When looking for pocket knives or fixed blade knives it’s helpful to understand the different metals that are used in the production of these knives. You may ask yourself why two knives that look the same are priced differently. It depends on the materials used to make the knife.The quality of best damascus steel knives will be harder, tougher, stronger, more wear resistant, and hold an edge longer. Thus, the higher the quality of steel and manufacturing process, the more expensive the knife will be.
Steel used on pocket knives and fixed blade knives have a mixture of different alloys. Steel, in general, is made of iron and carbon. Additional elements are added to create steel that will work for a particular application.
- Chromium is added to increase the durability, hardness and fights corrosion.
- Manganese is used to increase the strength and wear resistance of steel. It also helps with hardening the steel during the manufacturing process.
- Molybdenum will help prevent the steel from becoming brittle and helps keep the steel strong under high temperatures.
- Vanadium will help with increasing the steel’s durability and help it harden during manufacturing.
- Carbon helps with the hardening of steel while increasing the strength. The carbon content should be greater than 0.5%, which helps with maintaining a good edge on your knife.
The following are a list of popular steels used in the manufacturing of knives. When reviewing this article, take note on how the different elements affect the quality of a knife. You could check out CE Blades for the best selection of online pocket knives.
ATS-34 – 154-CM
Both ATS-34 and 154-CM are practically identical steels and both are used for pocket knives and fixed blade knives. 154-CM was designed by Crucible Material Corporation for the blades in jet turbine engines. Today, steel manufacturers are still making high quality 154-CM steel and it is very popular steel for knife blades. ATS-34 is also very popular steel used in the manufacturing of knife blades. It is a stainless steel that is made by Hitachi in Japan. Both ATS-34 and 154-CM hold a good edge and are very hard and very tough. They are not as rust resistant as other steels but they are still very popular types of steel for high-end knives. They are made from a combination of carbon, chromium, and molybdenum and were developed for tough industrial applications.
440C steel is another type of steel that is manufactured for knife blades. It is a higher grade knife steel, which contains carbon, so it maintains a sharper edge. It is stainless steel that has 1.2% carbon content which is slightly higher than the carbon in 440A and 440B. 440C is hardened to about 56-59 hardness rating (Rc), and designed to resist rusting. 440C performs better than 440B and 440A, but of course it’s more expensive. SOG Knives use a 440A steel in some of their knives.
AUS-8 is a knife blade steel that is comparable to 440B steel. In fact, AUS-8 is used as a substitute for 440C steel. It has approximately 0.75% carbon content and has a low-carbon to chromium ratio and is resistant to corrosion. This is good steel for knife blades, but blades with higher carbon content will hold their edge better. But unlike the 440B, AUS-8 has vanadium added which improves its resistance to wearing out. Gerber Knives use this type of steel in their knife blades.
BG-42 is a stainless steel knife blade that is hardened to approximately 62 Rc. It holds an edge better than 440C and ATS-34, because BG-42 has twice the manganese as ATS-34 steel, plus it has 1.2% vanadium.
Damascus steel is unique type of steel that contain multiple layers. This steel is extremely tough and resistant to shattering. It is also able be hold an extremely sharp edge that is resilient to damage. Layering the steel allows more than one type of steel to be used. By alternating the bands with hard and soft steel, the steel will take on the qualities of both. Thus a Damascus blade is hard yet flexible. W. R. Case & Sons Cutlery uses this type of blade in their pocket knives.
D2 steel has 1.5% carbon which helps it hold an edge. However, it is not as tough as other steels. It has 12% chrome content which does not meet the requirements for stainless steel, which is 13%. So D-2 is considered “semi-stainless” steel.