Silver Steel #3 - Stainless Steel

Silver Steel #3 (sometimes called Gin-san) is a more traditionally styled stainless steel that has been used in the world of Japanese knives for many years. It's a material highly trusted by chefs due to the sharpness it can deliver. This blog goes into more detail about this material, and by the end you'll know if this is the steel for you compared to other stainless or even carbon steels! It's great for those who want a bit of the best of both worlds.

Silver Steel #3 (Gin-san) - A stainless steel similar to Carbon Steel!

Stainless steel inherently possesses a resistance to rust compared to carbon steel thanks to extra materials in its internal composition, but it tends to be slippery on whetstones as a result. This makes sharpening stainless steel knives somewhat difficult.

However, Silver Steel #3 stands out not only for its sharpness but also for its exceptional balance between ease of sharpening and edge retention. It can be considered an exceptionally well-balanced knife steel, especially as a stainless steel.

Of course, the performance of a knife is not solely determined by the material but also by the manufacturing processes behind its creation and forging. The key characteristic of Silver Steel #3 in the world of stainless steels is that "the forging process significantly influences its performance."

In fact, with most commonly used stainless steels, while the forging process may alter the shape of the blade, it has minimal impact on its overall strength. However, in the case of Silver Steel #3, a forging process involving the use of a belt hammer is employed by knife craftsmen. This process helps break down the carbon structure within the steel into fine particles, spreading it through the entire blade.

Silver Steel #3, having a composition similar to carbon steels, such as White Steel #2, benefits greatly from this forging process. It enhances the overall strength of the blade, prolongs its sharpness, facilitates easier sharpening, and results in a blade less prone to chipping. This makes Silver Steel #3 a popular and premium blade. Also, you can still expect to see Damascus finishes on the blade as well, making a truly luxurious piece such as our Silver Steel #3 Wa-Santoku. You'll also see the steel used in knife styles normally reserved for carbon steel knives, such as deba, usuba and yanagiba knives.


Steel Mapping Comparison

Steel material is crucial for indicating a knife's initial performance (amongst many other things related to craftsman ability and more). Below are some comparisons to give you some understanding showing what a particular step of the process does in terms of impacting sharpness, balance and maintainability.

Steel Material Heat Treatment/Forging Edge Sharpening Handle Attachment

Sharpness

Balance

Maintainability

There’s three key pointers in the above chart to focus on.

  • Steel Material has a large impact on sharpness and maintainability (ease of sharpening and resistance to rust).

  • Apart from sharpness, heat treatment and the sharpening process in knife creation also have a large impact on sharpness.

  • Measuring a knife’s strengths is more than just its sharpness. Balance and maintainability also need to be considered.

Based on the above steel mapping chart, Silver Steel #3 falls in this position on the graph below

Japanese Stainless Steel Knife Composition

Compared to Powdered High-Speed Steel, Silver Steel #3 may have slightly less edge retention, but this tradeoff is compensated with significantly easier sharpening. A sharp knife will almost always outperform a dull one, so ease of sharpening is a very key factor in steel choice.

This gives Silver Steel #3 knives the impression of being an amazing all-rounder steel, offering sharpness, edge retention and ease of sharpening while maintaining some rust-resistant properties.

The sharpness and edge retention, plus ease of sharpening - all in a stainless steel!


Composition Comparison

Let’s look at the tables below and explore the composition of Silver Steel #3 more deeply. The secondary tabs reveal some crucial information - or perhaps a lack of in a way.

Manufacturer Steel Name Carbon Silicon Cobalt Phosphorus Sulfur Manganese

Effect of Material

Hardness

Hardness (1/10th of Carbon)
Oxygen Removal

Decarburization Prevention
Toughness
Wear Resistance

Embrittlement

Embrittlement

Removes Sulfur
Toughness

Listed Value

Average

Maximum

Average

Maximum

Maximum

Average

Aichi Steel

AUS6

0.6

1

0.04

0.03

1

Aichi Steel

AUS8

0.75

1

0.04

0.03

0.5

Aichi Steel

AUS10

1.025

1

0.04

0.03

0.5

Takefu Special Steel

VG1

1

0.5

0.03

0.03

0.5

Masahiro x Daido Steel

MBS-26

0.9

1

0.45

0.04

0.03

0.45

Hitachi Metals

Silver Steel #3

1.025

0.35

0.03

0.02

0.8

Takefu Special Steel

VG5

0.7

0.5

1.4

0.03

0.03

0.5

Takefu Special Steel

VG10

1

0.35

1.55

0.03

0.03

0.4

Bohler-Uddeholm

AEB-L

0.67

0.4

0.025

0.015

0.6

Manufacturer Steel Name Molybdenum Vanadium Nickel Tungsten Copper Chromium Hardness Rockwell Counter (HRC)

Effect of Material

Abrasion Resistance
Corrosion Resistance
Toughness

Abrasion Resistance
Decarburization Prevention

Toughness

Abrasion Resistance

Antibacterial Effects
Embrittlement

Corrosion Resistance

Changes in the quenching process

Listed Value

Average

Average

Average

Average

Average

Average

Aichi Steel

AUS6

0.49

13.75

55.5

Aichi Steel

AUS8

0.2

0.175

0.49

13.75

57.5

Aichi Steel

AUS10

0.205

0.185

0.49

13.75

59.5

Takefu Special Steel

VG1

0.3

0.25

14

60

Masahiro x Daido Steel

MBS-26

0.45

0.1

0.3

0.15

13.75

58.5

Hitachi Metals

Silver Steel #3

13.75

60

Takefu Special Steel

VG5

0.3

0.1

0.25

0.25

14

59

Takefu Special Steel

VG10

0.1

0.3

0.25

0.25

15

60

Bohler-Uddeholm

AEB-L

13

59

Maker Steel Name Carbon Silicon Cobalt

Effect

Hard.

Hard. (Minor)
Oxygen Rem.

Decarb Pvnt.
Resist.

Listed Value

Average

Max

Average

Aichi Steel

AUS6

0.6

1

Aichi Steel

AUS8

0.75

1

Aichi Steel

AUS10

1.025

1

Takefu Special Steel

VG1

1

0.5

Masahiro x Daido Steel

MBS-26

0.9

1

0.45

Hitachi Metals

Silver Steel #3

1.025

0.35

Takefu Special Steel

VG5

0.7

0.5

1.4

Takefu Special Steel

VG10

1

0.35

1.55

Bohler-Uddeholm

AEB-L

0.67

0.4

Maker Steel Name Phos. Sulfur Mang.

Effect

Embrittlement

Embrittlement

Sulfur Rmvl.
Resist.

Listed Value

Max

Max

Average

Aichi Steel

AUS6

0.04

0.03

1

Aichi Steel

AUS8

0.04

0.03

0.5

Aichi Steel

AUS10

0.04

0.03

0.5

Takefu Special Steel

VG1

0.03

0.03

0.5

Masahiro x Daido Steel

MBS-26

0.04

0.03

0.45

Hitachi Metals

Silver Steel #3

0.03

0.02

0.8

Takefu Special Steel

VG5

0.03

0.03

0.5

Takefu Special Steel

VG10

0.03

0.03

0.4

Bohler-Uddeholm

AEB-L

0.025

0.015

0.6

Maker Steel Name Molyb. Vanad. Nickel

Effect

Abras. Res.
Corros. Res.
Resist.

Abras. Res.
Decarb Pvnt.

Resist.

Listed Value

Average

Average

Average

Aichi Steel

AUS6

0.49

Aichi Steel

AUS8

0.2

0.175

0.49

Aichi Steel

AUS10

0.205

0.185

0.49

Takefu Special Steel

VG1

0.3

0.25

Masahiro x Daido Steel

MBS-26

0.45

0.1

0.3

Hitachi Metals

Silver Steel #3

Takefu Special Steel

VG5

0.3

0.1

0.25

Takefu Special Steel

VG10

1

0.3

0.25

Bohler-Uddeholm

AEB-L

Maker Steel Name Tung. Copper Chrom.

Effect

Abras. Res.

Antibac.
Embrittlement

Corros. Res.

Listed Value

Average

Average

Average

Aichi Steel

AUS6

13.75

Aichi Steel

AUS8

13.75

Aichi Steel

AUS10

13.75

Takefu Special Steel

VG1

14

Masahiro x Daido Steel

MBS-26

0.15

13.75

Hitachi Metals

Silver Steel #3

13.75

Takefu Special Steel

VG5

0.25

14

Takefu Special Steel

VG10

0.25

15

Bohler-Uddeholm

AEB-L

13

What sets Silver Steel #3 apart when compared to other stainless steels is the absence of Molybdenum (Mo), Nickel (Ni), Vanadium (V), and Tungsten (W). This characteristic is the reason it's referred to as a "stainless steel similar to carbon steel" as White Steel also does not contain these.

Some people might wonder, "Why not include Molybdenum or other rare materials? Wouldn't that make it better?"

Molybdenum, Vanadium, Nickel, and similar elements are usually added to stainless steels to make them more resistant to wear. While this makes the blade wear-resistant during cutting, it also makes the steel harder to sharpen. Essentially, the more of these rare materials you add to the composition, the trickier it becomes to sharpen.

Additionally, while there is a cost advantage in producing knives with good performance without the need for a complex forging process, if proper forging is undertaken, this cost advantage may not be as large for the knifemaker. The artisans do also need to earn a good living, after all!

To sum up, the merits of Silver Steel #3 include improved performance through hammer forging, and easy sharpening while retaining good sharpness. While the steel price of Silver Steel #3 is lower than VG10, the overall cost can be higher due to the labor costs involved with the forging process, making it sometimes more expensive than VG10 in the pre-sharpening stage.


Silver Steel #3 VS VG10 - Which is better?

Both VG10 and Silver Steel #3 are considered high-quality stainless steels, and many customers often ask, "Which one makes a better knife from Silver Steel #3 and VG10?"

To this, we usually respond with, "VG10 is a higher quality of material at a base level, but through the forging process, Silver Steel #3 can surpass it."

Of course, the idea of "sharpness" can be subjective and depends on your personal preference, but Silver Steel #3, having undergone the more complex forging process, exhibits a sharpness that can compete with carbon steel itself. On the other hand, VG10 might give a feeling of cutting into ingredients even after the edge becomes slightly rounded.

Moreover, while VG10 tends to have a higher steel price, depending on the effort put into the process, like we said earlier Silver Steel #3 can be more expensive. Therefore, in regions where hammer forging, like in Seki City, Gifu, or Tsubame, Niigata, isn't practiced, Silver Steel #3 knives might not be as readily available.

The depth of the cutlery world goes beyond just hardness and steel prices, showcasing the intricacies of knife craftsmanship. Forging, temperature, technique and more all come into play when it comes to purchasing the right knife.


Conclusion

Let’s quickly recap the two key points of Silver Steel #3 Steel here

 

  • Silver Steel #3 is a stainless steel with a composition similar to traditional carbon steel, making it easy to sharpen.
  • Silver Steel #3 is a unique stainless steel where its performance is influenced by the forging process.

Silver Steel #3 certainly earns its place amongst the more premium steels out there, and with good reason. They still acquire amazing sharpness even with the added Chromium, plus sharpening them is easier as well. They make wonderful knives for those who have time to sharpen or enjoy sharpening, want an amazing cut but at the same time are worried about rust and general knife care.


Take a look at some of our Silver Steel #3 knives!