ZDP 189 Knife Steel

If you’re a knife fanatic who takes pride in choosing and taking care of your kitchen knives, the wide variety of knife materials can seem overwhelming, and it’s easy to get stuck in technical jargon when researching specs.

This article will talk about ZDP 189 steel, how it can be used in a kitchen knife, and how it compares to other steels that are often used for knives.

ZDP 189 steel is a type of steel used to make knives in Japan. It is very hard and can be used for everyday tasks around the house. People like ZDP 189 steel knives because they have unique parts and are made with Powder Metallurgy, which combines high ratios of good knife parts like chromium and carbon.

Chemical Composition of ZDP 189 Steel

Let’s take a look at what makes up a ZDP 189 knife blade and what each part adds to the whole.

  • Chromium: There is 20% chromium in ZDP 189 steel, which is a lot for a knife. The chromium in the steel makes the blade resistant to rust and very hard.
  • Carbon: ZDP 189 steel is 3% carbon. Again, this is a high proportion in the ZDP 189 blend, and it makes the blade harder and lasts longer.
  • Molybdenum: ZDP 189 steel has 1.4% molybdenum, which is a chemical element that makes the knife blade stronger and keeps it strong even when in high temperatures.
  • Tungsten: 0.6% of a ZDP 189 steel blade will be tungsten. It is part of the steel recipe because it makes a blade sharp and helps it keep its edge for longer.
  • Manganese: Manganese is added to ZDP 189 steel at a 0.5% level, along with the other parts, to make it stronger. It can only be there in small amounts, or else it can make a knife blade break easily.
  • Silicon: ZDP 189 steel contains 0.4% silicon. This makes it possible to forge a ZDP blade at a high temperature without making it less hard.
  • Vanadium: ZDP 189 steel is around 0.1% vanadium. Because the vanadium sticks to the carbon in the blade, your knife’s sharp edges will last longer.
  • Sulfur: Because ZDP 189 steel has only 0.02% sulfur, it is easy to shape and sharpen to desired specifications.

Process of Making ZDP 189 Steel Knives

Each element of a ZDP 189 steel knife adds something special, but it’s the process of making the knife that brings it all together into something magical.

Basically, the Powder Metallurgy method makes it easier for the different parts to mix together, so they can work together to make each other harder without losing their own hardness.

Also, ZDP 189 steel blades are made so that there are a lot of chromium carbides in the steel, which gives it a hardness level that has been thought of as better than other knife steels for a long time.

How Does ZDP 189 Perform as a Knife Steel?

When evaluating knife steel, there are many things to think about. Let’s look at the most important things for you as a buyer.

Overall, ZDP 189 steel blades work well and can be considered good quality in a number of ways, but they aren’t perfect, as I’ll explain below.


Using the standard Rockwell Scale, knife blades made of ZDP 189 steel get a score of about 67 HRC (Hardness Rockwell C). This score can be even higher if, during the tempering process, the blade was cooled to temperatures below zero.

What do you think of that? To give you an idea, the industry standard for the best kitchen knives says that anything from an HRC of 60 and up is the “best” level of hardness. So, knife blades made of ZDP 189 steel are the hardest of all.

Edge Retention

You want your knife blade to stay wickedly sharp, so how does ZDP 189 steel compare?
Only high-vanadium steels are better at keeping a sharp edge for kitchen use than this steel.

Resistance to Wear

Due to its high hardness, a ZDP 189 steel knife blade isn’t as tough as some other steels when it comes to toughness and durability. But it works well for everyday use in the kitchen, and for its price, you can expect it to last long enough.

Corrosion Resistance

Due to the chromium in ZDP 189 steel, you can expect knives made from it to resist rust well because of how it is made. But people who have used ZDP 189 knives say that they tend to rust if they get wet or are in damp places.

To keep its finish from rusting, a ZDP 189 steel knife needs to be dried carefully after use and kept away from moisture.

Ease of Sharpening

Because ZDP 189 steel has low levels of vanadium carbide, blades made from this material are easy to sharpen if you use the right sharpening stone. For ZDP 189 steel blades, water stones made of aluminum oxide are the best way to sharpen them.

ZDP 189 Steel vs VG 10 Steel

VG 10 steel is another popular type of knife steel used today. Let’s see how it stacks up against ZDP 189 in a few ways.


One thing to think about when you want to buy a new knife is how much money you are willing to spend. As with most things, spending a little bit more usually means getting a better quality item.
In general, knives made from ZDP 189 steel will be more expensive than knives made from VG 10 steel at stores.

Ease of Sharpening

Since ZDP 189 steel knives are very hard, VG 10 steel knives are easier to sharpen. Experts say that VG 10 knives are easier to sharpen than ZDP 189 knives, but if you use a wet stone sharpening system on your ZDP 189 knives, you’ll get them very sharp and only have to sharpen them very rarely.


The knives made of ZDP 189 steel are tougher than those made of VG 10. ZDP 189 is about 67 HRC on the Rockwell scale, while VG 10 steel is between 56 and 60 HRC.
The average consumer might not even notice this difference, and for everyday kitchen use, they are about the same.


Because the ZDP 189 steel knife is harder, you might think that it is stronger than the VG 10 steel knife. This is not true, because both knives can chip if they are used roughly or hit around a lot.
Knives made of either material are tough enough for everyday use, but they need to be handled with care and used in a smart way.

Edge Retention

The ZDP 189 steel knife wins because its sharp edge lasts longer than the one made of VG 10 steel. You have to weigh this against how easy it is to sharpen VG 10 and decide for yourself which material is best for your habits and how you take care of your knives.

Corrosion Resistance

The VG 10 steel knife blades win because they are less likely to rust and change color. Some owners of ZDP 189 steel knives say that the blade stains easily and is more likely to rust. Because the chemicals that makeup ZDP 189 steel are different from those that make up VG 10, the ZDP 189 steel knife will need more care and attention than its VG 10 counterpart.

Care and Maintenance for ZDP 189 Steel Knife Blades

We’ve seen that the ZDP 189 steel knives on the market right now are very good for people who like knives.

How do you take care of your ZDP 189 steel knife so that it lasts and stays razor-sharp for a long time? Follow the below recommendations:

  • Don’t put your knife in the sink. This hurts the blades because they bump into other things. Wash each knife on its own.
  • Every time you use your ZDP 189 steel knife, make sure it is completely dry and put it away in a dry place. Don’t put it next to a sink or a kettle, for instance.
  • For your ZDP 189 steel knife, buy a water stone made of aluminum oxide. This works best on the blade.
  • Follow the instructions carefully from the store and the maker, and only use your ZDP 189 steel knife for what it was made for.

Final Words

People who know about knives have bought ZDP 189 steel knives for a long time because they work so well. We hope that this overview of what’s in a ZDP 189 steel knife, how they’re made, how they compare, and how to care for and keep them in good shape has given you a good understanding of this popular type of knife.

About Larrin Thomas

Larrin Thomas is a metallurgist who works with steel in Pittsburgh, PA. He became interested in steel when his father, Devin Thomas, who makes damascus steel, took him to knife shows. At those knife shows, he heard knife makers say that their steels and heat treatments were better for a variety of interesting reasons. Larrin wanted to find out who was telling the truth! He started reading everything he could find about steel metallurgy, which led to a PhD in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines. Now, Larrin's job is to make steels for the auto industry, but he still loves the high carbon steels that are used to make knives. So, he writes about knife steel-related topics on his blog, Knife Steel Nerds, to feed his passion.

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