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Unveiling Innovation in Chinese Knife Manufacturing

A Q&A Session with the Co-Founder of Xinzuo & Hezhen

In the past, my experiences with Chinese-made knives and brands have been quite mixed. Many of them suffered from poor heat treatments and quality control, and several brands were found to be misleading, overpromising, and under-delivered. However, Xinzuo’s commitment to producing good knives through reliable heat treatment processes and quality control stands out in the Chinese knife industry, especially in an industry where some brands resort to misleading practices. This straightforward and honest approach, along with transparent labeling as ‘Made in China,’ has left a positive impression on me.

10Cr15CoMov Steel (Chinese VG10) - Xinzuo Zhen Series Santoku
10Cr15CoMoV Steel (Chinese VG10) – Xinzuo Zhen Series Santoku

In terms of design and innovation, I would like to note that some of the knife series I received from Xinzuo are quite daring and unique but could benefit from slight changes. I will delve deeper into the specifics of each knife in the upcoming full knife reviews.

Note: Click here to read my experience with Xinzuo and my timeline.
The knives I received are and will be reviewed can be seen below ''WIP (Work In Progress)'' will be removed and the links will link to the full review:
Xinzuo Knives I bought before Xinzuo contacted me
14Cr14MoVNb Powdered Steel - Lan Series Santoku (Review WIP)
10Cr15CoMoV Steel (Chinese VG10) - Xinzuo Zhen Series Santoku (Review WIP)
Xinzuo Knives
Japanese SRS13 Steel - Feng Series Chef's Knife (Review WIP)
Japanese SRS13 Steel - Feng Series Nakiri (Review WIP)
10Cr15CoMoV Steel (Chinese VG10)- Lan Series Santoku (Review WIP)
10Cr15CoMoV Steel (Chinese VG10)- F2 Series Nakiri (Review WIP)
10Cr15CoMov Steel (Chinese VG10) - PM8 Series Tall-Nakiri (Review WIP)
ZDP189 Steel - Zhen Series Chef's Knife (Review WIP)
Hezhen Knives
Sandvik 14C28N Steel - Master Series Chef's Knife (Review WIP)
14Cr14MoVNb Powdered Steel - Elegant Series Santoku Wood Color (Review WIP)
10Cr15CoMoV Steel - Elegant Series Cleaver White Color (Review WIP)
10Cr15CoMoV Steel - Elegant Series Santoku White Color (Review WIP)
Coreless 110 Layers Damascus Steel - F2 Series Chef's Knife (Review WIP)
X9Cr18MoV - YM3L Series Chinese Vegetable Knife (Review WIP)

Other brands and manufacturers

As someone who has worked with and spoken to multiple brands and manufacturers, I have observed that while the standard manufacturing processes are generally consistent across most manufacturers, there can be significant variations in the quality control and heat treatment of the end products. Brand owners who work with Chinese OEMs have shared their experiences of having to navigate through multiple Chinese manufacturers in Yangjiang before finding one that meets their satisfaction and quality standards. They mentioned that some manufacturers’ steel specifications did not align with their own sampling testing, highlighting the importance of careful selection and collaboration.

Note: While exploring the manufacturers in Yangjiang, the brand owners often had a third-party agent who served as a translator, facilitating communication between Chinese and English. Additionally, in certain cases, the manufacturer itself provided a translator who also took charge of transportation communications, ensuring the products reached the correct warehouses smoothly.

Mass Production

Despite being a manufacturer capable of mass-producing knives within a short time frame, it was surprising to learn that a significant number of hands are involved in each step of the knife production line, as shared by other manufacturers.

Note: Some of the steps include researching, material selection, designing, testing prototypes, forging, grinding, straightening, stamping, pressing, heat treatment, assembly, welding, finishing, etc. Even the machines need a human operator. 

I have some questions for Xinzuo/Hezhen regarding their manufacturing processes.

Q&A with Xinzuo & Hezhen Co-Founder Peter Ling

Q: How does Xinzuo ensure precise heat treatment of its knives?

At Xinzuo, we prioritize precise heat treatment to deliver knives of exceptional quality and performance.

Here’s how we achieve it:

  1. Comprehensive Material Understanding: We have developed our own steel in collaboration with reputable steel companies, including 73-layer Damascus steel with a 14Cr14MoVNb powder steel core. Thorough research allows us to determine the exact temperatures required during the hardening and tempering processes.
  2. Freezing Process: Implementing a freezing process during heat treatment significantly enhances the steel’s performance. Knives are placed in a low-temperature chamber, and this step enables us to maintain precise control over the heat treatment.
  3. Trusted Partnerships: To ensure optimal performance, we work with trusted steel brands from various countries. For instance, when using M390 material from Bohler, we entrust the heat treatment to Bohler themselves. Similarly, ZDP189 knives undergo professional heat treatment in Japan, leveraging their renowned expertise.
  4. Verification with Reports: We possess heat treatment reports from these companies and are happy to share them upon request. At Xinzuo, we believe that the impact of heat treatment on steel performance is substantial.

By maintaining rigorous standards and implementing various measures, Xinzuo consistently delivers knives with exceptional heat treatment, ensuring top-notch quality and performance.

Quality Control

Many Chinese manufacturers have knives with protrusions on the handle, including sharp edges on the rivets, mosaic pin endcaps, and bolster. So far, Xinzuo has offered knives with natural wooden handles that have acceptable protrusions (feelable if you search for it on some knives but not sharp to the touch or noticeable during use). Since they are natural materials they can expand and shrink depending on how they are stored and the humidity state.

Elegant Series Santoku Wood Color - Lan Series Santoku - ZDP189 Steel Chef's Knife
Elegant Series Santoku Wood Color Lan Series SantokuZDP189 Steel Chef’s Knife

Q: What does Xinzuo do differently to mitigate the protrusion on natural wooden materials?

Given that Xinzuo extensively utilizes natural materials, such as wood, it’s important to address the potential for shrinkage in varying humidity conditions. While it is challenging to completely control wood shrinkage, the following are just a few of the measures we take to minimize protrusions on the handle:

  • Strict Humidity Control: We enforce strict humidity control during the production of wood handles. If the humidity levels are not optimal, we ensure the wood is properly dried before proceeding with polishing.
  • Careful Storage: Furthermore, once the knives are ready, they are stored in our warehouse, where we closely control the humidity levels within the environment.
  • Precautions During Transportation: To prevent any changes in humidity during transportation, we take additional precautions. Each knife box is carefully wrapped in plastic before being shipped to customers, ensuring that the humidity cannot penetrate the knives during transit.

By implementing these measures, Xinzuo strives to minimize protrusions on the handles of our knives, providing customers with a quality product that maintains its integrity even in varying humidity conditions.

Q: Are the Damascus billets made by Xinzuo, or are they ordered from the steel manufacturers?

Xinzuo operates as both a brand and a professional factory. In our facility, we not only manufacture our own Xinzuo and Hezhen brand items but also produce OEM items for other customers. When it comes to Damascus billets, we work in collaboration with reputable steel manufacturers to ensure their production. Steel manufacturing is a complex process that requires specialized equipment and expertise, so partnering with professional steel companies allows us to obtain high-quality Damascus billets.

Q: How does Xinzuo strive to continuously improve its knives and stay ahead in the market?

Xinzuo employs several strategies to continuously enhance its knives and maintain a competitive edge in the market.

  • Utilizing Premium Steel: We consistently utilize the best steel available globally, including materials like 49 Layers Damascus steel with SRS13 core, 3 Layers composite steel with ZDP189 core, M390 steel, N690 Steel, and Sandvik 14C28N steel. This ensures that our knives possess exceptional performance characteristics.
  • Developing Our Own Steel: Furthermore, we have an ongoing commitment to developing our own steel in collaboration with steel manufacturers. By doing so, we can achieve better performance while also offering competitive pricing to our customers.
  • Prioritizing Innovation: Additionally, Xinzuo prioritizes innovation and product development. Each year, we introduce three to five new series of knives to meet the evolving demands of our customers. Our talented team of engineers works diligently to create new and exciting designs, and we also collaborate with renowned knifemakers from around the world to produce exceptional masterpieces.

Our journey of development and innovation is limitless, and we remain dedicated to continuous improvement and advancement in our quest to provide top-quality knives to our valued customers.

More Transparency

While Xinzuo has been very transparent so far, I have noticed that certain information on the sales pages is missing, which has been clarified by some of the franchise stores that also offer Xinzuo/Hezhen knives. I hope that you can shed some light on this matter.

Damascus used in Xinzuo/Hezhen knives

Xinzuo/Hezhen offers multiple Damascus patterns such as Crescent Moon, Wave, Burst Patterns, etc. To create these Damascus patterns, a mix of steel is used. In most cases, two different types of steel are folded repeatedly or twisted to create the Damascus patterns. Unfortunately, no information is available regarding the layered steel used, apart from the usual “67 Damascus Layers” mentioned on the sales pages. However, the single-layer cladding without Damascus patterns does specify the steel type.

Small Roses Pattern - Elegant Series Cleaver White Color (Review WIP)
Elegant Series Cleaver White Color – Small Roses Damascus Pattern

Q: What are the metals used to create those Damasus patterns?

To create the Damascus patterns, Xinzuo incorporates different metals in the layers of the steel. Typically, we use 410 or 314 steel for the side layers, but we also utilize other steel types for specific Damascus patterns. The process involved in creating Damascus steel is intricate, involving folding and twisting layers to achieve the desired patterns.

Q: Is the lamination of the Damascus Cladding done by Xinzuo?

Xinzuo collaborates with professional steel manufacturers for the lamination of the Damascus cladding.

Q: If both the billets and lamination are not done by Xinzuo, are there any plans for Xinzuo to eventually bring these processes in-house?

At the moment, we do not have plans to bring the production of Damascus billets and lamination processes in-house. As mentioned earlier, manufacturing steel and carrying out the complex lamination process requires specialized resources and expertise. Instead, we focus on collaborating with reputable steel manufacturers to ensure the highest quality Damascus steel for our knives. Additionally, we continuously strive to develop new materials through close cooperation with universities and maintain strict quality control standards to offer the best products to our customers.

Own Developed steel types

Xinzuo offers exclusive steel types, such as X10Cr, 37 layers Copper Damascus, and powdered steel 14Cr14MoVNb, which are developed in close collaboration with steel manufacturers. 

X9Cr18MoV – YM3L Series Chinese Vegtable Knife
X9Cr18MoV – YM3L Series Chinese Vegtable Knife

Q: Are there any plans to make them accessible to other brands, or are they exclusive to the Xinzuo/Hezhen brand?

While some steel types, like our Damascus powder steel, are currently exclusive to Xinzuo and Hezhen items, we may make them accessible to other brands in the future. This would allow other brands to use our steel types, but they would need to meet our strict quality standards.

Coreless knives

Regarding the Coreless knives, Xinzuo/Hezhen only mentioned the 110-layer Damascus steel without a discreet core. As mentioned earlier, a Damascus look often requires two different steel types or the same steel with a slight modification on the second one. Based on the specifications and Rockwell hardness, it might be a 10Cr15CoMoV and a modified 10Cr15CoMoV layer.

Coreless 110 Layers Damascus Steel – F2 Series Chef’s Knife
Coreless 110 Layers Damascus Steel – F2 Series Chef’s Knife

Q: What steel types are being used to create the coreless knives?

The coreless Damascus steel used for our knives consists of two hard stainless steel types: 10Cr15CoMoV steel and 9Cr18MoV steel.

Q: Why has Xinzuo/Hezhen chosen a 110-layer coreless construction? Is there any other specific reason for using 110 layers other than aesthetics?

The decision to use a 110-layer coreless construction for our knives serves multiple purposes. Beyond the aesthetic appeal of the visually stunning pattern on the blade, this construction enhances both the durability and edge retention of the knives. The layering process creates a finer steel structure, resulting in increased strength and improved performance. While we don’t have exact numbers for durability and edge retention, we can obtain more specific information by consulting the steel manufacturer that we closely work with. They can provide more details about these aspects related to the 110-layer coreless construction.

Note: Xinzuo has not provided the testing data yet, as they need to ask the steel manufacturer for the test results. Once Xinzuo provides the data, I will update the article with the results.

Questions regarding the Zhen Series ZDP-189

According to Xinzuo, the Zhen Series with ZDP-189 is made in collaboration with Japanese companies like Sanyo Riki Co. LTD, which uses steel from Nippon Shoryu Metals, a subsidiary of Hitachi Metals. The heat treatment is done by Hatta Koygo Co. LTD.

ZDP189 Steel – Zhen Series Chef’s Knife
ZDP189 Steel – Zhen Series Chef’s Knife

Q: Who does the bonding/lamination of the cladding, Xinzuo, or also done by a Japanese company?

The bonding/lamination of the cladding, for the Zhen Series ZDP-189 steel, is done by Sanyo Riki, a Japanese company.

Q: What processes have been done by Xinzuo? Like the blade shape, grind, and handle?

The raw materials are sourced from Japan, and the heat treatment is also performed in Japan. However, all other processes including blade shaping, grinding, handle work, and polishing are carried out by Xinzuo.

Ergonomics & Comfort

I have noticed a trend among many other Chinese manufacturers where the handles are becoming thicker, bigger, wider, and longer. While it may work in some cases, it often affects overall comfort, especially during extended periods of usage. It not only affects comfort but also makes the knife unnecessarily heavier. One of the benefits of having a wider collection of Xinzuo and Hezhen knives is that I now know that Xinzuo is capable of making ergonomically correct and comfortable handles. However, some handles could benefit from slight changes, while others are already great and better than expected.

Lan Series Santoku - Xinzuo 440C Gyuto
Lan Series SantokuXinzuo 440C Gyuto

Q: What does Xinzou include in their final testing in terms of ergonomics and handle comfort before deciding to make knife sets dedicated to that series?

Xinzuo considers the diverse preferences of its customers when designing knives. We offer a range of knife series, some with lighter knives and others with slightly heavier ones, depending on the target customers. During the development process, we conduct extensive prototype testing and collaborate with chefs to gather feedback and ideas. This helps us ensure that our knives are ergonomically correct and comfortable for users.

Hand sizes

Since the newer series is often catered for those with medium to large hand sizes.

Q: Is there any plans to accommodate those with small hand sizes? It could benefit some knife styles such as the Santoku so that it is more comfortable to use at home for those with a small hand size.

Yes, we have upcoming designs and series that feature smaller and lighter handles, aiming to accommodate those with small hand sizes. These designs will improve comfort and usability for individuals with smaller hands, providing a better experience during knife usage.

Xinzuo Lan Series Santoku (10cr15comov)
Small hand size with the Xinzuo Lan Series Santoku (10Cr15CoMoV)

Expansion of Xinzuo

As I have seen Xinzuo/Hezhen offering multiple kitchen products such as kitchen shears, knife blocks, cutting boards, and more. And since I have seen some other manufacturers expanding their brand to even nail clippers I was wondering if Xinzuo would eventually expand beyond kitchen knives.

Q: Is there a chance of seeing the Xinzuo/Hezhen brand expand into other markets, such as textile scissors gardening tools, and nail clippers? Are there any active plans, or is the current focus solely on the kitchen knife industry?

Currently, there are no plans to expand the Xinzuo/Hezhen brand into other markets beyond kitchen knives. The focus remains primarily on producing high-quality kitchen knives and accessories for our customers.

Q: What sets Xinzuo apart from other Chinese knife manufacturers in terms of design and innovation?

While there are various knife manufacturers in China, we prioritize our commitment to creating the best quality knives at affordable prices for our customers. Rather than extensively surveying other knife manufacturers, our focus is on continuous improvement and innovation to make better knives that bring happiness to our customers.

Bonus Question

While some knives could benefit from some small changes which I will discuss in the full review. It does not take away the fact that some series are better than expected and it also surprised me with what Xinzuo and Hezhen are able to offer. Normally I never ask for a discount code for my viewers as it is quite conflicting with my review format. But since Xinzuo is a brand I have personally recommended multiple times, especially the 440C Gyuto, I know that some will definitely like the newer series too.

Q: Can I provide a special discount code to my viewers on YouTube and website readers?

Certainly! We’re happy to provide your viewers and website readers with a special discount code. You can use the code “ChefPanko” for 10% off on our own website.

Note: The discount code ”ChefPanko” is only usable on the Xinzuo official websites:

As I have personally never bought anything on the official website besides on the 2 marketplaces like Amazon and AliExpress. I can’t comment on the after-sales support, so keep that in mind when ordering. And don’t forget the import tax that might apply to your country.

ChefPanko
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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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5 Comments

  1. Thank you for publishing a Q&A about Xinzuo, what about other Chinese manufacturers? Do you plan to do a Q&A with them too?

    1. In the past, I asked other brands/manufacturers that I worked with to do a Q&A with me. Unfortunately, after the review, they never replied back. As with all reviews, I go in-depth in trying to provide value to my viewers and website readers. Once the review has been published I show them the link to the video and give them my opinions on what to improve (if there is any).

      But Xinzuo is currently the only Chinese manufacturer that actually followed up on my request and took the time to answer the questions accordingly. Of course, there are a few answers redacted, while explained to me in detail as it was information meant for me only so that I understand the industry. And some were redacted as it was about new product releases and partnerships which Xinzuo eventually will reveal themself.

      While I wished that other brands/manufacturers did a Q&A with me as promised but not all were asked to do one as it was added later in addition to receiving review samples. But I sincerely believe that Xinzuo would take action if I mention things that they can improve on and I will release a video/article with my first impression.

      Those same improvements in that article will be sent to Xinzuo and I will build upon it once the reviews are uploaded to give them a full spectrum of my thoughts and what they could do to improve on each series or future product releases.

      PS: I will add a link in the comments once the first impression video/article has been uploaded.

  2. A first impression video/article will be uploaded shortly. I was not sure if I should upload my first impressions since it is recorded in one take and I have never filmed myself with live commentary from my first impressions.

    I was also looking for the English words and my pronunciation is not the best, but I have decided to look past that and still upload the first impressions video.

    The videos one for the Xinzuo knives and one for the Hezhen knives are around 20+ minutes each.

    1. Looking forward to the video. Everything great and very helpful so far. Don’t worry about English choice of words and pronunciation. All your spoken reviews have been more than adequate.

      1. Hi Ray thank you for your comment and support 🙂 I have finished the editing part of the video and have decided not to add any background music to keep it as raw and unfiltered as possible (I did delete the unboxing/removing the plastic wrap part so that I don’t waste anyone’s time).

        A few things I noted were the lack of words to express my feelings and fishing for some words (as in I had the Dutch version in my head but the English translation just did not want to pop up). And I have misspoken a few times and I have added some animated text to cover that mistake. Like when I was pointing and talking about the spine I said choil instead of spine.

        Overall it was an interesting video to make which I can learn to improve on. Currently making a transcript (CC option on YT) of it so that I can add subtitles for those that have some trouble hearing my pronunciations.

        And finalizing the article for the website.
        It will be a 2 parts video Xinzuo one around 25 min and the Hezhen one which is also around 24min.

        Also very glad that the audio is captured correctly otherwise everything would have been filmed for nothing.

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