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Getting an edge on the enemy

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By far the most unique of Kinmen souvenirs – and the most telling of its recent history – is the amazing range of cutlery forged and fashioned from melted-down artillery encasements left over from mainland attacks. With more than 970,000 shells having pounded Kinmen over a twenty-year period, there is a seemingly endless supply of raw materials, and industrious locals have learnt how to make a living from designing knives, meat cleavers, axes and even swords from the spent casings.

Although you’ll find the cutlery for sale in shops all over Jincheng, usually starting at about NT$900 for a basic knife or meat cleaver, the creations of Maestro Wu’s Steel Knives (金合利鋼刀; jīn hé lì gāng dāo) are widely considered the finest; pen-knives are NT$900, with up to NT$2200 for the best cleavers. Founder Wu Chao Hsi, son of an iron caster who learned tool-making techniques in Xiamen during the Qing dynasty, carried on the family tradition with Allied bomb shells in World War II, and continued during the years of mainland bombardment, transforming the exploded casings into magnificent instruments (after 1958 he used mostly propaganda shells that only partly broke up). His business continues to thrive under third-generation Wu Tseng-dong, drawing on Japanese designs, with outlets all over Kinmen and a glitzy showroom on a small square just off Juguang Road (51 Wujiang St), just outside the Qing Dynasty Military Headquarters, and a store at 21 Mofan St. The showroom is a good place to buy the cutlery, and staff can arrange tours of their workshops.

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