Recycled into kitchen knives probably isn’t what the Chinese really had in mind for their artillery barrages but it has worked well for Wu Tsong-Shan. The Maestro Wu vegetable cleaver is the perfect slicing and dicing blade for working with small quantities of raw materials when preparing stir-fries and curries.

Between 1958 and 1978, the People’s Republic of China dropped thousands of artillery shells on the Taiwan island of Kinmen. Along with the conventional high explosive rounds, there were also large numbers of shells filled with propaganda leaflets scattered by a smaller charge. Now if you have ever walked around a real battlefield or even a heavily used artillery range, you know the ground is covered with large chunks of rusting shell fragments (inaccurately called “shrapnel” by most people). To local Taiwan knifemaker Wu Tsong-Shan, this seemed to be a cheap and readily available source of high-quality steel going to waste and he soon began to forge blades for the local butchers from the scraps.

The fame of these “bombshell” knives quickly made his shop a must stop for tourists traveling across Kinmen Island. Today, the maker offers a full line of both Asian and Western-style kitchen cutlery under the “Maestro Wu” brand name. To make things even more interesting, Jende Industries (Jende means “real” in Chinese) recently began importing a modest selection of the Maestro Wu knives into the U.S.

The model Jende sent the magazine for evaluation was their “Chinese Vegetable Cleaver.” I think these could more properly be called “Taiwanese Vegetable Cleavers,” as I have never run across this pattern among mainland Chinese kitchen knives. Regular readers may notice the knife is also similar to the Thai-style cleavers I have gone on record as preferring. If I understood a vendor I met in the Chiang Mai public market correctly, the Thai-style knife evolved out of the Taiwanese pattern used by the Chinese community in that country. The Taiwanese knife seems to usually run a little wider than the standard Thai pattern but both offer a bit of point that the standard People’s Republic Chinese cleaver lacks.

Killer Cleaver
Jende’s knife features a 7 x 2-5/8-inch blade of “bombshell” stainless steel. While the cleaver is said to be forged, the maker freely admits to welding the bolsters onto the blade blank. This isn’t really a major problem to me, as the majority of European “forged chef” knives have had welded bolsters for some time. I was wondering about how common the use of stainless steel was in artillery shells as all I’ve ever come in contact with seemed to be some sort of carbon alloy. After some back and forth e-mails between me, Jende and the maker in Taiwan, I was told that the propaganda leaflet shells contained a stainless steel liner that they had found ideal for knife blades.

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