What is VG-10 Steel?


VG-10 Knife Blade

If you have ever spent a few hours in the company of chefs having a conversation about knives, you would have heard them mentioning VG-10 Steel. If you were also in search of a new addition to your knife set, then they might have even convinced you to look into this kind of material.

VG-10 is a type of stainless steel originating from Takefu, Japan. The “G” stands for “Gold,” due to the high standards it meets, and the “10” differentiate it from its predecessor, VG-1. VG-10 boasts a high concentration of carbon (1%), which makes it a premium material for knife blades.

Undoubtedly, VG-10 is a superior type of steel. However, before going ahead and buying an exclusive knife, let’s check out the details that make this material so unique.

What is VG-10 Steel?

VG-10 is high-quality stainless steel firstly developed over 60 years ago and manufactured in Japan, in the Fukui Prefecture, by Takefu Special Steels. Known to be a highly-alloyed, high-carbon cutlery material, VG-10 is today in production from several manufacturers and found many employments.

In Japan, this material is also referred to as V-kin-10, which means V “Gold” 10. Internationally, the word “kin” has been replaced with a “G.” Gold, in this case, refers to the standards achieved by this metal and to the performances it yields. 

Initially, this metal was for the creation of knives for Japanese chefs only. However, due to its exclusive quality and durability, it quickly spread in different countries and fields, such as for pocket and hunting knives. Here is an excellent VG-10 chef knife, available on Amazon.

What Composes VG-10 Steel?

One of the main features of VG-10 steel is the amount of carbon in the metal, which adds up to 1%. Stainless steels tend to boast different amounts of carbon, and this factor can influence their durability and performance level. For comparison, standard 420 steel blades contain an average of 0.38% carbon. 

Of course, carbon is only one of the elements that compose a resistant, high-quality knife blade. Below you can find a breakdown of the compounds in VG-10 steel and their functions.

  • 0.95-1.05% Carbon (C). – When added to iron, carbon functions as a major hardening element in the blade. High-carbon steels are the ones containing any percentage above 0.8%.
  • 14.50-15.50% Chromium (Cr) – if you have ever owned a steel knife, you know that rust can be a problem. Chromium is what makes particular steel “stainless,” as it increases the material’s resistance to rust. Any metal that boasts a Chromium concentration above 12% is highly resistant to oxidation.
  • 0.80-1.20% Molybdenum (Mo) – increases the blade’s resistance to high temperatures.
  • 0.25-0.35% Vanadium (V) – another material to increase the strength of the blade, along with its resistance to tearing and scratches.
  • 0.5% Manganese (Mn) – can harden the blade. However, if added in high quantities, it can lead to bristling.

Main Features of VG-10 Steel

Aside from the compounds at the core of this stainless steel, VG-10 boasts unique characteristics that have positioned it among higher-rating steels. Indeed, it has become one of the favorite materials for kitchen knives by chefs and cooks thanks to its versatility, balance, and ease of use.

Resistance to rust

When properly maintained, VG-10 steel is resistant to rust and corrosion. This feature relates to the high percentage of chromium in the steel, which makes it stainless. Indeed, this compound creates a protective layer of oxide on the blade’s surface. Any alloy of iron that boasts an amount of chromium above 10% is considered stainless. In the case of VG-10, you can benefit from up to 15.5% chromium. 

Resistance to corrosion

VG-10 steel is less resistant to corrosion than rust and is occasionally affected by pitting corrosion. This type of deterioration can change the blade of your knife by creating small holes along the surface. However, increased corrosion resistance would affect the performance of the knife. Even in this case, proper maintenance is critical to keep pitting corrosion at bay.

Not dishwasher-friendly

As we have seen, VG-10 steel is resistant to rust. However, this does not mean that the alloy is entirely immune to it. Washing a stainless-steel knife in a dishwasher can make it more prone to rusting and corrosion, as well as limiting its performance. Moreover, it is likely for the blade to hit surrounding utensils in the home appliance, which can reduce its sharpness and ruin the blade.

Edge retention

Depending on the use you will make of your VG-10 steel knife, you will notice different edge retention standards. Indeed, this material is easy to sharpen and retains its cutting edge without issues if used in the kitchen or to cut softer materials. However, if your hunting or fishing knives boast VG-10 steel, you can expect the edge to become dull after a few hours of continuous use.

Don’t Confuse VG-10 With VG-1

If you are a fan of traditional Japanese knives, both kinds are worth checking out. However, if you are also interested in using your knife daily, you should know that there is a difference between the two types.

VG-1 is the predecessor of VG-10 and the first model of the stainless steel series produced by Takefu Special Steel. Both types of steel incorporate low-impurity materials and boast increased toughness, as well as being rust, water, and corrosion-resistant.

However, the difference lies in the hardness of the material. VG-1 steel boasts a hardness of 58 to 59 HRC, while VG-10 reaches the higher tier, with a hardness level of 60 to 62 HRC. 

Moreover, VG-1 only includes:

  • 1% carbon
  • 13% – 15% Chromium
  • 0.2% – 0.4% Molybdenum

The other compounds that we have seen above, such as cobalt and manganese, are absent from the formula. In turn, this type of composition can affect the performance yielded by the blade.

What Is the Best Metal for a Knife Blade?

While there is no one-size-fits-all formula, there are different materials for knives depending on the use you will make out of them. Undoubtedly, carbon stainless steel is the best material for knife blades, but there are many subcategories within this range. 

Stainless steel is an alloy with added carbon. Therefore, carbon stainless steels boast the characteristics of both types of material. 

  • Carbon steel – the added carbon in the steel ensures the toughness and hardness of the blade. This compound also makes the knife more durable and more comfortable to clean and sharpen. Pure carbon steel knives are preferable for hunting, fishing, or rough-use. 
  • Stainless steel – while carbon steel is particularly durable, it is susceptible to rusting. However, the added chromium in stainless steel blades makes it more resistant to oxidation and corrosion.

Ultimately, VG-10 is a carbon stainless steel alloy that is perfectly balanced and highly versatile. It is not as affordable as standard 420 stainless steel, but not as expensive as top-end knives. It yields excellent performances, yet it can be easily sharpened, retains its edge, and it is resistant to deterioration.

Conclusion

VG-10 steel is a type of stainless steel with added carbon initially produced in Japan. Today, thanks to its durability, toughness, edge retention potential, and rust resistance, VG-10 is one of the preferred materials for knife blades for chefs

Some of the characteristics that make it unique are:

  • It boasts over 1% of carbon
  • The added chromium prevents rust formation
  • It boasts other exclusive hardening materials such as vanadium, cobalt, and manganese.

If you are looking for a high-standard material for a knife blade that will not let you down for many years to come, check out the Gold standard of Japanese knife-making.

Jim James

Jim James spent most of his childhood outdoors fishing on lakes in his area. Due to his scouting background, he has always been interested in survival, camping, and the outdoors in general. Jim is a best-selling author and has a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. He lives with his family in Charlotte, NC.

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