness)? Or ability to return to true after being bent (flexibility)? Many people use them interchangeably, but they are very different things. A perfectly flat, thin (1-2mm) spring tempered (about 500°F) piece of hardened steel will bend 90° and return to true easily. That same piece of steel, ground into a diamond (think double edged sword) geometry, will 'flex' much less, thus being 'stiffer'. Cut grooves (fullers) in that diamond geometry, and the stiffness increases even more. Note that you have changed nothing about the hardness of the steel. Just its shape.

    On the honyaki thing. I do feel the need to say (again) that a through hardened blade will often be tempered (hardness reduced to increase toughness) at a higher temperature than a honyaki blade. This absolutely changes its physical properties, including edge holding, and sharpness. The reason for this is that a very thin, 2" wide blade at 65HRC is a very brittle, and thus easy thing to snap. 61-63HRC is more of a reasonable limit for that kind of thing. A honyaki blade can be left at 65HRC due to the support of the soft spine, without fear of actually breaking the knife in two accidentally. Just something to keep in mind.
    I try to be the man I am..in times of broken lives. Shattered dreams and plans..standing up to fight. Pressures and demands..staring at the knife. Holding in your hands..

  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by panda View Post
    i'm still not sure what the real world benefit of honyaki in a kitchen knife is, if any.
    This is the point I was trying to make with my post. What are the real world benefits of a Honyaki knife?

    At the prices being charged for Honayaki knives, it would be hard to imagine that it would come down to personal preference. Knifes such as Kato or Heji require a certain skill level to maintain and use. I'd think that Honyaki would be similar. From what I've heard, ability to take and edge and retention are key factors. It would be nice to hear from member that have picked up a Honyaki knife their impressions.
    I'm a over-sized, under-educated, two onions a month, cutting fool.

  9. #29
    I meant the resistance to flexing kind of 'stiffness'. So, my assumption that it may be stiffer was wrong, thanks for clearing that up. I should have looked that up before assuming wildly. And ya, geometry plays a big role. Why else would we use differently shaped girders (which only Bender is able to bend ).

    Yes, i understand that for actual knifes the resulting hardness often differs for Honyaki blades and clad steel blades. So, maybe one could say, for Honyaki blades it's almost a defining attribute to have a high hardness and thus (almost) every Honyaki edge is as hard as only the hardest non-Honyaki edges, which are outnumbered by less hard non-Honyaki edges. That may be the root cause of the often heard statements that lead me to ask the questions of my first post to begin with.
    Last edited by TaJ; 01-18-2014 at 12:01 AM. Reason: typo

  10. #30
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    ok that i can understand, 'feel' is the one big reason to prefer carbon over stainless so makes sense.

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