Knife Forging of Tottori Prefecture

Traditional techniques and new challenges

By Tottori Prefectural Government

Tottori Prefecture

Google Arts & Culture: Knife Forging of Tottori PrefectureTottori Prefectural Government

The blacksmiths of Inaba, Knife Forging of Tottori PrefectureTottori Prefectural Government

The blacksmiths of Inaba

Since ancient times, iron forging has prospered in Western Honshū thanks to the high-quality iron-sand available there. Today, in a region formerly known as Inaba, there are still blacksmiths using long-established traditional techniques.

The mountains of Chizu, Knife Forging of Tottori PrefectureTottori Prefectural Government

The mountains of Chizu

Charcoal, indispensable for forging iron, is abundantly available in the mountains of Tottori Prefecture. Forestry in this region also utilized iron tools, so the blacksmiths’ work was closely entwined with local people’s daily lives.

Ōtsuka knife forgingTottori Prefectural Government

Ōtsuka knife forging

The Ōtsuka Knife Workshop is located in a residential area. Here third-generation blacksmith, Yoshifumi Ōtsuka, continues to make knives.

 

In the past many smithies could be seen around Tottori Prefecture but now only two, including Mr. Ōtsuka’s, remain.

The forging process, Knife Forging of Tottori PrefectureTottori Prefectural Government

The forging process

The construction of a knife, Knife Forging of Tottori Prefecture by Otsuka YoshifumiTottori Prefectural Government

The construction of a knife

A knife blade is made from two materials: steel and ferrite. Sandwiching hard steel between soft ferrite ensures a knife that is tough yet soft.

Basic shaping, Knife Forging of Tottori Prefecture by Otsuka YoshifumiTottori Prefectural Government

Basic shaping

The steel and ferrite are softened by heating on a coal fire, and then beaten flat using a mechanical electric hammer to make them easily workable.

Sandwiching, Knife Forging of Tottori Prefecture by Otsuka YoshifumiTottori Prefectural Government

Sandwiching

Heat is used to cut a deep groove in a piece of ferrite; a pre-shaped piece of steel is slotted into this groove. Iron sand is used to adhere the two metals. 

Welding, Knife Forging of Tottori Prefecture by Otsuka YoshifumiTottori Prefectural Government

Welding

The combined piece is heated and lengthened into a knife form by beating with a hammer. The welding process hones the cutting edge and the spine to a degree invisible to the eye. Beating the metal reduces the size of the particles, which enhances the toughness of the knife.

Shaping, Knife Forging of Tottori Prefecture by Otsuka YoshifumiTottori Prefectural Government

Shaping

The beaten metal is cut to the desired knife shape using a template. Then the handle is made.

Quenching, Knife Forging of Tottori Prefecture by Otsuka YoshifumiTottori Prefectural Government

Quenching

In order to harden the steel, the knife is placed into water after it has been heated to 800℃ to rapidly cool it down to 250℃. This vital heat treatment will determine how well the knife can cut. 

Straightening and tempering, Knife Forging of Tottori Prefecture by Otsuka YoshifumiTottori Prefectural Government

Straightening and tempering

Immediately after the quenching is complete, the knife is left in 100℃ water, before it then gets pounded to straighten the surface using a hammer.

 

Next, the straightened knife in its hard and brittle state is left in oil heated to 180℃. After that it is slightly heated once more to give the steel flexibility. 

Grinding, Knife Forging of Tottori Prefecture by Otsuka YoshifumiTottori Prefectural Government

Grinding

This is the sharpening process. Various grinders are used to gradually finish the cutting edge.

Introducing Ōtsuka knives by Otsuka YoshifumiTottori Prefectural Government

Introducing Ōtsuka knives

Ōtsuka’s knives are made with meticulous attention to detail so they are easy to hold, make the right sound when cutting food, and even produce a nice texture of cut.

 

These knives can be enjoyed using all five senses.

 

The all-purpose knife, Knife Forging of Tottori Prefecture by Otsuka YoshifumiTottori Prefectural Government

The all-purpose knife

Knives are made according to the type of ingredients they are intended for – meat, fish or vegetables. The all-purpose knife is made to incorporate the advantages of various different knives to suit a wide range of purposes. It is frequently used in the home.

 

The vegetable knife, Knife Forging of Tottori Prefecture by Otsuka YoshifumiTottori Prefectural Government

The vegetable knife

This knife, featuring a rectangular, straight-edged blade, is most common in the Kantō region. It is ideal for fine cutting or chopping of food, so ideal for preparing vegetables.

 

The Yamame knife, Knife Forging of Tottori Prefecture by Otsuka YoshifumiTottori Prefectural Government

The Yamame knife

This small knife with a sharp point is designed for cutting and trimming small river fish. The handle is made from a cherry branch, which gives it durability and a rustic beauty. Users enjoy seeing the knife change over the years.

The Yamagoya knife, Knife Forging of Tottori Prefecture by Otsuka YoshifumiTottori Prefectural Government

The Yamagoya knife

This knife can be used to cut wild boar meat or venison. It is popular with outdoor enthusiasts.

 

Rigging knife, Knife Forging of Tottori Prefecture by Otsuka YoshifumiTottori Prefectural Government

Rigging knife

This type of knife has a very sharp tip and is used to kill fish to preserve it fresh. Being made from steel sandwiched between two stainless steel sides, this type of knife is resistant to rust.

The Fisherman’s knife, Knife Forging of Tottori Prefecture by Otsuka YoshifumiTottori Prefectural Government

The fisherman’s knife 

This is a multi-purpose knife made for fishermen to use onboard a boat. Also known as a ‘sea knife’ it can be used to cut and trim fish, for example to prepare sashimi.

 

Knife Forging of Tottori Prefecture by Otsuka YoshifumiTottori Prefectural Government

Lastly…

Mr. Ōtsuka has a high reputation for his outstanding skills and adherence to traditional techniques. He continues to preserve these traditions, whilst also experimenting with new products and sales strategies.   

COCOROSTORETottori Prefectural Government

Until recently it was difficult to get hold of Mr. Ōtsuka’s knives, but in the last few years he started selling them at the local deluxe-shop COCOROSTORE, increasing awareness and interest.

Credits: Story

Supported by:
ōtsukahamonokaji


Movie by:
Takayama Kengo, A-PROJECTS

English translation by:
Eddy Y. L. Chang
Martie Jelinek

Text and Exhibition created by:
Aoi yukari, Kyoto Women's University
Ishida ayaka, Kyoto Women's University
Miyagawa yuka, Kyoto Women's University

Project Directer:
Dr Maezaki Shinya, Kyoto Women's University

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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