I can gaze over the myriad of knives I have in my collection.  I collect, write, use and appreciate fine cutlery. Many times I reach for a cleaver or Chinese chefs knife. In this section I will be opening your mind to the use of the cleaver in the culinary arts.  The word cleaver itself means "to split". 

My Wusthofs represent the Western thinking, My block of Shuns represent mainstream cutlery for the Eastern mind. For charity gigs, I have some original Henckels, a traditional 8" Chef and a Parer, a Forshner Chef, Boner and parer, Chicago Cutlery 8x3 cleaver, and some Japanese Sushi, Sashimi, Nakiri, and Santoku lightweights for travel in a Sears tool box.  

And in another location I have my work table and chopping block, which holds my cleavers on a magnet. Cleavers don't get along with storage blocks well since most don't fit into blocks. Thats what magnets are for as long as children aren't allowed in prep areas of your kitchen and mounted eye high, your eye.

I have a fascination for these things probably after watching Chinese Chef Martin Yan years ago dismembering a chicken in well, eighteen seconds flat. It is still not the record.  

Another world class Chef named Hung Huynh on Top Chef was also fast, not as neat, but fast. All I can see is flying chicken. I imagined one landing on someones head during the stunt. If I tried it, the only fast part would be the trip to the ER to sew my fingers back on. If I had the patience of the celebrated French Chefs who do cranial surgery on a chicken I would starve to death by the time we cooked them.  Note: Do have some fun watching the YouTubes on this as they surprisingly do show the correct way to "Johnny Five" "NO DISASSEMBLE" a chicken.  Most chefs use this classic approach.

•  First the leg and thigh, break at the hip bone joint, cut apart. 
•  Find the breast bone dual slice the breast on both sides of the bone, slice off.
•  Remove wings last, throw the rest in the stock pot. 

Took me longer to type than the time he took when he dismembered the chicken. I think I heard him say at a demo, "After I did ten thousand chickens I got faster".  Oh well, nine thousand, three hundred, seventy-five to go.

He is a man of many quotes one which made so much sense to me…  A quote should be truth, this is...GOTTA LOVE THIS   "Because normally with Western cuisine, you'll serve vegetables separate from the meat, so kids will eat the meat and never touch the vegetables".   

Wisdom does not have territorial, spiritual, physiological nor racial, the only border for wisdom is truth".  I said that and approved my own statement.


Man has always been interested in dismembering. The typical butcher cleaver used in the West is a beast designed to break bones, and to partition larger cuts of meat especially those with grizzle.  

Usually the grind does not exceed 22-1/2 degrees. Its weight and momentum do the job.  And usually no time for sharpening. A bench sander or grinder is usually a food plant or butcher shops friend.  It plowed on, and with proper sharpening, to retain angle values and last forever. It is a workhorse. Do not try show off with this tool, it can be lethal. 

The butcher's cleaver is not for fine cutting or chopping. Never sharpen them to a razor's edge, they can chip because they are brittle when sharpened. Cleavers have a hole because they were usually hung from a meat hook, or a hook on the butcher's belt. Osha probably chocked on that idea.  Many self wounds were inflicted when worn on the belt combined with music piped in and something like the MACARENA or the Brazilian LAM-BADA was being played.

The machete used in all parts of the world from Cuba south is also a viable food tool being used on coconuts to veggies. When not breaking trails it does a great job on Puerto Rican Pork right off the whole pig in Caicay, PR. as witnessed on the Anthony Bourdain show on the food network.  Beautiful slices of roast pork fell to the blade and served local style right at the beach. 

Shorter machetes throughout the world are used in the culinary arts but you might not see things the way these country chefs see things. The Western hemisphere developed the machete, which served the jungle, the Eastern world compressed it in size and shape to serve the palate. 

The Chinese cleaver is made in a myriad of sizes, blade widths, metallurgy, handle design and purpose. In China and most Eurasian countries there are also style points such as seen on Thai Knives. Regardless it is the tool of choice likened to a Swiss Army Knife.

They look like a butcher's cleaver, usually with no hole for hanging, since it never stops working, but it doesn't mean you can use it to chop bones. The larger heavier cleavers are made for this act with thick blades that are not very sharp; they are meant to be used for splitting bone. 

Chinese Cleavers are the Asian version of the French chef knife. Again, they should not be used for chopping bone, they are slicers and treat them as you would a chef knife.

The Chinese used the cleaver since the beginning of time and the Japanese combined it with their metallurgy and created some really nice cleavers of their own.  I know some members of the Knife Sharpening guild probably could shave with theirs. The basic Japanese Nakiri style is thought of an ultra light cleaver design. Another favorite tool of mine. I'll start with a traditional Chinese made cleaver with a non-traditional history, the knives of Maestro WU - the KINMEM story.

The Kinmen Knife (金門菜刀) is a knife exclusively made in Kinmen County in Fuchien Province of the Republic of China. The knives are made from the remains of artillery shells fired by the U.S. and Allied forces in World War II, and by mainland China between 1958 and 1978. As many as 500,000 bombs were dropped on Kinmen during the war.  


The second shipment arrived during the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, the People's Liberation Army of the People's Republic of China fired around 450,000 shells at the Quemoy Islands in its conflict against the Republic of China which controls the islands. The shells have become a natural resource of steel for the local economy.  

This amounted to a very expensive way to deliver raw steel of good quality including stainless compounds. For those who "bablically" wish to explain this, we promote and researched the theory of "Beating Swords Into Plowshares".  Great statues exist to this premise. Swords to plowshares is a concept in which military weapons or technologies are converted for peaceful civilian applications.

The phrase originates from the Book of Isaiah, who prophesies of a future Messianic Age where there will be peace amongst all humankind:  It reads: They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. — (Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3).

In a more modern context the only thing we need to do is beat the daylights out of our politicians so they will not start wars and thus the abundance of raw steel.

Each shell usually took out a building or bunker adding to the cost of each shell in damage and casualties.  Thats the usual bottom line in war.  Kinmen, found itself a storage center for high-quality steel. The industrious Chinese being basically steel and iron users and needing all they could find turned this windfall into the hands of knife-maker Wu Tseng-Dong. Kinmen had a new business.


As far as culinary tools go, they are quite well made, after all most countries put some of our best steel into artillery shells, as we do with all weapons of war. Hopefully they will stay in storage. A knife is only as good as what it is made of, not who swears by it, as we have many cheap knives out there with endorsements by celebrity chefs.  I summed it up by saying it appears the tribute gained or earned tribute in return.

My only concern is if somewhere in that pile of shells is a misfire,bingo or hot shell that has laid dormant for fifty years. Hopefully it is not. I live in Tampa Bay Florida which was an aerial training base for WWII pilots and every couple years some long lost obscure live 500 pound bomb surfaces and the bomb team from MacDill comes out and blows it up. They won't even move them, too unstable. Last year one of our shrimp boats captured a missile in it's nets. Fortunately, it was a test inert model only filled with propellant, not explosives.

Quemoy has become famous for its production of "boom-boom cleavers" as they are nicknamed. A single shell, these are heavy 155 mm casings, I know I loaded a few, generally produces 60 cleavers from one bomb shell. They do a good tourist trade for the kitchen and for the souvenir market. With all the bombs on hand they will run out in 2096.

Wu Tseng-dong, as the third-generation owner of the Chin Ho Li Steel Knife Factory, currently markets its knives under the label of "Maestro Wu," goes back much further than 1958. Knifemaking , the art relates to his ancestor, Wu Tsong-shan, late 19th century.


These knives are hand forged steel. Smelted down to a red yellow mass and using his knowledge of hand working steel, he literally rough shapes a billet of the steel.  He flattens it on a mechanical hammer through several stages, flattens it and shapes it more, rolls and works it into shape for the hand grinding and shaping process.

He was quoted as saying , this is a learned skill. "We must judge the heat of the steel very accurately, and the color of the red hot steel tells us what we need to know".  I thought to myself, heres one thing the computer doesn't know or does it? 



These knives are still hand forged, ground, shaped and sharpened.  Walk into any kitchen in the world where real Chinese food is prepared, and you'll most likely find only 3 knives - A Vegetable Cleaver, a Meat Cleaver and a fruit knife. All variants differing in size, width and shape.

I love cleavers, the lighter, vegetable slicers and a midsize. I'm not prepping Pork carcasses in my kitchen. Some of the vegetable slicers look like square carving knives. Again, another variant or style. 

In 1998 the Maestro WU cleavers and others designs went to Western style knives for export.  One or two companies seems to have the stock in whats called the "Maestro Wu" lineup.  

Today Mr. Wu continues his craft and sells his knives internationally. He is respected worldwide for his ingenuity. Visitors to his shop can actually assign a shell and observe a knife being forged from it. 

His knives are collected by knife enthusiasts for their quality and their interesting and meaningful history. 

The collection includes both the "Bombshell" and "Damascus" lines. 

window because I get asked a lot of times what is a Reed Knife? Reed knives are used for cutting the "Reeds" used in wind instruments, like the Oboe, Brasson, Clarinet, and it's a whole other story.veg300.jpg"Chef Knives To Go" did have some seconds on sale but they appeared to go quickly.  Another source is Jende Industries LLC. who are known for their custom Reed Knives.  This opens another 


I strongly suggest you call these two vendors first and see if what you wish is in stock and or available. Both sites have videos and other photos of what available in these unique blades.

There are many manufacturers featuring these knives today as the vegetable cleaver became popular as a universal tool in the kitchen.

It can do more than some of the other styles and in the hand of a competent chef is both handy for what it can do and fast.  


1)  Basically there are two weights or styles, a meat splitter/cleaver and a vegetable slicer/prep tool. One of each will do almost all kitchen tasks.

2)  Every part of the knife is put to use. 

•  The sharp edge of the blade is used for cutting.
•  The blunter top edge is used to pound and tenderize meat. 
•  Turned on its side, the cleaver is an excellent tool for smashing garlic and ginger. 
•  You can even use it to transfer food from cutting board to wok. 
•  An added bonus is that the flat end of the handle nicely substitutes for a pestle.

These brands all make fine Chinese Chefs Knives. We liked for the way they worked and in some cases the value for the frugal buyer. Cleavers are fairly priced, not unreasonable unless you get into the high end named brands. 

Forshner -Probably has one of the largest selections of cleavers, I have two of theirs. One with a wood handle and one with a slightly heavier handle. These are very reasonable and you can get a decent one starting at 24.00 up to 80.00 on Amazon. This one has a standard poly handle, the one higher up on the page has the round handle, and I have them in wood and nonslip. excellent buys for the money.

Chicago Cutlery - I still have my Chicago cutlery cleaver I purchased thirty-five (or more) years ago. It is laying on my block on the page for small kitchens. I think it is now is the oldest knife I own and still does a great job every day.

Henckels - The Classic Base model Henckels shown does a nice job. It is one of the few slicing cleavers with a hook hole.

This cleaver is a Chinese Chef's Knife and is designed to be used in the same manner as a traditional chef's knife.Shun - This is so nice and pretty you almost want to hang it on a wall and not use it.  At $180.00, I'd agree. This is the top of the line in slicers.  

It is NOT a traditional cleaver that is designed to cut through bone, or take heavy blows / chops. If you are looking for one of those, look at some of the other brands. This is not the tool for that type of job.  The steel and construction are top drawer.

Wusthof - The classic is a bit pricey but does a good job. Wustof makes about ten different cleavers and slicers. By now you should know the difference. They range in price from the 80.00 dollar range to "off the wall". But they cover the range and you can get what your precise style dictates.

CCK lines in Carbon and CRES steel are very popular. The pure or plain carbon steel ones can and do rust and require a special amount of attention yet yield possibly the sharpest blades of all.  Chinese Cleavers - With a cult following some of the cleavers like the 

() is a famous brand of Chinese professional kitchen knives used in Chiuchow and Cantonese Cuisine.  This is like a cult and some Chinese Nationals (I actually saw the Chinese Chef at the Luxor using one chopping ribs faster then i could comprehend) they won't use anything else and don't share. Chan Chi Kee CCK

Chan Chi Kee offers:  A Kitchen Slicer, Kitchen Chopper, Kau Kong Chopper, Dim Sum Knife, BBQ Chopper, Bone Chopper, Vegetable Knife, Duck Slicer,Butcher's Knife, Butcher's Bone Chopper, Butcher's Knife, Scraping Knife, Chinese Cleaver.

Note: Most of the CCK knives come with wooden , steel, or plastic handles. If you buy them for yourself we strongly recommend using knives with wooden handles. 

Chinese foods and Western Foods are prepared totally different, if you’d like to use knives with steel handles or plastic handles fine, but wood is preferred by Chinese chefs. 

He offers all types, just Google CCK Cleavers on the web.  Please make sure you know that CCK's knives with steel handles and plastic handles don't offer immediate shipping, sometimes knives with wooden handles get sold out, they need about 7 days to prepare the knives for you.

copyright 2011