Broadly, knives are categorized into Carbon and Stainless steels and each one has pros and cons. Generally, carbon steel is harder than Stainless so it has longer lifetime for use. It is also superior in sharpness and edge retention.
As for the downside carbon steel is prone to rust and not suited to cut highly acidic foods such as lemon, apple, etc. Therefore, it requires the users to follow a proper maintenance practice.
On the other hand, stainless steel is strong with rust, hygienic and easy to maintain. It is also easy to sharpen however it has lower edge retention and has shorter lifetime for use.
The following are general type of steels used in Japanese knives.
Manufactured by Hitachi Metals,Ltd. Contains Carbon 1.3%, Manganese 0.25%, Rockwell Hardness 61-64 HRC. Very hard material made from fine particle pure carbon. It is commonly used for Honyaki knives which are made with traditional method of sword blacksmithing.
The same composition of White-1 steel but has lower hardness.
Manufactured by Hitachi Metals,Ltd. Contains Carbon 1.3%, adding tungsten 1.5% and Chromium 0.4% to White steel.Rockwell Hardness 61-64 HRC.
Thanks to those additional carbides, Blue steel achieved higher durability than White steel. It is also used for Honyaki knives for those seeking superlative quality.
The same composition of Blue-1 steel but has lower hardness.
Manufactured by Hitachi Metals,Ltd. Contains Carbon 1.4%, adding Molybdenum 0.4% and Vanadiumto Blue steel.Rockwell Hardness 61-65 HRC.
As well as having highest durability and hardness, it can be sharpened to the maximum thinness for superlative sharpness. It requires top-class skills to quench this steel therefore only few master blacksmiths can make Blue steel super knives.
Steel used for general industrial tools. It is often used for knives with economical choices but has better sharpness than stainless knives in the same price line.
Most Japanese knives that do not mention the type of steel are likely to fall into this category.
|Type of Carbon Steel||HRC reference (the higher, the better in sharpness, edge retention and longer lifetime)||Price reference for general chef's knife 21cm|
|Blue Steel Super||61-65||$$$$$ ($800-1500)|
|Blue Steel 1 and 2||61-64||$$$$ ($500-1200)|
|White Steel 1 and 2||61-64||$$$ ($300-800)|
|Standard Japanese SK Steel||58-60||$$ ($100-200)|
Manufactured by Hitachi Metals,Ltd. Contains Carbon 1.05%, Chromium 13%, Manganese 0.8%, Rockwell Hardness 59-62 HRC.
Highest quality stainless steel with similar characteristics to carbon steel. Made from very pure, fine particle components. Ensures best performance among other stainless steel knives.
Manufactured by Takefu Special Steel Co.,Ltd. Contains Carbon 1%, Chromium 15%, Molybdenum 1 %, Vanadium0.2%, Cobalt 1.4%, Manganese 0.5%, Rockwell Hardness 58-62 HRC.
Quality Stainless steel that is recently introduced to the market, used for variety of industrial tools.
Because of cobalt added, it can be quenched in very high temperature so that it has superior hardness. Strong to wear, distort and corrode as well as good sharpness and edge retention.
Manufactured by Takefu Special Steel Co.,Ltd. Contains Carbon 0.95%, Chromium 14%, Molybdenum 0.30 %, less than 0.25 % of Nickel.
High concentrated carbon with molybdenum added. Strong to wear, distort and rust. It has similar characteristics to VG10 steel knives.
Known as Swedish steel. Contains Carbon 1%, Chromium 14%, Molybdenum 1 %, Vanadium0.2%, Rockwell Hardness 59-61 HRC. Misono uses this steel for their high-end knife range. It is similar characteristics to VG10 steel but has lower hardness because of no cobalt added.
|Type of Stainless Steel||HRC reference (the higher, the better in sharpness, edge retention and longer lifetime)||Price reference for general chef's knife 21cm|
|VG10 and VG1||59-60||$$ ($100-200)|
We recently received Jikko’s new knives “Ginsan Kiritsuke” and tried one for myself. I would like to tell you its outstanding performance!
I have tried all knives at Kaz’s, both cutting in the kitchen and sharpening on a whetstone. I found all of them are joy to use. However, this Ginsan Kiritsuke is special.
First of all, it is very comfortable to use. The one I use (Gyuto 23cm) has lovely weight and easy grip that makes my prep really easy. The sharpness exceeds my VG10 Damascus Gyuto and it’s got ultimate sharpness after #12000 whetstone.
I think this level of sharpness is not achieved by VG10 steel but Ginsanko (silver-3 steel). According to the specification of Ginsanko, it contains Carbon 1.05%, Chromium 13%, Manganese 0.8%, Rockwell Hardness 59-62HRC. Frankly, Ginsan knives got very similar hardness and sharpness to Carbon steel knives. It is the best stainless knife I’ve ever used!
In fact, Ginsan knives are widely used by professional Japanese cuisine chefs in Japan. If you are looking at the superlative sharpness in a stainless chef’s knife, this is absolutely the choice. Try one!
(1) Forge welding
Bonding the jigane (malleable iron) and the blade (carbon steel). The red-hot metal jigane is beaten and fired together with the blade...
Steps for sharpening kitchen knives such as Deba, Sashimi, Usuba, etc.
1. Sharpen the tip of the knife
2. Sharpen the whole cutting edge from the tip of the knife to the heel of the blade
3. Remove the burr
4. Kobatsuke (for intermediate and advanced users)...
Steps for sharpening kitchen knives such as Santoku, Gyuto, Petty
1. Sharpen the tip of the knife
2. Sharpen the whole front surface from the tip to the blade heel
3. Sharpen the whole back surface from the tip to the blade heel
4. Remove the burr
5. Kobatsuke (intermediate and advanced users)...