Who does the best Kurouchi?

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Ku.wl blue. What not to love. And it doesn't wipe off at an alarming rate.
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I like all my kurouchi finished knives.
If forced to choose my top 3, best and fave kurouchi finishes, it would be Yanick, Sumiiro (Nihei), and Jiro.
All three kurouchi examples here have heaps of personality, distinctive, artfully done, and are very stable.
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I like the natural forge versions much more than the lacquer ones, whether those stay on or not. Seems weird to me to have the rusticity painted on.
I’m not there to witness the exact techniques used, there’s honestly not much documentation of what each maker does to achieve their ku—I just judge/respond to the end product. Y Tanaka for example uses different methods. I don’t feel that one technique is better than another.
 
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My only beef with my Wat Pro. Just looks and feels weird. Could even be real for all I know, but it's still super smooth and painted-like
I love my Wat pro. I have a Kurouchi 270, which is a beast. But that kurouchi is lacquer. I think Y. Tanaka's are different versions of lacquer because of the way he forges.
 
Y Tanaka ‘true forged’ kurouchi suji.
View attachment 286952

I have seen Razor Sharp describe the finish that way. I have no inside scoop. But it still looks different from the likes of Munetoshi and Mazaki. See here from Hitohira (a different knife, with a different finish, but still relevant):

https://hitohira-japan.com/products/aaa-020b1kd-70-fa240

Message from Craftsman​

Because Tanaka's way of quenching, knife does not produce a Kurouchi dark finish enough. So in order to produce the finish, which is both aesthetically pleasing and useful in protecting against rust, sharpener uses a special and secret technique that has been used in Sakai for a long time and etches the surface of the knife.
This way of finishing creates the dark and beautiful Kurouchi finish found on this special line. While both types of Kurouchi finishes can fade over time, the etching technique used by sharpener may fade faster.
This is not signed that anything is wrong with the blade. so please do not worry if this happens, as it is natural.
 
I have seen Razor Sharp describe the finish that way. I have no inside scoop. But it still looks different from the likes of Munetoshi and Mazaki. See here from Hitohira (a different knife, with a different finish, but still relevant):

https://hitohira-japan.com/products/aaa-020b1kd-70-fa240

Message from Craftsman​

Because Tanaka's way of quenching, knife does not produce a Kurouchi dark finish enough. So in order to produce the finish, which is both aesthetically pleasing and useful in protecting against rust, sharpener uses a special and secret technique that has been used in Sakai for a long time and etches the surface of the knife.
This way of finishing creates the dark and beautiful Kurouchi finish found on this special line. While both types of Kurouchi finishes can fade over time, the etching technique used by sharpener may fade faster.
This is not signed that anything is wrong with the blade. so please do not worry if this happens, as it is natural.
I've seen the 'Message from Craftsman' text on the CKC website, that particular ku finish looks quite different to my suji from Razorsharp—I also don't have an 'inside scoop,' can only go by what my vendor communicated to me as a 'true forge' kurouchi. Dig the finish on the suji.
 
I am also on the KU Nashiji team. Wakui, Munetoshi, Shi.Han, Hinoura, Kochi are my favorite texture for sure.

Though, I should add Tsukasa’s River jump is by far the best I have held but not owned. Josh from Bernal insisted I put hands on a 240 when I bought my Wakui migaki.
 
The Tangetsu looks like applied later but super nice, still no fading yet
View attachment 286863
My only beef with my Wat Pro. Just looks and feels weird. Could even be real for all I know, but it's still super smooth and painted-like


Something worth pointing out in this thread is that kuruochi comes from two parts of the knifemaking process: Forging, and heat treat.

After a knife blade is heat treated it's kuruochi all the way down (like turtles). If you have a fancy Japanese knife with a smooth KU then I'd say it's very unlikely to have a painted kuruochi, far more likely that the blade has had minimal or no forging, or that the hammer marks have been polished out prior to heat treat.

You do sometimes see kuruochi that is very shiny though, and that's not black paint either, it's just a clear coating over the top of actual KU. You can see it on this Tosa style blade:

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If you want to know what fully painted on 'kuruochi' looks like... buy a Chinese cleaver.
 
Something worth pointing out in this thread is that kuruochi comes from two parts of the knifemaking process: Forging, and heat treat.

After a knife blade is heat treated it's kuruochi all the way down (like turtles). If you have a fancy Japanese knife with a smooth KU then I'd say it's very unlikely to have a painted kuruochi, far more likely that the blade has had minimal or no forging, or that the hammer marks have been polished out prior to heat treat.

You do sometimes see kuruochi that is very shiny though, and that's not black paint either, it's just a clear coating over the top of actual KU. You can see it on this Tosa style blade:

View attachment 286963


If you want to know what fully painted on 'kuruochi' looks like... buy a Chinese cleaver.
Looking at the tang of Tangetsu you can see a welding line tho, the tang is probably welded stainless and welded after heat treatment, that’s why I think it is applied later.
 
I have seen Razor Sharp describe the finish that way. I have no inside scoop. But it still looks different from the likes of Munetoshi and Mazaki. See here from Hitohira (a different knife, with a different finish, but still relevant):

https://hitohira-japan.com/products/aaa-020b1kd-70-fa240

Message from Craftsman​

Because Tanaka's way of quenching, knife does not produce a Kurouchi dark finish enough. So in order to produce the finish, which is both aesthetically pleasing and useful in protecting against rust, sharpener uses a special and secret technique that has been used in Sakai for a long time and etches the surface of the knife.
This way of finishing creates the dark and beautiful Kurouchi finish found on this special line. While both types of Kurouchi finishes can fade over time, the etching technique used by sharpener may fade faster.
This is not signed that anything is wrong with the blade. so please do not worry if this happens, as it is natural.


Ah that's interesting.

Certainly if you etch (or re-etch) a knife where the forge KU has worn off over time - it does kinda go back to looking like KU again. Especially if you scrub it down with scotchbrite or something first. I'll snap a coupla pics in a few days when I'm next doing it...
 
I have seen Razor Sharp describe the finish that way. I have no inside scoop. But it still looks different from the likes of Munetoshi and Mazaki. See here from Hitohira (a different knife, with a different finish, but still relevant):

https://hitohira-japan.com/products/aaa-020b1kd-70-fa240

Message from Craftsman​

Because Tanaka's way of quenching, knife does not produce a Kurouchi dark finish enough. So in order to produce the finish, which is both aesthetically pleasing and useful in protecting against rust, sharpener uses a special and secret technique that has been used in Sakai for a long time and etches the surface of the knife.
This way of finishing creates the dark and beautiful Kurouchi finish found on this special line. While both types of Kurouchi finishes can fade over time, the etching technique used by sharpener may fade faster.
This is not signed that anything is wrong with the blade. so please do not worry if this happens, as it is natural.
Tangetsu should be similar, probably something like gun blue? Tho the back side of that knife is concerning…

Edit: or probably like how western smiths does high contrast Damascus.
 
Ah that's interesting.

Certainly if you etch (or re-etch) a knife where the forge KU has worn off over time - it does kinda go back to looking like KU again. Especially if you scrub it down with scotchbrite or something first. I'll snap a coupla pics in a few days when I'm next doing it...

I am curious about these two approaches. One it sounds like is true brut de forge, the remnants of the scales that are all over the blade after heat treat, except maybe not for Tanaka with that pine charcoal? The other method(s) sound like etching of some kind or lacquer.
 
A KU is supposed to be a forge scale. The darkest ones that have definite scaling are usually pretty enduring and nicest. They even present very good resistance to patina visually, since they can't get any much darker. However, the darkest ones are most often cheats (usually no scaling) that will fade under use in acidic and any regular washing. Scaling gray is also nice and usually enduring. Smooth dark greys without obvious scaling are also often times very stable. Most of all greys pretty much visually take some patina early on, and although it most often only turns them slightly darker for a while, they will eventually discolor further into some usual bluish/brownish hues you'd get on a Migaki from the early onset. I'm sure a few in house methods exist that would belie all of that, but I'm discussing regular stuff encountered out there... and of course, iron clad ones. Stainless clad ones are almost always a cheat to begin with, but then again, most would fade given some time.

Western makers not included.
 
Now, notwithstanding any much thinking, my favorites, ok, and crappy ones:

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Wakui A#2 Iron Clad - Still with me


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Mazaki W#2 - sold long ago

But mostly Shi.Han's 52100 KU - sold about a year ago when I finally started to reduce my collection mostly towards middle ground/lasers. No regrets but I do miss it.

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OOTB

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After a few thinnings and trying stones for polish back in 2021...


Tied with the Wakui would be my former Denka...
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Ok mentions:

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Yo Kurosaki AS... couldn't not mention it. Not with me long enough to go in the best category, but as a super neat SS clad I'm sure it would have made it

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Ittetsu KU W#1 - after a hell of a thinning/regrinding work. Ittetsu is clearly "blued". Not the most enduring KU, but treated well it could endure well, and from OOTB had those "oily slick" hues already, making it the most "light playing" KU I ever got besides the Denka.

Crappy mentions:
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Yoshikane Tsuchime - a few wash and it's fading, supposedly stainless clad with a dire staining tendency...

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Moritaka - perfect example of a darkest cheat that won't last...
 
Looking at the Moritaka though, I'd love a chance to play again - project knife style. A#2 was very nicely hard and easy to sharpen. I'd also have a better appreciation of how to keep on the KU whatever it takes, cause without it (like, Migaki as it ended up with me) it's close to a nightmare for an iron clad. By far the worst behavior I've ever seen with any Aogami in iron dresses, much more closer to W#2 behavior in such dressing there. And there indeed, Mazaki KU is just top notch a finish to get to an iron clad W#2.

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Looking at the Moritaka though, I'd love a chance to play again - project knife style. A#2 was very nicely hard and easy to sharpen. I'd also have a better appreciation of how to keep on the KU whatever it takes, cause without it (like, Migaki as it ended up with me) it's close to a nightmare for an iron clad. By far the worst behavior I've ever seen with any Aogami in iron dresses, much more closer to W#2 behavior in such dressing there. And there indeed, Mazaki KU is just top notch a finish to get to an iron clad W#2.

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I wouldn't mind that the moritaka KU is so fragile if it weren't so prone to the yellow/brown colors. Also has me wondering why certain iron claddings or even the same core steel (in name) seem to react so differently.
 
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