What is the best high carbon steel?


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Eleven Mike
June 29, 2008, 05:31 PM
I hope I'm using the right terminology; I'm asking about non-stainless steels. Which is the best for knife blades?

I'm sure there have been a hundred threads about "the best knife steel," but I don't see one just devoted to high carbon steels, so here we go. :)

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Valkman
June 29, 2008, 06:14 PM
I like O1 myself, used it a lot when I was new to knifemaking. Oil quenching (so you can do the heat treat yourself), forgiving and gets very sharp.

There's lots of others, like 1095, but O1 is the only one I've used.

JShirley
June 29, 2008, 06:17 PM
For what application? You want toughness? You want sharpest possible?

A lot of my larger blades are probably 5160, since they're made from Mercedes springs. Can't take as sharp an edge as some steels, but very tough. A smaller blade won't be subjected to such force.

Jason_G
June 29, 2008, 06:38 PM
There's lots of others, like 1095, but O1 is the only one I've used.
1095 treats a lot like 01, which is like Valkman said, a classic knife alloy. 5160, despite a little lower carbon content, is an excellent knife steel, as JShirley pointed out. It's the steel that seems to be the choice for folks that are making knives to pass bladesmith tests. I also like L6 and D2.

Just remember, you can make a crappy knife out of an otherwise good piece of steel by botching the HT/temper. There's more to it than the alloy itself. You probably already know that, but I figure it's worth pointing out.

Jason

Eleven Mike
June 29, 2008, 07:37 PM
OK then, what are the best high carbon steels for a skinning knife, for a machete or other chopping instrument, and for an all-around utility knife?


I knew someone would point out the importance of heat-treating and other factors. Good to see we got that out of the way. Let's stick to the steel issue, though. :)

sm
June 29, 2008, 07:55 PM
O1, 5160 and M2 are three very good ones.

JShirley
June 29, 2008, 08:08 PM
5160 is one of the best choices for big blades.

You've really got to think of your priorities. Do you need your knife to be easily resharpenable on almost anything, for example? If so, your steel choice might not be a "super steel" that holds an edge quite so long.

Otony
June 29, 2008, 08:08 PM
L6, plenty of ooold Gerbers made from it. Of course it is "close" to being stainless, but isn't.

sixgunner455
June 29, 2008, 08:35 PM
Steel alloy, edge/blade geometry, and heat treat. Any given knife blade is a balancing act of those three elements. which way you go depends on the application and intent of the blade.

O1, 1095, W2, D2, L6, 52100, 5160 are all commonly used -- because they all work well for these applications when the balance act is done well. They vary as to ease and difficulty of being worked and used.

Tom Krein
June 29, 2008, 08:42 PM
Lots of good non-stainless steels out there! Steels like L6, W2, O1, 1095, 52100, 5160, etc...

They will all actually make VERY good knives! Choppers or skinners. Leave the bigger knives a little softer and differntially heat treat them and they will hold up. Make the smaller hunters/utilities harder and they will take a very fine edge and hold it well.

Here are a few of my favorites that have not been mentioned...

First up CPM 3V. This stuff flat out ROCKS! Put the big blades in at around RC 58 and they are about as tough as anything out there! Bump the RC up to 62 and they will hold an edge for a really long time and still be pretty easy to sharpen.

Next CPM M4.... for the ultimate in wear resistance this is it! This is some amazing stuff. Lots of the guys in the cutting comps are using this stuff. I personally like it best in smaller edc knives with a higher hardness,

Last is D2, my all time favorite steel. While D2 has 11-12% chromium, it is still not considered a stainless. Stainless is considered 13% chromium and above... The extra chromium combines with some of the excess carbon to form chromium carbides. These extremely hard carbides are what gives D2 its excellent wear resistance. They also give it that "toothy" edge that in my opinion makes D2 such a GREAT hunting knife. Of course with 11-12% chromium D2 is also pretty easy to care for... :)

Tom Krein
June 29, 2008, 08:45 PM
Steel alloy, edge/blade geometry, and heat treat. Any given knife blade is a balancing act of those three elements. which way you go dpends on the application and intent of the blade.

Sixgunner, this is the SECRET to knife performance! An entire thread could be made about these 3 things and which is most important.

Not to hijack this thread... but I would say that blade geometry is most important, followed by heat treat (assuming we have a steel with carbon in it), and lastly steel.

Disagree.... get a Swiss Army Paring knife. They have killer edge geometry, good heat treat, and an so/so steel. They perform way better than they have any right to!

Tom

CZ.22
June 29, 2008, 08:57 PM
I like Case's CV. The only number carbon steels I have experience with are 1055 and 1095.

Otony
June 29, 2008, 09:49 PM
Case's CV is 1095 if you can believe AG Russell.

sixgunner455
June 29, 2008, 10:12 PM
CV isn't just plain old 1095 -- Chromium and Vanadium are added, in small amounts.

Eleven Mike
June 29, 2008, 11:04 PM
Otony,

Article on AG Russell's website.
http://www.agrussell.com/knife_information/knife_encyclopedia/articles/steel.html
Author: Joe Talmadge
Source: rec.knives Newsgroup
May 1998
Carbon V: Carbon V is a trademarked term by Cold Steel, and as such is not necessarily one particular kind of steel; rather, it describes whatever steel Cold Steel happens to be using, and there is an indication they do change steels from time to time. Carbon V performs roughly between 1095-ish and O-1-ish, in my opinion, and rusts like O-1 as well. I've heard rumors that Carbon V is O-1 (which I now think is unlikely) or 1095. Numerous industry insiders insist it is 0170-6. Some spark tests done by a rec.knives reader seem to point the finger at 50100-B. Since 50100-B and 0170-6 are the same steel (see below), this is likely the current Carbon V.

0170-6 - 50100-B: These are different designations for the same steel: 0170-6 is the steel makers classification, 50100-B is the AISI designation. A good chrome-vanadium steel that is somewhat similar to O-1, but much less expensive. The now-defunct Blackjack made several knives from O170-6, and Carbon V may be 0170-6. 50100 is basically 52100 with about 1/3 the chromium of 52100, and the B in 50100-B indicates that the steel has been modified with vanadium, making this a chrome-vanadium steel.

Tom Krein
June 29, 2008, 11:08 PM
I think maybe you guys are confusing two different steels. Pretty sure Case is not using Cold Steels Carbon V...

Tom

CZ.22
June 29, 2008, 11:26 PM
Carbon V was made by Cammilus, if I'm not mistaken, so even Cold Steel is not using it anymore.

Tom Krein
June 29, 2008, 11:27 PM
This is correct.

Tom

hso
June 30, 2008, 12:11 AM
OK then, what are the best high carbon steels for a skinning knife, for a machete or other chopping instrument, and for an all-around utility knife?

Gee, three different applications so three different steels would be best for each.

Carbon V was made by Cammilus, if I'm not mistaken

Camillus didn't make steel.

sm
June 30, 2008, 12:53 AM
I am dumb as a brick.
All I know is from my actual life experiences and observations.

Heat treat, geometry and quality control are 3 areas I feel a steel needs to have in order to perform.

M2 :
- harder than wood pecker lips, and if this is heated treated right, and the blade is thin and sharpened at a very low total inclusive angle, it will:
-Mark Cattle a long time.
-Skin a lot of game and fish.
-Cut SAK, Buck, and Case "stainless steels". We would whittle on these steels.
-Cut a lot of rope, cardboard and strapping tape.
-Food prep, and do a lot from slicing vegetables , fruits to meat duties.

NOT for chopping.
Cutting, and for doing a lot of cutting is where I have found M2 to really shine.


1075 and 1095 for chopping.

Now the 01 and 5160 allow for more "general all purpose.

I personally have taken and laid the blade flat, and sharpened M2, Chrome Vanadium, 1095, 01, 5160, and W2 ( old bastard file I like a lot as well).

I do not chop with the M2, it was that hard!
Bayonets, and machetes are most often 1075 , 1095, as they have properties that take the "forces" that come from chopping.

01 , 5160 and W2 do not get the respect they should either.

IMO/IME 01 gets overlooked the most as it just seems too "plain" and "unexciting" to folks.

M2 is not known to many for its properties, and overlooked as well.

One application M2 is used for is for the high speed saw blades to cut rail road track. *yep*

Tom Krein
June 30, 2008, 12:57 AM
Camillus didn't make steel.

While technically true, Camillus was big enough to have special propriatory steels made just for them. These steels were not available to most people... I guess if you had the $$$ you could also have it made.

Tom

Eleven Mike
June 30, 2008, 01:11 AM
RE: CV and Carbon V,

According to the afore-mentioned article from AG Russell's knife encyclopedia, and also according to Mike Stewart (of Black Jack, Marbles and Bark River), 0170-6 AKA 50100-B was used by a number of makers, most notably Case (under the name Chrome Vanadium) and Cold Steel (as Carbon V.) But some suspect Cold Steel also marketed other steels as Carbon V.

Here is a link provided by SodBuster, in an earlier thread. See post #11
http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=396839&highlight=carbonV
Caveat: I don't know STR, nor can I vouch for this being an authentic quotation from Stewart.


Gee, three different applications so three different steels would be best for each.

Yeah, that's what I'm asking. JShirley said it would depend, so I'm giving three different types of knives, and asking for the best blade steel for each different type.

But I'm not sure I really understood what he was saying, because later he posted:
You've really got to think of your priorities. Do you need your knife to be easily resharpenable on almost anything, for example? If so, your steel choice might not be a "super steel" that holds an edge quite so long.

Well, if that's what you meant, John, that's not something I think about. The idea of a sharpening a knife on any old rock has never seemed realistic to me, even though I've heard it discussed quite a bit, and some survival instructors even told us which type of rock to use (Of course, by now I've forgotten what they said.) Maybe I'll look to see if there any threads on that topic, to explain what that's all about.

Edit: I'm not sayin' there's anything wrong with improvised sharpeners, I'm just saying that I didn't have that consideration in mind.

sm
June 30, 2008, 01:32 AM
0170-6 used by Camillius is very very good...

JShirley
June 30, 2008, 03:43 PM
Mike,

I mean it like this: I can take the steel (chakma) that came with my 5160 kukuris, and swipe it a few times down each side of the blade about every small tree's worth of chopping, and they'll stay sharp enough to chop with forever. And by "a few times", I mean like 20 seconds, tops.

OTOH, my service buddy Rector took my Spyderco Waved Endura- which was already shaving sharp out of the box- and spent probably another two hours on his stones before he was satisfied with the edge. That's VG-10. (Of course, when he finished, I was extremely careful where my flesh was in relation to that blade!)


I'll suggest
5160 or S7 for very large blade
52100 or A2 for medium blade
L6, L7 or M2 for small/delicate blade

Opinions...we all got 'em. <Shrug>

John

Eleven Mike
June 30, 2008, 05:20 PM
Cool, thanks.

JShirley
June 30, 2008, 05:30 PM
Oh- most folks think L6 is pretty tough stuff. I don't know that I'd disagree: I had an EDMF that was probably L6. Tough and wickedly sharp.

L6 does rust very easily, though...hence my suggestion for a small blade in it (if you were out in the woods lube might be in short supply)! In general, my list goes from springiest to sharpest, and we've already talked about HT and profile.

J

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