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what is the best steel for a bushcraft knife?

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by mitchell898, Aug 27, 2012.

  1. mitchell898


    Aug 27, 2012
    iv'e wanted to make an all around bushcraft knife and wondered what steel would be the best. stainless,tool steel,carbon, any suggestions?
  2. night man

    night man

    Aug 27, 2010
    1095 or 01 would be my vote
  3. Rick Marchand

    Rick Marchand Donkey on the Edge Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jan 6, 2005
    Welcome to the forum!

    Take a few minutes to fill out your profile.

    Have you made knives before? If so, what kind of equipment do you use? Certain steels require specific methods to reach full potential.

    Make yourself a list of specific tasks you expect from your knife, then make a decision based on a steel and heat treat that best suits those expectations.

    As it stands you will get many different answers on what the best steel is.... that just tells me that there isn't one.
  4. Ninja Blacksmith

    Ninja Blacksmith

    Aug 26, 2012
    If this is a knife that will be used quite often, a deeper hardening high carbon or tool steel might be the better choice in the long run. As has already been mentioned, 1095 and O1 should be well suited for the job of a bushcraft; I've worked with O1 some and if heat treated to textbook execution can take and hold a rather fine edge. Also, W1 and W2 are more shallow hardening but can have just as much durability as O1, and are less "picky" when being heat treated. However, I've only been working with high carbon/tool stock for 1 year, so take this with a grain of salt.
  5. mitchell898


    Aug 27, 2012
    Thanks for the reply, I have made a few knives before but still quite new to this. I'm using a simple hand grinder and will probably be using the knife for average camping tasks like carving but nothing to heavy like chopping. also, would you recommend a certain thickness? thanks,

  6. Hesparus


    Oct 31, 2004
    I think you can get a lot of insight into your question by looking at the custom and production bushcraft knives out there, especially those designed/endorsed by bushcraft instructors or by knifemakers who are themselves bushcrafters.

    - Chris
  7. KC8QVO


    Apr 7, 2011
    Something else to consider in your quest is blade maintenance. 1095 is pretty easy to maintain but it seems to loose its "sharpness" quicker. It also is prone to rusting, which is why you will see a lot of 1095 blades that are painted (ESEE and Becker for example). The tougher and more wear resistant the steel the harder it is to maintain, but at the same time it becomes more durable.

    For whittling and carving a tougher steel might be more applicable as the edge will be less prone to rolling with the wood shaving process (side loading the blade). If you are doing more cutting (rope, vines, etc) a more wear resistant steel would be more applicable. If you are going to be using your blade in wet weather or wet materials (wet wood) a stainless, or less stain-able carbon steel would be better, just note that stainless steels can sacrifice the toughness and wear resistance for corrosion resistance.

    Keep in mind that the same qualities that can make a great blade steel can also make it very difficult to work with.
  8. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    This is the bladeforums search engine. Save it in your Favorites bar and use it to look up past topics. Plugging in "Steel For Bushcraft" will give you a lot to read:

    Welcome to Bladeforums. Filling out your profile will help us help you.
    The stickies have a lot of info. The one on "How to Instructions for Making a Knife" is useful to newer makers with few tools.
  9. night man

    night man

    Aug 27, 2010
    As far as thickness goes, I like 3/16". Its thin enough that if you do a high flat grind you can still make a really good slicer or you could do a shallow grind and leave the blade a little thicker behind the blade for harder use, but it is still stout enough for a lot of abuse. I only use 1/4" for larger knives or on a small knife that is intended for hard use. I only use 1/8" steel if it is requested.
  10. chad2


    Sep 2, 2011
    1095 is not a deep hardening steel.

    i would go with 5160 if it was going to be used as a hard use knife and my next choice would be 52100 if just as a bush craft knife then O1. for a bush craft knife something that is not going to be use for batoning 52100 or O1 is a great choice. but for someone new at knife making i would send them out for heat treat.
  11. darkpath5


    Aug 7, 2011
    IMO it's not so much the steel that makes a great bushcraft experience/knife but the skills of those that wield the knife. The grind type and edge angle will also have a huge effect on performance, possibly even more so than steel type. Heat treat is of course also a very important factor.

    My advice would be to take a variety of knives...different handles/grips and steel varieties and spend a solid weekend using them and see what you come up with. You might be surprised at your final choice. I know I was at first. Everyone will have a different opinion of this.

    Good luck!
  12. Rick Marchand

    Rick Marchand Donkey on the Edge Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jan 6, 2005
    I would tend to agree with Chad on this one. Even if you have a bit of experience, unless you are willing to commit time and energy to the learning curve of a new steel, send it to a professional heat treater. It removes THE biggest variable of the equation.
  13. mitchell898


    Aug 27, 2012
    Thanks, I think 3/16 will suit me best
  14. mitchell898


    Aug 27, 2012
    where should I send it for heat treat?
  15. Fanglekai


    Jan 7, 2007
    Peters seems to be mentioned here fairly often.
  16. chad2


    Sep 2, 2011
    +1 on peters

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