Anyone have/seen a (very) old gyuto? Or other old Jknives for that matter

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AidenCC

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I’ve researched the history of a number of different types of knives in the process of learning to make them, but one area that has mostly eluded me is Japanese kitchen knives. From what I can tell the first gyutos looked very much like a European chef knife (double bevel, full tang, etc), but I am yet to see a single surviving knife that that era or a contemporary drawing etc. I still find it surprising that there isn’t much out there; I’ve been able to find out more about knives from 10th century Eastern Siberia than a cultural icon from one of the most populous countries.

If anyone has information, especially pictures, of older Japanese culinary knives (I don’t think I’ve really seen anything pre mid 20th century) or better yet has a very old knife in their collection I would be very interested in seeing it. Thanks for reading!
 

Pie

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“@refcast to customer service please, @refcast to customer service”

Can you tell I work in a grocery store?

I personally have zero knowledge of historical gyuto but the member noted above gets the weirdest, old fun things you could imagine.
 
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I don't think they would look that unfamiliar to you. This is from 1797.

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The knives that chef knives were descended from are tobacco knives. The Portuguese first brought tobacco to Japan along with guns and European style tobacco knives


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@Pie

Like @stringer posted above, the tobacco knife is a really old Japanese knife shape, though if a particular example were that old -- well I can't find them online easily. Japan can be humid and rusty things are very very common.

There are probably books out there in Japanese that have pictures of kitchen knives that are that old, but I haven't really found them. There are plenty of sword and woodworking tool books though, that showcase things.

I think either Jon Broida at Japanese Knife Imports or So Yamashita at Japan Tool may be more helpful. Or Michael at Knife Japan. Or Josh Donald at Bernal Cutlery, who researched this gyuto history explicitly with a gyuto maker in Japan, Ashi Hamono.

Roughly speaking, during industrialization the Japanese adopted Western technologies and techniques in various industries, and also through trade. For example, they had their own scissor technique, but upon trade with I believe the Portuguese in Tanegashima, they acquired Roman style scissors.

For scissors, for example, there's a pair of the western style scissors made by the first Japanese blacksmith who made them, and I think that was in the 1800s -- and that's at the Kiya shop I believe on display. Or Ubekaya. Don't recall completely.

The oldest kitchen knives I've used were probably 1950-1970s or so. I have an old deba that's supposed to be from that time.

If you are good with Google Translate, you could probably look up the kanji for kitchen knife and history . . . I know Tojiro has a website in Japanese where they talk about the history. But I haven't seen pictures of really old knives, in my browsing. Probably because kitchen knives are exposed to the most moisture of any forged tool, except maybe razors, oh, and fishing blades or tools.
 
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This is a random ebay post and not saying this particular one is really old. But this is what I think early gyutos world have looked like. A combo of a western bolstered nogent and a traditional style ferrule wa handle.

Screenshot_20220309-114458.png


 
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Some timelines of knives

包丁 kitchen knife
古 old
歴史 history
牛刀 chef knife

also eric chevelliar at desakai knives could possibly be helpful, since he has worked with the Sakai Knife Museum.

Also @osakajoe on this forum.

Attached is a translation of one of the Seki link

Useful is the line " Mr. Toshio Kato, the author of "The Story of Cutlery" . . . "
『刃物のはなし』の著者である加藤俊男氏は

The book title, " The Story of Cutlery": 刃物のはなし

The author: Toshio Kato: の著者である加藤俊男氏は

The author seems to be a president of Kiya, with an engineering degree, but the book looks like a children's book.

There's also a more substantial looking book by the same author:
刃物あれこれ―金属学からみた切れ味の秘密

The amazon jp reviews seem to be really great -- the coauthor is materials engineering faculty at Tokyo University, and it seems to be an engineering focused book, with microstructure pictures and phase diagram stuff.
 

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AidenCC

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Thank you for all of the replies on this! I will give a shot googling in Japanese, thank you very much @refcast for the translations. I have often found searching in the original language helpful, and Japanese has given me a lot more trouble than Russian, Finnish, Swedish, or Spanish (though I speak that last one). I think that getting at the right technical terms has been a big part of the problem, and the "symbol" barrier is even worse than with Cyrillic.

I've had pretty good luck with foreign language knife books, both digital and print, in the past. The google translate phone app has let me read a lot out of Puukkon Historia (a Finnish book), though there is definitely some ambiguity, which may be even worse with Japanese. An author with a matsci background sounds great, I've found that a lot of knife making books don't get everything right on the metallurgy side of things. With a recent pivot, I've found myself in the world of automotive sheet steel, so I've been looking at a lot of steel metallurgy stuff lately.
 
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If you’re going to dive deep in to Japanese web sources google translate is useful in finding sources that are relevant, but you’ll have much more accurate and comprehensible results using DeepL for final translation. Far superior tool, especially for Japanese. Not as convenient, but worthwhile.
 
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