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Best steel for machetes? O1, D2, simple carbon steels?

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by npk, Jun 12, 2011.

  1. npk


    Jun 26, 2010
    Hi everyone, what are your thoughts regarding steel for custom machete's? What is a good steel for this application?
    Thanks in advance.
  2. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    1055, 1075, 1095, 5160. Spring steels, in general, are a good choice due to the length, thin stock, and high impact that machetes are subjected to.
  3. npk


    Jun 26, 2010
    Thanks for the reply, So simple steels are preferred? How about O1 and S7? Do these steels make good machete blades?
  4. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    As long as the machete has an RC of around the low 50's you ought to be fine, I'm thinking. I don't know of any machetes using O1 or S7, but that doesn't mean they don't exist!
  5. npk


    Jun 26, 2010
    I wonder if RC is more important than the type of steel(within reason).
  6. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    RC is not more important than the steel type...but the heat treatment as a whole is the single most important aspect with regards to non-design-related performance. A spring temper on a particular steel will vary from steel type to steel type, but as I understand it (and I could be way off the mark--I'm no expert metallurgist!) the low 50's tends to be the "zone." I know, at the very least, that's what most machetes are heat treated to.
  7. me2


    Oct 11, 2003
    Machetes are generally viewed as low cost, general purpose choppers. To me, toughness is more important than edge retention. This leads to simple alloys with medium carbon content. Low hardness does not always mean good toughness though. For steels like 4140, there is a peak in toughness when tempered in the low to mid 400 F range. Above that, toughness drops and doesn't regain the losses until tempered above 600 F or 700 F.

    I'd maybe choose S7 for a custom, since 1055-1075 are used in many production machetes. O1 will work if that's all you have, though I think it really shines as a thin slicing knife steel. I personally would stay away from D2, but many Kershaw Outcast users are happy with it.
  8. Somekid


    Mar 31, 2015
    The 1055-95 steels are all great, and definantly worth their price but if ur making a homemade blade your probably gnna want to use a less common steel, I'd go with 5160. It's practically just as strong and tough as 1095-75, and it doesn't rust as easily. I think it's little pricier though
  9. mete

    mete Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 10, 2003
    If you go down to the jungle where they are very common [yes Jungle not rain forest ! ] the standard equipment is a machete and a file . That's all they used for sharpening . You needed some toughness and easy to sharpen . 5160 is one of the better choices ,1075 also a good one..1095 is not a good choice niether is and high alloyed steel .
  10. atavist


    Nov 29, 2012
    My personal machete is 5160 differentially tempered. With a 58rc edge and a 48 spine... no reason for a machete not to have good edge retention.

    As FortyTwoBlades already said the heat treat is more important than the steel type but my two favorites for hard use bladed are 5160 and any high nickel alloy (L6/15n20/25xx).
  11. marcinek


    Jan 9, 2007
    Honestly? The steel they make 10 buck Trams out of.
  12. Freddyb


    Dec 28, 2015
    Personally I think condor makes some of the best machetes for the price. Condor uses 1075 German steel. Condor is the largest manufacturer of machetes in the world. Of you go to Africa, Brazil etc... they all use mostly condor machetes. When charities donate supplies to tribes and things, they use to donate ESEE machetes but switched to condor with them being heavier, thicker, and tougher. Also most condor machetes can be used for battoning etc... with machetes edge retention is very important but toughness is above all. 1075 is a perfect middle ground. It's lower carbon content makes it tougher then 1095, but 1075 is still a high carbon steel and holds a great edge and is easy to Sharpen. The only negative is that 1075 is susceptible to rust but if taken care of properly this shouldn't be an issue. People tend to focus to much on a specific trait such as edge retention , hardness or toughness, but the key is to find a middle ground that does both well. 1075 is a great all around steel, except for it being susceptible to rust. Spring steel such as 5160 is also good, but is usually used on common long thin machetes got cutting tall grass and things etc... AND YES everyone knows heat treatment is important, but heat treatment can't make a rock into a diamond. Basically even with proper heat treatment the steel still has its limits, and certain steels are good for certain things no matter the heat treatment. When buying a blade or any kind, as long as you stay away from cheap-o brands, and stick with well repected, reliable brands that have a good track record, heat treatment shouldn't be of any concern. other then that, the only time heat treatment would matter more then the steel used is if you are forging the blade yourself.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2016
  13. Hickory n steel

    Hickory n steel

    Feb 11, 2016
    Why not use something very common and attainable like a Ford leaf spring ,a lawnmower blase, or just simple 1075 or 1095 and temper just the edge leaving some flex and rigidity to the spine that way it can hold a great edge, but still flex as needed ?
  14. Lieblad


    Jul 24, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2016
  15. Faiaoga


    Jul 3, 2012
    The steel that can survive cutting bush all day and can survive interactions with rocks during the bush clearing will be my choice. It must also be easily sharpened in the field with a simple file or coarse stone. People more knowledgeable than I am have already discussed grades of steel and hardness numbers; I can only make a "custom" machete by bolting on new handles when the old ones fall off.:cool:
  16. knife chop

    knife chop

    Feb 11, 2014
    Correct me if I'm wrong but we're you the one who posted an S35vn stainless machete with a spring tempered spine?
  17. knife chop

    knife chop

    Feb 11, 2014
    For simple carbon steel RC is important for toughness. Powdered steels like CPM 3v is a different beast. Dan Keffler makes 20 inch long Samurai's out of that steel with a hardness of 60.5 RC and is very tough.

    If you were to ask what I prefer, I'd go for a custom Machete made with AEBL steel.


  18. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    Nope. :p
  19. nick21


    Feb 22, 2014
    Good ol' 1095.
  20. CapitalizedLiving


    Dec 1, 2007

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