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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 around 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 their pro’s and cons, 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 experience in the professional kitchen 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 which is a Chinese steel type and they claim that it is identical to Japanese VG10 steel.

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

The reason why it is so cheap in China is that of the labor cost and how they make the knife. The knives are mostly made by machines. 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 after a longer period of use the Damascus look will fade away. 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. Right now 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, so that you 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. If 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 they 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 then 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. Also 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 make sure to compare it with the following and avoid strange claims or false advertising. What you will notice is that we can put some Chinese steel type in a wider range of HRC and that 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. Chines 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 material for the Chinese knives.

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 in 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. I think that they are all made from 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 exactly 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 are 58HRC to 60HRC this indicates that they are not ready to forge this kind of steel like 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 the price for each knife around 3 to 4 times now to $160 up to $400. So I think that 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 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 then 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 which will make the knives around $20 to $30 dollars more expensive (total around $70 to $80) but they do 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 exactly 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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ChefPanko

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, stolen, taken and improved from the French, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese restaurants that I have worked for. I will also explore other cuisines with you guys.

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12 Comments

  1. 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: https://www.youtube.com/chefpanko

      (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).

  2. 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: https://www.facebook.com/raymond.briggs.1694/posts/1063196697211239?comment_id=1063215467209362&notif_id=1557738905266517&notif_t=feed_comment 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.

    Ray

  3. 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.

  4. 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 Amazon.com) $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).

  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.

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