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The right knife steel - the right choice is crucial

When choosing your kitchen knives, you should not only focus on the design, but also on the right steel. When making your selection, it is therefore important to understand what properties distinguish the respective steels and what advantages and disadvantages the various options offer. As is so often the case in life, there is unfortunately no such thing as the perfect solution.

In simple terms, our knives can be divided into two categories based on the steels used, high rust yielding steels and low rust yielding steels.

Highly stainless steels - the reliable all-rounders

As the designation high stainless steel suggests, oxidation (rusting) of the knife is a rather rare occurrence with these steels, which makes these knives an easy-care companion. In addition, the high stainless steel is more flexible, more robust and less porous compared to low stainless blade steels.

In return, however, the steel has lower hardness and edge retention. Translated, this means that the blade wears out more quickly and consequently needs to be sharpened more frequently. Due to the higher flexibility of the steel, it cannot quite keep up with the enormous blade sharpness of its less rusty brothers.

High stainless steels include:

  • VG10
  • AUS10
  • ATS-34
  • Gin 3
  • HAP40
  • ZDP189

Low-grade steels - the sharp diva

The most important property of these steels is that they have enormous hardness. This property is due to the higher carbon content in these steels. This makes it possible to produce blades with unique sharpness, wear resistance and very stable cutting edges. For this reason, knives made of low-rust steels also need to be resharpened much less frequently.

However, low-rust steels are also more maintenance-intensive, as they are generally more susceptible to oxidation. Blades made of such steels should therefore be cleaned and dried immediately after each use to prevent rust formation. Due to the hardness of the steel, the blade is more sensitive and can break more easily. In addition, resharpening is more time-consuming than with more flexible steels.

Low-grade steels include:

  • Aogami Super
  • White #1
  • White #2
  • Blue #2

The two powder metallurgically produced steels HAP40 and ZDP189 represent special cases. These comparatively young steel compositions combine the two worlds of high rust and low rust steels by exhibiting extreme wear resistance and hardness combined with toughness. Due to their nature, we have nevertheless decided to classify the two steels in our previously described categorization. More detailed descriptions of the respective properties can be found in the following text.

Description of the individual steels - Knife knowledge for inquisitive people

Highly stainless steels


ATS-34 is a modern high performance steel produced by the steel producer Hitachi in Japan, made of an alloy with a high chromium content. This steel offers high hardness compared to other stainless steel knife steels, as well as a unique combination of very high toughness and wear resistance.

  • High rust inertia
  • More difficult to resharpen, but very wear resistant
  • High hardness (over 60 HRC)
  • Excellent sharpness & edge retention
  • Rather higher price


Blades made of AUS10 steel are absolute top all-rounders. It offers solid performance in every respect.

  • High rust resistance
  • Easy to maintain
  • High hardness (58 - 60 HRC)
  • Good grindability
  • Good sharpness and edge retention


Gin 3 was specially developed for use in scissors and kitchen knives and is a steel that is characterized in particular by its high chromium content. It is also known as Ginsan or Silver #3 and is mainly used for robust knives that do not require extreme sharpness.

  • High rust inertia
  • Easy to maintain
  • Good hardness (59 - 62 HRC)
  • Good grindability
  • Good sharpness and edge retention


VG10 is a high quality stainless steel with 0.95 - 1.05% carbon content. This property makes it harder than most other stainless knife steels. These properties have made this steel a popular choice among professional chefs and cooking enthusiasts. However, it should be noted that VG10 is more susceptible to rust than other rust-inert steels and spot corrosion can occur.

  • High rust inertia
  • Easy to maintain
  • High hardness (60 - 61 HRC)
  • High wear resistance and toughness
  • More difficult to resharpen
  • Excellent sharpness & edge retention


HAP40 steel is one of our personal favorites and is also considered one of today's top steels in Japan. HAP40 is a true high speed steel (HSS). The sharpness and edge retention of these blades is considered one of the best in Japan and we are also absolutely convinced of this steel.

  • Excellent edge retention (3 - 5 times longer than traditional knives)
  • Very good sharpness
  • Very high hardness (64 - 68 HRC)
  • High toughness
  • Regular maintenance required
  • Easy to resharpen
  • Not completely stainless, see the following note:

Occasionally you can find suppliers who offer this steel as stainless. We would therefore like to point out that even supposedly stainless steels are not free of oxidation when subjected to the heat treatment required for production (approx. 540 - 550°C). Actual stainless steels are annealed at lower temperatures (typically around 180°C). This is the only way to guarantee that the blade will actually hardly rust, but then accompanied by lower edge retention. It is not possible to achieve true rust-free performance while assuring the properties of true high-speed steel such as HAP40. We therefore do not offer HAP40 steel blades as stainless.


ZDP-189 is the hardest powder metallurgy stainless steel currently available. Of all powder metallurgical steels, this steel contains the highest content of alloying elements (the carbon and chromium content of 3.00% and 20.00% can hardly be compared with other knife steels).

  • Very high rust inertia
  • Very easy to maintain
  • Very high hardness (up to 67 HRC)
  • Extreme edge retention
  • Experience required for grinding
  • Highly expensive

Low rust yielding steels


The queen of steels - Aogami Blue Super is one of the most famous Japanese carbon steels. It not only contains more carbon, chromium and tungsten than Blue #1 steel, but also molybdenum. Blades made of this steel should be dried by hand after each use to prevent rust. Especially after processing acidic foods, knives made of Aogami Super should be cleaned immediately, dried and, if necessary, also maintained with a suitable oil (for example, camellia oil or Ballistol oil suitable for knife care). Aogami Super blades will darken somewhat with frequent use. Heavy bending, levering and striking or chopping should always be avoided with these blades.

  • Excellent edge retention
  • High sharpness
  • Very high hardness (65 HRC) without being brittle
  • Easy to resharpen
  • Low rust inertia
  • Regular maintenance required
  • High price

BLUE #2 (Aogami 2)

The Blue #2 steel grade (also referred to as Aogami #2 or Blue Paper Steel) owes its name to the blue paper the manufacturer uses to package this steel. An important difference between this steel and other low stainless steels is that Blue #2 also contains chromium and tungsten. Since this steel is tough and robust, it is also used for cleavers, for example. After each use of a Blue #2 knife, the blade should be cleaned and dried, as this steel has low rust inertia

  • Excellent edge retention
  • Very good sharpness
  • Very high hardness (65 HRC)
  • Tough and robust
  • Easy to resharpen
  • Low rust inertia
  • Regular maintenance required

WHITE #1 & WHITE #2 (Shirogami 1,2)

White paper steel is an unalloyed carbon steel with high purity and finest martensitic structure, which is why it is popular for fine cutting tools.

White #1 (also referred to as Shirogami #1) steel is very similar to Blue #1 steel, only the elements chromium and tungsten are not present in White #1 steel. White #1 can therefore be described as a very pure carbon steel (also known as carbon steel).

White #2 steel (also referred to as Shirogami #2) has a slightly lower carbon content of 1.05 - 1.15% compared to White #1 steel. White #2 steel does not quite reach the sharpness and hardness of White #1 steel, but has a higher edge retention (sharpness resistance). In terms of susceptibility to rust, White #1 and White #2 are comparable and appropriate maintenance should be ensured in any case.

  • Excellent edge retention
  • Very high sharpening potential
  • Very high hardness (63 - 65 HRC)
  • Easy to sharpen
  • Regular maintenance required