Steel in case knives

Dec 9, 2000
I'm really attracted to some of case's traditional-pattern knives, but the steel doesn't look good. I know that sounds stupid, but usualy I've found that a really bright, shiny blade usualy means a cheap, soft stainless steel. Are these knives available in good, old fashioned, high carbon steel? If not, what are everyone's experiences with the stainless steel in these knives? I think they call it true-sharp or something similar. I could be way off base, since I'm just going by apperance, so I'm sorry if the tone of this post seems negative...
The steel in my Case trapper is chrome vanadium, moderately stainless,easy to sharpen and holds an edge for a while. It could be made from a higher grade of steel like BG42 but in the blade thickness in the trapper BG42 would snap very easily. This business is usually a tradeoff between performance and durability. The pocket knife business is low end and the knife usually gets abused a lot so sacrificing a little edge holding for durability is a wise move.

All in all Case put out a pretty good knife when you consider the cost.
Some of the current Amber Bone series use CV steel. I bought a medium stockman with awl. The fit and finish is every bit as good or better than the stainless. In fact the blade grind is much better than anything I've seen from Case. It even has a real point on the main blade instead of being rounded off!

I'd stay away from the stainless models. Case's stainless steel, IMHO, is pretty bad. The chrome vanadium models, which there aren't too many models with, isn't too bad. I wouldn't put in the class of Shrade's carbon steel, but it's not bad. You really can't tell a Case steel by the shininess though. Both their stainless and chrome vanadium can be put to a mirror polish.

I understand you search for a pocketknife that both looks good (wood or bone handle) and performs well. There don’t seem to be a whole lot of American manufacturers combining the two. Kershaw’s Double Cross is a real hit. Camillus’ celluloid abalone looks pretty hot also, with 1095 carbon steel. The Bucks aren’t a whole lot to look at, but perform beautifully. The same goes for the carbon steel Shrade Old Timers.
John Sullivan, Director of Marketing for W.R. Case & Sons, addresses similar questions/comments in This Thread over on the "Case forum" at

--The Raptor--
Case does NOT market it's CV as stainless. They say it will rust.
The TruSharp Surgical Stainless Steel they use in most of their knives is 420HC. I was told it is hardened around RH 56. Combined with mirror polish it is just fine for the collector knives. With minimal care will stay shiny for a long time.
I am not impressed with the ones I have owned or handled as users. But due to the handles they are nice show off pieces. For light and infrequent cutting tasks they are more than adequate.
I've found the stainless Case knives to be quite lacking in the blade dept. The CV steel knives are better, but as said above, they are suited to occasional cutting only. I use mine more as a dress knife when I don't want a black BM hanging ouf of my slacks when out to dinner. I've had a great deal of trouble getting a decent edge on mine as well. It's still just barely hair shaving sharp. I've been looking high and low for a good looking folder made of natural material (bone) for a while and the only thing I've found that looks decent and is supposed to have high carbon steel blades, and doesn't cost an arm and a leg is the Henckels line of traditional folders. I haven't tried one yet, but I think one of their 4 blade stockmans will be my next purchase.
Case's CV has, thru the years, proven itself to be a most excellent steel for a working will stain...get over that point. Holds edges well, sharpens easily and yes, I have seen them shave right out of the box...The 4 blade congress one of us is searching for will prove ellusive shortly...Case has dropped 4 blades from the 2001 catalog...there are still some of the most recent offerings available; the yellow handle w/CV steel and the autumn bone(peachseed) in SS are still on dealers shelves. In rural SW VA Case still rules..We sell Case 5:1 over all lines...reason?? 1) collectability...even the cheap, plastic handled knives have a collectors following somewhere...2) Use-ability....most of Cases offerings are everyday pocketknives,,something you are not afraid to use because of price..3) have to look real hard to find a current case knife over $60.00 Many "elite" lines do not have entry level knives in this price range....JMO md
I own a few case knives, and I've found that the steel is very decent. It's not a "super" steel like 440v, but it doesn't have to be. Case knives are all about the natural materials and hand workmanship.:)
Don't forget that Case makes three ATS-34 models, all designed by Tony Bose. They are very high end and aimed at collectors, but they would be great users if anyone so desired. All in all, I think that Chrome Vandium is fine, just take care of the blade. That is pretty what we have to do with many so called stainless knives, especially the bead blasted ones.

Still, if you want a traditional pocketknife with good quality stainless, get Queen Steel instead. Many of the recent models use ATS-34 and the older ones are 440C. I understand that Queen has used 440C since 1945. I understand Queen is about to change steels and they have not yet announced, but I'm sure that it will be top flight.
I don't want a traditional slipjoint folder in a super steel like 440V. I would be tickled pink it Case would market a line of pocketknives with bone handles and plain old 1095 blades. They would outperform what they are making now.
I have had good luck with Case CV. It is definitely not a stainless steel. I have also found that when you switch back and forth between CV and some of the high hardened alloys, like BM ATS-34, you have to be careful about adjusting your sharpening approach. It is easy to roll the edge on the softer CV or other carbon steels, which could account for the just barely sharp sentiment expressed above. I can get it hair-popping sharp with little trouble, and in my use (mostly cardboard with a little whittling) it will hold an edge better than the BM ATS-34.
Brasso - If you are looking for other reasonably priced brands with natural handles and good carbon steel try Eye Brand and Kissing Crane. I think Buck Creek, Indian Head, and Bulldog are also made by the same folks as Eye Brand. I have found, in my use, that the Henckels carbon steel isn't quite as good as Eye Brand, Kissing Crane, or Case CV.
CV is great, the stainless is average. My complaint with Case is they seem to offer the CV in a limited number of patterns and scale combinations. For example I would love a bone scaled whittler or congress in CV, but they don't offer that combination as a standard prduction model. I think you can get them as Case Classics, but they are substantially more expensive and targeted to collectors not users.
Does CV get the same patina as carbon blades (eventually turning black like a Schrade Old Timer blade)?
Allen -

CV behaves just like all my other carbon steels. It will stain or rust with the best of them.
I had a breakthrough tonight. I sharpened my CV Case with a rough diamond stone and then stropped it on an old leather belt. It's pretty darn sharp now. I guess I need to get a real strop and see what it will do.
I put a DMT angle clamp on a CV Copperlock and laid it up for about 3 days before I got back to finish sharpening. With the humid weather lately, I had a nice black mark on the blade the same shape as the end of the clamp. Now I know where to clamp it on next time.