▷ Edge Retention Vs Toughness [How Knife Should Be Balanced]

By Gias

Ever wondered why a kitchen knife costs from less than $10 to more than $500? Well, it is always because of the material quality and the elements with what the knife is made of. However, among all the parts of a knife, the most important part is its blade. So, if you are own a good knife you must know about the terms edge retention and toughness. These terms are a bit confusing if you do not know them in detail. Hence, to gain better knowledge, we have reviewed an article on Edge Retention Vs Toughness.

Most of the best knife blade is made of high carbon stainless steel. There are many traits you will find in knife steel. Two of them are edge retention and toughness. However, mainly these two properties directly or indirectly define other properties of the steel. Corrosion resistance, wear resistance, strength, and ease of sharpening are some of them. 

Edge retention and toughness are related inversely. So, to know in detail stick around us till the end.

What is Edge Retention of Knife?Yoshihiro Mizu Yaki Blue High Carbon Steel #1 Black Forged Gyuto Japanese Chef Knife Shitan Handle (

Edge retention is the most important trait of a knife. A knife with higher edge retention is desired by all. Edge Retention is holding the sharpness of a knife for a longer period even after repeated use. It empowers the ability of the blade to retain the sharp edge of the knife. However, the property varies from steel to steel.

Some steel can retain edge retention for longer while some lose very soon. It completely depends on the steel quality. Steel can hold a fine cutting angle for a longer period if it is formulated with carbide. Some of the iron matrix bases including chromium, vanadium, molybdenum, carbon, tungsten are mixed with the steel to get an optimum carbide formation. 

Again, carbides also differ in type. According to various steel alloys and their quantity, hardness, and all, the quality of the edge retention varies.

What is the toughness of a Knife?

Toughness is the second most important property of a knife or any sharp tool. It mainly proves the resistance power of the knife to chipping. If the knife tolerates a sudden strike or force without tearing or cracking then the knife has higher toughness.

Nonetheless, the best knife should also have toughness properties. The capability of withstanding abrupt forces and impacts is a must in a kitchen knife to handle a busy kitchen. Knife with lower toughness chips or cracks over time. 

However, to bring a balanced toughness in a knife is a long process. Just like any other trait of a knife blade, toughness also varies from knife to knife. It requires high-end technology to bring the desired toughness to a knife.

Edge Retention Vs Toughness: Inverse Connection of Knife sharpness

We have mentioned before that the traits, toughness, and edge retention are inversely connected to each other. That is why many people fell into confusion as well. Edge retention is also defined by the hardness of the knife. As the hardness goes higher, the knife tends to be more fragile or brittle. Hence, it could chip or break easily if the knife is forced. ZWILLING J.A. Henckels 34891-203 Chef's Knife

Even a knife with a microscopic level is prone to tear following the same case. The harder steel always boasts better edge retention. On the other hand, the higher edge retention indicates the lower toughness of a knife. Hence, bringing a balance between these two traits is important to manufacture a good quality knife.

But, it is almost impossible to achieve the same amount of toughness and edge retention in a knife. One must be lower or higher than the other. However, some of the best knife brands offer knives highlighting only one trait between edge retention or hardness and toughness.

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We want a knife with a stable cutting edge and wear-resistant property with a combination of toughness. Till now there aren’t any universally approved measures for these two characteristics. But the knife industry has introduced and developed some quantifiable measures for these two inversely related traits of a knife. 

Most renowned and reputed knife brands around the world introduce their industrial knives using those measures and they manufacture their knives following the guidance for evaluating the characteristics. For example, the hardness or edge retention of a knife is measured by the Rockwell C Scale or HRC. The higher the HRC rate, the better the edge retention of a knife. On the contrary, there is no such clear measurement scale to measure toughness. 

Benefits of Long lasting Edge Retention in Knife

There are many reasons why people go for a knife with superior edge retention. There are many advantages. Some of them are given below.

  • Long-lasting Sharp Edge

This the main reason for what edge retention has great value. Higher edge retention and HRC rate provide a long-lasting sharp edge to the knife. Hence, you do not have to re-sharpen the knives frequently. This makes your cutting tasks faster and provides you a nice cutting experience. 

  • Wear Resistance

As we have mentioned earlier, only better edge retention can make a knife resistant to wear. Many knives that have a below-average HRC rate, are prone to wear soon. Nobody wants their valuable knife to be wear soon than their expectation. 

However, if there are some other elements in the knife steel that cause chemical erosion then there are chances of wearing. So, be aware if your knife contains those elements. 

  • Protective to Corrosion and Rust

Edge retention also helps to protect the knife from corrosion and rust. It creates a protective layer on the edge of the knife that resists the unwanted rust on the knife surface. It increases the knife durability. 

  • Ensures Quality Steel

Only quality steel can ensure better edge retention. Manufacturers can never bring these traits using even higher technology using so-so quality steel material. Most of the steel that empowers a good amount of HRC rate is made of vanadium carbide. The steel is also processed with heat treatment to achieve high hardness. Also, there are mixed steels with other bases of the iron matrix that helps in carbide formation to increase the hardness.

5 Best sharpest knife in the world:

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Yoshihiro Mizu Yaki Blue High Carbon Steel #1 Black Forged Gyuto Japanese Chef Knife Shitan Handle ( Yoshihiro Mizu Yaki Blue High Carbon Steel #1 Black Forged Gyuto Japanese Chef Knife Shitan Handle (


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Benefits to having highh Toughness in Knife

Like edge retention, toughness in a knife is also beneficial for many cutting cases. Many chefs around the world choose toughness over edge retention because of some of its pros. The advantages are given below.

  • Cracking or chipping Resistance 

Knife chipping is one of the most occurred things while using a lower tough knife. Chipped knives might cause severe accidents. It also creates trouble while slicing or chopping. But higher toughness in a knife can resist the chipping of the blade while chopping or striking.

  • Strong Brittle-free Knife

It is another benefit that is desired in a knife. Many expensive knives are manufactured with supreme edge retention but they are very prone to brittleness. But, when a balanced toughness is added to the knife, it becomes resistant to brittle.

  • Suitable for heavy-duty Cutting

Toughness ensures heavy-duty cutting tasks without any risks of tearing the blade. A heavy strike or force will not hurt the knife as long as it has toughness. Hence, cutting larger fruits, veggies, and edibles is fine with the knife. 

  • Tolerates Stressed and Abusive use

For busy kitchens, knife toughness is necessary. It will keep offering a trouble-free cutting of edibles even after abusive use. Toughness can smoothly handle stresses. Hence, a knife with toughness is highly beneficial.

5 best Toughest Knife in the world:

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 Toughness Vs Edge retention: Is Balancing Possible?

Yes, balancing these two traits is the best possible idea you can ever imagine. Fortunately, most of the knife brands from Japan, America, and European country like German, Italy, are manufacturing knives this way. The skilled and professional knife makers are bringing a delicate balance between these two properties and producing some of the best world-class kitchen knives.

However, most knife blades come with an HRC rate from 45 to 65. But the best ones come at a rate from 58 to 62 HRC. Hardness Rockwell rate of more than 62 to 65 makes it hard to re-sharpen the blade. However, within the optimum edge retention and HRC rate combined with a balanced and proper toughness can make a knife superior anyway.

Yet, many knives come with a highlighted feature among these two properties. If you want an extensively good slicing knife then choose one that highlights the edge retention feature. Again, if you want a knife that will handle your heavy-duty kitchen cutting tasks, choose the one that highlights the toughness feature.

Final Words

Now that you know everything about toughness and edge retention you can imaging how both the components are necessary for a knife. But the balance between them requires skilled craftsmen, high-end and advanced technology, high-quality steel material, and more.

Needless to say, a knife only can be called the best when you feel the delicacy of hardness, toughness, and resistant power altogether. So, let us know if this article has helped you enough or not and leave us your opinion.

About the author

Introducing Gias, an Engineer and Kitchen Knife connoisseur with a specialization in Japanese Knives. With over five years of dedicated testing, reviewing, and research experience, Gias brings a wealth of knowledge to the world of kitchen knives. Passionate and deeply committed, Gias has created this site as personal documentation of their unwavering love for kitchen knives.

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