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Those who know their way around a kitchen will certainly know the importance of a good knife. 

The art of the kitchen blade is something that the Japanese seem to have figured out, which is why their knives can go for hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.  

Well-known Japanese knives are made by expert blacksmiths using materials such as shirogami (white steel), aogami (blue steel), and Tamahagane (a rare steel), among others. 

“You can call them single-origin knives because from raw material to forging and sharpening, everything was done in the land of Japan. This craft was passed down from generation to generation.”

At least, this is what the founder of Masaru Knives Malaysia, 30-year-old Wayne Wong, said. 

If you can’t stand the heat 

A pandemic-born business from 2020, Masaru Knives Malaysia is an online store specialising in premium Japanese knives. 

“As with many, me and my girlfriend faced a challenging time due to the first and second COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns,” Wayne opened up. 

Image Credit: Masaru Knives Malaysia

He had been working in the restaurant industry, while his girlfriend was in real estate. At the time, with the future so seemingly uncertain, the couple decided to take a leap of faith and start their own business and secure their livelihoods. 

Sharing a desire to create something meaningful, the two decided to tap into their passion for the craft of knife-making. 

“I still remember we started the business with everything we had at the time, which was around RM7K,” Wayne recalled. 

Prior to Masaru Knives, the chef didn’t have any experience with entrepreneurship. However, Wayne believes there are plenty of transferable skills from being a chef, namely problem-solving skills. 

“I believe it has to do with me being a chef in the restaurant, we don’t sit and wait for things to be better,” he said. “When a problem occurs, we always stick our hand in and fix it. We just do it.” 

Wayne is still putting his culinary chops to good use in the kitchen, as he works in Dewakan Restaurant from Monday to Saturday. You might recognise Dewakan as the Michelin-starred restaurant in KLCC by Darren Teoh. 

Designed in Malaysia, made in Japan 

While Masaru now acts as a platform for a variety of Japanese knives, it had originally started out with just one brand—its own. 

Wayne shared that he had started out with an offering of their own as they wanted to make a mark as a go-to premium knife brand in Malaysia. 

Image Credit: Masaru Knives Malaysia

“We want to introduce something new into the market,” he explained. “So Masaru Knives were designed in Malaysia in terms of the profile of the knife, the length, what type of wood was used for the handle, and also the material of the blade.”  

From Wayne’s experience as a chef, he had noticed Malaysia’s market lack of good quality knives. 

“And for me, good doesn’t necessarily mean it has to cost a fortune,” he added. “The definition of good for Masaru is something that is able to match your needs, is accessible, and something worth spending on. And it must last.” 

So, he worked to design a blade that satisfies these needs and is able to deliver the high cutting performance needed by a chef. 

Masaru Knives’ blades are made with AUS-10, a 45-layered Damascus steel, and Japanese chestnut wood. These materials are resistant to corrosion so home cooks will not find it a hassle to take care of them. 

While this was designed in Malaysia, the knives are made in Sanjo, Japan. 

“They are forged by folding and hammering in order to create the Damascus pattern,” Wayne elaborated. “Thinking is as if you are making a croissant. Our blades were folded and hammered into 45 layers.”

Nowadays, Masaru Knives also offers products from a variety of Japanese brands and blacksmiths. 

Image Credit: Masaru Knives Malaysia

“Japan is a country where they cherish their roots and craft a lot,” Wayne noted. “Before all of this started, I had been keeping a very close eye on the Japanese knives scene—who are the up-and-coming blacksmiths, who got awarded the youngest master title, etc.”

He has even visited his favourite brand in Japan before the pandemic and kept in contact with various blacksmiths. 

So when Masaru Knives was established, he made use of his expertise and contacts. Business was also slow for those brands at the time due to the pandemic, so Masaru Knives’ partnership was a beneficial one. 

The prices for products on Masaru Knives’ website can go from RM300 to over RM4,000. 

Engaging with local craftsmen 

Currently, Masaru Knives is working with a few local craftsmen to create products such as wooden sheaths and handles. 

“As a chef, when you run a restaurant, it is not just about doing business and making money,” Wayne shared when explaining his decision to work with local artisans. “We need to return the value back to society and also form a community.” 

For instance, he works closely with fishermen and farmers as a chef. In turn, those farmers end up growing better crops. Soy sauce artisans are able to continue their tradition because of the restaurants that use their products. 

Image Credit: Masaru Knives

“So for Masaru Knives Malaysia, it is the same,” the founder pointed out. “When business stabilised, we started looking into local artisans that are interesting enough to suit the brand and someone we can work with.”

For the wooden sheaths and handles, Masaru Knives work with a local wood maker who does everything by hand alone and sources local burl from Orang Asli around Negeri Sembilan to Perak. 

“You see? There is a link of leverage and support again,” Wayne pointed out. “Because of Masaru Knives Malaysia, the Orang Asli can continue to do what they do best to sustain their lives.” 

“If we don’t support local and only focus overseas artisans, it could even affect the lives of groups far beyond what we can see.” 

Sharpening their skills 

While Masaru Knives mainly operates online, it does have knife collection display cases located at Tsutaya Books Pavilion Bukit Jalil and Cosmic Cookware KLCC. 

Beyond these locations, Wayne shared that interested customers can even visit his house to view the knives. 

That said, he does hope to have a physical store one day as knives are physical items. In time, he also hopes for Masaru Knives to grow into the go-to brand for Japanese knives locally. 

“I think the Japanese knives scene in Malaysia is still in its baby stage as before this, Malaysians can only get their Japanese knives from either Japan or from overseas websites,” he said.  

However, there are a few other brands in the scene locally selling Japanese knives too, such as Ren and Cutboy. 

Image Credit: Masaru Knives Malaysia

Wayne isn’t too concerned about this, though. He quotes Simon Sinek, who said: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” 

“It doesn’t matter who is doing it or how many people are doing it as long as they are doing it right,” he concluded. “This is very important as it will help me make the right decision as well.”

He said that if he were to forget his core value and start a price war just to have more sales, he would be making a huge mistake. 

“I would be selling my knives like any mass-made product, where no value is highlighted and no story is told,” he said. “That is not what I want.”

Instead, what he wants is to bring value and showcase Japanese traditional handmade knives, to provide an opportunity for more Malaysians to experience the joy of using Japanese knives at an affordable price.

  • Learn more about Masaru Knives here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Masaru Knives Malaysia

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)