Shigefusa 270mm kasumi yanagiba with custom, by me, desert ironwood handle

15 Nov 2010

My latest knife project: A 40++ year old 300mm tamahagane/ blue steel yanagiba

My latest project is a total rebuild of a 40+ year old yanagiba blade that had been sitting on the shelf of an old blacksmith and hastily refurbished for sale. I bought it because the price was right and I needed a project like this to explore the different qualities of my Japanese natural stones. When I got the blade it was quite thick and chunky and the profile was a bit wonky with a very pointy and fragile tip. It was very crudely ground and the machi (heel) was not finished at all.

The first thing I did was to redraw the shape of the blade. I did a total regrind of the blade and after going through the stones up to a full uchigumori finish, i gave it a mirror finish. Then I built a new handle and a new saya for it (still in the making). The seller stated that the steel was true tamahagane, but that is not very likely. It is probably a blue steel variety. That said, the edge is even harder than my shiroko honyaki @HRC 65, and takes an absolutely incredibly sharp edge. This is very possibly my sharpest blade to date. Even sharper than my Doi Shiro #1. Some pictures from the process below. Enjoy.

Before: Note the odd "hanging" profile of the knife including the handle. It almost looks a little bit depressed :o)

After: The profile is "straightened out" to a more balanced appearance

Before: Ugly machi...

After: Polished machi :o)

Before: Really rough grind...

After: Mirror finish :o)

In the below picture you can see the reflection of my ceramic wall tiles in the blade. Note the semi polished blade road. Towards the very edge you can see the reflection lines from the tiles "bend" a bit due to the hamaguriba (clam shell) sharpening. The reflection amplifies the hamaguriba curve significantly because the blade is held askew related to the tiles, but it shows the principle of hamaguriba.

Before: Simple handle... not at all bad, tho'. Ho wood and water buffalo bolster.

After: Custom (by me) Macassar Ebony octagonal handle with silver inlays and water buffalo bolster :o)


  1. The machi was polished by wrapping different grits of sanding paper around a Ø7mm round and 20cm long hardwood stick. I used following grits #80, #120, #240, #360, #600 and #1200 consecutively. When everyting was smoothed out, I primed a piece of leather with a mix of 1u diamond spray and 0.25u aluminum oxide powder, wrapped it around the same stick and started polishing. After about an hour of polishing, the result was as you see it in the pictures.

  2. stunning transition, thanks for sharing. it's amazing how a 40+ year old 'lost' knife can be restored to look like it was just forged. well done!

    absolutely gorgeous handle to match too :)

  3. How did you round off and polish the machi like that? Specifically, what steps did you take to accomplish that?

    So well done! See you on KKF.

  4. Please see an earlier question and answer about the same topic.



  5. Hello I have a Vintage knife that i Need help to identify? It is similar to the tamahagane blue steel yanagiba knife You have restored! I would like to send You some pics? Not sure how. My e-mail is
    Thanks David.

  6. Hi.
    Sorry for my late reply. You can send the pictures to . I'll see if I can help in any way identifying your blade.



  7. Awesome project! You had restored your knife just like a new one. Thanks for sharing it to us!