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Joe M.

Location: Rescue, CA (foothills of Sacramento area)
Joined: 25 Jan 2004

Posts: 11

PostPosted: Sun 01 Feb, 2004 10:32 pm    Post subject: Knife blade steels.........         Reply with quote

Ok, this is probably old news around here so please direct me to the proper web page where this was previously beaten to death, but what are the main differences - pros/cons - in the various knife blade steels *commonly* seen out there.

I say commonly seen steels because there seem to be an infinite number of variations, especially when browsing the die-hard pro knife makers. I guess "best" is subjective and dependent on the intended use of each blade in question, but the ones that I see most and would like to evaluate are: 440-A stainless, 440-C stainless (is there a 440- B?), and AUS-8A.

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Glen A Cleeton

Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 1,877

PostPosted: Tue 03 Feb, 2004 3:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are a few charts out there that describe steel types by material content but, as you say, performance can be quite subjective. has a knife encyclopedia section with one such chart.

The way steel is heat treated and tempered can have a lot to do with the way a knife will perform. That said, all the steels you mention enjoy quite a bit of use in knife manufacture. All four you mention are considered servicable.

440C was/is a very popular steel for knives. Many premier knife grinders have used this steel and it can be brought up to the higher hardnesses without becoming too brittle. There are those that even use this for sword length blades with success.

440B may not be a really common choice bit it is used. My Gerber BMF (no sawteeth on this one) is 440B and is hard enough that Gerber attached a diamond hone to the scabbard.

AUS-6/8 might well be placed in this spot on the scale of stainless (stain resistant). Both are used and can perfom well. I have several smaller blades of AUS-8 and they are easy to sharpen and hold an edge fairly well. AUS-8 does not have the edge retention of the wonder steels but is quite servicable.

AUS-6 and 440A are perhaps the at the lower end of performance (edge retention) but 440A is probably one of the most stain resistant and can be found in dive knives for that reason.

AUS-6 is enjoying quite a rebirth at CRKT, being used in most of their newer collaborative designs. I've not tried any of these for utillity purposes (some have said they were ok). CRKT has certainly brought out a lot of "nifty" looking knives in the past year but there is some doubt of their steel choice. It may have been a compromise for ease of manufacture.

The 420 series steels get a lot of bad press and perhaps rightly so. An awful lot of junk is produced from one variety but some manufacturers can make other alloys work. The 420HC(?) that Buck Knives used/uses is a far cry from the 420J2 that can range from butter soft to glass brittle. 420J2 is being used for a lot of folder components and this may be the best use for it. Well treated/tempered 420J2 can produce a servicable blade but is generally soft and will dull easily.

Buck Knives uses/used a 420 that works quite well. My 110 folder from thirty years ago still pops hair and has always kept an edge through a day of work.

Anyway, I hope any of that is helpful. There are a couple of dozen good stainless knive steels out there now and as you have said, it's all quite subjective. For tough blades, many are going back to simpler steels. They worked 100 years ago, folk were less concerned with pretty back then.


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