Essential Tools

4 International Knife-Making Traditions: A Brief Exploration

March 12, 2018

You won’t be surprised to hear that we’ve always got knives on the brain—they’re the heart and soul of any kitchen, after all. But like snowflakes, fingerprints, and banana bread recipes, no two knives are quite the same. I spoke with Kristina Wasserman, our buyer and Shop merchandising manager, who gave me a brief rundown of four different countries’ knife-making traditions, each with slightly different qualities—often crafted through wildly different processes.

Photo by Bobbi Lin


Photo by Rocky Luten

The German knife-making tradition is all about history—ZWILLING J.A. Henckels, for instance, has been in the business of knives since its namesake Peter Henckels got started waaay back in 1731. This history has culminated in steel that’s well known for its strength and durability. Are you a forceful chopper? Look no further.


Photo by Rocky Luten

It may not surprise you to hear that the French tradition of artistry extends into the knife-making realm. Artisans often create handmade blades, emphasizing craft and beauty—while holding onto functionality, of course. Take Laguiole en Aubrac, the iconic French brand founded in 1829, where one artisan works on each blade from start to finish. If you’re looking for a looker, you might want to think about a knife à la française.


Photo by Rocky Luten

Japanese knives are traditionally all about painstaking technique—think vacuum furnaces, cryogenic treatments, and hand-honing. Miyabi knives, for example, go through a four-step hardening process, leading to a super-strong, super-sharp blade. It’s no less than what you’d expect from knives made in the city of Seki—which was once Japan’s sword-forging capital.


Photo by James Ransom

Italian knives emphasize tradition with a capital T. Berti knives have been handmade in Italy since 1895, and so honored is the art of knife-making there that each blade is made by a single artisan who then engraves his or her initials on it. They’re designed to be heirloom pieces, passed down from generation to generation—and they’re durable enough to last that long.

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Gerard Coletta

Written by: Gerard Coletta