I am going to sound like a history geek but from the brief bit of reading I did after seeing this thread, all Damascus kitchen knife means to me is a marketing term. I have a fascination with ancient weapons. I own a few. I have studied the variation in steel working used for weapons. Two of the peaks were damascene and Japanese swords. There is no way anyone is taking the techniques from those and making kitchen knives to sell for a few hundred bucks. If you told me you spent a few grand on a knife, well then maybe it’s legit but you would never use it. It would be mounted and on display. I was gifted a Japanese knife that was made by a knife maker that used to make samurai swords. That knife cost into 4 figures. I hardly use it at all. It’s too beautiful to use in the kitchen.
Have you watched the video (above) by Walter Sorrels?
Well, sort of. Damascus blades of the highest order are quite expensive, mostly because they are handmade and exquisitely finished.
But billets of Damascus aren’t super expensive, and a myriad of patterns and layups are available for purchase. Some incredibly beautiful patterns can be had for around $20/inch (welded handle tangs of monolithic steel bring the cost down further). It’s when you want very complex mosaic patterns (e.g., 100 perfect US flags, including tiny stars) that the time and cost skyrocket.
You can also buy machine-welded “cored” sheetstock for less than a fortune. And even forge welding such a 3-layer blank is pretty simple for anyone who’s taken a blacksmithing tutorial.
I served jury duty with a retiree who got into making Damascus as a hobby. He gave me an unetched billet of a 256-layer “raindrop” pattern he’d done, large enough for a large folder or parer.
What you pay for in both the sword and Damascus areas in the market is the expertise and artisty–in every facet of whst’s required. And even if you buy from a case or through a dealer, you’re usually buying a complete one-off.
Even if Shun or others could do this, they don’t make enough for it to be profitable. Their game is to make it appear that every one of the daily production of 3000 kitchen knives is “Damascus” with comparable attributes as the artisan one-offs.
I think at the end of the day it is about definition. The origin Damascus steel technique is lost. However, good and honest replications are being made. Those are the ones you were talking about in high prices, when made by one knife/sword artisan at time. I just think what is Damascus knife and what is not Damascus debate fundamentally is about the definition first. After we agree the definition, then we can talk about if this X knife, that Y sword is Damascus or not.
My Xinzuo 180 mm dual core gyuto/deba remains a mystery–even after translating the Chinese language materials provided. Unlike the Shun dual core, I don’t even know what contrasting steels are being used–and I certainly don’t know how the 110 layers are being processed into the beautiful pattern.
I do have the knife, and I will continue to try it out, much like I did with my Kinju deba. I’m going to use it to help prepare a beef stroganoff tomorrow.
I used both my Xinzuo 180 mm gyuto/deba and my Kai SM Kinju deba to cut a tri tip into stroganoff sized pieces.
They were both great repurposed butcher knives–as i hoped. The heavier Xinzuo gyuto/deba was the most fun to use.
We just decoded the information on the box. It translates as “High quality Kitchen knife.” We’re not sure what the characters on the knife say.
So we haven’t identified the manufacturer yet.
My best guess is that the knife is a “damascus effect” knife with a VG 10 core.
Great to hear Claus. Do you see much if any difference in how those Shiro Kamos cut versus Miyabi chefs for example? I have one Shiro Kamo, a blue#2 iron clad kurouchi 210 gyuto. I’d say it’s great cutter also and don’t think I ever saw anyone saying otherwise about these. I haven’t used it for a long time though.
I’ve now done considerable reviewing of both my debas with beef: my Kai SM Kinju 180 mm repurposed butcher, and my Xinzuo 180 mm dual core gyuto/deba. Both are substantial: the Kinju almost 300 gm. and the Xinzuo close to 400 gm (even heavier than my Shibazi cleaver).
Both do an incredible job as push cutters, where the knife does the work; both are sharp, with the Xinzuo scary sharp.
The Xinzuo damascus is very beautiful–and unique.
And I’m cooking beef: last Friday, Beef stroganoff; tuesday, a NY strip steak.
making sandwiches slicing beef sausages w/swiss,–and avocado.
Very interesting explanations by designer of how he creates damascus knives:
Nicolaides describes the process, step by step, and illustrates with some stunning knives he’s made. What’s especially interesting to me is that he is self taught, but with a background in CAD/CAM.
at age 23, he already has a years backlog of orders sufficient to allow him to focus further on design. I was under the impression that these skills took decades to master under the skilled guidance of a guru in Japan.
Wouldn’t expect this to come out of a suburb of Detroit, Michigan . . .
New technology dual core damascus from Shun:
It may be interesting and advanced technology, but I see it more as a contribution to art than to cooking prep–at a collector’s price.
Are these made in China ?
Ok, they are…….not for me then.
I’m at the Hezhen 110 layer to try to understand their version of dual core to compare with Shun dual core. I think that what they have may be something new for kitchen knife production.
The Shun Engetsu is new Japanese technology.
I try to limit the number of things I buy from China and Russia these days for certain specific reasons.
Kitchen knives are one of the things I won’t own, if they’re MIC.
Have a great day, Ray.
During WW2, Americans boycotted German products–and it even was touch and go here into the fifties. Our trade relationship with Japan was so rocky, that we boycotted Japanese products even before WW2 into the 60’s and somewhat to this day…
By the 60’s, we were welcoming European products as if they were ours. The Swiss, Victorinox led the way with the Swiss Army knife. I personally invested in Teak and Rosewood furniture imported from Denmark over local American furniture.
I strayed from Kodak, and purchased German cameras as if they were American, but refused to buy Japanese unless they were sold with an American name. I finally caved when the price/value of Nikon was more than obvious with their new SLR. German Leica even partnered with Japanese Minolta in a belated effort to retain top end buyers, but I was already gone.
China is on the verge of doing the same thing to Japan with kitchen knives, IMO. The Chinese in Yangjiang have been applying advanced technology more and more effectively in product development and holding price points while the Japanese in Seki City have mostly just raised prices. The image promoted from China is a cad-cam designer sitting in front of a computer. The Japanese promote an old style master working with hand tools–a throwback to older times.
I’m very interested in following dual core damascus technology by comparing Shun with Xinzuo/Hezhen: the two providers I’ve featured as the OP of this thread.
For kitchen knives, most Chinese manufacturers still have a lot to go to catch up with the Japanese counterpart. For example, right now, Chinese knife manufacturers still need to import high quality cutlery steel (like VG-10) for their knives. Any home made Chinese steels are not very good. There are many good quality cookware from China. For example, China still make some of the very best clay teapots in the world. Kitchen knives? No.