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Blade Care

Caring for your Tanegashima Knife

Cared for properly your Tanegashima knife will retain its sharpness very well, so before you buy it's best to cover a few points on what that care entails. These points apply to all hand-forged Japanese knives.

Your cutting board is very important. A cutting board of soft wood will maximise the life of the sharpened edge. Hard surfaces such as glass and stone will not do your knife any favours and should not be used for a cutting surface under any circumstances. Polyurethane boards are common in home kitchens but these are not recommended for high quality Japanese knives as they can 'catch' the edge, which risks damage if the blade is twisted. If using a wooden cutting board and prioritising edge retention, choose a softer wood. In Japan we prefer yanagi (willow) or ichou (gingko) over a harder wood like hinoki (Japanese cypress). 

Avoid cutting frozen or semi-frozen foods. Use your knife only on food that has fully thawed. If when cutting you sense the fish or meat has not thawed properly, stop your cut and withdraw the knife. The reason for this is not the hardness of frozen food, rather it is that the sudden drop in temperature of the blade may cause the fine edge to become brittle and risk damage. You can see a good example here.

Rinse or wipe your blade. Acidic foods and salty foods will react with a carbon-steel blade. It is good practise to rinse your blade after use, or keep a damp cloth on hand whilst cooking and wipe your blade with it after cutting. This soon becomes second nature.

Don't use automatic dishwashers. Please hand wash only, but never leave your knife to soak in the sink. It's bad for the knife and if you forget it's there it can be very bad for your fingers. 

Make a simple sleeve for your blade. Some knives aren't used every day. A simple blade-length sleeve made from a few layers newsprint is a cheap and effective way to protect your blade from humidity and accidental contact with hard surfaces and objects, or fingers.   

Knife Sharpening

Skilled sharpening is required for the Tanegashima High-Grade and Shin-gata (High-speed-steel/stainless steel) series knives. We recommend professional sharpening. 

The blue-2-steel and HAP40 HSS steel in these knives are very hard.

Both will be slow to to sharpen, but once sharpened they do not lose their sharpness easily. Between the two, HSS is the more difficult to sharpen. Edge retention is comparable. What grade whetstones are best is largely a matter of personal preference, but as a guide for sharpening from scratch stepping up through 220 / 800 /1200 / 8000 grit stones will work well for fish and meat. For tips on technique YouTube is your friend.

Tanegashima 'kuro-uchi' black-forged knives can be sharpened at home with domestic-standard sharpening setups, ceramic wheels and so on will be fine. A 50/50 sharpened edge of 1.5mm each side and shiny will give good cutting feel and edge retention. 

Rust

Here in Japan some say a bit of rust on your kitchen knife is good for your health. We can't vouch for that and besides, we like our blades to be rust-free.

If you don't want your beautiful knife to rust please keep it clean and dry when not in use. Our High-Grade and Tanegashima Black knives are not stainless steel and are prone to oxidisation if not dried after washing. After use, knives should be washed with detergent to completely remove food acids and natural salts. A good tip is to give your blade a rinse in hot water before wiping dry and storing.

The Tanegashima Shin-gata stainless steel blades are resistant to corrosion, but it is important to note that the cutting edge of these knives is High Speed Steel (not stainless) and it, too will rust if not kept clean and dry.

We have been asked how our knives compare to others with regards to rust. Differences between producers will come down to the finish of the blade rather than the properties of the steel.

There are makers in Japan with highly automated factories that are able to impart a fine finish to their blades, and those blades may be slower to oxidise. Our methods are traditional and every blade is crafted by hand, so it may be the case that if neglected our blades may see rust spots more quickly than those of some other manufacturers. Follow the simple advice outlined on this page and it won't be a problem.

Some knives aren't used every day - sashimi knives are a good example. As mentioned above, an easy, cheap and effective method of protecting these blades from rust when in storage is to make a neat blade-length sleeve from a few layers of newsprint. 

Wiping Your Knife Safely

We risk stating the obvious here but is very important that you do not underestimate the cutting ability of any of the knives featured on this website.

When wiping your knife it is essential that the cutting edge is facing away from your hand. Neither the cloth nor your hand will offer any resistance to these blades.

In order to avoid hospitalisation you must never wipe your knife with the blade edge directed toward your hand/palm/thumb, even when using a thick cloth.

Caring for your Tanebasami and Shears

With due care, your Tanegashima scissors will retain their beautiful appearance and superior cutting ability for many years.

While the high-carbon forged white-1-steel enables a sharpness and durability that stainless steel cannot match, if not cared for properly it is prone to rust. Tanebasami should be kept clean and dry and should ideally be stored with the anti-corrosion paper they are delivered in. Like all fine-quality tools they will benefit from a light oiling if stored for extended periods.

Tanebasami will cut fabric, card, paper, vinyl, string and thread beautifully - basically, anything you would normally use scissors for around the home. They are not made for cutting flowers or light branches.

Tanegashima flower shears and bonsai shears are forged from blue-2-steel and their blades are very hard. They will easily cut woody stems and prune light branches. Keep them clean and dry. A light oiling is recommended if storing them for long periods, otherwise wrapping them in newsprint for normal storage will help to keep them rust-free.

Sharpening

As with all Tanegashima edge tools, edge retention for our scissors and shears is exceptional. They will remain sharp for many years even with the rigours of professional use, and certainly longer than any other pair of scissors or shears you have owned. That said, as treasured tools at some stage you may want to have them sharpened.

When your scissors require sharpening to restore them to their original state they should be returned to us.

Details of our sharpening services will be included with your purchase, but as a guide the total cost including postage will be comparable to using a local sharpening service.