Knife Terminology

The world of Japanese knives can be intimidating, so we've created a simple glossary for frequently used terms and industry jargon to make things easier.

Japanese Knife Types

Gyuto A Japanese evolution of the classic French Chef knife. The Gyuto blade tip usually points downward. The ultimate all-puporse knife.
Wa-Gyuto A Wa-Gyuto differs from a Gyuto, simply by the handle design. A Wa-Gyuto uses a traditional Japanese style handle.
Kiritsuke Gyuto These knives have a more angular and straight profile, with a very acute tip. Usually reserved for highly skilled chefs in Japanese restaurants.
Santoku Santoku are a blend of a Chef's Knife, Deba Knife and Nakiri Knife. They are the most popular kitchen knife in Japanese households.
Wa-Santoku Wa-Santoku are simply Santoku with traditional Japanese handles. Better suited to Japanese cooks who are more familiar with this handle shape.
Yanagiba The quintessential knife for slicing pritsine cuts of Sashimi, the blade is long and thin, usually with only an edge on the right hand side of the blade.
Takobiki A variant of the classic Yanagiba Knife, the Takobiki is more prominently used in Tokyo.
Kiritsuke Yanagiba A variant of the classic Yanagiba with a Kiritsuke style acute tip.
Deba Deba are mostly used for cleaning and slicing fish. They feature a thicker blade, making them suited to breaking down bone also.
Ai-Deba Ai-Deba are scaled down versions of the classic Deba, the blade is narrow and thinner making it easier to handle.
Mioroshi A cross between a Yanagiba and a Deba, the Mioroshi offers the best of both knives but is slightly more difficult to use effectively.
Mukimono A small knife with thin blade used for garnishing Japanese dishes.
Aji-Kiri A smaller version of the Japanese Deba Knife, used for smaller fish.
Kenmuki Similar to a Mukimono, a Kenmuki is a small knife used for preparing garnishes for Japanese dishes.
Usuba Usuba are commonly used for slicing vegetables or decorative peeling. The blades are very thin and require a lot of skill to use effectively.
Nakiri Nakiri have broad blades, usually without any point and are perfect for slicing and chopping vegetables.
Baran-Kiri Baran-Kiri are small knives used to prepare the Japanese grass-like decorations for sushi and other dishes.
Soba-Kiri A hefty and unusually shaped knife that is designed to cut freshly made soba noodles.
Sakimaru Takobiki A variant of the Yanagiba and Takobiki.
Funayuki The most common knife used by Japanese fisherman onboard their boats.
Hamo Honekiri Heavier than most Japanese knives, the Hamo Honekiri is designed to cut through bones of the Conger Eel.
Fugu Deba A knife specifically designed for Fugu, Japanese Puffer Fish. The blade is narrower and more obtuse to push through the fish bones.
Fugu-Biki Another knife for use on Japanese Puffer Fish, this one however is designed for cleanly slicing through the flesh of Fugu.
Unagi Saki An angular blade with sharp point for penetrating the flesh of eel and slicing cleanly and unformly through.
Sujihiki A Japanese evolution of the classic Carving/Slicing Knife.

Western Knife Types

Chef's Knife The all purpose kitchen knife, Chef's Knives fall into 2 categories; German with a broad curved blade & French with a narrow straighter blade.
Slicer/Carving Knife A long narrow blade designed for slicing meat off roasts.
Petty Knife The Petty knife is used for slicing, peeling and intricate knife work. Sometimes available with serrations.
Paring Knife The Paring knife is smaller than a Petty knife but used for similar tasks. Its smaller size makes it ideal for delicate knife work.
Bread Knife A long narrow bladed knife with serrations or waves along the blade edge for slicing through hard crusty bread.
Cleaver A heavy, broad bladed knife used for cutting through thick meat and joints.
Boning Knife A short tapered blade with slight or no flex, used for getting deep into joints and cavities around bones.
Fillet Knife Similar in appearance to a boning knife but usually more flexible and ideal for trimming up meat or filleting fish.

General Knife Terms

Carbon Steel Carbon Steel is in its base form a combination of Iron and Carbon. Carbon Steels incorporate many other elements but won't be rust resistant.
Stainless Steel Steel that has Chromium, Nickel or another element that helps in corrosion resistance.
Damascus Steel In Japanese knives, Damascus refers to the pattern on the outer layers of the blades. Usually resembles water, ink, or other intricate patterns.
San-Mai San-Mai means 3 layers, and in Japanese knives refers to a blade that has 3 layers of steel fused together.
Warikomi The process of splitting a bar of hot iron and inserting a high grade steel, then forging together. Making a sharp edge with soft outer layers.
Honyaki The technique of Oil or Water Quenching Blades to make them extremely hard. Usually Honyaki blades are reserved for the most experienced chefs.
Suminagashi In the Sakai region, "Suminagashi" refers to the flowing ink pattern on kitchen knives. Similar to Damascus.
Kurouchi Kurouchi is the black finish left partially on some Japanese Knives. It helps to prevent corrosion and also adds a unique appearance.
Kasumi Kasumi finish is Japanese technique of finishing that leaves a hazy almost cloud like finish on the blade. This is produced using natural stones.
Tsuchime Tsuchime is a hammered finish. The craftsman will leave hammer marks in the blade for aesthetics and to help reduce drag.
Nashiji This finish is designed to appear like the skin of Japanese pears.
Mirror As the name suggest this is Mirror finish, which requires a high level of skill and time from the polisher.
Billet A piece of raw steel used to forge a blade from.
A forge (Noun) A high heat oven or fire pit, made with either gas or charcoal to heat up steel for forging.
Quench When a steel is heated and then dunked into water or oil to cool. This causes the steel to harden.
Normalize Releasing pressure in steel that has been quenched by heating it back up and allowing it to cool slowly.
Temper Baking the steel to a particular temperate to achieve as specific hardness or durability and ensure there is no further stress in the blade.
Forge (Verb) To make a knife by heating it and repeatedly hammering it either by hand or power hammer into a knife shape.
Forged Blade A blade made by the process explained above.
Forge Welded Multiple pieces of steel heated and fused together into one uniform piece.
Whetstone A synthetic or natural stone used to polish or sharpen a knife.
Grit The strength of a whetstone or sandpaper in relation to how much material it will remove from a knife.
Double Bevel Western knives will always have a double bevel, essentially the edge is on both sides of the blade.
Single Bevel Traditional Japanese knives only have 1 single edge on the blade while the opposing side is usually flat or slightly concave.
Tang The end of a blade that extends into the handle.
Bolster A thick part of a knife that sits in between the blade and the tang. It is there for added strength and many people use it for additional grip.
Stamped Blade A blade that has been cut from a sheet of thin steel as opposed to hammered out of a block of steel.
Rockwell A measurement system designed to grade material hardness. In the case of knives a higher number means the steel is harder. For example, German chef knives usually rate 53-58 Rockwell Hardness and Japanese Knives range from 56-62 Rockwell Hardness. Note that it does not necassarily mean a better knife due to being harder. It depends on the knives intended use and other properties.



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