Blade steel: Strengths and weaknesses

Feb 10, 2004
Ya' know, I tried to find a list of blade steels on the internet that listed thier strengths (edge holding, ease of sharpening, impact resistance, toughness, abrasion resistance, etc.) and weaknesses (lack of edge holding, brittleness, low impact resistance...well, you get the point). Guess what. I could find no such list, chart, or document. Maybe we should bug some makers or SEASONED, knowledgable users to help us compile a list and have it 'pinned' in this forum for everyone to see. Yes, I know there are tons a lot of different steels, but so what. It sure would be helpful for the newbies, or anyone looking to try a new steel. Just a thought.
And from reading many post from folks more knowledgable than myself, more than just the steel plays a part in how 'good' the knife/blade/edge will be... namely hardening. Still, trying to do our best research can't hurt. ;)
Thanks Keith!

J.Davey, among the many problems in making a canonical list is:

- The same steel type is often made by different manufacturers, resulting in different properties due to quality control, etc.

- The knife maker's heat treat is key

- Some steels perform well within a very wide range of hardnesses. If I tell you 5160 is tougher than 1095, can you really use that information to judge the toughness of a 5160 knife hardened closer to 60 Rc versus a soft 1095 knife? It's a little easier to do this with stainless steels, where in most cases, manufacturers all heat treat the same steel to very close to the same hardness, but with non-stainless steels, there's a wide range.

So, add in all the variables: Steel types made with different quality control, with different quality of heat treatment, and under wide ranges of final hardness. Now try to make a canonical comparison list ... not so easy. Many people try to hold (say) hardness constant ("if steel X and Y are at the same hardness, Y is tougher" kind of thing), but then you look and see that most makers heat treat steel X at a lower hardness than steel Y, which means as a practical matter both steels might have the same toughness (though different strength and wear resistance).
Thanks for the info, Joe. I was just thinking it would be nice to have a general source to look at instead of always having to search and ask when a person is trying to find info on a steel they haven't used. I found your guide to be very informative, and I personally think there should be a constant link to it from this forum.