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There are a lot of different blade steels out there today. Some blade steels are better suited for certain tasks and others are all around great performers, What is your favorite blade steel? What is the steel that you have for EDC blades? What are the characteristics that you look for most is a blade steel?

Tags: Blade, knife, steel

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When I first started collecting knives I did not know much about blade steels and did not pay much attention to them. Because of that I have accumulated a lot of AUS 8 and "Mystery" steels. After making myself read up on what each steel offered over the other I felt that I had enough knowledge to make some good decisions. While that still remains true I found the the most helpful information that I ever got about blade steels was from taking to the people at my local knife shop. I learned more from the couple of trips I made to the knife shop than any amount of reading I could ever do. Real world experience and application speaks louder than anything else.

If I could have one blade steel for all my knives it would be S30V. I think S30V has the best all around capabilities for EDC use and general utility but there are definitely better steels for specific situations(i.e. underwater, cold conditions). Most of the time I look for a steel that will not rust and will be relatively easy to sharpen but does not get dull quickly. For my EDC blades I like 154 CM or 440C.

Keelen
Hmm, interesting thread. You're absolutely right Keelen that S30V performs great as an EDC steel. I haven't been able to test anything in S30V myself, but from friends' experiences I've concluded that it performs as well or better than 154CM, but sharpens easier. I have two blades in 154CM (ZT0200 and Benchmade Griptillian), and I find that both will hold an edge FOREVER. Okay, well, not quite, but I can still go for months without anything more than touch-ups to the edge. I also have experienced less rust with 154CM than with 440 series steels.

I would however disagree with some people out there who claim that S30V is the be-all and end-all of blade steels (Chris Reeve, namely). For an EDC/tactical folder, I can't imagine anything better. But for a hard-use fixed blade? No so much...sorry Strider knives, I'm going to have to respectfully disagree.

My favorite steel that I've encountered so for has to be 52100. Originally intended for use in industrial ball-bearings, 52100 emphasizes wear-resistance as well as toughness. I've found that it has all the toughness of steels like 1095 or 5160, but the addition of Chromium and a generally higher Rockwell rating means that its edge-holding is improved. This steel shows up most frequently as SR-101 steel in Swamp Rat Knife Works blades. The change in name merely indicates that the steel has been combined with their proprietary heat treatment process. With a differential heat treatment (hard at the edge, soft at the spine), 52100 can be one of the best possible blades for survival/outdoors use.

S7 can also make a fine steel, when properly heat treated for edge-retention. A more complicated steel than 52100, S7 combines carbon, Chromium, Molybdenum, Vanadium, Silicon, and Manganese. The result is a steel with incredible toughness (its used in things like Jackhammer bits and tomahawk-style entry tools). This is great for larger fixed blades and for military knives that might see heavy abuse.

In a folder I also look for rust resistance, edge holding, and ease of sharpening. In a fixed blade, I prefer tool steels to stainless steels because of their increased toughness. Specifically, I like a tool steel that is both tough and able to hold its edge during extended hard use (chopping, carving hardwoods).

I'll be interested to hear what other folks prefer

-Thomas
Thomas,
Thanks for the great post! I agree with everything you said.
Keelen
J have a few different steels on my knives Vg10 seems to be the most, also 154 cm and Aus8.......I have some knives were I don't have a clue what the blade steel is, these are European and stamped "INOX" things like Swiss army knives have that on them.......A lot of native people don't seem to worry too much what the blade steel is but what they do do is sharpen their knives a lot, everyday in fact and hone them up real sharp.........it makes them closer to their knife I believe.....for European knives Fallkniven has a very expensive steel in some of their knives.they use a kind of "Dust " steel which is supposed to be very good.but their knives aren't cheap......another thing to consider though, or so I've heard is the heat treatment on a blade, if somebody does it right they can make a great knife , but if they do it wrong, well the can produce a really bad blade even with good steel...but I'm no expert on any of this
I don't really have a preference for a specific steel. Though these are the steels that I've owned and used a bit : S30V, S60V, S90V, 154cm, CPM154, INFI, SR-101, SR-77 (these are Busse kin steel INFI is proprietary, SR-101 is 52100, SR-77 is S7) , 1095, L6, 12C27, 8Cr13MoV, ATS-34, D2, AUS-8, VG-10, N690 Cobalt, and 8670. Also can't forget 440C and 440A.... and 420HC.

Out of the ones that I've used the Busse Kin steels are probably the best. INFI is quite stain resistant and generally very easy to take care of. Though personally I like the SR-101 and SR-77 stuff better. I have no idea why, but it really feels like SR-101 has the edge on INFI (no pun intended :D). Sr-77 is little worse on the edge retention but both knives that I own with SR-77 is over .25 inches thick. :D

Though, as far as stainless, I really like the S30V on my Rukus and the CPM154 on my Spec-Bump. D2 is alright but it is very true about how hard it is to sharpen. AUS-8 is also pretty good for general use.

1095 is pretty darn good for general use. Easy to sharpen to a wicked edge and holds for a pretty good amount of time. Well heat treated (such as RCs, which is differentially heat treated, harder edge, softer spine) it is a really good steel.

12c27 and 8Cr13MoV are too very good steels but for some reason on both my knives I can't get a very good wicked sharp edge. I'm guessing the heat treat is weird or the carbides in general are too big. I've tried the stone, sand paper, etc. Then again, I could just suck at sharpening.

S7 isn't actually a good knife steel. It's good for like entry tools and stuff but most makers can't get the steel hardness up in the high 50s that SYKCO can. It's really impact resistant mushes away, very little chipping. But for knives, it's a little too soft.

52100 though is gonna be very different. SR-101 is going to vastly different, the heat-treatment really does make a very big difference (example, TOPs vs. RCs, same company different heat-treatment, one thorough, one differentially heat treated, differentially heat treated much better). My Greco Boot Knife is in 52100 and while it is thinner (both stock and profile), the edge retention seems to be a bit better than my RMD, but it also is a lot more brittle (broke tip of knife, got it reground, now better, but tip still weak)

I agree with Tom V. As we sort have done a fair amount of testing and work with different steels. Stainless for EDC, Non-stainless (exception of INFI) for hard use.
Interesting point about S7, Tom

He's right, of course, that in most cases S7 is simply too soft for a knife steel (better left to things like entry tools). The fact that Scrap Yard Knives can make such a fine blade out of it shows that it does have potential though. Still, if I could chose an ideal fixed-blade steel-- S7 wouldn't be it. I would go with something like INFI, CPM3v, 52100, A2, or 1095.

Oh, and a quick note about 5160 (used on blades from Ranger Knives)...it rusts like you wouldn't believe. You just look at it wrong and rust spots appear all over. No kidding, my experience was that it rusts worse than 1095, or any of the other tool steels like S7 or 52100 that i've used.


Tom- I can't remember, what was the final verdict on S60V and S90V? Waste of time? Epically awesome?
The verdict on the super steels is this: yes, they are freaking awesome, but I'd be in it more for the collector's side than the user's side. Though, S90V would actually make a very very good bush blade. The toughness, according and under CPM data and heat treating, has higher toughness than 440C and close to that of D2.

However, I really don't think either of us can comment on the composition of the steels and their effects as we really don't have enough knowledge of the heat treating process (also processing of the steel). Like most knives it is the correct austenite, or metal-alloy matrix, that is a result of a heat-treat (and cooling), that's gives the steel it's characteristics.

For instance, the austenite of most "stainless" steel knives, under simple heat treat, contain a very high amount of "free" chromium (the free chromium is what gives the knife it's "stainless-ness," the free chromium can react with the O2 in the air to form chromium oxide as a preventative to the red iron oxide that we all hate). However, a maker or company can mess with the heat-treat in such away that more of the chromium is "dissolved" into the mixture of other steels and therefore increasing wear resistance but lower stain-resistance. Meaning, same steel can different heat treat which lead different properties and therefore, you could actually say, two different steels. Dozier D2 vs. Benchmade D2 vs Ka-Bar D2 vs, even, CPMD2.

Processing of steel can make quite a big difference, the difference being allowing more uniform distribution of elements, that's the entire idea of powdered steel, and therefore getting a better metal-alloy matrix in the steel, making the steel stronger, better wear resistant, and tougher compared to the steel under "normal" processing. M4 vs CPM M4, huge difference in toughness and somewhat higher wear resistance in CPM M4.

I think the main addition of so many other elements to form carbides is so that the maker does need to spend a obscene amount of time heat-treating the steel and getting the right matrix formation for the perfect balance of characteristics. Naturally the addition of Vanadium and Tungsten would increase wear resistance, simple by forming the vanadium carbides and tungsten carbides, but heat-treating a knife correctly (friction forging is a perfect example) and you can get nearly the same wear resistance of high Va and W.

That and there are more characteristics to a steel than just strength, wear resistance, toughness, stainless-ness, etc. I mean there is also something as how the well the steel takes and holds the edge. Like I said before, my RMD and Greco are the exact same steel but one, I think and feel, holds a better edge over the other.

With all that said, there is actually a lot that can make a steel perform and wear resistance, toughness, and all the characteristics that we have come to learn cannot be judged by their Rockwell hardness (that and I'm sure all the characteristics that I've tried to explain can have a totally different meaning under different circumstances). :D
I am going to go with.......CPM S30V. It has proven itself in my mind with Spyderco and Benchmade models that not only have great rust resistance but with great edge retention and ease of sharpening. Great steel esp. for my Military and Para Military from Spyderco!
I agree! CMP S30V rocks!
i would have to say my fav edc steel is vg10. and my fav outdoor use steer is either sr77 (scrap yard) or 1095
S30V is a great all purpose EDC steel, however I am new to this INFI steel, from what i have read, it would make an exelent all around steel....
INFI probably one of the best steels made. It's a special mixture of Jerry Busse's. Interesting fact, he studied metallurgy. :D

Anyways, it's a very interesting combo of elements along with a crazy long heat treat that makes INFI really good. Somehow during the processing, Jerry adds in a little Nitrogen into the mix. I have absolutely no idea how but it's another element to that metal-alloy matrix.

It's high strength, ductility, edge retention, toughness, etc. On hard impact, even at the high hardness ratings, the stuff just mushes out of the way and doesn't chip (unless thin piece).

I only have one piece of INFI (granted it's the FFFBM), but it is just an awesome steel. Though thin of any steel will break. I saw a picture of this guys Custom SFNO that he abused just a bit and took a good chunk out of the tip.

The closest thing that can come close to INFI in terms of performance is A8 with a very specific heat treat. How do I know this? Well the TAC-11 by Tom Johannings comes very close, as far as I've seen in testing and such.

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