Now I'm worried about getting carbon steel...

Joined Nov 13, 2009
I'm poised to buy at least one Masamoto virgin steel 270cm chef. Then I stumble across the link on eG Forums regarding Knife Maintenance and Sharpening (I can't provide a link because I haven't made five posts yet).

The author's take is that good stainless outshines carbon in the kitchen because of food acids attacking the edge, making it unable to hold an edge as well as stainless. I cut a lot of lemons and tomatoes. From what I understand, the UG-10 knives are no slouches.

I don't mind taking care of carbon steel, but I wonder how fanatical I'm going to have to be to keep the edge. To all of you carbon steel users and lovers: Do you use a stainless knife to cut really acidic foods, or do you just rinse your carbon right after cutting the lemon? If you still use your carbon on lemons and tomatoes, do you find your edge holding better than good stainless, same, or worse?

I want to get carbon. Please talk me down. And yes, I almost always obsess and agonize when I'm making any type of equipment choice, especially when the piece of equipment will be long term.

Joined Oct 9, 2008
A comparison between carbon and stainless is, put in those terms, always flawed. There are a range of carbon steels, and a very wide range of stainless steels, and then there's the tempering and everything else that goes into it.

Once a good carbon blade has picked up some patina -- you can force this, or just let it happen; I'm a "let it be" person -- it won't react significantly to acidic foods. So no worries on that one.

As to edge formation and retention, rather than get into a big harangue about it, let me just point out that every really high-end "traditional" Japanese knife is carbon steel. Sharpness is a much more serious thing among those chefs than it traditionally has been among French chefs. So I think you just don't have a lot to worry about in terms of the steel as such.

If you buy a Masamoto virgin carbon knife, getting and keeping it sharp are not going to be significant issues. You're buying one of the finest carbon knives in the world. Bear in mind that our pal K.C. Ma swears that the sharpest edge he ever got on a gyuto (chef's knife) was on a Masamoto, and he regularly refers to sharpening the thing as a pleasure. I agree, but I'm not as experienced, nor am I as fanatical about sharpness. Regardless, I think you're worrying about nothing.
Joined Nov 13, 2009
Chris, the article does not refer to the patina of the blade. It refers to the actual edge which never does get a patina. I for one like the natural patina a blade develops.

In any case, you might be right. I might be worried about nothing. However, I'm not really "worried", I just want the longest lasting, sharpest edge. These two things might not exist together. I actually think I could not go wrong with either Masamoto, but I do wish to pick the best blade for me.
Joined Feb 13, 2008
Presumably you're talking about Chad Ward's article. There's some truth to the idea that carbon edges degrade from airborne corrosion, but not by much. As a practical matter, Chad's got you worried over nothing. While I have immense respect for his knowledge and his teaching ability, he was irresponsible on that one.

Pazzo's comment isn't exactly wrong, but it's not very right either. Everything else being equal, carbon will take a better edge more easily than stainless -- but probably won't lose it any faster because everything else is never equal. It depends on which carbon and stainless alloys are being compared, how they're being used, and to what levels they were sharpened in the first place.

Anyone but the most skilled, patient sharpener, using the very best kit can put a MUCH better edge on the Masamoto HC than on the UX-10 because the UX-10 requires substantial thinning to compete with the HC, and it's a stone beyotch to thin.

Now if you'd talked about a Sakai Takayuki Grand Cheff or a Hattori FH (forum), it might be a different story. But the UX-10... no. Even with easy-sharpening stainless, there's always one trade off or another compared to comparably priced carbon. For instance, the Grand Cheffs are a bit on the soft side (AEB-L at about 58 HrC), while the Hattoris (VG-10 at about 61 HrC) are quite expensive.

Carbon won't necessarily "come back" better than stainless -- again it depends on the particular alloys and geometries. Some carbons are very difficult to steel or touch up, while some stainless alloys are relatively easy.

The HC happens to be an easy knife to sharpen and maintain.

Carbon does require a little bit of extra care -- not really enough extra to worry about. But it requires care when it requires it -- right away. No letting it sit over dinner. If you can live with its demanding nature, you'll get a better and easier edge than you would with comparably priced stainless.

As Chris Lehrer points out, nearly all the very best Japanese culinary knives are non-stainless carbon. So, if Chad Ward is right he's bucking one heckuva headwind.

Joined Sep 10, 2009
Woops, thanks for the correction on the incorrect parts of my post. Edited to prevent the spread of misinformation.
Joined Aug 7, 2008
Chad Ward does a lot to help others get started sharpening but he is a very opinionated guy. As Seinfeld would say- Not that there's any thing wrong with that.
However one person's opinion is just that. In the world of knives there are a LOT of opinions. Strong ones.
When I see noobs speaking of carbon blades I often wonder if they realize how those steels react or absorb odor.
I tend to think of a carbon knife as a special or specific use tool and not a general knife like a gyuto. That's just me.
For some one cutting a lot of acidic foods carbon should be some thing that you unequivocally know you want.
There are other options worthy of consideration like the Hiromoto AS that IIR is clad carbon or the Ichi TKC series with is some sort of stain resistant carbon from what I can tell.

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