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San Mai Steel: The Concept Behind the Dynasty Series


By Chucky Peters • August 09, 2021 • 4 min read

San Mai Steel: The Concept Behind the Dynasty Series 

 

Cooking guild’s Dynasty series is fast turning into a customers’ favorite and it’s all for the right reasons. Masterfully crafted to a blend of durability and strength, the series boasts of one of the most solid and reliable forging techniques - The San Mai Steel. 

 

Just like the Damascus steel which features in some of our knives, San Mai is famous for unmatched durability and amazing cutting power. Moreover, despite its unique forging technique, it results in a solid finished product with unique attributes and desirable qualities. 

 

This piece looks at San Mai as an entire process as well as the method of creating the indefatigable concept behind the cooking guild’s Dynasty series. 

 

What is San Mai Steel?

 

The term San Mai is Japanese for three layers which entails inserting a more solid steel cutting edge between two softer sheets of steel. It’s a concept that has stood for centuries as the Vikings and Saxons favored this process over all others. However, the stainless steel clad (more pliable metals) is the most used in modern knife production. 

 

This concept aims to achieve different purposes through its unique forging process and composition. Thus, while the central steel, which is stronger, gives it a sharp and sheer cutting edge, the softer ones give it flexibility. More so, the solid core in between the milder steels may not be resistant to shock but the outer clads provide more durability and shock resistance. 

 

The product of the San Mai forging process is a knife that comes with a set of attributes not seen in other materials. Hence, while the central core makes for a sharp slicing and cutting blade, both flanking sheets of steel help keep it in the best working condition. The relationship between the different steels is what gives the San Mai steel its legendary status. 

 

Despite its composition of solid and soft steel, the forging process is just as important. In other words, there should be equal excellence in choosing the materials and blending them on the smith’s anvil. 

 

Thus, let’s examine the unique forging process that births the amazing San Mai steel. 

San Mai Forging Process 

As stated earlier, the main goal of this process is to effectively combine the properties of steels with varying strength quotients. Also, the expertise of the metalsmith matters as he should be able to pick out the best material for the different layers. He should also put these components through specific processes to attain their well-recognized properties. 

 

While the makeup is simple - the edge which is the central harder core and two clad softer steels - the forging is a delicate process. First, the metalsmith tries to determine the steel with a higher carbon content as this indicates a harder material. Then, he sandwiches it with two layers of milder steel, stainless is mostly used, before bonding them together. 

 

At most utmost dexterity of the forging smith, the sharpening of the knife will expose the harder steel. This step makes the sharp sheer edge while the softer metals (Stainless steel) help to resist shattering and damage. 

 

The stainless steel has a core thickness of about ⅓ which is best for forged knives. The 420 martensitic stainless steel features top-notch resistance in its polished state. Hence, it doesn’t only form a defensive layer but makes the knife look beautiful. 

 

Heating Treatment 

 

Everything about the forging process should be inch-perfect to get a well-forged and high-quality San Mai steel knife. For best products, a triple cycle of normalization at 80oC and instant air cool comes in handy. Then, Austenize also at 80oC and hold at this temperature for a little over five minutes. 

 

Most top metalsmiths harden by quenching oil preheated to at least 40oC. Tempering should be between 18oC and 25oC but the best for kitchen knives is 20oC. When softening for drilling, heating the steel to about 70oC is best while using a subcritical anneal. 

Etching

For the best etching process, the forger removes all decarburized material on the blade to avoid a patchy look. To do this, he grinds all decarburized material from the blade to 400 grit and then cleans off every fingerprint with an 800 grit on a rubber block.

 

More so, to get the best blade finish, he abrades the blade and etches in ⅓ strength ferric chloride till he gets the wanted depth. Then, he neutralizes the blade in a bicarbonate soda solution before cleaning it in hot water. The activity of the iron compound depends on the temperature; hence, etching may be faster in summer than winter. 

 

In Conclusion 

The San Mai Steel gives you the best aspect of the component blades to achieve the devasting cutting and slicing effect it's known for. 

 

While the cladding blades of softer strength helps to build resistance to shattering, the harder steel gives it that sheer, sharp edge; the ideal end for slicing and cutting. The Dynasty series of the cooking guild has thrived on this Japanese innovation to become one of the most sought after knives in today’s market. 

 

Check out some of the most amazing knives in the Cookingguild Dynasty Series