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All You Need to Know About: ZDP 189 Steel

If you’re a knife enthusiast and somebody that takes great pride in selecting and caring for your kitchen knives, the wide array of different knife materials out there can seem overwhelming, and it’s easy to get bogged down in technical fluff when researching specs.

This article is going to explain ZDP 189 steel, it’s application in a kitchen knife, and how it compares to other knife steels commonly in use.

In simple terms, ZDP 189 steel is a Japanese made knife material that’s very hard for everyday household use. ZDP 189 steel knives are popular because of their unique component elements and Powder Metallurgy manufacture, which joins high ratios of quality knife ingredients like chromium and carbon in the steel.

What goes into ZDP 189 steel?

Let’s look at what elements go into a ZDP 189 knife blade, and what they add to the overall finished product.

  • Chromium: ZDP 189 steel is 20% chromium, which in knife terms is a lot. The chromium in the steel gives rust resistance and a high level of hardness to the blade.
  • Carbon: ZDP 189 steel is 3% carbon. Again, this is a high ratio in the specific blend of ZDP 189 and it adds to the hardness level and durability of the blade.
  • Molybdenum: ZDP 189 steel contains 1.4% molybdenum, a chemical element that strengthens the knife blade and ensures that it stays strong even in high temperatures.
  • Tungsten: 0.6% of a ZDP 189 steel blade will be tungsten. It’s included in the steel recipe for giving sharpness to a blade and helping it to hold a sharp edge for longer.
  • Manganese: At 0.5%, manganese is added to ZDP 189 steel along with the other components to enhance strength. It can only be there in small amounts, or a knife blade can become brittle.
  • Silicon: ZDP 189 steel contains 0.4% silicon. This allows a ZDP blade to be forged at a high temperature without losing hardness.
  • Vanadium: ZDP 189 steel is around 0.1% vanadium. The vanadium binds with the carbon in the blade, so that the sharp steel edges of your knife last longer.
  • Sulfur: The 0.02% of sulfur in ZDP 189 steel makes it able to be easily machined into the desired shape and to the desired sharpness.

The process of making ZDP 189 steel knives

The process of making ZDP 189 steel knives
Source: Wikimediacommons

Each ingredient within a ZDP 189 steel knife adds something special to the mix, but it’s the manufacturing process that makes it all come together into something magical.

Basically, the Powder Metallurgy technique gives more alloying ability to the component ingredients, allowing them to maximize the hardness of each other without losing their hardness as individual ingredients.

Also, the make up and crafting of ZDP 189 steel blades gives a high volume of chromium carbides throughout the steel mixture, giving it a hardness level that has long been regarded as superior when compared to other knife steels. 

How does ZDP 189 perform as a knife steel?

There are several facets to be considered when evaluating a knife steel so let’s look at the primary concerns for you as the consumer!

Overall, ZDP 189 steel blades perform well and can be regarded as good quality in several areas, although they’re not entirely without flaws as detailed below.


ZDP 189 steel knife blades score around 67 HRC (Hardness Rockwell C), based on the accepted method of hardness rating known as the Rockwell Scale. This score can be even higher if the blade has been cooled to sub – zero temperatures during the tempering process.

Is that good or bad?  To give you an idea, the industry standard for the best kitchen knives regard the ‘best’ level of hardness as anything from an HRC of 60 upwards. So, ZDP 189 steel knife blades are top of the league in terms of hardness! 

Edge retention

Keeping a wicked sharp edge on your knife blade is what you want, and how does ZDP 189 steel measure up?

This steel offers a long – lasting edge for kitchen use and is excelled only by high vanadium steels.

Resistance to wear

In terms of toughness and durability, a ZDP 189 steel knife blade isn’t as tough when compared to some other steels due to its high hardness level. For everyday kitchen use though, it performs well, and you can expect acceptable durability for its price range.

Corrosion resistance

Due to its chemical make – up, knives made from ZDP 189 steel can be expected to offer good rust resistance because of the chromium content. However, users do report a tendency to rust if ZDP 189 knives are left wet or exposed to moist conditions. 

A ZDP 189 steel knife will require careful drying after use and storage away from moisture to retain its corrosion free finish.

Ease of sharpening

Knife sharpening
Source: Wikimediacommons

Because of the low levels of vanadium carbide in ZDP 189 steel, blades made from this material are quite easily sharpened if you are using the appropriate sharpening stone, in the case of ZDP 189 steel blades, aluminum oxide – based water stones are the recommended sharpening method.

ZDP 189 steel versus VG 10 steel

Another type of knife steel that is popular today is VG 10 steel. Let’s see how it compares to ZDP 189 in a couple of areas.


One thing to consider when you’re purchasing a new knife is your budget and how much you’re willing to spend.  As holds true with most things, spending a bit more usually ensures a better quality of item.

You’ll find at retailers that ZDP 189 steel knives will be more expensive (generally speaking) than knives made from VG 10 steel.

Ease of sharpening

As ZDP 189 steel knives are very hard, you’ll find it easier to sharpen knives made from VG 10 steel.  Knife experts report that a VG 10 knife is a doddle to sharpen compared to the harder ZDP 189, but again, if you’re using a wet stone sharpening system for your ZDP 189 knives, you’ll get them extremely sharp and will only have to sharpen very occasionally.


ZDP 189 steel knives are harder than their VG 10 counterparts. The Rockwell rating of ZDP 189 is about 67 HRC, whereas VG 10 steel comes in at 56 – 60 HRC.

This difference might not even be noticed by the average consumer and for everyday kitchen usage they’re of a similar class. 


You might think that the ZDP 189 steel knife would be tougher than the VG 10 steel knife because it’s harder. This is not the case as both knives can be prone to chipping if used very roughly or banged around.

Knives made from either material offer a decent level of toughness or durability for everyday use but require care and prudent usage.

Edge retention

The ZDP 189 steel knife wins here with a longer lasting sharp edge than its VG 10 steel knife counterpart. You need to weigh this with the VG 10’s easier sharpening and decide for yourself which material will best suit your habits and knife care routine.

Corrosion resistance

The VG 10 steel knife blades win here as they’re more rust and discoloration resistant. Some ZDP 189 steel knife owners complain of staining on the blade and a susceptibility to rust, so the ZDP 189 steel knife will require more attention and care than its VG 10 counterpart, simply because its component chemicals and make up are different.

Care & maintenance for ZDP 189 steel knife blades

Care & maintenance for ZDP 189 steel knife blades

We’ve established that the ZDP 189 steel knife offerings on the market today offer very good quality for the knife lover.

How do you look after your ZDP 189 steel knife to ensure that it lasts and that you get to enjoy its razor – sharp edge for ages? Read on below for our top tips!

  • Never dump your knife or knives into a sink. This damages the blades as they jostle with other items. Wash knives separately.
  • Thoroughly dry your ZDP 189 steel knife after every use and store it in very dry conditions without damp. Do not store next to a sink or kettle for example.
  • Invest in an aluminum oxide – based water stone for your ZDP 189 steel knife, this works best on the blade.
  • Always follow retailer’s and manufacturer’s directions carefully and use your ZDP 189 steel knife only for what it was intended for.

In conclusion

ZDP 189 steel knives have long been top sellers for those in the know, because they offer very good performance. We trust that this overview of ZDP 189 steel knife composition, manufacture, comparison and care and maintenance has given you a good grounding in this popular class of knives.

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