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What's the best steel to use?

Discussion in 'Kitchen Cutlery & Tools' started by Fmdbh, Feb 27, 2018.

  1. Fmdbh

    Fmdbh Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 5, 2016
    What is the best steel to use for a chefs knife.
    Im making my own knives.
    I was concedering using AEB-L stainless steel.
    Any opinions.
  2. Wowbagger


    Sep 20, 2015
    The steel that is just out of your price range or that is unobtainable at this time due to shortages.
    How's that ?
    Naw . . . in the kitchen it doesn't matter a rink. The demands are so low that as long as it is properly heat treated it's going to serve well.
    Skinning boar hogs in the bush or trimming some of the abrasive rubber products that I have to work with on a daily basis . . . now that's all different.
    The 3V or S110V for the hunt or my pref for my work M4

    Here is an example that I photographed and posted today:
    PS: About every one here knows this thing as "My Little Monster"; that's what I call it. The way it cuts stuff is just frightening.

    For further info on the edge there are still places along THE WORKING AREA OF THE EDGE that are still hair whittling even after all this time. The edge was fairly mirror finished off an Edge Pro Apex Shapton 4000 stone which is fairly close to a Norton 8000 which I used before getting the Edge Pro. No strops. EVER.

    I did this little diagnostic test of the edge as I do occasionally. I use a piece of fruit, even a tomato, or my finger nail. If the edge will catch on a vertical surface the edge is still sharp enough.

    This is basic, basic "it'll rust" high carbon.

    It hasn't been sharpened in about a year.
    I use it daily to prepare fruit and vegetables.
    I don't baby it, I have NEVER OILED IT. I use it on a soft plastic cutting board, when I am all done I rinse it under the faucet and give it a quick dry on the often damp dish towel and leave it on the cutting board.
    Yes there is a little rust on the side . . . yes there is a ton of patina on the edge.
    Look how sharp it is after A YEAR ! ! ! helloooooooo A YEAR of use.
    I mean . . . what's not to like ? ? ?
    The orange juice glass is keeping the knife from falling away from the apple.
    I wasn't going to say it then I was then I wasn't
    Now I am : somebody try that with their Sebenza.

    And we do have and use other knives that are clad and more tarnish resistant. See photo below.
    This is The Chef's knife (my partner). I almost never use this knife; it's her special knife for her use . . . well there was that one bramble hacking expedition but she's not supposed to know about that . . . I probably won't do it again :p :D :) :p

    But as far as I can see clad and rust proof is of questionable value.
    Her's is top knife (this is an old photo I used for another thread)
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2018
    Chris "Anagarika" likes this.
  3. Ourorboros


    Jan 23, 2017
    On the user end, in just the J-knife world there is no agreement. Then there are those who use European style knives.
    So the question is what do you value? Something easier to forge? Toughness, edge holding, corrosion resistance, the finest edge, ease of sharpening? The balance of characteristics you desire yields the best fit answer.
    And that's best fit, not ideal.

    But many fine kitchen knives are made in AEB-L.
  4. asox


    Nov 12, 2017
    If you consider price, AEB-L is pretty good quality with pretty low price. If the price is not so important, then there are much more better steel than AEB-L. My favourite is aogami super (commercial steel), customs - hard-matrix wootz. These 2 steel requires some experience in sharpening, as the hardness is over 65 HRC.
  5. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 12, 2005
    I don't think that I would go quite so far as to say that there are steels that are MUCH MORE better than properly heat treated AEB-L.
    grogimus and Ken H> like this.
  6. Knives&More


    Jan 14, 2018
    Never tried it. Interesting!
  7. Willie71

    Willie71 Warren J. Krywko. Part Time Knifemaker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 23, 2013
    Everything is a trade off. For prioritizing fine edge stability, aeb-l, 52100, W2, and hitachi White are considered the top steels. W1 and 1095 are in this group as well. If you want to prioritize edge holding, there are many great steels. I’m a big fan of z-wear now, but there are numerous similar steels that take a very fine edge, maybe a step down from the first group I listed, and hold that edge a long time. Hitachi Blue, z-wear, many German tungsten based alloys, cruforge-v, S35VN etc. are all great choices. Getting a higher wear steel than z-wear or S35VN brings you into higher alloy steels that tend to have slightly toothier edges, but will still get crazy sharp with good sharpening equipment and technique.
  8. Knives&More


    Jan 14, 2018
    I definitely agree that with every steel you will compromise edge retention, corrosion resistance, ease of sharpening, toughness, etc. Ultimately, it comes down to which aspect you prioritize more. Then you should go from there. However, there are many steels that well-rounded in all those mentioned aspects above

    Willie71 likes this.
  9. timos-

    timos- KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 22, 2012
    gnerally I find there are two major concerns to determine the best steel for the job in kitchen knife.

    Stainless vs carbon steel and ease of sharpening vs edge retention.

    aebl is relatively stainless and easy to care for. It is also easy to sharpen. It may not suffice for a pro chef who will cut produce all day and does not have the time or space to sharpen. For a home cook aebl pretty much holds an edge just fine to get through a large meal prep or even a weeks worth of dinners.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2018
  10. AndrewC


    Nov 14, 2017
    The previous answers are all relevant as generic answers, but I'm going to make some assumptions about what you might find "best". And make a recommendation that's sure to get someone's hackles raised. :) And I'm going to reframe your question from "what's the best?" to "what should I start with?".

    (A) Seems like you're relatively new to making chef knives (as I was a year ago).
    (B) I don't know whether you'll heat-treat yourself, but assuming you will, and especially if you don't have a controlled oven, you don't want something difficult (i.e. a hypereutectoid like 52100 or 1095). You want a sweet easy HT with decent margin for error. My understanding is that O1 and 1084 are kind of classic beginner choices that way. (Aldo, aka NJ Steel Baron - says about 1084: "being a eutectoid steel it is simple to heat treat and highly recommended for beginning makers and seasoned smiths alike." Seems that 80CrV2 aka 1080+, which I use a lot of now, is pretty similar.
    (C) Making a chef's knife - if we're talking like a 210-240mm gyuto or Western "chef's knife" - involves some rather new grinding skills vs. e.g. something with a 4" blade. Whether you do a full-flat grind or something with a plunge, you're gonna put a few slices into the "whoops" pile. Ditto heat-treating.
    (D) You'll have to choose between stainless and high-carbon. In the past, conventional wisdom on chef knives was that stain-resistance wasn't worth the tradeoff in sharpenability. Apparently new powdered-metallurgy steels have changed that, and I hear great stuff about AEB-L as a serious s/s competitor to HCs. You'll have to figure in your own preferences about rust-resistance (the flip-side of which is kitchen-knife-care, and I don't want to bother making knives for cooks who can't take care of their tools - but that's just me). Personal opinion: stainless is a tradeoff good for when the knife needs to be corrosion-resistant. Chef's knives don't - the tradeoff isn't worth the drawbacks, overall.


    A really good simple HC is gonna be easy to grind (both soft and hardened), easy to heat-treat reasonably well (eutectoid is a good bet here), take a good edge easily, be reasonably affordable, and give you good results early on. (Note the frequent use of the term "easy".) I.e.: it's a good beginner's steel for chef's knives.

    I have limited experience here, but after using a number of steels, my gut tells me to suggest you start with 1080+/80CrV2 or 1084. (I will point out that one of my favorite knives, and one that's legendary for sharpness, is the classic, cheap, French workman's pocketknife: Opinel. Which is made out of a very simple carbon steel - XC90, which is apparently about the same as 1086.)

    O1's a traditional choice for beginners/chef's knives too, and notably forgiving, but it's a bit pricier. I use 52100 too, but then again I have a digitally-controlled laboratory-quality furnace and a lot of experience with process control. And I'm still working on a 2- or 3- step HT process, and working in cryo (actually "dryo" for now). (And I'm mostly doing that because I own an original hand-forged Bob Kramer made from 52100 and that's what kicked me off on this whole thing. :) You don't want to start there, trust me.
  11. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 12, 2005
    Warren, 1.2442/115W8 also has some pretty darn good fine edge stability and its darn tough. I am guessing that Blue and 1.2519 are similar. Achim told me that you can run 115W8 up to 64 Rc for kitchen knives, but if you want to pound it though nails, you might want to try 62RC. Pretty impressive.
  12. Willie71

    Willie71 Warren J. Krywko. Part Time Knifemaker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 23, 2013
    115w8 is one of the German tungsten based alloys.
  13. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 12, 2005
    Yes. I mentioned it because it excluded it from the fine edge stability list. :p
  14. Willie71

    Willie71 Warren J. Krywko. Part Time Knifemaker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 23, 2013
    Ah, ok. Got it. :cool:
  15. Fmdbh

    Fmdbh Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 5, 2016
    Thanks for the info. Gives me some ideas as to the types of steel.
  16. scott.livesey


    Nov 10, 2011
    will you do your own heat treat? if yes, 52100, O1, or 1.2519 would be good choices. heat treat is pretty straight forward, don't need cryo. temper at 300F to 325F for hardness of Rc64 I would use 3/32" or 7/64" thickness, 2" wide stock. for first time, i would go for 6" to 8" blade length. yes the steel may rust and discolor, just have to learn to clean and double dry promptly. do full flat grind to an edge around .5mm/0.02" before heat treat, then finish the edge at 7 to 10 dps.
  17. JD Spydo

    JD Spydo Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2004
    Hey I'm curious as to which brand of culinary knives uses that 115w8 German steel? Also I use a lot of Spyderco's knives in the kitchen and the two steels I like a lot for kitchen use are VG-10 and MBS-26. But I've also found ZDP-189 to cut like a laser on certain food items ( especially meat) but a little warning on ZDP-189>> it is highly prone to corrosion with certain food acids ( especially tomatoes) and you absolutely MUST clean the knives with ZDP immediately when done using. If you don't you will be sorry I can assure you.

    Also I find Spyderco's H-1 to be a good kitchen/culinary blade steel as well. And it's unbelievably corrosion resistant. Interesting thread!
  18. Willie71

    Willie71 Warren J. Krywko. Part Time Knifemaker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 23, 2013

    I haven’t used it personally, (but have used the related Hitachi Blue) but a few of the custom makers on this forum use it often. JDM61 and Samuraistewart both use it as well as a few others. I’ve personally moved into some of the higher alloy air hardening steels such as z-wear/cru-wear when people don’t want differential hardening.
  19. Archer Richard

    Archer Richard

    May 26, 2018
    There is a number of steels which are beneficial for you. You may use Carbon Steel, Tool Steel, 440C. These all steel are top quality steels for making knives. All steels have the capacity to run for a long term.

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