Shirogami...

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Fair warning, the following is buried at the bottom of a bucket full of whatifs, itdepends, and prefrences mixed with toobroadisms and no doubt topped with a splash of whocares but here goes...

I have a hard time warming up to shirogami/white steel. More specifically, I have a hard time entertaining paying premium prices for it. Now, obviously I'm a home cook and I can see the attraction a pro cook, especially in sushi would have for it, but for me? I just find it lacking.

Yeah, it sharpens easily and wonderfully but from a practical point of view, with the right gear and understanding, so does most stuff. At least for a lasting "working edge". While I haven't found it egregious, it is certainly more prone to rust than other carbons and doesn't hold it's edge nearly as well as many of them.

I'm only pondering this as I find a number of knives I like but will see they are in white steel. Now, I fully appreciate the notion of buying the design over the steel, but I also feel like there's a bevy of choices and I find myself looking elsewhere for some aogami or some such. I'm not a steel snob perse but I find myself increasingly turned off by shirogami.

I reckon I'm just musing but also wondering what the thoughts of others are. Not a new topic I know but hey, it's the weekend, what else do you have to do? ;)
 
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Ggmerino

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I’ve tried many steels, and nothing gets as sharp as Shirogami 1 for me. except maybe Aogami Super. And I find it super easy to sharpen compared to other high hardness steels (think crucible steels). I don’t have problems with edge retention. I have a TF and a Hitojira Togashi In White 1- neither has a very aggressive profile- but boy do they get an edge! Maybe I just got lucky with good steel treatment? I did force a patina even though both are stainless clad to tame the reactivity a bit.
 

Pie

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I like white steel. White #2 is sort of the boring standard, which is a fair assessment if I’m being honest. Retention isn’t amazing, not ultra hard (usually), not really all that durable..

But oh boy does it get sharp. And easily too. It’s entirely possible I’m just not able to get other steels this sharp, but for someone at my level it’s nice to consistently be able to produce “benchmark” results.

A couple wobbly swipes on a fast jnat is all it takes to bring back crazy sharp.
 

rmrf

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I like that white #2 gets dull fast so I can sharpen more often. If all I used was zwear, I would be even worse at sharpening than I am now.

Of course, I don't buy white #2 knives because they dull quickly. That would be like buying a Ferrari because it breaks down. It just so happens that most of the knives I'm interested in geometry wise around my price point are white #2. Frankly, I'd prefer everything to be stainless or semi-stainless. However, I don't know where to get inexpensive semi-stainless knives with a thick spine at the pinch and thin and the tip and behind the edge besides yoshikane.
 

SirCutAlot

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A couple wobbly swipes on a fast jnat is all it takes to bring back crazy sharp.

It`s just like steeling german steel, without efford a sharp knife with a quick touch on a natural. The steels that keep a nearly as sharp as white edge need more attention and time. I also have to resharpen/touchup steels like Aogami 52100 1.2519 1095 etc. every single day so i don`t get why i should choose other steels for this reason. There are for sure steels that keep a usable sharpness for 2 days or more but they are more expensive and sharpening is not the fun it used to be with white steel.

+the most sought after japanese knifes are in White Steel or alike (Kato, Tsukasa, Shigefusa) .

SirCutALot
 

Jovidah

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I'm somewhat inclined to agree. Shirogami sharpens easy as pie and real quick, but edge retention leaves something to be desired. Can't say I'm overly bothered by reactivity; white steel itself isn't a problem in reactivity IMO. Iron cladding though...
I don't know why the trend seems to be that there's so much white steel lately. Guess it's cheaper since it's so easy to grind?
 

daveb

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I like white in some applications but not all.

Stainless clad white, Gengetsu, Yoshi, (others?) sharpen readily and reactivity (fancy word for rusting) is not a problem.

White on a yani, deba or usuba is fine - not as reactive with fish / veg and you're going to be wiping down a lot anyway.

I've found it unacceptable to me on working knives such as Ashi, Gesshin Ginga, where the reactivity starts before I can reach for a towel.
 
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I like white in some applications but not all.

Stainless clad white, Gengetsu, Yoshi, (others?) sharpen readily and reactivity (fancy word for rusting) is not a problem.

White on a yani, deba or usuba is fine - not as reactive with fish / veg and you're going to be wiping down a lot anyway.

I've found it unacceptable to me on working knives such as Ashi, Gesshin Ginga, where the reactivity starts before I can reach for a towel.
Oh boy, yeah, there are knives out there where reactivity starts before using!!!
 
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I find shirogami 1 and its equivalents especially problematic. To me, they just don't offer any advantage over 52100. Roughly same carbide volume (varies a lot based on HT), same achievable hardness, worse wear resistance, and toughness. Granted in low alloy steels those differences aren't huge (except for toughness). Adding this Shiro 1 is especially hard to HT in a forge because of its extremely high carbon content (although I'm not sure how common it still is to ht in a forge). I don't really understand why so many makers opt to use it over other cheap and widely available steels that by all objective metrics should provide better end performance.

I don't know why the trend seems to be that there's so much white steel lately. Guess it's cheaper since it's so easy to grind?

I'd be interested in knowing this as well. In my experience, it is really no harder to grind than 52100 or Aogami. But maybe the grinding stones often used are more sensitive to the slight changes in the hardness of the bulk material or carbides than belt grinders.
 

esoo

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I like white in some applications but not all.

Stainless clad white, Gengetsu, Yoshi, (others?) sharpen readily and reactivity (fancy word for rusting) is not a problem.

White on a yani, deba or usuba is fine - not as reactive with fish / veg and you're going to be wiping down a lot anyway.

I've found it unacceptable to me on working knives such as Ashi, Gesshin Ginga, where the reactivity starts before I can reach for a towel.

Is the reactivity that bad on a Ashi shirogami monosteel?

I ask as I've always found (as a home cook) that the bad reactivity is the cladding and not really the core.
 

daveb

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I don't really understand why so many makers opt to use it over other cheap and widely available steels that by all objective metrics should provide better end performance.

Sipping coffee and making assumptions here. I've not seen white of any flavor used except by Japanese makers. My guess is that it's readily available and inexpensive and has become an accepted (even preferred?) steel for the Japanese market. Don't recall any western makers (except MC) using it. Another guess is that the export market is noise to most Japanese makers.

On this side of the pond, 52100 among others is more available and there are a bunch of "super steels" as well.
 

Delat

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I’m currently playing with a Wakui stainless-clad white 2 and was really surprised how effective stropping is on it. I haven’t sharpened it yet, but noticed the OOTB edge was getting a touch dull after use and just a few strokes on the strop got it stick-in-the-board sharp.

Edge retention mirrors my experience with a Y Tanaka white 2, definitely not great. I generally avoid aogami but made an exception for the wakui.
 

EShin

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As with any steel, I think it really depends on the heat treatment, geometry, use etc. I've used very bad examples of white 2, but also good ones that get sharp very easily and don't and have an ok edge retention. Also, I think white 2 might make most sense for traditional Japanese single bevel knives. That being sad, the availability of steels, habit and knowledge clearly play a big role. At least in Sakai, there hasn't really been a demand for other steels than the ones that have been used for a long time so not much reason for the blacksmiths to search for alternatives and experiment with them. But with recent developments with Hitachi Metals, it seems that the steels could be no longer available in the future, so some people in the industry have started thinking about possible solutions like cooperating with makers in Niigata Sanjo and Takefu, or importing steels from abroad as a last resort. It might lead to people learning a bit more about the different kinds of steels that are available now, which would be good I think.

I'd be interested in knowing this as well. In my experience, it is really no harder to grind than 52100 or Aogami. But maybe the grinding stones often used are more sensitive to the slight changes in the hardness of the bulk material or carbides than belt grinders.
That seems to be very very different with the grinding wheels commonly used in Japan that are very sensitive to slight changes in hardness from what I hear. White 2 is much easier and faster to grind than e.g. white 1 or blue steels, so basically all sharpeners like white 2 best.
 
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That seems to be very very different with the grinding wheels commonly used in Japan that are very sensitive to slight changes in hardness from what I hear. White 2 is much easier and faster to grind than e.g. white 1 or blue steels, so basically all sharpeners like white 2 best.

Quite possible. Although I don't know what mechanism would cause that. I've heard other western makers complain about it being noticeably harder to grind harder steels so maybe I'm the outlier.
 

Eloh

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The steel makes kinda sense for knives with acute edge angles and hardly any board contact, eg Suji/Yanagi. But for chef knives (/gyutos) for western cuisine with lots of cutting board contact there's a long list of better choices imo
 
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I like that white #2 gets dull fast so I can sharpen more often. If all I used was zwear, I would be even worse at sharpening than I am now.

Of course, I don't buy white #2 knives because they dull quickly. That would be like buying a Ferrari because it breaks down. It just so happens that most of the knives I'm interested in geometry wise around my price point are white #2. Frankly, I'd prefer everything to be stainless or semi-stainless. However, I don't know where to get inexpensive semi-stainless knives with a thick spine at the pinch and thin and the tip and behind the edge besides yoshikane.

Check out the X-Hammer Ittetsu line at SHARP Knife Shop. I have the bunka and it is wide out of the handle and I'd guess the other offerings are as well. Give Gage a call and he'll tell ya the specifics.
 
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As with any steel, I think it really depends on the heat treatment, geometry, use etc. I've used very bad examples of white 2, but also good ones that get sharp very easily and don't and have an ok edge retention. Also, I think white 2 might make most sense for traditional Japanese single bevel knives. That being sad, the availability of steels, habit and knowledge clearly play a big role. At least in Sakai, there hasn't really been a demand for other steels than the ones that have been used for a long time so not much reason for the blacksmiths to search for alternatives and experiment with them. But with recent developments with Hitachi Metals, it seems that the steels could be no longer available in the future, so some people in the industry have started thinking about possible solutions like cooperating with makers in Niigata Sanjo and Takefu, or importing steels from abroad as a last resort. It might lead to people learning a bit more about the different kinds of steels that are available now, which would be good I think.


That seems to be very very different with the grinding wheels commonly used in Japan that are very sensitive to slight changes in hardness from what I hear. White 2 is much easier and faster to grind than e.g. white 1 or blue steels, so basically all sharpeners like white 2 best.

Very interesting. Would you mind expanding on the Hitachi developments? I'd very much like to know more.
 

timebard

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Is the reactivity that bad on a Ashi shirogami monosteel?

I ask as I've always found (as a home cook) that the bad reactivity is the cladding and not really the core.

Just to add a conflicting data point to Dave's, I found my Ashi suji (also white 2 mono) to be no problem at all reactivity wise. It eventually built up a great patina but it was less reactive getting there than any iron clad I've used and pretty comparable to other carbon monosteels.

To the original question, yeah, I agree. White #2 is great for budget knives and as a first decent knife to practice sharpening skills. When you're just learning how to sharpen poor edge retention is kind of a feature, not a bug. I also don't have any problem with it for something like a suji used at home, since it won't get used often enough for retention to matter much. But I mostly don't look at white #2 gyutos anymore.
 

EShin

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Very interesting. Would you mind expanding on the Hitachi developments? I'd very much like to know more.
Hitachi sold its metal business to an American consortium last year and it's quite possible that the knife steel is discontinued because it hasn't really been much of a business but maybe more of a cultural activity. It seems that nobody really knows what is going to happen at this point but some of the younger people in Sakai are worrying.

Another point I forgot to mention above is that the lead time for orders for the Yasuki steel seems to be 3-6 months so that blacksmiths have to order rather large amounts in advance and storing space becomes a problem. For example, I know from Mr. Nakagawa who forges white 1/2, blue 1/2, silver 3, VG10 and SG2 (by far the most variety in Sakai) that it's impossible for him to experiment with other steels because he simply doesn't have the space, so that's another factor that doesn't encourage people to look at other steels.
 
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Hitachi sold its metal business to an American consortium last year and it's quite possible that the knife steel is discontinued because it hasn't really been much of a business but maybe more of a cultural activity. It seems that nobody really knows what is going to happen at this point but some of the younger people in Sakai are worrying.

Another point I forgot to mention above is that the lead time for orders for the Yasuki steel seems to be 3-6 months so that blacksmiths have to order rather large amounts in advance and storing space becomes a problem. For example, I know from Mr. Nakagawa who forges white 1/2, blue 1/2, silver 3, VG10 and SG2 (by far the most variety in Sakai) that it's impossible for him to experiment with other steels because he simply doesn't have the space, so that's another factor that doesn't encourage people to look at other steels.

Excellent insight. Thank you.
 

Jason183

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White steel doesn’t have very pronounced toothieness cutting feel compared to liked Aogami Super. Toothieness edge stays sharper longer on cutting something liked tomato, peppers( slippery skins). White steel IME is better at slicing sashimi. Especially cutting Toro, you don’t want too much toothieness on the cutting edge.
 

Matt Jacobs

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I've gotten rid of anything I owned in white. To me AEB-L gets just as sharp just as easy but holds a way better edge and is stainless. Don't get me wrong I love carbon steel and own a ton of different steels. I also like to sharpen. I don't like to sharpen a home knife weekly though and I prefer pretty much all other carbons to white. I wouldn't turn down the right shirogami but it would have to be cheep and I would want it stainless clad. Iron clad shirogami is a no go for me. Sorry Mazaki, love your knives but make it in AO Super please at the same price.
 

MSicardCutlery

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It might be worth taking a look at Larrin Thomas' charts and pictures that include white and blue steels, (among many others). As far as I can tell, based on the data on that site, and I fully admit I may be overlooking something, it appears that white steel is no better than 1095 or W1, and that 52100 outperforms Blue Super in every respect at the same hardness level.

I think much of their prevalence probably comes from those being domestically produced steels with broad availability there, as such it has become something of a standard. That isn't to say that it isn't a very good steel for the job, but there are North American equivalents, and other simple steels that will out perform it. It's also possible that the Japanese have their own equivalents or superiors to a steel like 52100, but it isn't in common use because there has not been a demand for it.

I also can't rule out the possibility that the Japanese steels might take a keener edge than the North American ones, but if they do the question remains as to whether or not it is a consequential difference, or just a superfluous one.
 
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