Master Bladesmith Murray Carter of Carter Cutlery – The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 344)

Murray Carter, Master Bladesmith and 17th Generation Yashimoto Bladesmith, of Carter Cutlery joins Bob “The Knife Junkie” DeMarco on episode 344 of The Knife Junkie Podcast.

Carter has had a fascination with knives since he was a young boy. Why some blades cut and others did not was a mystery he felt compelled to unravel. At 15, Murray met a Karate instructor that would stoke a lifelong love of all things Japanese. And at 18, Murray took a trip to Japan, and by chance, met Sensei Yasuyuki Sakemoto, the 16th Generation Yoshimoto Bladesmith whose family made custom samurai swords for some of the most influential feudal lords.

Over time, his relationship with Sensei Yasuyuki Sakemoto led to a six-year apprenticeship in his shop. When finished with his apprenticeship, Murray was asked to carry on the 420-year old tradition and became the 17th Generation Yashimoto Bladesmith.

Carter worked in Japan as village bladesmith for 12 years, perfecting his skills and acquiring as much knowledge as possible. In 1997, he introduced his hand-forged Japanese kitchen knives and has been plying his craft in the U.S. ever since. In 2001 Murray earned his Master Smith rating with the American Bladesmith Society.

Carter Cutlery Murray Carter

To date, Carter has forged and completed over 31,000 knives, all of which were faithfully crafted using traditional techniques that he learned in Japan.

Today, Carter is set on teaching what he has learned to the next generation, passing down skills and knowledge through rigorous apprenticeships. The Muteki knife line was started by Murray in Japan and was born out of a desire to provide the best knives possible in a price range that was competitive with commonly available factory knives. Muteki knives are currently forged by highly trained, independent journeyman bladesmiths who have graduated from Murray’s rigorous three month intensive Apprentice Program.

Every step of the process is monitored and personally supervised by Murray. Every blade must undergo stringent testing procedures. Only the blades passing these standards get stamped with the Muteki logo on the left side and the bladesmith’s personal stamp on the right side.

Find Carter Cutlery online at www.cartercutlery.com and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/cartercutlery.

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Master Bladesmith Murray Carter, also a 17th Generation Yashimoto Bladesmith, of Carter Cutlery is featured on episode 344 of #theknifejunkie #podcast. To date, Carter has forged over 31,000 knives, all using traditional techniques. Click To Tweet
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Automaged Transcript
Master Bladesmith Murray Carter of Carter Cutlery
The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 344)

Announcer
Welcome to the Knife Junkie podcast.
Your weekly dose of knife news and information about knives and knife collecting.
Here's your host Bob the knife junkie, DeMarco.

Bob “The Knife Junkie” DeMarco
Welcome to the Knife Junkie podcast.
I'm Bob DeMarco.
On this edition of the show I'm speaking with ABS Master Smith Murray Carter of Carter Cutlery.
Murray learned Bladesmithing in the Japanese tradition from Japanese Smiths in Japan.

00:37
A chance meeting as a young man with a renowned swordsmith on a trip to Japan changed the direction of his life, resulting in a many year stay living and working as a professional bladesmith.
When he returned stateside, Murray figured out a way to take the learning and labor intensive process for creating exquisite blades to a broader western audience.
Now we're going to find out how he did that, and a whole lot more.
But first be sure to like, comment, subscribe and hit the notification Bell and download the show to your favorite podcast app.
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01:53
That's the knife.
Junkie.com/save on gas.
Murray, welcome to the show.
How you doing, Sir?
Thanks Bob for having me on.
Yeah that's a great day.
Oh it's my pleasure my pleasure.

02:07
So obviously a fascination with blades.
But as far as I know it goes back very very far in your life.
Tell me first how you got into knives in general before we get into that deep dive you took in Japan.
Yeah, growing up as a young child I was always fascinated by.
Marshall disciplines and you know, the tales of the Knights in shining armor and stories of heroism on the battlefield.
I quickly became interested in Boy Scouts.
But when I when I was a young boy, the mission that if you.

02:53
Had a knife you could go out in the wilderness and survive.
And that a knife also was, you know, a practical tool or weapon in the hands of all these warriors.
That's where the fascination began as a young child.
Yeah, I think that's, uh, that's where it started for me too.
Just feeling like, well, a man, a man carries a knife on his belt and takes care of a lot of problems with that.
I always I always blame 1970s TV for that, but I just felt like every man had to have a belt knife on from a very early age.
That's where my that's where my fascination came so early.

03:33
Early on you had knives.
Was it always the Japanese culture or the Japanese knives and?
Martial disciplines that drew you in.
No, I think the the Japanese.
Component came later I think from you know, even before I was ten years old, I was fascinated with knives and wanting to own them, and I would.
Stop and gawk at the folding knife display at the hardware store in sporting goods stores.
I would just immediately make a beeline for their hunting section and I would, you know.

04:13
Look at the rifles and the knives and other tools that a person could use to survive in the wilderness.
And then you know TV again, as you said, you know there was so much in the 1970s that had to do with war and survival.
And then.
Kind of in the early 80s.
We had a, you know we had The Karate Kid.
We had a lot of movies about martial arts.
You know Bruce Lee?

04:45
I think, and some of the others.
Chuck Norris had really paved the way and all of a sudden Hollywood realized that there was a huge demand for martial arts movies.
And then many movies started centering around Japan.
You look at even the die hard series with Bruce Willis.
The whole idea that they were they were trapped, and then Nakatomi building.
And this idea that Japanese industry you know, was a force to be reckoned with around the world and then.
Again, in the early 80s, the world suddenly became fascinated with the whole allure and folklore of the Ninja Warriors, and it seemed like there couldn't be enough books or movies or TV programs about them.

05:35
That's kind of when the the Japanese component really started becoming prominent for me.
I read a book called the Ninja was that by Eric Van Lustbader.
I can't.
I can't remember, but in that series of books there were a lot of scenarios from Japan and food from Japan and views from Japan and Japanese culture and Japanese business meetings.
And it it that author did a very good job at wetting my appetite for the, you know the This this mysterious country?
About Japan, which I couldn't find out a lot about.
This was pre Internet days in the early 80s and I do believe I went to my local library in Halifax, NS Canada where I was born and raised and the in this was the Halifax Public Library.

06:33
You know, serving something like 300,000 people and all I could find was one time Life magazine from the 1960s on Japan.
I mean, I really could not find any information on Japan and and any information we had was outdated so that only served to.
Kind of tantalized that the senses even more and and deepen the desire to to learn more about what seemed to be the most fascinating country in the world.
How what would you?
How would you describe Japanese culture and you know whether you contrast it against our culture or not?
What?
What are the hallmarks of Japanese culture?

07:24
You know to understand the essence of Japanese culture is to understand their geography.
And you know Japan has been plagued by natural disasters for as long as anyone can remember, and I don't think there's a generation of Japanese people anywhere in the four main islands of Japan that doesn't know somebody personally.
That has perished or being severely injured in either a a volcano or a typhoon or a tsunami or an earthquake.
It's it's has shaped the landscape literally, and it's shaped the psyche of the Japanese people that they're just constantly living in a state of wondering when the next shoe is going to drop.
And that's why they work so hard.
That's why they save so much.
That's why they're group oriented.

08:25
You know, in Japan they have an expression toy shinsekai yori.
And it means.
That you you would favor your neighbor with no blood relations over a distant relative.
And the reason is is that when calamity strikes, it's your neighbor who's going to be there to help you out.
So you know the the Japanese have this rich history of kind of putting aside their petty differences, putting on a face of cooperation in public.
This coming, this is like home and tatami.
Hundai means like what's really in their heart, which doesn't usually get expressed, and tatami is the face they put on for.

09:15
Public unity, so you know, they just they.
They value highly a sense of unity within the country, a kind of a homogeneous Ness of of of of thinking and values.
But most importantly this notion that when disaster strikes everybody is there to help each other so that I don't know of any other country.
Personally I'm sure there are some, maybe some island nations I don't know of any other country, that's just.
And so rock with natural disasters that it's shaped the you know the the.
You know the personality of the of the citizens.
There probably exist, but in Japan it's very much evident in their behavior that it's been shaped by centuries of natural disasters.

10:08
From an outsider's perspective, or the perspective of someone who doesn't know much about Japanese culture, it does seem like the.
Japanese.
People approach.
Everything with a sense of artfulness or or with a sense of practice.
I don't know if art is the right term, but I don't even know if practice is the right term, but it seems like.
Everything is so mindfully considered in in in practice.
You know everything from flower arranging to obviously sword making to shooting a bow to.

10:45
I don't know you name it, you know you would know way more than than I for sure, but it seems like everything is sort of approached with a certain care and artfulness.
Yeah, most definitely.
The Japanese in general have a propensity for taking any sort of skill set and, you know, perfecting it down to the NTH degree.
Uh.
I've never thought so deeply as to make the connection between what I said earlier about, you know the the the, their character, and natural disasters.
And this notion that, uh, take for example the OB, which is the long belt for a women's kimono, I think it could be like over 30 feet long and and some of these obies are just intricately.
Embroidered.

11:37
And and the embroidery can take months and months and months and all done by hand.
And even though some of these obies are 10 twenty $30,000, I don't.
I don't even think that in many regards it's probably even really fair compensation for the amount of effort or time that's taken to make them.
But I think I think there's a a fulfillment.
I think maybe when you don't know exactly how long you're going to live.
And you can't count on longevity.
You never know when the next tsunami is going to take you out.

12:12
It's almost a way of leaving your mark in the world.
Through these artistic skills, whether it's urushi, which is the lacquerware, or some of the metal work, or even the tatami Craftsman, the calligraphy, the scrolls, the woodworking, the carpentry.
Or or, for example, in the textiles as I just mentioned.
I think there's probably a connection there, but you know, it's not something I've spent a lot of time thinking about.
Yeah, yeah, I think I think you could be right when you're waiting for the next shoe to fall you you might.
You might find that beautifying your situation is a way to, you know, get through how.
How do you think well?

13:00
Why don't you describe for us Japanese blade culture?
And I know, I know, that's probably a very much broader thing than most of us can consider.
But tell me about that and tell me about your experience in meeting Sensei Yasuyuki Sakamoto.
Is that how you pronounce his name?
Yeah, thank you Umm.
Yeah, please tell me about that experience meeting him and where that led you.
Well, I'm excited to tackle this question that you asked about Japanese blade culture.

13:36
Because I've never really, I don't think I've ever expounded on it before.
So I'm, I'm, I'm interested to see what I can come up with.
What we say, Japanese blade culture.
Let's break that down into two categories of people who make blades.
And then people who use blades and then within people who use blades, we got people who use blades professionally and then we have the the blade aficionados, the blade connoisseurs that the enthusiasts.
So really we've got three things here to talk about.
Just off the bat in terms of.

14:15
Blade manufacturer.
You you do kind of have two different schools of thought.
The modern you know efficient technological.
Production of knives and you have the.
The the die hard hard.
Curators or those who those who represent the traditional techniques, the artisans who who are who are.
Preserving the traditional techniques.

14:56
That's what I'm most familiar with, so I'm just going to brush over the the modern production.
You know you have certain centers in, like Seki City, Japan and in.
A few others Tokyo amongst the others and.
And also in.
I want to say Niigata, but that's not.
That's not where I'm thinking, it'll it'll come to me in a minute.
Yeah, you have centers of cutlery production where they've really.

15:30
You know they're using CNC machines, laser cutters.
You know, induction induction forges for for heat treating, and so on.
You know the latest and greatest technology in order to produce the, you know the massive amounts you know in terms of sheer numbers of pieces of cutlery you know for export.
And you know the, you know Gerber and and Spyderco and Almar and several others you know from the 80s until really the year 2000, we'll say from the 70s and for about a 30 year stretch there, you know Japan was the place you went to if you wanted a high quality a manufactured piece of cutlery.
You know, to, to, to OEM or what's that, whatever that means.
I forget, but you know, made, made, made to order.
You know, that's since been eclipsed by Taiwan and China.

16:31
Who can do?
Just as good as work, but for for a less expensive so.
So Japan is kind of falling out of the massive manufacturing position that they held there for several years.
That being said, there are some.
Before I talk about the crossover, where we've got like 4 knives made in mass quantity, let's now look at the artisan who's preserved the traditional techniques the the two areas of bladesmithing that stand out the most.
One would be obvious to most people, the other one maybe not, so is obviously the qatana khaji, the swordsmiths who are preserving the traditional techniques of.
You know a folding and refining their steel in pine charcoal and laminating both a mild iron and hardenable steel together in one blade and and and making a superior cutting implement that way usually for decoration because nobody's really using swords in their daily life anymore.

17:47
And the other not so obvious artisan preserving traditional techniques is the.
Is the Japanese Bladesmith who specializes in making plain blades and chisels for the Miya Daiku and the Miya Daiku are the carpenters who who specialize in building temples and so they have they have the most intricate.
Woodworking techniques and almost all of their techniques is done by hand, and for that they need really good saws, chisels and planes.
So the the the bladesmith making those tools is highly esteemed, but it's a very very niche.
Area of Bladesmithing and you know there's probably only four or five Blasius in Japan who who are renowned for doing that specifically?
I would say that I don't know.
It might be more than five or six.

18:45
Honestly, I don't know.
But the number must be significantly less than the active swordsmiths.
Where do the kitchen knives the the kind of knives I see at the sushi bar?
Where do they fit in?
So.
Historically, every single little village in Japan, right at the center of the village would have had.
A bladesmith or a blacksmith that was also well versed in making blades amongst other things.

19:17
And the reason is is that that the blacksmith in the center of the village was responsible for making all of the other tools for all the other tradesmen.
You know he made the Carpenter tools.
He made the tools for the tatami guy he made the tools for, the people doing masonry, and so on and so forth so.
So typically everyone in that village purchased their new kitchen knives.
If they didn't have some from before they would purchase them from their local village Bladesmith, and so the local village Bladesmith who who who was not a swordsmith?
Generally speaking, it was very adept at 4 quickly forging very thin.
High performance and you know, really thin and water quenched knives for use for, you know for for keeping everybody in food in the village, you know, keeping them fed, keeping them, making meals so their skill level.

20:18
Would have been really high.
As Japan modernized and industrialized post 1850. There would have been big centers like Sakai and Osaka or Tokyo, Tochigi.
On the island of Shikoku that would have mass produced.
These hand forged knives and fill in the gaps, as some of these village blacksmiths.
Retired or passed away and didn't have anybody to take their place.
So all of these sorts masks that they ones making the Miya daiku carpenters tools, the planes and the chisels, and even these kitchen knives.
They all.

21:08
Have this in common.
They all use very pure clean high carbon steel.
Which is further refined and further purified by heating it in a solid fuel forage, either coke or a pine charcoal which is carbon rich oxygen.
It's low in oxygen, carbon rich.
And they purify this deal.
By heating it.
Very attentively hammering it and reheating it at a lower temperature, so all of these the swords, the these other blades that I've mentioned.

21:49
All of them start out at about trying to do something with my head.
They all start out at a bright orange heat.
And they hammer them.
And then when they have to, reheat them to hammer again, they heat it at a lower temperature, and then they hammer it, and then they reheat it at a lower temperature, and they hammer it.
And and a blade might be hammered.
Up to 1000, individual hammer blows and it might be heated 10 different times, but the goal is never to heat it twice to the same temperature so that we might start off.
I'm backwards here is never going.

22:27
We might start off at a bright orange heat.
But as we're hammering it for the very last time we're at adultery, red color, and that's the secret behind high performance Japanese forged blades.
Is reducing the heat with each successive reheat and continuing to hammer it?
So they would all have that in common.
The other thing they would all have in common.
Is that they would all be coded in clay.
Very, very thin clay and then heat it up and quenched in water lukewarm water in order to harden the blade.

23:06
That's a consistent technique through all of the different bladesmiths special.
You know who specialize in different tools.
And then.
Lastly all of these tools would be.
Ground.
On stones that were cooled with water.
Either, and that would either be mechanically either electricity with electricity or with water powered or human powered, but they were ground thin after they were quenched.

23:43
And cooled while they were grounded to preserve every little bit of.
Rockwell Hardness, that was there inherent in the steel from the water quenching?
Got you?
Pardon me, I got a couple of questions here.
Uh, what is the reheating and bringing the temperature down each time due?
Does that help bring carbon in from the solid fuel?
How do what is that for?

24:08
I'm not a metallurgist, and so this is my understanding.
Is that all steel has grain?
In it and from the mill, the grain is typically large.
That's the term is used large grain.
And the goal is to create small or fine grain.
And the reason is is that there's no inherent strength difference between large grain and small grain in the grains.
The difference is is that the smaller the grains, the more grain boundary there is where one grain is touching another grain and and it's the grain boundary, it's that chemical bond, and the and the grain boundary that makes steel strong and resilient to to to stress fracture.

24:57
So steel that has fine grained.
Can be harder yet still flexible.
So it could be harder, yet still durable.
Which is kind of a contrast in terms, and it can be harder yet easy to sharpen.
If it has fine grain.
You don't have to be a metallurgist, you just described it perfectly.
Actually, I think I get it, especially with the with the green walls you know touching each other.

25:28
Yeah, the more surface area there is holding itself together, the stronger it's going to be.
And that process, I guess, does that because you you keep pounding it down and reducing it, heating it up, pounding it down and reducing it.
I mean, you're not reducing it, but you're.
Squashing it together right?
Oh man, that's that's terrible explanation, but.
I'm still, I'm a steel squasher.
It just stands to reason that you be making the.

25:55
The steel squasher ABS.
Hey, who needs that?
When you're a steel squasher?
OK, I I I think I think I get that but I I like the idea of this.
Putting it in and really carefully attending to it, not just putting it in a, a, a, a, a forage and kind of walking away from it like, I don't know, that's how they depicted on forged in fire, you know?
And then they also say never quench in water on that show.
And that's something that you've just described too.

26:27
So obviously there's there are different processes to doing all of this.
And in Japan, it's.
You know, it's an ancient or a process refined over hundreds and hundreds of years.
So what was it like for you learning this process?
What was your apprenticeship like?
Well, I had a very atypical apprenticeship.
If we think of The Karate Kid where there was a sequentially learning wax on wax off.

27:01
You know paint defense this way.
Paint the fence that way and and slowly.
Incorporating that into, you know, more and more advanced skills over time.
I did not have an apprenticeship like that.
Nobody sequentially metered out lessons for me.
And you know, once I finished lesson 1, then I would proceed on to lesson 2. I know I was able just to jump right in since they second motives forge and hammer steel and quench and quenched it.
You know, be even before I knew.

27:39
Anything about what I was doing so I really had trial by fire and my learning.
Mostly involved making something and then taking what I had made to a bladesmith and saying here I I made this.
What do you think?
And that turned out to be a lucky strategy because you know, if you ask somebody for a secret or for you know hard earned knowledge, they would be very apprehensive just to share it with you.
But when you've already demonstrated, you know the willingness to apply everything you've learned.
They almost can't help but want to be generous to help you, you know, because your blade is bent, twisted or not.
Sharp or too obtuse, or too acute, or you know bad.

28:32
Bad grain structure, bad handle design, whatever it is a knowledgeable person.
Which almost can't help themselves from giving feedback to someone who's already had this sincerity to actually go ahead and make something and and and and then show it to them.
I'm not saying that everyone should go make something and go to Japan and see how that works for them, but it did work for me.
It did work for me and and now you know, I hear of.
Dozens of North Americans, or dozens of Westerners, probably some from Europe as well who are over in Japan studying Japanese bladesmithing.
So you know the the the ice has been broken and it's not.
It's.

29:19
It's not an impossible.
Mission anymore like it kind of was, you know, I kind of beat the impossibilities.
But now I think there are avenues for people to just go over and learn blacksmithing.
Now I when I'm over in Japan, I encounter westerners all the time who are apprenticing with so and so, and.
I mean good, good for them.
Yeah and well, good for tradition I I believe that you know we should not ever hastily throw any tradition away.
It's a tradition for a reason.

29:50
It's time tested for a reason.
And so it's it's good for the the life of of of that tradition as well.
It's just kind of interesting seeing Westerners do it right.
That's not, but that's, you know, supposed to be the beauty of globalism or the supposed to be the beauty of a small world is we all get to share in each other's cultures.
Just as long as we don't get too defensive about them or or what have you.
So was it did you encounter when you were there any sort of resistance or just curiosity in a Westerner at that time learning?
Yeah I did.

30:29
I did and you know there was some drama and probably in hindsight I created most of it.
I didn't have a whole.
I didn't have great social skills going over to Japan and I have, you know, alcoholic tendencies.
So when people started drinking in Japan I was only 222. Glad to jump jump in the the the, the, the what?
Is it the fray?
You know, jump in amongst them and drinking as well.
There's a word that's.

31:04
Was on the tip of my tongue.
There the fray.
I think you're right, yes yeah, we're so close too many letters so.
Yeah, and so you know I I inadvertently you know burnt some bridges.
I probably wouldn't have otherwise, and it would be fun to go back now at 53 with, you know, my current temperament and and experience.
You know, go along the same path and experience all the things I did.
I think I think the net result would have been far different.

31:38
I mean it wasn't a bad result that I went over and learned a lot, but I could have done it with a little less friction.
Ah, that's interesting.
I guess that's something that only age brings, you know?
Uh, but.
Well I I am.
I'm catching up to you right quick and at this stage of my life I look back at a lot of things and and at least that that dumb chutzpah of being young gets you to do stuff in the 1st place.
Who knows with your with your current temperament you might not even go over and do that at this point.

32:10
You know sometimes it takes the gumption of youth that is a valid point.
That is a valid point.
So working in incense Sakamoto's forge.
What were you making and what was he making?
Well, since I suck himoto.
Spent a lot of time doing a sharpening and repair of a lot of different agricultural tools.
Not just sharpening different culinary knives, but he did a lot of sharpening of farmers tools.

32:49
One tool in particular, that's a very difficult to construct and.
For the difficult to maintain is that Yama, IMO Hori, which is a which is a think of a long broom handle, but but large like an ore you know in diameter, and then terminating in a really a 2 foot long straight thick blade that was used for for digging up special mountain potatoes.
And so that that's highly specialized tool and he would both make those and refurbish ones that came back, you know, came back in for for sharpening or repair.
There's the ubiquitous sickle.
I'll also known as a comma that every farmer has a a stash of really thick ones to to really thin ones just for cutting grass, so.
There's always sharpening repair of those.
There's a lot of forestry tools that are still used a daily kind of like a machete, but you know, for hacking through the the jungle growth there for doing like land surveys and so on.

34:10
There's a lot of sharpening and repair those, those are called cushy nata.
And Speaking of Cushing, I thought you have not thought you're also used for splitting kindling and chopping bamboo and so on.
So he was involved with a lot of that, but I wanted to specialize in knives and initially I just wanted to make some outdoor knives.
In other words, you know something that looked like a Bowie knife, something something smaller than a Bowie knife, but something that looked like an adventure knife is what my original interest was.
And that goes back again to the childhood days where if you got a knife.
You're good to go.
You know it's never gonna run out of ammo.

34:49
It'll never let you down.
I do want to say right here, you know, while as a child I was fascinated by weapons and warfare that's not part of my current ideology.
I have a new ideology now and I've turned my.
I've turned away from looking at knives as weapons or as offensive tools, and I have a very a strong new sense of direction about that.
So I am definitely referring to things in the past and past values when I'm talking about, you know.
Blades as as as possible weapons to hurt other people.
So that being said.

35:31
I quickly realized that to get good at making these outdoor knives, I was I was going to need to master the Japanese kitchen knife because when it came to straightness and Untwisted Ness and all around reliability and usability.
You can't beat a kitchen knife that's being used three times a day to cook meals, so that's how I started to start, you know, started to focus heavily on the Japanese kitchen knives because I saw it as a means to an end initially.
But with time I became to appreciate, you know the kitchen knife making process and the value that a high performance kitchen I adds to somebody's life and so.
It actually brings me more satisfaction and meaning these days than making outdoor knives.
It it is like the kitchen knives, kitchen knives in general are where the rubber meets the road.
It's what everyone uses.
Not everyone carries a pocket knife.

36:36
Lots of people do, but everybody uses some form of kitchen knife.
So yeah, if you have this talent and this ability to make beautiful knives.
Through this very old time, tested.
Process, which adds value to the knife, and in my opinion it makes sense that kitchen knives would be a place where you could flourish because you could get them in the most hands.
Exactly.
Well, so when you came back.
Well, first of all, actually before you come back to the United States, how did your whole apprenticeship end with Sensei Sakamoto?

37:24
Uh, I'm sorry.
Could you repeat the question, please?
You're saying before I came back to the United States, how did the apprenticeship and then I lost after that?
How did it end?
How do you do you sort of like?
Have a do you graduate from an apprenticeship and and become you know how did that work for you?
The nature of your question.

37:46
Look at that picture of me when I was young.
Yeah, I saw that.
Uh, so the relationship is still a vibrant and, you know, while my interest in knives is what brought us together, you know, for 18 years we kind of did life together and we weren't living in the same house, but we would cross paths with enough frequency that.
You could say we were good friends.
I mean clearly it was, you know, mentor, apprentice relationship.
But there was, I believe there's also a genuine friendship and so and I called him up a couple of weeks ago actually and invited him from Japan to our grand opening here at our new shop in Council ID which was the 2nd of July and he was all setting on coming even though it was fairly short.
Notice that two weeks but his travel agent.

38:44
Talked him out of it because she thought there might be complications with COVID restrictions and protocols so.
It unfortunately didn't work, but but I mean I called him up.
Tell him about something was happening in two weeks and he was ready to drop everything and come so that that's I think that's a great indication of of our relationship.
Yeah, I love him very much and.
I'm I'm I'm I'd like to stay in touch with them.
Yeah, I I would imagine that's a that's the sort of bond that that lasts forever and to check in.
And yeah, that's that's got to be a very deep root there.

39:31
So you come back stateside and you want to figure out a way to bring these beautifully made knives through this traditional process to a broad audience, how did you make that happen?
Well, once I became more serious about Bladesmithing because initially it was a hobby because I was teaching English over in Japan as an occupation.
You know for my livelihood and that would have been daunting when I was first dabbling in knives to consider what it would take to replace.
You know, the $3000 a month salary I had teaching English by by making and selling knives to generate the same amount of money.
Keep in mind, when I was making kitchen knives.
Back in the day I sold them for $50 each, so you know that's.
That's that's daunting.

40:24
That's that's that's like 69 lives so.
Is that raise my math correct?
660 * 50 dollars?
Is that 3000?
I think so yes, yeah so anyway.
I I saw that if a fellow wanted to get serious about knife making then he was going to need to go where people go as it has to do with knives.
And I found out there were these great organizations here in North America like the American Blaze for society and the Knife Makers Guild that put on annual conventions or or what we usually refer to them as knife shows.

41:04
And I I paid my table fees and applied and.
And flew on an airplane from Tokyo over to probably California was one of my first, although I think the Blade Show in Atlanta was the first night show I ever went to here in North America and and and brought knives.
Put them on the table and boy, I was so surprised by the response of the customers.
They would, you know, stop by, ask intelligent questions.
Buy buy some knives like wow, this is great.
I can make some knives selling for $50.00.
I got $50.00 for a handful.

41:41
Hand welded him forward.
So no I was I was very encouraged by that and you know it started a clientele here in the United States fairly quickly and it would.
It would only take going to the same night show three times before I would have a steady stream of customers swing by my table and talk and chat and get caught up and buy more knives and I was pretty much you know, 2530 years ago I was pretty much the only.
Fella had a knife show who had hand forged kitchen knives.
And then all the other Bladesmiths started buying my kitchen knives and I remember one time my sister came to a knife show and she she she went to Tim Hancock table.
Tim Hancock unfortunately passed away a couple of years ago, but he's a very well renowned, highly revered artistic bladesmith.
He's called like the western Bladesmith and he just he's left behind an amazing body of work.

42:45
But anyway, my sister went up to Tim and said oh and my sister knowing nothing practically, it was her first ever knife show.
She said, oh, do you make kitchen knives as well?
And Tim Hancock's response was well, why would I?
Murray makes kitchen knives and he makes enough for all of us to buy, so there's no need.
No need for us to make any, so that was kind of neat.
I mean that as a compliment back in the day and it would.
It encouraged me to keep plugging along on the course I was on, so I'm kind of got sidetracked.

43:17
Not sure if that answered your question or not.
Well, it's taken me there.
You now have a shop with a number of apprentices that you have.
Tutored a print that you have mentored and they are learning what you are teaching them.
They are learning what you have learned and I think it's a really cool structure with with how a Carter cutlery works.
Can you describe it and tell?
Tell us what the Muteki knife line is.

43:50
Sure.
So.
Where to start?
Uh.
There was a point in my career.
Where I was convinced that.
You couldn't teach these skills to another person.

44:11
I mean, it was a it was a young, naive, immature.
Thought, but it just seems so difficult that you really had to.
You really had to have an intuition for bladesmithing.
In fact, we amongst certain bladesmiths there's kind of a cute popular saying that says that Bladesmiths are born and not made.
And it's it's probably just a little bit of like pride about.
You know the career that we've chosen, but I I was a little too high up in myself thinking there's no way I could teach this to anybody, so why bother?
But then I did.

44:51
Have some students come in for a week for a fee.
And I taught them how to make knives.
And I did that a couple of times over and over again before I realized wow.
If you explain things in a clear and concise way and then demonstrate it and and bring people's attention to what they're looking for so that they can then become their own teacher that it's eminently teachable.
In fact, you could probably teach it just about anybody who has average hand eye coordination, but but but above all, has the motivation.
And so I started taking on apprentices full-time to to teach them how to make knives.
Initially, it was to help me with my production.

45:39
So I would forge the blades someone else would Sam blast them.
I would cold forge them.
They would describe them and cut them out and grind them, drill the holes, then I would quench them.
I would straighten them and they would do the rough grinding.
I would do the final polishing.
They would do the rough handle work.
I would do the final handle work and so I had a few apprentices that helped me with my production.

46:03
But.
There were certain, well, first of all, you know it's got my name on it, and sometimes somebody who touched my knife and apprentice would inadvertently scratch it.
Now I've got a seller knife that's got my name on it with a scratch.
So that.
Didn't quite seem right, and then secondly.
You know I wasn't doing all the work myself, but I had my name on it.
So somewhere along the line I had this one apprentice that I've been teaching since I was 15. I said, look, you know all the steps now, why don't you just make knives under a different brand and we'll call it Muteki brand and I'll mentor you and I'll check the quality control and we'll just have a

46:47
profit sharing business model where you get 50% of the sale price of every night that that that you make and the other 50%.
Go towards the materials, the cost, the overhead, the assurance that you know, etcetera and hopefully be a little profit for the company leftover as well.
And so that's kind of how the Muteki program took off and flourished.
And to date, we've had probably 20 muteki apprentices that have spent anywhere between, you know, six months and five years working with us before either going on to a different career or striking out independently and starting their own knife shop.
So when you go to the Carter Cutlery website and you view all of the knives on offer, you'll see that some of them are made by, you know, various.
Various apprentices, some of them are made by you and you can actually, well, you can.
You can see that difference.

47:45
But in terms of, not, in terms of the knives, that's not what I'm suggesting, but in terms of.
Well, exclusivity.
But when you look at these muteki knives, you'll see different makers marks on them.
You'll see the, you know your makers mark or the the Carter cutlery makers Mark.
But you also see or?
I guess it's.
You see their makers Mark and the muteki makers mark.

48:10
I think that that is a. I think this is a really cool way of doing it because.
Well, because it's going through your, uh, you are.
Basically, you basically have their back.
You've taught them what they know.
They're they're making their own knives, and then you're checking them out.
And to me, that's a a really cool way of doing it.
It's it's giving the the artisans the credit for what they're doing, but you know?

48:37
The buck also stops with the company, and I think that's a great model.
Well, that's right.
We we have knives that may have been sold eight years ago under the MUTEKI lineup that were forged by one of the early muteki Bladesmiths.
That might be, you know, chipped or or, you know fall.
You know needing repair in some form or another, and you know I have to do it.
Obviously I'm happy to do it, but as you say, since we sold them through Carter cutlery at the end of the day, I accept responsibility for every night that we've ever sold.
Either in the Carter or the would take you line up.

49:17
But but the bladesmith did get the chance to make the knife and build his reputation and build up his muscle memory and his repertoire and his own customer base.
And most importantly, solidify the foundational techniques of forging Japanese high carbon steel and developing their own nuanced work, developing a style and a flavor that is uniquely their own.
While they're here before going off on their own, so are they doing their versions of various models that you that Carter Cutlery offers?
Or are they just kind of making what they want to make and and that's that?
Yes, yes, I'm talking about the muteki.
Yeah.
So the we we have a an employee handbook.

50:16
Where we've addressed all the different scenarios that have come up that we had needed some to sit down and discuss and form some sort of decision on, and essentially the decision was once somebody graduates them with ticket program which is 3 months long and of course not everybody graduates if
they graduate then they get a key to the shop.
They can work their own hours, they can make anything they want out of out of a limited selection of materials that we have here on hand, not.
They're just they can't just use everything that we've got immediately.
And then they get their profit.
Share anywhere between 55 to 65% of the sale price of the knife, so.
Well, no profit share is not 55 to 65% of the sale that I there's a fixed cost that comes off the top and then they get 55 to 65% of of what remains.

51:14
Which usually boils down to 50 to 55% of the sale price tonight.
Anyway, those details aside, basically they can make anything work.
They have some guidelines like they have to complete 20 Nives in a month.
That being said.
We had some, uh, not success stories coming out of the techie program where people have spent three months learning all the fundamentals, making kitchen eyes, making neck knives, making limited amount of outdoor knives, and then all they wanted to do is make some sort of a fantasical camp knife that
that really nobody wanted to buy.
But this person really enjoyed making and they had a whole inventory of these knives and they couldn't.

52:02
And then their wife literally made them quit and go get a real job.
Because because they didn't get paid, they don't get paid until the night they make sells, so we so since then, we highly highly encourage them to that 80%.
Roughly 80% of their production be bread and butter blades.
That aren't fantasical that aren't you know, monstrous monstrosity, long or big and not little tiny knives, but you know knives that most people and you know most.
The kind of patterns that sell well.
Then if their sales are up, they got money in the bank and they've produced their 80%, you know, in the coming months, then they can take a week or two and they can experiment with some project they want to have fun with that might not pay off.
Right, and they're but they're going to get right back into their bread and butter, work again, and that's not.

53:01
That's not for my sake, it's.
It's for their sake so that they can so they can keep that they can earn enough money so they can afford to keep making knives.
Yeah, yeah, and it's it's good to to know your audience.
And and if you're producing knives for Carter cutlery, it's it's probably a given that you don't have people who are looking for a short swords coming to Carter cutlery.
They're going elsewhere for that kind of thing, or fantastical knives or whatever.
So yeah, it makes sense to work within those.
Parameter what's that?

53:30
Tomahawks, Tomahawks?
Yeah, yeah yeah.
Which we love here.
But yeah, that's not where they're going to Carter cutlery.
They're they're going for the outdoor knife.
When I met you at Blade Show, thank you to Clay Clay, who introduced us from Knife magazine.
I had a chance to check out your knives and they are stunning and that neck knife is sweet.

53:54
I love the neck knife design.
But I've been.
Threat not threatening.
I've been saying I need to get a custom kitchen knife, a nice kitchen knife.
I have a collection of knives that is, uh, you know that I'm very proud of, but it does not really extend into the kitchen and I I I don't know why I have neglected that because it is the most used knife and I can get serious buy in from the wife that way too.
Yeah, I mean this is pretty appealing, right?
Look?

54:27
Yes, that is quite appealing.
That is a beautiful knife.
So how long have you been making that neck knife?
Uh, let's see.
I was in Japan and I was down at a show in Florida and a guy who was working for customs.
And security border security.
He looked at a fishing knife that I was making at the time and I think he bought one.

54:52
He said, you know, if you put that knife in a kydex sheath and hung it from your neck, it would be a perfect neck knife like a neck.
What's a neck knife?
I've never heard of a neck and so I researched it and of all people, but Neely.
That he.
Yeah, of the knifemakers Guild.
He was very kind and generous in coaching me internationally on a long distance phone call and how to.
Maximize the use of kydex.

55:24
I never molded kydex before.
I didn't know what a heat gun was.
I purchased some kydex and left it sitting on my workbench for six months, and every time I passed the workbench at glance at it was kind of just taunting me, like.
Yeah, I felt like I was in over my head with this kind of stuff.
And anyway, as I said, but Neely coached me through my first kydex sheath and I just saw how practical and and fairly straightforward the process was, and I've been making neck knives ever since.
And now currently.
For the largest, for a larger part of my career, I would just generally say that sales were split evenly between neck knives and kitchen knives.

56:09
I don't know what that means in terms of numbers, but we'll just say for the benefit of the doubt that my production was also split 5050. Now I think I'm leaning more towards the kitchen knives, probably 6040. Yeah, probably 6040. What do you want?
Uh, Carter cutlery.
How do you want it to be remembered?
How do you want it to go into the future?
Do you have any, you know, future goals for the company?
Yeah, it just occurred to me that when I said 6040, I meant 60. Favoring kitchen knives, kitchen knives.
Yeah, yeah, I got that clear, OK?

56:47
So the future of Carter cutlery that.
Bob, that's a great question.
I'm not your guidance counselor, but.
You know, honestly, I've been doing this for 33 years.
And I can tell you one thing that's on the I love making knives.
I'm always excited to get in the forge and start the next batch.
I'm just finishing up two ivory handled jewel Damascus knives right now for a special customer down in California.

57:18
I almost never take custom orders, but once in a blue moon I do for the right person.
If the project interests me and if all my other ducks are already in a row.
So I did take on this project and I'm finishing up probably tomorrow.
So I'm really excited to get into forage and start the next 50 kitchen knives.
I already have the steel cut out.
It's already in a box.
Some of the knives already pre forged, so I'm just chomping at the bit to get to them and I think I'll always have that excitement about my next batch of knives.

57:48
That being said, I am working on my certified flight instructor license and helicopters right now and I'm building time.
I need about 30 more hours before I could teach in a Robinson helicopter and so.
The strategy is by a helicopter I should complete CFI in the coming months.
I've already started the process so and I'm a commercial pilot.
Not not all that proficient because I don't get to fly that often.
But you know, finish my CFI, buy a helicopter and teaching it part time and I'm thinking like maybe 14 to 18 hours a month.
That's about 12 hours of teaching and two or three hours of just.

58:33
Leisure flight so teach in the helicopter, which is mostly cerebral.
So that I can add longevity to my knife making career.
Because you know, my hands are already arthritic.
Every now and then I have, you know back or neck problems because I'm always leaning over the grinder doing repetitive work and I've made 31,000 knives on the same grinding machines so you could see that you're going to have that that repeat those problems that come from repetitive work, right?
So you know the idea is to, you know, make knives three days a week, fly two days a week.
I also.
I also am very interested in.

59:19
Teaching and doing some mission work, and.
Sharing my first love and passion which is the Bible.
So I'm not sure how that is going to pan out.
What direction that's going to go, but I'm leaving that in God's hands, but I don't.
I'm not going to tell you that for the next 30 years.
My plan is to make another 30,009 right, right?
Winding I'm kind of.

59:46
I'm kind of looking to the future to wind down.
Because, let's face it, even though I'm a good bladesmith you know the world's full of good bladesmiths and the world is full of high performance knives and making another 10 or 20,000 knives.
For humanity's sake is is not that consequential.
One one day it's.
It's not going to matter if I made an extra 5 nags or 50,000 knives, but being able to speak into the life, you know wisdom, being able to speak, experience and wisdom into the life of young people in the future, especially in this troubled world.
You know sharing hope and wisdom with them from the Bible.
That's very appealing and something I definitely would.

01:00:36
To pursue.
Well, I would.
I would argue you've done some of that already in in teaching creativity to some people.
I know it's not exactly an exact analog, but you have, you know, taught people how to be creative and how to release that part of themselves.
So you're I would say you're on a good you're you're on your way.
Not only that, but like doctors Without Borders, you could teach people who need those tools, how to make them, but I don't know that that's also appealing going into like Liberia.
There are some third world country where you know, they've been war-torn and poverty stricken.

01:01:16
And yeah, teach, teach, teach 10th street boys how to put a forge together and and and and create a sustainable business that would help them in their community.
That that would be very meaningful for sure.
Murray Carter thank you so much for coming on the Knife Junkie podcast.
I'm really.
I'm really happy that Clay was like, oh, you gotta meet him.
You gotta meet him and and pulled me up to meet you because it was a pleasure and and I'm glad that we had a chance to to talk right here.
Thanks for coming on the knife.

01:01:49
Chunky podcaster, I really appreciate it.
No, it's it's been very fun.
Thanks Bob.
It's my pleasure.
Take care.
Do you use terms like handle the blade ratio walk and talk, hair pop and sharp or tank like?
Then you are a dork and a knife junkie.

01:02:13
Alright, there there you there he goes, ladies and gentlemen, Murray Carter, uh you gotta go to the website.
Carter cutlery and check out if you're unfamiliar with his work and the work of his muteki.
Bladesmiths I don't know if if I can call him that, but uh, what beautiful work they do and what an interesting story.
It's odd.
The past two past two people we've spoken with have a a very strong connection with Japan and that was not on purpose, but I find tremendously interesting.
So thanks again to Murray Carter and thank you for watching and listening to the Knife Junkie podcast.
Be sure to join us again next Sunday for another interview and Wednesday for the midweek supplemental.

01:02:53
And of course, I know you're not going to forget Thursday.
Thursday Night knives live.
10:00 PM Eastern Standard Time right here on YouTube, Facebook and Twitch.
Well thanks again and for Jim working his magic behind the Switcher.
I'm Bob DeMarco, saying until next time don't take dull for an answer.
Thanks for listening to the Knife Junkie podcast.
If you enjoyed the show, please rate and review and review thepodcast.com for show notes for today's episode.

01:03:18
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