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Mass produced vs. artisan produced

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Mass produced vs. artisan produced

#1 Post by HectorFuego » Thu Feb 15, 2018 11:56 pm

A couple of years ago I began accumulating quality Japanese kitchen knives. Yes, they are fantastic and I thought I would show the difference between manufacturing processes of German and Japanese knives.

First is Wusthof, which is an excellent line of cutlery out of Solingen, Germany. Very high tech, high output, automated manufacturing process.

Next is a one-man shop in Kami, Japan. He is a 4th generation blade smith in a rather small town. All his knives are hand made. Any knife with his brand, he made personally, start to finish. It is the exact opposite of the Wusthof factory. He has no son or apprentice to follow him once he is gone. When that happens, the unique Nakaniida manufacturing process will end.

I personally find it a little sad that artisans such as Mr. Ishikawa are a disappearing breed. Like the Mom and Pop hardware store being bulldozed to make room for the next WalMart super store. Fortunately, there are other blade smiths who continue to make quality cutlery, so the skill will continue for a while, at least.

Oh, by the way, I don't own any of Mr. Ishikawa's blades, as they are a little hard to find here in the states, and I recently broke my knife budget for a while.

Anyway the comparison between German and Japanese knife production is interesting.

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Re: Mass produced vs. artisan produced

#2 Post by SWIHARTMARK » Sun Feb 25, 2018 9:56 am

Considering the cost of living and the full saturation of the use of modern manufacturing techniques, you really have to have an exceptional niche skill to make it as an artisan since you cannot crank out goods in sufficient numbers to support yourself and a family in most cases. Manual machining with capital equipment is generally not even profitable in most cases, so I'm afraid fewer and fewer artisans will be around.

I once saw "Weapon Masters" take the samurai sword challenge. The Japanese master craftsman took three months to produce one sword. Although it had beautiful engraving and superb metal characteristics, a modern day engineer/machinist made one with similar metal characteristics sans the engraving in one week. He merely used a high carbon steel and modern day heat treating techniques in additions to properly cutting the sword to size. It was identical in the craft sword in capability, which has some very reputable metal qualities, which were matched with modern day processes. He got the outside hardness and inside softness fully mastered in one week, very impressive even for modern standards.

Since we have a joint interest in firearms, I suggest you start collecting some of the antique firearms from pre-1898 and see some truly remarkable craftsmanship from that time. The fit and finish on a Snider-Enfield conversion rifle from 1864 is remarkable. It does look like a computerized machine tool made the breech mechanism as the fit and finish is incredibly even. On other rifles you can notice the lack of tool marks as they were likely manually stoned off and hand fitted. You don't have to even shoot them to appreciate them.

I do miss the passing of craftsmen, but like John Henry, they cannot compete against automation. With the advent of robotics, this will only accelerate.

Best Regards,


BTW, modern day AI is also coming down the pike and will have an even more dramatic effect on us all.

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