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Thread: 440 series stainless steel

  1. #1

    440 series stainless steel


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    So what's the deal with this steel? How long has it been used in cutlery, who used it first, why has it gained such a lousy reputation?

    Then there's other things about that confuse me... Some people will say, "440c is okay," but then will avoid 440a and b like the plague, but from what I can see from their composition they really can't be that much different.

    Where did 440 get its bad reputation from? I mean, it's never really seemed like crappy steel to me as long as I was using good knives. I mean, seems like beating an old horse to say it comes down to heat treat, so I mean just assuming that it's 440a/b/c with good heat treat, what is really so bad about the steel?

    I mean, it seems to me that 440 is actually decent steel that everyone just strays away from because it's older, but then why are so many people fond of 1095?

    I just don't get the dislike for 440, and why so many people avoid it and treat it as if any knife produced with it would have been better off with cast iron. I mean, I understand wanting better steels, but I've seen some people suggest that any knife with 440 is just undesirable.

    I think that it has to do with the fact that the manufactures that aren't really focused in or concerned with at all quality craftsmanship and produce cheap knives are the ones mostly using 440 because it's cheap, and then the ones that produce a moderately priced, and moderate-quality knives also use it to keep the price down and just seemed to get associated with the other manufacturers. Winds up with a lot of cheaper knives procued in 440 with better quality than I would expect being found for really cheap prices; I see it mostly in traditionals with things like Rough Riders or Steel Warrior/Frost Cutlery knives.

    What do you guys think? Is it just a purely crap steel, or just too associated with crap?

  2. #2
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    I remember having knives of 440 since I started really paying attention to blade steels (about 15+ years ago). I can't answer most of your specific Q's, but, in my experience, it's a fairly inexpensive steel that takes an edge very easily and dulls very easily. Take it for what it's worth.
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  3. #3
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    there was a day when 440c was super steel.

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    well seeing as how 154cm and ATS-34 are both evolutions from 440c im a big fan of all three, as for the others, if its marked 440b then ill trust it but last time i touched a knife that said 440 stainless the blade chipped while cutting paracord, this should not happen, as for the steel i can afford better and there are still better things out IMO for that money like carbon steels, why get 2 $5 knives when i can get a mora, opinel, dook-dook, or any other quality knife.

    Then there's other things about that confuse me... Some people will say, "440c is okay," but then will avoid 440a and b like the plague, but from what I can see from their composition they really can't be that much different.


    there may not be a major difference in the steel from 440b- 440c but its those little difference that take a steel from decent to great

    Where did 440 get its bad reputation from? I mean, it's never really seemed like crappy steel to me as long as I was using good knives. I mean, seems like beating an old horse to say it comes down to heat treat, so I mean just assuming that it's 440a/b/c with good heat treat, what is really so bad about the steel?

    nothing and if the company actually labels it for what it is, instead of 440 stainless then they probably put the effort into it but otherwise it doesnt have that sense of pride in their craftsmanship.

    I mean, it seems to me that 440 is actually decent steel that everyone just strays away from because it's older, but then why are so many people fond of 1095?

    yes older steels generally get put on the backburner but there will always be loyal fans, also theres so many different variations on 440c now that its kinda hard to tell who does/uses what, for example ats-34 came before 154cm i do believe (correct me of im wrong) and while most companies are using 154cm now, ats-34 is still just as good but its old news, what does saddens me most though is when a cool steel like zdp-189 pops up and kinda disappears, but thats for another discussion.

    I just don't get the dislike for 440, and why so many people avoid it and treat it as if any knife produced with it would have been better off with cast iron. I mean, I understand wanting better steels, but I've seen some people suggest that any knife with 440 is just undesirable.

    those people you see are either A: spoiled, or B: ill informed, of which both can be fixed with a good conversation, i would gladly take a knife with 440a/b/c (A not so much but if its free, hey who cares)

    I think that it has to do with the fact that the manufactures that aren't really focused in or concerned with at all quality craftsmanship and produce cheap knives are the ones mostly using 440 because it's cheap, and then the ones that produce a moderately priced, and moderate-quality knives also use it to keep the price down and just seemed to get associated with the other manufacturers. Winds up with a lot of cheaper knives procued in 440 with better quality than I would expect being found for really cheap prices; I see it mostly in traditionals with things like Rough Riders or Steel Warrior/Frost Cutlery knives.

    This goes back to my mis/un informed people, there are a bunch of companies that produce great knives for a great low price, what people seem to do these days is start making opinions based on other opinions without actually trying it out themselves (ie a man saying that sprite is the best soda in the world without tasting the others, or not trying out a well done 440c steel and saying that its horrible)

    What do you guys think? Is it just a purely crap steel, or just too associated with crap?

    personally i think if the company isnt going to take pride in their product, and do it correctly, then they shouldnt be making knives, but as to the steels, its so so, doing a proper HT is pretty pricey when mass produced so i wouldnt waste it on 440a but B or C and im all good

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    If you see ' 440 steel' then assume it's 440A .As there's been lots of 440A blades that gave a bad reputation. 440B is good for choppers as in my stainless kukri. Well HT'd 440C makes a good blade for a hunting knife. In more recent times better steels have been developed such a 154CM.
    Last edited by mete; 04-29-2015 at 11:42 AM.

  6. #6
    There are knives like Rough Rider that are made from 440A, and cost less than $10.
    They hold an edge surprisingly well. I've never had one go dull, and I have never been disappointed with any knife made from 440A.

    Unless marked 440A, B, or C, I assume a knife that says 440 Stainless is actually something worthless like 420J2.

    If you look at European manufacturers many of them still use 440A/B/C in expensive knives, and they know how to get the best out of it. Kind of like Buck and 420HC.

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    Hi,

    440 series steels are kind of looked down on because you're hanging out with a bunch of knife enthusiasts. There is nothing inherently bad about 440 steels.

    As mentioned, there was a time when 440C was top shelf. Though many of us didn't care too much for it. It was hard to sharpen with the common stones we had back then. And it tended to chip more easily than the plain high carbon we were used to. These are both reasons a Buck 440C 119S didn't last long with me. Or my brother when I gave it to him. It chipped way to easy and then took forever to sharpen with Arkansas stones.

    440B has never been too commonly used by knife makers. It costs more than 440A for price point, and isn't quite as good a steel as 440C for nearly the same money.

    440A is still widely used in knives yet today. It's inexpensive to buy, easy on manufacturing tooling, heat treats well and takes a good edge and can hold it long enough for most uses. So it makes pretty decent inexpensive kitchen knives. And many slip-joint patterns, like say a Peanut or Stockman, can do very well with this steel.

    dalee
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    Isn't 440 similar to 420? I have one "420" blade and it's my original Tekna Ocean Edge dive knife, purchased in the late '70's. It has been my goto urban EDC fixed blade for that long. One piece. Great blade profile that belongs on a fine OTF auto and it takes good edges with enough retention that I have not sharpened it down over time.

    I have carried it in boots, on belts, rigged it to danglers, carabiners and Becker backers, strapped to my leg, shoulder rigged, as a necker and on my pack. I have abused it, dropped it, batoned it and cooked on it. Never a fleck of rust, never a question as to its strength, great pryer, good twister, decent slicer, strong stabber, perfect serration, and double-edged. It's never bent, warped, chipped or cracked. 100 % reliable all the time. Aside from blade scratches it still cleans up pretty good too.

    As a bonus it came with probably the coolest, most secure, universally wearable and easily workable sheath ever for a knife of its size. It might be my favorite knife...certainly my most versatile and carried fixed blade.

    I don't think it's crap steel.
    Last edited by EChoil; 09-03-2014 at 05:18 PM.

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    double
    Last edited by EChoil; 09-03-2014 at 08:34 AM.

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    Most of the discontent people feel towards the 440 series is misplaced I feel. During the late 80's and early 90's every cheap Chinese knife on the market would say "440 Stainless" and a lot of the knives were not tempered well or in some cases at all it would seem. And with the rise in use of 420js people eventually began to make a larger assumption that 4XX steels are junk.

    Until I became involved in knives and learned about knife steels I always assumed anything 4XX was junk thanks to a few cheap knives my friends and I all had. Now I realize that 420HC, and 440C are some of my favorite common stainless steels. They sharpen easily enough, and can hold an edge long enough for me.
    Maybe someday there will be a resurgence in it's popularity, but I wouldn't hold my breath

  11. #11
    I have custom knives and Buck knives with 440C. I like the steel very much and have never had any issues with sharpening it or it chipping out, but I don't chop or baton with any of my knives either. I use an axe for that.

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    Well I personally feel there is a huge difference between 440a, b and C. Especially comparing 440a to 440c as it possible to have nearly double the carbon content in the later. I love 440C if done well. I think what got it a bad reputation was everyone calling any steel with a similar composition 440. Technically this isnt a no no since no one company exclusively produces the alloy but In many cases purity varies depending on who makes the steel and not all of them are equals. Take boker. From what I understand their 440C is actually some chinese 440C equivalent. And I would not say its on par with 440C I remember from my younger years. Either way I would take a well made 440C blade over something like s90 or 110v simply because I value ease of sharpening over edge retention. To me 440c, 154cm and ATS34 are perfectly acceptable for cutlery and as long as its a reputable maker or company I would not look at it as a downgrade. Heck look at S30V. Once toted as a super steel its very common and I dont feel many see it in the same light as they once did. Not because its problematic but because its not the latest and greatest. Steel in knives seems similar to computer technology. It seems to be out of style soon after its released and as soon as the next best thing comes along others scoff at previous generations unless a problem arises with the new and creates nostalgia for previous iterations. Honestly I think steel is overrated for most people. The guys I see worrying most about it use their knives the least. And those who actuall have the ability to be able to appreciate the nuances of different alloys usually have their favorites and dont obsess. Should be the other way around.

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    Like most other things in life, you have the crap variations and the gold standard variations. Buck's 440C is the gold standard. I have a number of earlier Buck 110 knives that I bought because of the 440C steel. The same goes for 420HC and even Kershaw used a properly heat treated 440A in their Blackout as I recall. All good steels, IMO.


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    First off, 440c is a fine steel. It used to be considered a super steel, as others have said.

    About the other 440 steels, I think it comes down to reputation. 440a and 440b has been used for crappy no-name Chinese knives for years while, say, 420hc (which I think performs roughly as well) has been used to great effect by companies such as Buck. Although to be fair, Buck's heat treat of 420hc is far superior to the mystery heat treats that 440a and 440b tend to receive.

    As a result people tend to have more positive experience with 420hc than 440 series steels.

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    Just corrected my post - it's "440C makes a good hunting knife " Sorry !!

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    Quote Originally Posted by mete View Post
    Just corrected my post - it's "440C makes a good hunting knife " Sorry !!
    Not to worry, Mete. We are all entitled to 'seniors' moments.


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    As others have touched on, "stainless" in general has been linked to the cheap Ginzu's and such since the sixties at least. Someone got the idea that stainless was enough to sell. Mass produced, poorly heat treated knives have ruined the reputation of the term stainless among knife enthusiasts and novices alike. It's kinda like developing your opinion of alcohol based on that drunk guy you know.

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    A couple of my first "good" knife purchases were Explorer fixed blades, stamped either 440A or B as I recall. Prior to that, I'd bought various silly daggers and boot knives that were simply "stainless" and of very dubious quality. Most were made in China, and I think it's the tendency of Chinese manufacturers to use supposedly 440C-equivalent steels that has contributed to its reputation as a somehow inferior steel. For instance, my wife - with the best intentions - bought me an MTech fixed blade survival knife, stamped 8Cr13MoV on one side and 440C on the other. When I see a somewhat respectable brand like Boker Plus claiming to use 440C on its China-made knives, I question if it really is. However, I wouldn't question an American manufacturer claiming the very same thing.

    I have nothing against knives made from the 8Cr and 9Cr families of steel and stated as such, and several of my EDC knives are made in China from them, but when I see an unspecified 440 stamp, I immediately have doubts. My various Kershaw folders made from 8Cr13MoV certainly have held up much better to routine use than the 440 Guidesman that I bought at Menard's for a couple bucks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mete View Post
    If you see ' 440 steel' then assume it's 440A .As there's been lots of 440A blades that gave a bad reputation. 440B is good for choppers as in my stainless kukri. Well HT'd 440C makes a good blade for a hunting knife. In more recent times better steels have been developed such a 154CM.
    Agree with Mete on this one.

    People will be surprised with well heat treated 440B and 440C.

    One would also be surprised how many of our modern steels are actually 440C class steels that have been 'tweaked' and given a new name.

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    I have no problem with 440 steel, if it's done right. Benchmade's use of 440C is a good example.

    I have not knowingly purchased a knife with 440 steel in years. With one exception and it is 440A. I like the knife but do not carry it much and here is the reason why. It does not cut worth a darn. I can have the thing sharp enough to shave hair from my arm and yet be barely able to slice or stab my way out of a wet paper bag. Maybe it has blade or edge geometry issues, I don't really know. How much effort is a manufacturer going place in the design of a knife that uses a budget steel like 440 anyway?

    In the past, I have found most of the 440 knives that I used were lacking. Bad design and substandard materials seemed to be the norm, followed by poor fit and finish. The best way to describe the heat treatment is with the question, "What heat treatment?" Of course most of them only had "440 stainless" on the side of the blade and they did not cost much. However, over the years, I have come to the opinion that if a company is willing to mark their blades with something more that "440 stainless" and has decent F&F, the heat treatment is usually OK. Maybe not great, but suitable for the price range of the knife.

    I can't help but wonder if much of 440's poor reputation is because of the knife owner. If honest, we are all guilty of knife abuse at some point. Be it a field necessity or because we don't care about the knife. Just fail to maintain any knife and watch how poorly it will perform. Or, push a light duty knife past it's limits and see what issues arise. How much of 440's problems are the individual? How many of us see "440 stainless" on a blade and assume it is another beater knife and treat the knife like .... what is the term that Craytab likes to use? Bull snot?

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