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sometimewoodworker

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Having finished a bench, and gotten a track saw plus planes, I decided I wanted to learn how to make basic box joints, took me a couple attempts and quite a lot of tool and jig development to be able to reach this:
Nice work.

FWIW I am just making something over 50 joints that are stepped box joints, so slightly more complex, that don’t need a jig just correct setting of the table saw fence and blade hight.

So if you have a table saw, while the setup takes quite a few tiny exact adjustments, the stepped joint is easier and potentially faster as, as long as all the pieces are virtually the same thickness the joint cutting cutting is the same on every part.

This is the joint I am talking about on a setup piece.
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sometimewoodworker

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sorry, will get a pic of it and post it tomorrow
With a video, like yours, the safest bet is to upload it to YouTube like this


this is the @krisscross item. It is on my channel but is set to unlisted (if you have the URL you can view it) and I will be deleting it as soon as he has fixed the upload or link.

here is another version but with audio.
again both will go soon
 
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D_W

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3 of a five piece set of paring chisels (these need just a little more hand finishing, but in reality, they don't "need" it.

I've been making chisels for a while now, but not "for pay", I never ask for anything other than the cost of materials and consumables (which can be considerable if the steel is expensive stuff and the wood is expensive - for this set of paring chisels, it'll probably be $100, but the steel is something ritzy - a fine grained very high carbon steel called 26c3, which is like japanese white steel but with just a little chromium added - not enough for chromium to roam free, but to combine with the iron and carbon and improve hardenability just a little bit. It's 1.25% carbon, which is near the bottom of the White 1 range, and while it's not uber expensive (lots of the powder metal stainless versions cost more), they keep records of the actual batch test so you can see how clean the steel was. This steel has a spec that's far cleaner than almost anything, and only the tiniest hair away from the white steel tolerances, but the actual batch is multiple times cleaner than the white 1 standard, so the two would be able to duke it out. The result is something that can be driven to high hardness (like white steel) and tempered back just a little - or think of something like hock O1 steel, but without the chippiness of hock at the 64-ish hardness level. It comes out of the quench at 68 and could be driven higher than 64 (but it's a nice compromise there).

All that said, the intention is to not just create paring chisels for a friend of mine, but to have them more crisp and sharper feeling no matter what the sharpening media is than anything else sharpened on the same media, and for them to wear when used in such a way that they still feel sharp even as they're dulling. carbon steels used for razors generally meet this - and 26c3 is one of the steels used for razors. The stainless steels used for razor blades are specialty steels like AEB-L that also have no large grains in them (AEB-L is probably the only stainless that's finer than some carbon steels).

fine grain and high hardness correspond to edge strength (Which people confuse for toughness - but toughness equates more to the ability to take damage without letting go, which is a *bad* thing for chisels as you end up with a foil like a burr on the tip of a chisel which is far more work to get through wood than tiny chips).

The other thing that makes this a bit of a hassle to work with is that water hardening steels warp, and they generally don't fully harden to the core (Which is also a good thing as long as the outer layer at high hardness is thick enough). Long story short, I've had to take a couple out of the rotation due to warping and regrind them and just keep them for myself as they're "rejects" (the rejects still turn out to be very difficult to match with much that's out there in production). To just make something that's shaped generally like a chisel, buying a glob of A2 steel and cutting it to chisel shape would be much easier - A2 doesn't move much in heat treatment.

All of the grinding other than a general flat tapered blank has to be done on this after the chisels are hardened, which means specialty abrasives or a wet wheel (no giant wet wheel here) and I grind these with bare hands so that i can feel them. if they get too hot to touch, then no good. Once your hands get warm, they get more sensitive so you get a wide margin to work with and I haven't burned a chisel yet on a powered belt grinder like that. I *have* blistered my fingers flattening the backs manually on a glass lap and in combination with that, softened the bevel on a chisel - by hand!! Unexpected.

20210909_205734.jpg


It's been a long journey in the last year to learn to do these things well with minimal tools. I have two forges, but no heat treat oven, so I am working by eye ,thermally cycling steels and heat treating by eye and with that comes things like getting commercial samples and working at the method until I can snap samples and see grain as fine as the commercial samples, and then using a good known chisel (like a vintage ward) and doing the same test with my chisels until they hold up at least as well under a microscope. This isn't as easy as it may sound to achieve.

If I "master" this, I'm sure it'll get boring and it'll be time to move on to something else.

Here are two of the "rejects" - at least I get to keep them - they are blindingly crisp and sharp and more than straight enough, but the friend of mine was the toolmaker at williamsburg and I don't want to send him any junk. He's given me scads of free advice over the last decade and goaded me to try to make nice things instead of just things, always willing to tell me where I can make things better. Since my maker's mark isn't the greatest thing in the world, I put it on the bottom of the chisel below the tang like some of the older chisels did. That way, if he thinks I came up a little short making my mark, he won't have to look at it :)

20210904_095617.jpg


Despite the fact that he's made more tools than I'll make by a factor of 100, I want him to get these chisels and feel like they are sharper and more crisp than anything he's gotten, vintage or new. The reject bunch is as good as any ward parer that I've used, or anything else - and a bit harder and at least as fine cutting. The fact that the steel has really nothing roaming free in it other than iron and iron carbides makes it easy to sharpen even though it's hard, and it lets go of the wire edge just in the process of sharpening - just like a japanese chisel.

I've made a lot of chisels now and am quick at it, but to cut these out of bar stock, forge the ends and then grind them to a crude blank, file and shape the tang, install the bolster and then forge weld it and grind it to shape, and then heat treat and finish grind and then finally hand finish the surfaces - it's a solid 3 hours of constant work per chisel.

With so many wonderful bevel edge parers left floating around the UK for reasonable, it'd make no sense to ever consider making this a business.

There is nothing made now, though, that is their equal (and I've made plenty of junk in the past, so that's a culmination of the work to get to this point and being willing to harden several hundred things, snap steel and look at the grain and so on - I just think nobody out there would go to the trouble to make something this crisp and with as much chance of failure as there is with warping to probably have trouble getting $100. And what it takes in the US to get $100 a chisel is really promoting the tools and always being positive and not telling people things they don't want to hear.

I'm not that guy.
 

Hornbeam

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The chisels you produce look fantastic and I am sure they perform as well as they look, As you say in UK if you look round you can pick up good quality older paring chisel for around £25 so not something you can compete with on cost. However there seem to be a number of makers, particularly some of teh japanese chisels that sell £150 and upwards, which is more where I think your tools are aimed at.
Ian
 

D_W

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Yes on the japanese tools - I think those tools don't sell in japan, they only sell to western workers (A more typical price for something used there is what I'd pay buying off of their japan yahoo. I think without americans, russians, english and european folks buying their tools, the industry would be mostly dead. I also think when you see $500 paring chisels, the japanese themselves don't like that flashy stuff - the annular rings, etc - and the distributor and retailer are greatly marking up what the maker gets. The listings in some publications here are borderline fraud, talking about the maker and his wife taking turns with the sledge to forge, etc. They're forged with power hammers or dies and then ground in grinding dies).

In the US, blue spruce tools (now woodpeckers) pretty much just take a highly polished piece of flat stock A2 and assemble it into what looks like a duplicated handle, and if the handle is figured or exotic, they're around $120.

That's a bit of a turn off to me, but it's just personal opinion (not grudge) - they're made so that all of the parts can be ordered/contracted and made by machine without having to have much skilled labor - the custom ferrule hides the business where everything meets so that it doesn't just look like a piece of bar stock stuck into a handle.

These chisels, instead of being thin from end to end (they're too long for that and would be too flexible and wouldn't stay in a cut) are hardened fully in the first 2/3rds of their length and then partially up to the tang, and then after that, they taper to no hardening in most of the tang behind the bolster (Which allows the handles to be set on them imperfectly and then adjusted to perfect - i believe old english chisels generally follow this. The result is that they have stiffness and hard spring that makes them really lovely to use (you can lean on them or use them lightly and they will spring properly for the cut and not dive or rise - they're around 0.11-.12" at the bevel end, .14" in the middle, and then .24 or so at the tang, with the taper having curvature. That keeps them strong without making them overly heavy, and it's attractive if they're sighted down as it looks more natural than just a bunch of perfectly straight lines.

I could probably figure out how to get these down to about half the time or maybe 2/3rds over time, but taking the hammering/forge shaping out of it and the hand filing of the bolster and freehand grind would completely ruin what I"m going for. There's no reason to try to make machine made imitations - if you're going for freehand, you can add nuance without any extra work.
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D_W

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(as far as what's typical in japan, something more like $40 for a high quality used (but barely used) paring chisel. Less for chisels that have a lot of wear).

lower grade used chisels often sell for about $10 each there, and sometimes well made professional sets that would be $1000 here under a current maker will be about $150-$200.

This set of high quality slicks (all three) were about $200 total, something like $220 shipped to the US, so probably more like $175 at auction. They are extremely well made and it's almost a shame that they don't bring more, but it should be a wake up call to anyone buying $200 bench chisels in the west or $200-$500 paring chisels - the "tradition" doesn't actually match. (It's OK to make fun of the dovetails - they were the first I ever cut, and in 13/16" pre-planed oak - wasn't a great choice). I laid a typical japanese bench chisel over the slicks so that it's clear how big they are - they're gigantic - around double the size of a typical paring chisel in length, or in the ballpark of as long as a stanley 8)

I have no use for them, but they're pretty.

20210910_121243.jpg
 

sometimewoodworker

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Yes on the japanese tools - I think those tools don't sell in japan
Humm. The general population certainly don’t buy them, the pretty ones are probably made for the export trade.

However the top quality plains and chisels certainly have a significant market as do the knives that are produced in similar ways and a few sell for significantly over £2,000. The shop that was my favourite in Kapabashi during my time there no longer has a website that lists the products however it had a soba noodle knife that was about ¥600,000 and another at ¥350,000.
The Japanese in general have a quite high discretionary income and consider quality far more than price, or at least my friends did. Don’t forget that the shrines and temples are all made of wood and while a temple may be 1,000 years old you can virtually guarantee that none of the wood is much over 80 years, that the woodwork is all hand tool work and the monks and temples are among the richest so can pay enough for the craftsmen to afford the high priced tools.

I never went to any of the really specialist shops as the tools were way beyond my needs and pockets and that is apart from the xenophobic attitudes of many of the shops there, so without a knowledgeable Japanese you may not even get into the shop or find where it is.
 
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D_W

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I think the knives that you're mentioning are generally for the wealthy and perhaps as a ceremonial gift. What's in japan that's expensive and bought there tends to be sort of more plain looking and very perfectly made stuff (at least in tools).

There are a few collectors there of really expensive sharpening stones, too, but they are catered to by mine owners or distributors.

The flashy chisels that end up over here for $500 for a parer, though, with ebony handles, don't really fit in the above categories.

I'm not sure how much of the really expensive stuff is aimed just at the domestic market, though. There was a retailer about a decade ago who was thought to have good prices (and compared to the retailers who cater only to westerners, they did). At some point, someone floated to the western forums and pointed out that if you could read japanese, the prices on the site were about 2/3rds, and suddenly, everyone thought it was less favorable.

But I'm sure there are wealthy individuals who buy a small number of really expensive high hand labor stuff (it's just not what's marketed over here, and what's marketed to here is often made more flashy and less plain perfection).

That's what I've come to understand, but will admit, I'm not in contact with anyone buying really high end stuff over there, so I don't know how big the market of wealthy individuals really is (I do recall once that Stu Tierney suggested that the market for expensive cooking goods was stronger in japan than the market for expensive woodworking tools - that seemed to be true, as stuff like the chosera stones are aimed at knife shops and naniwa made other similar quality stones (like the snow white - same abrasive, same binder - $80 instead of $230).

(full disclosure, I do have a few kiyotada chisels, so i'm not completely devoid of really pricey japanese stuff - but kiyotada meets the japanese aesthetic standard - very plain, very crisp, just done right to high quality - more than the annular ring chisel thing where - as Rob Streeper found a couple of years ago, the hagane wasn't the same hardness end to end). My kiyotada chisels do differ a little in hardness, but I think that's probably more due to the fact that he was actually hardening chisel by hand and eye and may have done things a little differently over time (they're - mine - not all from the same time).
 
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sometimewoodworker

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I think the knives that you're mentioning are generally for the wealthy and perhaps as a ceremonial gift. What's in japan that's expensive and bought there tends to be sort of more plain looking and very perfectly made stuff (at least in tools).
Your thinking is not correct. The knives are for the professional chefs and are absolutely for use, not collection.
A52EBBFC-6173-42E5-B7DD-A1259CDC81F0.jpeg

this an an example of a lower priced knife that is around ¥110,000 (£730.00)

and here is a substantialy lower priced Soba noodle knife that goes for around ¥88,000
1872EFE0-7A07-40BA-BCDD-8EB8A6AD4E7B.jpeg

they mention that if you want a handle it costs extra.

These are on searchable websites and in my experience (I did live and work there for almost 3 decades) the top quality makers may not have websites, of those that do virtually none are accessible in English, the only searches that can find them must be in Japanese, many don’t advertise and the wait list for a knife or plain blade is years long. Yes there are ready made blades and irons but the known craftsmans output isn’t high enough for him to take time to make on spec.

You also have no real concept of what I mean by decretionary disposable income and why it’s so high.
an example is that the average salaryman can not only support his wife and family on his income but easily afford to rent a parking space for ¥150,000 +(1,000) per month for a car he doesn’t need (he takes the train to work and his company pays for that) and he and his wife will drive maybe 1,000 km per year. So your chef or woodworker will have no problems buying a tool for their job that costs less than the cost to park a car for 6 months. Can they all afford that kind of tool? Of course not. Do many of them? Absolutely they do. Are some of the tools bought by collectors? A few probably are, the majority are bought by working craftsman who can quite easily afford them.

The average savings of a couple are around ¥17 million (£120,000) mostly in cash, the UK amount is a little over 10% of that (£12,000) and don’t forget that it is the average.

there is one restaurant for every 260 people in Japan if only half of them have a single chef who buys top quality tools and he only buys 1 knife per 5 years that is 46,000 knives sold per year, all of these are extremely conservative numbers. Naturally the number of hand tool woodworkers are fewer, but still substantial. The scale of specialisation with a densely populated high income country is astounding.
 
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D_W

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Why do you post only knives instead of tools? I never mentioned knives above, I said that the market for high priced tools is supported and has basically been brought back to life by gullible western buyers.

I need to see the Japanese woodworkers using annular ring chisels with ebony handles, not just that you can find them listed somewhere.
 

sometimewoodworker

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Why do you post only knives instead of tools? I never mentioned knives above, I said that the market for high priced tools is supported and has basically been brought back to life by gullible western buyers.

I need to see the Japanese woodworkers using annular ring chisels with ebony handles, not just that you can find them listed somewhere.
Why? Because my friends and students were involved with cooking and restaurants very few with woodwork, so I have personal experience with cooking tools not much with woodworking tools so I talk of things I know not guess, if I don’t know I make that clear.

You will probably not find many or any Japanese woodworkers using tools like that as they wouldn’t spend good money on on frills, ebony handles are just bling specially on on annular ring chisels that are designed to be pounded with a steel hammer. For the Japanese the tool handles and plane bodies are consumable and will be replaced, the quality, time and cost is in the blade. Also the knives I showed are not remotely the most expensive tools just look up Magurokiri blades and you will find them in the ¥900,000 range certainly not for collectors.

The Japanese perception, view and valuation of aesthetic qualities are very different from the western one. They look at the detail and in general are not or not very concerned by the overall view, the detail being the blade the overall view being the complete tool.

An example of this is the stunning architecture of individual buildings but the mess of groups of them in most Japanese cities, while a western view of excellence requires that the building not only be good architecturally but fit with the surroundings

Why am I not distinguishing between knife and chisel makers? Because the laminated steel technique is common to both and certainly some are made by the same craftsmen though the knife constructed is quite possibly more difficult it is certainly more complex specially for the longer, often curved, blades where the curve, so saleability, is never guaranteed until it has been tempered, while a plane or chisel is virtually guaranteed to be perfect once grinding is finished.

with used tools a reasonable quality used plain and cap iron will go from £300 to almost as much as you care to spend, with you getting or making the body for it to go in.
 
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D_W

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I don't know which blades you're talking about. For a while, ogata blades were available here new for $225 for a matching iron and subblade. Nakano's planes with a ledged dai and a paulownia box were $225 (they were brought over from japan, and presumably sold for a profit). That was in a lull time when americans weren't buying hand over fist (perhaps the 90s - after the first rush from the 1980s wore off).

The ogata blade that I got was later, though - I got it from a dealer here who brought it back.

Then, Iida started selling them and also, a retailer over here got them. Now, they're $800. Not sure what iida sells nakano blades for - but probably about the same.

I doubt any are sold to japanese buyers within half of that or even less.

What you're talking about is very small volume small part of the market kit. If the average carpenter saved and bought something like ouchi 1, that would be understandable. If they bought $4000 sets of oire nomi that were really decorative and overly perfect aesthetically, I doubt it, unless it was a gift late career. But you can sell that stuff to americans and europeans in droves.

The knife thing is different than the tool thing - at least in true high end knives that are laminated in house (there are a whole lot of prelaminated knives floating around here for about $400-$600 - I don't get it - I've made knives out of prelaminated steel - it's uneventful to say the least - everything else done to the blade after thermal cycling and hardening and straightening (something afforded by the cladding - you can tap them straight when they're fully hardened, and they will bend and take a set back to straight without issue and without cracking)). True in house knives are forged in house, decorated by hand and hand scraped and finished. Are they functionally better than thermally cycled rikizai? Probably not. The cost is in the tradition - the hand scraping, the hand finishing with stones (it's an offshoot of sword stuff, and far greater in appeal because most people cook).

Some of my chisels did come from japan, and they did come from this end of the selling (not publicly displayed and from a relatively exclusive dealer in tokyo). I wanted to see what they were like and before stan covington sold tools, he got them for me at cost, store tags left on and all (they are old stock shimamura/kiyotada, but some of the later chisels - the longer kiyotada when on based on the ones I have, the neater his chisels got, but they didn't get ornate - just more finely finished). I get that whole thing, the back room idea, and the actual kiyotada chisels at that time sold from old stock (and not to the public) were less than the frilly stuff sold here.

There are chisels that cost more than kiyotada, but not many. They are very good.

My point with my comments isn't that there isn't a small segment of the tool market that is really nosebleed and very traditional, but that's not what's being passed off to americans. What we're getting is stock of retired planemakers or late career that has been purchased and marked to $800 when it sold for eons at 1/3rd or 1/4th. Is the toolmaker seeing any of that? I hope so.

There's also misinformation given as part of the selling, but I think that's true across the board. If you have white 1 and assab or other swedish steel, you'll be told that the swedish is easy sharpening. If you make tools, you learn pretty quickly that it's just tempered softer. The ogata blades were passed along as him using "boutique purified" steel that's really easy to sharpen but holds an edge as long as anything else. Well, mine was easy to sharpen, but the lamination was thick (this isn't that desirable) and it was relatively easy to sharpen because it wasn't that hard. In my opinion, the step off of highest hardness made it more functional for any user, not just intermediate, but nobody wants to hear that - they want "the hardest that's special made to still be easy sharpening". IT didn't wear that long, but again, I don't care about that - only people who can't sharpen well get obsessed with edge life vs. edge uniformity, at least to a point.

I bought and sold stones from japan for a while - a couple of hundred of them. I did it at the time because I could find the same labeled stones that the european and japanese (stores who catered to westerners) sellers sold for about $200 vs. the $600-$800 that they would sell for. I would grade them and sell them for close to cost to make a point. I don't think those stones sell for that price in japan.

I do think there are stones held back by the mines for wealthy japanese customers, but they are truly rare and very low volume, and the average person wouldn't "get it" if they used them.


have a look at this stone. As a former seller of stones, I don't get it. This is a $200-$300 stone to me, at most - new, without chips off of it (I would likely pass on it at this point as stones of that quality and type without lines aren't hard to find). But iida specializes in selling to americans, and he sells everything expensive except when he doesn't want to (at one point, he was selling nakano planes on his front page for $500 and on ebay selling off excess for $150 - i got one of the latter - it's a good plane.

Here is the ogata blade that I had (I bought it from a dealer here who marks things up very significantly to fund his trips to japan - I paid a little over 1/4th of this amount, but had to make my own dai. This is ideal for a dealer selling to americans - I would be surprised if ida pays $200 for these blades now. For a long time, they were about $500, and then japan woodworker started selling them for $800 here claiming they are "the only seller" , and iida magically raised his price to $800.).

What you and I are talking about are different things - what's being told to people who don't speak japanese (to buy relatively common stuff and then pay the moon for decorative tools vs. the very understated and perhaps rare and truly hand done stuff that you're speaking of with knives that appeals to a very narrow segment of the market).

Separately from that, I recall on a shaving forum, someone asked Jim Rion "I'm coming to tokyo, can you tell me where there is a good store for kamisori - I want to buy something really good". Jim's response (he was selling kamisori at the time), "there's not much on the ground - they're mostly sold to westerners by export sale". I would bet that there are older kamisori somewhere in small numbers made of sand iron steel by someone who was famous, but the vast majority of $250-$800 kamisori are just machine made tools sold to westerners based on a narrative. And they are pretty easily matched (sometimes bettered) by a few picked from a group of 10 that just need to be reground on buyee for $125 (that's the price for the group). I sometimes regrind them and sell them on ebay for about $35 ,and people are always shocked when they get them. I did have an iwasaki kamisori of swedish steel, but it was expensive and it felt like more effort was made on the box and lacquer to prevent rust than thermal cycling to make the edge fine, and strict control of hardness.

And lastly, just to sort out what's real (along with the kiyotada chisels), I bought some fairly well regarded planes by mosaku, a higher end tsunesaburo plane (the ones supposedly made by hand - most of the irons look like they're mass produced from prelaminated material. Maybe they aren't and they have some kind of faster process that does quick lamination, but what's left is very uniform looking steels with a thick lamination), ogata (of course) one by nakano (not the inexpensive one mentioned above - I also got that one - the first one was made with an expensive andrews steel), and I may have forgotten one or two that are long gone. I then switched over to buying some from buyee .

I then got about half a dozen blades from buyee that were unused or close to it, with and without dais, but based on visual aspects. I looked for irons that had kamaji that showed a lot of bubble holes in it (it's usually softer or sharpens better) and thin laminations (again, faster sharpening without giving up anything, and quite often a sign of more skill in the making). The average price for that half dozen, some barely used, some unused, all 70-72mm - about $100. They're on japan's version of ebay, and the ones that are marked up a lot don't sell. On average, the half dozen group was better quality (but some of that due to picking aspects that I couldn't pick with the dealer sold plane), and none was defective. The mosaku plane that I bought was white 1 and overhard (it would've probably held an edge if it had been tempered some), the ogata was softer than any other plane I've had, but probably a little harder than a typical stanley iron, and one of the tsunesaburo planes had uniformity problems with super blue steel - which isn't uncommon as the tungsten in it is one of the harder carbides to get dissolved and dispersed evenly. In order to know if an effort was successful, you'd have to etch each one or use each one and test - mine held an edge OK, but it was always full of tiny nicks. A real disappointment.
 

D_W

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Also, the knives that you showed are dealer marked up to $730 and effectively $800. For a hand made knife, this isn't that much. I don't know if their forge is done in house, but I hope at that price, it is. Before the markup, the maker is probably getting about half that, and it's really not a way to get rich.

I would expect knives that are truly finely finished by hand to take at least several days to make and finish and they would have to be at least a couple of thousand dollars at retail to justify making.

Little of that is sold here, but there is some effort in the last decade to get in the more perfect understated work - it's just like it's always been - what's marketed to euros and americans is only a couple of makers, and then a whole lot of mostly machine made stuff for nearly the same price.

A typical custom hand finished knife in the US from the makers who are known to pay extreme attention to steel microstructure is probably about $3000 ( I don't mean Kramer knives, either - I don't know if that guy speaks in generalities, but I'd be surprised if his skill in knives matches his ability to market. And I would bet that the typical japanese purchaser of a $3k knife understands more about the knife than the average kramer customer - at least that's my opinion and i Hope it's the case).

Back to the tools - at what point does functionality ceased improving in a chisel - around $80 in japan. A die-pressed chisel that's heat treated properly with good thermal control and just ground in dies (and not hand finished further) is about as good as kiyotada in terms of edge holding. but my eye likes the kiyotada better. The thermal control of the steel has much more to do with the end result than does any secret forging process - what's missing in most discussions about all of these things is proof of qualities and what provides them.

But as to $800 knives, if they're made by hand, I don't think it's possible to make them cheaper and include a dealer markup. And like the western knives, if you're truly going to do a traditional hand finish, you can start getting into days of work to get things photo perfect.

(the need for the lamination is separate - it would be an interesting topic on another thread, but not for here. At the very least, let's just say that you can't fully harden white steel without sticking it to something - the transition speed needed for it is really fast and the only way to harden it in water without cracking is to stick it to a softer metal. there are other considerations - like the original cost of making the steel, but all of those things go together. Oil hardening steel in the west is probably what made laminated irons disappear).
 
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