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Thread: Long Term Field Sharpenability vs Edge Holding

  1. #1
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    Long Term Field Sharpenability vs Edge Holding


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    Looking for some opinions, thoughts and banter on the subject.

    As a bona-fide knife nut, for a very long time I sought the utmost in edge holding. High alloy this, super steel that. As my tastes have changed my preferences have moved more towards good edge holding and easy sharpening. Think 1095 or Buck's 420HC. They dull more quickly than my S35VN, Elmax whatever blades but when then get dull, and for my uses, the knives are often cutting into abrasive matrial. Dust ridden feed bags, scraping ice from the door of the coop so it can close, cutting fuel hose, etc. Different than slicing an apple or opening an envelope anyway. I find each steel ends up inevitably dull and I find a knife that takes two minutes to touch up on a pocket stone versus 15 minutes of grinding away on a diamond bench stone much more handy. Yes I have to sharpen twice as often but each month I may spend 10 minutes sharpening an old carbon steel working knife a few times vs 20 minutes a sitting on the higher alloyed steels.

    I was reading an old outdoorsman book. Which or where I cannot remember. The author was speaking on expedition preparation. Maybe a hard journey of anywhere from a month to six months we will call it. Maybe along an old traders' trail or a thousand miles by canoe into Hudson Bay. True, deep, remote wilderness travel. He spoke of choosing a knife which is soft enough even to be sharpened with a file and it got me thinking and searching. Seeing many images or videos of daily use field tools being sharpened quickly and simply. Files, river stones, old dished and worn India stones. Knives as a real essential tool, maintained in the field by very simple means. Sure you may touch up the edge a time or two dressing through a deer but in 30 seconds your knife is back in service. No fuss. No muss.

    In my conclusions, if I were really to undertake such an expediton, my cut down Old Hickory butcher knife or cut off machete made knife I think would be my knife of choice. If the edge rolls a little, a quick steeling or stopping brings it back. As much as I adore my diamond bench stones, I just cannot see them making the cut on such a journey.

    Well that was more wordy than expected but what are yor thoughts? A brand new Maxamet knife that will never need to be sharpened but Lord help you if it does? Or a simple softer steel?
    Last edited by jmarston; 03-20-2017 at 04:12 PM.

  2. #2
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    I am with you on this. I would much rather have knives that were easily resharpened in the field than "supersteels" that are difficult to sharpen. I base this on experience. Here's an example of what I mean:


    These are my "users."
    Ron

  3. #3
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    Blonds or brunettes? Really personal preference. I like the super steels and bring two knives if really need to and don't want to field sharpen. Sounds like you know what works for you.

  4. #4
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    It doesn't take me any longer to sharpen (including field sharpening) M390 or 3V than it does 1095 or 420HC, so that piece of the puzzle becomes a bit of a moot point. What makes me weigh my options more is the possibility of damage to a blade and having to reprofile or sharpen out a good sized chip which will be much more difficult and time consuming with a high alloy, highly wear resistant steel.

    As for which I go for, I lean strongly towards steels with excellent wear resistance and edge retention in folders because I cut lots of abrasive material, but for the outdoors, I generally find that simpler, lower alloy steels like 1095 or 12c27 are more than enough for my needs.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the replies. RWC53, that knife on the right of your photo was what reminded me of this book. That old reshaped Russell looks great.

    Insipid, I haven't had the pleasure of either M390 or 3v but have read of those who sing their praises. Will be interesting to see what their staying power is like. My thoughts are that daily use in the bush for a month or months on end will inevitably lead to edge damage that will require repair.

    The great thing is that we no longer need to spend months on a river to make a go at it. But we certainly can choose to if we wish.

  6. #6
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    I prefer fine grained steel like 12c27, Bucks 420HC (not Case's) and 1085 or 1095.

    I used to be a carbon stelel only guy but Opinel and Mora's 12c27 convinced me. I like Buck too. I don't mind using a blade up by regular sharpening. I treat them like brake rotors - something to be used up and replaced - not some family jewel.

  7. #7
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    Insipid: point taken! The ability to sharpen well-tempered modern steels is about the same as that of the old, traditional carbon steels. I do own, and use, some of these as well. I should have spent a little more time in explanation, in that I use knives that, for the most part, are not tempered quite as hard as most of the more modern steels may be, so that they are still easy to sharpen and won't chip out under use. I find that my various Swiss Army knives fall into this category, as does my old reliable Buck 500 folder. All around, there's great info being shared here!

    Regards,
    Ron

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmarston View Post
    Well that was more wordy than expected but what are yor thoughts? A brand new Maxamet knife that will never need to be sharpened but Lord help you if it does? Or a simple softer steel?
    When I see a design I like, I am usually drawn by the handle ergonomics or blade shape and geometry more than steel type. But if I do decide to purchase, and then really like a knife where it's a keeper, then I try to find it in more than one steel if it's available. For example, grab it in 3V, but then also in something like A2, 154CM, or 52100.

    This is just strictly the way I approach it, so take it for what it's worth because we all have different lifestyles and therefore different requirements that we want out of a blade. But it's hard to put enough use on a good 3V blade in a day trip to require a sharpening. Not impossible, but takes some doing. With my schedule, I get more day trips than extended outings, so it makes sense for me to use a blade that will hold its edge throughout the day, and then maintain it when I'm back home.

    For the fewer times per year that I get to stack a few days together outdoors, then I'm more likely to carry a blade that might be easier to field sharpen. I don't know what it is about 52100, but it just seems like you get a good amount of mileage out of it, and then it maintains like a dream in the resharp department. Plus it takes a really fine edge.

    I will throw this out there for thought, though: It seems to me that this 3V being produced now with the low-temp heat treat resharpens easier than industry standard 3V. I don't know how to describe it other than it feels like it cuts away 'cleaner.' And there's definitely a gain in edge stability with the heat treat tweaks some makers are using now. Maybe getting close to the best of both worlds.....
    SwampRat Brotherhood * S!K #10 * Carothers Performance Knives

  9. #9
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    This 3v steel sure is sounding quite amazing. Maybe I need to step it up and try out a knife in this relatively new steel.

    My usage time between access to my stones at home might be up to a week. Honestly I have never had it happen that my knives became so bad that a field touch up was not enough. I likely could have even gotten by without. I think the time when I may need it would be when I dress out a couple moose in a week say if me and a buddy both fill our tags on tge same trip. Thanks for the input gents.

  10. #10
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    There are some things I agree with, and some I don't.

    Vanadium carbides are harder than the abrasive found in most stones, so I can see where you'd want to avoid steels like that with improvised sharpening methods.

    If I want a blade that's quick to touch up, the main thing I look for is a thin edge. Like, 0.007" thick or less- I have some down to 0.004". You can completely recut the entire edge bevel with a couple swipes, pretty much regardless of how hard the steel is.

    If you need a stouter edge for rough work, that may get nicks & damage, then I would opt for a simple low carbide steel at relatively high hardness. The carbides formed by many of the high grade stainless steels are what really make 'em take a while to grind down; not necessarily the Rockwell hardness. I don't have a direct comparison at hand, but I'd be inclined to think L6 at 60 Rc would still be quicker to sharpen than 440C at 56. And since L6 is much tougher, the edge doesn't have to be as thick for the same durability, and is less likely to take serious damage in the first place.

    The biggest problem I have with softer steels, especially the common cheap stainless steels, is their strong tendency to form a nasty floppy burr that's hard to remove. Sure, it may be easier to grind them down on a coarse stone, but then I spend twice as long dealing with the burr. Whereas a harder steel forms a crisp edge easier.

    I've used found river rocks for sharpening in the past, and it's a handy thing to know. But I decided it would be good to keep a ready made sharpener in my gear, so I bought one of those cheap diamond plates mounted on a plastic base. I used a heat gun to unglue it from the base, and now I have a stone that weighs like half an ounce, is so thin and flat it takes up no room, and is big enough to do real work on. Some quick googling shows you can buy the plates by themselves now:

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by pinnah View Post
    I prefer fine grained steel like 12c27, Bucks 420HC (not Case's) and 1085 or 1095.

    I used to be a carbon steel only guy but Opinel and Mora's 12c27 convinced me. I like Buck too. I don't mind using a blade up by regular sharpening. I treat them like brake rotors - something to be used up and replaced - not some family jewel.
    Also Queens D2 and Schatt & Morgan's 420HC

    When I hike or travel, I carry a DMT Folding Mini EF ( I used to also carry the fine, but I never used it)
    A couple of swipes after use and I never lose the edge
    Neeman

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