Beauty And Function
May 29, 2007 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Ichiro Hattori makes the finest knives in the world. Chef knives (gyuto KD series) start at $860 USD and top out at $1175. This hunting knife is priced at $2150. These are not collector knives. They are made for everyday use. Text and images of the process and a YouTube vid of same (23:40 mostly in English).
posted by sluglicker (63 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Did anybody else flash on "Hanzo Hattori" for a sec there?
posted by pax digita at 8:21 AM on May 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


Anyone who spends $1200 for his chef's knife is overcompensating about something. You're slicing a piece of fish. It doesn't need to be forged steel to such a fetishistic extent.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:26 AM on May 29, 2007


I heard food tastes better when it's cut with expensive knives.

Also, this is awesome.
posted by chunking express at 8:28 AM on May 29, 2007


Regular professional chef knives are not exactly cheap.
posted by RavinDave at 8:34 AM on May 29, 2007


From the writeup found on the "This Hunting Knife" link:

"Forging in the Japanese ancient times which spend time, as for experiencing and freely use skill, To highest to forge the edged tool more toughly it was known as the only method. "The KD30 series" of the Hattori edged tool, experience abundant edged tool smithery forging very careful doing the kauri X/nickel stainless steel Damascus steel, makes the base, exhausts the choice of technology and is finished."

And yet, I know EXACTLY what they mean. I want that knife.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 8:35 AM on May 29, 2007


I would think this kind of knife would only help to push the standards of less expensive knives a degree or two higher.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:35 AM on May 29, 2007


So is this like the Monster Cables of the knife world?
posted by hodyoaten at 8:36 AM on May 29, 2007 [3 favorites]


God, don't let my husband see this link.
posted by Lucinda at 8:36 AM on May 29, 2007


Those chefs knives are also very beautiful - the patterns on the blade would make me want to display them, not use them.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 8:36 AM on May 29, 2007


If it doesn't come with a bamboo steamer, I don't want it.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:37 AM on May 29, 2007


you needn't spend $1200, but I would reccomend that everyone who enjoys cooking try a Japanese made knife sometime in their life. High end Henckle's or Wusthof knives are made with softer steel than Japanese knives, so they simply cannot take as sharp an edge. Any of the knives available at the site on the first link (try the Tojiro for a good deal) will cut better and keep a sharp edge longer than typical western knives. Other great knife makers include Shosui Takeda, Watanabe, and Murray Carter. Check out some of the threads on Foodie Forums for more.
posted by cubby at 8:38 AM on May 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


Did anybody else flash on "Hanzo Hattori" for a sec there?

Same here.
posted by MissNefertiti at 8:39 AM on May 29, 2007


Incidentally, I use a Hattori HD gyuto - its no KD but its still a wonderful knife
posted by cubby at 8:41 AM on May 29, 2007


Wow. I only wish I could afford instruments like that. My dad, a professional chef for 30 years, probably never came within an inch of a knife that nice. Beautiful aesthetically and probably a wonder to use.

Noticeably better than your run-of-the mill professional grade chef's knife? Probably not, at least not to me. But absolute beauty nonetheless.

I loves me some fine craftsmanship.
posted by C.Batt at 8:42 AM on May 29, 2007


Just the thing to go with the world's finest cutting board scraper. But I'm still looking for the world's finest cutting board.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:43 AM on May 29, 2007


I use a MAC santoku in the kitchen.

$80, and I've only had to have it resharpened once in the last three years, with near daily use.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:45 AM on May 29, 2007


possibly the world's finest cutting boards
posted by cubby at 8:47 AM on May 29, 2007


Yeah but can it cut through a beer can and slice tomatoes like a laser?
posted by spicynuts at 8:48 AM on May 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


Act now and they'll throw in The World's Most Expensive Spiral Slicer and The World's Most Expensive and Smallest Juicer.
posted by bondcliff at 8:53 AM on May 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


I've had my eye on Tim Zowada's razors for a while. Especialy this one. He makes nice knives, too.
posted by dobbs at 8:59 AM on May 29, 2007


I need Japanese steel.
posted by gwint at 9:12 AM on May 29, 2007


High end Henckle's or Wusthof knives are made with softer steel than Japanese knives, so they simply cannot take as sharp an edge

Not entirely true. The German knives may be made with a softer steel, but that doesn't mean they can't be made as sharp, it just means that you have to sharpen them more often. The trade-off is that they are less brittle, which means that they are less likely to chip if the edge encounters something unfriendly.

Which isn't meant to disparage the Japanese knives at all. While you have to be slightly more careful, you end up with a knife that stays sharper for longer, which is nice.

All that said, I can't imagine spending this much on a knife. I finally broke my addiction to expensive steel a few years ago when I stopped carrying any pocket knife that cost more than $100. Yes, more expensive knives are better, but not so much that it's worth the additional cost. My $40 knife can do everything my $150 knife could do. And if I lose it, I can buy a new one without feeling like the world has ended.
posted by quin at 9:16 AM on May 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


I seriously doubt he's quenching the blades by plunging them into the bodies of muscular slaves, so the actual Damascitity can be debated.
posted by BeerFilter at 9:19 AM on May 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you're going to have a blade plunged into you, though, hey - might as well be the finest craftsmanship available.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:31 AM on May 29, 2007


You know, there was an article in the Times a couple of weeks ago about how you should be able to outfit an entire kitchen for several hundred dollars…
posted by oaf at 9:31 AM on May 29, 2007


Some people NEED to buy a Rolls Royce, Oaf. Simple steel and cast iron cookware won't do for them. They have small penises.
posted by Dave Faris at 9:33 AM on May 29, 2007


I love the look of those boards, cubby, but I think the ideal board would have to be made from a single plank, without glue joints. I used to have a matched set of such of white oak, each 12"X18"X2", one cut with channels and a reservoir for drippings, the other just a plank.

I would really like to experiment a little with metal sheets for cutting boards. The metal would have to be very soft, certainly. Copper might be soft enough, but issues of toxicity rule it out. Silver (fine, not sterling) might be soft enough, too, and it's anti-microbial properties are very appealing, but aside from the expense, sulfur-rich foods would tarnish it rapidly. Gold is very soft, and the least reactive of all metals at an air or water interface, but the expense is absurd, and the knives might erode it too rapidly. One of these days I will try a sheet of pure tin.
posted by jamjam at 9:39 AM on May 29, 2007


Getting married on July 21st... just registered for some open stock Wusthof knives the other day. These aren't exactly cheap, either. Of course, you can buy a whole set for less than one of those Hattori santoku knives, but it still seems amazing to me in a day and age where steel is essentially a commodity that only a few companies really make a decent knife and they're still DAMN EXPENSIVE.
posted by fusinski at 9:40 AM on May 29, 2007


Those pics are real steel porn, I have some folded steel knives and they do not look anywhere as nice as that. These ones have a real Japanese aesthetic look to them, like an old wood block print.
posted by Iron Rat at 9:51 AM on May 29, 2007


Some people NEED to buy a Rolls Royce, Oaf. Simple steel and cast iron cookware won't do for them. They have small penises.
posted by Dave Faris at 12:33 PM on May 29


Even the women?
posted by brain_drain at 9:54 AM on May 29, 2007


There are "decent" knives out ther that aren't "DAMN EXPENSIVE". Check out the Forschner Victorinox knives... some folks who generally know what they are talking about like them quite a bit.
posted by reborndata at 9:59 AM on May 29, 2007


Went to the Seki sword festival last year. Turned out to be the Seki knife/scissor/razor/hedge trimmer/paper cutter/sword festival. Lots of custom, careful work. This country loves its blades.
posted by dreamsign at 10:02 AM on May 29, 2007


Simple steel and cast iron cookware won't do for them. They have small penises.

My wife used to date a guy who cooked everything in a cast iron skillet. She said it was enough to make her gag.
posted by sluglicker at 10:03 AM on May 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you have big rats, the best way to make them into sashimi is with Hattori Ichiro steel.

More seriously, a set of good knives to a master chef is like a stradivarius to a master violinist. Garage gourmands who think they're special because they can make a tolerable crême brulée don't need $1,000 knives because they don't have the skill to get what the knife is capable of giving. A true master chef does, however, and I guarantee they are making enough money from their craft to afford and justify the purchase.
posted by tempestuoso at 10:07 AM on May 29, 2007


jamjam, I guess my ideal board would be a single thick slice of a tree, like the kind you might see on display to showcase the concentric circles of rings that show the tree's age. That way you'd get the benefit of end grain, where the vertical fibers part slightly and close up again in a self-healing sort of way (unlike a plank of wood, where the horizontal fibers just get cut), but without the glue joints. I'd worry about using any knife on a metal board, even if it didn't cost $1000.

Like people have been saying, there's no need to spend a bunch of money on knives. Fine tools are out there for less than $100. Also, for just about any cutting purpose you might encounter you pretty much need only 3 knives- a chef's (or gyuto), paring, and a long slicer. Save the money from buying a big set and just get a few really nice knives.
posted by cubby at 10:10 AM on May 29, 2007


I have a cutting board from the Boardsmith. My brother got it for me for my birthday. It is amazing. Unfortunately the girlfriend liked it so much I had to get her one too. Highly recommended.

While I agree that chances are you don't need a $800 chef's knife, the difference between my $14 Chinese cleaver and a Shun cleaver is astounding, especially if you're cutting veggies.
posted by Comrade_robot at 10:22 AM on May 29, 2007


For those who are interested, there is a fine intro to knife material and edges in the first section of Chad Ward's guide to sharpening and maintenance.
posted by uri at 10:30 AM on May 29, 2007


If I ever won the lottery I'd buy one of those knives. Attractive and useful. Since I'm broke, I'll stick with the $50 knife I bought ten years ago, it still works fine.

Though, I'll admit that even if I could afford one I'm not a good enough cook to really need one.
posted by sotonohito at 10:36 AM on May 29, 2007


Um, I meant tolerable crème brûlée. <thinks abashedly of French teacher - zut alors!>
posted by tempestuoso at 10:45 AM on May 29, 2007


Those damascus steel blades sure look pretty, but since the better ones feature an additional cutting layer sandwiched in between the decoration anyway you can get the same effect (with less visual appeal) by choosing a simple three-layer blade. They consist of one layer of hard, brittle non-stainless steel between two layers of softer steel; this means they'll need a little more care than pure stainless knives, but they'll take an razor edge and keep it for quite a while. The only disadvantage compared with the ones linked to in the original posting is that they don't look quite as beautiful.

But while I'm not going to spend a fortune on usable knives I'll still always prefer a non-stainless cutting edge - over here in Germany, I'd recommend Windmühle / Herder for small paring knives and petty knives (look for "nicht rostfrei" as a sign that the knives will oxidize, but cut like the devil) for pure non-stainless knives and Tosa-Hocho as a reasonably priced alternative for three-layered Japanese kitchen knives.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 10:49 AM on May 29, 2007


I've been a fan of this guy's site for a while. Much more affordable than a Hatori, but he's still a seventh generation Japanese blade master.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:56 AM on May 29, 2007


I had a nice $150 small ceramic kitchen knife, once. I, um, tried to pry something open with it. Because I'm. An. Idiot.

My friend and roommate at the time, a chef, took the ceramic knife to his restaurant one evening. He warned people that it was sharper than anything they'd used before, but one moron ran his finger done the blade and cut himself badly.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:00 AM on May 29, 2007


Sheeeeeesh! Two grand for the knife and they can't afford an Engrish speaking translator/copywriter?
posted by ahimsakid at 11:02 AM on May 29, 2007


But while I'm not going to spend a fortune on usable knives I'll still always prefer a non-stainless cutting edge...

Yeah, actually I bought that ceramic knife at the same time that I bought some other good knives for my previously mentioned chef friend and myself. He got one big, really good one and I bought two smaller ones. He warned me that you need to clean and oil them after each use. I stupidly put mine in the dishwasher. They both rusted badly in a very short amount of time.

Maybe I shouldn't be allowed around knives. At least good ones.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:06 AM on May 29, 2007


Actually quin, Wüsthof blades are pretty much all made with stainless steel, and that's what makes them more brittle and ultimately less desirable than these Japanese pattern-welded style blades. They add nickel and chromium alloys into the mix to prevent rust and it severely reduces the malleability of the metal.

These are very nice blades, but I'm not particularly impressed with the hunting knife. Kind of an ugly application for an otherwise beautiful piece of steel if you ask me. Hattori's damascus style is quite unique - drilling the surface like that. In the past, the billet would have been made by twisting hot steel cables of different quality and forge-welding them together.

For a long time I've wanted to make my own set of Japanese kitchen knives but it's very difficult to imitate all of the anal-retentive processes which they go through to get an authentic blade, much less to make a basic pattern-welded blade. If anyone is interested, this site offers pre-forged Japanese blades and grip materials for assembling your own knives. It may take you some time, and in the end it may not really be all that much cheaper, but it's nice to be able to say you had a hand in making it somewhere. Plus you may learn something along the way!
posted by Demogorgon at 11:13 AM on May 29, 2007


Ethereal Bligh: "He got one big, really good one and I bought two smaller ones. He warned me that you need to clean and oil them after each use. I stupidly put mine in the dishwasher. They both rusted badly in a very short amount of time.

Maybe I shouldn't be allowed around knives. At least good ones.
"


Well, if you use one of those three-layer-blades only a small area of the non-stainless steel at the very edges is exposed, so the danger your whole knife will turn into a lump of oxidized metal is severely reduced... ;)
Seriously, I just rinse mine under the tap after I'm done with them, wipe them dry and put them back into the knife block, and none have rusted to the point of unusability. I'm just careful when cutting citrus fruit or onions with one of the smaller, all-non-rustproof knives: they'll take on a patina in seconds and rust (if left alone) within minutes.

If you're looking for a very nice stainless knife that might even endure being put through the dishwasher I'd recommend the Global all-steel series.

Oh, and personally I'm not a big friend of ceramics - they cannot get as sharp as a good steel knife, you cannot sharpen them yourself and they are very susceptible to lateral stress.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 11:45 AM on May 29, 2007


Cubby, I've had slices of trees I attempted to use as cutting blocks on two occasions, one of which was produced commercially for that purpose, and both were useless in a short period of time because of warping and cracking. Several very experienced woodworker friends have since assured me that warping and cracking of a slice of a sizeable tree is an essentially unsolvable problem unless you replace the moisture in the wood with a nonvolatile chemical.

I'm not absolutely sure that's right, however, because there is at least one tree which produces a hard, durable wood, can grow to a usable size, and (if I remember correctly a source I've just spent the last twenty minutes fruitlessly trying to relocate) yet has no annual growth rings: the rubber tree as grown in Panama. So far I have had no opportunity to try a slice of one out.
posted by jamjam at 11:54 AM on May 29, 2007


My god, this thread is filled with some of the hottest porn I've seen in weeks. I have nothing to compensate for but that doesn't stop me from spending a few minutes perusing high quality jpgs and thinking dirty thoughts.
posted by hindmost at 12:20 PM on May 29, 2007


A chef friend of mine told me to take the money I'd spend on Calphalon and spend it on a really good set of knives instead, that you can buy cheap pots and pans at the kitchen store that do just as well as the expensive stuff.

He said this five years after we got tons of Calphalon as wedding presents and I bought some cheap Wusthofs that I so want to get rid of.

For want of a time machine....
posted by dw at 1:28 PM on May 29, 2007


This hunting knife is priced at $2150. These are not collector knives. They are made for everyday use.

Riiiiight. Because everyone knows you take that precious little $2200 knife out in the bush when you go hunting. I'm sure. Because no outdoorsman has ever lost a knife. Pretentious much?

I'll stick with my $50 Spyderco Delica, thank you.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:23 PM on May 29, 2007


jamjam I know diddily about wood, largely because I prefer plastic cutting boards myself, but I wonder if katsura would work for you? Its one of the woods they make go boards out of, the big sit on the floor themselves type of go board. The katsura boards are made of one piece of wood, not two or more joined pieces, and are typically 5.5 to 6.5 inches thick. Dunno if a thinner piece of katsura would warp or not, but I do know that the thick ones don't.
posted by sotonohito at 2:25 PM on May 29, 2007


Yeah but can it cut through a beer can and slice tomatoes like a laser?

Don't hate on the Ginsu. I bought a "Ginsu 2000" set about 15 years ago and those things are still sharp as hell. The whole set was $10.00 on clearance at Target - worth all that and more.
posted by MikeMc at 2:48 PM on May 29, 2007


I was under the impression that what is called "Damascus" steel today is purely ornamental; purely for looks; and that it has none of the advantages of sharpness and strength conventionally associated with the stuff historically known as Damascus steel. In other words, it's $1200 mostly because it's pretty, not because it's good.

Am I mistaken in my impression?
posted by vitia at 3:49 PM on May 29, 2007


Just in case anyone's wondering, the bumpy, cucumber shaped vegetable that features prominently in many of the knife photos on the site is the goya, also known as "niga-uri". It's a rather bitter and very delicious thing.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:33 PM on May 29, 2007


Having stumbled across the goya site linked above, I find that the blogger has an excellent collection of Japanglish (or Engrish, or Japangrish, as you prefer) for your reading and viewing pleasure.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:39 PM on May 29, 2007


Oh, uh, and it's here.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:42 PM on May 29, 2007


I was under the impression that what is called "Damascus" steel today is purely ornamental; purely for looks; and that it has none of the advantages of sharpness and strength conventionally associated with the stuff historically known as Damascus steel. In other words, it's $1200 mostly because it's pretty, not because it's good.

That's sort of right. Damascus steel is so-called because it was associated with Damascus back in the day. The type of steel coming out of Damascus and going into Europe was different, and slightly purer than what was commonly available in the west. It was developed from techniques used to make "Wootz" steel which originated in India. When you look at the surface of a bar of Damascus or Wootz steel, you immediately recognize a crazy wavy pattern.
Eventually, somewhere along the way the term for this pattern just became "Damascus." That term is used very loosely across a broad range of blade styles and steel types these days. Mostly, I would say it is used to characterize a piece of steel which has at least two different qualities of steel in it which have been mixed together. However, many of the cheaper blades you see these days will have a "damascus pattern" photo etched onto the surface. Which is almost to say that it has been painted on to look like Damascus. To me, this is somewhat of a bastardization of the word.
As to your impression, vitia, of the quality of the steel you would be right to say that it lacks the advantages and strength of homogenized steel theoretically. But practically, there is no real working difference. Especially if it is a well-made blade with a piece at the core specifically placed there to serve as the cutting edge.
posted by Demogorgon at 5:38 PM on May 29, 2007


Some more knife porn - the Laguiole knife. A friend of mine has one, and the workmanship on them is very impressive.
posted by Zack_Replica at 7:59 PM on May 29, 2007


There's a guy semi-locally that I once met by chance who did beautiful knifework as a hobby. I offered to mention him on MetaFilter if he ever got around to sending me an email (left him mine)...

...but he didn't, so I can't. Bummer, because I really think he was good.

I can't imagine why I'm bothering to mention it.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:06 PM on May 29, 2007


it's called Damascus pattern in the English speaking world; in Japan it is often referred to as an "ink pattern," referencing the patterns ink can make when splattered or when floating on water. And yes, its basically ornamental, since the Damascus layer serves the same purpose as a layer of plain, softer steel cladding might. But where else can you see such a great fusion of art, craftsmanship, and fuinctionality? People pay thousands for a canvas with paint on it -- Hattori KD's are just as handmade (all by the same master smith) but with one of them you can cut through a few thousand onions and probably not cry that much or need resharpening. I'm not saying I'd buy one, but I do think its worth the price and I fully respect its maker.

jamjam - hadn't thought about the warping bit. I guess I'll just stick with the large blocks glued together. Sounds like you've got some experience making these things, though, so if you make a breakthrough with some new material then let me know cause I will probably want one!
posted by cubby at 8:14 PM on May 29, 2007


I certainly dont NEED my Rolls-Royce but walking to the Goodwill store is too far.
posted by shockingbluamp at 3:38 AM on May 30, 2007


Don't glue the blocks together, drill a hole across them (near both ends) and bolt them together, hiding the bolts with wooden dowels. That way you won't have to worry about the glue coming undone and 20 years down the road you can take it apart for a real good cleaning. The maple cutting board I'm using has been in the family for maybe 40 years.
posted by furtive at 7:26 AM on May 30, 2007


Now I don't know whether to fap to the pole vaulter or the knife.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:07 AM on May 31, 2007


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