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Super Steels vs. old school

Nov 5, 2006
I'm not sure i get the hype about all these design steels (eg: s30v, and all those fancy new blade steels).

Don't get me wrong, I a techie junkie myself, and it would be nice to have one of those fancy blades, but steels like AUS8 and 1095 have performed great for me in the past and I dont really see where its necessary to pay more for a steel that may perform better in the extremes, but for typical EDC or work use there isn't much advantage.

Example: AUS8 Junglee Sahara Jr. Great knife, takes a shaving sharp edge easily and holds it tenasciously. Was my EDC/work knife for years, and never let me down.

Another example would be the 1095 Ka-bars...
And dont forget the ever faithful 440C. Those blade are readily available most anywhere. I have this same thread on another forum. I dont see many makers offering the old standbys. They have gone to the more trendy steels. Are they really any better?
Seems like the more we learn the less we know, donchaknow. S30v was developed by crucible for knifemaking, to address certain shortcomings in their other particle metalurgy steels from a manufacturing standpoint. It was engineered to be relatively easy to heat treat and to be fairly tough for a stainless steel. Yet it seems it chips easily and this is usually blamed on the heat treatment somewhere. So far it looks like ZDP is one of the few "wonder steels" to really perform outside of paper specs, and it does that through high hardness while chipping less than s30v seems to.
I've only had a S30V blade for about three weeks now, a Benchmade Mini Rukus, but I have to say I am impressed with this steel, so far. It sharpens easily and holds a shaving edge an exceptionally long time. Seems like a very fine grained steel. That being said, I like most fine-grained steels including Buck's 420HC, too, along with good old 1095, Carbon V/50100-B, Roselli's high carbon (Krupp) steel, Helle laminated steel, and Marble's 52100 from when Mike Stewart was there and Bark River's A2. And I carry a SAK every day and like that steel, too. I'm also impressed with Dozier's D2 though it doesn't seem to be particularly fine-grained and is kind of peculiar to sharpen compared to the others (but boy, does it cut with a coarser edge!).
For me, it isn't worth it.

When I compare an S30V blade to a 420HC one, this is what I note:

Corrosion Resistence - 420c
Ease Of Reprofiling - 420c
Most Dependable Track Record - 420c
Resistence To Edge Deformation Or Chipping - 420c
Edge Stability Under Acute Edge Angles - 420c
Edge Holding - S30V

For me, the edge holding abilities of "low end" steels has never been a problem. With my SAKs, which have about the worst edge holding out of my knives, they lose their super sharp bite quickly, but continue to cut very well for some time. Their edge holding satisfies me, the edge holding of the higher RC Byrd steel more than satisfies me. I've never felt compelled to buy a knife for it's good knife steel. The only reason I've used S30V is because it was attatched to a handle I found to be comfortable (Manix).
There are some Japanese super steels that really perform outstanding. Problem being, the steel is priced so high no one can afford to use it. Hitachi makes one of them. They say it has edge holding 3 times better than 30v.

As the member above says I have had no trouble in the past with 440C steel in knives.
I use my Spydie Military in S30V alot. Its good on a full serrated blade for never having to sharpen (ease of use blah blah blah). But my all time favorite steel is ATS 134 and 154cm which are both about the same and for the money do everything the s30v does and leaves me dinner money.
"Resistence To Edge Deformation Or Chipping - 420c"

In my experience, the lower end steels aren't as resistant to edge deformation as some of the higher end steels. I've never had chipping issues with any of my knives, probably because I just don't cut things that would cause chipping.

I do however cut up cardboard often and after doing so, the edge of my Leek (440A) or the edge of my Schrade (440A) will have lots of tiny parts of the edge reflecting light. My 1095 Ka-bar and Carbon V knives also develop those tiny deformations, which was unexpected. I've never really had that problem with VG-10 (SERE 2k) or S30V (Paramilitary). All of them still had their factory edges when I compared them. Dunno if you consider M2 a "super steel," but my M2 Benchmade hasn't had those issues either.

Maybe the heat treat on my 440A knives are off or something. They hold an edge fine and are very simple to touch up, which I really like, but they don't seem to perform as well as my more expensive knives. Is the "super steel" worth the extra money? Now that I don't know. I generally use my cheaper knives and they do the job, if that says anything.
Even though we live in an age of newly developed 'super steels' I still find myself using 1095 steel as much or more than any other. D2 is my all around favorite though which I guess is technically a carbon steel since its not considered stainless. It seems to me that once D2 is hardened that its as stain resistant as the best stainless blades I have. I've even bead blasted it with good success as I know others have.

I find that the 1095 tool steel is still one of my favorite go to steels. I love it in folders. My Old Timers, and Scagel Repros, as well as a 2001 Marbles Tear Drop Buffalo horn slippy are a few of my best performing knives and all are that steel. I'd pit these against any of my super steel knives anyday of the week. So what if the steel the blades are made of is like 180 year old steel technology. It works.

I wish more of the modern knives used carbon steel. I would like to see this happen soon. I don't care how pretty the blade is, I just want it to cut well and sharpen easily.
In my experience, the lower end steels aren't as resistant to edge deformation as some of the higher end steels.

This is mainly because people leave them softer as they are given cheap heat treatments as they are used in cheap knives.

Even though we live in an age of newly developed 'super steels' I still find myself using 1095 steel as much or more than any other.

1095 is actually one of the better knife steels, it offers either a very high edge stability and general edge retention when left hard (66 HRC) or offers solid performance for machetes and other large blades when drawn to spring hardness for high toughness.

Most of the new "super" steels are not super at all, they just have a large wear resistance usually, and this isn't anything new. Lots of very old steels have a high wear resistance, D series, O7, high carbon W series, high carbon HSS, etc. .

Don't fall for the hype.

I have always been a fan of tool steels, have an older Carbon V SRK that will take and hold an awesome edge. I feel very fortunate to have grabbed a few Benchmade folders in M2HS tool steel, all of them take a wicked sharp edge that holds well and sharpens with ease. Benchmades are still relatively new to me, started purchasing them as the last of the M2 Ritters rolled off the line. The relative ease of sharpening and edge performance in general is what I really have grown to appreciate with the tool steels, though D2 can be a bit of a pain. On the stainless side, have a Nim Cub in 440c, but am still in the process of reprofiling the blade. Seems to be easy enough to work with, and is likely more than capable of any task I would encounter. vg-10 seems to be a great "all-round" steel, have a couple of Shrikes and a Delica that are extremely sharp and perform well. Have one blade in AUS-8, a Camillus Heat- it is quite a respectable folder. It may not hold the edge quite as well as some of the others, but it is easily acceptable to me in terms of sharpness and edge retention.

High carbon less-stainless or non-stainless steels were used for many years (with proper heat treatment - which is usually much simpler than with most "stainless" steels) and work very well. The right steel for the right job... shock resistance, edge-holding, etc. Of course... even without heat treatment you can do some "amazing" things with just a very sharp piece of metal - try getting a sliver of soda can and putting a quick edge on it - try slicing meat, soft-skinned fruit, etc...;)

Stainless steels, in general, AFAIK cannot beat the performance of good non-stainless steels - could be wrong, but that's my general impression so far. Plus, most carbon steels are far cheaper to make and heat treat (you can do it yourself w/ an inexpensive mailbox/barbecue forge). I'm not sure there are any general characteristics regarding tooling, drilling, etc.