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Cold Steel Carbon V

Dec 6, 1998
Does anybody have any experience with this steel ie. rust resistance and edge holding?
Ease of sharpening too?
Ralph, I have a few of these. The steel sharpens moderatelly, similar to say ATS-34. It holds a much better edge than my 1095 blades and ATS-34 blades, but not as good as my 440V blades. The heat treatment appears to be very good since the knives are quite strong for the thickness. I have never had a rust problem, but I live in very dry climate and keep my blades clean and oiled.
Yes I agree that it is aquite a good steel. The thinner the blade the better the edge you can get. My bushranger takes a better edge than the SRK probably since it is not a sabre grind like the SRK. Thinning the bevel on the sabre gound SRK did help with putting akeener edge on it.Mine also don't rust at all unlike some of my 1095 steel knives.
I have had good experiences with Cold Steel's Carbon V.

The following comes from the Steel Faq on Blade Forum.

Carbon V -
Carbon V is a trademarked term by Cold Steel, and as such is not necessarily one particular kind of steel; rather, it describes whatever steel Cold Steel happens to be using, and there is an indication they do change steels from time to time. Carbon V performs roughly between 1095-ish and O-1-ish, in my opinion, and rusts like O-1 as well. I've heard rumors that Carbon V is O-1 (which I now think is unlikely) or 1095. Numerous industry insiders insist it is 0170-6. Some spark tests done by a rec.knives reader
seem to point the finger at 50100-B. Since 50100-B and 0170-6 are the same steel (see below), this is likely the current Carbon V.


0170-6 - 50100-B -
These are different designations for the same steel: 0170-6 is the steel makers classification, 50100-B is the AISI designation. A good chrome-vanadium steel that is somewhat similar to O-1, but much less expensive. The now-defunct Blackjack made several knives from O170-6,
and Carbon V may be 0170-6. 50100 is basically 52100 with about 1/3 the chromium of 52100, and the B in 50100-B indicates that the steel has been modified with vanadium, making this a chrome-vanadium steel.
According to a post by Mike Turber this is no longer the case and Carbon V now refers to a particular grade of steel that CS is using. I think Mike says he knows what is in the steel but as is the case INFI he is not telling.

Then I guess Mike would know more than the people at CS since in talking to one of their Managers he did not know what it was. And you know who I'm talking about, Cliff.

Apparently the steel they are getting is similar to 50100B since when I brought this up it was not refutted.

What would be the reason for not telling the rest of us if Mike did know? Since even the CS people don't care.
I won't tell the source. But it's not Cold Steel or Lynn C. Thompson. Carbon V is a Cold Steel Special Blend. They have a inhouse metalurgist who works with the mill and controls the mix, melt, roll then the heat treat on the final product. According to my source the Japnese can't duplicate the grain structure and they have tried. A bunch of Cold Steels competors started the rumor it's the steel Cold Steel gets at the best price. Thats sour grapes. The stuff is according to my source what they say it is. My 1.5 cents worth. BTW the source is a competor, in the biz and had no reason to lie.

Bob Taylor

Some days it's not worth chewing through the restraints and escaping.
If memory serves (as often it does not), Mike Turber once mentioned Cabon V as modified 1095 way back when Cold Steel had a forum. No mention on what modifications.

Correct me if I'm wrong. It was quite a while ago.

No, I was never lost. But I was mighty bewildered one time for three days.

--- Daniel Boone
I had always heard that the steel was 0170-6 heat-treated in a proprietary manner. I also once spoke with a fellow who claimed he had worked there as an intern, and he said that the rolling and heat-treating were the key, that in composition it was one of the standard carbon steels. In casual comparative testing it certainly performed nearly as well as Blackjack's 0170-6 which had undergone cryogenic treatment, and outperformed Ontario knives in 1095. Predictably, it also rusts like crazy if the edge isn't cleaned or the coating gets scratched.

In sharpening and edge-holding, it is in a class apart from stainless steels, as I have found all "carbon steels" of decent quality to be. A stainless will either not hold the edge as well or require more effort to put it back (note that I have very little experience with particle steels like 440V). We used to say you could sharpen a Blackjack with a rock and the side of your boot, and the same could be said for Cold Steel knives in Carbon V. If you're willing to keep your knife clean and dry, you're in for a treat.

Like everything else about Cold Steel, if you shovel your way through the manure, there's fine silver at the bottom.


(Why else would a bear want a pocket?)
To explain the info in the Steel FAQ a bit...

First, remember this info is a few years old, and one thing pretty much everyone agrees is that Cold Steel changed the steel behind Carbon V from time to time.

I won't give up my sources either, but as of a few years ago, several *very* well-placed sources told me Carbon V was 50100-B. As corroborating evidence, two knifemakers spark-tested it and told me that it sure sparks like 50100-B. Spark tests are by no means definitive, but it sure seemed like there was a whole lot of evidence.

So we have a bunch of evidence to consider. There's Mike's mystery source, claiming 1095-modified. Bob's source, a competitor of CS (I'm not sure if this helps or hurts credibility). I have sources too, plus a couple knifemakers who spark tested Carbon V. I'm probably going to leave the FAQ as-is until I hear a little more.


Wow, thanks for all responses guys.
I never thought Carbon V would be as secret as the INFI from Busse. Anyhow, it seems to be a decent steel from what I gather. the only problem is that most of CS knives using the steel have handles lacking in the ergonomics department. If I remember, the polymer will occasionally fall off(?)
How valid is that concern (about the Kraton coming apart)? It's the one complaint that has so far prevented me from buying a CS.
The source is un impeachable (so was slick willy) but it's supposed to be a O-1 base. Spark testing is close to worthless, like lighting brands of gas to see what lights better and burns hotter. The competitor was praising Carbon V. Usualy a competitor is knocking products. As far as the Kraton I have a old Tanto one of the first run's and its been abused (thrown and beat) Its has also been carried a lot. The Kryron even has a slice in it (anyone who has seen my throwing demos will tell you I group tightly). The handle is still there slice and all.
I have more Cold Steel products than I like to admit. Lynn's intensity bites him in the butt once in a while. In the twenty years I have known Lynn I have never had a reason to doubt his honesty.
If your that intrested send a piece to a Metalurigst and have it analized.

Bob Taylor

Some days it's not worth chewing through the restraints and escaping.
Bob, thanks for the info. I think I will put in a note in the FAQs about a credible source claiming Carbon V truly is a proprietary mixture based on O-1. Funny, O-1 was my first guess years ago, as you can see in the FAQs. If it really is a proprietary O-1 mix, I'll guess added vanadium.

Oh brother! *This* thread, again!

Joe, I wouldn't change the FAQ without contacting a few guys on the knife-list. It's been a few years, but I believe that there were in fact at least a couple of samples of Carbon V sent out for professional analysis and the answer did in fact come back 50100-B *for those _specific_ samples*. I could be wrong about that, but I believe Larry Harley would be a good place to start asking if one was truly serious about finding out more about those specific tests.

As for the usefullness of spark testing, it seems to be debated as hotly as the merits of forging or stock removal amongst folks that have the most experience with making knives. I believe it has some validity for folks that are experienced enough with it to know it's limitations. Bob Engnath ground more blades than anybody, and he believed in spark testing enough to include it in his now legendary beginners manual. For me, that's proof enough to easily quell any protests about it's uselessness from persons not so experienced. I'm no good at it, (beyond being able to guesstimate rough levels of carbon content of scrap steel), and question whether even the best practictioners could tell the difference between two steels of almost but not quite identical composition.But dismissing the practice as inherently useless dismisses the practical knowledge of some very trusted and skilled knifemakers.

Getting back to Carbon V, I question whether it really matters to the end user what it is, or whether the exact mix changes from time to time. I've argued long and hard that honest knifemakers ought to have no qualms telling the buying public exactly what steel a knife is, but clearly that's not happening, and quite often that info isn't really as relevent as the purchaser might think, anyway.

The best examples of what I mean by that are ATS-34 and 440A. Everybody jumped on the ATS-34 bandwagon, but there are plenty of ATS-34 knives out there that suck due to improper heat treatment, yet folks snap them up due to a perception that anything bearing that designation will perform on par with the best knives that initially gave ATS-34 it's reputation as a knifemaker's steel. Likewise everybody seems to just *know* that 440A is lowend, yet I've seen examples of 440A "custom blends" with proper heat treat that behaved far more like 440C. So I guess the q is what data points are truly relevent? And how does one know ahead of time?

For me, Carbon V, (whatever it may be) has proven to be a very good knife steel in several knives over several years.

Notice I said close to worthless Bob Egnath was a enity on to himself. I had Bob grind lots of knives for me in the late 70s and 80s. Bob because of his time grinding and expert eye could do what 99.9% couldn't do. Still anyalizing the steel is far more accurate. And I will agree with you that the heat treat is the most important step.
As far as Busse and Cold Steel keeping their Trade Secrets thats business.
Understand the people that frequent this forum are more savy than the average knife buyer. They see "Stainless" on a knife and to them it's all the same. Even better is "Surgical Stainless" which is usualy a 304 stainless steel gurney from a Bombay Hospital cut and ground into knives, of course it's not heat treatable but "it looks just like that there Spyerco Clem"

Bob Taylor

Some days it's not worth chewing through the restraints and escaping.
I didn't see this post until I already posted in the general forum but I noticed today that my Carbon V blade started to quickly develop rust and staining after cutting some fruit with it. The knife was clean and I used Tuf-Cloth on it the last time I used it. After my wife was done cutting the pineapple I was busy and just told her to rinse the blade and put it in the dish strainer and I would put it away later. About 3 hours later when I went to get the knife it was already developing rust and some areas of staining. The stains and rust were easily removed with some metal polish and I treated the blade with Tuf-Glide and rubbed it in with Tuf-Cloth. My lesson here was that this knife needs to be immediately cleaned and lubed after use. Not too easy here in Kodiak Alaska where we had about 100 inches of rain this past year. And this was just in the kitchen. Perhaps this was because of the acids in the fruit but I was surprised when I saw it.

On the plus side, I sharpened the knife with my Spyderco triangle sharpmaker and boy did that put a razor and I mean razor edge on this knife.

Just my practical observation.