Our team here at Marine Approved has lots of experience carrying and utilizing knives across countless situations. The primary difference is out-of-this-world edge retention at the cost of a minimal reduction in toughness. Give this article and each knife steel chart a gander, and you’ll be halfway to an Ivy League degree as a metallurgist (no uhh…not really, but we all start somewhere). Toughness: Good 7/10. Edge retention seems to be all the rage when talking about a blade. This knife is certainly one among the more … One of the Marine Approved top recommendations for a knife encompassing N690 steel is the Spyderco Urban Leaf found here. 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. Edge retention and toughness are very good. Here are some rankings for edge retention, Rockwell hardness, wear resistance and corrosion resistance. This is why many people including our Marines here consider Spyderco to be of great value. How often do I have time to service and care for my knife? At this point, we’ve actually already hit on corrosion resistance a few times so you should have an idea of what I’m about to tell you. The real problem with surgical steel stamps is that there is little to no formal accountability for the results and attributes of surgical steel. It doesn’t always benefit you to save some money and choose the cheaper blade as that blades steel composition may not be treated as well as the more expensive version. Basically, what you’re getting here is upgraded D2 steel where you get an insanely hard blade with very little flex that is incredibly difficult to sharpen but holds that sharp edge for an incredible length of time. Best Knife Steel. 440C has a much higher composition of chromium and carbon than the lower tier 420HC giving it the edge when it comes to edge retention and corrosion resistance. Corrosion Resistance: Very good 7/10 Tweet; We posted our online knife steel chart in 1998 and have done our best to keep it up … This elemental swap provides 154CM a far better edge retention than 440C and many of the steels used in blades today while sacrificing pretty much nothing in terms of corrosion resistance from the original 440C. Buck widely uses 420HC in their knives to great success. Certain blade steels are more stable at highly acute angels. Not all AUS-8 or MoV steel blades are the same and some of them are relatively cheap, meaning they’re also fairly low quality in most cases. 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. Cobalt: Used to increase the blade’s rigidity. Both great steels, CPM-154 benefits from a powdered metallurgy and is finer grained than 154CM. Edge Retention: Exceptional 10/10 Edge Retention: Excellent 9/10 Phosphorus: This is used to increase resistance to corrosion and add overall tensile strength when there is a low amount of carbon present. I’d stay away from 420 base steel altogether. Cutting and slicing performance improves as the thickness behind the edge decreases. 13C26 is essentially a special version of 440A that simply has higher levels of carbon in place of chromium and as such, sacrifices a little corrosion resistance for strength, however, the difference is very small and the two are almost identical in practical use. You may find custom knives meant to look pretty or some specialty knives such as dive knives made out of titanium but you certainly wouldn’t want one as an EDC. VG-10 is basically 154CM with a tad bit more chromium and some fancy vanadium, which increased its corrosion resistance and toughness over 154CM respectively. In reality, there is no perfect blade steel in the same way that there is no perfect knife. If you’re new to owning high-quality knives and you aren’t sure how to sharpen a blade properly and/or you don’t have hours on end to spend sharpening and maintaining a blade, you should be taking special consideration of the hardness level, which is defined above. Corrosion Resistance: Good 6/10 Use our Knife Steel Composition Chart to compare stainless steel, non-stainless and alternate alloy knife products. Toughness: Good 6/10. Don’t know 20CV from M4? Just keep in mind that knives made from AUS-8 are generally very affordable. Use it. Carpenter Four Star. 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. Corrosion Resistance: Bad 2/10 The goal of many knife users is to find the best steel to fits their needs. But what is the best knife steel? BD1N is a completely different steel. The result is the same steel with better corrosion resistance. One of the Marine Approved top recommendations for a knife encompassing CPM-S110V steel is the Spyderco Military found here. All you have to do is click to be taken to Steel type: More expensive CPM Family (20CV, S90V, and CPM S110V), Common Use Case: The ultimate all-around tough and sharp blade, Sharpening Difficulty: Extremely difficult 1/10 One of the Marine Approved top recommendations for a knife encompassing M390 steel is the Benchmade Barrage 581 found here. 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: … Manganese: This is used in small amounts to add strength and hardness but with too much and you’ll create brittleness. D2 is infamous for how difficult it is to sharpen. The major tradeoff with having an excellent edge retaining steel is brittleness in the overall blade. AUS-6 steel is rarely used to build pocket knives or fixed blade knives and is typically found in kitchen knives nowadays. 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. The effect of heat treat varies based on the composition of the steel. Review: Anything with a 420 stamped on it is probably of relatively low quality and on the budget end of the spectrum. What it is: D2 is a carbon tool steel with a relatively high chromium content, prompting some to call it a "semi-stainless" steel. CPM-S110V exhibits many of the same qualities as S90V. Steel Chart. Corrosion Resistance: Medium 5/10 This is a small list of steels that aren't necessarily in high production anymore, but still offer high-end or mid-range performance. Review: This is yet another powder metallurgy process similar but slightly different to the CPM method. 420HC simply means its infused with a lot of carbon which makes the base 420 steel a bit harder and better overall than the regular 420 but unfortunately it still suffers from similar drawbacks in Toughness and wear resistance. Basically, you would use ZDP-189 in place of S30V if you need a bit more hardness and resistance to corrosion isn’t that important to you. Edge Retention: Undefined Corrosion Resistance: Decent 4/10 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. If you find a knife you love in AUS-8, it's okay! Braefour. Common Use Case: When you want the quality of 154CM steel but need a little more corrosion resistance, Sharpening Difficulty: Medium 5/10 420 steel is pretty basic steel with hardly any corrosion resistance on its own. The tradeoff of all this wonderful hardness is a lack of resistance to corrosion. Common Use Case: Budget Japanese/Chinese knives, Sharpening Difficulty: Very easy 9/10 I won’t go too far in-depth, but keep in mind that special steels like H1, the especially corrosion resistance saltwater steel, cannot hold a flat grind due to a flat grind being too thin and brittle for H1 to hold an edge. A well-done and consistent heat treat goes a long way towards the performance of a knife. One of the Marine Approved top recommendations for a knife encompassing ZDP-189 steel is the Spyderco Dragonfly 2 found here. Corrosion Resistance: Medium 5/10 Here's a little chart that I'm going to try and keep up with comparing knife steels. Edge Retention: Bad 2/10 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. Review: LC200N was originally an aerospace material used primarily to create ball bearings and was designed by the European company ZAPP. From designer to country of origin, blade length, and beyond, there’s a plethora of different factors to consider when buying that fancy new knife. Sandvik steels are largely found on affordable, entry-level knives. Well, aside from M4, which we’ll talk about later, CPM is exceptionally resistant to corrosion as it’s anti-corrosive properties are perfectly situated throughout the blade in each and every particle. The reason it’s used there is for its low cost of manufacturing to a relatively high level of durability compared to the cheaper solutions. After learning about knife steels, consider checking out our favorite fixed blade knives here and EDC knives here. Marine Approved is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associate Program. In his free time, he enjoys hunting, hiking, running, shooting guns, and reviewing gear. S693 MICROCLEAN *. Many razor blades consist of this steel today and you can still find excellent knives consisting of this steel at ridiculously good prices. Certain steels are so good at resisting rust and corrosion that they can be left abused and salty without ill-effect. These blades have a much higher resistance to chipping and breaking than the other low tier materials but fall short when it comes to corrosion resistance as they are essentially pure steel with roughly 1% carbon and virtually no chromium to resist rust. Absolutely good-to-go, VG-10 may be one of the most neutrally balanced steels on the market. Toughness: Low 2/10. So, what does differing steel treatment mean for you? Find the best type of knife steel for your knife making project. 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. Keep your blade oiled as D2 is prone to rusting and corrosion. Review: 440C used to be the cool kid on the block and was regarded as such for a very long time, appearing in some of the best knives of that time period. It’s not bad, it’s just not superb. In choosing the best pocket knife you should pay particular attention to the type of steel used in the blade. You can’t have steel without carbon as it is the most crucial hardening element. Common Use Case: Entry level to premium grade blades, Sharpening Difficulty: Medium 5/10 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. Toughness: Medium 5/10. The three charts … Performance of all the 400 Series steels is quite similar, but you will see slight variations among the different compositions. AUS-8 can be readily found in one of our best-selling knife models, the Boker Kalashnikov. Compared to forged steels, powdered metallurgy based CPM steels have a very fine grain structure and far fewer inclusions. For those of you who want to jump straight to a particular section of this article, we put a quick navigation menu below. Edge Retention: Decent 4/10 Kershaw wasn’t exactly thrilled about the old 12C27 or 13C26 so they waltz right over to Sandvik and asked them to cut out some carbon and make way for a little chromium and nitrogen. Corrosion Resistance: Medium 5/10 An easy to sharpen knife will generally not exhibit excellent edge retention. Nitrogen: Nitrogen sometimes takes up some of the space carbon would have and by doing this, the blades anti-corrosion defense gets a small boost and the blade typically has a longer lifespan. S692 MICROCLEAN *. Therefore among available knife steels we would expect a steel like 15V or Rex 121 to have the best … This made me feel that a truly comprehensive guide on the topic of blade steels was warranted; so here’s my attempt – with a basic overview of steel as a whole, a decent (non-exhaustive) list of all the steels I consider to be relevant in the knife community by today’s standards, and an outline of each 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. On the flip side, adding more carbon itself will increase the hardness and edge retention. Corrosion Resistance: Bad 2/10 Silicon: Present in all steels in small amounts, silicon helps bind the materials together during manufacturing and acts as a deoxidizer. 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. One of the Marine Approved top recommendations for a knife encompassing this material is the Benchmade Adamas found here. Review: 154CM is considered the upgraded version of 440C and it’s upgraded by adding molybdenum in place of some of the chromium 440C has. Toughness is key on hard-use camp knives and fixed blades. Edge retention is often reliant on other attributes such as blade hardness and steel composition. Edge Retention: Good 7/10 The 400 Series of steel has been popular for longer than almost any knife guy has been alive. Where a normal steel would chip, these knives can sustain intense batoning sessions, power through staples, and glide through steel strapping. All images on our website are the property of their respective owners. Common Use Case: Mid-priced enthusiast style blades, Sharpening Difficulty: Hard 3/10 Atlas M4. Are you in a humid, wet, and salty environment? AUS-8 steel. One of the Marine Approved top recommendations for a knife encompassing 440C steel is the Boker Magnum Shadow found here. This blade steel exhibits good toughness, but it does not meet the level of M390. Perhaps you’ve seen bulletproof glass in action. 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. Often recommended stainless steels for survival knives: S60V, VG-10, BG-42, S90V, CPM S35VN, CPM 154, AUS-8. If you’re interested in the perfect fishing knife, look no further. How important is overall sharpness to me versus how often I will need to sharpen the blade? In a nutshell, they took the properties of AUS-8, added a tad bit of chromium to increase its corrosion resistance, and then heat-treated it inside a vacuum to achieve larger chromium carbide particles that aid in resistance to corrosion better than something else with similar chromium levels but not vacuum treated. 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. In head-to-head testing, you would struggle to discern a significant difference between the two knife steels, but under a microscope you will see improved toughness and sharpenability (S35VN is a dream to sharpen when compared to S110V). Am I willing to sacrifice edge retention for blade hardness for edge longevity? Edge Retention: Decent 4/10 Hard blades are especially difficult to sharpen and may take longer periods of sharpening and special attention to achieve high-quality edges. Corrosion Resistance: Good 7/10 This American made and engineered steel was created especially for the knife industry. Any steel with a content of 10.5% of chromium or more is considered to be stainless steel. To achieve such hardness, a lot of the chromium was replaced with the aforementioned matter and thus no longer meets the requirement to be considered stainless steel. He started this website while transitioning out of the Marines, and since has recruited several other Marines to help him work on the Marine Approved website. More carbon sounds like a good thing, I mean it’s more expensive, right? If you need a blade that you can cut things with but also pry and wrangle within other methods, you might want to sacrifice some edge retaining ability for a steel that is notably strong and durable with some flex to it. 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. A tough blade steel resists chips and total failure when subjected to beating, impact, twisting, and torsion. Carpenter-produced CTS-XHP is one of the most well-rounded and versatile steels. When shopping around, taking note of the amount of carbon in the steel used for the blade is very important. 20CV was purpose-built to be a tank-like blade and a tank-like blade is exactly what you get here. Low hardness increases toughness at the cost of edge strength. Powdered steels are more consistent, have better edge retention, and improve toughness due to a lack of inclusions. The following are less common steels, but they’re definitely worth tracking down. Carbon steel: Most Japanese knives will fall under this first category. Review: A2 isn’t very common for something like an EDC pocket knife but it is common for when you need something insanely tough and durable to drag with you through combat. Tweet; We posted our online knife steel chart in 1998 and have done our best to keep it up to date since then. Such amazing corrosion resistance comes at a cost, as this steel doesn't exhibit stand-out wear resistance, edge holding, or toughness. Don’t get me wrong, 1095 is good for a starter blade or something you don’t use or rely on often but these are not blades I’d rely on to save my life unless I had no other higher-quality choice, which isn’t the case, so 1095 blades are a hard pass for me personally. It’s remarkable the increased performance you find in cut tests when comparing premium steels to lower end options. Corrosion Resistance: Medium 5/10 Chromium: The first line of defense against corrosion and a requirement to be in the stainless steel club. One of the Marine Approved top recommendations for a knife encompassing 440A steel is the Gerber Hinderer found here. The steel with the highest slicing edge retention has the maximum amount of vanadium carbide and it is heat treated to a high hardness. Reproduction of any part of this website without direct permission is prohibited. Finer grained powder steels can take a sharper edge. Instead, we’re focused on how different steels react and are capable of being ground in specific styles. Excellent strength and toughness are balanced with very good sharpenability and corrosion resistance. This means you can’t take a specific steel type and just harden it as much as possible or make it super flexible as it’s other properties may severely limit its ability to perform outside of its specified range. Toughness: Very good 7/10. Toughness: Very low 1/10. Benchmade makes a few knives with AUS-8 steel, does that sum this up? Blade steels with an insane amount of hardness (pushing towards 70 HRC) tend to lack stability and can suffer from cracks, chipping, and total failure. Sharpening Difficulty: Very easy 9/10 Titanium: Despite titanium being insanely strong and super lightweight, you won’t find too many knives consisting of the material. One of the Marine Approved top recommendations for a knife encompassing 8Cr13MoV steel is the CRKT M21-04G found here. All steels can get equally sharp! That’s not to say these don’t have a place, as they are good starter knives and they’re easy to teach someone how to sharpen a blade with, but these are not knives I’d trust my life taking into the wilderness on a dangerous trek with. A big contributor as to why these don’t last long is the less than 5% chromium content rendering them open prey to rust and degradation. Bohler-Uddeholm produces more than just the famous M390 steel. You’ll usually see the very top tier steels using this to achieve special manufacturing processes that increase hardness without reducing corrosion resistance. Sharpenability is pretty self-explanatory, but softer steels can be touched up in the field on that big elk hunt. By using this site, you accept our, All the best knives in many different styles. 420HC - A higher carbon version of standard Type 420 martensitic stainless steel. D2 isn’t stainless steel because it falls short of the chromium requirement at just 13%. Updated by Blade HQ Staff Trevor Brown and Andrew Hamilton on 3/1/2019. 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 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. Try the Spydiechef from Spyderco in LC200N steel commonly seen in swords Miller in your mind Right type ( Comparison... Many eyes, the Boker Magnum Shadow found here Bark River Gunny Hunter found here best pocket knife you in... Blades consist of materials that, when not protected, stain or rust easily S110V CPM. Guy has been popular for longer than almost any knife can get equally sharp regardless of.. This wonderful hardness is in the low-cost market first line of defense against corrosion a. 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