With all other things being equal which steel would you choose when choosing a fillet knife

1. 12C27Mod Sandvik Steel

2. 420HC

3. Titanium coated 420J2

All blades are 6 inches and all have the same flex.  They are all produced by the same company and share similar handles, sheaths and build quality.  The only difference is the steel.  The prices are also comparable.  In fact, some retailers sell the 420HC and the 12C27Mod at the same price.  The 420J2 usually goes for $5-$10 less. And for those who haven't guessed already, the company producing all of the knives is Buck.

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Out of those the 12C27 for sure. It's the only one that has sufficient carbon content suitable for GOOD knife steel.

Alexander, I'm sure Buck fans everywhere are giving you the stink eye right about now.  LOL

420 it would do fine as a 6 invh filet, imho

420J2 is crap no matter what it is coated with. 420HC and 12C27 should perform about the same.

I trust this source !!


"420 and 420J ... represent the low end of stainless steels. They are very stain resistant, and are tough due to being very soft. However, they are also very weak, and not very wear resistant. Generally speaking, expect these steels to lose their edge quickly through abrasion and impaction. They are used in less-expensive knives due to their ease of machining. Ref - 420 vs. 420J2 Steel Composition Comparison.

440A and its relative peers , 425M , 420HC , 12C27 ,  and 6A ...are the next group. They can be hardened more than the previous group, for better strength, and they are more wear resistant, though wear resistance is just getting to the point of acceptability. 440A and 12C27 are the leaders of this group, with solid heat treat both perform okay. 12C27 is said to be particularly pure and can perform very well when heat treated properly. 6A trails those two steels, though with its vanadium content, can take a razor edge. 425M and 420HC trail the rest. Ref - 440A vs. 425M vs. 420HC vs. 12C27 vs. AUS-6A Steel Composition Comp....  "

According to this source .. the 12C27 comes out on top .. with proper heat treatment. The 420HC is second.
The 420J2 is considered by many to not even be a cutlery steel.

My point exactly.

420HC is no more than a decent cutlery steel. It's ok...if you don't mind sharpening again and again.

12C27 was developed as a razor blade steel.....

You guess which one is more suitable for cutlery.

As for 420J....very suitable for bolsters and liners.....blades? No thank you I like my blades to cut more than once before they become dull.

Alexander, many steels used in the cutlery industry were not developed for use as knife blades but ended up being used for that purpose.   Another point to consider is what the knife is being used for; in this case a fillet blade -- very much a working knife that in a potentially high rust environment.  No doubt, all three are low end steels, especially for knives.

I know that most steels were not developed for the cutlery industry. There are a few exceptions.

However that doesn't mean that they're not suitable. And the same is true vice versa.

Some steels that are used expressly as cutlery steels (AUS6, the 420 range of steels, and a few others) really don't do well in a cutlery setting.

If you want something with high rust corrosion that'll still function decently as a knife at least get 440A......

Out of the three you mentioned only 1 is used by handmade knife makers. (12C27). That in and of itself should tell you something.

I agree that 420J2 is not a great steel for knife blades  but Buck uses the 420HC for its blades all the time.   I've also read many comments that the 12C27 really isn't much better than the 420HC.    More to the point, Buck 420HC is rated by many to be equivalent to 440A and better than Case's Tru-Sharp Stainless.  My question was n't which was the best steel, my question was which would use in a fillet knife.    I guess my next step will be to get a 12C27 fillet and see how much of difference it makes compared to the 420J2, 420HC, and whatever kind of "Sandvik Steel" that is used by Rapala.

My reason for choosing the 420 is many years of using filet knives on boats.  There was always a very good filet knife for the end of the day when out dolphin and grouper fishing.  But on those days we were using 12 inch VERY flexible old Wusthof to clean 5-20 fish over 25 lbs each.

These days?  Out trout fishing a 6 inch flexible is going to work for 3 or 4 trout.  It is always going to be cleaned and sharpened before being put back into its travel case.  So I still think 420 would work for us and keep the expense down

12C27Mod Sandvik Steel

While Buck does a very good heat treat on 420HC for thicker knives it isn't the greatest steel and temper for a fillet knife.

I've got a few of them--as well as a lot of Rapala--in the junk knife drawer with broken tips that I've re-profiled to paring knives.  Work great on tomatoes.

One line that I have used out on the water that I've been very impressed with has been the old CRKT either Russ Kommer or his Big Eddy versions in 420J2.  Unfortunately, discontinued.

The best fillet knife we have ever used at the lodge is a 10" ham slicer from a number of kitchen knife companies.  We have, I think, fourteen of them and when one gets dull we just grab another and sharpen them all about every other week.  My favourite in a Victorinox with the little dimples.

What fillet knives do all of you use and what do you sharpen them with?

I have 3 rapala brand. They don't seem to keep an edge for very long. To sharpen them I use a rapala brand sharpener. It's a little grey thing that you just pull the knife through. There is a course side and a fine side. They work OK but I'm wondering if there is something better not just to sharpen them but a better knife also.

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