What steel do you prefer in your fixed blade knife and why?

Oct 14, 1998
As a continuation to the other thread about steel choice in folders, I have been thinking through steel choice in fixed blades.

In a knife under 9 inches (cutting edge), I currently favor A2. A2 is a steel that is well proven and has gotten good reviews from many people. Based on my good experiences, I am hard pressed to try a knife in another steel but, I think being an A2 only person is probably not the best approach. With the current coatings available to combat rust, I tend to favor good old carbon steels and discount BG-42 and ATS-34 in fixed blades in general.

CPM M4 looks good but, all attempts to get blade stock to have a knife made, have proven unsuccessful. O-1 and 1095 can be differentially heat treated and are good steels but, I am not totally sold on differentially heat treated steels. Busse's INFI is still a mystery to me but, looks promising. I am sure there are other steels out there that are not the current rage in fixed blades that are very good as well.
What steel do you prefer? Why do you like it? How about cost? Would a Mad Dog ATAK sized blade made from Talonite be cost prohibitive and have adequate toughness? I will also note, that I am looking for a good general purpose knife steel, nothing overly thick (like Cold Steels offerings) and not anything overly thin (like a machete), just a good "normal" fixed blade knife steel you would use at a camp site, on a farm, etc.


I, too, think A-2 is an excelllent knife steel! I like L-6 that has been properly forged...it is my favorite using knife steel. Why? It holds an edge extremely well and is very easy to sharpen! Damascus steel is second as a using knife steel, as a skinning steel it is hard to beat as it just keeps on cutting!
I think that the key to a good tool steel is the proper heat treatment.
I like several steels, for several reasons.
For a using utility knife 6-7" or less, I keep coming back to D-2. Its readily available, and very consistent in its heat treating if you follow the proper 'recipe'. You get a blade that is tougher than ATS-34, and holds an edge longer, but not so difficult to sharpen that a someone with a stone and a little patience can't work with it.
I also like it because you can grind it to fairly thin profiles and it doesnt' warp during heat treatment. It doesn't have the toughness of A-2, but unless its a chopping knife you're looking for, you won't miss it.

For a heavy use knife I would say that you couldn't go wrong with A-2, or 5160. L-6 is real nice, but outside of forging it, its hard to find in the proper sizes for a big blade. You can even enhance the performance of 5160 and L-6 by the process of bainite tempering it, so its about as close as someone might come to making an indestructible knife. They both require sharpening more than the tool steels, and care to prevent them from rusting, but they cut well, are tougher than the dickens, and sharpen real easy.

My last choice for a steel is, of all things, 440C. About as stainless as you can get without compromising edge holding, and it is a good nimrod's steel. Not much you are going to do is going to make it rust, and its easy to sharpen. Plus its a relatively tough steel, so you can beat it around without being worried about chipping an edge or breaking a blade.

There are better performing steels out there for certain applications, like some of the CPM series, but for overall utility and user-friendliness, there is nothing wrong with a good tool steel.

Gentlemen; please come and give your input on the thread I started about alloys. Your advice is welcomed, and will be well received. There is much good information about alloys in the above post, but madpoet, consider the data sheet for CPM 3V (soon to be posted for all to read).

A2 is a good tool steel. It has, at Rc 60, an impact toughness (Charpy c-notch) of 40 ft-lbs. CPM 3V has a toughness of 40, at a Rc of 62!! Toughness of CPM 3V is 50 at Rc 60, and an incredible toughness of 85 ft. lbs at a Rc of 58!!

CPM-M2 has 20 ft. lbs toughness at Rc 62, and CPM-M4 a toughness of 32 ft. lbs.

There are drawbacks to any alloy, but this seems to be an extraordinary tool steel.

Come over and share your views with us. I apologize for quoting facts not available to you. I do so only for education, and to make you aware that there are lots of data out there which most of us don't know about.

Sid, I have been discussing large Talonite blades with Robert N Simonich and his estimates were competetive with MD's. If things go well I might have a 12" Talonite blade similar in design to a TUSK this summer.


Just what is the "process of bainite tempering"? You've got my curiosity up on that one.

Guess I need to look a little closer at the D-2 as well.


I would be very interested in any experience you get with a "big" Talonite knife. I have been wondering about this material for use in things ranging from kitchen knives to large knives (almost short swords I guess). I know it is probably cost prohibitive for most people to use in a large knife but, how many really large knives does one need in a lifetime - might as well get the right one the first time :)

Sid; does this help you any? The definition is from Metalmart, Inc.'s definitions of metallurgical terminology:

A slender, needle-like (acicular) microstructure appearing in spring steel strip characterized by toughness and greater ductility than tempered Martensite. Bainite is a decomposition product of Austenite (see Austenite) best developed at interrupted holding temperatures below those forming fine pearlite and above those giving Martensite.

Hope this helps, Walt
Sid, how many knives do you need? That's easy, one more than you currently have

Anyway, I am not going to quote numbers as Rob did not give me a formal quote we were just discussing it, but, if the Busse and Md blades seem fairly priced then you are not going to be thrown at the Talonite prices. But yeah for a lot of people they will seem really high.

Madpoet, how thick would you make L6 to get it strong enough so that it could take really heavy work without taking a perm. bend or fracturing? What kind of edge will it take?