Moritaka Japanese Knives, direct from Japan
NOTE : Moritaka has a very long waiting list now, with a 3 year order backlog. I have many knives on order, but cannot estimate when various models will arrive, so if you are interested in a certain model that is out of stock, your only option is to check back every once in a while, and keep an eye on my Facebook feed where I announce stock arrivals. Thanks, and sorry I can't offer anything more concrete at this time.
Moritaka Cutlery was founded in 1293 (during the Kamakura Period) by Kongouhyoueminamotono Moritaka, who was the head swordsimth for the Buddhist priests at Mt. Houman in Dazaifu, Fukuoka. His descendants then inherited his business and followed in his footsteps in the same city for 13 generations. In 1632, the family followed Higo Daimyo Mitsunari Hosokawa (the feudal ruler of Higo) and moved to Miyaji-machi, Yatsushiro, Kumamoto. For another 13 generations in this city, they forged swords for the Buddhist armies, the Daimyo's army, and also the Daimyo himself. Kongohyoue's swords were very unique because they were made and used to help attain Buddhahood. Five generations ago, master bladesmith Chuzaemon Moritaka decided to change the business direction and apply their forging experiences into kitchen knives. Moritaka Cutlery has a history of over 700 years. The knife that you purchase is forged with skills and knowledge developed and accumulated generation by generation.
Moritaka's double-edged knives are made with a "triple structure" technique. This is a method by which a layer of a solid super-hard carbon steel is sandwiched between 2 layers of softer iron. This combines the characteristics and advantages of iron and steel to produce blades that are super hard and sharp yet durable. The steel core is hardened using heat treatment techniques. The iron cladding is not as hard as the steel core, but is extremely long lasting, and is hand-forged with the steel core to provide durability. This technique is the feature that makes Japanese samurai swords and metal forging renowned throughout the world. Moritaka handcrafts knives using this “triple structure” technique because they believe it is an essential part of producing the best quality knives. While there are advanced technologies available to produce cheap, fast and mass-produced knives, nothing compares to the workmanship of a truly hand-made Japanese knife.
Edge: All these knives feature a 50/50 bevel edge for easy sharpening, and right or left-hand use.
Steel: "Aogami Super steel" ("AS", or "Blue Super") is considered by many to be the highest quality steel available, however it is a difficult material to work with, requiring only the most experienced and skilled bladesmiths to produce a successful result. Blue Super Steel knives can mantain a razor sharp edge longer than other knives, as this high carbon steel is an alloy which contains carbon steel along with chromium, tungsten, molybdenum and vanadium which add toughness and durability. "Aogami #2 Steel" ("A2", or "Blue 2") is a more pure carbon steel that is similar to Aogami Super but does not contain molybdenum or vanadium. Theoretically a more pure carbon steel (such as Aogami #2) is easier to sharpen to a razor-sharp edge and should maintain it longer, but at the expense of being potentially more brittle and so more prone to cracking or chipping of the edge and/or tip. The added elements in Aogami Super should make it tougher and more resilient and less brittle, though at this level there are many other factors that affect the final result, such as heat treating and handling by the bladesmith, so it really does come down to personal preference and the individual knife. Both steels are very hard -- in the Rockwell/HRC 61-63 range for the most part (again, depending on many factors introduced during the crafting process) so each can take a razor sharp and very thin and fine edge. There are as many opinions on the subject of the "best" steel as there are knife makers and enthusiasts/owners. Just know that these knives are all made by master craftsmen who know the properties of the steels they use VERY well and so will create a superb knife every time, no matter the steel. So my suggestion: don't worry too much about one steel or the other... buy the knife you want at the price you can afford and I'm sure you'll be thrilled. But remember: this is CARBON steel, NOT stainless, so you must hand wash (they are NOT dishwasher-safe!), dry and store (I recommend a wooden knife block) them after use to avoid rusting. Never leave them in a sink, and avoid cutting or maintaining contact with very acidic items (lemons for example). A drop of food-grade mineral or other neutral oil rubbed on the blade will also help prevent rusting. The blades will discolour and take on a patina with use (like a cast iron pan for example) -- this is normal and desired, and contributes to the character of carbon steel knives. In return though, you'll get a knife that takes an amazing razor-sharp edge very easily and quickly because the steel is so hard (compared to most stainless steel knives which as softer and paradoxically harder to sharpen due to the alloy) and carbon steel knives should also keep that edge far longer than just about any stainless steel knife out there.
Maintenance/Sharpening: For everyday maintenance I recommend the 10" fine ceramic hone (rod) which when used regularly (every day for heavy use, or at least once a week for light/occasional home use) will easily keep your knife sharp for a year or more. When honing no longer works and your edge really need re-working, I recommend Japanese whetstones for the best results. Carbon steel knives should not be used to cut very acidic items (lemons for example) which can discolour the blade and potentially lead to pitting if left in contact with acids. Hand-wash only (NOT dishwasher) -- wash and dry as soon as possible after use, and store safely (I recommend a wooden knife block). Never leave in water or a sink. The thin and sharp and hard edges give fantastic performance, but the tradeoff is that they will not tolerate abuse like a cheap stainless steel knife -- do NOT cut bones or other hard items; doing so can damage the knife (crack or chip the edge or tip) and this is not covered under any warranty. Save good knives like this for your precision work and keep a cheap stainless knife for whacking bones and root vegetables and squash for example.
About the different lines:
Deluxe Aogami #2 Carbon Steel (Blue 2 Steel)
These knives are made from Blue 2 carbon steel, with a stainless steel tang. These knives should take a GREAT edge and be easy to sharpen and to keep sharp. The handle should long-lasting, and the stainless steel tang inside the handle means that any moisture will not result in as much premature pitting or damage to the handle. The finish is kuro-uchi (black) with a lacquer coating -- this helps protect the steel and should not be polished off.
Supreme Aogami Super Carbon Steel (Blue Super Steel)
These knives are made from Blue Super carbon steel, with a stainless steel tang. These blades should take a super sharp edge and the added toughness of the Blue Super steel should help with edge strength and resistance. The handle should be long-lasting, and the stainless steel tang inside the handle means that any moisture will not result in as much premature pitting or damage to the handle. The finish is kuro-uchi (black) with a lacquer coating -- this helps protect the steel and should not be polished off.