Japanese Knife Steels

High-quality steel is a key factor in the capability and performance of a Japanese kitchen knife. Historically, Iron mined in Japan was of very poor quality and required the smelters and bladesmiths to develop complex and advanced processes to produce workable steel. This legacy of developing high-quality steel from raw iron and elements continues today with modern technology in steel factories across Japan. Japanese steel makers produce over 20 different types of style for kitchen knives, with new varieties hitting the market every few years.

Below we break down the most common Japanese knife steels and what makes them unique.

Steel Type Steel Description
AUS-10 Stainless Steel AUS-10 is stronger than the other AUS Steels , but is slighlty less corrosion resistant.
AUS-6 Stainless Steel A good all-round steel for beginners, AUS-6 is low maintenance and easy to sharpen.  
AUS-8 Stainless Steel AUS-8 is tougher version of AUS-6 and still quite easy to sharpen.  
Blue Steel # 1 (Aogami 1) Carbon Steel Blue Steel #1 has Tungsten and Chromium added, giving it longer lasting edge than the White Series.
Blue Steel # 2 (Aogami 2) Carbon Steel Blue Steel #2 has less Carbon than Blue #1, making the edge last even longer, but it will be less sharp.
Blue Steel Super (Aogami Super) Carbon Steel Blue Steel Super has additional Vandium added, making the edge the longest wearing of all knives.
Coreless Stainless Steel Very fine grained high carbon stainless steel that improves on the performance of VG-10.
Japanese Carbon Steel A standard Carbon Steel knife, the high carbon content gives a hard sharp edge but can rust.
Molybdenum Vanadiam Stainless Steel This is a standard Stainless Steel offering reasonable performance. Ideal for your first Japanese Knife.
SG2 Stainless Steel A modern powder steel offering fantastic performance all round, but it can be expensive to produce.
Silver #3 Stainless Steel Silver #3 has a high Carbon content and offers similar feel to a Carbon Steel blade.
VG-1 Stainless Steel VG-1 is the predecessor to VG10, offering less wear resistance but good edge retention.  
VG-10 Stainless Steel An evolution of VG-1 , VG-10 offers improvement in edge-retention and durabilty.
VG-2 Stainless Steel VG-2 has more corrosion resistance than VG-1 at the expense of edge hardness.
White Steel #1 (Shirogami 1) Carbon Steel White #1 has a very high carbon content, giving a great edge but also making it more brittle.
White Steel #2 (Shirogami 2) Carbon Steel White #2 reduces the carbon content of White #1, making it somewhat more durable.
ZDP-189 Stainless Steel A high performance powder steel, it can achieve a hardness of 67 Rockwell, giving a great edge.
Tamahagane (Traditional Japanese Kiln Steel)
Historically, Japanese Iron was of low quality and thus the Tamahagane smelting process developed to refine and improve the Iron that was available. The process is laborious and time consuming. The final piece of Tamahagane requires further refining by the bladesmith to be used in a knife or sword. Tamahagane usually has a Carbon content of 1% and is very expensive.