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Best way to understand steel types?

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by wacki, Sep 16, 2012.

  1. wacki


    Sep 12, 2009
    Ok, I've read these descriptions:


    It's pretty good. How do I translate it into the real world? And how do you compare the actual steels? Good, excellent, etc is kind of vague.

    For instance...
    • Toughness : SV30 can cut 30 feet of cardboard where 440C can only cut 10 before you lose your ability to shave arm hair.
    • Wear resistance: SV30 can cut 30 feet of carpet where 440C can cut 10 feet before you lose your ability to shave arm hair.
    • Strength: SV30 can cut an oak 1/4" doll rod 30 times where 440C can cut 10 times before you lose your ability to shave arm hair.

    Something like that.
  2. rustyrazor

    rustyrazor KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 13, 2011
    ...and so the mystery that haunts us all. so many factors, so little time and your question is quite vague itself. I recommend narrowing it down to a couple of steels you plan on toying with and ask what you want to know about them to help you decide. A lot of steels are good for a lot of different applications, for a lot of different reasons, so for instance: which is tougher for impact resistence, ELMAX or M390 and you will get closer to an answer you are looking for.
  3. Insipid Moniker

    Insipid Moniker Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 28, 2011
    Lots of factors to consider. Edge geometry, heat treat, consistency of the cutting media all have major effects on the kind of test you''re talking about. CATRA resting is the closest that I know of. I've owned S30V knives that were roundly outperformed by AUS8 blades and others that held an edge for a long, long time. It's hard to say which you'll get in any given knife.
  4. The Government

    The Government

    Aug 21, 2009
    The riddle of steel...

    Determining the intended use of a knife can greatly help in identifying what steels are best to use as well as how to treat them and grind them.

    Any one steel will show different characteristics depending on the heat treat and geometries of the blade.
  5. wacki


    Sep 12, 2009
    When is AUS8 better than S30V? Or is that just in CATRA testing?
  6. knarfeng

    knarfeng senex morosus moderator Staff Member Super Mod Moderator

    Jul 30, 2006
    There are two main ways to get a knife with good steel for the usage. One is easy. The other is not.

    Easy: Buy a knife from a top manufacturer and just let them pick the steel. It's what they do for a living and the top makers do an outstanding job of it.

    Hard: Buy and use knives. A lot of knives. A lot of alloys. A lot of usage. Expensive. Fun. But it takes many years.
  7. Doogoon


    Feb 21, 2012
    When it has a better heat treatment and blade geometry.
  8. GatorFlash1

    GatorFlash1 Gold Member Gold Member

    May 28, 2012

    This is the best advice. If the manufacturer isn't using good steel in the knives he is producing, and at whatever price point he sells them at, then he will not be in business very long. The manufacturers have to balance the steel they use between that which can be used in the manufacturing process and that which the market demands.

    Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your budget, the price of the knife often correlates to the quality of the knife, of which steel is just one component.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2012
  9. Mad_Maxx


    Nov 29, 2007
    to compare, use, sharpen, try them
    it's the only real way to get your personal idea
  10. Insipid Moniker

    Insipid Moniker Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 28, 2011
    As Doogoon said, I would mostly attribute it to heat treat and edge geometry. If you heat treated both steels the same way and sharpened them at the same angle S30V would certainly win out, but since those things vary widely from knife to knife real world testing is extremely difficult. Many reputable companies run S30V fairly soft which has a pretty extreme effect on it's wear resistance.
  11. Insipid Moniker

    Insipid Moniker Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 28, 2011
    Basically, if you take S30V at RC 58 and compare it to S30V at RC 61 you may as well be comparing different steels.
  12. shunsui

    shunsui Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 12, 2008
    I think people worry about it too much. Some people are interested in various steels, but that doesn't mean 80% of what's available isn't more than adequate for typical use. My EDC is ATS-55 and the world hasn't ended.
  13. GatorFlash1

    GatorFlash1 Gold Member Gold Member

    May 28, 2012
    Great advice. Buy a knife in the size and shape you like from a manufacturer that has been in the business for many years and let him sweat the details. Then you can just enjoy your knife without agonizing about the elements that created it. That's my philosophy and I'm sticking to it! Enjoy!

  14. Big Mike

    Big Mike

    Aug 30, 2006

    That says it all right there. :thumbup: :cool: :thumbup:

    Don't let the steel rule your knife buying decisions.

    Buy a knife from a trusted knifemaker, designed for the tasks at hand,

    ...or be prepared to do the testing yourself.

    Even so, any knife should be thoroughly tested before being trusted.

    Big Mike
  15. Buffalohump

    Buffalohump Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 7, 2006
    There is a monstrous amount of info on steel types this very forum. Just do a few searches and browse through the Knife Reviews and Testing area you'll be able to read yourself goggle-eyed.


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