H1 Steel Experts?

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by NLite, Mar 29, 2007.

  1. NLite


    Mar 27, 2007

    I have been lurking around a while, and was hoping that someone could answer a few questions. I live in southeast Alaska, along the coast. We get anywhere from 60-90 inches of rain a year, and rarely see more than a week of sunshine in the summer. We basically have two seasons: snow and rain. Those who live a little farther south of me only have one season: rain.

    For the past fifteen years I have had to either carry a somewhat brittle stainless steel knife in the field (Buck 119 Special), or a fairly stronger carbon steel knife (CS SRK). I prefer the stainless due to the ever present rust issue (yes, even stainless rusts here), but was hoping that enough time had passed to try somthing new.

    I have been reading some posts here and there about "H1" stainless steel, but have not seen anything about how well it holds up strength wise. I have seen photos of Spyderco's upcoming H1 utility knives, and a H1 camp knife, but besides the Spyderco salt series (and the TUSA H1 dive knife ), nothing seems to be in production.

    Does anyone have any info on how well H1 holds up in a fixed blade?

    I have looked at some infi blades, but am concerned that they will not hold up (rust-wise) over time. I need a strong, rust resistant utility knife in a constantly wet marine enviroment (hopefully stronger than a Buck 119 Special - I have broken them just cutting wood).

    Any ideas?
  2. HoB


    May 12, 2004
    Welcome to bladeforums, NLite!
    H-1 is a preciptation hardnening steel. It does not harden by an austenite -> martensite conversion. It has a very small carbide/nitride fraction and is very fine grained which indicates that it should have good toughness. The workhardening aspect of H-1 makes me wonder what will happen if it is repeatedly flexed, but according to Ed Schempp, who designed the H-1 utility camp knife, H-1 performs very well as a fixed blade steel. Considering that there are virtually NO complaints about undue chipping on Salts, this doesn't really surpise me.
  3. NLite


    Mar 27, 2007
    Thanks HoB.

    I guess I will just have to wait for a H1 camp knife. Does anyone have any info as to when Spyderco's version will be available, or is anyone else planning on coming out with one? I just ordered a Salt 1 for testing, but I don't know how much strength testing I can do on a little folder. Maybe Sal or Ed Schempp could post some strength testing results? (Or could someone point me to where they have...)

    I would even be willing to provide some data/pics/movie/whatever if someone would send me a chunk of it (if it can survive here, it should do well anywhere).
  4. Mansour


    Oct 30, 2005
    I lived in Wrangell for 8 1/2 years. Mainly used my Randall 15 in O1 but used many others. Also hunted and worked daily with blue handguns and rifles. Always kept my knives and handguns cleaned and lightly oiled after use and a thin layer of johnson wax on the rifles. Never had a rust problem.
  5. yablanowitz


    Apr 14, 2006
    There is a member of the Spyderco factory forum who goes by Mactech. He lives next to a salt marsh on the east coast, so corrosion resistance is vital to him. He has tested H-1 knives for days in a chamber filled with salt spray and salt fog. He has never gotten it to rust. It should not even be possible to make it rust due to insufficient carbon content.

    Benchmade used to use H-1 in a river rescue knife (fixed blade). If you look around and ask the question before you buy, you might be able to pick up one of the older ones in that steel.
  6. HoB


    May 12, 2004
    The problem is that the knowledge about H-1 is still very limited. It is a japanese steel, so there are no "chunks" available only finished knives and not many of those either. They also have to be rolled to a certain hardness. To my knowledge there are no official testing data on H-1 available. On the Spyderco forum of this forum you could post a question addressed to Ed Schempp and ask him about his personal experiences with H-1. It might take a few days, but he usually is happy to answer these kind of questions. And Sal might answer where it is in the schedule. What kind of strength testing do you have in mind? Yield strength, ductile toughness, impact toughness? As far as corrosion resistance goes, I doubt you will be able to give it a more brutal test than FrankK and MacTech did already, short of dunking it in concentrated sulphuric acid. I doubt you would get H-1 to rust even if you would tie it to the bow of a submarine.
  7. mmmotorcycle

    mmmotorcycle Midnight Joker #42

    Jun 17, 2006
    H-1 in Spyderco's line up is great stuff. It will never rust. It's easy to sharpen. It takes an amazing edge. After heavy use it hardens upwards of 65-68 Rc which essentially puts into the category of best folding knife steel available. Get some H-1 knives!
  8. Sal Glesser

    Sal Glesser Moderator Moderator

    Dec 27, 1998
    Hi NLite,

    Welcome to the Bladeforums.

    Not sure of exactly what type of information you are requesting. Could you be more specific?

    We're still a few months away from any of the fixed blades.

    "Chunks" of it are not common in the US. We have some, but we use it for prototyping. You'd still be better off testing a knife that a "chunk".

  9. mete


    Jun 10, 2003
    " after heavy use it [work] hardens " Lets have a metallurgical explaination of that !!
  10. HoB


    May 12, 2004
    Is that a serious question and do you mean workhardening in general or with regards to H-1 in particular?
  11. Sal Glesser

    Sal Glesser Moderator Moderator

    Dec 27, 1998
    Hi Mete,

    "Work hardening" is a hardening of the steel as the result of the heat created in deforming/reforming the steel. Rolling the steel makes in harder than before it was rolled. Grinding the steel makes it harder where the grinding occurs. Sharpening the steel, generally done mechanically makes the steel harder at the edge where it is sharpened.

    Hope that helps.

  12. hardheart


    Sep 19, 2001
    mete should ask a metallurgist

    oh wait, mete is a metallurgist, lol
  13. mete


    Jun 10, 2003
    Hardheart , that's the whole point !!! Long before my time they made knives and swords from bronze and iron which cannot be heat treated. They often hardened the edges by hammering them [ Sal, work hardening is not a result of heat of rolling ].In normal use you don't work harden the edge [not to any significant extent] and not by steeling or grinding. So how do you suddenly get 65-68 HRc ??? Somebody's hype ??
  14. NLite


    Mar 27, 2007
    Thanks for all the responses. I could not get back to check until now.

    Sal & HoB, I am basically interested in knowing if H1 will be strong enough to be used for mild prying.

    For example, a few years ago I was conducting stand examinations for the U.S.F.S. on an uninhabited island off the coast (was there for a week - living out of a tent), and I was clearing a storm uprooted tree out of a logging road. The chain saw got pinched in the tree as it shifted during cutting (the tree was under a lot of pressure), and all I had to try and relieve the pressure on the saw was my knife (Buck 119). Granted, I would have liked to have had a pry bar, but it was all I had (no tow chain in the truck, nothing). There was no one else on the island at the time.

    So, I put my handy Buck Special in the almost completed v-notch I was working on, and relieved the tension enough to get the chain saw out. Unfortunately, the tip of the Buck did not like being under such stress (although I did not think it was that much), and broke off. I had almost the entire the blade in the cut created by the saw, but for some reason just the tip broke (probably where most of the contact was occurring).

    I know I used the Buck in a way that it was probably not designed for, but I was not going to leave a chain saw stuck in a tree. Having seen a few videos about how much "abuse" some of the newer steels can take, I was curious to see it there was something out there that could take some mild abuse, and still be rust resistant.

    After that incident, I no longer feel that confident in having to rely upon a Buck Special for anything out of the ordinary, but it would be nice to have something that could cut, and still be rust resistant and strong enough to get oneself out of a "jam" if needed (without breaking.)
  15. Boats


    Aug 7, 2003
    Despite an early issue with the clip mounting system, I have come to love my Pacific Salt PE and its H-1 blade. Like many others have said, I have never seen it even hint of rusting, it seems reasonably tough enough that I don't baby it and it does take a keen edge. It was also thoughtful that no component on the knife is susceptible to corrosion either. It's truly no maintenance other than sharpening and cleaning it out once in awhile.

    My only complaint is probably a byproduct of the compromises that all steels present and this one does in particular--it doesn't hold an edge as long as I'd like, so its wear resistance probably isn't the greatest. The upside is that sharpening it to acceptable is about as easy as it gets.
  16. Sal Glesser

    Sal Glesser Moderator Moderator

    Dec 27, 1998
    Hi HLite,

    Tips are thin and will either break or bend why used for prying. Not a recommended activity for knives. For you to expect a tip to hold up to tough prying is, in my opinion unrealistic. I think if you were going to use one of our H1 knives for light prying, and you didn't want to eait for our fixed blades (still months away) I would suggest the Atlantic Salt. It is a sheepfoot which was designed to be full thickness almost to the tip and had demonstrated that it will handle light prying more effectively.

    Other than the testing that we have done at Spyderco (lab testing), there are no other tests, that we know of, other than the tests Crucible did (mentioned below).


    Thanx for the kind words and support. When we did our testing, the PE model CATRA tested (edge retention) about the same as AUS8, but the serrated version's testing results were much higher. Normally, serrated edges will run about twice the plain edge of same steel and geometry, but the H1 was running about 4 times, up there with powdered metals. A puzzlement.

    Hi Mete,

    When the foundry rolls the H1, they roll to two different hardness, we end up with 58 for the blade material and considerably lower spec for the lock material. Not meaning to be disrespectful, but the two hardnesses are controlled by the rolling process.

    Dick Barber, metallurgist for Crucible steels was curious as to why the H1 steel was testing so well and wanted to do metallurgical testing on the material. We sent them samples and they did their tests. In their micro hardness testing, they found the H1 was differentially hardening. Their explanation was as I described.

    The were getting over 60 (64/65 as I remembber the report) at the edge of the blade, 58 at the spine and various hardness in between as they went from the spine to the edge.

    The serrted edge version was higher (68 as I remember) which Mr. Barber attributed to the extra "work" (heat) required to serrate the edge over just sharpening as on the plain edge.

    If you would like I can fax you, or mail you a copy of the report. Email me your address.

  17. Boats


    Aug 7, 2003
    Hi Mr. Glesser--

    AUS-8? That's not too shabby. I guess I'm probably spoiled by the D2 of my EDC and the A2 Barkies that are my main fixed blades, but as stainlesses go, H-1 doesn't seem too bad for the non-rusting trade off.

    I'd personally like to see an H1 oriented Manix with yellow or orange scales, but I'm probably the only one.:D
  18. LJK


    Dec 6, 2004
    Here's a rookie question. If H1 work hardens (from heat) to upwards of 68 Rc. Why not just heattreat it in the factory and sell it as a super hard steel to begin with?
  19. NLite


    Mar 27, 2007
    Thanks Boats and mmmotrocycle for the reccomendation.

    I have a Salt 1 on the way, and plan on carrying it as an EDC to see about the weatherization and edge holding capabilites (I would have bought a larger folder, but local legality issues kind of hinder that - at least in town as an edc).

    Sal, I agree that tips should not be used for prying, and don't really know what kind of strength testing I can do on a folder that would indicate strength in a fixed blade. the Salt 1 is really too small to put in a vise and flex, and even if I could, I would be testing more of the handle/blade connection than anything else.

    I was really hoping that someone had a piece/strip of H1 that was uniform thickness that they had flexed in a vise under controlled conditions.

    Generally speaking, I am really not that thrillled about many pointed blades, and tend to favor something that is more uniform in thickness (like the sheepsfoot you suggested, or a modified drop point with a beefy point).
  20. mete


    Jun 10, 2003
    'Work hardening' is also called 'cold working' , heat will tend to soften it [as in stress relieve and anneal..

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