High-carbon, whale-shaped chef's knives and pencil-sharpening knives

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2015/08/26/high-carbon-whale-shaped-chef.html

Neat, i was interested in the knives the first time around BB had pointed them out. Can’t really afford it at the moment, nor am i sure i’d find a practical use for one of them beyond just having it stored in a drawer somewhere. Still these are cool and very cute, i think this would be perfect as a gift to an uncle of mine who loves to cook and also has his kitchen beach/ocean themed.

Also on amazon one of the reviewers pointed out. The metal is hardened steel, which is prone to rusting so make sure to treat it like cast iron and coat it lightly with oil after you’ve hand washed it.

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Carbon steel takes an edge really well - better than stainless in my experience. I’ve got two carbon steel knives, and the other ones in the kitchen are stainless. In 20 seconds I get the carbon ones sharper than I can ever manage the stainless ones, even with extended care.


Am I the only one who sees something wrong with whale-shaped chef’s knives from Japan?


While there is a certain… Something… there… As long as you’re not using them to stab whales, and they don’t use the profits specifically for buying more whaling boats, I’m ok with it. :slight_smile:


I’d love to see the fallout from some poor kid pulling out one of these to sharpen a pencil in an American School. I’m not sure if he’d just be shipped straight to a private prison, or if he’d be shot first.

Oh I know, it’s just creepy.


No poor kid is going to own a $40 pencil sharpening knife.


Ok folks, all steel has carbon in it. Otherwise it’s called iron or possibly stainless steel (which often contains no actual steel)
Having a high carbon count does not make a better knife. It only means the blade can be brought to a higher score on the rockwell hardness scale. Very hard knives hold an edge very well but are prone to breaking due to the hardness. Tempering can reduce the hardness a bit and will mitigate the break risk somewhat.

These are just bar stock cutouts with an edge sloppily applied. They are at 62 on the Rockwell C scale which means they are quite hard. Most kitchen knives are around 56-58 which allows for a tiny bit of flex before the blade snaps. I doubt they are tempered at all. At that hardness, I’m guessing since they say it’s Shiroko High-Carbon Steel (aka just barely above plain carbon steel at 1.05-1.15% carbon) it’s really just normal every day standard carbon steel brought to full hardness with no temper at all. In other words, these are the lowest of the low end of hand made knives and shouldn’t be considered to be on the same playing field.

The only thing that might make the $40 price seem reasonable are the shipping charges to get it across the Pacific.


My bad. Ambiguous word is ambiguous.

“Poor” as in the pitiable situation of being the target of zero-tolerance (zero-thinking) school policies or in the cross-hairs (or would that be “surveyor marks”) of an overexcited law enfarcement officer.

good point.

Why would anyone think animal-shaped serving tools encourage consumption of that animal?

But why stop at animals? People are such a growth market! Maybe they can expand into a line of high quality Star of David shaped throwing stars. Indeed, there is already a market for this crying out for higher-quality product.

The stamps are also poor, and I just couldn’t imagine doing any serious work with those shapes. I should start making knives for kitchens some day.

The secret’s in the sauce!!!

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the stamps don’t bother me so much. I figure it was decoration in lieu of any sort of handle or wrap.

You really should. Of all the knives I’ve made, the kitchen stuff is always the most rewarding due to the feedback. After all, that’s where most of us actually use knives. When someone uses a quality hand made blade for the first time you can almost hear the jaw hit the floor. Most people have no idea how easily a good knife can cut or for how long they stay sharp and when they experience it, they are shocked.

I made my mother a carving set a couple of decades back. O2 steel, edge hardened and back tempered (back dead soft and graduated hardness from edge to center beginning at 60 C at the edge and quickly dropping to 50 C mid blade), acid engraved, cocobolo handle with flower pattern pins and a silica bronze bolster, and rose and vine file cut pattern on the spine. It still comes out at least twice a year to do it’s job at family gatherings. It’s never been re-sharpened and doesn’t seem like it will need it for at least a few more decades of occasional use.


That doesn’t really make sense. Stainless steel is by definition any steel alloy that contains 10.5% or above chromium. Are you implying that stainless steel can be made without iron? Because that wouldn’t be steel at all and wouldn’t be likely to have any of the properties your looking for. Or that it can be made from iron without the addition of carbon, which again violates the definition of steel, and would likely give you something that behaves more like cast or wrought iron rather than steel.

Also in terms of blade hardness Japanese kitchen knives at above 60 Rockwell aren’t exactly uncommon, they’re brittle sure but they’re all over the place. Shun, one of the biggest brands of Japanese cutlery in the west hardens its blades to between 60 and 62.

But otherwise yeah. These don’t look particularly well made. And the shapes look down right awful for use as kitchen knives. There looks to be some color variance along the handles that looks like color change from heat treating. But its just as likely to be work hardening. Marketing them as pencil sharpeners makes sense. They look to be made in the same way as a lot of the bargain basement traditional Japanese construction and wood working knives I see in tool catalogs all the time. That sort of thing is not really intended to be a precision tool or particularly well made, they’re cheap traditional tools for hard use in limited circumstance. These are just cutesy display items (most likely).

I can’t really get a feel for their size… Could you add some grizzlies for scale?


I love these, but if they’re stainless, they are susceptible to galvanic corrosion through the graphite in the pencils. I’ll stick to cheap break-away box cutters.

I sharpen my pencils with horse and a half bench grinders. And yes, I use real horses. Don’t ask me about the half.

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I used to keep sandpaper taped to the leg of my desk, But I never perfected my technique.

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Also, I’m surprised you don’t use a filefish, instead of a whale.