Hitohira Tanaka Kyuzo Blue #1 Migaki Gyuto 210mm Taihei Ebony
Brand: Hitohira ひとひら (一片)
Smith: Tanaka Blacksmith 田中打刃物製作所
Producing Area: Sakai-Osaka/ Japan
Steel Type: Carbon Steel
Steel: Yasuki Blue (Aogami) #1, Soft Iron Clad
Handle: Taihei Ebony & Buffalo Horn Ferrule Octagonal
Hand Orientation: Ambidextrous
Sharpener: Kyuzo 久蔵
Handle Maker: Taihei 太平
The pictures and dimensions listed are for reference. As these are handmade items containing natural products, there may be variances in appearance and specifications.
Kyuzo’s father Heihachi is one of the busiest sharpeners in Sakai. Heihachi’s workshop room and corridor were always filled with knives waiting to be sharpened. Although Kyuzo initially worked under his father to learn the foundation of rough sharpening, eventually he became a student of Kambei, known as one of the best sharpeners in Sakai because he knew best how to sharpen wide double bevel knives. After a few years of training, he built his style based on both his father and Kambei’s respective styles. Today, Kyuzo is one of only a few people who can sharpen wide double bevel with really good Shinogi-line in Sakai, one of the most challenging techniques in sharpening.
Handle Maker: Taihei
Many people have strict standards when selecting a handle, it is the only component we physically engage with a knife, the only part that touches our skin. Others overlook the handle of a kitchen knife as just a small “part” and do not pay close enough attention. Taihei however, a 3rd generation handle maker, shows a strong commitment to his craft.
When he was a child, Taihei remembers his grandfather crafting knife handles of timber and buffalo horn by hand, these fond memories helped him to decide to carry on the tradition from his father to the next generation, the year was 1992.
As the handle is not considered the main part of a kitchen knife, most manufacturers cut costs by having the ferrule made at a different location, then joining the two parts and shaping the handle by machine. Taihei however, still cuts each part of the handle by hand from solid materials, understanding the differences between each piece of wood and horn. This knowledge and skill make Taihei’s handles more durable than mass-produced models as he is making each piece differently to suit the materials in his hand.
As well as making traditional Ho magnolia wood handles, Taihei also challenges his work with many different timbers from all over the world. Each timber has a different weight, density, fineness and character, all important to consider when crafting each piece. He says, “if people have been using that wood for a long time, there is a reason that you cannot understand it within 10 or 20 years”. Taihei still respects tradition, but challenges with new materials and design, focusing on looks and functionality.
Sakai’s kitchen knives are crafted in 3 main stages. A blacksmith forges and quenches the steel, then a specialist sharpener sharpens the knife, then a handle maker will make a handle. Finally, a finisher assembles all of these elements, to make them work perfectly together.
Finishers will design a rough sketch of a knife, fit the handle, and then make a final sharpening on a stone. These final steps by a finisher are the determining factors of the quality of Sakai’s kitchen knives.
When Kakuyoshi was growing up, he was unfamiliar with the kitchen knife industry but decided to learn the craft. At the beginning of his career, he saw the antiquated way in which the industry worked, seeing a gap between the seller and maker, and how the craftsman was used by makers and sellers.
Whilst training in knife polishing under a sharpener, Kakuyoshi started to understand the pure attitude of knife makers and their huge levels of knowledge and skill only created by their long experience. Here he decided to make kitchen knives that worked with their abilities. These knives came from his ideas, experience and knowledge, the kitchen knives he created are what made “Sakai Kitchen Knives famous and brought them to the next level. He continues to make new knives that bring tradition to the next generation with modern technique.