I sometimes struggle for a fitting term

Discussion in 'Traditional Folders and Fixed Blades' started by Hickory n steel, May 30, 2020.

  1. Hickory n steel

    Hickory n steel Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 11, 2016
    What would we call are old carbon steels and stainless steels below 440c ?
    Above that super steels or premium steels seem to be clear acceptable terms, but what about those most often found on traditional knives ?

    Budget steels or softer steels don't sound right to me because they were once standard fair and still are in the traditional world.

    What about traditional knife steels, would anyone go complaining " this steel or that steel is non traditional because xyz.. "

    I'm not looking to write a dictionary here, I sometimes just don't know what to say that would avoid confusion or require examples.
    Last edited: May 30, 2020
  2. Just Tom.

    Just Tom.

    Apr 24, 2019
    “Traditional” or “conventional” seem fine to me, as in “using conventional methods and materials”. In my line of work (at least locally) when GPS was new to land surveying, using optical survey instruments began to be described as “conventional survey methods”.
  3. Will Power

    Will Power

    Jan 18, 2007
    Dinosaurs ;):D

    Why the need for a general term though? Why not refer to them as they are- 1095, C75, 01, Trusharp, 420 A-C? Being specific works well enough surely?
    meako, guy g, Cutfinger and 3 others like this.
  4. Jack Black

    Jack Black Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 2, 2005
    I generally say, 'Good old steel', because it is, and I am often still amazed by how the smallest amount of work on the blade of an old carbon-steel knife will generate a razor-sharp edge very quickly. It's generally the case with old knives, that the exact type of steel used is unknown, but if it hadn't been good, the knives wouldn't have sold :thumbsup:
  5. Hickory n steel

    Hickory n steel Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 11, 2016
    You know that sounds about right, classic might do as well.
    Last edited: May 30, 2020
    Jack Black likes this.
  6. Hickory n steel

    Hickory n steel Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 11, 2016
    When I know exactly what a steel is and I'm discussing it specifically I will name it, but sometimes I need to say for example " I prefer...blade steels over the premium steels " and It would be nice to fill in the blank with something that needs no explanation.
    I think traditional sounds about right, I'm not looking to set one in stone to be standard practice, just trying to come up with a good one that works well.
    meako and Jack Black like this.
  7. JohnDF

    JohnDF Gold Member Gold Member

    May 14, 2018
    Classic Steels?
    Vintage Steels?
    Traditional Steels?
    I kinda like Jack's "Good Old Steels".
    meako and Jack Black like this.
  8. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    I don't care for the terms "super" or "premium" as those are highly subjective. An old steel that is very good for the intended task and has decades of proven use could quite rightly fall into those categories. For me, VG10 would be an excellent example here.

    Likewise, there are steels like BD1N, H1, and LC200N that are revolutionary but many who use those terms wouldn't put them in those categories, although I most definitely would.

    I think carbon, low alloy and high alloy, or even, low vanadium and high vanadium alloys work pretty well and are accurate descriptors. It most cases it really is the vanadium content that most people associate with "super" steel. But that's not always the case. ZDP-189 with almost no vanadium but very high chromium content enables it to get crazy hard and hold an edge for a very, very long time. So I try to use low alloy and high alloy content steels.
    meako and Jack Black like this.
  9. TheChunk91

    TheChunk91 Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 15, 2013
    I’ve always said good old carbon steel. Jack has it right.
    Jack Black likes this.
  10. kamagong


    Jan 13, 2001
    Simple carbon steels?
    Cutfinger likes this.
  11. black mamba

    black mamba Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 21, 2009
    I like the sound of classic steels, which also doesn't leave out the stainless varieties. 440A has been around for well over 50 years and still does a terrific job for a pocket knife, e.g. Camillus and Uncle Henry.
    meako and Jack Black like this.
  12. afishhunter

    afishhunter Basic Member Basic Member

    Oct 21, 2014
    "Foist ..." (as Curley Stooges would say) I have seen threads and posts in Traditionals in which some of the Traditionals Good/Fair Folk were complaining about the steel used ... besides those desiring GEC to use more 440C.
    I'm too lazy this overcast ante meridian to search for them ... (as Max Smart would say ... "Sorry about that ...")

    Personally, I don't care what the blade steel is. Some of the steels mentioned above ... like reading Simplified or Traditional Chinese, or maybe Egyptian Hieroglyphics or Russian ... I figure the manufacturer is going to be intelligent enough to use a suitable for a knife blade steel, and is hopefully intelligent enough to realize that said steel needs to be properly hardened and tempered, provided they wish to remain in business, at any rate. (hopefully their quality control department (if they have one) will also prevent any blades that they "forgot" to harden and/or temper from leaving the factory to be sold to unsuspecting consumers.)
    I notice that even the dreaded "Surgical" and "Razor" mystery steels are not cast iron or repurposed auto body parts and (with a few exceptions such as some GERBER knives) can actually get sharp, and stay sharp enough to slice a single love apple or bagel.
    (IMHO, Gerber should stick to making baby food and baby bottles. Things they know how to make ... sortta ... for the most part ...)

    Technically, I suppose one could properly call steels such as the 10xx carbon steels, and the 400 stainless steels "obsolete", since they've (allegedly) been surpassed in all ways by more "modern" steels such as those mentioned above and others.

    You can also call the old steels like the 10xx carbon steels and all of the 400 series/number stainless steels "functional", "reliable", "venerable", "classic" "carbon steel" and "stainless" steel" as applicable, or in combinations, such as "... the blades are of venerable classic 1095 carbon steel that will take a razor edge ..."

    I'm going back to bed ... Y'all have a wonderful day, please.
    meako and oldtymer like this.
  13. I usually describe such steels as 'mainstream' cutlery steels, in the sense that they're found everywhere in the cutlery world and are the most familiar to average end-users of cutlery everywhere, even if most might not know their proper names (1095, 420HC, 440A/B/C, etc.) or what each is actually made of. The vast majority of cutlery users in the world have never seen or held in their hands anything made of so-called 'premium' or 'super' steels, as we know them.

    In the most basic sense, these same common steels could also be termed simply 'high carbon' and 'high carbon stainless', by definition in the industry. As defined in industry, 'high carbon' simply means any steel containing ~ 0.4% - 0.5% or greater carbon, which is enough to make the steel heat-treatable and therefore enough to make knives that hold a decently fine, sharp edge in use.
  14. hornetguy

    hornetguy Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 11, 2015
    Most of the knifemakers referred to them as "surgical stainless steel". It became the generic term, like "kleenex", or "aircraft grade aluminum".....
    Whenever I saw that, I immediately thought "400 series" steel.
    Anything non-stainless, I call carbon steel. There are a few that are "tool steels", like D2, etc. that are almost stainless.
    meako likes this.
  15. ea42

    ea42 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 1, 2006
    I think in general terms carbon steel and stainless steel (when referring to the 420, 440a and similar stainless) are good enough. I think you have to at least differentiate between the two as one rusts easily and the other doesn't.

    Will Power likes this.
  16. pholder


    Feb 16, 2005
    perhaps modern steel of their era, after all, All steel was once new, thanks for listening
    meako likes this.
  17. Danke42


    Feb 10, 2015
    I think if you've got the urge to horn in on conversations about steel but can't explain what you've got and why it's better those folks need to listen a whole lot more.

    We don't need a new name for something old. That smacks of marketing.
  18. Hickory n steel

    Hickory n steel Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 11, 2016
    That's a good answer because Buck, camillus, case, Schrader, and others used or have been using both carbon and stainless for years.

    I'm just looking for a good general term here, you know like " traditional knife " or " modern knife " but for those steels most common to factory produced traditional knives.
    I just want to imply that they're common to traditionals and don't want to imply they're anything less than.
  19. gaj999

    gaj999 Basic Member Basic Member

    Jan 25, 2004
    You could try antiquated/old-fashioned and modern. Ingot and PM, respectively. But there are so many other variables in play that it's a very incomplete descriptor. Steels "below" 440C? Below in what way? Carbide volume? Useful hardness? Toughness? Carbide size? Corrosion resistance? Abrasion resistance?

    Not all cutting jobs are the same. Are you shaving your face or are you cutting up old carpet? Two very different steels are best for those very different jobs. The steel best for shaving your face doesn't benefit much from PM, while the carpet cutter does. And don't forget heat treat. A mediocre steel with good heat treat will outperform a premium steel with a crappy heat treat. And geometry. It can make a huge difference in performance. A blade with good geometry, mediocre steel, and a soft heat treat can still cut well enough to keep a lot of folks happy, while many a mall-ninja blade made from well-treated super steel cuts like crap because it's so thick ... the actual steel used is just one of many important variables. At some point, the steel may become the limiting variable - try making a decent knife from 420J2, for example. If another variable limits the design, the actual steel used may be irrelevant. Steel becomes important when the maker has all their other ducks in a row.
    meako likes this.
  20. Hickory n steel

    Hickory n steel Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 11, 2016
    I think I'll just go with old faithful blade steels, because they've been around a long time they're proven and still get the job done as well as ever.
    I'm sure this sounds dumb to many, but sometimes labels can make things easier.

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