Echigo-sanjo cutlery Photo:Niigata Prefecture

Echigo-sanjo cutlery Echigo sanjo uchihamono

High quality hand-forged blades
Made by traditional master craftsmen


What is Echigo-sanjo cutlery ?

Echigo-Sanjo Uchihamono are hammer-forged blades produced in Sanjo City, Niigata Prefecture. Unlike modern blades made using the stamp pressing and polishing techniques developed in the post-World War II period, these blades are produced by hand-hammering and applying time-honored Japanese metal working techniques. Originally, farming tools were made, but nowadays, a broad range of cutting tools are produced, such as everyday kitchen knives and scissors, or hatchets and chisels.
Echigo-Sanjo Uchihamono are distinguished by the high-standard of forge work in which red-hot metal is beaten and shaped. This forging technique enables easy shaping, and increases the blade’s strength by ensuring no micro spaces in the inner part of the metal, resulting in a high degree of strength and abrasion resistance. Of course, in keeping with the times some machinery may be used in the production process today, but the highly-skilled work such as preparing each individual blade edge is carried out by hand to maintain the traditional high quality finish.


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General Production Process

  1. 1. Forging (Forge Welding) Forging is the art of heating metal to a high temperature and then beating it to shape with a hammer or similar tool. The application of such pressure eliminates any space in the structure of the metal and increases its strength. Blade making is a highly skilled craft; the temperature of metal is gauged by its color, cherry red, orange, or white, each color indicating the optimal temperature for a particular task in the process. After heating at a temperature of about 900°C, the iron base and steel blade are first bonded using borax and iron oxide powder. For everyday kitchen knives, soft iron is used. Strong steel is used for blade edges; carbon tool steel (SK) or Yasuki steel are most commonly used.
  2. 2. Smith Forging The heated metal is repeatedly hammered to bond the steel and soft iron, and then returned to the fire, followed by further beating and heating; this repetition removes impurities and the glowing surfaces are tightly pressure-bonded. This thorough hammering of the blade edge roughly shapes the knife and is an important process to ensure a strong blade.
  3. 3. Shaping After the steel and soft iron are firmly bonded, while the soft iron is still cherry red, the metal is manually cut into a beautiful knife shape. Every blade carefully cut and shaped by hand is a testament to the years of skill and practice of the craftsmen.
  4. 4. Quenching Polishing powder and baked soil are mixed with water and applied to the whole surface of the shaped metal. After drying, the blade is again heated in a furnace at a temperature of 780°C or so; the craftsman assesses the color of the metal and removes the blade to quench it by plunging into cold water.
  5. 5. Tempering The quenched blade has increased strength but is also brittle. To give it toughness and durability, it is now tempered by putting it in a low-temperature furnace or oil at about 50 to 200°C and left to cool.
  6. 6. Blade Edging and Removing Warps Starting from a coarse whetstone, and gradually changing to a fine whetstone, the blade is ground to a sharp edge. A large volume of cooling water is used in the sharpening to prevent warps and irregularities, and ensure even strength throughout the length of the blade.

Where to Buy & More Information

Sanjo Kaji Dojo

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