Continuation of the Mission threads - a few Ti thoughts

Oct 14, 1998
A few thoughts on selecting Titanium (Ti) vs. A-2 (steel) Mission knives.

Mission's website documents the Magnetic and corrision characteristics pretty well so, I'll just say that Ti and A-2 have no real comparison here - if you defuse magnetic mines or live in salt water, Ti is a better choice.

Now, to things that are not as obvious:
Edge holding and maintanence on the A-2 knives is better for most people's needs. A-2 is well known for scary sharpness and holding up to heavy cutting chores. The Ti Mission uses is normally associated with the cutting performance of 440A in relative terms by most people I have run into. Ti will require more frequent edge touch ups, and for most people this will be harder blade material to sharpen, especially to scary sharpness (I think a higher skill level is needed to properly sharpen Ti compared against A-2).

A-2 has a well deserved and hard earned reputation for toughness when heat treated properly which Mission does well. It can be chipped or broken given enough force but, frankly most people just won't break it without using a mechanical assist of some sort because they just aren't strong enough with their bare hands or, the material they are cutting gives up first. But, yes, under certain conditions you can break it.

Ti is a material like few others. Most people have a frame of reference relative to ATS-34 or carbon steels so, saying Ti has edge holding like 440A but higher strength then properly heat treated A-2 seems like a contradiction. To a certain extent, I still suffer from these thoughts myself. The one thing that is not obvious unless you have owned Ti products before is the fact that Ti has a very stong memory. While not the same formula of Ti, my eyeglasses are a good example of Ti in general. For years, my eyeglasses were always getting bent from everyday occurences (kids yanking them off my face, bumping car parts while I worked on a vehicle, various farming related mishaps where I got smacked in the head, etc.). I now wear Marchon Ti frames with heat treated glass lenses. You can bend these frames anyway you want and they spring back to their true shape. With heavy glass lenses, minor differences in shape will show up as sore spots on my ears, nose, etc due to the weight and contact involved. Now, back to Mission. Their Ti is superior to my eyeglass frames which have served me so well for so many years. How does this relate to knives you ask? Think of how you use a knife. When you apply moderate stress to the knife blade, it should return to true. At some point a steel/stainless blade will either take a permanent "set" or break. Ti with its incredible memory will take extreme use and not take a set or break - well beyond what modern steels will take. Most anyone can build a good steel knife and make it drive through a steel plate with a hydraulic ram or cut steel cable for a time, but do you get a knife that will perform well doing normal knife chores? Mission has been around a pretty long time in the hard use community and, they are not getting blade failure reports nor, are they breaking them in their testing. Hard numbers and scientific proof I lack but, Cliff will thrash a folder in a few months so I will leave that part of the torture testing to him (which should remove any bias, as I am a Mission dealer).

A Ti knife made to the same physical dimensions will be lighter. How much lighter? I don't have a scale accurate enough for hard numbers but, I would estimate it to be about 30%. For someone who wants to chop, A-2 is a better choice in this regard. Blade weight and balance will be where you want it. The Ti version will take much more arm speed to develop the same inertia, to achieve similar results. However, for a lot of normal knife uses, this weight differnce disappears. Opening boxes and mail, peeling fruit, cutting fabric and leather and, other similar uses can be done effectively with either blade choice.

The one real sleeper for me with regards to the weight and corrosion resistance is its potential to be made into a neck knife. If you are knife weight limited (not physical size limited), you can carry a longer and thicker Ti blade with a reduced over all knife weight. When you sweat or go swimming, there is no concern about corrosion. So, while the scary sharp edge of your A-2 knife is corroding (rusting) away, the Ti edge is unaffected, remaining sharp. Now, when I pull it out to use it, I have a knife that has a longer usable edge that can be thicker through the spine, with an edge that has not been damaged by corrosion in a package of manageable weight for a neck knife. With Ti's incredible memory and high yield strength, I would not be concerned with using it in way that would cause caution with a thin profile traditional steel neck knife.

I still consider Ti a special use material and don't advocate it for everyone but, if you want something you can store in a fish tank (salt water fish included), is incredibly strong, and find the non-magnetic properties of Ti appealing, you should give Mission's Ti serious consideration. It's not the ideal material for all uses, so don't give up your Sebenza or Busse yet! There are many fine knives and materials out there to choose from, consider them all. Now, does anybody have a Talonite folder to lend to Cliff while he thrashes that MPF folder?

Stay sharp,
Sid, brings up a couple of very good points that I have been thinking about as well. Ti does deform easily compared to steel, but it takes a perm. set at much higher pressures according to Mission. So while the edge might be impacted more than steel, it could return to a better finish.

The Talonite comparasion is a good one as Talonite has similar properties mainly its low RC and high corrosion resistance. Talonite is heavier though and much more wear resistant - however its relative strength to Ti (or even steel) is not well known. The only known breaking point limit I have seen is on the main Talonite FAQ, where they state that a .161" thick piece, 18" long can be broken by hand locked in a vice. From what Rick has stated of Ti, I don't think the same could be done.


How would a Ti blade respond to steeling? While the edge is not as hard it seems to be extremely abrasion resistant. Why is diamond required for sharpening Ti when Ti is so soft?

How well do the Ti serrations respond to chopping or twisting with the edge bedded in hard wood? Could you chop with a fully serrated Ti knife?

What is the pressure difference between steel (A-2) and Ti before it takes a permanant bend?

Will, I was wondering about a lot of what you stated as well. These are what I think may happen or could be the relevant causes.

Considering the "memory" of Ti steeling may not work all that well as the Ti may take a set in the deformed position. As for needing diamonds to sharpen it, that might be just because the Ti resists deforming and is very abrasion resistant.

As for chopping, NamViet has a MPK and MPF, he did some extensive testing with it with a bunch of friends and he made no mention of them being deformed :

You might want to ask him if he every did any hard chopping with them. Considering that Joe T. did some chopping with his VG awhile back and the serrations held up fine, it would seem very odd to me if the Ti serrations were bothered by it.

Your last question about the deformation point is one that I am interested as well. It looks like the breaking points of Ti are lower than A2, I would be curious how much greater the deformation limits are.

Relevant to sharpening. How does the Mission Ti blunt? Does it gradually just wear away or does the edge eventually just roll? I am assuming cutting on wood, rope, webbing and such. I would expect harder materials like wire to roll/impact the edge.

I chopped a couple of 2x4 with my MPK and the edge was still very sharp. When cutting soft materials the edge held very well. Only when you chopped hard materials (metals, oak, MadDog knives, etc.) that the edge will show its weak point. I do not chopped with the MPK because quite frankly I don't do a lot of that under water, although I do do a lot of prying. The MPK/MPT are the best dive knives, period. Also, I like the MPK for camping because there is no maintenance at all. All I do is washed it in soap water and wipe dry. That is it, no lube, no preservative, nothing. After 26 salt water dives (the last one was in Hawaii two week ago) the knife still look relatively new. If you are doing a lot of chopping then I suggest an ax or a chain saw.
Thanks Nam,
To clean the titanium knives, and we have seen some pretty dirty ones (one USMC tester chopped a tree down with one), we use pool acid (hydrochloric or muriatic acid). The acid tends to remove all of the organic material. USE EYE PROTECTION and also keep the acid away from the handle, neutralize with baking soda and then wash with a good soap/water solution. The titanium knife will look like brand new.