High Carbon Stainless Steel:
The knife makers steel of the moment. VG10 is strong, hard, stainless and relatively easy to sharpen. It is generally forge welded within softer stainless steels and tempered to 60:62 Rockwell. More and more manufacturers are using VG10 for their blades because of it’s user friendliness.
If VG10 is the knife makers steel of the moment then Powder Steel is the knife makers steel of the future. Also called High Speed Steel, Tool Steel or Die Steel this is great stuff. It’s generally found in hard wearing tools like dentist drills and tools used to cut metal. Very hard and capable of keeping an extreme edge for an extended period of time. Knives made from Powder Steel perform like few others. These are serious precision instruments and must be treated as such. I would even say they need to be babied a bit. With these knives one must accept that the blade will chip from time to time, but it’s a small price to pay for the insane performance.
Cabon steel is a simple type of steel made from carbon, iron and other trace elements. The advantages of carbon steel are that it keeps a great edge for an extened period of time and it’s super easy to maintain the edge. These are the easiest knives to sharpen. I use a strop and newspaper to great effect on my carbon blades. Carbon steel is also the capable of creating the perfect mirror finished edge which means cutting can be an amazingly precise experience. If you haven’t used carbon steel blades before you should. This steel will discolour and develop a dark patina over time, but will rust if treated poorly. So use, wash and dry twice before storing. Maybe think about oiling the steel with camellia oil or a food grade mineral oil. Take care of these blades and they will repay you with years of cutting excellence.
White Steel (Shiro-ko)
White steel is the purest of the Carbon steels. The ingredients are Iron and Carbon (up to 2.7%). This is the easiest steel to sharpen and is capable of achieving the most perfect mirror finished edge. This steel has the ability of being forged to incredible hardness which translates to exceptional edge retention. Why do you think sword makers love this steel? Special care must be taken with Shiro-ko knives as they are the most reactive, however after a nice strong patina has formed on the blade they are less likely to rust. Patina is your friend.
Blue Steel (Ao-ko)
Blue steel is basically Shiro-ko with the addition of chromium and tungsten. This additions increase the durability of the blade, reduce the reactivity of the steel and give the potential for longer edge retention. Ao-ko steel is not stainless, but tarnishes slower than Shiro-ko.
#1 Blue Steel
Often referred to as Yasuki #1 Blue Steel this is a great knife makers steel. It is hard, extremely easy to maintain, rust resistant (for carbon steel), capable of an outstanding mirror finish and long lived edge. What more can you want? This is high performance steel.
#2 Blue Steel
Blue #2 is the another great knife maker’s steel. Just as hard as #1, but tougher and more durable. Basically it is less likely to chip.
Super Blue Steel
If you take the recipe for #1 or #2 and tweak it a bit you can make Super Blue steel. It has all the benefits of #1 or #2 and many say it performs better. Using both on a regular basis I would say they are quite similar and a bit different. I’m unable to make a judgement call on which is better. I know that the patina each steel achives is slightly different in colour. Both are great knife steels.