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Knife Steel




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Knife Steel

By definition, steel is a combination of iron and no more than 2% carbon.

Knife Steel Facts
Which Steels For Which Knives?

Heat treatment is as crucial a part as the grade of steel.

Basically, knife steels are high carbon stainless or non-stainless high carbon.

High carbon stainless is rust resistant though harder to sharpen.

Non-stainless high carbon rusts easier but is easier to sharpen.  

With proper heat treatment, 440 should hold an edge slightly better and sharpen a bit easier than the lower 400 series stainless. 

The lower 400 series stainless are gaining in popularity among the factories because they cause less wear on tooling.

ATS-34, CPM 440V and Crucible S30V cost more than the other stainless steels, and the CPM or Crucible costs the most. 

Blades of most stainless steels used in knives are not rustproof but are rust or stain resistance. Therefore stainless steel blades should still be kept clean and wiped dry after use, especially many of the new high carbon stainless steels like ATS-34, and CMP-T440V. But they do not need as much care as carbon steel knives. Sandvik 12C27 -Stainless steel made in Sweden. Known as a premium steel.

A blade's hardness is one indicator of how well it will hold an edge and its hardness is controlled by the heat treatment and grade of steel. A blade's hardness is determined by using a Rockwell machine and measuring the depth of penetration of an indenter into the metal's surface. The depth of penetration is correlated to a scale reading, called the Rockwell scales. A higher number is assigned to harder steel that allows less penetration. Knife steels are measured on the "C" scale and range from about Rc 50-63. In comparison, a diamond will range in the 80s on the Rockwell "C" scale (Rc). This is why diamond hones are very good for sharpening most knives. You will see lower Rc 52-54 in rough use knives like throwing knives and even lower still for axes Rc 4045.

Attributes and Best Applications of Stainless Steels *

Steel Type


Best Applications

Superior edge-holding & stronger than 440 
Strongest but doesn't cut that well
3rd best of 440 types in edge holding
Pocket knives - hunting knives
Rough use knives - throwers
General purpose knives
CPM 440V
2nd best of 440 types in edge holding
Best of 440 types in edge holding
Best edge holding stainless of all
General purpose knives
Most all knife types
Pocket knives - hunting knives
Similar to 440C; may be stronger
Similar to 440A; may be stronger
Similar to 6A
Most all knife types
General purpose knives & fighters
General purpose knives
* This assumes the steel is properly heat treated. 
** Few factories use 440B steel anymore.

Periodic Table

Periodic Table Iron

Name: Iron
Symbol: Fe
Atomic Weight: 55.847
Atomic Number: 26
Element Classification: Transition Metal
Discovered By: Known to the ancients.
Discovery Date: n/a (Unknown) Prehistoric
Name Origin: Anglo-Saxon: iron; symbol from Latin: ferrum (iron).
Density (g/cc): 7.874
Melting Point (K): 1808
Boiling Point (K): 3023
Appearance: Malleable, ductile, silvery-white metal
Atomic Radius (pm): 126
Atomic Volume (cc/mol): 7.1
Covalent Radius (pm): 117
Ionic Radius: 64 (+3e) 74 (+2e)
Specific Heat (@20C J/g mol): 0.443
Fusion Heat (kJ/mol): 13.8
Evaporation Heat (kJ/mol): ~340
Thermal Conductivity (@25C W/m K):
Debye Temperature (K): 460.00
Pauling Negativity Number: 1.83
First Ionizing Energy (kJ/mol): 759.1
Oxidation States: 6, 3, 2, 0, -2
Electronic Configuration: [Ar] 3d6 4s2
Lattice Structure: Body-Centered Cubic (BCC)
Lattice Constant (): 2.870
Lattice C/A Ratio:

Periodic Table

Periodic Table Carbon

Name: Carbon
Symbol: C
Atomic Number: 6
Atomic Weight: 12.011
Element Classification: Non-Metal
Discovered By: Known to the ancients
Discovery Date: n/a (Unknown) Prehistoric
Name Origin: Latin: carbo, (charcoal).Density (g/cc): 2.25 (graphite)
Melting Point (K): 3820
Boiling Point (K): 5100
Appearance: Dense, Black
Atomic Radius (pm): 91
Atomic Volume (cc/mol): 5.3
Covalent Radius (pm): 77
Ionic Radius: 16 (+4e) 260 (-4e)
Specific Heat (@20C J/g mol): 0.711
Fusion Heat (kJ/mol): n/a
Evaporation Heat (kJ/mol): n/a
Thermal Conductivity (@25C W/m K):
Debye Temperature (K): 1860.00
Pauling Negativity Number: 2.55
First Ionizing Energy (kJ/mol): 1085.7
Oxidation States: 4, 2, -4
Electronic Configuration: [He] 2s2 2p2
Lattice Structure: Diagonal (DIA)
Lattice Constant (): 3.570
Lattice C/A Ratio: n/a

Metric/Inch/Fraction Conversion Chart - Quick reference for conversion

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