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  • Writer's pictureALEX

Blade Show in Yasugi

Posted on May22, 2012

On the Japan Sea coast in western Japannear Matsue in Shimane prefecture is the small but important steel town of Yasugi, the home of Hitachi Metal speciality steel works. Every spring a few square blocks of Yasugi are set aside to host a blades show, and sellers and buyers come from all over to mingle and renew old relationships and to buy and sell vast quantities of anything to do with knives.

This is mostly a knife show with some tools and sharpening media, food & drink and even a classic car show thrown in to boot. Besides the streets which are lined with booths of sellers and craftsmen sharpening and restoring knives the Hitachi Museum also hosts a group of highly skilled custom knife makers for an indoor venue within walking distance on the Hitachi property nearby.

At this show about 25 custom knife makers displayed a wide variety of both folding and fixed blade knives in a gallery type setting of booths and displays. A few of the bladesmiths as I found out also sell at overseas shows like the popular Atlanta Knife Show.

Because I am keen on the sharpening aspects, at the outdoor show I mostly followed the stone path and vistied with the stone dealers. I also observed a lot of sharpening going on and especially in the one alley that was set aside specifically for restoring and sharpening kitchen knives.

This space was manned by a host of blacksmiths and bladesmiths who would for a nominal fee totally finish off any knife in a professional manner.

Almost everyone at the sharpening station had some form of a syntheitc and a natural stone, all shaped and rounded or flattened to their own specifications and there was not a lot of chit-chat going on, just focused sharpening. There was also an area set aside for heat treating knives using small charcoal fired kilns and anvils for shaping and forming.

There was also a lot of sharpening going on in the street booths both as sharpening services or as demonstrations by vendors with varied sharpeing stations including power wheels and hand stones. I did not see any of the craftsmen flattening their stones on site with diamond plates but I did see lots of bowed and cambered stones.

Of course there were some interesting stone to look at,

and I do have a fondness for karusu,

I really missed out on taking more photos of the knives at both the outdoor and the indoor show but here is a sample.

A couple of conclussions here. Although I did not take any photos at the indoor museum show I did notice that many of the blades shown, although handmade and fancy, were patterned on outdoor survival type knives with roots in the classic swords and daggers of ancient Japan. The treatments were updated and refined but the shapes and sizes were definitly symphathetic to the old shapes. Also I noticed that, and I am going to use this word again, the root stone or base stones that knife sharpeners use are not based entirely on the image of truly flat, and that as you can see some are to the contrary. Although they may have been there tucked away, and there was the wholesaler for Tsunesaburo selling them in a booth, I did not see any diamond plates being used. Here again I suspect that the old timer sharpeners cherished his best stones enough to refrain from grinding off haphazardly good userful grit. A flat stone must be important in some knife honing tasks, but curved seems to be OK to some degree for general work.

All in all it was a good show, it rained but with some retreat it did continue. It began with families and early birds blessed with a clear sky at the crack of dawn, and faded to covered booths and talk amongst the hardy of hand and spirit. Alx

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