With their history and tradition, forging steel is practically in the blood of the Japanese people. The time of the samurai allowed them to develop special techniques and gain a lot of knowledge in creating high-quality steels and blades. This is why it’s not surprising that a lot of Japanese steel is highly sought after today.
One of the interesting options available is the Warikomi steel. There’s a lot of confusion about this steel, however, so it would be helpful for those who are interested in it to get to know it better through this review.
What is Warikomi Steel?
Technically speaking, the Warikomi steel is not a steel grade but a blade forging technique or process. It’s a method of ‘awase’ or ‘cladding’ wherein one material covers another. It creates a steel with a hard steel core and softer outer shell.
In Japanese, the word ‘warikomi’ means interruption. It’s also related to the Kanji character that means split, cut, separate, or divide. These are good ways to describe what the warikomi forging technique is like as it’s best characterized by inserting a hard steel in between a split heated soft steel which is then used to cover the core material.
Often used for double bevel knives, the warikomi technique uses a smaller amount of hard steel compared to the soft steel. The hard steel core doesn’t extend to the entire length of the spine, allowing the blade to stay thin while having extra rigidity. The outer softer layer then provides high structural integrity and superb edge retention.
The appearance of a warikomi steel is also notable as the lamination line is often visible in knives. It can look like a hamon which gives the blade an interesting appearance and character.
The warikomi technique can be confused with the sanmai method in some cases, especially when one only looks at the tip design of the steel. The sanmai technique, however, has its core steel extending to the spine so it offers a whole different make and performance.
Common Uses of Warikomi Steel
Because the warikomi steel is a blade forging method, it can be said that it’s primarily used for making knives. They are primarily used in manufacturing high-quality kitchen knives but some makers also use them for fixed knives and folders that are meant for hard use.
Warikomi Steel Chemical Composition
Since the warikomi steel is not a specific steel grade but a bladesmithing technique, it doesn’t have a single chemical composition. It can be made using various kinds of steel, offer different kinds of performance, and suit a wide range of applications.
Warikomi Steel Hardness
Due to the fact that the warikomi steel is not a steel grade in itself, it doesn’t have a fixed hardness rating. This detail will depend on the materials used to create the blade.
However, since the warikomi awase is often used to create higher-end products, it can be expected that warikomi steel knives will have higher hardness levels. Many expensive knives tend to have such a quality as buyers are more likely to invest in something that will offer them top performance.
Does Warikomi Steel Rust?
Again, because warikomi steel is not a singular steel grade, a definitive answer to questions like this is not available. It will still depend on the kind of steels used in creating the blade.
However, based on the trends noted by some top manufacturers, it’s also common for knife makers to use the technique to enhance the corrosion resistance of a blade steel. The steel grades often used for outer layers in this technique can be more resistant to rust and corrosion.
Properties of Warikomi Steel
The primary goal of this warikomi steel review is to elaborate on the qualities and attributes of the said forging technique. So for this, here’s a detailed discussion of the key features of the blade steels made through this method.
Toughness in knives refers to the blade’s resistance to breakage, cracking, or chipping when used roughly. It’s a highly coveted feature for general use and hard use knives as it can guarantee that the tool will not fail even when it’s used for purposes other than slicing or chopping.
Most variants of warikomi steel have this attribute as they tend to use steel grades that have high ductility and strength. The outer layer of the blades made through this method are usually very tough and strong steels so it can balance out the hardness and possible brittleness of its core steel.
Hardness is another highly desirable characteristic in a blade steel as it promises to hold a good shape that will withstand the kinds of impact and strain that are often applied to cutting tools. Steel needs to reach at least 45 Rc in order to be suitable for knife making as anything softer might not hold up well against the tasks knives are normally subjected to.
Warikomi steel knives have no issues when it comes to hardness as they are designed to have hard steel cores. They normally use a high-hardness steel grade as a core material with some of it exposed on the edge.
This provides the knife a solid core that will not easily shatter. As the core steel is also slightly exposed, it also promises an edge that will hold its shape for a long time.
Most of the best warikomi steel knives have decent corrosion resistance as their outer cladding materials are often selected to provide this very benefit. Some knife manufacturers actually use stainless steel grades for outer layers in combination with high-carbon, non-stainless steel cores to create a good balance.
Since most knives made using this method are kitchen knives, it’s perfectly understandable why they are often made to resist staining, rust, and corrosion. Blades that do not get rusty can handle frequent exposure to moisture and water which are common in kitchens. Opting for a blade steel that wouldn’t be bothered by moisture and humidity will be more convenient to use in such cases.
As mentioned above, the warikomi steel is notable for being capable of holding its edge quite well. This is achieved by the high level of hardness of the core steel which is slightly exposed in the blade area. As a result, users of warikomi steel knives get to enjoy a blade steel that can get very sharp and stay sharp for a long time.
With the combination of its hard steel core and softer outer layer, effective wear resistance can also be expected from warikomi steel knives. The right steel grades will allow it to withstand regular wear and tear. Because of this, buyers can expect longevity and durability from these knives.
Is Warikomi Steel Good for Knives?
Since this forging technique is crafted and traditionally used for making swords and knives, it can be said that using warikomi steel for knife making is ideal. It’s a tried and tested way to get the best of both worlds.
This technique makes it possible to use a very hard but brittle steel with excellent edge retention with a softer but tougher and more ductile steel. As a result, it promises an output that ticks all the boxes in what many knife aficionados look for in a top-performing blade steel.
Pros & Cons of Warikomi Steel
Best Warikomi Steel Knives
What better way is there to demonstrate the charms of the warikomi-awase steel than by rounding up some of the best warikomi steel knives in the market today? Here are a few top picks that will help interested parties to get better acquainted with such kinds of knives.
#1: Kikuichi Elite Warikomi Damascus Tschime Chef’s Knife
- Weight: 7.2 Ounces
- Blade: 9.5 inches
- Blade: 17 Layers
- Edge: VG10
- HRC: 60
- Blade Material: Stainless Steel
- Handle Material: Wood
- Blade Edge: Plain
- Made in: Japan
Lots of people prefer Japanese kitchen knives for their nice balance. However, their handles tend to be a drawback for many Westerners as they tend to have bigger hands. Offering a good compromise is the Kikuichi Elite Warikomi Damascus Tschime Chef’s Knife.
Kikuichi’s WGAD series which this particular item is a part of is designed with a European handle so it combines the features a lot of people look for in an investment chef’s knife. It can offer comfortable handling for a lot of users, making it a more attractive option for those who cook a lot.
Equipped with 16 layers of Damascus steel and a VG10 core, this knife promises to get very sharp and hold its edge well. Its hand-hammered tsuchime finish is also a notable detail as it adds a unique detail to the blade and makes it easier to release food from its surface.
#2: Kikuichi 7” Nickel Sweden Warikomi Damascus Santoku Knife
- Item Weight: 7.3 ounces
- Blade: 45 Layers
- Edge: AUS10
- Nickel: 11 Layers
- SUS410: 6 Layers
- J1 Stainless: 5 Layers
- HRC: 60
- Made in: Japan
Another option from the same manufacturer as the item above is the Kikuichi 7” Nickel Sweden Warikomi Damascus Santoku Knife. As a part of what is considered as the most nimble knife series of the brand, it’s very easy and comfortable to handle, promising precise use.
What makes this item different from the warikomi steel knife above is that it has 45 layers of damascus steel for its outer layer. Eleven of these are made from nickel, six are SUS410 steel, and 5 layers are J1 stainless steel. The core is made of AUS10, a very durable and high-performing blade steel that is widely used in Japanese kitchen knives.
Despite its interesting features, this product is relatively more affordable than the other warikomi steel knives. This is possibly because the AUS10 is considerably budget-friendly.
#3: Yoshihiro Aogami Super/Blue Steel Warikomi,Chef’s Knife
- Blade type: WA Gyuto (Japanese Style Chef’s Knife)
- Blade Length: 210 mm/8.3″
- Item Weight: 1.65 pounds
- Handle: Octagonal Wood Handle (Japanese Magnolia)
- Blade Material Alloy Steel
Rounding out this short list of the best warikomi steel knives is the Yoshihiro Aogami Super/Blue Steel Warikomi Chef’s Knife. Manufactured by Yoshihiro Japan in Osaka, Japan, it offers authenticity and tradition.
The key trait of this product is its design. It’s the opposite of the first item mentioned above because it comes with a Western style blade and a Japanese professional handle, also referred to as the traditional octagonal handle or the buffalo horn handle.
Despite its design, the blade on this knife is very Japanese. Aside from its warikomi technique, it’s also made with Aogami Blue Steel which is a pretty unique Japanese steel grade.
As experts say, a good knife is not just about the components of its blade steel. The method used in making the blade also plays a huge role. This is why warikomi steel knives are pretty interesting as they offer an interesting way in achieving a good balance in blade properties.
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