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I Tested the Edge Retention of 48 Steels

Larrin

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Jan 17, 2004
Messages
4,476
Recently I was able to acquire a used CATRA machine, so I heat treated just about every knife steel I had, made 57 knives with the help of knifemaker Shawn Houston, and tested them all to see which cut the longest. For a few of the steels I did multiple heat treatments to look at a couple variables and to see the effect of hardness. I also compared edge retention and toughness to see which steels have the best balance of properties. https://knifesteelnerds.com/2020/05/01/testing-the-edge-retention-of-48-knife-steels/
 

evilgreg

Why so serious?
Gold Member
Joined
Dec 25, 2012
Messages
4,083
Recently I was able to acquire a used CATRA machine, so I heat treated just about every knife steel I had, made 57 knives with the help of knifemaker Shawn Houston, and tested them all to see which cut the longest. For a few of the steels I did multiple heat treatments to look at a couple variables and to see the effect of hardness. I also compared edge retention and toughness to see which steels have the best balance of properties. https://knifesteelnerds.com/2020/05/01/testing-the-edge-retention-of-48-knife-steels/

Wow, this is pretty awesome. Thanks for the great read. One of the things that always made me question other edge retention test results I've seen was the number of uncontrolled variables, some of them massively important (e.g. basic geometry).
 
Joined
Nov 4, 2015
Messages
30
Outstanding article, Larrin. Thank you.

Just a couple of future ideas. I know these things take an incredible amount of time, but I'd love to see:
  • Edge retention (TCC) vs. sharpening fineness of one or two steels, e.g. AEB-L and 52100 @ 200, 400, 600, 1200, 2000, 4000+ grit
  • Toughness, hardness, and hardness consistency of a given steel such as 52100 heat treated in different ways, but quenched and tempered uniformly. E.g. oven austenitized at 1525F for 15 minutes, oven austenitized at 1525F for 1 minute, forge / torch austenitized at best visual approximation of 1525F for 5 minutes, forge / torch austenitized at best visual of 1525F until "even" and immediately quenched.
 
Joined
Jan 27, 2017
Messages
1,198
I'm not sure anyone wants rectangle knives without handles, but I will probably keep them so that I can do side-by-side comparisons in the future.

dont be so sure about that - but hanging on them for future tests, etc. is probably a better idea -I havent read the article yet, but plan to when i have some time
 

Larrin

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Jan 17, 2004
Messages
4,476
Outstanding article, Larrin. Thank you.

Just a couple of future ideas. I know these things take an incredible amount of time, but I'd love to see:
  • Edge retention (TCC) vs. sharpening fineness of one or two steels, e.g. AEB-L and 52100 @ 200, 400, 600, 1200, 2000, 4000+ grit
  • Toughness, hardness, and hardness consistency of a given steel such as 52100 heat treated in different ways, but quenched and tempered uniformly. E.g. oven austenitized at 1525F for 15 minutes, oven austenitized at 1525F for 1 minute, forge / torch austenitized at best visual approximation of 1525F for 5 minutes, forge / torch austenitized at best visual of 1525F until "even" and immediately quenched.
The article does have a chart comparing 120 grit, 400 grit, and 0.5 micron diamond paste with AEB-L. So hopefully that will help with that question some.

I have a lot of articles about heat treating specific steels, including 52100. I'm not sure I will do any torch hardening though, as it's very difficult to control your heat treatment that way, so it ends up being a test of how well you operated the torch. https://knifesteelnerds.com/2019/05/13/how-to-heat-treat-52100/
 
Joined
Sep 10, 2015
Messages
331
Very impressive article...and incredible dedication to control all the variables. Thanks a lot for your work Larrin (and thanks also to Shawn) :thumbsup:
One small critic : it would have helped to have colored dots and full steel labels also in the "Toughness-Edge Retention Balance" charts instead of all-blue dots.

Interesting to see 3V beat A8 Mod in edge retention with same toughness.
Also interesting to see S30V with same result than M4.

I have one question about 1095 : what is the purpose of this steel? Why is it so popular for knives companies ? It has very low edge retention and very low corrosion resistance. And, compared to other low alloy steels, the toughness is unimpressive (for instance compared to 5160 or 52100).
Why the myriads of knives in 1095 steel (ESEE, TOPS, Ontario, Ka-Bar...etc)?
Why not using something like S35VN? You have MUCH better edge retention, MUCH better corrosion resistance and same toughness (around 10 ft-lbs).
I understand the purpose of 5160 or 52100 (high toughness) but IMHO it makes no sense to use a low toughness low alloy steel like 1095 or 01. You have all possible downsides and no upsides.
 

Larrin

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Jan 17, 2004
Messages
4,476
I have one question about 1095 : what is the purpose of this steel? It has very low edge retention and very low corrosion resistance. And, compared to other low alloy steels, the toughness is unimpressive (for instance compared to 5160 or 52100).
Why the myriads of knives in 1095 steel (ESEE, TOPS, Ontario, Ka-Bar...etc)?
Why not using something like S35VN? You have MUCH better edge retention, MUCH better corrosion resistance and same toughness (around 10 ft-lbs).
I understand the purpose of 5160 or 52100 (high toughness) but IMHO it makes no sense to use a low toughness low alloy steel like 1095 or 01. You have all possible downsides and no upsides.
1095 is very inexpensive which helps. It is one of the oldest knife steels. S35VN is orders of magnitude more expensive. For large knives the 1095 is easier to sharpen which matters in big chopping knives. And historically 1095 has a good reputation for toughness so they probably view it as a good choice despite the low results when it is actually tested.
 
Joined
Sep 10, 2015
Messages
331
1095 is very inexpensive which helps. It is one of the oldest knife steels. S35VN is orders of magnitude more expensive. For large knives the 1095 is easier to sharpen which matters in big chopping knives. And historically 1095 has a good reputation for toughness so they probably view it as a good choice despite the low results when it is actually tested.

I didn't know S35VN was so expensive compared to 1095.
What is the price of AEB-L compared to 1095?
AEB-L is also an old steel, easy to sharpen, with more edge retention than 1095 (360 vs 316 at 61HRC). It's stainless and it has three times the toughness compared to 1095 (30 ft-lbs vs 10 ft-lbs).
 
Joined
Sep 3, 2012
Messages
590
That was really a lot of work. Thank you for the effort and going through the headache and cost to provide this data. This is really informative and it definitely challenges some of what we think we know about steels and their performance.
 
Last edited:
Joined
May 17, 2013
Messages
1,126
Thank you for this fantastic study, I am sure this will be a great reference for many consumers and makers in years to come, really appreciate it to say the least!

Just one humble request, any chance we may see X55CrMo14 (1.4110) tested for toughness and edge retention? If I am not mistaken, that's SAK steel and just curious where it stands.
 
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