What Is ZDP-189 Steel? [Complete Steel Guide]

Steel is an element that is used to make many things. It is very strong and durable.

What Is ZDP-189 Steel? [Complete Steel Guide]

It is also a metal that is used to make knives, swords, guns, and more. This material is very useful because it can be shaped into any form.

ZDP-189 is a Japanese premium stainless steel. It is made by a powder metallurgy process. It is extremely hard and corrosion resistant. It is mainly used in kitchen knives.

It is a great material for making knives. This steel is made out of high carbon steel, but it doesn’t contain any chromium.

It contains vanadium instead. It is a great steel because it is easy to sharpen, and it holds an edge really well.

ZDP Steel Composition

Steel is an important material in the world today. We use it for many things, including weapons, cars, buildings, etc. There are different types of steel, such as carbon steel, stainless steel, and high alloy steel.

Carbon steel is the most common type of steel used because it is cheap and easy to work with. High alloy steel is more expensive than carbon steel, but it lasts longer and is harder. Stainless steel is also hard, but it doesn’t rust.

The ZDP-189 is a steel that was developed by the Japanese company, Nihon Seiki Co., Ltd. This steel is known for its high carbon content (3%) and chromium content (20%).

These two elements give the steel its hardness and strength. The steel also contains molybdenum (5%), which gives it a unique blueish tint. Molybdenum also gives steel pressure resistance and makes it tough on corrosion.

The steel is available in many different grades. The ZDP-189 is commonly used for making tools such as hammers, saw blades, and cutlery. The steel is also used for making knives because it is extremely durable and resistant to corrosion.

ZDP Rockwell Hardness

The Rockwell scale is used to measure hardness of materials. It was invented by Robert E. Rockwell Jr., who worked for General Electric.

He developed the first version of this scale in 1938. In 1941, he published an article about the hardness scale in Industrial Management magazine. This scale is widely used today.

ZDP-189 edge retention is excellent. With a maximum hardness of 67 HRC, the steel can offer great hardness that results in a reliable, long-lasting cutting edge! ZDP-189 corrosion resistance is also immaculate.

With 20% chromium ZDP-189 steel is one of the best when faced with moisture, making it ideal for use in humid climates.

Considerations When Choosing A Knife Steel

What Is ZDP-189 Steel? [Complete Steel Guide]

Choosing a knife steel can seem complicated at first, and that’s because, well… it is an objectively complicated manner.

There are a lot of tensions to think about when selecting steel. While a higher ratio of a certain metal will make a steel good in one way, it will limit its abilities in another.

You have to consider not just what strengths each compositional element brings to the table, but the weaknesses too.

Here are the most important properties of knife steel to contemplate.

Sharpening And Serviceability

Getting the right steel type makes a big difference when sharpening. Hard steel should be used when making knives. You’ll need a quality sharpener and a lot of elbow grease.

Sharpening a knife is important because you want your knife blade to cut well. You also want to protect your knife by keeping it clean.

Steel knives should be oiled regularly. High carbon super steels like 440C and 420HC require more oil than other steels. Chromium helps prevent rusting, which is why knives made of stainless steel do not need regular oiling.

Edge Retention & Hardness

A sharp knife is a safe weapon. A dull knife is a dangerous weapon.

A knife blade with great edge retention doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a very strong knife. You should consider both edge retention and tensile strength when choosing a knife.

A good edge retention steel should be very hard, but not too hard. This means that it needs to be harder than high carbon steels such as S30V or S35VN, but softer than high-speed steels like D2 or CPM3V.

Adding chromium to steel or carbon will make the edge harder but less resistant to corrosion.

Adding too much carbon will make the edge very hard but also decrease its ability to resist corrosion — it’s all about balance. It’s important that the levels of carbon are managed for excellent edge retention.

Low edge retention means the knife will wind up blunt sooner rather than later, which isn’t what you want out of a high performing blade.

If you do settle for a knife with limited edge retention,  expect to sharpen it quite often to keep it performing as you’d like!

Corrosion Resistance

A blade that is excellent in preventing rusting will probably not be the strongest or retain the sharpest edge. 

Excellent corrosion resistance is an important characteristic to consider when choosing a knife. If you’re going to use your knife in salty water, then corrosion resistance is a must.

You may want to trade off some edge retention and strength to get better corrosion resistance.

However, if you prioritize toughness, as long as you care for your knife well, you won’t have to worry about corrosion.

Corrosion resistance in the blade industry is usually achieved by adding chromium to steel compositions. This is known as stainless steel. This obviously provides stain resistance too.

Not all stainless is created equal. Some stainless steel contains more chromium than others.

Corrosion resistant steels include H1, LC200N, N690, and VG-10. Even though these steels are corrosion resistant, they still need proper care, cleaning, or oiling to prevent them from rusting away.

Why Does Knife Steel Matter?

Steel is an important part of any knife. It determines how sharp it is, how hard it cuts, and how durable it is.

There are many different types of steel used in making knives. Some are harder than others, some are softer, some are more resistant to corrosion, etc. 

Edge geometry is also important when it comes to real world impact, but as long as you settle on a quality steel, pristine edge geometry is typically a given.

Knife steel matters because the different formulations have very specific properties, which in turn means certain steels are better for some applications, while others are better suited to different applications.

As such, when choosing a knife, or picking out a steel to use when creating a blade, you need to think very hard about what you plan to use it for.

Your intended applications will steer you directly to the ideal steel.

As a highly versatile steel that offers an excellent balance between hardness, edge retention, and corrosion resistance, ZDP-189 steel is perfect for multi-use chef knives, as it can cut through a variety of soft and hard objects, and it can stand up to heavy-duty use.


Hopefully this guide has taught you a little about ZDP-189 steel! It’s considered a truly premium steel and is a great choice for pretty much any sort of knife application.

Of course, this kind of quality rarely comes cheap, but you really do get what you pay for with ZDP-189, so go ahead and treat yourself — you won’t regret it!

Tom Bower