Shirogami: The Purity of White Paper Steel Knives

Shirogami: The Purity of White Paper Steel Knives


When it comes to the art of Japanese knife making, the choice of steel plays a crucial role in the performance and quality of the blade. One of the most highly regarded and sought-after types of steel used for Japanese knives is Shirogami, also known as white paper steel. Renowned for its exceptional purity and fine cutting ability, Shirogami knives are prized possessions among professional chefs and knife enthusiasts alike.

What is Shirogami Steel?

Shirogami steel is an unalloyed carbon steel with a high degree of purity and a fine martensitic structure. It gets its name “white paper steel” from the traditional practice of wrapping the steel in white paper during the manufacturing process. The steel is then heated and forge-welded several times to remove impurities and create a uniform grain structure.

Shirogami steel is known for its remarkable sharpness and edge retention. Its high carbon content allows the blade to be hardened to a high level of Rockwell hardness, typically ranging from 60 to 65 HRC. The hardness of Shirogami steel allows it to hold a sharp edge for extended periods of time, making it a preferred choice for professional chefs who require precision cutting.

Types of Shirogami Steel

There are several different types of Shirogami steel, each with its own unique properties and characteristics. The most commonly used types include Shirogami #1, Shirogami #2, and Shirogami #3.

Shirogami #1 is considered the highest quality among the three types. It has the highest carbon content, typically ranging from 1.30% to 1.50%. This results in exceptional hardness and edge retention. However, due to its high carbon content, Shirogami #1 can be more brittle and require careful maintenance to prevent chipping.

Shirogami #2 has a carbon content of 1.00% to 1.10% and is often favored for its balance of hardness and durability. It offers excellent edge retention and is less prone to chipping compared to Shirogami #1. Many knife makers consider Shirogami #2 to be the most versatile and widely used type of Shirogami steel.

Shirogami #3 has a carbon content of 0.70% to 0.80% and is often referred to as “middle carbon steel.” While it may not have the same level of hardness and edge retention as Shirogami #1 and #2, Shirogami #3 is still a popular choice for those seeking a more affordable option without compromising too much on performance.

Advantages of Shirogami Steel Knives

1. Exceptional Sharpness: Shirogami steel knives are known for their razor-sharp edges. The high carbon content and fine martensitic structure of the steel allow for a keen edge that can effortlessly slice through various types of food.

2. Long-lasting Edge Retention: The hardness of Shirogami steel enables it to maintain its sharpness for a long time, reducing the need for frequent sharpening. This makes Shirogami knives ideal for professional chefs who require precision cutting throughout long working hours.

3. Ease of Sharpening: Despite their high hardness, Shirogami steel knives are relatively easy to sharpen. The purity and fine grain structure of the steel make it respond well to sharpening stones, allowing users to easily restore the blade’s sharpness.

4. Versatility: Shirogami steel knives come in a variety of shapes and styles, making them suitable for a wide range of culinary tasks. From Gyuto knives for general purpose use to Santoku knives for slicing, dicing, and chopping, there is a Shirogami steel knife for every kitchen need.

Maintenance and Care

While Shirogami steel knives offer exceptional performance, they do require proper maintenance to ensure their longevity. Here are some key tips for caring for Shirogami steel knives:

1. Dry the knife after use: It is crucial to dry the blade thoroughly after each use to prevent moisture from causing corrosion.

2. Hand wash only: Avoid using a dishwasher as the harsh detergents and high temperatures can damage the blade. Instead, hand wash the knife with warm water and mild dish soap, and then dry it immediately.

3. Regular sharpening: To maintain the knife’s sharpness, regular sharpening is necessary. Use high-quality sharpening stones or take the knife to a professional sharpening service.

4. Avoid hard cutting surfaces: To prevent chipping and damage to the blade, it is best to avoid cutting on hard surfaces like glass, granite, or ceramic.


Shirogami steel knives are a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of Japanese knife makers. With their exceptional sharpness, long-lasting edge retention, and ease of sharpening, Shirogami knives have become a favorite among professional chefs and home cooks alike. Whether it’s the high carbon content of Shirogami #1, the versatility of Shirogami #2, or the affordability of Shirogami #3, there is a Shirogami steel knife to suit every culinary need. By following proper maintenance and care, Shirogami steel knives can become cherished tools in the kitchen, serving as a testament to the art and beauty of Japanese knife making.