Knife owners these days have no shortage of quality steels to choose from. For custom and production models alike, there is a steel to fit every budget and every requirement.
In fact, there are so many steels on the market that choosing one from the dozens available at the retail counter or on a manufacturer’s website can be a task unto itself.
One fine steel you’ll see referred to regularly is VG-10. A quick perusal of most knife forums will show it to be almost universally liked. So what is VG-10 steel anyway?
VG-10 is a high-end stainless steel first produced in Japan. A high carbon stainless steel, the formula contains 15% chromium, 1.5% cobalt, 1% carbon, 1% molybdenum, and 0.2% vanadium.
Originally intended for high-end kitchen cutlery, it has subsequently found its way into a variety of knife applications, including fixed blade and folding field and tactical knives.
But formulas don’t tell us the whole story about this impressively high performing stainless steel. Keep reading to learn more about VG-10, and see if it is right for your needs.
VG-10 is a Premium “Stainless” Offering
From the beginning of its conception, VG-10 steel was originally intended as the ultimate in performance stainless steels.
In fact, the common name is an abbreviation standing for v gold 10, with gold in this case meaning gold standard, or highest possible quality. Occasionally you will see this steel referred to as v-kin-10, “Kin” meaning “gold” in Japanese.
Though this steel is overwhelmingly manufactured in Japan, and they are rightly famous for it, the steel has made market inroads into other categories besides kitchen cutlery.
This is because this particular steel meets or exceeds the performance characteristics of other, cheaper and more common stainless steel formulas.
It sounds like quite a boast. But when we get down to the brass tacks of cutting performance in longevity, how does VG-10 stack up?
VG-10 Offers Ideal Performance Characteristics for Many Applications.
VG-10 has much to commend it in most cutting applications. It is capable of taking on a wickedly sharp edge when honed or stopped, shows dependable corrosion resistance qualities, generally maintains an edge without chipping except under substantial abuse and all the while remains easy to sharpen or touch up.
That is quite the list of features! Whereas most stainless steels will excel in one or two categories, VG-10 seems to excel in all of them, or at least reach a very high benchmark.
Beyond even these practical considerations, VG-10 is popular among skilled artisans as well. Paying careful attention when tempering this steel can produce a laminated effect that looks very much like Damascus steel, and consisting instead of interlocking, fractal patterns.
Truly, for those people who are unwilling to separate aesthetics and raw functionality, VG-10 might well be the ultimate stainless steel. However, this high performance and tremendous beauty comes at a cost, and that cost is measured in money.
When considering a production or custom knife upgrading the blade from more common stainless to VG-10 will usually bump the price tag quite a bit.
Is the cost worth it? That’s for you to decide but I can tell you with some authority that you will rarely, if ever go wrong choosing VG-10.
Possibly the Best in Class for Kitchen and Camp Use!
When you know your requirements, it allows you to choose the best possible tool for the job and in our case choosing the best possible tool means choosing the right tool made from the right Steel.
If you are working hard in the kitchen on a daily basis, or your job entails frequent, hard use of a pocket knife or fixed blade built knife, VG-10 May well be the ultimate steel for you.
Think about it. Whether you are in the kitchen or in the field, when you are depending on your knife you needed to be sharp and stay sharp through multiple cuts.
We are talking about high tempo work here. In either job, when a knife gets dull work slows down, costing you money or precious time.
Worse yet, dull knives lead to accidents because the wielder uses more force to accomplish the task and that is when slips and accidental cuts or stabs happen.
VG-10 steel means that your already frighteningly sharp edge will stay sharp longer through the same amount of work.
Even better, when it is time to touch up the knife after a prolonged task, the edge can be restored easier than competing steels, saving you even more time. This is a double whammy of sorts in your favor!
But the hits don’t stop there, as the corrosion resistant nature of this Steel will keep it in good shape and doing its job whether or not it is getting rained on, coated with sweat or just covered with acidic residue from fruits, vegetables or meats.
if it sounds like VG-10 is the one steel that can do everything you needed to do, well, you are pretty much right and only users who need the most heavy duty of steels for tasks like chopping, batoning or other abusive tasks need look elsewhere.
VG-10 is not the best option for making a cleaver, ax, hatchet, machete or some other heavy, hacking blade but it is damn near ideal for everything else.
Not to be Confused with VG-1
It should be noted that VG-10 is not the same steel as VG-1, though they both hail from Japan and the same original inventor. VG-1 has different characteristics from VG-10 and though it is superior and some regards it is inferior and others.
A thorough examination of VG-1 warrants its own article, but in general VG-1 steel is thought to have better overall sharpness and edge retention characteristics though it is commonly accused of being significantly more brittle and prone to chipping than VG-10.
For any application where the knife might encounter hardened materials that could result in chipping or rolling of the edge, VG-10 is generally superior.
For repeated cutting or slicing of materials at a high tempo with little risk of encountering any obstruction or obstacle they could result in edge damage, VG-1 might be better.
VG-10 is a high performance stainless steel originating and predominantly produced in Japan.
The characteristics of this steel formulation result in a knife that can be extremely sharp while also remaining easy to sharpen, and highly corrosion resistant and the whole while maintaining its edge through a very quick usage tempo.
This is a premium stainless steel and you should expect to pay accordingly, but it might well be the ultimate choice for everyday use kitchen, pocket and field knives.