The Kai team works together to bring you the best knife possible.
As expert shoppers know, discovering true quality can be quite a challenge. Store aisles dazzle customers with pretty packaging and eye-catching products. This is especially true in the world of kitchen cutlery. More and more knives light up kitchens with Damascus finishes and Japanese-style aesthetics. The question is: how do you know you’re getting the real thing?
Teamwork: It Isn’t Optional
When Jack Igarashi came to Kai USA in 1997, he brought Japanese cutlery knowledge and experience to the team. The COO focuses on three key areas of product development: quality, technology, and innovation. Each Kai product is carefully crafted with this outlook in mind. To do this, teamwork between the Japanese and American divisions is necessary.
Vice President of Product Development Tommie Lucas often collaborates with Kai Japan. Together, they achieve true Shun quality. If you visit Lucas’ office, you’ll find prototypes, drawings, and 3D-printed models scattered across his desk and shelves. He’s involved in development from a knife’s inception — all the way through production. Working with Kai’s state-of-the-art factories, the team brings initial product sketches to life.
The design process goes through many stages: sketches, 3D models, prototypes, and more.
“What’s beautiful about Kai is that we’re blending hand-craftsmen with technology,” Lucas said. “We adapt what the factory has to offer to what works for American consumers.”
Kai designers and craftsmen complete challenging projects on tight deadlines. Take Shun Sora for example. In 2013, the Kai team was implementing technology never before seen on a Shun: Composite Blades. Lucas was experienced in this area and shared that knowledge with his teammates.
After extensive research and development, they achieved a VG10, san mai cutting edge — paired with a 420J stainless steel upper. The premium steel is only used where it needs to be: the edge. This not only looks stunning, but it enables Shun to offer Sora at an incredible price.
Sora Chef's Knife with san mai cutting edge
The Shun team learned new techniques in other areas. For example, the factory blended different plastics to create a handle that stays grippy in dry or damp conditions. Despite these firsts, the Kai team met their deadline, and Sora rose to become a successful Shun series. None of that would have been possible without the teamwork between Kai USA and Kai Japan.
“There’s a lot of trust required,” Lucas said. “I take it really seriously and personally when we launch a knife series. If our knives don’t sell well, then my friends out in production might not have a job.”
This dedication is evident whenever Kai brings something new to the market. Every aspect of the knife is carefully considered before it’s sold. And often times, true quality is in what you don’t see right away.
Check back later for Part 2 of the Shun Quality series. You’ll learn about steel properties, ergonomics, and what exactly a heat treatment is.