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 Post subject: Which steel and why?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 6:57 am 

Joined: Wed May 16, 2012 5:12 am
Posts: 61
So, I am on the verge of another knife purchase and have been a user/collector for 20 years plus. Have plenty of sharpening experiences, etc. etc.

One thing I have wondered about regarding Japanese knives are the steel choices made by their producers, particularly on the Hitachi line of materials. I have read lots on the various grades from white #1, #2, #3 etc. to blue #1, # 2, etc. to aogami super, etc. but I have had a very difficult time really understanding what objective a knife maker is trying to acheive using a particular steel.

For example, is one grade of steel hugely more expensive than the other, or are the marginal differences so small that it really doesn't matter which of the above grades a maker uses? In other words, if aogami super is supposedly one of the toughest and most capable of edge holding, why don't most makers just use that steel? Some of the more expensive higher-end knives do not use that steel, but why not? Takedas which clearly have a great reputation seem to use aogami super almost exclusively? Why?

Clearly, some steels are more reactive than others, but would that be they primary factor driving the choice of which steel makers use? I am guessing that there are trade-offs on any selection a maker uses, but are they so significant that it would drive a maker to use one material over another? Why not, for example, use a super steel core (for its edge holding capability) with a less reactive cladding?

I realize that this is a grossly overly simplified question to a very complex subject, but when friends ask me, "which steel and why," and then follow that up with "should I get a knife with x steel over y steel," what is the answer? Again, I have read as much as I can about the various Hitachi steels, but the presentatons I have seem suggest there is almost a progression in quality (sharpness, edge-holding) but is that true?

Any simplified ways to understand these steels, their real-world differences, and why knife makers use one over another would be most welcomed (hey, even a good link on the subject).

I am guessing this is a very debatable subject with varying opinions, but still this is the benefit of a great forum such as this (with the awsome expertise that clearly frequents this site).

Thanks again for any thoughts, input, etc.

 Post subject: Re: Which steel and why?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 12:27 pm 
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Joined: Mon Apr 23, 2012 1:36 pm
Posts: 3330
As much as I'd like to think you could get solid answers to these questions, the truth is that you probably never will.

I'll do my best of sharing my opinions and tiny bit of knowledge.

As best I know, the cost of steel difference is quite small. Blue steel grades are more than white steel grades...AS most expensive, and then down. However, in something the size of a kitchen knife, the cost difference between the cheapest white and the most expensive blue might only be $5 or $10 per knife.....enough to matter, but in the grand scheme of things, it's small potatoes.

So I don't think cost is a driving factor.

I don't prefer AS to white. I like white steel over any's totally personal though. Also, white is better as certain things, as is blue steel. Additionally, most smiths seem to get used to a particular steel and stick with it. Someone like Takeda has found a steel he likes and sticks with it. Shigefusa does the same...they use that "spicy" Swedish steel for all of their knives. Watanabe will only use blue in his gyuto's.....but he used white and blue for many other knives.

A knife maker once stated that white steel is kind of did he put it?!?! Something like any smith can forge blue steel as it's very simple and white steel to some degree....but white steel takes a lot of skill to forge VERY well. I don't know if it was marketing hype or not....but it's worth thinking about.

Most likely, and this is all opinion, it's just a matter of a knife maker finding something they like and sticking with it. I like AEB-L and 52100 and make nearly all of my knives from those two steels....but I could certainly make knives from other steels. But, it takes research and testing of each to make sure I'm putting out a good knife.

I don't think reactiveness has anything to do with it.

Lots to discuss here....I'll leave it at that for now. :)


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