Introduction to Japanese Kitchen Knives Part 2

How to choose a Japanese knives - steels

Part 2- Knife Steels

In part 2 of our Guide to Chef Knives, we will discuss kitchen knife steels, from classic Carbon steel to modern powdered steels.

At Sakai Ichimonji Mitsuhide,

most of our Kitchen knives are made with Japanese Steel.

Steels of Japanese Knives
Material of Japanese Knives

What is Steel ?

Steel at it's simplest , is a combination of Iron and a small amount Carbon. The Carbon makes the Iron stronger and tougher. There are thousands of varieties of steel with various chemical make-ups for different uses.

What is Carbon Steel ?

All steel has Carbon in it, when we say Carbon steel in the kitchen knife industry we mean, a steel that has little to no elements which protect it from corrosion.

Japanese Carbon steel can often have many other elements in the mix to improve performance.

What is Stainless Steel ?

Stainless steel is a steel that has some level of resistance to corrosion ( such as rust ), usually at least 10% Chromium, but in modern steels there are various other elements that help prevent rust also.

The Most Common Japanese Carbon Steels for Knives

Japanese manufacturers produce a variety of Carbon Steels for Kitchen knives , at Sakai Ichimonji Mitsuhide we use the following Carbon Steels in our Knives.

White Steel #1 and White Steel #2

Offers a high hardness and closely resembles traditional Japanese Sword Steel. White #1 and #2 vary only in Carbon Content ( More Carbon means a harder but more brittle blade )

Blue Steel #1 and Blue Steel #2  

Blue Steel #1 is very hard, has a good edge and can make a very fine, thin blade ideal for intricate work. Blue Steel #2 offers higher durability due to a lower Carbon content in the blade.

Blue Super Steel

Has Molybdenum and Vanadium added for durability and higher Carbon content, high end Japanese Chef knives are often made from this steel.


Stainless Steel Japanese Knife

The Most Common Japanese Stainless Steels for Knives

There are many kinds of Japanese Stainless Steels available on the market today, at Sakai Ichimonji Mitsuhide we used mainly the following types.

AUS-6, AUS-8 and AUS-10

The AUS series of Stainless Steels offer excellent all-round performance , they are tough , stainless and not too difficult to re-sharpen.

VG1 and VG10

VG-1 Stainless Steel has good corrosion resistant and can get quite hard when forged well.

VG10 is essentially the newer version of VG1, with Cobalt added making the steel harder.

Material of the blade of Japanese Knives

Are there other Steels ?

Yes, there are more exotic Japanese Steels, made using advanced technology such as "Powder Metallurgy ".

What is "Powder Metallurgy "?

Essentially, raw elements are made into fine powder and

then in exact quantities fused together in a Vacuum Furnace.

This process means the chemical composition of the steel

can be extremely precise and the steel will be very pure.

Japanese Powder Steels include :




Does Steel type matter ?

Yes, when it comes to cutting performance, Carbon Steel knives almost always outperform Stainless steel knives.

But the ease of maintenance with Stainless steel knives is often more important for many home chef's.

Is it the most important aspect of a Japanese Knife ?

No, what's even more important is the quality of the Heat Treatment , tempering and sharpening.

Every aspect of a Japanese Kitchen Knife works in harmony with the other. The craftsmen need to understand how each steel's performance can be maximized.