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420HC steel?

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by Teague, May 12, 2008.

  1. Teague


    Jul 11, 2007
    How is 420HC steel (like Buck Knives uses) compared to 440C or? Just curious. I've owned several Buck Knives and have the Alaskan Guide that I bought from Cabella's For $65 using a NRA certificate. They are now over $100.

    Here's mine and then another better picture with the descriptions.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: May 12, 2008
  2. yoda4561


    May 28, 1999
    Buck's 420 is the best 420 there is. In terms of edgeholding it's not able to hang with the super-steels (of which I consider 440c a member of) but more than capable, and also fairly tough for a stainless. It's lower wear resistance also makes it easy to sharpen even on old fashioned abrasives.
  3. Teague


    Jul 11, 2007
    How does it compair to 420 J2?
  4. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    In my experience it's MUCH better compared to 420J2. Still what I would consider lower-ish end in terms of edge retention, but it's both very stainless and easy to sharpen. The last bit is the most important, as 420J2 is a pain in the butt to put an edge back on because it tends to be TOO soft--i.e. the edge will keep on rolling and forming a burr even with light pressure and fine stones.

    Not an ideal steel for small blades, but I know Condor has used 420HC with great success on their machetes.
  5. Khalnath


    Jun 12, 2005
    In general I will not touch a knife that uses any variety of 420 stainless, but Buck specifically knows what they're doing. They have a reputation for having really, really good heat treat, which matters much more than the steel you use, IMO. (Although of course the steel you pick makes a big difference in heat treat.)

    However, the knife that you have is not 420HC. The Alaskan Guide series are all made with S30V steel, which is very high end supersteel. I'd love a 110 Alaskan trapper. The Buck 110 is such a classic folding knife design.
  6. shecky


    May 3, 2006
    It's difficult to compare steels without the benefit of using otherwise identical knives with the same profiles and hardness.

    420HC is very well suited to a wide range of knife applications. And I have no problem with using even 420J2 as long as the hardness and profile are right, which tend to be the biggest disadvantages when comparing with 420HC. Profiles are usually easily fixed. Hardness, not. Ideally, 420J2 maxes out around HRC 55. Mind you, this isn't really a poor spec. However, bottom-of-the-line knives are less likely to be held to such standards.
  7. wutitiz


    Mar 5, 2008
    Here is a quote from Buck heat treat guru Paul Bos about 420HC. It's from a Blade magazine article from Jan. '06:

    "A steel that Paul has been working with on the new Buck 890TX Strider fixed blade is 420HC. A modified 420 with higher amounts of carbon and chrome to boost hardenability and corrosion resistance, respectively, 420HC is one of the lower-alloyed steels that some might call inferior--but don't tell Strider that. 'The Strider guys took some of the kinives out to several soldiers to use and got some good reviews on them, ' Paul observes. "It won't hold an edge like ATS-34, but these knives are more for heavy use, prying, and things like that...With a heat treat of 57 Rc, they hold a good edge and seem to be pretty tough knives.'"

    420HC to me makes sense for a large knife where corrosion resistance is desired. When used for small fixed blades or folders, I'm guessing that the real reason for its use is cost savings rather than its performance profile.
  8. Alberta Ed

    Alberta Ed

    Jun 29, 1999
    420HC as heat-treated by Bos/Buck is an excellent everyday steel IMHO. Sharpens far more easily than Buck's old 440C, and holds an edge even better than 440C in CATRA tests. It is tough, highly rust resistant, easy to sharpen and takes a scary edge. Won't hold an edge like S30V or some of the other complex stainless grades, but it is far less expensive.
  9. Teague


    Jul 11, 2007
    Thanks everybody! This is great information for a newbee.
  10. knarfeng

    knarfeng senex morosus moderator Staff Member Super Mod Moderator

    Jul 30, 2006
    That's because Buck redesigned their blades to perform better on the CATRA. It is the difference in blade shape, rather than steel superiority that gave those results. I have both 440C and 420HC blades. The 440C holds an edge longer.
  11. shecky


    May 3, 2006
    I wonder, is that the so called 2X technology somethingorather? I've only recently noticed that spiel on a Buck package, and from what I can tell, it simply means they grind the edges thinner and more acute than they presumably used to.
  12. Larrin

    Larrin Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 17, 2004
    That's right, thinner edges cut much better and longer than thicker ones.
  13. Teague


    Jul 11, 2007
    I like Buck knives but only buy the higher end models. I've got my eye on a Buck Kalinga Pro with S30V steel right now. I bought a Buck 110 years ago when they first came out and gave it to one of my sons for Christmas this past year.
  14. Bob W

    Bob W

    Dec 31, 2000
    I don't mind 420HC, if it's an interesting knife pattern and priced accordingly. Buck fixed blades are a perfect example of what I mean, $40-$50 for the black "phenolic"-handled models. Definitely a favorable materials-to-price ratio.

    Another similar example of what I'm trying to say, the CRKT Rollock. They're actually AUS-4, not 420HC, but the two metals perform similarly. Not very good steel, but I think most people buy these primarily for the design anyway. And at $8-$20, who'd complain?

    To see an unfavorable price-to-materials ratio, look at the prices of many of the knives from Queen, Schatt & Morgan, and Canal Street Cutlery. For knives in that price range, it's reasonable and fair to expect something better than 420 stainless.

    420J2, only suitable for liners. Entirely too soft for a useful knife blade. Just my opinion, of course.
  15. creightonfcb


    Nov 5, 2005
    How does a person who is making knives heat treat 420HC?? I got a hold of some, and have tried a heat treat, but it doesn't seem to have taken....

    Thanks in Advance!

    Frank B
  16. firebert


    Mar 24, 2008

    I would need to know a lot more about how you treated it. 420HC is an air-hardening steel, and cannot be treated like simple carbon steels.

    Personally, I'd send it to Bos for treating. He seems to be the master of this alloy.

    You'll get better information in Shop Talk.

  17. creightonfcb


    Nov 5, 2005
    Thanks!! Moving it over to Shop Talk!!

    Frank B
  18. UnknownVT


    Feb 15, 2003
  19. A.P.F.


    Mar 3, 2006
    They were, when they used 440C, which gave way to 425M and finally to 420HC.

    My understanding is that 425M and 420HC were/are easier to 'blank' (stamp out) than 440C.
  20. knarfeng

    knarfeng senex morosus moderator Staff Member Super Mod Moderator

    Jul 30, 2006
    Not only was Buck using 440C at the time, but the blade profile was significantly different than on the same models today. The early versions had a relatively thick blade at the edge. The current ones do not. At the time of those early 440C Buck knives, 440C was considered brittle and prone to chipping.

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