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Echotraveler

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wow this knifes fetch some high prices! someday! for now i only dream of this so called unicorns. I wonder how much of a difference one could feel in comparison to other professional grade knifes in the $150-$300 range.
Currently the Takamura HSPS Pro Gyuto is my dream, and im looking for any excuse to splurge, as im getting quite used to working in a professional kitchen with the Takamura Migaki R2 Gyuto, which is the cheaper version...but by far my most expensive, and most sharp knife ever!
 

labor of love

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Yeah the taka hsps is pretty bad ass. You won’t be disappointed.
 

panda

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speaking of katana, i would love to try a gyuto with a proper grind made out of tamahagane san mai..
 

Barmoley

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I tried I really did. Here are some katana constructions of a later period of katana evolution.
A2401D92-3D3C-4B4E-AA12-DBA86893D5FF.png



Ofcourse earlier katana were longer and had more belly no flat spot at all since they were mostly used off a horse. Later they became shorter and straighter. Proper katana needs to be fitted to the user otherwise you will cut yourself to pieces while taking it out or stub yourself when putting it back into its Saya, if it is too long you won't be able to take it out of the saya quickly.
 
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lemeneid

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Katanas are $10000 & up, vs chef knives $100 & up, that would exclude most people.
I wish people would stop peddling this lie though. There are nice katanas to be had for $3000 or so, made 200-300 years ago, with tamahagane and decently polished. of course if you're looking for a high-end modern art piece by Yoshimitsu, a million will get you probably half the tang and a wait list of over 15 years by my reckoning now.

there are also katanas made of blue, white, etc, honyaki, san-mai, kobuse, awase, etc... so do your research.

also, just my opinion, whoever bought that Kato tamahagane takohiki, thank you for being the biggest sucker on earth.
 

Codered

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From what i understand, tamahagane is basically smelted steel like they did it hudred of years ago: iron sand and added charcoal which forms some clumps of steel. I think it should be simillar to wootz steel or white steel only with less impurities. So my question is whether this steel is worth the money and hype or it is just mystified for marketing pourpouse ? I would expect modern steels to be superior
 

Codered

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Oh and can someone explain me the relevance of that tamahagane spark test? To me that looks really medieval. The physics behind sparks while grinding is that particles of iron ans steel are broken in the process and catch fire due to friction burn. The more britle the steel the more particles break loose ..the cleaner the iron the more fire it takes. If the steel has other compounds than iron and carbon these might form oxides that prevent burning.
What does this say about tamahagane? That is has less aloys and that it's very brittle. Is it better? Not relevant from this test.
 

lemeneid

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Anyone is deluding themselves, if they think tamahagane is some kind of magical steel with superior sharpness or edge retention compared to modern steels. It is however more asthetically beautiful if polished to the maximum potential. Its not called jewel steel for no reason.

You see sparks during forging as thats the impurities burning off during forging. So less sparks implies more pure. However compared to modern steels, it is nowhere as pure.
 

madelinez

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I'd have thought steels like SC125 would have less phosphorus or sulfur (the bad guys) than something traditionally made by collecting somewhat pure iron from sandy river beds and smelting it. SC125 probably has more carbon/manganese though which you could classify as an impurity (although a positive at those levels).
 

Luftmensch

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Anyone is deluding themselves, if they think tamahagane is some kind of magical steel with superior sharpness or edge retention compared to modern steels.
+1

It is however more asthetically beautiful if polished to the maximum potential.
I might suggest this is even controversial. It is true that this is a part of the Nihonto art form. Blacksmiths and polishers will deliberately work to allow for creating/exaggerating patterns in the steel. Unique or intrinsic to tamahagane? I dont think so... Monosteel blades (honyaki) can produce intricate banding... and my tamahagane razors have zero interesting features beyond a boring hamon!


So my question is whether this steel is worth the money and hype or it is just mystified for marketing pourpouse ?
I think the framing here is wrong... First up the answer is: no. @lemeneid is right. It is a high carbon steel. No magic. There is no marketing conspiracy. 'BIG tamahagane' is not pushing a product. It falls into the same category as unicorns. It is 'just' bloomery steel. That is to say, it is labour intensive and only a small amount is produced - so it has to cost more. Some people romanticise the level of artisanship that goes into producing it (and fair enough!). This again increases the cost.

If you are wondering if there are objective reasons for why it is better - there are none. If you are asking why people value it... well... "de gustibus non est disputandum"



Since I am rambling... on a side note.... I suppose the Western love affair for Japanese culture is a product of history. I am not an avid follower of history but a loose understanding of significant events in the past century(ish) is something like: trade prior to 1900's, an alliance with the British at the beginning of the 1900's, Japan joining the Axis powers in WWII, post WWII occupation. A lot of mythology gets exchanged in both directions when cultures mix (or oppose). Think about the Western love affair for Samurai mythology (e.g. exports like Kurosawa). What better way to make their weapons hold mystique than to embed them in heroic tales involving bravery and honour codes?! I think a lot of current affection for Japanese knives (or steel) bares the finger prints of that history.
 

Luftmensch

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I have a theory that unicorn knives such as Kato (shigefusa also following) are a dying breed
Hmmm.... this thread seems suspiciously close to the oft flogged dead horse: "Are blacksmith X really worth while since they are so expensive and hard to get"

Perhaps a more genuinely interesting question is. What make a knife 'flavour of the month' and what makes a knife a 'timeless example of the craft'.

I thought these comments were stimulating:

I’ve been given the impression in the past, sometimes by vendors that the old way of forging is dying off in Japan.
From what i see the traditional smithing in Japan is there to stay. It's part of their national heritage. The smiths are highly appreciated by their society and the japanese love their traditional knives. It's in their DNA and history.
If the old way of forging is dying off... then 'unicorns' may get more scarce (and grow in value). If traditional smithing is a permanent fixture of national heritage... then unicorns will not get more scarce (though the sought after makers may shift over time). Traditional smithing is a part of Japan's national heritage (or at least so I believe). If you accept that premise... then perhaps the next question is... how far down the chain can the halo be passed? Tokifusa-san is reaching retirement. That will happen (for the most part) silently - the sons now embody the brand. But what about their future apprentices? Is it still romantic if it was only your master's master that was a renowned blacksmith?
 

Luftmensch

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....Last thought for the next while :D

Can we please stop with katana comparisons. Kitchen knives and katana have very little in common except that both are made of steel and cut things. The design purposes are so different that to draw any comparisons is just ridiculous.
I mostly agree. They clearly have different design purposes and constructions! Further... a good swordsmith does not automatically equate to a good knife maker. Similarly, a good knife maker does not automatically equate to a good sword maker.

Where I do think there is space to discuss nihonto is the cultural footprint they leave. Artistic or historic specimens can be graded as national treasures. To this end, sword making has been continued as an art form to preserve that tradition/culture. Remember that for a long time, swords were a sign of status. The technical and aesthetic ability of a swordsmith would have been part of that status. An N-th generation blacksmith, or one who trained under a national treasure, can rightly wear that with pride. Surely some of the methods and ritual around production would be passed down even if the end product is distinctly different.

I dunno... these days instead of fighting over the best swordsmith (as a sign of status and bragging rights) we are fighting over the best knife makers :p.... I guess maybe the some people over at a Nihonto forum are arguing over hyped swordsmiths? But hey.... at least we can legally use our tools :D
 

lemeneid

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I might suggest this is even controversial. It is true that this is a part of the Nihonto art form. Blacksmiths and polishers will deliberately work to allow for creating/exaggerating patterns in the steel. Unique or intrinsic to tamahagane? I dont think so... Monosteel blades (honyaki) can produce intricate banding... and my tamahagane razors have zero interesting features beyond a boring hamon!
nope, totally disagree. with modern steels, you can only get banding. in tamahagane, you can get different kinds of hada, depending on how the steel was folded and forged and how the hamon is clayed. how the hada appears is up to the skill of the smith in folding and forging and how the polisher is able to bring out those characteristics. also in tamahagane, a good polisher can bring out different kinds of effects in the steel, dependent on the pieces chosen.

its interesting you brought up tamahagane razors, because every piece of tamahagane is different. when it is taken out from the tatara, the best sword makers will get first dibs on the best pieces to make their swords. then it trickles down, usually for razor makers, they chose different pieces from the sword smiths, for razors, they prioritize pieces that give hardness and sharpness not shiny hada. sword makers pick different pieces, depending on what they're making be it, iaido, heirloom swords, ceremonial, etc. in any case, the best stuff goes to the best smiths, the B and C grade stuff goes to other forgers.
 

Luftmensch

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nope, totally disagree
I have no doubt you are more versed in the matter than me! So I am going to challenge you at my own peril :D

depending on how the steel was folded and forged and how the hamon is clayed. how the hada appears is up to the skill of the smith in folding and forging and how the polisher is able to bring out those characteristics.
this is what I am talking about when I say:

Blacksmiths and polishers will deliberately work to allow for creating/exaggerating patterns in the steel.
It is the master and not the material...

with modern steels, you can only get banding
Perhaps. As I understand it, raw tamahagane is a good quality steel with high slag content. Folding was necessary to work the slag out of the bloom material. I believe this is the main contributing factor to hada (what choices were made during folding). Would the aesthetic affects be similar in bloom steels from other cultures? Probably. Could this be emulated with modern steels (even though folding them to work out slag is not necessary).... Probably!


Since this is a thread about unicorn hype being transient and katanas being irrelevant :p... Perhaps this is an appropriate location to say, that I wouldnt be surprised if the elusive Shigefusa clouds were hada due to folding wrought iron stock ;)
 

inferno

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Oh and can someone explain me the relevance of that tamahagane spark test? To me that looks really medieval. The physics behind sparks while grinding is that particles of iron ans steel are broken in the process and catch fire due to friction burn. The more britle the steel the more particles break loose ..the cleaner the iron the more fire it takes. If the steel has other compounds than iron and carbon these might form oxides that prevent burning.
What does this say about tamahagane? That is has less aloys and that it's very brittle. Is it better? Not relevant from this test.
tamahagane is steel made with the traditional method of pouring and burning charcoal and iron rich sands in a "tatara" clay smelting chimney kinda. this is usually a 36-72h or so process.

the end result is a low density sponge clump of steel. or aka bloom steel.


they spark test the pieces to determine carbon content. and they grade these from highest to lowest. usually a katana is made out of at least 2 different kinds. with the same HT the high and low carbon steel will become softer or harder. and with these types of steel it means the lower carbon content steel is tougher and is used for the spine or sides or center of teh blade and the high carbon one becomes the edge.

they also forge and and fold these pieces several times to get rid of contaminants in the steel. such as phosphorus and sulfur that makes steel brittle since these are non metallic inclusions. modern steel can have 0,003% or so of these. and tamahagane will not be close to this no.

modern steel is so good you dont need to make a sword out of 2-3 different C% steels. you can use one single steel and through hardening it (same HT all over) and it will be tougher, harder, and keep an edge longer, and chip less, and so on. you can also just as well use something like 1070-1080 stright carbon steel. and then temper the spine to lower hardness/higher toughness with a torch after the regular tempering. tempering is not the same as hardening.

i made a sword myself out of 80crv2 from krupp. and i'm fairly certain it will outperform any tamahagane sword ever created in all performance categories. by far.
 

krx927

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They are beautiful knives, no doubt. What's stopping me is that they are white #2. What is such a knife going to look like after a year of daily use? How much of the Hamon and the mirror finish will still be present then? (That's a genuine question; I have never owned a honyaki.)
My thoughts exactly,. Under assumption it's really being used for a year
 

inferno

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also regarding wootz. its also called bulat in russia. it was never forgotten. its just a myth.

wootz is a crucible steel. and its most likely much more pure than tamahagane, but i dont know if the performance is better. its a low hardness matrix with some dendritic alloy banding mostly caused by very low % of V, like 0,1% or so. and no this steel does not rival modern steel in performance. but it was probably good for the time.

you could do a lot more interesting and better steels than this in a crucible today imo. even at home.

a saw a vid on youtube like 2-3 months ago where they basically recreated the whole process of wootz. and its identical.
 

inferno

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My thoughts exactly,. Under assumption it's really being used for a year
and michi! white 2 rusts i think the fastest of any steel, and also discolors fast. and if you were to take a kitchen sponge to it to clean it up every week that "temper line" will definitely disappear sooner or later.

unless you polish it with a jnat uchigumori every week or so i'd guess. all honyakis are showpieces. sure you can use them but if you want that look youi will have to maintain it too.

personally i would just use it and wipe it. and then after like 6 months i would restore it to "new". if you know how to that is. and have the stones.
 

ian

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i could give two sh*ts about hamon and clouds. i like honyaki because of the dense cutting edge and soft spine, it really makes a difference in how a blade feels in use (feedback, edge stability, etc).
What's it mean for a cutting edge to be dense? Are you saying something besides high hardness?
 

labor of love

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What's it mean for a cutting edge to be dense? Are you saying something besides high hardness?
All the harder steel feels denser and heavier to me too compared to San mai and lower hardness mono.
 

ian

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All the harder steel feels denser and heavier to me too compared to San mai and lower hardness mono.
Is that actually a thing, then? I tried searching google for a correlation between steel density and hardness, but didn't come up with anything. It would seem strange to me if there was an actual correlation that made a noticeable difference to the user, since I doubt the total volume of the steel changes that much depending on the heat treatment, but not sure, of course.

This also made me go look up this earlier 10 page thread on honyakis.

https://www.kitchenknifeforums.com/threads/honyaki-i-dont-get-it.33678/page-10

I only looked through the first four pages, but Bryan Raquin and Robin Dalman seem to be downplaying the performance benefits a bit. They both argue that the differential heat treat doesn't necessarily make possible a higher hardness than you can get on a mono knife, for instance.

I believe that the soft spine hard edge combination would make a difference in how it feels on the board, though, for sure.

Please allow me my rationalizations. If I seem defensive, it's because I don't want to feel like I need to buy one.
 

Corradobrit1

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Please allow me my rationalizations. If I seem defensive, it's because I don't want to feel like I need to buy one.
Total waste of money and only for poseurs. There, now you can feel better.....
 
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