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Discussion Starter #1
I was reading a bit tonight about my Spyderco knife with an ATS-55 blade, and I found this awesome website on commonly used knife steels. If you're like me, all of the different types of stainless can be a bit confusing and overwhelming. I really liked how this was broken down clearly by "categories/similar properties," and then each one was ranked against a couple others of the same "category." It really clarified some stuff for me, so I thought I would pass it along.

Knife Steel FAQ

Be sure to check out the first section where things like toughness, strength, stain resistance, edge angle, etc. are broken down. I learned a good bit about the give and take of creating steel for a blade. I knew that hardness and taking/holding an edge went somewhat hand-in-hand, but I had no idea of the level to which all of the different parameters can be somewhat controlled to create steels with specific performance characteristics to match the different ways we all use our knives. Anyway, a very interesting read that I will definitely file away for future use.

I have one of the original Spyderco Endura knives from about 15 years ago, and I was kind of tossing around the idea of getting a different knife for EDC. But, after doing some reading, I think I may just stick with the one I have. I've actually been really happy with it over the years, so why mess with a good thing, right? The way I see it, since I just decided against getting a new knife, I guess now I can spend that extra money on new gun stuff instead. Hmmm... I wonder if my wife will see it that way...? Well, it's worth a shot. :)
 

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While the formulation of steel is important, many of the "boutique" steels in use today bring very little to the table, except price. Altering the percent of molybdenum by .0001% may be fine for a niche product, the results will mean little in general use. Usually, new formulations go into newly released knives. You have to wonder just how much "gimmick" is in that.

What's really funny is that many respected makers still use 440 steel for hard use knives. That steel has been around forever.

Edge geometry, blade shape, and intended use are far more important than steel formulations. Add in proper heat treating, as well.

I bought a Spyderco when they first came out in the 1980s, and used it in the Fire/EMS field until it was lost at a building collapse during a blizzard, at night. Never found it. That was 1991-92. Bought two then, the Standard Model, and one's still clipped to my pocket today. My wife carries, and uses the other at her job in grocery today, too.

Not the latest in steel formulation, nor the supposedly "best" edge geometry, they just cut well, hold an edge well, and seem to last and last.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
You're probably right. Probably more hype/reinventing the wheel than anything else. Why fix what ain't broken? I did still find the website to be interesting and a quick way to decipher the plethora of codes for the steel being used.

Glad to hear you've had such good luck with Spyderco. I know I've been very pleased with mine. Before my Endura, I always just carried small, less expensive, mild steel knives (Buck, Case, Old Timer, etc.). I still love how quickly I can put a razor edge on the cheaper, mild steel blades of my other knives, but I also have an appreciation for how long the edge lasts on my Endura with the ATS-55. Boy, do I dread sharpening that one though! I have a standard Lansky that I use, but I'm thinking about getting some diamond stones for it because I've heard they cut a lot faster on harder stainless. Any thoughts?
 

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Never knew I was supposed to be displeased with my Kershaw "Curve". Holds an edge ok cuts when I need it to. Do have an "ET" to play with........................

Bill
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Never knew I was supposed to be displeased with my Kershaw "Curve". Holds an edge ok cuts when I need it to. Do have an "ET" to play with........................

Bill
I must have missed something... Did the article make a negative comment about the steel used in your blade? I don't know what Kershaw uses, but I've always heard that they are really nice knives. I considered Benchmade, Kershaw, and Spyderco before I settled on mine. I really didn't know much about them at the time of my purchase, but I wanted something larger with a pocket clip, and those three fell into my price range. I remember that the Benchmade was a bit more expensive at the time for the models that the knife store had on hand when I was looking. I think the Kershaw models I saw fell somewhere in the middle. I have no idea what they run these days. Thankfully, mine still gets the job done for me and I've only casually looked over the years since my purchase.
 

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Thanks. More information than I could digest at once - this one made it into my bookmarks.
 
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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks. More information than I could digest at once - this one made it into my bookmarks.
Yep, same here. There's a ton of info there. I plan to use it mostly as a reference for future use the next time I'm in the market for a new blade.
 

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A lot of what I read here just confirms what I've thought for a while, a good blade must be designed for the steel being used, so the design should be built around the intended use and the steel chosen based on the design requirements. A good knife is so much more than some guy grinding cool looking blades in his garage. A good knowledge of the steels can help you understand if the knife you are looking at can fit your needs. Just generally speaking, the one thing I have noticed is that CPM makes better steel. Their versions always seem to be just slightly better than their competition, like CM-154 is just slightly better than ATS-54. They make S30V and it is the first steel designed purely for use in knives and is still the best of the "super" stainless steels. They are a pioneer in new steel making technologies and have led the resurgence of US made steels.

To me, good forged steel fixed blades have a feel all their own, that no "ground" blade can match. If you get to one of the big knife shows, pick up and feel a forged blade from one of the better makers, then go pick up a Busse or Tops fixed blade and you will know what I mean. That said, a well designed S30V fixed blade comes closer to that forged blade feel than any other steel I have tried and S30V is my favorite steel for folders. BTW, for those of you who think MIM is inferior to machined or forged parts in pistols, S30V is made from powdered steels using a modified version of the MIM process. D2 is notorious for being difficult to work with and I usually look to see if Bob Dozier (he consults for a lot of production houses) had some input in the design, if I'm looking at a knife made with D2.

Although 440C has certainly improved over the years, I still have a hard time getting over that gummy feeling of the steel when sharpening and that is one of the reasons I do not own any 440C, or even 400 series, stainless steel knives. VG-10, BG-42 and Ceramics make excellent knives if all you do is cut stuff, but they are too brittle for any chopping or prying tasks. I didn't see any discussion of Scandinavian Laminated Steels, but I have found them to work great in small fixed blades. The Scandinavian Stainless Steels (12C27) I actually have rated on par with AUS-8 and I think of them both as tough blades that you just need to stay on top of keeping sharp. I usually have 12C27 and AUS-8 at the bottom of stainless steels I find exceptable in folding knives and S30V at the top.

Forged steels are at the top of my list for fixed blades and I depend more on the makers forging ability than on the type of steel he forges. Simonich developed a method of forging stainless steel and I have not really seen anyone pick up that torch since he died. A well forged fixed blade will feel alive in your hand. If you haven't handled a well made forged blade, make the trip to the Blade Show in Atlanta and find out.
 
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I've got a hand made knife made from scrap steel remnants that all of the F-111's were made with - D6AC. It has to be professionally sharpened due to it's hardness, but will hold a serviceable edge through several hunting seasons. I always wondered why D6AC wasn't used by the knife manufacturers.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
A lot of what I read here just confirms what I've thought for a while, a good blade must be designed for the steel being used, so the design should be built around the intended use and the steel chosen based on the design requirements. A good knife is so much more than some guy grinding cool looking blades in his garage. A good knowledge of the steels can help you understand if the knife you are looking at can fit your needs...

...BTW, for those of you who think MIM is inferior to machined or forged parts in pistols, S30V is made from powdered steels using a modified version of the MIM process...
Excellent points GreenWolf. I put a lot of faith in anything you have to say about knives because, after seeing some of your work in other threads, you obviously know a thing or two about the subject. Really interesting about the S30V stainless being closely related to the MIM parts in our pistols. If it's good enough for top-shelf knives designed to withstand a ton of heavy use/abuse, it sure as hell should be good enough for use in the inner workings of firearms. Thanks for the info.
 

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Diamond hones can absolutely speed up sharpening. That said, using the wrong grade can also leave you with a totally useless blade, also much quicker. Be careful with them. For my Spyderco, I use a sharpener made by Spyderco. It also works on other knives, as well.

Special alloys that require "professional" sharpening, read as return to the factory, will never achieve high levels of distribution. If I'm on Price Edward Island, on a Bear Hunt, I haven't the resources, time, or patience, to send off my knife because it lost a fight with rocks after being dropped off of an edge.

The Buck 110 that I purchased in Da Nang, in 1966, was hard, and I mean HARD. Sharpening with the tools of the day was not a "quickie". The knife still resides in my collection, ready to serve. It once cut a drunk Hispanic Hot Walker out of his Datsun 240Z's windshield after he and a telephone pole decided to share the same space. While the blade was nicked up, it recovered nicely, and went on in service until replaced by the Spyderco. Fact is, I'd probably have kept it in service longer, as it wasn't the knife that was a problem, but it's sheath. It seemed to catch on everything at a car wreck. The built-in clip of the Spyderco, coupled with the one-handed feature, finally replaced it.

While I have found some fixed blade knives to feel "livelier", it was due more to the dimensions, blade geometry, and overall weight, than forged or stock removal construction. As many stock-removal knives are made of forged steel billets, it's hard to see where the material used can be any significant difference.

Knives are as personal as guns. What feels good to you, or works for you, will be intensely personal. The old carbon steels worked in everything that we used knives for for hundreds of years. Today's Stainless steels have largely replaced them, simply because of the pace of modern life. All too many people never learned how to sharpen a knife, much less how to care for that carbon-steel knife that was meant for pocket carry. To them, a knife that holds an edge, and doesn't rust or stain easily, serves them well. Exotic alloys in pocketknives are, to me, often overkill. You don't pry, or chop, with them. You simply cut. Large folders, especially Tactical knives, may well be abused in those manners. For them, the folding joint, and the lock(s) are, again to me, easily as important as the blade steel. The finest blade in the world is useless if you cannot get the knife to hold up long enough to use it more than once. Just my .02.:)
 

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Grinding a blade profile from a forged billet can not compare to a good smith who knows how to properly pack an edge forging a piece to shape. Maybe you just haven't been exposed to a well made forged blade?

But knives are tools and getting the job done is what it is all about. I grew up in a different time and I usually take good care of the things I use. My father said I babied my stuff too much. He used stuff until it was used up and then tossed it. My 2 sons do much the same. They go through knives pretty quick. My Dozier Loveless clone disappeared when my oldest left for Afghanistan last year and my youngest just asked for a small fixed blade that would hold up better than the tactical folder (that I carried for over 10 years) he broke the blade on. LOL, judging by all the butter knives with twisted tips they probably get that from their Mom. I know to take care of my tools and they will take care of you, they tend to see them as whatever is needed to get the job at hand done quickly. No longer than they last, carbon steel knives would probably work for them as well as the best SS. The point being, if a knife is just an expendable tool to you it won't take much to keep you happy and the best tactical folder will never be as good as a good fixed blade when it comes to handling abuse.
 

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There are still plenty of tough working knives made from HC - 1095, 1084, 1075, and yes, even D2, etc. Kabars, at least the Marine versions, are made of 1095. The Schrade survival knife is 1095. I own both, plus a few others that I'm pretty sure are 1095, and a lot of custom makers still use HC. The advantage of HC steels over SS is the blade can be differentially tempered. You can temper the edge to be hard while the spine is softer, giving excellent edge-holding along with toughness. Can't do that with SS. I'm starting to dabble in knife making, and at first I thought "how hard can it be?" Ha. The more I learn the dumber I get. Stainless steel does have it's place; I like my 440C blades (they are shiny*, after all :icon_wink:) and don't find them difficult to sharpen, it just takes a little longer. But as someone pointed out (might have been you, GW70 :smile:), a good knife is designed for its intended task, and that includes choosing the type of steel to use. Sometimes SS wins out, other times a HC steel is the better choice.


*Not everyone wants a blade that acts like a signal mirror to give away one's position.
 

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Grinding a blade profile from a forged billet can not compare to a good smith who knows how to properly pack an edge forging a piece to shape. Maybe you just haven't been exposed to a well made forged blade?

But knives are tools and getting the job done is what it is all about. I grew up in a different time and I usually take good care of the things I use. My father said I babied my stuff too much. He used stuff until it was used up and then tossed it. My 2 sons do much the same. They go through knives pretty quick. My Dozier Loveless clone disappeared when my oldest left for Afghanistan last year and my youngest just asked for a small fixed blade that would hold up better than the tactical folder (that I carried for over 10 years) he broke the blade on. LOL, judging by all the butter knives with twisted tips they probably get that from their Mom. I know to take care of my tools and they will take care of you, they tend to see them as whatever is needed to get the job at hand done quickly. No longer than they last, carbon steel knives would probably work for them as well as the best SS. The point being, if a knife is just an expendable tool to you it won't take much to keep you happy and the best tactical folder will never be as good as a good fixed blade when it comes to handling abuse.
Actually, I used a Randall in VN, and have several Loveless Hunters, Dozier customs, a Randall Galbraith Damascus Fighter, and a number of other highly regarded makers' knives.

I used the Randall in several actual knife vs. knife incidents in 1966-69. I am NOT, however, an expert knife fighter. I still am of the OPINION that blade shape, thickness, and overall geometry make the feeling, and not the forming process. However, that's exactly what it is, my OPINION. In no way am I arguing it.

As for today's users, I have to agree that many have no clue as to how to care for a knife. As I progressed in Fire/EMS, and newer generations arrived for me to teach in class, that became obvious. They would justify using a screwdriver as a pry-bar, or chisel, by saying that "it was at hand, in an emergency". My answer was always, "who's emergency was it?" Then remind them that we often answered several calls before returning to the station. That screwdriver might just come in handy on the next call, if it was still there. While you CAN use one to pry, or chisel, you rarely get to use a pry-bar, or a chisel, to unscrew a wall socket cover.

Unfortunately, that attitude carries over to knives. I don't know how many nice knives I've seen ruined, or broken, over the years by people who "just couldn't wait" to use the proper tool. Then, you often end up waiting for that tool, after breaking your knife. What kind of "emergency" is it when you don't have the time to do it right, but have the time to do it over? You would regard someone using an axe to cut rope as stupid, so why would you use a 2.75" folding knife to chop at a 4" tree?

I ended up giving out cheap Chinese folders bought in bulk to people who misused their knives. Telling them that they would last just as long as knives lasting upwards of $100 in their hands. Sometimes it even worked, and they understood what I was saying.
 

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I completely agree that many people have no idea how to care for the tools they use. I was always taught to use the proper tool for the proper job. I also learned at a young age how to sharpen (cheap-ish) butcher knives when the family got together every year to butcher hogs. That job mostly feel on my dad and me. I am by no means an expert knive sharpener, but I can put an edge on a knife that usually manages to get the job done just fine. Honestly, my $50-ish Spyderco with ATS-55 is still, by far, the most expensive knive I have every purchased. Can I chop down a tree with my folding knives and then slice a sheet of paper cleanly?... no. But, I guess I personally don't really see the need. If I need to chop down a tree, I use an axe (or a chainsaw ;)), not a folding knife. If it gets dull, it doesn't take long at the end of the day to put a nice edge back on it, and you're ready to go again.

On a side note, after all of the talk about the less-expensive Kershaw SpeedSafe knives on another thread here (don't remember where exactly), I'm pretty sure I'm going to be acquiring a new Brawler or Burst very soon. I've always been interested in the assisted opening knives by Kershaw, but the ones I had seen in the past were simply out of my price range. With a lot of the newer models they have out now getting really good reviews, using AUS-8 equivalent steel, and only costing around $25 on amazon, how can you go wrong? Even if it doesn't hold up for 10 or more years and I have to sharpen it more often, I wouldn't be heartbroken at that price. My other knives, with even less expensive, "lower quality" steel, have served me just fine over the years. Maybe ignorance is bliss. I guess I'm happy to be stupid when it comes to knives. :)
 

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After all that, if I have to bug out, it is one of my S30V folders that I carry. It just keeps an edge longer and is tougher than my other folders. A big fixed blade and a Multi-Tool may go into the bag, but the folder stays on me.
 

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I like those cheap keyring ceramic rod thingies for carry and cleanup, and a diamond goes in the bag.

LOL, I've got a Charles Marlowe custom left hand folder that has lightweight titanium/G10 handles and a nice big 1/4" thick CM-154 (I think it was before CPM made S30V) bowie blade that I picked up cheap from him at a Blade Show a long time ago. I have carried it into Iraq twice and it is tough as nails and you can pry and chop a lot of stuff with it without worrying about breaking that blade. It is my favorite deployment knife, then I ran into Charles Marlowe at a Blade Show a couple of years ago and he told me what that knife is worth now. It hasn't gotten out of its knife case since.
 
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