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From Value One, Summer 2006 No. 13  

Uchihamono is a type of cutlery made by heating, hammering, drawing out and polishing iron. When making knives, a soft iron is folded with steel and placed in a forge heated to around 1,000 C. Removed when red hot, the knives are hammered to joint the soft iron and steel, and form their shape.

These are different from mass-produced knives made by die pressing blanks from a stainless steel sheet. Uchihamono from Sakai is used by professional chefs. Sakai City accounts for less than 7% of cutlery production nationwide, including household-use knives. However, more than 90% of knives used by professional cooks are Sakai Uchihamono. Sakai Honyaki knives, made purely of steel, boast cutting edges that rank with Japanese swords and elicit the maximum flavor from sashimi and other food ingredients without damaging them. However, keeping cutlery made entirely from steel in good condition is difficult. The ability to properly handle finely-crafted, authentic Sakai Uchihamono is regarded as proof of a top class chef.

The process of making Sakai Uchihamono is unique because it involves the complete separation of the production processes of forging, polishing and attaching the handle, i.e. battling red-hot flames, hammering the steel, forming the shape in the forging process, polishing to determine the cutlery's sharpness and attaching the handle. Craftsmen working on each process, work closely together. Knives forged by specific smiths are finished by specific polishers who are completely familiar with those artisans' methods of forging. The creation of the "premier product" is evidence the craftsmen have mastered their respective skills.

Soft iron containing less than 0.1% carbon is forged and welded with steel containing around 1% carbon. Yasuki steel is primarily used

Tip of knife is formed with hammer, a process called tapering.

The moment of edging - all senses are concentrated in fingertips.

Knife is inscribed - hand-crafted to final stage.

[Sakai Hamono Museum ( Sakai Hamono Dento Sangyo Kaikan)]
http://www.sakaihamono.or.jp/
1-1-30 Zaimokucho-nishi, Sakai-ku, Sakai-shi, Osaka
Tel: +81-72-227-1001
Open: 10:00 to 17:00
Closed: Tuesdays
Admission free / Three-minute walk from Hankai Line Myokokuji-mae Station


Actual Sakai Uchihamono can be viewed at the Sakai Hamono Museum (Sakai Hamono Dento Sangyo Kaikan). Visitors can try edging a knife called Hatsuke, the final step in the production process, under the guidance of craftsmen. Sakai City is also famous for bicycles. Around 40% of domestically-manufactured bikes come from Sakai. The Bicycle Museum Cycle Center (Tel: +81-72-243-3196) features exhibits on the history of bicycles and related subjects.
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