You will find various steel grades that define different qualities. For higher steel grades, known as super steels you will require to pay more most of the time yet the quality makes every penny worth it. This type of steel is the ZDP-189 manufactured in Japan. The ZDP-189 steel is frequently used by Spyderco for manufacturing large-sized blades.

What is ZDP-189 Steel?

ZDP-189 steel is the product of Hitachi, which is a well-known Japanese steel company that is famous for the production of premium steel. ZDP-189 is manufactured with a Powder Metallurgy process that makes the steel amongst the hardest steel famous in the market.


The properties of the steel make it adequate for the manufacturing of premium custom knives. ZDP-189 has immense durability and extreme hardness level for which manufacturers use it for the production of high-end EDC Knives, kitchen knives, surgical blades and survival knives like camping and hiking knives.


Well-known brands like Spyderco and Kershaw use steel for the manufacturing of their premium knives. The code name of ZDP-189 is given by the famous Henckels which is MC66.


Chemical Composition of ZDP-189:

The chemical composition of ZDP-189 consists of 3% of carbon which shows that the steel possesses an immense amount of hardness. As you witnessed the hardness level shows the reason behind the high manufacturing prices. Furthermore, the steel can be classified as stainless steel due to the presence of a high amount of chromium than the required threshold.

  • 3% of Carbon: Works for increasing the hardness level and resistance towards corrosion and wear.
  • 20% of Chromium: Gives a boost to edge retention, toughness, hardness, tensile strength, and resistance to corrosion and wear.
  • 1.4% of Molybdenum: Increases steel strength and corrosion resistance.
  • 0.6% of Tungsten: Improves hardness level and resistance to wear.
  • 0.5% of Manganese: Works for improving hardenability, forge ability and wear resistance.
  • 0.4% of Silicon: Adds steel strength.
  • 0.1% of Vanadium: Increases toughness level and wear resistance.


Steel hardness:

As shown on the scale of Rockwell C, ZDP-189 steel has a hardness rating ranging between 65 to 67 HRC. Dis hardness rating is immensely high which is not commonly found in steels that are used for the production of huge quantities of knives. The reason behind this high hardness range is because of the blend of elements like carbon and chromium in high percentages.


Usually, the hardness of the steel is 64 HRC but the hardness can be boosted up to 67 HRC by providing some heat treatment. Currently, ZDP-189 is probably the only steel with the highest hardness used by manufacturers for making knives. You will get some other expensive steels available as well but the production is not cost-effective.


Steel properties: 



  • Low toughness level: It is a rule for steels to have low toughness if they have a high hardness due to an inversely proportional relationship. For this reason, you will not find ZDP-189 having much capacity in resisting chipping and breaking to a great extent. Yet, you will witness the steel being tough enough to tackle difficult tasks without cracking. For this reason, manufacturers use steel for the making of camping and survival knives.
  • Fascinating edge retention: With the blades of ZDP-189 steel you will not face any disappointments regarding the edge losing its sharpness. The edge retention capacity of the steel allows you to easily use it for tough jobs and yet have a long-lasting sharpness. The edge of the steel will not get deformed or dull upon heavy duty due to incredible edge retention.
  • Incredible wear resistance: Having a high hardness range also means steel is going to have excellent wear resistance as they are directly proportional to each other. This applies to ZDP-189 as well. Elements like carbon and chromium are also factors that boost wear resistance.
  • Great corrosion resistance: There is no doubt about the effective corrosion resistance of the steel due to the presence of 20% chromium in its chemical composition.
  • Difficult sharpening: Because of extreme hardness, it is not easy to sharpen ZDP-189. But yet, it is possible to give the blade a razor-sharp edge with the help of advanced sharpeners and some effort and time.


Comparison With Other Knife Steel Options

ZDP 189 vs. S30V

S30V is high-end steel and has the perfect balance among all of its properties. But, in edge retention, we witness ZDP-189 beating S30V. However, in case of corrosion resistance S30V takes the crown. It is much smoother to sharpen the edge of the S30V. But both of the steels perform similarly in toughness levels.


ZDP 189 vs. S110V

S110V is a product of Crucible. It is also high-end steel and is more pricey than ZDP-189. S110V beats ZDP-189 in edge retention and corrosion resistance. However, sharpening the edge of S110V requires more effort than sharpening ZDP-189.


ZDP 189 vs. VG10

VG10 is pricey steel yet the hardness level and edge retention capacity are lower than ZDP-189. But VG10 beats ZDP 189 in corrosion resistance, toughness level and ease of sharpening as well.


So, is ZDP-189 Steel Good?

Yes, ZDP-189 is a great steel for the manufacturing of knives considering its amazing chemical composition and properties. The incredible hardness level of the steel gives it great capacity for edge retention and wear resistance which is something all knife makers search for. You will just need to be prepared to spend a few more bucks on a knife made out of ZDP 189 as it is costly.


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