Anseong is a South Korean city known for its brass, stone and iron implements, as well as a famous market of traditional craft and trade. The Shin Blacksmith was established there in 1845, today in the 5th generation of the family and the oldest blacksmith in Korea. Master Shin In-young produces there the best handmade knives and farming tools in the country and was named by the Gyeonggi Province as an Intangible Cultural Heritage Treasure # 60 in 2016, the first time given to an one individual. He’s the only artisan who practices a traditional technique of attaching steel sheets to clay. He teaches widely, in an interest to pass down craft and tradition. When Korea undertook to restore the stone pagoda of the Mireuksa Temple in Iksan, Master Shin was prevailed upon to produce the necessary stoneworking tools.
Master Shin makes roughly 40 different designs of knives and farm tools. He uses railroad track, repurposing the carbon steel which is rich is manganese and can be heated to a very high temperature. This steel is hardened, wear-resistant and good for cutting. The handles are made of chestnut, slowly dried in sunlight for years so it is lightweight, strong and rot-resistant.
Each and sickle and hoe is formed for specific types of soil and depth of digging, and is even produced for left or right handed use. While he hand forges each tool, his work is imbedded with economy, simplicity and elegance.
Master Shin’s uses an X banding technique “dang ghi” around the wood handle without burning the wood, one of his many trademarks. In Korea the X mark was reserved traditionally for high quality knives, so as to distinguish them from lesser quality iron rich steel. Master Shin’s blades are stamped with his mark, the #60 referring to his heritage status.
With knife production, the steel is hammered a thousand times to reach the thin and sharp edge, which keeps sharp longer than inferior knives. Master Shin’s knives do not have the angular beveled edge seen in Japanese and Western knives; this is Master’s Shin’s preference which takes additional hammering to achieve, and is an another unique feature of his.