While H1 steel lives in a specialist category as a fishing or boating knife, LC200N holds its own as an EDC knife steel. Review: 440A is essentially just that good ol’ 420HC with but with even more carbon. My advice here is to ensure your knife is coming from a reputable manufacturer and no, that doesn’t mean just the brand on the packaging but the actual manufacturer. The hardness level of steel is determined using a universal scale called the “Rockwell C Test”, commonly called the Rockwell hardness scale (HRC). The great thing about cutlery, is that any knife can get equally sharp regardless of steel. VG-10 exhibits many of the same qualities of 154CM with the largest difference being an increase in corrosion resistance. We’ll help you find the best knife steel for the types of jobs you intend to use your knife for and make the decision easy with charts and explanations that even Marines can understand! Keep your blade oiled as D2 is prone to rusting and corrosion. Low hardness increases toughness at the cost of edge strength. These blades are as beautifully dazzling as they are rough and tough! Both of these steels are a real bear to sharpen up! Common Use Case: When you want the quality of 154CM steel but need a little more corrosion resistance, Sharpening Difficulty: Medium 5/10 VG-10 is also well known and well-loved in the food industry as VG-10 cutlery has a reputation of surviving with a sharp edge throughout long and busy shifts. Such amazing corrosion resistance comes at a cost, as this steel doesn't exhibit stand-out wear resistance, edge holding, or toughness. Becker BK2. If it is the case, though, and you’re working on a boat or something like that, corrosion resistance is a must and is well worth trading off a little edge retention and strength to ensure your blade remains functional. A good example of a blade that should have oil applied to it often is steel mixed with high levels of carbon such as 420HC. If you’d like to study up on the Rockwell hardness scales intricacies and nuances, check out the AG Russell article on it found here. Common Use Case: Being of higher quality than 420 but still used in budget blades, Sharpening Difficulty: Very easy 9/10 In contrast, a thicker blade stock with more material at the edge will yield a tougher, less slicey knife like the Ka-Bar When adding chromium to steel or steel and carbon, the edge will become a little softer than what it would be as just steel. Corrosion Resistance: Decent 4/10 Corrosion Resistance: Very good 8/10 Strength and toughness are comparable to that found on VG-10 or 154CM. Being soft makes these blades very easy to sharpen and that’s great because you’ll be sharpening them often to keep an edge, almost desperately at that. It is most commonly paired with 1080 or 1084 steel … Nickel: In small amounts, nickel can aid in the manufacturing process by making the steel easier to weld and form while also increasing the final product’s durability of the blade during abuse. Four Star. The tradeoff of all this wonderful hardness is a lack of resistance to corrosion. Okay, fine, they didn’t design it to be hard to sharpen but it certainly feels that way if you give it a go. Carbon steel: Most Japanese knives will fall under this first category. Edge Retention: Low 3/10 Almost all consumer-grade pocket knives, EDC knives, fixed blade knives, etc will be in the range of a Rockwell Hardness rating of 54 to 65 HRC. Sounds too good to be true? Sharpen it! Long story short, CPM stuff is much stronger than non-CPM stuff because it’s blasted into particles that are fine and evenly consisting of all the goodies we want in our blade. One of the Marine Approved top recommendations for a knife encompassing 154CM steel is the Benchmade Nimravus found here. Toughness: Good 7/10. The following are deserving of mention, but there are just not enough knives produced from these steels to give a rating. Bohler M390 is widely revered as being the best all-around knife steel, which has led top companies to widely utilize it in higher end knives. Type of Steel: High-carbon, rust-resistant stainless steel: High-carbon, rust-resistant stainless steel: High-carbon, rust-resistant stainless steel: High-carbon, rust-resistant stainless steel: Handle Colors: … Edge Retention: Bad 2/10 Realistically, in normal day to day use you would struggle to pick out any differences in comparison. Pro-tip—if your blade is labeled stainless steel, but no more details than that, you're probably best off keeping that knife decorative only or using it as a beater knife. Lower edge retention doesn’t mean the blade is bad for your specific use case as it may excel in things you really need, like resistance to saltwater as you use the knife on a fishing rig, just expect to sharpen more often! Common Use Case: Mid-priced enthusiast style blades, Sharpening Difficulty: Hard 3/10 Common Use Case: High-quality especially hard and dense blades, Sharpening Difficulty: Very difficult 2/10 Insanely tough, this steel also manages to boast excellent edge retention and corrosion resistance. One of the Marine Approved top recommendations for a knife encompassing CPM-S110V steel is the Spyderco Military found here. Of course, the methods to create Damascus have changed since then and nowadays, Damascus is used in creating collectors knives as it produces brilliant weld patterns and alluring blade aesthetics. My Review: AUS-6 is essentially the Japanese version of the 420HC high carbon steel with the same relatively soft average hardness rating of 57. There are a million out there, and this page will surely be updated over time to include more. AUS-8 can be readily found in one of our best-selling knife models, the Boker Kalashnikov. Additional considerations include the thickness of the blade stock and the primary grind. A chart from Knife Informer (formerly Best Pocket Knife Today) comparing common blade steel types. Toughness: Good 6/10. Corrosion Resistance: Medium 5/10 Compared to forged steels, powdered metallurgy based CPM steels have a very fine grain structure and far fewer inclusions. Use our Knife Steel Composition Chart to compare stainless steel, non-stainless and alternate alloy knife products. Benchmade makes a few knives with AUS-8 steel, does that sum this up? Review: 1095 carbon steel is one of the most popular steel compositions found in knives pretty much everywhere. I get it. Don't confuse BD1 with its bigger, badder brother BD1N. CPM-S110V exhibits many of the same qualities as S90V. Remember, even the best steels with respect to corrosion resistance can still corrode and still necessitates proper care, cleaning, and oiling to ensure they don’t rust away. Toughness: 6/10. It’s remarkable the increased performance you find in cut tests when comparing premium steels to lower end options. There is no blade that does it all and does it all the best, but more so blades that may excel in something whereas they are giving up something else. Corporal Wabo is a former Infantry Squad Leader with 3rd Bn 4th Marines that specialized in Mortars. 420HC - A higher carbon version of standard Type 420 martensitic stainless steel. Reproduction of any part of this website without direct permission is prohibited. M390 is super stuff, I always want more CPM-M4 in my life, and there's never going to be anything wrong with a fixed blade made out of A2. One of the Marine Approved top recommendations for a knife encompassing CPM-20CV steel is the Cold Steel Recon 1 found here. Edge Retention: Bad 3/10 Whether it’s dicing up cardboard boxes, feather sticking some firewood, or hacking up sisal rope, no one likes a dull knife. Ceramic blades are pretty much impossible to sharpen yourself but typically come with ultra razor sharp edges that hold for a decent period of time. One of the Marine Approved top recommendations for a knife encompassing AUS-8 steel is the 5.11 Tactical CS1 found here. Edge Retention: Good 7/10 Of course, you get what you pay for and the top tier steel materials that you will pay an arm and a leg for will often excel in all categories over their cheaper counterparts. All images on our website are the property of their respective owners. Don't hesitate to buy a knife in Sandvik steel, but understand that you're likely buying a budget knife. Titanium: Despite titanium being insanely strong and super lightweight, you won’t find too many knives consisting of the material. Knives with moving parts, that is any type of hinge, folder, utility, or multi-tool, should be oiled to ensure the moving parts are easy to move and that the metal on metal contact isn’t causing excessive wear and tear. Review: CPM stands for Crucible Particle Metallurgy process and signifies a special process in which starts off similar to regular processes in that they give the steel a good old fashioned bath in molten steel but instead of being cast into molds, a high-pressure jet with that bursts the molten steel into tiny droplets than then dry into a powder in an atomization tower. Technically, to be considered a stainless steel composition, the steel mixture must contain a minimum of 10.5% of chromium, however, we know that much higher contents of chromium are necessary for resistance against especially corrosive environments such as usage in and near saltwater. CPM-S35VN is the new, upgraded brother of S30V. A low level of chromium means D2 doesn’t do well with corrosion whatsoever but so long as you keep it dry and clean, it should be alright. The tradeoffs of an insanely hard blade are the ease of sharpening and overall flexibility. LC200N is an amazing steel! You’ll usually see the very top tier steels using this to achieve special manufacturing processes that increase hardness without reducing corrosion resistance. Compared to CPM-3V, A2 is available more much affordable and is much more easily sharpened. Steel type: Cheaper CPM Family (M4, S35VN, and S30V), Common Use Case: High-end cutlery and knives, Sharpening Difficulty: Hard 3/10 Find the best knife metal type for you! One of the Marine Approved top recommendations for a knife encompassing A2 steel is the Bark River Gunny Hunter found here. Edge Retention: Good 7/10 Furthermore, sharpening a blade is only part of the equation when it comes to caring for specific steel-based knives. Edge retention is not a characteristic by itself. While titanium makes for a fantastic blade structure, it fails to hold an edge. Carpenter-produced CTS-XHP is one of the most well-rounded and versatile steels. The following are less common steels, but they’re definitely worth tracking down. With significant amounts of Chromium, Molybdenum, Vanadium, and Tungsten, these steels are 100% ready for action. Most blades can be sharpened enough even when they have low levels of edge retention for the average user to be happy and enjoy decent performance throughout regular usage. All you have to do is click to be taken to CPM-4V boosts the edge holding when compared against 3V, but at the cost of some slight toughness. Of course, the same attributes that make for excellent aerospace grade steel usually line up decently well for attributes in the knife world and in this case, LC200N sits perfectly between that of H1 and 154CM. That time period has now come and gone and 440C has been reduced to a med-grade steel composition that is still widely used by a lot of US knife companies to create general-use well-rounded blades. Review: H1 steel is derived from the Japanese Myodo Metals and is the Yang to the D2’s Yin. Common Use Case: To create a profile of well balanced high-quality attributes, Sharpening Difficulty: Rather difficult 3/10 BD1N is a completely different steel. They seem to have done an excellent job turning this ultra-hard but very brittle material into an extremely tough and durable blade with the use of special heat treatments and very high carbon contents. AUS-6 steel is rarely used to build pocket knives or fixed blade knives and is typically found in kitchen knives nowadays. Updated by Blade HQ Staff Trevor Brown and Andrew Hamilton on 3/1/2019. Dear BA Foodist, After years of use, my German chef's knives have all become dull. Some examples of highly corrosion-resistant steel compositions are H1, LC 200 N, N690, and VG-10. Knives of this material are surely going to cost a pretty penny but they will also likely live longer than you and they won’t shave off years of your life for sharpening, either! Easy to sharpen and quite corrosion resistant, maintenance is a breeze. Here's a little chart that I'm going to try and keep up with comparing knife steels. We won’t be able to cover each and every single steel ever used in the manufacturing process of knife blades but we will cover the most prominent and important steel types! Corrosion Resistance: Medium 5/10 Being able to field sharpen your knife can be the difference between life and death in the wilderness. Sulfur: Sulfur is typically added to steel that is especially hard to work with, making it easier to manage and manipulate at the cost of some final overall blade toughness. Consider Elmax if toughness is high on your list. Edge Retention: Excellent 8/10 This knife is certainly one among the more … Micro-Melt M4. Typically, really hard blades will have more grind choices while soft and corrosion-resistant steel may not be suitable for a lot of styles of grind. It achieves these very slight advantages by being finer grain steel, but seriously, the two together in the wild are nearly indistinguishable. Not as tough as the best carbon steels, it's tougher than most stainless steels. But what is the best knife steel? When it comes to getting the job done there are four main factors that determine steel quality. Heat treat, blade geometry, the job at hand, and the sharpening of the blade all play a massive role in the performance of the steel. This website is not affiliated with the United States Marine Corps, and the information on this website does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Marine Corps as a whole. One of the Marine Approved top recommendations for a knife encompassing 12C27 steel is the Morakniv Bushcraft found here. CPM-154 is an excellent EDC blade steel with above average edge retention, corrosion resistance, and ease of sharpening. One of the Marine Approved top recommendations for a knife encompassing CTS-BD1 steel is the Spyderco Manix 2 found here. Chris Reeve is famous for developing two steels directly with Crucible Industries, and boy did this partnership result in an awesome product. 1095 blades also tend to be thicker because a thin knife … If you’re interested in the perfect fishing knife, look no further. Therefore among available knife steels we would expect a steel like 15V or Rex 121 to have the best … When we call a normal steel stainless, it really means that the steel will stain LESS than carbon steel. Often overlooked is the job at hand. The Carbon content, combined with the high Chromium content, provides good abrasion resistance and edge-holding. When reading through the different characteristics of steels, consider your own life and how you might carry and use your knife. Essentially, CPM steel (also called powdered steel) is produced from a very fine powder of carbide particles. We intend to provide an authoritative guide for researching and appreciating the different blade steels that a knife … As such, the performance of the steel is entirely dependent upon the steels being utilized. Steel type: Swedish Sandvik 12C27 / 13C26 / 14C28N (Kershaw special request but not exclusive), Common Use Case: Many Kershaw knives but also other inexpensive knives like Morakniv, Sharpening Difficulty: Fairly easy 7/10 Damascus: This is actually a method of creating steel that dates back to the ancient European crusades. Knife Country, USA. Both of these steels have incredible value and are also extremely available and easy to buy in bulk. experience. Elmax can be found in many Microtech knives. CPM … A last little tidbit here is that creating excellent resistance to corrosion will oftentimes sacrifice a bit in the category of edge retention. An H1 steel blade with a full flat grind will have its edge virtually destroyed immediately, thus most H1 steel blades can only be found in grinds like a partial flat grind. Inherently, more acute sharpening angles will see better cutting performance than more obtuse angles. It’s not bad, it’s just not superb. 420J and 420J2 are the middle ground between 420 stainless and 420HC. No, it doesn’t, because those are Benchmades lowest tier knives and nowhere near the performance of higher-grade steels but it is something to say for AUS-8 and is pretty cool they’re being used with a premium brand. How the steel is treated and what manufacturing process it undergoes will have a huge impact on corrosion resistance. Best Knife Steel. I would like to note that purely for … If your favorite designer makes a knife in one of these steels, don't hesitate to pick it. Vanadium: Acting similarly to tungsten, this is used to create fine grain steel and ensures those grains remain small throughout the entire manufacturing process. As we mentioned above, the hardness of the material used to create the blade plays a huge factor in how the blade behaves when being sharpened. The higher level of carbon found in 440A makes the blade significantly stronger and more wear-resistant than the 420HC blades, however, this makes them prone to corrosion much more than 420HC so it’s a type of tradeoff that, if you’re in the market for a low-quality budget blade, you’ll have to decide upon yourself considering the situations in which you’ll use your knife. When you put your knife to work, what tasks will it need to conquer? One of the Marine Approved top recommendations for a knife encompassing CPM-S90V steel is the Benchmade Nakamura Axis 484-1 found here. Edge Retention: Undefined Certain steels are so good at resisting rust and corrosion that they can be left abused and salty without ill-effect. Nickel steel is used to produce the bright contrast needed for making Damascus-style steel. In Marine Approved fashion, we suggest opting for higher quality as AUS-6 is typically found on low-end budget knives that maybe you’d buy as a first-time knife gift for a youngster or something in that nature. Toughness: Low 2/10. One of the Marine Approved top recommendations for a knife encompassing ZDP-189 steel is the Spyderco Dragonfly 2 found here. A blade whose hardness is in the middle of the regular blade range (Ex. Toughness: Very low 1/10. The best edge retention would render your knife useless in anything other than cutting soft materials as even the slightest flex could send part of your blade flying! Carbon steel is made through the process of adding carbon to steel made from iron ore. If you’re on a very tight budget but you need something of decent quality, a Buck Knife with 420HC is simply okay. Review: VG-10 steel is quickly becoming a top choice for premium blade slinging companies and for good reason, it’s capable of being sharpened ultra-sharp, it has incredible overall strength and durability, and it’s got better corrosion resistance than 154CM and ATS-34 in relatively the same price range. So what is the best steel for knives? Toughness: Medium 5/10. This American made and engineered steel was created especially for the knife industry. To get the best edge retention, you’d want an extremely hard steel composition but being too hard makes the blade brittle and prone to breaking and chipping. Carbon: One of the base ingredients making up steel is carbon, typically consisting of one of the majority shareholders in the composition of the blade. This increases the blade’s resistance to heat and also raises the final product’s Toughness. One of the Marine Approved top recommendations for a knife encompassing this material is the Benchmade Adamas found here. This American made and engineered steel was created especially for the knife industry. S692 MICROCLEAN *. Alongside edge geometry and design, blade steel is a critical element that determines how a knife performs. Am I willing to sacrifice edge retention for blade hardness for edge longevity? CPM S90V sacrifices a little of the 20CV corrosion resistance for an even harder blade consisting of much less chromium and a whole lot more vanadium. More carbon sounds like a good thing, I mean it’s more expensive, right? Copper: Helps to combat corrosion but usually in trace amounts to avoid that copper-looking patina. Edge Retention: Excellent 9/10 If you find a knife you love in AUS-8, it's okay! Tweet; We posted our online knife steel chart in 1998 and have done our best to keep it up to date since then. Some people may think edge retention is the most important characteristic because, let’s face it, if your knife doesn’t have a sharp edge when you need it, it’s a paperweight, not a knife. With that said, adding too much carbon can make the steel so hard that it actually becomes brittle and has little to no flex capabilities. These may be protected with special types of oil that need to be applied every so often. Toughness: Very good 7/10. Toughness: Very good 7/10. 1045 steel has less carbon (.45%), where 1095 has more (.95%), inversely 1095 has less manganese and 1045 has more. Edge Retention: Bad 2/10 Corrosion Resistance: Low 3/10 M390, 204P, and 20CV are all durable steels that sacrifice ease of sharpening. This is a small list of steels that aren't necessarily in high production anymore, but still offer high-end or mid-range performance. The chart below shows how amazing H1 steel is in every category except edge retention. Buy it. S30V and S35VN are both exceptionally easy to maintain and sharpen and they hold an edge exceptionally well too, something you don’t normally get both of. Here are current charts for toughness on all of the steels we have tested here at Knife Steel Nerds along with the help of several knifemakers and machinists to make the samples for testing. Any of these blade steels are 100% good to rock and roll. Although the reduction in carbon made them lose a little edge retention, this steel is super easy to sharpen and can be sharpened to a much higher level than other steel grades in similar price ranges. 1095 Carbon Steel. You can click on the column to sort the data accordingly. This is another powder metallurgy process that uses a bunch of expensive and hard to work with goodies like vanadium, chromium, and molybdenum alloys and smacks them all together, forming what feels and acts like carbon-based steel without the carbon-based steel negatives. D2 steel doesn’t exactly stand out in the positive side of attributes but many choose D2 for its low price but relatively high toughness and hardness. It’s incredibly hard for a manufacturer to get it right and even harder to prime up the edge, but once done correctly, this knife is staying exactly as it is for a ton of time and loads of abuse. There are many different types of steel that can be used to make a blade but there are no types of steel that excel and dominate in every single category. Edge Retention: Bad 2/10 How important is overall sharpness to me versus how often I will need to sharpen the blade? These blades have above average hardness and edge retention compared to blades of similar price points and tiers but are very difficult for a beginner to sharpen and can prove to be lower in resistance against corrosion since most of the composition is carbon but lacks a whole lot of chromium. Knives such as the Spyderco Chaparral have a very thin edge at only .014”. In a hurry? This powder is then screened and then pressurized to form a particulate bond that creates a microstructure whose properties are extremely fine and homogenous. Performance of all the 400 Series steels is quite similar, but you will see slight variations among the different compositions. Sharpening Difficulty: Very easy 9/10 Popular among both Benchmade and Spyderco, CPM-S90V is a knife steel known for its excellent edge retention and very good corrosion resistance. Home » Knives » Best Knife Steels and How to Choose The Right Type (with Comparison Charts). The three charts … 1095 is a non-stainless carbon steel, with approximately 0.95% carbon in the blade.This makes for a tough knife that holds an excellent edge, but it's prone to rusting if you don't take care of it. Many razor blades consist of this steel today and you can still find excellent knives consisting of this steel at ridiculously good prices. M390 exhibits excellent edge retention, corrosion resistance, and high level toughness. Steel type: Unmarked Stainless steel and/or Surgical Steel (SAE 316, 440, 420, 17-4), Common Use Case: Extremely cheap knives and disposable knives, Sharpening Difficulty: Easy Edge Retention: Decent 4/10 A knife with great edge retention will vaporize cardboard even after months of carry. Free shipping … 440B steel is not a very popular material for the top knife brands due to having relatively the same price as 440C but without as good as edge retention. What's your favorite steel on your pocket knives? 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