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Aritsugu Q&A

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Over in another thread, Buzz and I started drifting again, because I started talking about Aritsugu and he started drooling, and then it got ugly. ;)

But I have the impression that some of you have questions about these knives, and know things I don't know, and might like me to run off and ask them stuff. Let me give the basic rundown as I know it:

Aritsugu is said by some to be one of the top two knifemakers in Japan, though there is certainly debate about this. They only make carbon blades, although they do sometimes sandwich carbon between sheets of stainless. All their traditional Japanese blades are wa-handled; their western knives are generally western-handled, but there are some odd exceptions. They do make essentially every standard shape of traditional Japanese knife, and they make them lefty as well. For western knives, they make all the basics. Custom work is available for the premium you'd expect.

Here is their website, exclusively in Japanese.

Now Boar-d-laze mentioned the asymmetrical A-style knives they make. What I know as of today:

1. The asymmetry is approximately a 15-degree bevel on the front and 5 degrees on the back, but it depends a little bit on which knife size you buy. That asymmetry means that you sharpen it pretty much normally for a top-quality carbon on the front, and then awful close to flat on the back, which shouldn't be all that tricky.

2. They only do this with the A-style, which is available in both Japanese and Western handles. Almost all of their double-edged knives are symmetrical; the A-style knives are not common even at their shop, where you sort of have to hunt for them.

On lefty knives, they have a vast array, both single-bevel and otherwise. I didn't compare rigorously, but I didn't spot any significant price difference.

Now Buzz wrote:I don't know, but I'll ask when I get a chance. I'm sure they have a spiel about it. Looking at the thing in profile, it looked to me as though the point was to get the best of both single-edge and double-edge. Certainly it is frighteningly thin for a hand-forged double-edged carbon blade.
What do you mean EDGES? I mean, if we're talking about the edge of the blade, it looked to me a hair off-center to the spine, but that could easily be an optical illusion: the asymmetry makes you cross your eyes trying to look at it dead-on. If you mean something else, I need clarification.
I will look into this. Honestly I will. My impression was that Aritsugu's knives are not pricier lefty, and that the shops that still do this are retaining it as a sort of legacy of the old days when you didn't keep a whole lot of finished stock lying around, for any number of reasons, from the irritation of constant minor maintenance to the serious danger of theft and such. I do not immediately spot a section on lefty knives on their website, leaving me to presume that if you want lefty you can have it for the asking. But I will make absolutely sure. (The place is only 15 minutes' walk from my house, so it's not exactly a big deal. The only problem is that my Japanese is weak and their English also weak, so for precision I have to drag my wife or another truly bilingual pal.)

One last note. I wrote, in the other thread, that the website appears to be rather out of date, because a number of prices seem to be well off. I now suspect that I've got this wrong: the price are correct, but lower than in the shop. Why? Because the knives are shipped unfinished. When you buy one in the shop, you pay your money and then they send you away to play for half an hour (more, for some knives) while they work on it. I bought a black-steel deba, of which every surface except the front bevel face was black and slightly rough. I gave them my name and my money, and went away for 45 minutes. I returned to a knife that is gleaming shiny everywhere except the spine and the upper part of the front face, with my name neatly cut into that black surface. But I think they don't do this when they ship knives, so the price is lower for many knives. On the other hand, it's going to be a serious pain if you don't have access to a very good sharpener (or aren't one yourself, of course), because who's going to do the work?

Anyway, any questions, remarks, issues, or whatever are welcome. As I say, I can always drop by and ask them things when I do my shopping -- same place, you see.

(Gloat gloat...) :beer:
post #2 of 19
By "edges" I meant multiple knives, or better put, multiple types of knives. I'll try and locate some of the drawings I've seen of various Japanese knife geometry types. It's mind boggling.

So you bought a kurouchi finished knife and they polished it off, AND personalized it? Arrrgggggg. If you think I was jealous before...... wow.

Next trip take your camera, please.

Chris, do you ever sleep? :smoking:

Buzz
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 
As the ad said, "don't hate me because I'm beautiful. :D
Sure, what do you want photos of? There are a zillion on Flickr.
Yes. I'm also 13 hours off from the east coast of the US, remember?
post #4 of 19
You asked for it. I want you to go up to Yokosuka, find Toshie Sakamoto aka "Lisa", take her picture and send it to me along with her email address. I'll never ask for another favor ever. :lips:

Buzz
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
post #5 of 19
Too funny.

I believe Aritsugu actually does make pure almost stainless knives, i.e., gokinko which I think is 12% chromium (the stainless threshold is 13%).

My dad's going to Japan on Wednesday. Which Aritsugu 27cm gyuto do I ask him to send home to me? I'm thinking I might like to play with a wa-gyuto, but a yo-gyuto would be cool. It doesn't have to be san mai, in fact a "mono-steel" carbon would be aces with me -- especially if a yo knife.

The alternative is a 27cm Masamoto HC, which is what I'll go for otherwise.

BDL
post #6 of 19
Thread Starter 
All I know is, they told me they only do carbon steel. But this was not a technical sort of conversation, so this might be a refinement they weren't getting into. Do you want me to ask?
They only make wa-handled gyuto in the A-style, of which they are very proud. I don't know if they have lefty 270mm A-gyuto in stock, but it shouldn't be difficult to find out, if you're interested.

Western-style gyuto are available in 7 slightly different styles, most of them in the stainless sandwich. From the website, it looks to me as though they make 2 models in pure carbon, one with a metal bolster at the blade-end of the handle (not running down the blade heel, of course), and one with no such bolster, which is cheaper.

Unbolstered:

The base price listed online for 270mm A-style wa-handled is $140 (figuring 1 yen = $.01, which is unpleasantly close to accurate at the moment). The bolstered 270mm all-carbon is $160, and unbolstered is $120. If I am understanding correctly, this price includes no finishing: you have to do that yourself, which may be quite a bit of work with the A-style.

Is your father coming to Kyoto at all? Aritsugu has pretty long hours, 7 days a week, and he could just walk in, ask for the knife you want (there's always a saleslady who speaks passable English, with a limited but rather specialized vocabulary), and have it ready to roll in 30 minutes... with your name neatly inscribed in the blade. Payment is cash on the barrelhead, in yen, as in most of the more traditional shops.

For you, it seems to me you should go with the A-style wa-handled knife, which means handedness matters significantly. I can run by there tomorrow morning and tell you the actual sale cost, if you want, as well as establish whether they have them lefty -- and at what price.
post #7 of 19
Chris,

Very cool. Of those three, I think I'm actually leaning towards the A gokinko wa-gyuto. Partly because of kcma on Fred's Cutlery Forum. He and I have a great time goosing one another, and that particular wa-gyuto is his favorite work knife -- although right handed.

I'd probably get the most use out of the yo-handle with bolster, though. Not just because of the handle, but because I'm not really set up to sharpen a steel as hard as gokinko -- which is not only hardened to something like HRc 64, but is very tough and strong as well.

IMO, the bolster isn't a true bolster at all, but a forge welded of sintered ferrule. It's a very prissy distinction and probably unnecessarily constrains the the language; so don't consider it a correction. It's just me maundering. OTOH, the finger guard which you see on European knives isn't truly a part of the bolster -- or not. That is, it can be formed of the same piece of metal and in the same forging process, but it's a finger guard and not a bolster. Don't ask me why. I don't know. Just rambling. Stop me before I parse again.

I really want that A series, don't you? Please do ask about the knife for me. And no worries about the sharpening -- I understand the gokinko knife is quite a challenge, and am looking forward to fooling with it. OTOH, if it can be purchased sharpened, I'll have Dad buy it that way.

Owe you one,
BDL
post #8 of 19
Thread Starter 

Hold the phone!

I will now be entering a period of radio silence on Aritsugu. I have just discovered something very complicated, dating back 90 years, that changes a great deal of what I have recently said about this shop. I will explain as soon as I know for sure, in a day or two.

Don't worry: I haven't suddenly found out that they make their knives from painted nylon. :)
post #9 of 19
Thread Starter 
Hi gang,

If you are interested in Aritsugu, especially if you are interested in buying from them, please read this thread in Fred's Cutlery Forum, which I just posted. In short, there are actually two different Aritsugu companies, with slight differences.
post #10 of 19
Oh my god, where did you find that? I would really like to know how/where to buy one, as well, what are the available options? You mentioned there are seven different styles, what are they?
post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 
Check it out:
??

This is Tokyo Aritsugu, not Kyoto, but Kyoto has the same styles (and a few more, actually). [For the differences between Tokyo and Kyoto Aritsugu, please read that thread I referenced in my last post.]

The 7 styles, in the order listed on the web-page:

Semi-stainless (A-style), unbolstered
Carbon, unbolstered
Swedish steel, unbolstered
Super-hard alloy carbon, bolstered
Semi-stainless (A-style), bolstered
Carbon, bolstered
Swedish steel, bolstered

The Swedish are cheapest, then carbon, then semi-stainless, then super-hard alloy. The super-hard alloy gyuto, at 270mm, costs $235 (23500 yen); the Swedish, unbolstered, costs $95. You can pretty much infer the rest of the prices from there, and of course the little window list attached to each knife photograph will tell you more precisely.

I can't tell from the website exactly what this super-hard alloy is, but I expect it's a competitor to all the other super-hard Japanese alloys everyone's been talking about.
post #12 of 19
Ok, so I need some more help with the whole aritsugu thing.

I was checking out their Tokyo site, and I can't read a lick of Japanese. I would like to buy a knife, however with the translation barrier I'm lost.

The things I would like to know would be the available options first off, such as:

What are the different choices of steel to style/knife shape?
What are the varying blade lengths?
Can they put different edges on it such as a straight edge?
Can they finish the edge?
How much will it cost?
If it's possible can I pick between different handle woods?
What style knives do they make? (specifically western style i.e. petty, shujiki, etc.)

I'd like to get a western style gyoto preferably something in the 10" range with a bolster and stainless. As well, if I wind up liking Aritsugu I'll buy more knives in other styles.
post #13 of 19

Aritsugu Kyoto - Photos

I can't post the link until I have posted 5 times! Will take a look around make some posts and try again!

Here are my photos from my recent trip knife shopping to the Aritsugu shop in Kyoto.

Any issues viewing let me know.

Thanks

Tom
post #14 of 19
Boy, is this thread old. I received a 240 "A" Gyuto about three months ago and gave it the KCMA method except on the lefty side. I have chopped like a madman and the edge refuses to quit. All I've given it is a few touch ups with a ceramic steel. Gokinko is positively amazing. You gotta have the right equipment to put a good edge on it however. It isn't easy.
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 
Sorry, Buzz, that's a Tokyo special -- they don't make A-series in Kyoto.
post #16 of 19
I'd forgotten the thread. The "A" was mentioned earlier so I thought I'd toot my horn. LOL

Buzz
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
post #17 of 19
Thread Starter 
The thread? The previous poster is putting up photos of his trip to Kyoto Aritsugu!

(You're just so enamored of that knife -- and of the great work you did on it -- you can't resist any opportunity. I'm beginning to wonder if they impregnate the handles with something addictive.)
post #18 of 19
Erupting a belly laugh, Chris. Yeah, it starts in my fingers and makes it way to the brain. I do love that knife but you already know that.

Do you know of any other makers using gokinko?
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
Reply
post #19 of 19
I second that question!
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