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Schrade Blade Steels

Discussion in 'Schrade Knives Collectors Forum' started by Codger_64, Dec 15, 2005.

  1. Codger_64

    Codger_64 Moderator Moderator

    Oct 8, 2004
    Schrade Blade Steel

    One question that arises time after time is regarding which blade steels Schrade used. For many years, those of us who grew up owning and using Schrade Old Timer and Uncle Henry knives had a pat answer. Or at least we thought we did. That answer, dating back to 1967 with the introduction of the earliest Uncle Henry knife, the 897UH Premium Signature Stockman, was “Old Timers use high carbon steel in their blades, and Uncle Henry knives use Schrade+ stainless steel.” Research and communications with Schrade employees here in this forum since 2000 have revealed a slightly different answer, not nearly as cut and dried as we are used to.

    I am reminded of an old Volkswagen ad campaign where they showed a Beetle in water. The tag line was “A VW will definitely float, but it will not float indefinitely”. While all Schrade knives marked “SCHRADE+” are stainless steel, not all Old Timers and Uncle Henry knives not so marked are carbon steel.

    Apparently, Schrade did perform a test marketing of sorts to check the validity of Ms. Chase’s assertions and her feedback from disgruntled customers.

    Now that I have thoroughly confused you, and blown long time dearly held ideals of absolute truths, we will look at the steels themselves.

    “High Carbon Cutlery Steel”, at least in the case of Imperial Schrade Old Timers and Uncle Henry knives so blessed, refers to AISI 1095HC. It has a carbon content of between .95% and 1.05%, Magnesium 0.30-0.50%, Phosphorus (max.) 0.040%, sulphur (max.) 0.050% according to ladle samples. “Famous for both it’s edge hold ability and resharpening ease. One of the charactoristics of this steel is that it will darken or discolor with use, especially if used on meats or fruits. Care must be taken with a carbon steel knife to prevent rust. The blades should be kept dry and lightly oiled occasionally.”

    “Schrade+” steel was actually a trademarked name used for at least two different stainless steel alloys. First was 440A. Then a change was made to 420HC. As of this time, there is conflicting information about when this change took place, but it seems to have been sometime after the 2000 production year. The 440A has a carbon content of 0.60-0.75%, Chromium 16.0-18.0%, Manganese 1.00%, Molybdenum 0.75%, Phosphorus 0.04%, Silicon 1%, and Sulphur 0.03% according to ladle sample maximums. Stainless steel is just as it’s name implies... it “stains less”, but will still discolor or rust to some extent if not properly cared for. Both carbon and stainless blades were heat treated to 56-59 Rockwell.

    Every knife enthusiast/user has their own opinion as to which blade steel is best, and which characteristics are most important to them. I’ll not delve into that can of worms here, but to say that my preference is carbon steel. Whatever your preferences, you should be able to find a carbon bladed Old Timer, or a stainless one, if that is what you like. It just takes some searching. Best clues for a carbon steel Old Timer is to try to get one new in an older package, pre 1997 or so. Or buy one with the beginnings of patina, easily removed if you like shiny blades.

    A few later knives were made of exotic metals like true forged stainless (BTO1), ATS34 (Spitfire), CM154 (Original Loveless design), and if I remember correctly, the D’holders were of a custom steel/process.

    This is my best effort to flesh out the answer to the question of Schrade steels, borrowing liberally from forum resources. Build on this guys.

    EDIT: Recently acquired evidence suggests that 420HC SS was introduced, at least partially, in 1998 when they began using fine blanking on the LB7 production. If it was like most other changes in production, it was not like turning off one faucet and turning on another, the change was most likely gradual, what is called a "running change". And of course there is almost always a lag between when production began and shipping began.

  2. Don Luis

    Don Luis

    Dec 26, 2002
    Good work collecting that info.

    I don't know when did Schrade start using the "Schrade+" stamp but my first stainless Schrade, 897UH bought in 1974 if I remember correctly, is stamped "STAINLESS".


  3. parnass


    Dec 6, 2005
    Codger_64, that was a great post! Thanks for the insights on Schrade steel usage.

    The 897UH is one of my favorites. Those rounded bolsters are easy on the pockets.
  4. Codger_64

    Codger_64 Moderator Moderator

    Oct 8, 2004
    Nice knife Don Luis! Yes, your 1974 purchase dovetails into the info I had, since your knife likely was produced in 1973 or early 1974, then retailed in 1974, possibly while the factory had started the new tangstamp. I am still looking for one of the stainless marked 897's, or even a Schrade-Walden 897UH.

    Thanks for the kudos, guys, but I expect a lot of info to be added as time goes by. I'll do my best to update the original post by edit, and bring it foreward if need be.

    I could have sworn I did a rant on the 897UH, my own EDC, but I'll be darned if I can find it tonight. I do research postings on Old Timer and Uncle Henry fixed and folder patterns from time to time. Here 'tis: http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=343968&highlight=897UH

  5. Don Luis

    Don Luis

    Dec 26, 2002
    Ooooops how could I forget!!!, I just remembered I actually bought my "STAINLESS" 897UH in 1976, I was in Quebec during the Montreal Olympics and got it over there.

    I was confused because I got my first good paying job in early 1974 and bought some knives at the time, sorry.

  6. TedGamble


    Mar 25, 2005
    This is what makes collecting Schrades so enjoyable, and at the same time, frustrating - there are no absolutes. Codger, this was a fantastic lecture and I totally appreciate you efforts.

    By the way, I'm STILL waiting on that 61OT ramble that you promised me, back when you posted your 897UH ramble earlier this year.
  7. sdt11670


    Nov 12, 2005
    Well i just checked a few more of my old timers and did discover a stainless orange handled 158ot and the brown handle that was purchased at the same time was carbon! i also found a stainless 34ot.
  8. orvet


    Oct 11, 2005
    Ya gotta love Codger's Rambles! :D
    Thanks Mike, great info. Copied and filed!

  9. darwars


    Oct 20, 2006
    I have a red handled pocket knife with 7 tools, on the beverage can opener is the number 361-889. The long blade is stamped 906 stainless, Schrade Walden NY USA. Embedded in the red plastic is a crest with Schrade/Walden diagonally across it. The crest is silver colored. Can anyone tell me when it was made? My dad gave it to me when we lived in Walden, NY.
  10. Codger_64

    Codger_64 Moderator Moderator

    Oct 8, 2004
    As you note, your knife is a number 906, and it is a "Swiss Army Knife" type, but called an "American Army Officer's Knife". I see them listed back as far as 1955 in the Schrade Walden catalogs. They may have been made earlier as a continuation of the Schrade Cutlery CO. line. I'm not sure when they were last sold, but I'll look into it tonight and post what I find. In any case, it was made pre-1973.

  11. glennbad

    glennbad Knife Moddin' Fool Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jan 13, 2003

    Here are some examples in my stable:


    I agree with Codger, back as early as 1955 catalogs...

  12. Codger_64

    Codger_64 Moderator Moderator

    Oct 8, 2004
    Here is the French Army Knife (FAK)


    (I've been waiting for le chance to show this one :D )

  13. tobyrogers


    Oct 8, 2005
    Best looking SAK I ever saw.Or is that a FAK.Arnold
  14. Amos Iron Wolf

    Amos Iron Wolf

    Mar 7, 2006
    ROFLAMO, Codger! My wife loved that one too.
  15. orvet


    Oct 11, 2005
    I just looked all through my files & couldn't find the pic I had of a FAK. It was an automatic with a pop up white flag. The color was of course YELLOW! :D

    Great stuff Codger!.

  16. El Lobo

    El Lobo

    Sep 6, 2002
    Not meant to be offensive...just as a possible product development reference.


    Attached Files:

    • FAK.jpg
      File size:
      28.9 KB
  17. orvet


    Oct 11, 2005
    That is it Bill! Thanks.
    Did you see where it is made.......?
    When I first saw that, several years ago, it was making the email rounds among the Veterans Representatives for the State of Oregon. Most of us were Vietnam veterans back then. We all thought it was hilarious.

    (No offence taken. I am part French myself. Much to my chagrin). :eek:

  18. knifeaholic


    Oct 15, 2001
    Based on my recollections, I don't think the "Schrade +" tang marking was used until sometime in the 1980's.
  19. Codger_64

    Codger_64 Moderator Moderator

    Oct 8, 2004

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