What is carbon steel, and why would I choose to use it over stainless steel?

Carbon steel is a type of steel with a higher carbon content (standard is 0.05, and at Cain and Abel we have a CS content of 2.5). Two per cent doesn't sound like much, but it's enough to introduce a couple of incredible benefits that you won't find in your standard knives. The use of carbon makes your knife strong. Japanese bladesmiths love it because of its ability to take on and hold a sharp blade edge.

Why use a Cain and Abel carbon steel knife?

We are here to bring you a knife for people with passion who are willing to learn and understand their beauty and individuality. Each Cain and Abel knife is handmade and hammered with precision over a hot outdoor fire. There are no machines, no factories, no mass production. Every single blade is unique.
If you take cooking seriously and are ready to invest a little bit of time, a lot more care, and—this is a big one—if you're willing to sharpen and take care of your knives, then carbon steel is where it's at. It pays off each time you use it. If you want to get dinner on the table and you want tools to chuck in the dishwasher - We are not the brand for you.

Are these knives stocked anywhere? I would like to have a look before I purchase.

We do not currently wholesale Cain and Abel. We have a retail space at 1/8 Ke Ahi Rise, in Tauriko, Tauranga. If you are in the area, we will have all of our knives on display.

These knives sound like hard work?

That's the thing - It is a bit of hardwork at first, but it's worth it. The more you use your knife, dry it and put it away correctly, it will improve. It develops something called a patina that helps to protect it from rust. It's a bit like cast iron, in which the more you use it, the more durable and rust-resistant it becomes. In short - It will learn to look after itself better as it grows up.
If you scrub your patina away (i.e. when removing rust), this strips you back to square one. Some manufacturers recommend forcing a patina on the blade, but we have not found this to be safe or effective. Just use, wipe, dry, oil, store safely and repeat!

How does this patina happen then?

Something called magnetite. (science, let's go!) Magnetite is a less destructive type of oxidation, and it just affects the surface of the knife. This process is responsible for developing the carbon steel patina that changes the colour of the metal from its shiny finish to a dull grey. Any carbon steel connoisseur will be familiar with magnetite as the pattern of streaks, spots, and swirls that a well-used carbon steel blade will develop over time. Some people don't like the appearance of a carbon steel knife's patina and assume that it's harmful to the blade or unsafe for food, when in fact, it's the opposite. Patina is harmless and protects the knife from any further oxidation (the wrong kind that causes rust).

Help! My flatmate put my knife in the dishwasher, and it's gone rusty. What do I do?

Now, if your Cain and Abel knives get wet and are left wet for a while, they will end up with rust spots. Not ideal! But not a major drama. We can pull the knife back to greatness. Scrub the rust spots with a sponge and some jif or ceramic cooktop cleaner, wash it, dry well and oil again.
Every time we repeat this process, the knife will lose a little life, and some of the magnetite its been building up - so let's try and stick with the preventative measures!

Rules of thumb for your carbon steel!

  • Do keep it sharp.
  • Do keep it dry.
  • Do use food-grade mineral oil to keep the blade protected.
  • Do use steel often.
  • Do use a stone when it needs a good sharpen. Do cut on a wooden or plastic chopping board.
  • Do clean and oil the handle as well. Go and see a knife expert to help you bring your blade back to life if you damage it or the rust is out of control. This CAN be fixed - But may need an expert.
  • Don't put your knife in the dishwasher. Ever.
  • Don't rinse it and leave it damp on a wet tea towel.
  • Don't use these knives as a bottle opener.
  • Don't cut on glass, stone or steel surfaces.

Look, I'm struggling. I need some help sharpening my knife.

Need a fresh start with your knife? Our friend Ken at Japan Sharpening service (JPKnife.co.nz) Can sort you out with a bit of a knife rebirth. You can send them up to him if you are not local to Tauranga - Or find a local knife expert to help you keep your Cain and Abel magic.