Ginsan & AEB-L

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paulraphael

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My main gyuto for the last dozen years has a ginsan blade, ostensibly ~HRC 60, but based on its performance I'm guessing it's somewhat softer than this. The edge stability isn't what I'd hope, although I do sharpen it to very acute angles. I appreciate how well it cuts and how responsive it is on the stones.

After reading a bunch of steel articles on Larrin's blog I'm getting persuaded that AEB-L is a much better steel than ginsan. Especially for my priorities (edge stability, sharpenability). But interestingly, when I look at people's subjective experiences in forums like this one, people find the two to be more or less interchangeable. Including people who have had similar knives in each steel (or essentially similar steels ... 19c27, 13c26 etc). And among Japanese knifemakers, ginsan and its Swedish doppelganger seem more popular.

Any thoughts on why the research suggests AEB-L is so much better, while users don't have such a clear preference?
 

Nemo

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Heat treat is very important for both steels. Who made the blade that you have?

What specifically do you mean by saying that edge stability is not up to scratch? Are you talking about poor edge retention, is the edge rolling over or some other problem?
 
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Nemo

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Gin3 and AEBL are not identical.

G3 has more C and a bit more Cr, so will form a more of the larger, relitavely softer Cr carbides. As a result, it won't be as fine grained as AEBL and the carbides may be a bit softer, but overall the steel is often hardened to a similar HRC.

A good G3 knife is pretty good so if yours is not performing, we need to work outwhether it is the steel (hence needing to know the maker, although I guess it is possible you got a dud) or the way you are sharpening it.
 

M1k3

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Ginsan is AEB-H, not the L version of AEB.
 

paulraphael

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Gin3 and AEBL are not identical.
Yes, I realize this and was probably unclear in my post. I know that in terms of formula and in lab testing they're very different, with AEB-L looking a whole lot better.

Meanwhile, people using and comparing similar knives made from both steels don't seem to find big differences. And Japanese manufacturers seem to favor Ginsan.
 

paulraphael

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Heat treat is very important for both steels. Who made the blade that you have?

What specifically do you mean by saying that edge stability is not up to scratch? Are you talking about poor edge retention, is the edge rolling over or some other problem?
It's an Ikkanshi Tadatsuna wa gyuto. I've been using it about 12 years. I get edge rolling. Never seen a chip of any kind. What I specifically see (using a loupe) looks like tiny flat spots along the edge. Interesting it's more of an issue when I use my maple end-grain cutting board than when I use cheap poly boards.

I've talked to many other people with the same knife; a few have had similar complaints; most haven't. I even heard from two people who owned both this knife and the Suisin Inox Honyaki (which the Tad is basically a copy of). One of these cooks found the knives identical in use and in sharpening, while the other found the Tad significant'y softer. So I'm suspecting there's some hardening inconsistency here.

Obviously, bevel angles and sharpening and use habits are all wildcards. But I use the knife very gently, and sharpen similarly to others I know who use this knife. I can't rule out "user error" but I kind of doubt that's the whole story.
 
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Ginsan is a good steel when done well so is aeb-l. Ginsan is usually not heat treated very hard, around 60 hrc usually. If you are sharpening to very accute angles and your edge rolls then you need to increase the angle. AEB-L can be heat treated harder and still stay tough so when heat treated harder it can be sharpened to acute angles without rolling and also not chipping. Now, most AEB-L knives are not heat treated that hard, you have to go custom and even then only few makers push it. So the potential is there, but most users don't experience it because AEB-L at 60 hrc is nothing special, it is very tough, but how much toughness do you really need in a kitchen knife. When both are heat treated to the same, lower hardness ginsan should hold an edge better since it is more wear resistant and this is probably why many prefer it. AEB-L doesn't look better per say it is just tougher and if that's what you need then AEB-L would be the steel for you. Since it sounds like deformation is your issue, you either want a knife with a harder edge that doesn't chip with your use or you can change the geometry of your edge on the existing knife and see if that will work for you. In many cases not fully deburring is the cause of edge deformation, but if that is not an issue then increasing the angle on the existing knife might help. Both steels are considered easy to sharpen with AEB-L being easier in most cases.
 

paulraphael

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Ginsan is a good steel when done well so is aeb-l. Ginsan is usually not heat treated very hard, around 60 hrc usually. If you are sharpening to very accute angles and your edge rolls then you need to increase the angle. AEB-L can be heat treated harder and still stay tough so when heat treated harder it can be sharpened to acute angles without rolling and also not chipping. Now, most AEB-L knives are not heat treated that hard, you have to go custom and even then only few makers push it. So the potential is there, but most users don't experience it because AEB-L at 60 hrc is nothing special, it is very tough, but how much toughness do you really need in a kitchen knife. When both are heat treated to the same, lower hardness ginsan should hold an edge better since it is more wear resistant and this is probably why many prefer it. AEB-L doesn't look better per say it is just tougher and if that's what you need then AEB-L would be the steel for you. Since it sounds like deformation is your issue, you either want a knife with a harder edge that doesn't chip with your use or you can change the geometry of your edge on the existing knife and see if that will work for you. In many cases not fully deburring is the cause of edge deformation, but if that is not an issue then increasing the angle on the existing knife might help. Both steels are considered easy to sharpen with AEB-L being easier in most cases.
This sounds completely plausible. AEB-L looks (in test results) like it hits a sweet spot around HRC 62, but I never see that.

Any thoughts on makers who do this? I left a message on Devin's site, but he may not be interested ... I'm not looking for anything fancy like what he usually does. I'm looking for a simple, mono-steel very thin wa gyuto ... just like what I got now, but harder.

The Gesshin Ginga's (rumored to be AEB-L ~61) look interesting, but people who have compared them to knives like mine said perform similarly. Jon at Japaneseknifeimports also said they'd be similar.
 

big_adventure

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I have an AEB-L gyuto custom from @The Edge and it's a fantastic blade. He hardens to about 63 hrc using, I believe, Devin's methods, and it has very decent edge retention. It's also very easy to fully sharpen and to maintain a blazing edge with a few edge-leading strokes between uses. It's a big boy and fantastic for reducing lots of large hard stuff into lots of small stuff - it's a goto for me for potatoes and other sticky produce thanks to a pronounced double-S grind leading to great release. It's also a goto to hand to guests in my kitchen, because AEB-L is probably the most indestructible steel on my knife rack. I've used it on a lot of hard stuff and I've never experienced edge rolling at all.

I have a Ginsan yanagiba from Shiraki, hardened to 62, and it's perfect for that use. I've only ever used it to cut raw fish though, so it's not much of a test for edge retention.
 
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If you can score a Dalman when he drops on his website or find one here on BST, he treats his AEB-L hard. The above suggestion is also good, I've had 2 knives from @The Edge and both were excellent, still have one, they are s35vn though. Talking to him is a good idea. Marko Tsourkan takes his AEB-L to around 62.5 and might start heat treating it harder. You might also want to reach out to @Andrei Markin and ask him about AEB-L, he uses many steels. @HSC /// Knives, Harbeer once he moves and starts making knives again is another maker that might be able to help with your request, worth reaching out.
 
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Any thoughts on why the research suggests AEB-L is so much better, while users don't have such a clear preference?
When not making knives or teaching it, my side hustle is sharpening. As such I get to play with a lot of different knives and have seen and played with a lot of AEBL knives. Knives I've made and knives from other makers from all over.

AEBL has a sketchy reputation and well deserved. I've seen some pretty bad AEBL knives.

If you want AEBL in the 63 / 64 Rockwell range where it has decent edge retention and resistance to rolling etc, you have to temper it just below 300 and 300 is not very hot ( and very low compared to most other steels used in blades ). My theory is that some makers are over heating the edge while grinding and or when sharpening if they use belts or buffers.

Steel is a horrible conductor of heat and grinding belts are great friction producers, especially belts that are a little dull or moving fast. In testing and by mistake, I'd been able to easily over temper an edge with absolutely no temperature rise detectable by hand in the blade when using a grinder.

That's my theory as to why AEBLs reputation doesn't match the research and why people might be ambivalent about it.
BTW, I'm a huge fan of AEBL. I use it in my kitchen when not using Carbon.
 
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Nemo

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If the main issue is edge rolling and you sharpen at an acute angle, you are sharpening at a more acute angle than the steel can maintain. Have you tried a microbevel?

If you use the Kippington deburring method, you can incorporate a microbevel into your deburring technique.
 
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IME AEB-L, 14C28N, and Nitro-V can all be really good steels. Kippington uses Nitro-V these days for his stainless knives, Marko Tsourkan and Devin Thomas are known for, among other things, their treatment of AEB-L. Jonas/Isasamedjan is mostly working with 14C28N. I don't have personal experience with Dalman's AEB-L but I would assume that it quite good. As @branwell noted these are alloys that can easily be be F'd up by makers whose temperature control isn't on point but well executed examples can make excellent knives.
 

paulraphael

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If the main issue is edge rolling and you sharpen at an acute angle, you are sharpening at a more acute angle than the steel can maintain. Have you tried a microbevel?

If you use the Kippington deburring method, you can incorporate a microbevel into your deburring technique.
I started using a microbevel a couple of years ago and it definitely helps. This is the first I've heard of Kippington's method ... looking into it now.
 

paulraphael

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Unless there's some specific reasons you want to stay with AEBL (ease of sharpening as you mentioned), I would suggest you consider moving to the Z wear/Cru wear/MagnaCut class of wear resistant steels.
Higher hardness, and almost stainless.
I could be wrong on this, but I just don't see abrasive wear as being much of a factor in kitchen knife edge retention. The only hard abrasives my knives ever see are sharpening stones. Since I like edges that are very acute/thin, my emphasis is on edge stability. And that's where I'm not getting quite as much as I'm hoping for right now.

Cru/wear and magnaCut look like they actually trade some edge stability for wear resistance, compared to AEB-L. The steel that intrigues me is Larrin's new creation NioMax (sometimes just called "new steel" in his blog articles. But no word yet on when or if that will be commercially available. And then how long before knife makers learn how to use it, and get their toys to market?
 

ITKKF

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Another maker that treats AEB-L hard is Alfredsson (alfredssonknives). I have 2 knives custom ordered from him in AEB-L, which were HT-ed to 64-65 hrc. Couldn't be happier.
 

paulraphael

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Another maker that treats AEB-L hard is Alfredsson (alfredssonknives). I have 2 knives custom ordered from him in AEB-L, which were HT-ed to 64-65 hrc. Couldn't be happier.
Interesting. That's really hard. What kinds of bevel angles are you using, and what's your experience edge durability?
 
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I could be wrong on this, but I just don't see abrasive wear as being much of a factor in kitchen knife edge retention. The only hard abrasives my knives ever see are sharpening stones. Since I like edges that are very acute/thin, my emphasis is on edge stability. And that's where I'm not getting quite as much as I'm hoping for right now.

Cru/wear and magnaCut look like they actually trade some edge stability for wear resistance, compared to AEB-L. The steel that intrigues me is Larrin's new creation NioMax (sometimes just called "new steel" in his blog articles. But no word yet on when or if that will be commercially available. And then how long before knife makers learn how to use it, and get their toys to market?
IME Z-Wear has significantly better edge retention than SG2/R2 or the AEB-L, Nitro-V, 14C28N family of alloys. I have no experience, yet, with MagnaCut.
 

ITKKF

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Interesting. That's really hard. What kinds of bevel angles are you using, and what's your experience edge durability?
As a home cook, I didn't need to sharpen them yet. Makers angle at the edge is around 17 degrees, but both knives are really thin behind the edge - one is S-grind gyuto and the other is slight concave grind petty.

For maintenance I use edge leading strokes, mostly on NP 3K. For some reason, my inability probably, I couldn't succeed in maintaining them on a leather strop, like I do with my Gesshin Ginga AEB-L gyuto. There is a noticeable difference in edge durability in favour of the harder HT-ed knives. On the other hand Ginga is really easy to maintain on a strop and sharpening it to a screaming edge is more or less trivial.
 
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I could be wrong on this, but I just don't see abrasive wear as being much of a factor in kitchen knife edge retention. The only hard abrasives my knives ever see are sharpening stones. Since I like edges that are very acute/thin, my emphasis is on edge stability. And that's where I'm not getting quite as much as I'm hoping for right now.

Cru/wear and magnaCut look like they actually trade some edge stability for wear resistance, compared to AEB-L. The steel that intrigues me is Larrin's new creation NioMax (sometimes just called "new steel" in his blog articles. But no word yet on when or if that will be commercially available. And then how long before knife makers learn how to use it, and get their toys to market?
What you say sounds correct in theory and I used to think the same. Empirical evidence in my use suggests otherwise. In general, I don't believe in testing different knives to make judgements on steel or heat treat because geometry plays a huge role on edge retention and durability. This is one of the reasons that some can chop nails, etc with really hard and relatively brittle steels. This is why Larrin's tests are so important and educational, since he can keep geometry and many other variables constant. Regardless of this, after using many knives and many steels it seems that in my use the steels with higher wear resistance last longer in the kitchen than lower wear resistance steels. Z-wear @63 the way Harbeer treats it holds an edge noticeably longer than AEB-L class steels even at the same hardness. Same with MagnaCut, M4 and Vanadis 23. K390 holds its sharp edge longer yet. Again these are different knives so part of it could be geometry. There could also be another explanation why I experience this, but it seems pretty clear that whatever the true reason is as long as they don't chip or deform, higher wear steels hold an edge longer even in the kitchen where we cut things with very low abrasion resistance. For ultimate edge stability you want something that gets very hard and is still relatively chip resistant. Upcoming ApexUltra is showing great potential in that regard.
 

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I started using a microbevel a couple of years ago and it definitely helps. This is the first I've heard of Kippington's method ... looking into it now.
 

ModRQC

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As with any of these posts... choil shot please?

It's an Ikkanshi Tadatsuna wa gyuto. I've been using it about 12 years.
Your angle is too steep and results don't please you anymore because your knife is thick BTE. You've probably been sharpening more acutely every once in a few to regain how it felt but obviously if that soft, or even appropriatedly hard Ginsan, the thicker you are behind an acute edge, the less it will endure the force it takes to make cuts happen seamlessly. There the relative softness of your knife might clocks in as an additional burden.

I've had mostly cheap Ginsan units, and in my book they're splendid with a normal edge when thin enough BTE and by no way prone to rolling that edge. At probably circa 60RC rolling an edge is some feat. And the fact you've taken 10+ years to finally complain on performance suspiciously looks like multiple sharpenings with more and more acute edge to make up for a bad geometry BTE.
 

Bico Doce

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Cru/wear and magnaCut look like they actually trade some edge stability for wear resistance, compared to AEB-L.
I had a magnacut and aebl both treated to about 60-61 hrc. What your saying could be true (or not) in theory or in extreme circumstances/stress tests and what not but from a standard use in the kitchen perspective I found magnacut to be the superior steel. The edge retention was noticeably better, the edge was just as fine and it was tough as I needed it to be for my uses. I really don’t see why aebl would be used over magnacut for kitchen knives in the future as magnacut gains more popularity
 
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I had a magnacut and aebl both treated to about 60-61 hrc. What your saying could be true (or not) in theory or in extreme circumstances/stress tests and what not but from a standard use in the kitchen perspective I found magnacut to be the superior steel. The edge retention was noticeably better, the edge was just as fine and it was tough as I needed it to be for my uses. I really don’t see why aebl would be used over magnacut for kitchen knives in the future as magnacut gains more popularity
AEB-L is cheaper, easier to work and sharpen. Just to play devil's advocate. I also prefer MagnaCut class steels for kitchen knives and especially MagnaCut itself.
 

paulraphael

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Here's a choil shot.


Tadatsuna-choil.jpg


Blade is 2.4mm wide at the spine. The backside bevel is about 1mm; I can't see it in the pic. There's a microbevel on the front side.




As with any of these posts... choil shot please?



Your angle is too steep and results don't please you anymore because your knife is thick BTE. You've probably been sharpening more acutely every once in a few to regain how it felt but obviously if that soft, or even appropriatedly hard Ginsan, the thicker you are behind an acute edge, the less it will endure the force it takes to make cuts happen seamlessly. There the relative softness of your knife might clocks in as an additional burden.

I've had mostly cheap Ginsan units, and in my book they're splendid with a normal edge when thin enough BTE and by no way prone to rolling that edge. At probably circa 60RC rolling an edge is some feat. And the fact you've taken 10+ years to finally complain on performance suspiciously looks like multiple sharpenings with more and more acute edge to make up for a bad geometry BTE.
 
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