Best Knife Steel for Your Knife

Best Knife Guides & Tips

Types of Knife Blade Steel and their various combination’s seem almost endless. There are many Knife Blade Steels to choose from. In an attempt to inform, let’s begin with Knife Blade Steel-types. Knife Blade Steel is determined by the percentages of Chromium, Manganese, and Carbon in the steel. In some cases, small amounts of other elements are found to achieve certain properties. Steels are identified by alpha or numeric names.

Examples would be 420HC, 440A, AUS-8, Sandvik 13C26 just to list a few. Steel is just Iron with Carbon added to it. Other alloys are added to the Iron and Carbon combination to have steel perform differently.

  • Carbon – Increases the strength of steel. Most important hardening element in steel.
  • Chromium – Improves resistance to corrosion. Steel with at least 13% Chromium is considered, “Stainless Steel.”
  • Manganese – Contributes to steel harden ability. Also, helps with strength and wear resistance.
  • Molybdenum – Prevents brittleness and maintains the steel strength at high temperatures.
  • Nickel – Provides added strength, corrosion resistance, and toughness.
  • Silicon – Like Manganese, contributes to steel strength.
  • Tungsten – Increased wear resistance.
  • Vanadium – Contributes to wear resistance.

This information is an attempt to assist you in choosing the right knife blade for your needs. Knife blade choices can be made by deciding which knife blade properties you need in a knife.

  • Wear resistance – The ability for the blade to perform its task without excessive wear.
    Strength – Steel is measure by strength. The ability for the blade to cut through material and not change its shape or incur damage is considered steel strength.
  • Toughness – Blades ability to cut or chop through materials and not incur chips or cracks in the blade.
    Stain Resistance – Blade resistance to corrosion and discoloration.
  • Edge Holding – Choosing the correct blade steel is most important here. Material to be cut through must be taken into consideration. A wood carver would want a steel that had strength as well as edge holding ability. A carpet layer would want a steel that possessed wear resistance and edge holding ability. A Butcher would want a steel that had toughness, stain resistance, and edge holding ability.
    Ability to take an edge – The finer the grain steels sharpen with less work. Blades with Tungsten or Vanadium added will have a finer grain.
  • Edge Toothiness – Some coarse grain steels may take more work to sharpen but once sharpened their rough grain edge will cut quite aggressively.

    What is knifes primary purpose? Next step is to determine what knife will be used for and what knife style is best suited for you. What is knifes primary purpose?

Examples would be:

Knife to be used by a Chef in the kitchen. What type of knife and blade steel would be best? A good choice would be a fixed blade knife made of high carbon steel for added strength and edge holding ability. Since the knife is to be regularly used a handle that is a nonslip material and comfortable would be preferred.

Knife to be used by an outdoors man. This knife will have various tasks and choice may be a folding knife because it is much easier to carry outdoors. Tasks such as wood carving, game cleaning, cutting branches, cutting ropes, this knife will be required to do multiple tasks. A good knife blade steel choice would be Sandvik 13C26 because of its high hardness, good corrosion resistance, and excellent wear resistance. Knife handle and shape must suit the user. Comfort and durability must be considered as well.

The knife used by a soldier would have various tasks, and personal preference would determine whether the style of knife be the folding or fixed blade. The knife will have to be determined by a soldier, but blade steel will have to pose certain attributes. Knife blade steel must be very hard, must retain an edge and should have good rust resistance. A fine choice for this knife would be154CM because it is a very hard steel, hard to sharpen but once sharpened will hold an edge a long time. A very tough steel!

Some popular knife steels used in knife blades today:

  • 154 CM: Carbon 1.05%; Manganese 0.5%; Chromium 14%. A high carbon alloy, tough steel. Unlike 440C this steel is not easy to work with, but on the other hand, it is both harder and tougher than 440C. Will hold a sharp edge. Gerber 7163 Silver Trident uses 154 CM steel.
  • 420: Carbon 0.15-0.6%; Manganese 1%; 12-14% Chromium. An inexpensive steel 420 knife steel has less than ½ % carbon content which makes this a very soft steel. 420 steel is often used in the production of diving knives as it is very stain resistant. 420 does not hold edge very well. Kershaw K1006K Amphibian Diving Knife uses 420 Steel.
  • 420HC: Carbon 0.5-0.7%; Manganese 0.35-0.9%; Chromium 13.5%. A popular hard steel. Easy to sharpen, rust resistant and will hold a sharp edge. Buck 110 Folding Hunter uses 420HC steel.
  • 440A: Carbon 0.60-0.75%; Manganese 1.0%; Chromium 16.0-18.0%. High carbon hard steel. Easy to sharpen, rust resistant and fair at holding a sharp edge. Schrade 804UH Uncle Henry, Journeyman, uses 440A steel.
  • 440C: Carbon 0.95 – 1.20%; Manganese 0.40%; Chromium 17.0%; Vanadium 0.50%; Molybdenum 0.50%. One of the most popular knife steels. Hard, durable and easy to work with. Boker B-01BO053 Jim Wagner Folder uses 440C steel.
  • ATS34: Carbon 1.05%; Manganese 0.4%; Chromium 14.0%. The Japanese version of 154CM, hard steel. Not quite as resistant to rust as 400 series steel. A tough steel that will hold a sharp edge. Buck Alpha Hunter 276, Folder w/ Gut Hook uses ATS34 steel.
  • AUS-8: Carbon 0.7-0.8%; Maganese1.0%; Chromium 13.0-14.5%; Nickel 0.5%; Vanadium 0.1-0.25%; Molybdenum 0.1 – 0.3%. A hard steel. Will not hold an edge like ATS34 but tougher. Less rust resistant than 400 series steel but has improved wear resistance. Al-Mar AL1005HJB, Eagle, uses AUS-8 steel.
  • CPM-S30V: Carbon 1.45%; Chromium 14%; Molybdenum 2%; Vanadium 4%. A high wear, durable hardened steel. Good toughness and wear resistance. Spyderco C41PBK, Native uses S30V steel.
  • Sandvik 13C26: Carbon 0.6%; Manganese 0.35%; Chromium 14.0%. Swedish steel, very popular because it has few impurities. High hardness, good corrosion resistance, and excellent wear resistance. Kershaw L.E. Blur K1670BLST uses Sandvik 13C26 steel.

Remember, once you determine what style knife is best suited for your needs and what blade steel is best suited for the task, then the Best Choice Can Be Made!

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