A kitchen knife is an unusual tool, in that the point of contact between the tool and the medium upon which it works is actually extremely delicate. Imagine if a wrench were as delicate as an X-acto blade that had to be replaced regularly, or if bar clamps would routinely stop holding things in place because they became all wonky with use. Most non-cutting tools are blunt, hearty and reliable. But blades have to be cared for, stored carefully, and sharpened (somewhat) regularly.
But if there is an abused and neglected blade in your home that is used frequently but cared for rarely (okay, maybe not YOUR home, Mr./Ms. Attention-to-Detail––but the average home), it is the knives in your kitchen. Unless you are a professional ice sculptor or sword swallower, it is likely that the knives in your kitchen are the ones that get the most daily use. And if you are anything like me, it is way too easy to just grab one, use it, and put it back without special care for these knives. Despite my best intentions, it is easy for me to leave a dirty one on a cutting board, haphazardly toss one into the sink, clean in the dishwasher and store them in less-than-ideal ways (i.e., cluttered together in a drawer. I know. I'm an animal.)
A few months ago, in the midst of a day full of projects, I had a bit of an a-ha moment. I was in my workshop, using the table saw to slice up some Baltic birch plywood, when a timer on my phone went off, reminding me to take a break and go chop a bunch of vegetables to add to the slow cooked stock I was simmering in the kitchen.
Each week in 2015, ManMade is sharing our picks for the essential tools we think every creative guy and DIYer needs. We've selected useful, long-lasting tools to help you accomplish a variety of projects, solve problems, and live a hands-on lifestyle that allows you to interact with and make the things you use every day.
When we think about tools that cut things in the workshop, we tend to focus on the big stuff: table saws, metal cut-off tools, or even a chainsaw. Or perhaps we think of tools designed for dedicated tasks: an angle grinder, or a jig saw. But, know what the two items I most regularly pull down off my pegboard, even more than a hammer? Whose little silhouettes remain most routinely bare and hooks unfilled?
Murray Carter is the 17th generation Yoshimoto bladesmith. He was born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but and traveled to Japan when he was eighteen, inspired by a karate competition. There, he encountered the Japanese bladesmith tradition, and he stayed in Japan for half his life and apprenticed under a Japanese bladesmith for six years.
Murray now works at his own shop just outside Portland, Oregon, and the Tristan Stoch and the Cineastas film crew visited his workspace to create this fascinating portrait of what actually goes into forging and shaping this precision tools by hand.