Choosing the right steel can be confusing for most people, especially when there are so many different types. Basically, Japanese steel is much harder than European/German steel which allows the knives to get sharper and stay sharper for a longer period of time. The steel hardness is defined by a number on the Rockwell Hardness Scale (HRC). The HRC refers to how resistant a metal object is to penetration and permanent deformation from another material. The higher the number, the harder the steel. It is easy to assume that a higher number is better because it is stronger, but that is not always the case. Higher HRC takes more effort to sharpen, can chip easier and is more expensive. However, the hardness will have maximum edge retention. 

Japanese steel also have stainless and non-stainless, rust prone knives. The high carbon content will make some steels react to foods which will make maintenance a high priority. Regardless of stainless or non-stainless, your knives should be washed with warm water and dried completely after each use to retain the integrity and lifespan of your knife. 

If you are starting out, we recommend a stainless steel in the HRC 60-64 range. These knives are easier to sharpen and holds a great edge. Here are the most common steels you will find in Japanese knives. 


- Popular, premium stainless steel. HRC 61/62
- Softer than r2/sg2, but still carry a good balance in hardness.
- Good all around in terms of performance and price point
- Easier to sharpen, less prone to chipping, great edge retention


- Very easy to sharpen, takes whatever edge angle you put on it.
- Industry standard knife for Japanese steel
- HRC 60
- Affordable stainless Japanese steel


- High Speed Powdered stainless steel, high in carbon. HRC 63/64
- Good balance of hardness, the harder your steel, the thinner you can get your edge
- More prone to chipping than softer steels.
- Sharpening takes more effort because of harder steel, but holds edge longer.
- One of the best steels for higher end kitchen knives


- Excellent stainless properties, Higher carbon stainless (higher carbon is what gives the ability to make the steel hard), tight grain structure, HRC 61
- Softer than r2
- Properties of shirogami #2, except stainless


- Top of the hardness scale for Japanese steel, HRC 67
- Superior edge retention, harder to sharpen, easy to chip,
- Heavier and premium pricing
- Rare, not all bladesmiths use this steel, harder to find


- High carbon, easy to sharpen, takes any angle, very good edge retention
- Easier to rust

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