Some would say: Don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs.
But before you make any judgement, please understand why Patryk, born and raised in Poland, is on the quest to teach young Japanese generation how to make knives their country is famous for.

Blacksmithing is a dying industry. Japan as a country is ageing fast. There are less and less young people thinking of making career in craftsmanship, and old masters do not want or can pass their skills to willing apprentices.

It’s 2015 and on the other side of the globe, in Polish town Reda, Patryk, a self-taught blacksmith has an idea: he will try to revive his industry by using power of technology. On his YouTube channel he publishes vlogs, both in Japanese and Polish showing all that he has learned so far, passing the knowledge along. He is not trying to imitate Japanese perfection for his own good. He just shares his greatest passion.

A gift for dad

Patryk became fascinated with Japanese culture and their art of blacksmithing when he was just a kid. He once came across a TV program treating on Japanese katanas. At that moment he decided that one day he will make his own. Over the years he became more and more obsessed with this noble craftsmanship. Finally, at the age of 16 he decided to make a viking’s knife for his father.
His passion, however, was for Japan and their katanas, so he chose to specialise in the knives – the ones Japanese chefs and foodies use in the kitchen. Kitchen knives evolved from katanas and they are crafted in almost the same way. The times of katanas may be gone, but methods and technique of blacksmithing remained the same.

kaminari knives interview

kaminari knives interview

After the first knife for his dad, there was the second one, and then some more for his friends and family. At that point Patryk understood that blacksmithing could be his full-time job. Kaminari Knives was born.
In the meantime he was practicing Japanese language under the supervision of his Japanese friend, hoping that one day he will go to Japan to study the art of blacksmithing under the watchful eye of a Japanese blade master.
kaminari knives interview

It’s a long way to the top

Patryk’s beginnings as a craftsman were not easy. Resources needed for collecting blacksmithing equipment are substantial and Patryk could not afford to buy all of it.  He worked two jobs to put the money down for building workshop. It was his biggest dream: to set up a real workshop. His own. He managed to build it in the spring two years ago.

In the beginning, he was working in a badly isolated tin hut. If you’ve never been in Poland during winter, you need to know that in some areas of the country temperatures drop to -35°C.
Patryk neither had professional tools. He was collecting parts and materials at the scrap yard. He built a hammer, a hardening electric furnace and gas furnace for forging. With his hammer and provisional anvil he was crafting reinforcing bars just to get the feeling of treating the metal. He was heating and then hammering it, repeating this two step process over and over again. That was the young blacksmith’s first concept of blacksmithing.
Today Patryk says that the old times feel to him like it was a child’s play. Learning the art of blacksmithing requires a lot of trial and error, losing nerves and of course – costly materials.

kaminari knives interview

At the workshop, where magic happens

Harnessing high carbon

Until recently, all of the Kaminari Knives were made from high carbon steel – a material easy to get but hard to maintain. Despite that, it’s widely used in professional chef knives as high carbon knives are known for their incredible sharpness and edge retention. The best Japanese knives are hammered from high carbon steel.

kaminari knives interview

Kaminari Knives on the grinder at the workshop.

kaminari knives interview

Mesmerising heated steel.

When master notices you

Nowadays Kaminari’s knives are used by many professional chefs around the world. It not surprising that even the world Sushi Master, Alon Than, is using Patryk’s knives. The fact that Alon won the title when using Kaminari knives only proves that with a strong will, hard work, passion and the Internet, you can teach yourself almost anything.

…and for these reasons and many many more, we @Japana are really happy to be starting collaboration with Kaminari Knives 🙂 More details to follow.

kaminari knives interview

Fittings for the knife handle

Like this story? Follow us on Facebook or Instagram to know about our progress of this collaboration.

Before starting Japana and getting deeper knowledge in knives, myself and Anna almost never sharpened our knives before they were completely unusable (We know! It’s a deadly sin and a huge danger!). We didn’t really see the importance of it and we were just buying new knives out of magazines’ recommended sets. But then we we discovered, how different cooking experience can be when using sharp high quality knives and maintaining them properly.

Dealing with Japanese blacksmiths taught us few things. One of the most important lesson was to understand that they are really (I mean “REALLY”) proud of their work and will not let anyone treat their blade art as yet another utility product. In order to make a deal with them, we needed to promise that we will always educate our customers in treating their knives with respect and maintaining them at certain level. So we committed ourselves to doing it. Day by day.

Today, we’d like to share with you 10 knife care tips we learned from master blacksmiths that stuck in our mind the most. We hope you will find them useful.

1. Test your knife is with a piece of paper.

If you’re wondering whether you should sharpen your knives—which most of the blacksmiths suggest doing roughly four to five times a year—cutting through a piece of paper is the best way to find out if they really need to be. Of course these numbers will be different for frequent users and occasional foodies, but you should always react when the blade feels blunt.
Holding a knife with one hand and a piece of paper in the other, you can check if the knife wins with paper. Just as a razor that encounters hair splits it easily, a knife should cleanly cut whatever it encounters If your knife slides cleanly, straight through the piece of paper, you can continue using it as it is. If not, then it’s sharpening time.

How to test your knife with this method:

Hold a piece of paper by its edge with your non-dominant hand. With the hand you usually use to hold knives, set the blade of your knife at the top of the piece of paper and press it directly down. Here’s what the resulting cut indicates:

  • If the knife cleanly cuts through the paper and barely makes a sound, it’s perfectly honed and sharpened.
  • If it cuts the paper, but makes a slight tearing noise as it does, it could use a little honing.
  • If your knife won’t cut the paper at all by simply pressing down, cut the paper back and forth in a sawing motion. If this makes a cut, your knife is likely sharp but needs to be honed.
  • If the knife won’t cut the paper at all, it needs to be sharpened and honed.

2. Don’t worry, it’s almost impossible to do irreparable damage to your knife on a whetstone.

Even if you’ve never sharpened a knife and thought it’s a job for professionals, you can do it at home, without the risk of ruining your expensive knife. Don’t wait until your knife is in deplorable state and you can barely cut a tomato. With a few swift correct strokes on the sharpening stone (the blade angled 15-20º with balanced pressure applied in a steady arcing motion) even a total novice is able to have the knife back to working order. Remember, that the most damage you can do is running your knife too flat along the stone and scratching the side, which might bum you out but functionally, your knife will still be fine.

3. If you’ve never sharpened a knife before, start with a paring knife.

Most masters recommend starting with an 8- to 10-inch paring knife, which will be lighter and smaller and therefore easier to manage than a gyuto / chefs knife. Also, when you’re starting out, try to avoid using knives that have bolsters (the curved, metal part of the knife that joins the blade and handle) which can catch on the whetstone during hand-sharpening. The general rule is: the simpler (and smaller), the better.

4. Honing your knife is as important (if not more!) than sharpening.

Here is a little trick: just because a knife isn’t cutting cleanly doesn’t mean it isn’t sharp; it might just be out of alignment, or the sharp edge is rolled over. The best tool to test whether your knife is “rolled” – which happens when a knife goes over a hard surface, like a serving platter or a pan, bending the sharp edge slightly over to one side—is your thumb.

Slide your thumb along the side of the edge, and you’ll be able to feel the rolled edge, if there is one. To fix a rolled edge, use a honing steel from Japan or Germany.

5. When sharpening, apply more pressure than you think you need.

Don’t be worried that you will break or crack a steel when applying more pressure during sharpening process. A lack of adequate pressure is one of the most common mistakes our blacksmiths see people do when knife sharpening. To make sure you’re applying the correct amount of pressure (four to six pounds for a relatively in-shape knife, eight pounds for an extremely dull blade), press down on a kitchen scale until it reads the correct weight, then apply this same amount of pressure to your knife on the sharpening stone.

6. Whetstones are not one-type-fits-all.

Whetstones (waterstones) come in a number of gradients, or coarseness. Lower grits, around #400, have a more textured surface area and can be used to reshape knives and repair chips—they shave off the most material. Higher grits, like #1000 are best for polishing and basic sharpening—if you’re only going to buy one stone, this would be your best choice. The highest grade stones, around #8000 are used for smoothing and polishing your edge.

When sharpening knives, it’s best to use multiple whetstones (if you can afford buying them), and work up from higher (lower numbers) to lower coarseness (higher numbers), in the same way you might use rough sandpaper to smooth out wood, then slightly finer paper to polish it. Strops, or pieces of leather are also sometimes used (think old-fashioned barbers) to give a very fine polish to a blade’s edge.

7. The angle at which you sharpen your knife matters a lot.

Professional chefs maintaining their knives use specific degrees for sharpening for specific tasks. E.g. if you’re splitting chickens all the time, 20° per side will give you more strength. If you’re cutting cucumbers, go for 10° per side will make it really slick and efficient. But if you’re just starting out, the best would be to keep the angle between 10° to 15°. If you aren’t sure what this looks like, lay your knife on the sharpening stone and place a matchbook under the blade, then remove the matchbook and keep the angle; this is about 15°.

8. Even the lowest quality knives benefit from being sharpened and honed.

Remember that movie where a guy bought a Chinese knife in $1 store and sharpened it to a razor-state?

Yes, you can do it with almost any knife, even a low-quality one. You want that low-quality knife to be the highest quality it can be. It’s extremely important to care for you’re knives—no matter if you have a £500 knife or a £30 knife.

9. Good cutting technique is essential for knife maintenance.

Every blacksmith will fell in despair if he sees you running his blade across the board sideways. This can roll the edge and make it duller faster. When chopping on a cutting board, be careful not to use your knife to slide the thing you are chopping into a pile, or to use your knife to brush it off into a pan. You can use your hands to do that.

10. Use magnetic racks

Typically a 12″ (300mm) knife rack will hold 5 chef knives, the 18″ (450mm) rack will hold 7-8 and the 22″ 10-12 knives.

You can purchase this walnut magnetic knife rack in our shop.

This is the safest and cleanest way of storing your beloved knives. The secret of these blocks is the hidden magnets buried in the wood. The clever bit about using wood is that unlike metal magnetic racks it protects the blade from chipping or scratching, metal on metal is a no no.

Are you a chef or a blacksmith? Got any more advice? Share it in the comments!

What do the Portuguese and tobacco have in common with Sakai knife making tradition in the Sakai region?
A lot.
Sakai, the residential Osaka’s prefecture is a port town and back in the day the Portuguese sailed to this area and began trading guns and tobacco to the Japanese starting in 1543. The Japanese took well to both items and Japanese farmers began tobacco farming soon thereafter. Initially, most of the production was made for the elite class of the Japanese society. The tobacco leaves were cut finely and smoked in pipes. Of course farmers needed well-made, sharp knives to process the leaves and some entrepreneurial blacksmiths developed the necessary techniques to manufacture a high quality tobacco knife for such purpose. The original Japanese knife resembled a tall cleaver.

Today we’ve gathered for you the best 15 tips from professional chefs for that’ll save you time, money, and a whole lot of trouble. Enjoy!

1. Know your meats

1meatswagyu

After more than five generations in the butcher business, we know that home cooks are baffled when they buy meat. Look for beef with ivory-colored marbling and a dark red hue. Don’t be seduced by the cherry-red steak with no marbling. This will be tasteless and tough. And always buy the best quality you can afford or find.

Stanley and Mark Lobel, coauthors of Lobel’s Meat Bible

The hardest part about making the world’s most insanely rich, ridiculously indulgent Wagyu steak at home? Paying for it.

What makes Wagyu so expensive and desired at our plates?

This gourmet meat features intense marbling, rich flavours, and health benefits that are magnitudes beyond other selections of beef. Wagyu beef is uniquely healthy. The ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fat in this meat is higher than in other varieties, so it’s better for you while offering a better flavour. Wagyu beef offers high concentrations of essential fatty acids and has a higher percentage of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol when compared to other types of beef.

The importance of health and safety is something that is much maligned by many across the country, thanks to the by-the-book rigidity that it is often enforced with. While in some cases, accusations that it has become over the top can possibly be justified (Hello Britain :), there are a few tasks that require the utmost care and consideration. One of those tasks is the fitting of a suitable handle to a knife blade.

There’s several simple ways to add a handle to a blade, but first let’s talk about safety. Blades are sharp. Japanese ones are the sharpest. But here is the thing – they’re supposed to be sharp – that’s how they are the safest.
Before starting to work on a blade, you should tape it well. Be careful anyway, the Japanese blades are really sharp and will cut through the tape if you grab them wrong. If you’re working with hot solder or pewter, or power tools, wear safety glasses. The dust from some handle materials can be bad for your lungs. Use good ventilation and/or a dust mask. When you’re working with power tools or sharp stuff, pay attention to what you’re doing. Try to do it in a daily light, where you can see everything clearly. And lastly, don’t try to work when you’re tired or in a hurry.

Kitchen sometimes resembles a war field, especially if you are trying to prepare fancy dishes for your guests to come and have little time to organise everything. Today we’ve prepared top 25 kitchen and cooking tricks that will help any hobbyist cook.

Kitchen scenario #1: I have lots of dough to cut into shapes.

We suggest: Use a pizza cutter!

A pizza blade can be wheeled around a slice of pastry or dough with fluid ease, saving you the expense of buying shaped cutters, or time spent fiddling around, twizzling the point of a knife into strange angles.

Kitchen scenario #2: My sugar has clumped in the packet.

We suggest: Undo the damage with a slice of bread.

If your brown sugar has clumped into pieces, place a piece of soft white bread in the packet and the sugar will break back down into sandy granules in a few hours (no, rice won’t help). To stop it happening again, make sure the storage space is nice and dry.

Kitchen scenario #3: Un-juicy lemons

We suggest: Microwave them.

Save yourself the disappointment of a unsqueezy lemon by microwaving it whole for around 20-30 seconds on high. It’s just enough time to release the juices, but be careful not to go overboard and dry the flesh out.

Kitchen scenario #4: I’ve run out of bread.

We suggest: Make instant flatbreads.

If you have plain flour in the cupboard, you always have bread on hand. Just take one mug of plain flour combined with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil per person, then slowly add cold water until it’s a soft, smooth dough which leaves the bowl clean. Divide the dough into balls, roll out to a 2mm thickness then dry fry in a non-stick pan. They’ll only take a few moments and are ready when both sides have golden brown patches all over. Ps. Flatbreads are great for storing – they stay fresh for many days.

Kitchen scenario #5: I need to line a springform cake tin with no fuss.

We suggest: Clamp it.

Bypass pencil outlines and fiddly scissors by lining a springform cake tin – one with a clippable ring and removable base – the easy way. Lay the parchment onto the flat base of the tin, then press down and clamp the ring into place, leaving edges around the outside to easily tear off.

Kitchen scenario #6: I want to make an easy rainbow cake.

We suggest: Ditch the liquid food colouring.

We love our stripy rainbow cake, but it’s perhaps one for the keen baker to take on. If you want your sponge to sing with Technicolor joy but don’t have the food dye resource, pick up a tub of multi-coloured hundreds and thousands instead. Weave them through your sponge batter and watch them dissolve into a beautiful polka dot design during cooking.

Kitchen scenario #7: I want to peel a kiwi the easy way.

We suggest: Spoon it.

To peel a kiwi fruit, just chop off the top and bottom, then push a dessertspoon in between the fruit and the skin. Turn the kiwi fruit until all the skin falls off the back of the spoon.

Kitchen scenario #8: I need to ramp up the flavour of my dish.

We suggest: Don’t just use salt and pepper.

Don’t just stick with salt and pepper – experiment with other store cupboard seasonings. Try sprinkling a crushed up chicken stock cube over a whole chicken before roasting or add a splash of soy sauce to boost the flavour of your gravy. (If you have none, wine is always great to add a flavour 🙂

Kitchen scenario #9: My boiled eggs are difficult to peel.

We suggest: Add vinegar.

You probably already know that adding a dash of vinegar to egg poaching water helps coagulate the white. But did you know adding a dash of vinegar to the water when boiling eggs helps the shell peel off more easily? Say goodbye to piles of tiny egg shell shards.

Kitchen scenario #10: My herbs are about to go off.

We suggest: Freeze them.

frozen herbs with oil

Photo credit: Laughing Spatula

‘Hard’ herbs like rosemary and thyme can be frozen whole. When you come to use them, they’ll naturally crumble into pieces, bypassing the mezzaluna completely.

Kitchen scenario #11: I have a rind of expensive Parmesan I don’t want to waste.

We suggest: Use it as seasoning.

parmiggiano reggano kitchen knives japanese

While the hard rind of cheese such Parmesan, pecorino and Grana Padano is difficult to grate, it’s a shame to waste such an expensive by-product. But there’s no need to – try using it as a makeshift cheesy bouquet garni. Add the rind whole when you’re sweating onions in the first stage of making a risotto or sauce. It will impart lots of its flavour but save you taking to it with a chainsaw. Don’t forget to remove it before serving though 🙂

Kitchen scenario #12: I’m finding it hard to peel shallots.

We suggest: Boil the kettle.

Dinky shallots can be a pain to peel, but cover them in boiling water and the skin loosens, making the process far quicker.

Kitchen scenario #13: I need a tiny squeeze of citrus juice but not a whole fruits-worth?

We suggest: Spike it.

Don’t cut a whole orange, lime or lemon and risk the rest going to waste for the sake of one small squeeze of juice. Use a skewer to pierce it to release a few drops without having to break the fruit open.

Kitchen scenario #14: I’m entertaining and need a quick starter.

We suggest: Spice up shop-bought dips.

Stir a few extra ingredients through your favourite shop-bought hummus and everyone will think you’ve made it yourself. Add a dash of lemon juice, chopped fresh coriander, some ground cumin, smoked paprika or a smidge of harissa paste to give it a kick. Alternatively add a few whole chickpeas and a drizzle of olive oil to really make it look homemade.

Kitchen scenario #15: My bag of salad leaves is about to go out of date.

We suggest: Cook them.

Plastic bags of washed and ready-to-eat salad leaves are really convenient but don’t seem to last very long at all, even in the fridge. If you find yourself with leftover leaves, that are starting to lose their crispness, ensure they don’t go to waste. Instead, pop them in a pan with a little olive oil or butter, garlic and seasoning and wilt down as you would for spinach. This works particularly well with leaves like watercress and rocket.

Kitchen scenario #16: Garlic cloves that are tricky to peel.

We suggest: Don’t bother.

Garlic cloves are one of the trickiest items to prepare, and if you find it a frustrating feat, invest in a sturdy garlic press and voilà – the whole clove can be passed through it with the skin intact. It might take a bit of pushing, but once through the flesh is passed through the holes while the skin is left in the press to be easily removed.

Kitchen scenario #17: I need a quick white sauce.

We suggest: Cream cheese

Making a roux from flour and butter isn’t too difficult a process, but if time is of the essence, it might be easier to reach into the fridge. A tub of cream cheese watered down until the same consistency as béchamel makes a super-simple alternative. If you want to boost the flavour, add a grating of nutmeg. Alternatively, use crème fraîche and grated cheese.

Kitchen scenario #18: I need brown rice to cook quickly.

We suggest: Soak it.

Nutty brown rice can take a long time to cook until tender, so speed up the process by soaking it in water overnight, as you would hard pulses like lentils. It’ll cook far quicker as a result.

Kitchen scenario #19: I can’t keep my supermarket herbs alive.

We suggest: Get snipping.

As soon as you buy herb plants from the supermarket or greengrocer, remove the plastic wrapping and trim the top leaves quickly to use in your cooking. By trimming off the top leaves first you’ll help the plant shoot out from lower down the stem making it stronger. Water every other day or according to the instructions on the pack.

Kitchen scenario #20: I want perfect fried eggs.

We suggest: Steam them.

avocado eggs recipies japanese knives knife

Credit: WhatShouldIEatForBreakfastToday.com

Achieve the perfect set white and creamy runny yolk with a few splashes of water. Fry the eggs in a non-stick pan and when the whites are almost cooked, put a few drops of water into the pan, quickly cover it with a lid and turn the heat down low or off completely and leave for a minute or two to finish cooking. The effect will be a perfect semi-poach.

Kitchen scenario #21: I don’t want my avocado to go brown.

We suggest: Twist it.

If you don’t always manage to eat a whole avocado in one go, keep the surplus from turning brown with our clever storage technique. Cut the avocado in half and twist into two pieces, then use a spoon to scoop out the flesh from the side without the stone and eat it. Return the empty skin to the other half, which still contains the stone, and use the skin to cover it over. Keeping the stone in and covering it with the skin helps retain colour and freshness until the following day.

Kitchen scenario #22: I want to make pastry with a difference.

We suggest: Customise it.

Spruce up shop-bought pastry by dicing a block of shortcrust and popping it into a food processor. Being careful to match it to your filling, add a flavouring – herbs, vanilla, cheese, cocoa powder, honey or spice are all great ways of giving your pastry an edge.

Kitchen scenario #23: I’m having a party and don’t have fridge space for drinks.

We suggest: Salt water.

Not enough space for your party loot? Save space for food by putting drinks into big tubs, buckets and bowls filled with salted ice water – the salt will cause the temperature to drop, giving you icy cold drinks in seconds.

Kitchen scenario #24: I need breadcrumbs but don’t have a food processor.

We suggest: Go manual.

Make your own dried breadcrumbs by grating stale bread on the coarse side of a grater, then spread the crumbs in a thin layer over a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes at 140C, giving them a good shake halfway through. The golden, crispy crumbs will last in a sealed container for up to two weeks.

Kitchen scenario #25: I need a marinade for my meat but only have half an hour before cooking.

We suggest: Reach for the wine.

If you need your meat injected with a short, sharp burst of flavour, choose marinade ingredients wisely. Red wine quickly penetrates meat, giving it a deep colour, while citrus zest and juice tenderises it rapidly.

 

Do you have any other tried tricks that work miracles? Share them with us and our community in the comments below 🙂

Cover photo and few copy photos credit: our favourite WhatShouldIEatForBreakfastToday.com

The Queen of the steels – Aogami Blue Super (Hitachi Metals Ltd.) is one of the greatest Japanese Carbon Steels. In addition to containing more Carbon, Chromium and Tungsten than Blue Steel No.1, it also includes Molybdenum. It has a very good edge sharpness and excellent edge retention, but is also capable of attaining high hardness without being brittle. Consequently, many knife enthusiasts rate Aogami Super as one of the very best High Carbon Steels in the world.

White, Yellow, Blue & Super Blue

steel types knives japanese aogami shirogami kigami yasugiJapanese steels are commonly known by the colour that the label wrapped around the steel happens to be (white, blue, super blue). In this case its super blue steel, also known as Aogami Super Blue. This is considered to be just about the best mix found for a high carbon steel for knife making. Carbon steels can deliver amazing levels of sharpness and Super Blue is considered to be about as good as it can get – it’s extremely easy to sharpen and giving a silky, smooth cut that we’ve all crave for in the kitchen.

The Moritaka range and Yoshihiro have an exceptionally hard Super Blue Steel cutting edge and are laminated in Stainless.

The downsides?

In the quest for the “perfect knife steel” (hint: there is none) there are always compromises. In the case of Super Blue there are a few to consider. When applied too much strength in single point, it can chip which is why it is often hammered in a softer stainless steel to give it more support. Knives made from it are built for their cutting ability not for showcase of power, so ensure you are buying it for the right reasons.

As it’s a high carbon knife, it will discolour and take a patina through use as it oxidises. Bear it mind that it does not effect the performance of the knife but not everyone likes this. We see it as the knife taking on a unique character all of its own, creating a history with its owner, so fair to say we like it. Again, this is why it is often laminated in stainless steel to protect the cutting edge.

There are other unseen compromises too, Super Blue steel is difficult to work with also for the blacksmith. This leads to more ruined or unusable blades which pushes up the cost of those blades that are finally finished. This contributes for the increased cost of these blades.

Summing up, it’s about as good as carbon steels get – it allows for an insanely sharp edge, but need some attention to ensure you keep getting the most out of that edge. For a more robust/forgiving carbon steel take a look at White Carbon Steel (Shirogami).