Knife Steel Selection

Knife Steel Selection

Knife Steel Selection


Steel TypeCharacteristicsApproximate Rockwell Hardness
17-7 PHGood corrosion resistance, excellent for water sports applications. This alloy is a chromium-nickel-aluminum precipitation hardening stainless steel with good edge retention. Great corrosion resistance generally means a high chromium content, and this means knives made with this steel will be a little harder to sharpen than blades with a lower chromium content.54-56
154 CMOriginally designed for jet engine fan blades, it is the precursor to the Japanese made ATS-34. In recent years, this steel has made a resurgence in the knife industry, offering good blade toughness, edge holding capability and corrosion resistance. Fairly easy to resharpen.58-62
420A hard, strong blade steel. This stainless steel is commonly used in knife blades, and offers good corrosion resistance at a low cost. Decent edge holding capabilities and fairly easy to resharpen, this steel is a good balance of the most desirable traits for knife steel.49-53
420 HCA high carbon version of 420 steel, this steel combines the excellent wear resistance of high carbon alloys with the corrosion resistance of chromium stainless steels. The high carbon content makes this steel harder to resharpen, but the tradeoff is better edge holding properties.58
440 AA high carbon stainless steel, used in many production knives. A good balance of edge retention, easy resharpening and corrosion resistance.55-57
440 CA high chromium stainless steel which exibits an excellent balance of hardness and corrosion resistance. This steel takes a nice edge, and is fairly easy to sharpen even for a novice.58-60
1095This is a plain carbon steel, which means it has low resistance to corrosion, and low to medium edge retention. The benefit of this steel is it’s easy to sharpen, will take an extremely sharp edge and is generally available at a low cost.56-58
5150A medium carbon, low alloy steel that hardens well. This steel is ideally suited to blades with a very thick cross-section such as tomahawks and axes. Extremely tough and impact resistant, this steel is most often used on blades which are hafted and/or thrown.55-60
ATS-34A very high carbon, chromium stainless steel with additional amounts of molybdenum. This steel has good edge holding properties and high corossion resistance, but is more difficult to resharpen than lower chromium steels.60-61
AUS 6AA medium to high carbon stainless steel, this steel holds a good edge and is particularly well suited for heavy, long blades that are subjected to a lot of stress while chopping and hacking. It has good edge retention, and is fairly easy to resharpen with decent corrosion resistance.55-57
AUS 8A Japanese stainless steel, with surperb toughness and good edge holding capabilities. This steel is fairly easy to sharpen and generally low cost with great corrosion resistance.57-58
AUS 8AA high carbon, low chromium stainless steel which has proven itself to be the ultimate compromise between toughness and strength, edge holding and resistance to corrosion.57-59
BG-42A high quality, bearing grade alloy with significantly increased amounts of carbon and molybdenum content plus vanadium for improved edge retention and strength. Easy to sharpen, with decent corrosion resistance.61-62
Carbon V®This low alloy, cutlery grade steel is superior to most other steels due to its chemistry. Decent corossion resistance with superior edge retention make this a premium steel for knife blades. This steel is exceptionally tough, and therefore harder to sharpen than most stainless steels.59
CPM S30V®This American made and engineered steel was created especially for the knife industry. It is a powder made steel with uniform structure and great corrosion resistance. Excellent edge retention and first rate toughness make this steel one of the best all-around knife steels, striking a balance between corrosion resistance, edge retention and sharpenability.58-60
D2This air hardened tool steel is sometimes called a “semi-stainless” steel, because it contains 12% chromium. It offers decent corrosion resistance with exceptional edge retention. It is harder to sharpen than most, but can be finished to a high-polish shine.59-60
DamascusThis steel is made from dissimilar steels folded or fused together with heat. It is often acid etched, which brings out the different steels in a striped pattern. Excellent toughness and edge holding capabilities make it a great blade, but the cost of production is high. Damascus is most often used in special applications like decorative blades.Layers vary from 53-62
M2This high-speed, tool grade steel is used primarily in cutting tools in industrial applications. This is metal used to cut metal. With excellent strength, enduring toughness and tremendous wear resistance, this is some of the toughest steel used to make knife blades. The tradeoff for all this toughness is that this steel is hard to sharpen, and it is highly susceptable to corrosion. All blades made from this steel will have a corrosion resistant coating applied, to give good corrosion resistance with such a tough steel.62
N690An Austrian made stainless steel, it is comparable to 440C in performance. It offers good edge holding qualities with excellent corrosion resistance, and fairly easy sharpening.58-60
S30VThis steel contains carbon along with high amounts of chromium, molybdenum and vanadium. This steel is double tempered for hardness and edge retention.It has excellent corrosion resistance, but is slightly more difficult to sharpen.59.5-61
Sandvik 12C27This stainless steel is made in Sweden. It is generally known as a premium steel for knife blades, offering a good balance of corrosion resistance, sharpenability and edge retention. Knife Steel Selection57-59
San Mai IIISan Mai means “three layers”. It is a term used when talking about traditional Japanese swords and daggers. The laminated construction is important because it allows the blade maker to combine different grades of steel in a single blade. A high carbon center layer provides the strength and edge holding qualities, while the outer layers are lower carbon steels, providing flexibility.Center layer= 59 Outer layers= 57
X-15 T.NDeveloped for the aircraft industry for jet ball bearings, and used in the medical industry for scalpels, this steel resists rust in the worst of conditions while maintaining ample edge retention. Offering an easy to maintain edge and excellent corrosion resistance, this steel is ideal in knives used for watersports. Knife Steel Selection56-58

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