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Buying a Japanese VG10 Damascus Chef’s Knife from China

Should you buy a Chinese Chef’s knife or any other VG10 Chinese-made knife? After my research, I have bought my first VG10 Damascus Chef’s knife from China. I have my doubts about the reliability and the information they gave me about their chef’s knife. I own 2 Shuns, one Santoku, and a Yanagiba, and I love to use them, but there are definitely better knives around. They used a lot of different knives when I was working in an Asian Fusion kitchen. Each chef has their own collection. I tried a few of their knives, too, since I asked to test them before buying one myself.

Japanese and German knives I have tried so far are:

  • Shun (I own 2 of them myself, Santoku and a Yanagiba)
  • Miyabi
  • Ryusen
  • Global
  • Sakai Takayuki
  • Wusthof
  • Zwilling knives by J.A. Henckels
  • Unknown brand bought in Japan
  • No brand Chinese Cleaver (Made in China)

Disclaimer: The above-mentioned knives were not all chef’s knives. But I will not compare the Yanagiba knives for this purpose.

Wich Knife is the best? A Japanese, German or a Chinese Chef’s knife?

Each knife had its pros and cons. The Global is absolutely fine. They have a wide range of different knives, and since I worked mostly in the Japanese kitchen than the Chinese kitchen, I have used a lot of different types of knives. When I first started working, my first knife was a Wusthof 20CM Classic Chef’s knife. I worked on their traineeship program since I had no professional kitchen experience and never went to culinary school. So there is no answer in which knives were the best. They all shined in their own field.

Should you buy a Japanese VG10 Damascus Chef’s Knife from China?

I did my research, and I finally have decided to buy a VG10 Damascus Chef’s Knife from and made in China. But before you buy one for yourself, you need to consider a few things. The price is what made me buy the complete collection. Right now, I can’t tell you if they are worth it or not. Most, if not all, the knives offered on AliExpress tell you in the title that they use Japanese VG10, but in the description, they list the material as 10Cr15CoMoV, a Chinese steel type claim that it is identical to Japanese VG10 steel.

Update 11.11.2020

After talking to multiple OEM’s and pretty much every single one of them told me that imported Japanese VG10 is not possible (anymore), but 10Cr15CoMoV is a Chinese equivalent to the Japanese VG10.

Some OEM’s told me that VG10 export is banned, so pretty much exclusive to Japan and the knife makers in Japan. (Imported Japanese AUS10 is possible for import, but not the Japanese VG10)

Like you all know, when you guys asked in the comment sections if it was the real Japanese VG10, I always said that I have my doubts or the heat treatment was not on par with Japanese-made VG10.

This pretty much confirms why and why I have pushed AUS10 over VG10 a lot more when it comes to knives made in China. 10Cr15CoMoV would not be bad steel if heat-treated correctly. It will indeed sit between VG10 and AUS10 if the heat treatment is good.

It may be possible to import VG10 again in the future since the Export ban will eventually hurt the steel manufacturer in the long run as competitors order from their competitor (AUS10, German Steel, Swedish Steel etc.).

Update 8.31.2022

The Japnese VG10 Export ban has been lifted.

Why is the Chinese VG10 Chef’s knife so cheap?

It is so cheap in China that of the labor cost and how they make the knife. Machines mostly make knives. I bought the collection since that gave me a 55% discount. So I bought each knife for 31 euro ($36). A normal discount for a chef’s knife is 47 euro ($50). If you buy the knives, not in discount, you pay full price at around 94 Euro ($100). If they can deliver what they promise, then I find the price of 47 euro ($50) a steal! And it will shake up the knives industry pricing model. And the number one secret is the Chinese steel type 10Cr15CoMoV, which is cheaper than a Japanese VG10.

Is the made in China knife really a VG10 Damascus steel from Japan?

Let me be clear Damascus is just naming for the finished layered look on the knife. Hammered Damascus will give you a hammered look with air pockets on the knife. Lasered (printed) Damascus is not Damascus. They only lasered the look on it so that the Damascus look will fade away after a longer period of use. Damascus is folded welded steel into a pattern. More layers do not make it any better, and it is only for the looks.

The core itself is where the magic is. The Chinese knives manufacturers are all claiming things in their title like ”73 layers Japanese VG10 Damascus steel chef knife” but beware that you absolutely need to read the description first before buying. Have you heard about Dalstrong? They started, like the others that are selling their knives in China or AliExpress. There is only one Chinese brand that sells their knives that they claimed to be imported VG10 steel from Japan but more about that later. So, in short, no, most of the knives advertised as Japanese VG10 knife are not the VG10 steel imported from Japan.

Japanese VG10 Steel made in China?

I already talked about hardness in this article ”What you need to know about kitchen knives”. But let’s summarize it to understand why the Chinese knife makers put the ”Japanese VG10 Damascus Steel” in their title or description. We look at the Rockwell Hardness (HRC).

  • 52-54 HRC: Cheap chefs knives, mostly very cheap 8 euro (10 dollars) made in China. Needs to be sharpened every time we are done with a task. Suppose used in a professional kitchen.
  • 54-56 HRC: Better than cheap knives. Mostly for home cooks and not for the professional kitchen. Most cheap Chinese bone cleavers use this kind of hardness. Needs to sharpen a few times a day if used in a professional kitchen.
  • 56-58 HRC: Easy to sharpen and used in a professional kitchen. Most german knives or better quality Chinese vegetable/bone cleavers use this kind of hardness.
  • 58-60 HRC: Better quality kitchen knives like the Japanese knives from Global. They stay longer sharp but are harder to sharpen.
  • 60-62 HRC: The knives remain sharp for a long time but have more risk of becoming brittle and chipping. Harder to sharpen, and quality depends on the production. Mostly used in Japanese knives. Mostly VG10, VG Max, or AUS10 steel from Japan with his HRC.
  • 63-66 HRC: Needs cleaning after each use and more prone to chipping and becoming brittle.

Of course, these are just guidelines. The manufacturer and where the knives are made has a huge role in the quality.

Now let’s look at the steel from China

In Japan, they call their special steel VG10 or VG Max. They can reach 60 to 61 HRC for all Japanese knife manufacturers. They don’t reach under 60 or above 61HRC. That is how good the quality control and how good their knife forging is in Japan. In China, they have imported Japanese VG10 steel or use Chinese steel that is pretty much the same as VG10 steel in terms of Hardness.

The Chinese version VG10 steel is called 10Cr15C or 10Cr15CoMoV. It can reach an HRC of 62, but this all depends on the manufacturer and the forging progress. That is why they put 62 in the title and their advertisement in the description. But once you read the small details, you pretty much know that that is a lie, and they put in 58 to 62 in the small detail section. And let’s be honest if they sell an HRC of 58 for $50, it is a pretty good deal. When they claim to have the imported VG10 steel from Japan, it can still go to 58HRC when manufactured in China.

Steel from China

If you are going to buy a Chinese knife, compare it with the following, and avoid strange claims or false advertising. You will notice that we can put some Chinese steel types in a wider HRC range, which is why they all put +/- 2HRC behind the claimed HRC since it depends on the quality control. It is a gamble in which quality you get. Chinese manufacturers use CrMo/CrMoV Steel Series, so the manufacturers are unknown. A Claimed 60HRC can be 58 to 62 HRC so take that in mind while looking at the list below.

  • 3Cr13 = 52 HRC: cheaply made in China knives
  • 4Cr13 (Stainless Steel) = 55 to 57 HRC Mostly used for Chinese Bone Cleavers
  • 4Cr14MoV = 55 to 57 HRC good enough to make kitchen knives, claimed to be 55 HRC
  • 7Cr17MoV = 55 to 57 HRC. Increases strength, wear resistance, and increased toughness claimed to be 55HRC
  • 8Cr13MoV & 8Cr14MoV = 58HRC Similar to AUS 8 Japanese Steel. This has wear resistance, toughness, and easy to sharpen if it is similar to AUS 8.
  • 9Cr18MoV = Low-cost, high corrosion resistance stainless steel should be 58 HRC
  • 10Cr15CoMoV Also called the Chinese VG10 = 60-62 HRC: Claimed to be 60HRC. This steel type is still unknown, and only China uses it, and they claim that it is the same as VG10 Takefu stainless steel, which has good wear resistance and rust resistance.

When you search on AliExpress, you will see that the above list is the most used Chinese knives material.

Chinese branded VG10 Japanese Chef’s knives made in China

Let’s take a deeper look at the Chinese branded VG10 knives. On AliExpress, you will find the most common brand if you type ”Japanese VG10 knife”. They are FindKing, MYVIT, Upspirit, XYj, Xituo, Sowoll, Qing, Grandsharp, XinZuo, and Sunnecko. For some reason, AlieExpress does not acknowledge Sunglong as a brand on AlieExpress anymore. They were on that list too but got removed recently but more on that soon.

What do they all have in common

If you look closely, you can see that the design is pretty much the same for all the brands, and the only difference is the logo. That is why you must look at the description and what they claim. They are all made by the same manufacturer, but they only put their brand on the knives. So I will suggest that you look at the design and buy the cheapest one without looking at the brand.

Sunlon or Yousunglon VG10 Imported Japanese steel made in China

Sunlon recently rebranded and redesigned its knives. All the old design looked the same as the other brands on AliExpress. They are also the only one that says that they have imported the Japanese VG10 steel from Japan on a select few of their knives (which has a different handle and blade). But here comes the problem the HRC on the select few is 58HRC to 60HRC. This indicates that they are not ready to forge this kind of steel as they do in Japan.

In Japan, they will not go below 60 or above 61HRC. And since Sunglon is the only brand that got a bit more famous because of the internet, they have decided not to sell any of their knives for 50 dollars anymore. They have increased each knife’s price around 3 to 4 times now to $160 up to $400. So I think they want to be like Dalstrong and overprice their knives because they got a name now. I can’t recommend Sunglon now at full price, and I’m pretty sure that they will be going out of the AliExpress website and go on their own route by selling it on their own website or knife distributors sooner or later. If they fail to distribute the knives on their own website, I’m sure that the price will drop to around $50 to 70 dollars again.

Disclaimer: They still offer 10Cr15CoMoV Chinese VG10 on most of their knives, so make sure to read the details and descriptions. And the price is $160, so you are better with another brand that offers the same for $50. You will only find this brand if you type ”Yousunlong” for some reason, AliExpress deleted the search term Sunlong for this seller.

Edit: They replaced all the older knives that they sold with the new design and handle. According to the new description, they are all imported Japanese VG10 steel, so no more 10Cr15CoMoV. They also added a 50% discount on their complete collection, making the knives around $20 to 30 dollars more expensive (total around $70 to $80), but they claim that they imported the VG-10 steel from Japan.

Yarenh Japanese VG10 Damascus Chef’s knife made in China

The knife set is from Yarenh, which is not listed as a brand on AliExpress. All knives look the same as all the others, and they are one of the select few that is honest about the material they use
10Cr15CoMoV” Chinese version of VG10 steel. Or at least they are not trying to hide it in their description.  They are also the cheapest during my order. There will be a review once my Yarehn knife set is delivered.

This is the Set I have bought from Yarenh they are all Japanese VG10 (10Cr15CoMoV Chinese VG10) Damascus Chef’s knife made in China.
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Hi, I'm ChefPanko, I have worked for multiple restaurants and have decided to share my experience with you guys. I will share recipes and techniques that I have learned, taken, and improved from the French, Japanese restaurants that I have worked for. I will also explore other cuisines with you guys.

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  1. You give great information but it’s still overwhelming. I’m a home cook. I chop a lot of vegetables but meat as well (very occasionally). I’d like to get a chef’s knife and a paring knife. I’m looking for durability and sharpening quality (staying sharp and easy to sharpen) and I’m on a quite limited budget. I’d like to pay less than $50 for the chef’s knife but I will go to $70 if that $20 jump will make a significant difference. I’d say $35 tops for paring knife. And if there’s a chef knife that would work just as well as a paring knife, I can pay a little more.

    Would you please recommend – I mean just tell me which to get – an appropriate knife for my restrictions? Also, would you recommend a good sharpening tool? Thanks so much. Ginny

    1. Hi Ginny,

      Have you looked at other knife styles? Since veggies are the first priority and meat second, a Santoku can be a good alternative since they have a straighter profile making it easier to do a push-cut chopping motion. Where you lift the knife up instead of rocking it on the cutting board.

      The 440C from Xinzuo (Made in China) is a good choice, not too hard and not too soft of steel it holds a decent edge for the price.
      The full review can be read here:

      Out of my head, I think I paid around $35/40 which includes a free Saya (wooden knife sheath) and free shipping.
      The main reason for this particular knife is that they did not change the functionality of the knife like making the handle overly big.

      As for a paring knife, I don’t recommend an expensive paring knife. But a cheap set from Victorinox is a great choice, as the Victorinox Paring knife is cheap and very functional it is always good to have a bunch of them. Last time I checked the price should be around $7/10 each but at a good discount, you can buy them in a set of 5/10 which makes them around $4/5 each.

      As for a good sharpener, a whetstone is my recommended choice, and a ceramic honing rod with a grit rating of #1000+.
      Honing rod is handy as a quick tune-up, a whetstone is what is needed for sharpening/maintaining.

      If you want something made in Japan, you might want to look at, Misono (Handmade series) can be found for under $100 if you can find a good discount.

      The review can be found here:

      I will try to simplify the website to include one central place for those that want a guide in buying a knife.
      (Thinking about a Quiz page where the end-user needs to answer a few questions and based on that the end result should recommend a few knife styles and knives). But in order for that to work I need to figure out how to make it as I’m not tech-savvy.

      hope that this helps feel free to ask me more questions.

  2. Also recommend another brand to you to test——EUNA. My friend has recommended it to me, but i am still agonizing over whether to buy.

  3. Hi

    Really want to say a word on the Chinese Damascus Steel thing. I am an employee of one of those Chinese Brands, in fact, Damascus steel from Japan now is not even available to purchase as Japan only produces a certain amount per year. The Japanese Damascus steel they claimed to use to construct a knife is all from Shandong, a Chinese City.

    I am out of the industry now. Products made in China have good quality but just don’t lie, sellers!

    1. Thank you for your comment, when I started reviewing Chinese-made knife I had a few bad sellers with false advertisements.
      But some companies were an absolute gem that I found, sure some of the start-ups had some Quality control problems when they started but now they have improved a lot.

      However what a lot of others forget is that there are some very good knife manufacturers around China including Dengjia, Shibazi, etc they make great Chinese cleavers for a very reasonable price!
      And those two are manufacturers that are very long in the knife-making industry! Something I would not have known if I did not test their knives out!

  4. hello,
    Thank you for this information, much appreciated.
    I am currently working/owning a restaurant near Shenzhen china, I am about to buy myself a couple of new items. I will be ordering a Chinese chef knife and a Gyuto knife.
    is there any recommendation on a Chinese local brand? it would save me loads of money buying the local brand than buying Japanese imported products considering I will need to buy around 5 of each.

    1. As for Chinese Cleavers, Shibazi or Dengjia. As for a Gyuto, the 440C from Xinzuo is also a good option. If it is a lot of knives that you need you may be able to get a discount from them if you bulk order. Dengjia and Shibazi are also an OEM manufacturer. Hope that this helps.

    1. Hi, I have written an article about those ”dropshipping” websites (I have no idea if they do drop-shipping, but the prices are quite high if you compare it on AliExpress where they sell the same knife):

      It looks like the website above uses some of the OEM’s manufacturers like Xinzuo, Hezhen.

      Price comparison vs. Sensei Dragon Vulcan prices:
      As for the knife, you linked you can compare the prices here:
      Damascus Version
      Lasered Damascus version

    1. Without testing them personally, I don’t know if they are good. The price indeed looks promising (for the Indiegogo campaign, but full retail outside of Indiegogo will be steep).
      The claim of VG10 is questionable, especially when they claim a Rockwell of 62 and that the knives are made in China. (I have spoken to a lot of OEM’s from China, and the majority cannot get the real Japanese VG10 and a VG10 that is heat-treated to 62? they may reach 61 if lucky, but then again, from my experience with VG10 made in China, they come close to 59/60).

      As for the standard chef set’s Blade design, they look the same as all the knives that you can buy on AliExpress.
      The handle, on the other hand, is interesting. It doesn’t look comfortable, but to judge it, I need to test it first.
      The handle looks like a butter knife or steak knife design rather than an all-purpose kitchen knife handle design.

      As for the Sushi set, a sushi knife is that they are long, narrow, thin (spine taper), single beveled.

      But they opt for wide instead of narrow? Which defeats the purpose of a sushi knife.

      then the Demo video, they have a left-handed and right-handed ”Sushi knife” the person demonstrating the salmon slicing is ”left-handed” but using the ”right-handed” version that they offer. Also, they are slicing in the wrong direction of one of the shots too. This will tear the fish but also because of the wrong handling you can visibly see tears in the salmon that they slice.

      Based on the page and what I have read and saw (and my experience with VG10 made in China even when the steel is imported from Japan) I would not back the project.

      Sushi knives that they offer are a big no for me.

      I do like that they attempt to have 3 warehouse locations.

  5. The steel designations such as 10Cr15CoMoV are from the German DIN standards, now often used across the EU. 10% Cr, 1.5% Co and, lesser amounts of the other (incomplete) elemental listing.

    1. That is a very interesting knife and very affordable! Will add it to my list of knives to test 🙂 Thank you for the suggestion.

  6. Interesting videos on the Shun Santoku and Victorinox fibrox. I have a Shun 7″ Kaji Santoku with the same profile, but sg-2 powder steel: heavier (232 gm.), ambidextrous handle, and mirror finish. Its a great knife. I’ve had it for about 4 years and have learned the best ways to use it..

    I also have an 8″ Victorinox, but a butcher knife profile and a rosewood handle. As a home user, I enjoy the organic feel and natural beauty of wood, and use it as a special purpose knife.

    The Shun VG 10 Classic and the Vctorinox Fibrox span the price range of the new Chinese competitors. These established non Chinese knives are good comparisons to the Chinese knives you are evaluating.

    1. The Chinese made knives are extremely mixed in terms of quality. some I do like and comes very close and some are like the complete opposite.
      It really feels like gambling since there are so many knife brands and series. And each brand series is also not consistent in quality either.

      There are a select few brands that come close to a Japanese knife, one of that is the Griphinty knives but then comes another conflict.
      The price of their knives is $100/130 which is pretty much the same as a Shun Classic VG10.
      If the knife is from the exact same quality in terms of personal testing, matching each other identically but the only difference is that one is made in Japan and the other one in China.
      I would personally choose the Japanese made one over the Chinese made one. (Even when it is the exact same knife and performance and I think that many others will choose the Japanese knife too unless the Chinese one is significantly cheaper).

      I like the direction of some brands that decided to go for Chinese manufacturers, and I can see the quality difference but the price point is something to consider.
      Since the price gap is really close to a Shun, and like I said above I will choose the Shun over a Chinese made knife.

      Currently thinking about how to explain the above in a video/ comparison video since the Chinese made knife is also all over the place in quality control.
      (But the branded knives like Griphinity, is going in a great direction in terms of quality but then again you have to pay for it at the price).

      Shun $130
      Griphinity (Swedish brand but made in China only sold on $100 with discount normally $120
      Chinese brand made in China (AliExpress) $50 to $60 (a gamble in quality control).

      If I could get the Griphinty brand for around $80 then that is a no brainer I like the quilty of the knife but $120 and even $100….. I rather spend $10 to $30 for a Shun and one of the main reasons is because of brand recognition and the country it is made. (of course, Grphinity missed out by not getting a spine distal taper the weight is not bothering me especially for domestic use).

  7. Hi Ray,

    Thank you for your comment, it is good to see that you got a Wusthof for $100, the listed price for the US market is $150.

    I got contacted about more Chinese branded knives (some already has been sent to me), Most did not reply back to me (even when they contacted me first).

    I guess that it has something to do with my reviews, some of the knives I got had a bad review from me but I take honesty over a one-time new knife to test (the moment those got uploaded to my YouTube channel a lot of the knives made in China stopped replying to my email).

    One thing I always make sure of is that my reviews are not restricted by their rules. (some even wanted a good review in return for a knife but that is not how that works with me, I need to test them completely and I will make an honest review about them the good and the bad will be covered).

    Shan Zu looks very interesting, I will see what I can do to get them, I already got some request about that knife but I currently don’t have the budget to buy one. (Once I get my hands on it I will do a review on my YouTube channel, but it will be after 30 more knives reviews since I do the reviews in the order I received and test them).

    I do know the manufacturer for that brand, but the manufacturer want to be anonymous. Since the quality of the knives is highly dependent on what the brand owner wants to pay for a knife that will be put on the manufacturer’s production line.

    1. Your thoughtful and practical reviews of quality Chinese knives will be even more helpful as you evaluate more styles and manufacturers. Hopefully, that will include a cleaver or two. Our USA reviews of better affordable cleavers seldom get beyond the CCK small cleaver.

      1. I have a few Chinese cleavers for review too, they will be uploaded on my Youtube channel.
        Including a new buying guide that will explain everything about a certain knife and what I look for in those kinds of knives like the balance point and the importance of the correct balance point.

        I never tried a CCK knife but I did see a lot of reviews from the USA about it. It is fun to see since the #1 selling brand in China is not the CCK but the Shi Ba Shi a brand that is also sponsoring cleavers to culinary schools/students in China.

  8. Thank you so much for your analysis and reviews of these
    Chinese manufactured knives. About eight months ago, I did a comparison between a quality Chinese Chef Knife, a Shan Zu KYO 8″ AUS10 and three premier comparison knives that I own:: Mayabi Birchwood Chef 8″, Shun Kaji 7″ Santoku, and Wusthof 8″ Classic Ikon. Chef’s kinife: My results and impressions, as a home cook, match your impressions very closely. In the US, availability, sources, and prices are somewhat different. My Shun Santoku (sg-2 steel and called Kaji) was acquired privately for$135; my Miyabi 8″ birchwood chefs cost less than $200, and My Wusthof cost about $100.
    I’d be interested to see you review the Shan Zu Kyo or Sun 8″ Chef’s knife. They have their own website.


  9. Can you do a review of a full tang Grandsharp 5″ Damascus knife for us? I bought one recently. I think it is not up to standard. Your second opinion is appreciated

    1. Hi, I have a few reviews in the planning and 3 of them are from Grandsharp. A Kiritsuke VG10 octagonal carbon fiber handle, Nakiri octagonal handle AUS10, And a new cleaver styled knife with a claimed imported VG10. One thing I can tell about the Kiritsuke is that the blade is thicker than other knives like the one from Xituo. Therefore the performance of the knife is different. The review will be uploaded soon on my YouTube channel:

      (Currently, I’m working on a consistent video upload of 2 videos a week so my website has not been updated yet but once I have a set schedule I will update the website too with new information about my experience with 50+ Chinese made knives).

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