Different Types of Steel Used in Knife Blades
In 2.5 million years, a lot may change. Take, for instance, knives. Our forefathers made knives by chipping and flaking off chunks of rock to create thin edges. They sometimes affixed the tools to a handle. Eventually, man developed new and improved materials for knives. Knives improved as technology advanced. Stone was replaced with copper or bronze, a copper-tin alloy. Iron was also added to the lineup. Exotic materials, such as meteorites, were also used to make blades in certain parts of the world. Then came steel, an iron-carbon alloy.
Nowadays, almost all knives are composed of steel as they are supposed to be highly corrosion resistant, have superior edge retention and high wear resistance, and provide ease of sharpening. However, each piece of steel is different. Some steels perform better than others, but what is optimal depends entirely on what you will be using the knife for, i.e. survival, utility, or protection.
When buying a knife, you should make an informed decision. Below is some essential information regarding blade steel to help you understand the differences and make the right choice.
What Are the Defining Characteristics of Quality Knife Steel?
When comparing knife blade features, you may need to consider numerous factors. Enhancing one attribute often degrades another. It is also vital to remember that no single knife steel can achieve everything. Steel varieties designed to hold a very fine edge typically become more brittle. Those designed to withstand impact have lower corrosion resistance. Possessing more than one knife at times (a biter and a beater) makes sense. With that in mind, the qualities and descriptions of the best steel knives are as follows:
The ability to withstand deformation when subjected to stress and forces applied while in use are referred to as hardness. The Rockwell C scale (sometimes known as “HRC”) determines the hardness of steels used for knife making. Scale C is designed exclusively to rate the steel that is used in blades. The hardness of a knife is critical to its function and durability. More rigid steel, with an HRC somewhere between 58 to 62, will, for example, maintain a fine edge much better than comparably softer steel. However, the steel is less resilient and more susceptible to chipping and breaking. So, pick wisely.
Toughness refers to a steel’s capacity to keep the blade’s construction intact under intensive work or use. A robust blade will be durable when subjected to rigorous work and resist chipping, splitting, or breaking! Tough steel blades are usually used for making camping knives designed to cut through staples and other heavy-duty barriers. Although hardness and toughness sound comparable, they have an inverse connection. Toughness increases as hardness decreases, resulting in a more flexible blade (perfect for razor blades). As toughness diminishes, hardness increases, resulting in a more brittle edge.
Wear resistance indicates that the steel can withstand impact from various types of wear (adhesive and abrasive). Abrasive wear occurs when tougher particles contact a softer surface, and adhesive wear occurs when the debris is displaced from one surface and adheres to the other. While steel’s hardness is the most crucial component in excellent wear resistance, the chemistry of the steel is equally important. Steels with higher carbide content (wear-resistant components that increase hardness) generally have a high resistance to corrosion and wearing. Nonetheless, carbides could become breakable and cause fractures, which reduces steel’s toughness.
Corrosion Resistance is the capacity to resist rust and corrosion and is also an important factor to consider when selecting the right steel blade. If you intend to use the knife in a damp environment (fishing or diving knives) or to cut acidic meals (kitchen knives), superb corrosion resistance should be your priority when choosing your blade. However, remember that excellent corrosion resistance comes at the sacrifice of strength and edge retention. This is why fishing knives are typically composed of softer steel varieties. They have outstanding rust-free characteristics, but they do not have great edge retention and require regular sharpening if you want a very sharp edge.
The corrosion resistance increases when the steel’s composition has a large amount of chromium. To be designated as “stainless steel,” it must contain at least 11% chromium. The more chromium substance there is, the better the anti-corrosion function. You’ll even come across steels labelled “semi-stainless,” which means they have a high chromium content but not enough to qualify as stainless.
Edge Retention indicates how long the blade or knife will hold its sharpness after extended use. Edge holding is determined by the combination of abrasion resistance, toughness, and strength to provide an edge that withstands deformation under usage. Cutting cardboard or a hessian rope are two excellent edge retention tests you can perform before choosing a knife.
How is Steel Graded and Classified?
Steel grading and classification are immensely complex, and it’s helpful to understand the classifications given to the various types of steel. It’s crucial to realize that steel is produced worldwide, and every nation has its own classification scheme. However, the most widely used grading scheme is SAE (formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers). Four-digit designations designate the compositions of carbon steels and the majority of standard alloy steels. According to the main alloy component, the first digit denotes the general class of steel. For example, all alloy steels labelled “carbon steels” begin with “1,” “nickel steel” starts with “2,” “chromium steel begins with “5 “, etc. As an illustration, 1xxx is carbon steel (the most common steel for knives).
To further complicate matters, steel from other nations, including Germany and Japan, where many high-quality knives are made, uses a separate grading system. Additionally, steel businesses or knife manufacturers that patent steel they develop will use a completely different name. So, this is another factor to keep in mind.
Common Steels Used In Knife Blades
The most popular blade steel types are classified as follows:
This is the most popular steel used in all types of blades. To be called “stainless,” steel must contain at least 10% chromium. This alloy steel is exceptionally forgiving and requires little knowledge or expertise to keep sharp and in good condition. Knives are made from a variety of stainless steels that differ in price and quality. Premium stainless steel blades has high hardness of roughly HRC 58 on the Rockwell scale; however, the alloy can be pushed farther using heat treatment and other procedures for better edge retention. Despite its name, stainless steel knives can rust, but usually not from simple exposure to humidity and air.
Steel grades and formulas used to produce useful tools such as wrenches, drivers, and crowbars can also be utilized to make high-quality knives. This is why using salvaged materials made from tool steel to forge knives, blades and other equipment without spending money on new stock is so popular. Of course, using fresh tool steel stock is more trustworthy than reusing old resources because you know what you’re getting. Most steel grades and formulas used in tool manufacture are steel alloys that incorporate a trace of carbon into the metal. Apart from carbon, tool steels usually contain at least some chromium to provide good corrosion resistance. They are, however, more susceptible to rust than stainless steel. This is compensated for by higher hardness, improved edge retention, and a lower fracture risk during tempering.
Although tool steel formulations contain some carbon content, they are not called high-carbon steels. Grades such as 1095 have about 1% carbon, giving the metal the most resilience and strength without turning it brittle or challenging to work with. It quickly takes an edge and retains its sharpness even under severe use, making it ideal for machetes, survival knives, and other outdoor equipment. Carbon steel knives have the lowest corrosion resistance point since they usually do not contain many different alloy elements. This is typically fine for heavy-duty knives but not for cutlery or beautiful knives intended for exhibition rather than frequent usage. Save the carbon steel for survival endeavours and spend a bit more for an alloy with a high chromium content for those durable designs.
Said to be originated in the 17th century, pattern-welded steel is readily recognizable by the swirling and eye-catching patterns created by continuously folding two distinct types of steel until there are as many as a hundred or more layers in the item.
Damascus steel could be stainless or non-stainless, depending on the steel and alloys utilized. The pattern in Damascus steel is only visible when it has been cleaned, prepped, and etched with acid. The two types of steel respond differently to the acid oxidation procedure. One oxidized steel comes out lighter, while the other comes out darker, which gives Damascus steel one defining characteristic- the swirls. Despite being known for their aesthetic value, Damascus steel blades can be durable and robust, based on the materials used and the quality of forging.
Why Perkin’s Damascus Steel is Best?
Damascus knives have a reputation and flare that dates back centuries. There are recorded accounts of Damascus blades slashing through a rifle barrel and splitting a strand of hair in half.
Nothing beats the sensation of an actual Damascus steel blade in your hand. Damascus steel is created nowadays by fusing many layers of steel to make solid and stunning blades. The modern-day Damascus steel knives are not as high quality as in the past because they were designed using older techniques and directly from the original steel. That’s why forging Damascus blade steel needs a certain amount of dedication and expertise.
At Perkin Knives, we use premium quality Damascus steel to forge our Damascus steel blades. We utilize the traditional process of producing Damascus steel, i.e. by forging numerous layers of steel together to make a strong and stunning blade. We are enthusiastic about having the best selection of Damascus knives accessible, including but not limited to Damascus steel pocket knives, Damascus hunting knives, folding knives, and Damascus Bowie knives. We also ensure we deliver the best purchasing experience for all of our clients from the minute they make their purchase until (and after) they receive their product.