What's more important? Take an edge or hold an edge?

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by Hal, Oct 17, 2020.

  1. Hal


    Feb 26, 1999
    I've gotten to the point in life that I just don't care for the sharpening ritual. I'm more inclined to buy or choose a knife based on its ability to easily take a keen edge more so that it's ability to hold that edge.
    My everyday use knife is an old Kershaw Lever Lock with (IIRC AUS 6 steel)
    It takes a marvelous edge with just a couple of swipes on the Sharpmaker.
    I bet it's been a good decade or more since this knife has seen the oil stone.

    Knife number #2 on my desk is an old Old Timer that is just super easy to sharpen. Again. just a few swipes are all it takes & that old friend is back in business.

    Knife #3 on the desktop is an old ATS 34 Benchmade 350. Nice knife, but,the ATS 34 never appealed to me. It feels like it "smears" when I try to sharpen it.
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  2. Twindog

    Twindog Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 6, 2004
    I like steel that holds an edge well and is stable with a thin edge.

    With diamonds, a thin edge is a breeze to keep sharp; and with a high-wear steel, I don't have to mess with constant sharpening, even when I have a lot of work to do with my knife.
  3. 000Robert

    000Robert Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 28, 2020
    I vote also for holding an edge.
    ktataragasi likes this.
  4. soc_monki

    soc_monki Basic Member Basic Member

    Apr 5, 2019
    Just depends. Something like an mtech might take an edge easily, but it won't hold it at all. On the other end s90v will take an edge, but it takes a while. It will hold it a long time though!

    I find m390/20cv, S30v, and m4 all take an edge pretty easily and all hold it very well. Reprofiling to a thinner edge make take a bit, but maintaining an edge is no problem.
    Razor, woodysone, Hale Storm and 5 others like this.
  5. Houlahound

    Houlahound Basic Member Basic Member

    Aug 2, 2017
    Discussed this with my local butcher, he is open to trying different knives. He uses knives to break down carcases and process meat down to fine artistic presentation all day for his entire working life.

    He prefers to touch an edge up on a steel literally every few slices. So low edge retention easy to sharpen from this butcher's opinion
    woodysone, fielder and bigsurbob like this.
  6. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    I mean no disrespect but I think it's a tremendously over simplified question that requires people to ask themselves more questions.

    1. Do I have the skills and tools to sharpen a given steel?
    In the most basic sense, the fundamentals are all the same regardless of the steel. Raise a burr, flip, raise a burr, de-burr. Now, different steels will require different tools to accomplish that. If you're trying to sharpen S30V, M390, S90V, etc. on a Norton Crystolon and an Arkansas stone, you're going to have a bad time. Likewise, diamonds/CBN can be too aggressive for simpler steels like 420HC, BD1, even VG10. You have to match your tools to the steel.

    But, even so, some steels are just challenging. For me, it's ZDP-189. I only have one knife in it and I cannot get an acceptable edge on it. It doesn't require diamonds but it takes such a tiny burr that it messes with me. So sometimes, you have to play with a steel to know how you can do with it.

    And, if you haven't worked to acquire basic sharpening fundamentals, then the entre discussion is moot. If you want to be a knife person and not invest some time and money in sharpening, then you're missing out.

    2. Use and Preference.
    A person watching the sun sink over their downed elk in the Selkirk Mountains without a road in sight might value something different in their blade than they do their office EDC or kitchen knives.

    I would guess most EDC knives don't need much edge retention. I would guess most EDC knives get used very little and could easily be made in simpler steels and the owner would probably never notice the difference. I am convinced that steel nomenclature is way over-hyped.

    One person can have many knives that they value different attributes. I do.

    Also, you have to consider toughness vs. edge retention. If you're hammering on your knife, maybe 420HC is more ideal for that application than S110V.

    3. Heat Treat and Geometry.
    People get all gaga over the steel nomenclature without considering the heat treat and geometry. We've talked about this over and over. You need to understand this to help answer the original question.

    My take is, if you don't sharpen at all or pay for it, then steel type is mostly irrelevant. They all dull. If you don't have a plan to keep your knives sharp, then the steel type is just hype. If you're new to sharpening, I recommend going with simpler steels. S110V does not cut any better than 420HC. Either one can be all those adjectives of laser sharp, scary sharp, etc. The S110V will stay there longer but if you can't maintain it, who cares?

    I know, very long and most probably past right over it.
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2020
  7. Lesknife

    Lesknife Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Mar 31, 2018
    Well if it doesn’t keep an edge you’re gonna be constantly giving it an edge or just submit to using a dull knife.

    I have several knives in different steel from standard 420hc, cpm154,s30v,S35vn,an 20cv. I use a diamond stone on all of them and sometimes a strop. It doesn’t take much to get them razor sharp and they keep it for a good while to an amazing long time ranging in the order I have above. I don’t hate sharpening but that’s not my endeavor, I want to use my knives to cut things ! I think it also depends on how a person uses the knife and their sharpening skills. The geometry, ht, and edge angles also contribute to the edge holding as well as the materials being cut.

    If you do a lot of cutting and/or hard use you should consider if you’re a knife sharpener or a user of good sharp knives.
    ktataragasi and jbmonkey like this.
  8. eugenechia1989


    May 15, 2017
    For me they seem to go hand-in-hand.

    A knife that takes a very keen edge seems to hold it adequately for my uses. Softer steels I notice don't even seem to take that keen an edge. Harder steels I find take a keener edge and they seem to hold it well.

    That said, those are polished edges off of my Spyderco ultra-fine stone. Currently I'm experimenting with just using a Silicon carbide stone and a strop, and seeing how keen I can get my edges. Getting tired of the tedium of going through the subsequent ceramic stones and having to scrub the heck out of them to clean them afterwards, and besides, I'm keen to try toothy for awhile. Hopefully the 'takes a keen edge, holds it well' trend will continue, which I guess it should, theoretically...
  9. colubrid

    colubrid Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 26, 2005
    I vote for TAKE an edge.

    Sick of all these so called supersteels that take more effort than they are worth. I don't use em because of this.
    lonestar1979, P2P, jfk1110 and 5 others like this.
  10. The Aflac Duck

    The Aflac Duck Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 27, 2014
    With diamonds and ceramic I rarely spend more than a few minutes touching up any steel. However, Rex45 from Spyderco seem to have the best ratio for me.
  11. Velitrius

    Velitrius Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 3, 2000
    Most of my knives really see light duty nowadays. Cutting off the Irish Pennon here, opening the mail there, slicing the apple...

    So they don't have a problem holding an edge at all. Nowadays I want them to take a keen edge with no effort on my part.

    Back when I worked on the docks sounding piling and cutting ropes and straps I needed a knife that would hold an edge.

    Not now though... so good ol' 1095, AUS-8 and VG-10 treat me superbly.
  12. Billy The Blade

    Billy The Blade

    Jul 30, 2014
    It's gotta 'Take an edge' before it can
    'hold the edge'
    BTB :cool:
  13. Insipid Moniker

    Insipid Moniker

    Feb 28, 2011
    *passed :p (correction just to prove I read the whole thing)

    I strongly agree. I don't have any difficulty sharpening anything that I've come across, but I've also found that, if I'm being realistic, I don't actually need the pinnacle of edge retention. With that in mind I've actually come to favor steels like N690, VG-10 and 14c28n. They all seem to offer an ideal package of attributes for me and, perhaps best of all, knives in those steels don't break the bank.
    jfk1110, woodysone, MarkN86 and 6 others like this.
  14. Smaug

    Smaug Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 30, 2003
    Hold an edge. (and with a good factory grind)

    For example, I got my Maxamet Spyderco Native @ Rc 70. Good factory grind, so I put a micro bevel on it and it's still sharp a year later.
    Ben Dover and ktataragasi like this.
  15. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    What is your experience with these steels? What makes you say they take more effort than they are worth?

    Such statements, without context, do little to help educate others.
  16. Sonnydaze

    Sonnydaze Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 6, 2009
    A good super-steel, not necessarily stainless...
    Once it's sharp, it has to hold it for a long time, and usually does.
    ktataragasi likes this.
  17. DocT


    Mar 25, 2012
    To be quite frank, I want both. I want a steel that is easy to sharpen and holds an edge. For those reasons, I prefer BD1N, VG-10, LC200N, H1, S30V, and etc. Though I have knives in S110V, S90V, ZDP-189, and other steels, I do not like sharpening them as I do not have time to sit and do that all day. S30V is about as 'super' as I like to get. I get a lot of value and happiness with these and I do not have to spend an eternity trying to sharpen these steels.

    However, I do really like K390.
    ktataragasi likes this.
  18. jbmonkey

    jbmonkey Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Jun 9, 2011
    kinda both. so holds a good edge but is easy to touch it up. so many steels fall into this category, for me.

    some of the super edge holding super steels take too long to resharpen easily. while i own some and use them.....I tend to shy from using them a lot.
    ktataragasi likes this.
  19. sabre cat

    sabre cat Basic Member Basic Member

    Jul 4, 2014
    I want both but, my wallet says no. So, what is a guy to do?

    Pick a steel that will try to do both reasonably well.

    154cm and 14C28N work reasonably well in my book.
    I do like S30 and would like to try something a little nicer but, 154 works.
    ktataragasi likes this.
  20. mwhich50

    mwhich50 Basic Member Basic Member

    Jan 18, 2011
    I prefer 'take an edge'. All of my users are budget steel, and I usually let them get pretty dull before I resharpen them on my Sharpmaker. I always use my Gerber EAB (razor) to cut cardboard.
    ktataragasi likes this.

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