The Japanese Knife Culture Blog
About Japanese knives and knife sharpening

New knife supplier: Kawamura Hamono

Early this year I had honour of Daisuke Kawamura Vice President from Kawamura Hamono visit me in Auckland with a suitcase full of knives. All Knives which he sells under the Sakai Kikomuri brand. He did overwhelm me with choice and I hope I have made a good selection of knives to start selling these knives in New Zealand market.

Kawamura Hamono is founded in 1926 san has been working with Sakai knife smiths and sharpeners ever since. They sell knives all over the world but until recently were not available locally.

I chosen for the Nihonko as an affordable choice for beginners and specialty knives at good price. The knives are carbon steel easy to use and sharpen. I have chosen to get slicers Suhijiki knives, Honesuki knives for boning, This is for professionals who want a good performing knife without breaking the bank.

I have selected to get the Kikuzuki Kuro hand forged as a high end choice.

The Kiuzuki Kuro is made from white 2 steel, stainless clad hand forged by master blacksmith and finished by mastersharpener. I chose them performance and visual appeal, and the value they offer.

Kawamura Hamono have fulfilled my order quite fast . Delivery of these knives is expected mid November. I have decided to introduce a subscription email to the website to inform customers when new knives are in stock. Personally I am not a fan of monthly newsletters. Many customers have asked me to let them know when I have new stock. This should be a good way to let you know what new knives are available so you don’t miss out. I promise to keep it strictly to announcing new knives and related products in stock.

There is also a nice shipment from Shibata San from iron clad knives, Including new Gekko VGXEOS knives, Masakage Koishi 240 Gyuto’s, Takamura’s, Tsunehisa’s, And yes after 2 Years on order, more Kitaoka 270 Yanigiba’s. And finally Tsunehisa made Western style fish filleting knives. If you prefer your flexible fish filleter now you can purchase them in VG 10 steel!

Also to arrive mid November.

That will make the online shop refreshed and plenty choice now which was lacking before.

Knife handle repair

This is a question I get asked a lot and most of the time I can’t help people out when they have a Western knife with a broken handle. It is good to know how to care for your knife even if it is good shape.

The problem starts when users put there knife in the dishwasher and let it go trough an hot dishwasher cycle. The handle will not come off straight away but slowly it will deteriorate over hundreds of cycles. It usually ends with the scales cracking or breaking and falling off the knife. Rivets might get loose.

When a handle needs replacement it is really expensive maybe more then the cost of the knife.

The manufactures of Western knives do not offer replacement scales. The only route go down are hand made replacement scales. A couple hours of work, materials and sundries will quickly add up to $200 – 300.

If you have a Japanese style handle this is a lot easier to replace. Replacements are readily available, come in different styles and sizes. Most people know you can’t risk dishwashing a Japanese style knife as this will ruin the handle only after being put trough the dishwasher once.

My advice is to wash any knife by hand. This will avoid getting the handle broken or discoloured from the heat, water and detergents that you get with dishwashing. Another benefit is that the edge will last longer as the heat is not good for the sharpness of the blade.

Shinkei jime benefits explained

What is Ike jime? 
Ike jime is a Japanese fish preparation method that paralyses fish and drains them of blood. When done correctly, it not just preserves the fish’s flavour and texture but also allows the flesh to develop an umami dimension when aged.  

“Ike Jime is a multi-series steps of controls and these steps are designed to mitigate all the effects of biochemical reactions,” says Andrew Tsui, president of the Ike Jime Federation.  

The steps he refers to involve disrupting the brain and the spinal cord. Such techniques are said to have developed some 350 years ago, and Japanese chefs have been using this technique since. After all, key to good sushi and sashimi is in ageing the fish, allowing the enzymes to break down and moisture to evaporate, resulting in a concentrated flavour. 

Despite its Japanese origins, more and more chefs around the world have been taking on the technique and using it in interesting ways. Alexandre Couillon of two-Michelin-starred La Marine in coastal France is one such, hailing the technique for producing fish that tastes as pure as it looks. 

In Singapore, we have chef Dannel Krishnan, alumni of one-Michelin-starred Bacchanalia and now at Kite who uses it in his kinilaw dish. It’s a Fillipino ceviche where he seasons aged snapper from a local farm with punchy tropical flavours like calamansi, ginger and chilli. 

“There isn’t much difference when we cook a fish with and without ike jime on the first day itself when it’s still fresh,” he explains. “The difference comes in only in the third, fourth and fifth day of aging. The fish that’s prepared by ike jime is still firm, and the flesh is pearly. The one that’s not becomes mushy.” 

The science of ike jime
The principal is simple: The less trauma a fish suffers before, during and after slaughter, the better the quality of the meat. That’s because as a fish struggles and faces stress, it produces lactic acid and cortisol, which in turn lowers meat quality. Disrupting the brain and spinal cord swiftly minimises the stress signals that are sent out. 

How is it done?
While there are many variations on the method, most point to four basic steps. Bear in mind, that the entire process is done quickly. Expert fish handlers can in fact, finish the entire process in a matter of seconds.

Step 1: Close The Fish
‘Closing the fish’ is a humane way of referring to the act of crushing the brain. To do this, locate the brain (above the fish’s eye) and use a spike to break through the skull. If successful, the fish is said to shudder and its jaw will drop open. Ensure this step is done swiftly so the brain does not have a chance to fire stress signals to the rest of its body.

Step 2: Cut The Gills and Tail | Illustration by: Siow Jun

Step 2: Cut The Gills and Tail | Illustration by: Siow Jun

Step 2. Cut The Gills and Tail
The gills are where the major blood vessels are, and cutting it lets the blood drain out later. Making an incision towards the tail is also vital in locating its central nervous system for the next step.

Step 3: Severe the spinal cord | Illustration by: Siow Jun

Step 3: Severe the spinal cord | Illustration by: Siow Jun

Step 3. Severe The Spinal Cord
Push a sharp wire into the spinal cord and run the tip along the upper side. The fish will tremble as you go along the spine and once it stops moving, the process is complete. This step is vital as it destroys the nervous system, preventing the fish from sending out more stress signals.

Step 4: Let it bleed | Illustration by: Siow Jun

Step 4: Let it bleed | Illustration by: Siow Jun

Step 4. Let It Bleed
“The most crucial part is the bleeding because the fishiness and the bad flavours are in the blood,” says chef Dannel. To do so, simply leave it in ice water, preferably in the waters it was raised in, with its head facing down where possible. Experts believe the entire process should be done swiftly and key to success is in being able to bleed the fish quickly so none of the blood gets to the muscles.  

sharpening stone truing

I will cover the subject of sharpening stone truing or flattening a sharpening stone. I join out some tips to keep your sharpening stone for longer and have it maintained.

chose your truing options

You have bought yourself a sharpening stone and you are on a journey to learn to sharpen and maintain your knives as best as you can. Sharpening itself is a big subject. But what about sharpening stone maintenance and keeping the stone flat ? why the process of flattening ? simple answer is better surface contact of your knife and the sharpening stone when sharpening.

There are different options to keep you stone flat and choose the one that fits your needs. all types of flattening options should be done with with water soaked stones and adding water while grinding.

It can be a simple as using framing timber covered with a sheet of sandpaper about 120 grit will do. This is inexpensive and when the sheet is finished simply replace it with another one.

A more expensive option is a diamond lapping plate such as the ones from Atoma or DMT.

These products are machined to a high standard and will double up as a sharpening stone. Be mindful, the impregnated diamonds will wear out over time too.

As a professional user I have the Shapton truing stone that is as flat as an engineers table.

It has the largest surface area and the stone is meant to be worked up and down and left, right and diagonally. grinding powder is provided with this so the truing stone does hardly wear.

The flatting process

As I mentioned before pre soak the stones, and with a pencil market the surface you want to flatten with a grid like in the picture below.

When all markings have disappeared you know the stone is flat enough.

As you can see from this picture sharpening happened in a specific area on the stone.

When your stone is badly dished it would make sense to use a large paver to do the bulk of the work and then move on with grid markings and a finishing solution as discussed here.

Some other care tips;

Always pre soak your stones before use unless they are splash and go type.

Store them dry and don’t leave them in water longer than necessary.

our range of sharpening stones

Knife handle repair

Lately the is a bigger demand from customers for knife handle repair or replace their knife handle. it is usually for a knife the have had a long time and also of sentimental value. They want to have it repaired even if it costs a bit.

Knife scales for a Western knife are not available off the shelf. That means they have to be custom made, which takes time en makes it costly.

The knife handle that needs repair is 99% of the time been destroyed by hundreds of cycles in a hot dishwasher and attacked by strong detergents. Many people don’t realise but putting a knife in the dishwasher is not such a good idea. From a sharpness perspective the heat is bad enough to lose the edge quickly. Handles even fitted with rivets don’t benefit from the dishwasher. For the longevity of a knife washing it by hand with detergent is best.

Caring for you knife handle timber is best done with beeswax or boiled linseed oil. If the timber is not sealed, give it a light sand before applying these products. After this the timber grain stands out more and is protected.

Custom knife handle
Yo Handle made from Tasmanian Blackwood
Knife sharpening by hand - Artisan Knives

Orakei Bay Village sharpening pop up store

Good news for foodies who want to use the best knives !


Artisan knives will have a sharpening Pop up store In Orakei Bay Village!


For the last two weeks I will be there daily from 10 Am to 4 Pm until 24 th december 2017,after this date will be back in Glen Innes until further notice.

This will commence from 11 th of March.

We have our spot across from Farro’s entrance.

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Idahahone ceramic honing rod - Artisan Knives

Sharpening stone vs honing rod

Sharpening stone vs honing rod

 What is the difference and when to use them?

There is a lot of misunderstanding around the use of a honing rod.

One of the misconceptions is that a honing rod will sharpen a blade.

The honing rod will realign the edge of the blade while a sharpening stone will remove steel and create a new edge out freshly exposed steel.

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Japanese chef knives and knife sharpening shop in Auckland

We are excited to announce an expansion of our operations with a physical shop dedicated to traditional handmade Japanese chef knives, knife sharpening service, sharpening stones and accessories. This store will be a unique addition to the Auckland kitchenware scene and will complement our existing knife sharpening services.

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