Visiting Gihei Hamono's Workshop
Choosing which knives to stock is one of the real joys of Kitchen Provisions; we work with great knife makers across Japan producing a range of beautiful and superbly crafted knives. But the real thrill comes when we can get our boots on the ground, go meet the makers in their workshops, have a poke around and chat with the people stoking the forge, manning the hammers and grind wheels, and turning out the finished knives. Being able to do this is no mean feat - it takes a lot of planning to put a trip together - but, having made this a priority and done an annual trip since we started the company, we believe it adds real value and really helps us choose the best knives and makers to stock.
We were invited to Gihei Hamono’s workshop in Autumn 2019 as part of a whirlwind week of forge visits. The workshop, in Sanjo, Niigata prefecture, is currently run by second generation Hosokawa-san and his son. The space is incredibly unassuming given the quality of the knives being produced there - it can’t be any more than 500 square feet and could be mistaken for a high end home workshop. It was also clear from the off that it is very much a family business - we were greeted on our arrival by the whole family including the Mother who was drip feeding up tea throughout our time there.
The time from placing an order to delivery is about two years, so it is a good thing that the knives from Gihei Hamono are more than worth the wait. The long lead times are because it is only Hosokawa-San and his son in the workshop, the upside to this being that quality control is as high as you like. The workshop specialise in ZDP, and to a lesser extent HAP40 and have done for over fifty years. Other than knives made by Gihei Hamono - or also Sukenari - we wouldn’t touch a knife made using this type of steel, it’s expensive and very difficult to work with, so any cheap option is not worth having. What you’re paying for is a knife made by men who can eek everything out of the steel it can offer through their skill in hardening and finishing it. The team at Gihei Hamono chose to experiment with ZDP more than 50 years ago and were the pioneers of bringing this material to the kitchen, way ahead of the current trends for powder steel knives.
When we were shown around this humble workshop space, what we couldn’t quite believe is, having seen the finish and the quality of the knives that come out, that it is all done by two men using old tools and techniques. We were stepping over things laying on the ground, walking around large machines that looked like they haven’t moved from that spot in a generation. You would look at these knives and then see these images of the workshop they came from and not quite believe that it is possible. But it is.
It is such an honour to stock these knives, we think the ZDP and the HAP40 knives truly are a work of art and as they change and develop over the years they tell their own story. Knowing they were made and assembled by father and son in their unassuming workshop makes them that extra bit more special.
Check out this our selection of Gihei Hamono's knives here.