What Exactly Is VG-10 Steel?

Over the past two or three years, I’ve enjoyed many knives and have taken a particular interest in the types of steel used in making them.

various knives
various knives

There are many articles that discuss the various types of steel and their uses; one popular steel is VG-10. So, what exactly is VG-10 steel?

VG-10 steel is a Japanese-made high-carbon stainless steel popularly used in knifemaking. It’s sturdy, reliable steel with good corrosion resistance and it can take a beating. The fact that it’s an easy steel to sharpen has made it a popular choice in both kitchen and EDC knives.

VG-10 is Popular for Knives

Originating in Japan, VG-10 is one of the most popular cutlery-grade steels. It gained that popularity, of course, through its use in kitchen knives.

It was considered the gold standard at the time that it was originally made (that’s what the ‘G’ in the name stands for – gold standard).

Depending on the heat treatment that’s used, VG-10 has a Rockwell Hardness of between 56 and 60 thanks to the vanadium, cobalt, and carbon in the blade.

Despite that high level of hardness and wear resistance, VG-10 is very easy to sharpen.

It’s popular in making Damascus and has since made its way out of the kitchen – with certain companies using it to make other types of knives.

The Chemical Structure of VG-10

Carbon1.05%
Chromium15.50%
Molybdenum1.20%
Vanadium0.30%
Cobalt1.50%
Manganese0.50%
Phosphorous0.03%

The carbon and vanadium content works to improve the steel’s resistance to wear and tear.

Additionally, the carbon in the steel also improves tensile strength, edge retention, corrosion resistance, and hardness.

The chromium forms chromium carbide (by mixing with the carbon content) and improves strength and increases toughness and hardness.

Manganese also increases the hardness, but it also increases the brittleness of the steel. The cobalt content improves the corrosion resistance.

The molybdenum and phosphorous content work together to improve the machinability and hardness of the steel.

What’s Good about VG-10?

VG-10 steel is a high carbon stainless steel that has touches of chromium, vanadium, and cobalt in its chemical makeup which has a number of benefits and a few drawbacks. First off, what’s good about VG-10 steel?

  • VG-10 steel is hard and has good edge retention.
  • It’s tough, and sturdy, with the chromium content of the steel giving it good corrosion resistance.
  • VG-10 steel can handle a lot of wear and tear.
  • It’s easy to grind and sharpen.

What are Some Drawbacks of VG-10?

This is interesting, usually, when you look up pros and cons – on any topic – you can find a few different ones.

In the case of VG-10 steel, however, that’s not quite right. The only drawbacks I could find were related to the personal experiences of other users who found it to be hard to sharpen or that it didn’t hold an edge very well.

THE BEST KNIFE STEEL: M390, D2, AUS8, N690, VG10, S30V, S35VN, 440C

How does VG-10 Compare to Other Steels?

Some of the most common steels with which VG-10 is compared include:

  • D2
  • S30V
  • S35VN
  • 440C

So, how does it stack up against these other steels?

D2

VG-10 has better edge retention and is easier to sharpen than D2 steel. It also has better corrosion resistance. On the other hand, D2 has a higher carbon content which makes it tougher than VG-10 steel.

S30V

VG-10 and S30V are very close, offering the same level of edge retention and corrosion resistance. The biggest difference between the two is in their toughness. S30V is tougher.

S35VN

Much like S30V, S35VN is very close to VG-10. Both are equally sharp and they have equal corrosion resistance. S35VN, however, has better edge retention and is tougher than VG-10.

440C

440C and VG-10 offer the same level of corrosion resistance, but VG-10 has the edge – pun intended – over it. VG-10 is tougher, sharper, and has better edge retention.

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