Steel Types

A Closer Look at Knife Sharpening and Steel Types

Some Things To Consider Before Making Your Next Purchase 


The art of knife sharpening is deeply influenced by the knife's construction and, notably, the type of steel used for the blade. In the realm of kitchen knives, the choice of steel dramatically influences the blade's performance, lifespan, and most importantly, its ability to be sharpened. Let’s delve into eight of the most esteemed types of steel used in kitchen knives and discover the unique properties they bring to your culinary experience, focusing on sharpening.


Regarded for its toughness, durability, and resistance to wear, AUS-8, a Japanese stainless steel, is hardened typically to 58-59 HRC. Note that the hardness of the steel largely determines its sharpness potential and how long the blade will stay sharp. This level of hardness is versatile, making AUS-8 a favorite among brands like Sakai Takayuki, and a joy to sharpen.


Aogami, or "Blue Steel," is carbon steel of extremely high quality. It is composed of Tungsten and Chromium, contributing to exceptional hardness and edge retention. These attributes correlate with how long the sharpened edge lasts before dulling, an important consideration for professional chefs. If sharpened correctly, this knife can elevate any cooking experience, a secret well known to handmade knife makers such as Takeshi Saji.


Shirogami, or "White Steel," is a high-carbon steel that stands out for its purity and capability to achieve an incredibly fine edge. The benefit of pure steel involves less impurity rolling over the blade's edge, allowing for a sharper knife. Japanese knife makers such as Shigeki Tanaka commonly use this steel, understanding the balance between maintaining this delicate pure edge and sharpening frequency.


VG-10 is a variant of the renowned stainless steel. Offering a reliable balance between hardness, toughness, and edge retention, VG-10 is an uncomplicated steel to sharpen, honing to a beautiful and long-lasting edge. It is not surprising to see VG-10 as a selected choice of steel by many manufacturers, including Shun.


The toughness of VG-MAX in comparison to VG-10, without compromising good edge retention and durability, makes it an excellent choice for the home chef. As a forgiving steel, VG-MAX can withstand more vigorous sharpening sessions, resisting potential chipping at the edge. Brands like Shun utilize this reliable material for its versatility in the sharpening process.


6. SUS410

SUS410 is a stainless steel with moderate corrosion resistance that is suitable for kitchen knives, thanks to its ability to achieve razor sharpness. This type of steel responds well to sharpening, achieving a keen edge perfect for slicing meat and fish. Iseya is one of the brands that often use SUS410 for its ideal sharpening and slicing characteristics.


7. R2/SG2

R2/SG2 is a high-speed powder stainless steel that is corrosion-resistant and provides impressive edge retention, toughness, and sharpness. Its composition allows it to maintain a keen edge even after extensive use, making the sharpening process less frequent but more specific. Renowned brands such as Yu Kurosaki and Yoshimi Kato often choose R2/SG2 for its exceptional properties.


8. ZDP-189

With an exceptional amount of Carbon and Chromium, ZDP-189 is an extremely hard and high-performance steel, ensuring hardness, durability, and corrosion resistance. This hardness translates into astounding potential for sharpness, but with an increased difficulty in sharpening. Skilled sharpening techniques reveal the blade's full potential, a challenge embraced by makers like Yoshihiro.


Remember, the journey to exquisite sharpness starts with understanding your blade. From the nimble strength of AUS-8 to the unforgiving precision of ZDP-189, sharpening is an art deeply influenced by the steel that forms the heart of your kitchen companion – the knife.


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