Knife Steels Simplified

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This discussion is going to go into detail on the main different types of knife steels used commonly among most manufacturers. There are numerous amounts of variations of steel used in knives but this post will give a simplified breakdown of the properties and the better and lower end types in each specific category. This will give you a breakdown to help make knife steels simplified. The categories will be divided into these sections:

  • · Stainless Steel
  • · Carbon Steel
  • · Damascus Steel


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Knife Steels Simplified: Stainless Steel

stainless steel

Forging ahead we go right into stainless steel. Stainless steel is best known for its corrosion resistance. This is the key trait of this steel. People prefer these because of the fact they are a low maintenance.

Keep in mind being corrosion RESISTANT does not mean it is corrosion proof. Some of the better corrosion resistant stainless steels to look for in your knives are Aus-8 and Aus-8A(most common in S.O.G. and Cold Steel blades), 440 A and 440 B are probably the most common.

They offer great corrosion resistance and in most cases are affordable for the average consumer which for most people is or should be a consideration. The biggest complaint of stainless steel compared to carbon steel and Damascus is they tend to not be as easy to sharpen or hold as sharp of an edge as the other two.

In general stainless steel is the most common steel used in common production knives. A couple lower end stainless steels that I am not a fan of are 420 and Aus-6 though 420 HC steel seems to work effectively. They are functional but if you can get better steel as abovementioned I suggest trying for one of those.


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 Knife Steels Simplified: Carbon Steel

carbon steel

Next we go into carbon steel blades. Carbon steel blades are most noted for their good cutting edges and toughness. With a wide variety of variations there are options of some carbon steel blades that have some corrosion resistance but most do not offer great resistance.

It is by no means a deal breaker and taking a little time to take care of your blade can be a good thing. Knives that have higher carbon percentage may be brittle so using it as a chopping tool is not recommended. 1055, SK-5/1080, 1095 are common well rounded carbon steel alloys that give great benefits such as toughness and edge holding capability but are also easy to sharpen.

There are very high quality carbon steels and the only thing to really watch for in terms of bad carbon steels is how much carbon is put into the blade so you know how brittle the blade might be.


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Knife Steels Simplified: Damascus Steel

damascus steel

Finally we discuss Damascus steel. It is the least used of the discussed steels. It is made by mixing different steels together to give a beautiful swirls and textures.

It is used primarily in decorative type knives or special edition offerings. They do wear decently well but it really depends on the steels use. It tends to hold a good edge and sharpen well.

Once again this used by quite a few knife makers and manufacturers make variations such as hunting knives and a few pocket knives.

Knife Steels Simplified: Conclusion

This was a brief overview and there a wide variety of alloy mixes for each type so make sure to look at what the composition is. These are good guidelines to help you pick the type of steel that fits your needs the most for your knife choice. Check back for more content and comment if you want to read about a certain topic.

Garrett W.