How tough is ELMAX steel?

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by PatrickKnight, Oct 15, 2012.

  1. PatrickKnight


    Jan 24, 2012
    I am planning on getting a new fixed blade in ELMAX but im curious as to how tough this stuff really is. I am used to carbon steels such as 01, Rowen 1095, and 52100, I am wondering how tough is ELMAX when compared to these steels. Now I know its no where near as tough as steels like INFI or 3V but does it hold up as well as the ones listed, or is it weaker by a good margin. I like that it seems to hold an edge forever and that its stainless (would be nice to have a knife I didnt have to worry about oiling) but if the toughness isnt there when compared to the steels I know then ill go for a different steel.

    Any input would be great most of all if you have an ELMAX blade and a blade in one of the other three steels listed that you can compare it to. Basicly what I am wondering is the lateral strength similar when used for tasks such as prying or similar tasks that can be hard on a knife.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Huntsman Knife Co.

    Huntsman Knife Co.

    Sep 10, 2010
    ELMAX is probably the toughest high end stainless out there. I believe its 50% tougher than S30V at similar hardness. If its a small fixed blade and is decently thick I don't think you'll ever have to worry about breaking it. You won't be able to treat it like 1095 but it should handle any normal knife task +light batoning. Ive never pushed my ELMAX knives to where they would break but judging from how the edge takes damage it is some tough, tough stuff. Its edge rolls like a carbon steel.

    Id love to hear from some makers who have tested it.
  3. Moosez45

    Moosez45 Custom Antlers, Factory Knives... Moderator

    Jul 14, 2010
    I hit my Elmax with a bat lastnight, then it punched me mouth and cooked some enchiladas. Thats pretty tough.


    My 561 has held its own with some of my premium steels. I've never had a fixed blade in Elmax, though.

    schmittie likes this.
  4. james terrio

    james terrio Sharpest Knife in the Light Socket

    Apr 15, 2010
    It's tough enough that if you break it or chip the edge, it's almost certainly your fault, not the steel's. I'd put it up against O1 or 1095 without fear.
  5. crom


    Mar 29, 2007
    FYI, a guy with an ELMAX Kershaw chipped his edge cutting zip ties. He posted the pic of the tie and it was a smaller type. I'm just the messenger here, I don't think there was a definitive answer as to why that happened to his edge.
  6. PatrickKnight


    Jan 24, 2012
    Well its good to know its at least as strong as my ESEE 3 is.
  7. shqxk


    Mar 26, 2012
    Elmax sound real cool but it ain't that tough as people thought. If you want tough steel, better look at 3V, XHP or INFI, they were better than Elmax in my experience.
  8. PatrickKnight


    Jan 24, 2012
    3V is also possible but im unsure if the extra strength is worth the trade off of being a royal pain to sharpen.
  9. james terrio

    james terrio Sharpest Knife in the Light Socket

    Apr 15, 2010
    Are you basing that on personal experience, or what you read on the interwebs? If based on experience, was it a properly ground cutter/slicer with a thin edge, or a thick-edged chopper?

    I don't find CPM-3V to be noticeably any more difficult to sharpen than other high-end steels like Elmax, CPM-154, CTS-XHP*, etc. Certainly not enough of a difference that I would decide against it based solely on ease of sharpening.

    *XHP is a really sweet steel, too - great balance of toughness and edge-retention without being crazy difficult to get sharp. I would use a lot more of it - if I could get my hands on any :(
  10. oatmeal

    oatmeal Basic Member Basic Member

    Sep 23, 2012
    I read from a metalurgist knife maker that neither elmax nor s30v is tough, brittle compared to tough steels such as INFI and Uddeholm chipper. But i think he means no chipping, no mather what, when he wrote "tough".

    An opinon! based on reading: I think a piece of perfect HT 61,5 hrc Elmax should be as tough as a good HT s30v.

    I think that out of: stainless/(semistainless), very hard>60, and very tough its hard to ask for more than two in one steel.

    Elmax hunting knives at above 60rc have av very high reputation among certain moosehunters.
  11. oatmeal

    oatmeal Basic Member Basic Member

    Sep 23, 2012
  12. Chipped Karambit

    Chipped Karambit

    Jan 12, 2012
  13. chiral.grolim

    chiral.grolim Universal Kydex Sheath Extension Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 2, 2008
    THANK YOU for actually submitting quantified data in response to the OP :thumbup:
    Here is more (not a paper, but verifiable data):

    To the OP, note Figure 8 in the linked paper, Elmax @ ~63 Rc possesses impact toughness ~30 J/cm^2, tougher at lower hardness.
    CPM-3V @ 62 Rc possesses impact toughness ~50 J/cm^2, @ 58 Rc it has ~100 J/cm^2.
    INFI @ ~60 Rc possesses impact toughness ~150 J/cm^2.

    In comparison, 1095 possesses impact toughness ~30 J/cm^2 at 58 Rc (your ESEE knife), down to 20 J @ 60 Rc. So at 5-point lower hardness, your ESEE has similar toughness to Elmax. It is not as strong as nor as tough as a similar geometry Elmax blade at higher hardness, nor will it have anywhere near the wear-resistance of Elmax. BUT... it will likely be less expensive, and that is a strength ;)
  14. PatrickKnight


    Jan 24, 2012
    Well im basing this on my ESEE 3 as it is by far my most used blade. The blade im thinking of getting is the Surviveknives EDC-4 its 5/32 inch thick heated to 59-60 hrc and you can get it in either ELMAX or 3V. Im looking for a more rust resitant blade than my 1095 ESEE but I dont want to lose toughness to do so and I think both these steels would be a huge gain in corosion resistance over 1095. I know 3V is tough as nails but have heard it is a good bit harder to sharpen while ELMAX is pretty easy to sharpen, again this is from what I have read I have not used either of these steels at all so I know nothing from first hand experience.

    Also thanks for the data posts guys the one I could acutally read was very helpful and the one I couldnt read I was still able to make out what the charts ment.
  15. stevewest


    Nov 25, 2006
    I have been trying to reprofile a Spyderco lionsteel and have just about given up(not really!).
  16. gytheran


    Apr 6, 2009
    If its the guy I'm thinking of, he twisted the blade putting all of the torque laterally on the thinnest part of the blade. He wasn't cutting them, but trying to pop them loose. It was operator error.
  17. james terrio

    james terrio Sharpest Knife in the Light Socket

    Apr 15, 2010
    You're right. Again, I'm confident from my own experience that Elmax will hold its own with 1095 and O1 (both very good steels, don't get me wrong) toughness-wise, and hold an edge better - even at the same Rc values. As chira points out, at higher hardness (58 to 60 is actually a pretty significant increase) Elmax retains that level of toughness where O1 loses some and 1095 really starts to fall off.

    CK's link has specific info on Elmax's corrosion resistance, which is very good. My own test (leaving a small coupon of it half-submerged in a glass of saltwater for several days) was admittedly not very scientific, but it didn't rust at all.

    I find 3V to be comparable to D2 in stain/corrosion resistance. They can both exhibit minor pitting, but neither is very likely to actually rust. They can both be etched/passified to reduce the pitting.
  18. me2


    Oct 11, 2003
    As far as high carbide stainless goes, it's pretty tough. In comparison to lower carbon/lower alloy steels, not so much. Were I seeking a blade with toughness as the number one priority, neither Elmax nor any alloy of it's class would be in the running. I'd say the three conventional steels you list will be tougher, and Infi, 3V, 5160, 8670M, 12C27, 12C27M, and a host of others would be in the running, depending on how much edge retention you're willing to trade for toughness, and whether stainless is a deal breaker. Heat treatment plays a huge role, but even Rowan can't treat 1095 to be stainless, nor 52100 to be as wear resistant as S30V, so I usually start with the alloy choice first.
  19. me2


    Oct 11, 2003
    I cannot read the text, but that chart seems to be a compilation of data from various sources, or is it all from actual testing performed for the paper? If it's from different sources, are you sure the impact testing is all comparable?
  20. claycat


    Apr 10, 2003

    Great for kitchen duty for sure, like butter, hardly any pressure.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Oct 16, 2012

Share This Page