The manufacturing process starts with raw materials: water, ceramic powder and ceramic milling balls. These ingredients are mixed in a large drum, just like a giant concrete mixer, that creates uniform particles of the same size. This device, referred to as a mill, creates a liquid slurry, and the particles in the slurry are all about one micrometer in diameter, which is one thousand times smaller than a millimeter!
The next stage of manufacturing involves a spray dryer, which dehydrates this slurry to create a very fine granulated powder, which is used to fill specially designed ceramic knife molds. Every manufacturer has its own molds to create ceramic hunting knives, ceramic kitchen knives and many other ceramic goods.
Once the molds are filled, it's put under a great deal of pressure at 1 ton per square centimeter, which solidifies the powder into an incredibly strong knife. The knife is fired and sintered next in a large kiln, just like the type you may have used in a ceramics class in school, but it must be done under a very precise temperature.
This firing process in the kiln causes a lot of shrinkage, and the blade of a ceramic knife shrinks nearly 75% of its original size, and the volume is reduced by around 50%. As you can imagine, the shrinkage rates need to be carefully calculated during the design stage to ensure the finished product matches the original design specifications.
Once the knife blade is fired, it's ground using a diamond wheel to give it a very sharp edge, and then a handle is attached and it's ready for sale. Ceramic kitchen knives and other blades have to be ground using a diamond wheel, as diamond is the only thing harder than ceramic.
If you've ever seen black ceramic knives, they go through the exact same manufacturing process except these black-HIP blades are produced from black zirconium oxide, which makes them stronger, and they're fired again with a process called hot-isostatic press, which makes the weave between the molecules even tighter.
There are many ceramic knife manufacturers today, but the hardness of the many knives available varies because of two very important variables: the amount of pressure and heat used during manufacturing. With precision comes a superior knife, so it pays to buy from a manufacturer who puts time into the process.
As for the blade sharpness, this really comes down to the effort and time put into the sharpening process. A high-quality ceramic knife produced with careful attention to the pressure and heat can be sharpened much finer without the risk of chips, while low-quality knives are not sharpened a great deal because the manufacturer risks chips and breaks.
Ceramic knives offer advantages you simply can't get with traditional steel blades, including a superior cutting edge and a lighter blade. It owes these advantages to the hardness of the material as well as this time-consuming and expensive manufacturing process.
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