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Cheap Knives: Why The 440A Craze?

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by Stargater, Oct 30, 2017.

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  1. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    I prefer US made stuff too and generally am willing to pay for it. Hence I am a big fan of GEC slippies. As you know I am a total fan of the Vic SAKs (but they are foreign made.....). Haven't owned an Imperial in a long time, basically since I was a kid.

    I only own a few Rough Riders. They were trial balloons for me and I was pleased. On the other hand, I periodically will buy a Frost slippie just to "see again" and basically nothing changed.
  2. Hickory n steel

    Hickory n steel Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 11, 2016
    I have maybe 2 and I've found both to be just fine.
    one is a steel warrior ( I think cobra ) small lockback, and the other being a bulldog mini saddlehorn trapper.
    I said maybe because the bulldog Is Definitely a step above and could have been made by rough rider.

    Btw I also prefer US made, but in general I think I really just prefer non Chinese made. They can make good stuff, but I'm sure you know what I mean I just don't see them the same way.
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2017
  3. Gaston444


    Oct 1, 2014

    This is not the video you need to form an opinion about how knife steels compare.

    This is.

    Frotier76 and bucketstove like this.
  4. craytab

    craytab Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 26, 2012
    Another PSA for the new folks. Gaston gets all his info from cliff stamp who was banned from here for being a detriment to this community and insulting everyone here including the forum owner. Don't listen to him either.
    palonej, hexenjager, marcinek and 3 others like this.
  5. Roguer


    Jan 5, 2015
    440A is used in dive knives because of its properties. It may have to be sharpened a bit more I find more than other knives but my 440A OKC Mark III dive knife still a great knife for use around the watery crafty thingies.
  6. jbmonkey

    jbmonkey Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Jun 9, 2011
    i actually like and respect cliff stamp......wonder if cliff has the knives illustrated 440c vs. cpm steel mule tests from 1998 or 99.

    btw for those interested i did contact knives illustrated, they havent gotten back to me yet. bet their scratching their heads on my request to purchase that issue if it exists.:)
    palonej, Cursum Perficio and craytab like this.
  7. knarfeng

    knarfeng senex morosus moderator Staff Member Super Mod Moderator

    Jul 30, 2006
    I remember when Spark banned Cliff. Craytab's post is reasonably accurate as to why.
    I agreed with some things Cliff posted. Not all, by a long shot.

    Since the article in question was said to be about S30V, and S30V was not produced until Nov 2001, you might need to change the parameters of your query with Knives Illustrated.

    "Phil Wilson". You tell me something that HE said, and you have my attention.
  8. knarfeng

    knarfeng senex morosus moderator Staff Member Super Mod Moderator

    Jul 30, 2006
    So, a few thoughts about the original question.

    440A is used because then the company can advertise "440 Steel". There are roughly a gazillion regular knife users for every knife knut. Most of those non-knife-knuts recognize the term "440 Steel", even if they are clueless as to what that actually means. Using "440" steel is essentially an advertising ploy. "420 steel" means Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah to them.

    However, for decades 440A was the most common choice for stainless steel used by American knife companies. Camillus used it in the vast majority of their stainless knives. Schrade called it "Schrade +" and used it in their Uncle Henry knives and on their other lines up until the late '90's when they switched to 420HC. Schrade is said to have heat treated their 440A to 58HRC. And at that hardness it performs pretty decently.

    IMO, 440A holds an edge better than 420HC does when both are hardened to the same hardness. Rough Rider and Case both harden their blades to ~55HRC. RR uses ~440A and Case uses 420HC. RR holds an edge longer in my experience.

    So, if 440A actually holds an edge better, why do many companies now use 420HC instead of 440A? Because 420HC is cheaper to process into knife blades. You can fine blank 420HC and crank out the blades at a tremendous rate. 440A does not flow well enough in the annealed state to fine blank well. That makes 440A much more expensive to process. Processing cost is a MUCH higher percentage of the cost of a knife than is blade steel material cost.

    It's really hard to find anyone who produces 440A at high hardness today. IMO, partly because 440A has gotten a bum rap because so many companies run it soft.

    Does CPM steel, 440C, D2, etc hold an edge better than 440A, even 440A at 58HRC? Of course they do. But 440A, even when run at 55HRC, holds an edge well enough for most non-knife-nut people in their daily use. And for the non-knife-knut, that's all that matters.

    As to why you can't put an edge on 440A compared to 420HC, how hard did that knife company run the 440A? How complete was their quench during heat treat? Are the two edge geometries the same? Cutting performance is more than alloy choice. Heat treat and edge geometry are more important.
    palonej, 731Chopper, whp and 4 others like this.
  9. Planterz

    Planterz Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 26, 2004
    You can hand a blind guy a machine gun, turn him toward the general direction of a barn, and it's not surprising if he hits the broadside a couple times.

    I remember his "tests". I also remember participating in a passround of a knife he owned and resharpened (a folding Swamp Rat) and thinking he was crazy to thin the edge out as much as he did on a folder, never mind a fixed blade he'd chop cinder blocks with.
    craytab likes this.
  10. Hickory n steel

    Hickory n steel Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 11, 2016
    Don't people just buy knives and analyze the performance themselves from a practical EDC standpoint anymore ?
    Just curious because people focus so much on different technical properties that might not even mean much to their personal needs.
  11. Lapedog


    Dec 7, 2016
    The short answer to the question above in title is:

    a: It's cheap, even cheaper if it isn't actually 440a but some analog

    b: they can put 440 on a knife unspecified and hope joe shmoe will read it 440c. Although alot of the worse companies I doubt are using actual 440a

    However. 440a is a good steel for rust resistance. It's also better or as good as what is used on alot of traditional folders. I honestly think it gets a bad rap because of all the knives labeled 440 or 440a that are actually made from whatever steel was available cheapest close to the knife factory. And you know they are being diligent with the heat treat. ;)
  12. Final Option

    Final Option Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 11, 2012
    I think the average knife buyer may fall into this category however the discrimating buyer especially BF members, like other members opinions either good or bad on a particular knife. Sort of making making an educated guess before pulling the trigger, thus so many knife reviews. Once in hand they certainly will know if it meets their expectations.
    Lapedog likes this.
  13. jbmonkey

    jbmonkey Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Jun 9, 2011
    yeah should have clarified my post better. while i like and respect cliffs work, i dont respect and like his handling and treatment of this site owner or various other folks.
  14. craytab

    craytab Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 26, 2012
    Just to add, In the early days of SOG they would advertise 440A when it was really AUS6 because 440A was so much more recognizable to the US market. I think that is exactly what is happening now with cheap imported knives that claim some sort of 440, though I doubt it is a steel on the level of AUS6. Probably some sort of pot metal.

    I have on old timer fixed blade from the 90's with the Schrade+ and yes, it performs just fine for what it is. Not really comparable to my more modern stainless fixed blades in s35vn.

    It really is all about the company or maker rather than the steel. A crap company can make a great steel crappy. Just as a crap company can make what should be a great knife with great steel poorly because of geometry and HT. Most of the companies mentioned in the OP and elsewhere in this thread where 440A is complained about are not known for quality or in the case of boker it is their super low end line. As with most things, you get what you pay for. There are exceptions of course but if you buy a knife in a gas station in a jar on the counter from an unknown company and the blade is market 440A, don't expect much. It isn't even a 440 steel in a ll likelihood. Save your money and buy one of the many good budget options from reputable companies. At least then you know what you are getting.
  15. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    Been wondering.... do Chinese steel manufacturers make 440A or is it something else? I tend to agree that listing "440" is somewhat of an advertising gimmick for low end knives and ones I suspect are manufactured in China. But I really don't know.

    Craytab, didn't know that about SOG and wondering how early?
  16. craytab

    craytab Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 26, 2012
    Not sure. I heard it from @KenHash . I'll take a look of in the sog forum.

    But yes, I believe the cheap imports (read clones) from companies like Ganzo that say 440C aren't. They just call it that because it is recognizable to the markets the sell to.
  17. craytab

    craytab Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 26, 2012
  18. craytab

    craytab Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 26, 2012
    The other thing is that none of the old seki sogs I've had were market with steel so I think it was only in the advertising.
  19. scott.livesey


    Nov 10, 2011
    most of the cheap knives are not 440 or 420. most are X50CrMoV15 or AUS6. the HT is slipshod and the grinding is whatever the machine does that day. there are good inexpensive knives out there. say what you will, a basic $15 mora will do all you need unless you are hunting bear with a knife.
    bucketstove likes this.
  20. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    Thanks for the info. I for the most part have stopped going to the SOG forum.... maybe a couple times a year now. Interesting about the AUS6 and AUS8 and Seki. My SOG buying pretty much stopped just about the time when SOG shifted to Korean manufacture and then shifted again to China initially with the Sogzilla line (as I recall), but they clearly showed that manufacture was in China. Really don't have many problems with SOG in general as a company. I have gotten over the imitation Spydie hole thing that initially caused me to shift away from them. Still use some of my SOGs.
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