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Xinzuo The Untold Story of a Great Chinese Kitchen Knife Maker

Xinzuo: The Untold Story of a Great Chinese Kitchen Knife Maker

The essence of the Bamboo Guy brand is offering farm-to-table products, and my personal mission, as the Bamboo Guy, is to work with brands that I believe in and that I can personally vouch for. I’m not just another salesman who’s prepared to do and say anything to turn a profit – my integrity is important to me, and I aim to be a voice that people feel they can trust.

The first company my wife and I founded in 1983 was Musician’s Friend. We grew it to be the largest musical product company in the world. We retired in 2009. We missed the Day-to-day challenge of the catalog and Internet business. You can only golf and fish so much, so we hatched a new mission, and that's when the bamboo guy was born. My quest for top-quality, authentic products began with knives, the cornerstone of the theme of our brand. Immediately, it was all about finding products that could fit our original slogan From Musicians Friend, “The Best For Less, Shipped to Your Door”, but finding top quality knives that are both real and don’t cost an arm and a leg was no easy feat.

Most commonly, we tend to find knives that are either of excellent quality but are incredibly expensive (that being, very often, the top Japanese brands), or knives that are inexpensive but offer poorer quality. I tried to use my own collection as a starting point, but realized quite quickly that the knives that I know and love simply don’t fit into the category I’m trying to create – they’re of excellent quality, but they’re way too expensive. And that, unfortunately, just isn’t in line with "The Best For Less, Shipped to Your Door".

So, I went on a mission. There had to be something that could successfully strike the balance between being a good product and not costing a small fortune. Thus, I decided to look at the two ends of the spectrum – the Japanese market which is renowned for its top-notch knives but high prices, and the Chinese market which is known for being cheap but is also notorious for poor quality. Of course, these are generalizations, so my mission was to take a deep dive into both options to see if I could find something that could fall somewhere in between.

I started in the Japanese market, but, as I suspected, the prices were just too high to be able to market anything as being anywhere near budget-friendly. Even the lower priced Japanese Damascus knives were too pricey, while dropping below the quality we needed to fit our motto. It was time to have a proper look at what the Chinese market had to offer.

At first, much like my experience in the Japanese market, it was much as I expected. There were plenty of inexpensive knives available, but the quality wasn’t up to what we needed – I simply couldn’t find a brand that I could, in good conscience, put my name behind, and I certainly hadn’t yet found a brand that would be able to compete with the true Japanese brands.

Until I came across Xinzuo. Xinzuo offers an excellent selection of knives, boasting top-notch technology at affordable prices. After six months of exploring factories and brands around China, I’d finally found exactly what I was looking for, High quality and reasonable prices. I immediately started importing grow-bags and steel knives.

Even better, Xinzuo then established a new range of knives under the name of Hezhen, producing knives of even higher quality made from top-quality materials. It wasn’t long before a plethora of these Hezhen knives were added to my lineup of products.

But you don’t have to rely on my opinion alone to trust that Xinzuo knives are the next big thing. A few months after my own discovery of the brand, I was doing a little bit of research about Xinzuo when I came across the YouTube Channel of Chef Panko and found his review of the brand and a number of the Xinzuo and Hezhen knives.

But first, who’s Chef Panko? Well, Chef Panko is a professional chef who has for a number of years and a highly rated reviewer of Chinese and Japanese knives, as well as knife and kitchen accessories.

In fact, his YouTube channel, as well as his blog, is mostly dedicated to reviewing different types and brands of knives.

“I'm a knife enthusiast, and I can be in a specialized knife store for hours and look at all the different knives. Being a huge knife nerd can have its benefits, but not buying all the knives is the worst. I have started a YouTube channel to show you all the knives and plan to do a cooking guide explaining why I go for a particular knife per dish.” – Chef Panko

When I came across Chef Panko’s YouTube channel and blog, not only did I find a valuable and interesting review of the Xinzuo knife collection, but also that he had much the same opinion as I did. But on top of that, he started off his research with very similar trepidations too.

“In the past, my experiences with Chinese-made knives and brands have been quite mixed. Many of them suffered from poor heat treatments and quality control, and several brands were found to be misleading, overpromising, and under- delivering. However, Xinzuo’s commitment to producing good knives through reliable heat treatment processes and quality control stands out in the Chinese knife industry, especially in an industry where some brands resort to misleading practices. This straightforward and honest approach, along with transparent labeling as made in China; has left a positive impression on me” – Chef Panko

That is, in the world of Chinese specialty knife manufacturing, Xinzuo is a game changer. Here’s what Panko had to say.

“Xinzuo, the manufacturer behind the Xinzuo and Hezhen branded knives, is leading the way in redefining the Chinese kitchen knife manufacturing industry. They have experienced significant growth as a company and stand out as one of the select few brands that have impressed me with their quality control and precise heat treatment of their knives. What truly sets Xinzuo and Hezhen apart is their commitment to transparency regarding the origin of their knives. With clear labeling on their product packaging and sales pages stating, ‘made in China,’ they avoid any misleading claims of Japanese craftsmanship. Additionally, the use of Chinese VG10 steel, known as 10cr15comov, in Xinzuo and Hezhen knives surpasses other brands that utilize the same steel in my testing, making Xinzuo and Hezhen one of the top choices.” – Chef Panko

Chef Panko reaffirmed my belief that Xinzuo knives were special, but not only that, he was able to pinpoint the specific aspects of the brand that made it better than its competition.

  • Their focus on quality control and use of precise heat treatment
  • Their use of Chinese VG10 steel that was far superior to their competitors
  • Their transparency regarding the origin of the manufacturing of the knives (in China rather than Japan)
  • The fact that the company had been experiencing significant growth

Indeed, Chef Panko was quite firm in his belief that the unique design of Xinzuo’s products and the excellent quality of their manufacturing really did set them apart from some of the best international brands.

“After seeing some of the grinds combined with the unique design and good heat treatment, I believe that they have surpassed even some manufacturers outside of China.” – Chef Panko

Clearly, we were both confident in the fact that not only did the Chinese knife market have significant potential for producing top-quality knives at low prices, but that Xinzuo was the best and most reliable brand to recommend to my customers and his readers.

Best of all, Chef Panko’s endorsement of Xinzuo knives wasn’t just the result of a quick review of a few Chinese brands and knives. In fact, he had tested a huge number of different brands and knives, evaluating them all in terms of some of the most important properties of a good knife.

“I believe Xinzuo has the potential to be the best, if not already the number one, kitchen knife manufacturer in China, especially when comparing them to the 100+ knives I have tested, particularly in terms of quality control, materials, and heat treatment.” – Chef Panko

Moreover, Chef Panko had even gone as far as interviewing one of the co-founders of Xinzuo and Hezhen, which is part of the reasoning behind his steadfast belief in the brand beyond simply enjoying their products.

Why Chef Panko and the Bamboo Guy Believe in Xinzuo

It all begins with the reasoning behind why each of us was so intent on finding the best knives at the best prices in the first place.

On the one hand, Chef Panko was on the hunt for a brand that would be worthy of his official endorsement on his YouTube channel. Meanwhile, I was busy adding knives to our online store, and I wanted to find a worthwhile brand that I could sell to my customers.

The one thing Chef Panko and I had in common, however, was that we wanted to provide our audiences with information and recommendations that we believed in – that is, brands that really were as good as we said they were. For the sake of honesty, transparency, and integrity.

Although our mission may seem simple and straightforward enough, the difficulty we faced – and the one that many distributors and chefs were facing at the time – was that the market was flooded with manufacturers selling cheap knives of poor quality.

That is, not only were their prices low, but they were also made with poor materials, poor (or outdated) processes, and they often used low quality workmanship. To add insult to injury, much of the industry advertised these low-quality knives as lemon-juicer products, thus scamming people into believing that they were buying the real deal.

Thus, my and Chef Panko’s mission (although we weren’t working together at the time) was to sift through the scams and poor-quality products to hopefully find something worth endorsing.

You already know that we did indeed find a brand that fit these criteria – Xinzuo – but perhaps now it’ll be clearer to you why certain aspects of the brand were so attractive to us.

First, the quality of materials – so many competitors used poor quality materials in an attempt to cut corners, but Xinzuo used genuine materials and managed to do so at prices that weren’t horrendous.

Second, it was immediately clear that the leadership at Xinzuo knew what they were doing, as their workmanship was of the best quality and their manufacturing processes (including heat and cold treatment and quality control) were also up to scratch.

Third, their prices were realistic. Xinzuo wasn’t charging an arm and a leg for their products (so they were affordable), but they also weren’t selling them for next to nothing. Their prices were fair and accurately reflected the time, money, and work that went into creating them. This leads us to our final point.

Transparency. One of the most infuriating parts of this mission was how many brands and products I came across that were nothing more than fake, and Chef Panko had a similar experience. He even wrote an article entitled “Beware of Fake Japanese Knife Scams”, warning consumers of the issue at hand and providing advice on how to identify a potential scam.

But Xinzuo was all about honesty and transparency – from the very beginning, they openly advertised their knives as being manufactured in China, not Japan, despite the connotations that go along with Chinese-made products. Not only did this prove their honesty, but it also demonstrated to me their belief in their own products. They didn’t feel that they needed to lie about their knives to sell them. They clearly thought that the quality of their products would speak for itself. Now that’s a brand I can get behind!

But now that we’ve spoken about transparency and honest advertising, it’s time to get into the details of why I, the Bamboo Guy, am such an avid supporter of Xinzuo.

Who is Xinzuo, the Great Knife Maker?

Xinzuo is based in Yangjiang City, which happens to be China’s major manufacturing and exporting hub for food and kitchen utensils. And it’s no surprise that Yangjiang is such a major destination for all things related to kitchen utensils, knives and scissors especially. In fact, the city’s history of manufacturing knives and scissors dates back more than 1,400 years, and Yangjian is even known by some as “The City of Knives”. Thus, it makes sense that Xinzuo, a knife making company with aspirations of being the best of the best in China, is based in the city known for its excellence in knife making.

Xinzuo has been in business for 20-odd years, using this time to not only build up and establish their brand, but most importantly, research the best and most effective materials and methods of manufacturing. In fact, research isn’t just a minor part of what they do – part of the philosophy at Xinzuo is that doing research into knife making techniques and materials is the best way they can ensure that they’re producing the best possible products.

Indeed, they’d rather put their money and effort into research and development, rather than simply advertising their brand. They want the utility and effectiveness of their products to speak for itself, rather than having to spend too much money promoting and advertising.

Thus, it goes without saying that the culture of false advertising and misrepresentation that has run rampant in the industry in recent years isn’t something they’re willing to take part in, and that’s what makes them trustworthy and reliable brand.

Xinzuo’s Journey as a Brand and Knife Manufacturer

When Xinzuo first started, they were an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), which means that they were producing knives that were sold to other companies who were then allowed to rebrand them and sell and market them as their own. Indeed, Xinzuo had no control over the narrative told by the third party companies or the truth behind the stories they created to support their brands.

Thus, if one of these companies decided to advertise their knives as having been produced in Japan by an authentic Japanese producer, they’d be able to do it without repercussions.

The other thing was that these companies would normally buy the knives from Xinzuo for a lot cheaper than other high-quality knives, and then mark them up by 30% or more, to be on par with other knives on the market (most commonly the fake Japanese Knife

Today, Xinzuo still works as an OEM, but not exclusively, and that’s what drew me to them. I decided that I would sell and market their knives as a Xinzuo product, sold by the Bamboo Guy, at similarly low prices at which I am able to purchase them. I share Xinzuo’s philosophy of transparency, so I am just as open about the products’ origins, manufacturing process, and so on.

Keeping the prices low means that their products are far more affordable, making excellent Japanese Knife far more accessible to ordinary people. And if we follow Chef Panko’s philosophy here, the idea of wanting more people to enjoy and get involved in cooking, then accessibility is a great step towards achieving that.

Xinzuo on the International Stage

When it comes to maintaining relevance and being competitive on the international stage, Xinzuo is well aware of both their strengths and potential weaknesses. Indeed, in talking to them, I established that they had two important goals – first, they had identified that they needed to be the best knife designer and manufacturer in China.

But, more importantly, to really make a name for themselves and move beyond national competition, they needed to be able to compete with knife makers from Japan, the USA, France, and Germany.

Unsurprisingly, the international competition is stiff, but Xinzuo believed that their brand and philosophy offered them the opportunity to offer high-quality products at lower prices. Thus, they’d be merely competitive in terms of producing great knives, but they had a real opportunity to become a preferred brand due to their combination of good quality and low prices.

Indeed, Chef Panko was quite firm in his belief that the unique design of Xinzuo’s products and the excellent quality of their manufacturing really did set them apart from some of the best international brands.

“After seeing some of the grinds combined with the unique design and good heat treatment, I believe that they have surpassed even some manufacturers outside of China.” – Chef Panko

One specific component of their design and manufacturing that Xinzuo has identified as a strength is their use and processing of Chinese metals – they’ve been able to treat them in a way that hasn’t been done as successfully in the past, which allows them to reap the rewards of the low cost of Chinese metals (as opposed to other types) while simultaneously achieving quality that rivals more traditional materials from other parts of the world.

However, it doesn’t end there – the philosophy at Xinzuo is that there’s always room for improvement, hence the importance they place on constant and continuous research. They are simultaneously working on making their Chinese metals better, while experimenting with other types of metals from all over the globe. In fact, in some cases, they’re actually negotiating to try and achieve exclusive importing rights to specific types of metals. Recently, they’ve added high-quality metals from Japan, Austria, Sweden, and Germany to their list of top-quality materials.

Metals Xinzuo is Importing from Foreign Countries

If you’re interested in the nitty gritty, here are some of the specific products they’ve started using include along with a few of each material’s most important properties. Note that HRC refers to the Rockwell Scale – it refers to the “hardness” of the metal of the knife.

Japan ZD 189 Hardness (HRC) 65-67

  • Made in Japan
  • HRC: 65-67
  • High-quality stainless steel
  • High in chromium and carbon
  • Extremely hard
  • Resistant to corrosion and wear
  • Mostly used to make premium kitchen knives

Japan SRS 13 Hardness (HRC) 62-63

  • Made in Japan
  • HRC: 62-63
  • Top-quality powder metallurgy martensitic stainless steel
  • Enriched with vanadium, molybdenum, and tungsten
  • Can be heat treated to HRC 64
  • Has the potential to be extremely sharp and fast-cutting
  • High chromium content
  • Resistant to corrosion

Japan AUS 10 Hardness (HRC) 62-63

  • Made in Japan
  • HRC: 62-63
  • High chromium content (up to 13%)
  • Versatile
  • Resistant to corrosion
  • High performance and durable

Austria Bohler M390 Hardness (HRC) 60

  • Martensitic chromium steel
  • Manufactured using powder metallurgy techniques
  • Resistant to wear and corrosion
  • HRC: 60
  • Versatile

Sweden Sandvik 14C28N Steel Hardness (HRC) 60

  • Manufactured by Sandvik (esteemed Swedish knife maker) in Sweden
  • High chromium content
  • HRC: 60
  • Resistant to corrosion

German Din 1.4116 Steel Harness (HRC) 56

  • Stainless steel renowned for its martensitic microstructure
  • Manufactured in Germany
  • HRC: 56
  • Resistant to corrosion
  • Tough but low in hardness and edge retention

Not only is Xinzuo focused on meeting international quality standards, but they’ve also established their own quality management system. Using the latest and most advanced design and technological concepts, Xinzuo is committed to researching and developing top-notch knives. Their research is centered on types of steel, craftsmanship, handle structure, blade cutting, blade thickness, and blade angle.

With these things in mind, let’s dive right into Xinzuo’s 12-step production process that allows for their knives to be of the best quality

Xinzuo’s 12-Step Production Process to Produce Excellent Quality Knives

Xinzuo’s 12-step production process includes the most important aspects of knife making.

1. Blade Shape Cutting

The process is started by sheet. This is done by means of one of two techniques – laser cutting or press cutting. The former offers enhanced versatility and it’s renowned for being well-suited to the production of smaller batches. The latter, however, requires the development of a unique stamp mold for each knife shape, making it more suitable for the production of larger batches.

2. Thermal Hardening with Vacuum Heat Treatment and Deep Freeze

The second step of the process is centered on the all-important issue of heat treatment. During this step, the blade of the knife undergoes a thermal hardening process. This involves several techniques, including annealing, tempering, case hardening, precipitation strengthening, and high temperature hardening. When I spoke to representatives at Xinzuo, they explained the process: “All our Stainless Steel is done with vacuum heat treatment and deep freezer. That is very important for the steel, many of the factories do not do the deep freezer. Deep freezer makes the steel 20-30% better.” Peter Ling Thus, the combination of vacuum heat treatment and deep freezing is one of many parts of Xinzuo’s process that makes their knives as exceptional as they are.

3. Bolster Welding

The bolster is the part of the magnetic-knife, and the process that is followed to weld the bolster to the blade must be done expertly and precisely. Xinzuo uses precise electrical welding to fuse the two steels to create a solid, unified knife.

4. Grazing: Blade Leveling and Edge Polishing

To level and refine the surface of the blade, the tip is carefully and skillfully polished, using specific polishing materials. The aim is to achieve a smooth and sleek curvature that is reminiscent of a clamshell. After this, the blade undergoes further polishing, known as grazing, to be even more refined.

5. Surface Blade Polishing

Surface blade polishing – which is different to the aforementioned process of polishing the knife edge – is essential for achieving the desired bevel structure, as well as revealing the original color of the steel that’s being used. The initial stage of polishing is done using a water mill, followed by fine polishing with a rubber wheel. This results in a glossy knife face. Various polishing techniques are used, including sanding, mirror light, and bright Light – these allow manufacturers to achieve different effects and obtain the distinctive patterns that can be seen on Xinzuo’s Damascus kitchen knives.

6. Abrasive Blasting and Acid Etching

To enhance the visibility and clarity of the classic Damascus patterns, knife makers spray fine glass particles onto the surface of the blade. This highlights the differences in surface roughness between the softer and harder parts of the stainless-steel material, therefore emphasizing the Damascus pattern. Then, acid etching is used to further achieve the Damascus steel patterns – this is done using a chemical reaction between an acidic agent solution and the steel of the knife blade.

7. Whetstone Sharpening

Xinzuo uses a specific method of whetstone sharpening that has been adopted for heat generation during the process. The process involves continuously grinding the blade against the whetstone while simultaneously pouring water over it. Since the grinding motion causes friction, this results in the generation of excessive heat which can have a negative effect on the sharpening process and the eventual quality of the blade. It also results in improved smoothness and sharpness of the blade.

8. Assembling

The assembling process is all dependent on the type of knife and blade, but generally speaking, it’s the process whereby the handle is secured to the bolster and the blade using screws or glue. This step is an important part of achieving a tool that is stable, balanced, and durable.

9. Handle Polishing

Handle polishing is, unsurprisingly, all about aesthetics, but it’s important nonetheless. It involves meticulous polishing of the handle itself as well as the bolster and any screws. The purpose of polishing the handle is to remove any irregularities on the surface of the handle and to ensure that all parts are level. This is where attention to detail is absolutely crucial.

10. Logo Application

Once again, logo application is all about aesthetics, but in this sense, looking good and professional is a direct reflection of the Xinzuo brand as a whole. Thus, it’s equally as important as any of the other parts of the manufacturing process. Several methods can be used for logo application – including laser printing electric spark, or embossing. Choosing between these different methods really comes down to cost and the look you’re going for – your logo represents your brand and your business, so this personalized touch is essential.

11. Inspection

Once the knives are pretty much complete, Xinzuo introduces their inspection protocol – one of many reasons why they’re able to produce such high-quality and consistent knives.

Thorough inspections of product samples from each batch are conducted to check on their quality and consistency. This testing is done in a specialized laboratory full of advanced equipment that allows experts to assess the most important factors of their knives – sharpness, cutting angle, hardness, salt spray resistance (for corrosion), and many other important parameters.

At Xinzuo, this is done on a batch-by-batch basis so that they can ensure that the knives within every production batch meet their stringent high standards.

12. Packaging

Once every step has been completed and the knives have successfully passed the final inspection, they are carefully packaged (remember, they’re incredibly sharp, so even packaging them requires the greatest of care). They’re all packaged into little gift boxes before being sent on their way to keen customers.

Parting Thoughts on Xinzuo Knives

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Xinzuo knives and the Xinzuo brand as a whole. As the Bamboo Guy, I am a steadfast believer in selling and promoting products that I truly believe in, and although I’ve faced challenges in finding a knife manufacturer that suits my slogan – ”The Best For Less, Shipped to Your Door” – having finally found Xinzuo has made the wait worthwhile.

Not only do Xinzuo knives strike the perfect balance between achieving excellent quality and being available at affordable prices, but the company is committed to conducting ongoing research into the best materials and manufacturing processes. They also value transparency and integrity, and I believe that I have found a business whose philosophy and ethics mirror my own.

Shop our favorite selection of Xinzuo and Hezhen Damascus knives today with the Bamboo Guy, while knowing you are buying the best Quality to price that both me and Chef Pankow can find in China.

Rob Eastman

The Bamboo Guy

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