Blade Steel Guide
1095 Carbon SteelA popular metal choice for creating knives used daily and under extreme conditions is carbon steel. This particular steel lends itself well to rough usage. Carbon steel is more robust, a lot more durable, and much easier to sharpen than its cousin stainless steel. What makes this metal tougher is the near absence of chromium, the alloy used to make stainless steel corrosive resistant. 1095 is the great compromise one gets between a blade built with hardness in mind, ensuring a keen edge, and one built with suppleness, the factor needed for strength.
Oddly enough, carbon steels typically contain less carbon then stainless steel blades. It is the carbon that is the main ingredient in the metal. Once mixed, the raw material is harder and stronger than regular stainless steel. The carbon allows the designed blades to hold a much sharper and better-defined edge. This particular steel is extremely popular with artisans that create swords. Since carbon steel is harder overall, it is more difficult to forge a proper blade with 1095 than with other types of carbon steels. Knifemakers put in more time, ensuring the shape and polish of their final products are perfect for the consumer. This type of attention usually comes with a higher price tag.
Although carbon steel is nearly perfect for a hearty sword, one must keep in mind that the absence of chromium. Chromium is the very reason it is harder, stronger, and faster to sharpen, makes the metal susceptible to corrosion. Carbon steel blades are quicker to dull because of abrasion due to the friction a person would place the blade edge through. These carbon steel blades must be adequately cared for quickly after every use. Keeping them sheathed at all times is also a necessity in ensuring a long life for your carbon steel blade.
15N20 steel are aways used for industrial bandsaw blades. It is very tough and easy to heat treat. The steel holds a pretty good edge & resharpens easily. Quite a bit of Damascus is made out of 1095 and 15N20 steel and given the right heat treat make an excellent blade. As long as you oil the blade, or rub it with a silicon cloth after use, rust should not be a problem.
3CR13 Stainless Steel3CR13 stainless steel is a type of Chinese graded stainless steel similar to the 420J2 series popular in the continental United States. Regardless of what this metal is named, this steel is one of the most popular metals on the market when creating affordable and durable knives. It is effortless to sharpen this particular metal to a fine edge or point. Given the fact that 3CR13 adds alloys to improve the natural resistance of corrosion already found in stainless steel and you have a robust metal made for daily use by the average consumer. Knifemakers around the world like to use and manipulate this steel, creating inexpensive yet durable blades. This steel is one of the most commonly used metals for divers because of its intense resistance to corrosion, no matter the weather conditions.
The Chinese grade goes a little further by adding Molybdenum and Vanadium to the raw metal. Adding Molybdenum increases the strength of the metal when forging new designs. The hardness of the material itself goes higher, making the metal more robust overall. This hardness correlates directly with significant improvements in machine work along with making the already corrosion-resistant material even harder to damage. Adding vanadium to the mixture also adds to the strength of the metal. It becomes more wear-resistant, adding years of life to the sharp edges and specialty weapons. It increases the toughness, allowing the metal to be used daily during intense work regimes.
This metal is ideal for manufacturing smaller knives with sharper blades. The inexpensive cost adds to the appeal for the average consumer. Companies can deliver solid, sharp-edged knives for everyday life, along with utility knives made specifically for extreme outdoor conditions such as scuba diving and all-around wilderness survival knives, daggers, and blades.
420 Stainless Steel
420 is the numerical designation for a grade of stainless steel. The 400 series includes ferritic and martensitic chromium alloys. 420 stainless steel is referred to as Cutlery Grade martensitic. This grade is similar to Brearley's original rustless steel and possesses excellent polishability.
Type 420 Stainless Steel, a modification of 410, has a higher carbon content to increase hardness, improve strength, and give better wear resistance. Type 420 Stainless Steel provides both corrosion resistance as well and is commonly used in dental and surgical instruments, cutlery, plastic molds, pump shafts, steel balls, and numerous hand tools.
Type 420 resists corrosion by the atmosphere, fresh water, steam, carbonic acid, crude oil, gasoline, perspiration, alcohol, ammonia, mercury, sterilizing solutions, soaps, and other similar corrosives.
440 Stainless Steel
There are three different types of 440 steel: 440A, 440B, and 440C. The further along in the alphabet, the better it gets. The only problem is that often manufacturers stamp “440” on the tang of the blade without the letter grade, so knowing what you are buying is tricky. As a rule of thumb, if a blade doesn't have 440C stamped on it; it's probably a lower-end version like 440A or 440B. Certain knife manufacturers have even gone so far as to rename 440C as other things to differentiate the quality of the product.
440A Steel: This low-cost stainless steel has a carbon content range of .65-.75 percent. It is the most rust-resistant of 440 steel, and 440C is the least rust resistant of the three. However, taken as a whole, the 400 series is comprised of some of the most rust-resistant steel you can buy.
440B Steel: This is very similar to 440A, but has a higher carbon content range (.75-.95 percent), so it has better edge retention.
440C Steel: This steel has a carbon content range between .95-1.20 percent, and is generally considered higher-end steel. 440C is common in knives because it provides a good mixture of hardness and corrosion-resistance while being not expensive.