Japanese Maker Proves Custom Knives Don’t Have to Break the Bank

In a world where custom knives cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, Japanese knife maker Hiroaki Ohta stands apart by selling hand crafted knives that are affordable. Born and raised in Tokyo, Ohta started making knives in 1989 after seeing a picture of a Randall Model 1 in a magazine. Some of his more elaborate knives will reach the $400-600 range, but many more are surprisingly below the norm. Blades in his FK line are available for less than $100 in some configurations. “I established knife making in this price range,” says Ohta.

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For Ohta, making knives means doing everything by hand: “I don’t know how others think of it, but my concept of knife making is to do all the work by myself.” From heat treatment to stitching the leather sheaths, Ohta does it all.

His FK knives are modeled after the traditional higonokami knife. The higonokami is a Japanese pocket knife that can trace its lineage back to the 19th century. Like American makers do with slipjoint patterns, Japanese makers have offered different spins on the higonokami over the years. Ohta trained under Yoshimi Kotoh, a maker who was one of the first to make modern higonokami-style knives out of wood.

Hiroaki Ohta Friction Folder

Ohta believes that Japan’s history of bladecraft is rich, but he has endeavored to progress beyond it to hone his skills. “It’s necessary to learn the traditions and methods of different countries,” he says. Beginning with a Sheffield-style knife, Ohta started to make traditional Western slipjoints. When he began to sell knives in America, his style took up characteristics of American knife making. Now, Ohta also makes dozens of American slipjoint knives.

Fixed blades, slipjoints, friction folders – even custom box cutters: the Ohta catalog is always growing. After over 20 years in the business Ohta says to maintain excellence when making knives by hand you have to keep evolving. “It is very difficult to make the same knife for a long time.”

Knives featured in image: Hiroaki Ohta Higonokami Knives