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what's wrong whit Buck Knives?

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by badluckjones, Nov 3, 2015.

  1. badluckjones


    Oct 24, 2015
    Hello to everyone,
    In the past i owned a couple of Buck Knives. An 110 folder and an 119 fixed blade. Back then i found this a set of high quality made EDC knives. Anyway, daydreaming about the chop,cut and other "jobs" which the 119 did without any complains about a premature blade dulness, i looked up to (maybe) buy a new 119. I remember that the blade of the 119 was made of ,at least, 440C steel. Take a look at the official Buck website learned me that the same 119 nowadays is made of an 420HC quality. Earlier I read that the standard steel used by Buck was 425 modified. By nature i don't take any advantage of the,sometimes,too positive comments. Also those from the 119 on the official website.

    Is Buck also doing a silent downgrade of materials to overcome the so called "crisis"?
  2. AusLoX


    Jan 23, 2015
    Depends where you buy it. You can also custom make one, on bucks website, with upgraded steel. Love my 110 in 5160
  3. Kwon Kwang

    Kwon Kwang

    Jul 7, 2013
    Absolutely not. 420HC as done by Buck and heat treated by Paul Bos is excellent. :thumbup:
  4. gadgetgeek


    May 19, 2007
    Buck produces a massive number of knives, they also have some of the best heat treat for the steel they use, and manage to hit a price point and margin that other makers only dream of. They have changed over time, but the quality has been maintained. Keep in mind that this forum contains both the condensed good and bad of every company. Every company has a knife that passes QC, and ends up in the hands of a very picky owner. Every company has a knife that has been beaten to death by someone who may or may not have been aiming to break it. Buy another Buck and be happy.
  5. singularity35


    Mar 1, 2010
    I'm sure you're right about this but how does the current crop of 420HC bucks do against the older ones with 440C?
  6. Ilovetoolsteel


    Jul 28, 2003
    Contrary to popular mythology, there is no secret HT protocol that makes 420hc into a good steel. 420 hc is a crap steel. It has a low carbon content .40-.45% sadly, its not even a cheap steel. Companies that use 420hc use it for one reason. Its low carbon content is easy on the tooling. And it blanks with less distortion than steels with more carbon. It grinds easier, it polishes easier.
    None of the reasons its used contribute to a better blade. 1% carbon will give you the best balance between edge holding and edge performance. There are steels with higher carbon but they also tend to be more brittle and easier to damage the edge. ( not to mention vastly more expensive),
  7. Kwon Kwang

    Kwon Kwang

    Jul 7, 2013
    I don't know, I've never used one of the older Bucks.

    I will say that Buck and Paul Bos work wonders with S30V and 420HC, though.
  8. jill jackson

    jill jackson

    Sep 5, 2006
    The older Bucks with 440C, I've found to not be very sharp new and I always had a hard time getting them sharp. Now their new knives come shaving sharp, but I think Buck changed the edge geometry, to keep up with the trend of sharper out the box.
  9. pinnah


    Jul 28, 2011
    No, they aren't.

    To understand what's going on, a simplified understanding of steels might help. We can sort knife steels into 3 major buckets.

    LARGE CARBIDE - These are steels that have big chunks of hard carbides in them, similar to how concrete has stones. The produces a rough, "toothy" edge that continues to cut through fibrous material even when dull. But it's prone to micro fractures at the edge as the carbides break out. These steels are good for meat processing and cutting down cardboard but are harder to sharpen. They are less good when you need a very keen edge but tough (bends instead of chipping), like wood working. 440C and D2 are large carbide steels.

    FINE CARBIDE STEELS - These steels have much smaller and fewer carbides in them, similar to how cement has sand in it, instead of large stones. Examples include 1095, 1095 cro-van, 420HC and Sandvik 12C27. These steels take a much finer edge (no rough carbides at the apex) and are tough (bend intead of chipping). They are easy to sharpen but can wear down faster if used to cut abrasive materials (deer hide, cardboard).

    MODERN POWDER STEELS - More expensive. Claimed by many to offer the edge wear of large carbide steels with the toughness of fine carbide steels. These steels tend to be more expensive and are generally regarded to be harder to sharpen compared to fine carbide steels.

    I have several Bucks using the older 440C and several that use 420HC. IMO, 440C was better for deer hunting and it's better if I'm cutting down lots of cardboard or carpet (both rare). For general EDC, I hugely prefer 420HC or 12C27. Very easy to keep razor sharp and these steels handle wood working (common for me) noticeably better.

    For people who prefer a steel with more carbides, Buck offers S30V, which is a modern powdered steel. I've not used it but by most accounts, it's better than 440C in pretty much every regard. You can get 110s in S30V from the Buck custom shop and Buck does limited runs of the 119 in S30V from time to time. If you search on the big river, you can find the 119 in S30V and stag handles for close to $500. Or you can go to *Mart and get a 119 in 420HC for under $40.

    If I were getting either the 110 or the 119, I would get the 420HC as that steel fits how I use knives better.

    Hope this helps
    Matt Bernier likes this.
  10. dalefuller

    dalefuller Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 2, 2005
    The old 440C was a beast to sharpen for many people. That was the big complaint against it. The steel change has been in part a reaction to customer complaints about sharpening. Buck has also changed their edge geometry several times since the days of 440C. Most of the changes have been an improvement in O-O-B sharpness and cutting ability. 420HC works just fine for Buck's intended market. It provides good corrosion resistance, adequate toughness, and is easy to re-sharpen for people that are just average users. And they aren't the only company that uses it.

    I've used Bucks in both 425 and 420HC. They've never failed to do what a knife is supposed to do... and they did it very well. I prefer the 420HC over 425 for it's ease of maintenance. As already mentioned, there are other steels available from the custom shop if you want a 110 in a higher grade steel. Buck also uses other higher grade steels as the standard steel in some of their other models. They're not cutting corners. They're focusing on their buyers by providing the type of knives at the price points that they seem to want.
  11. sams


    Apr 21, 2001
    Buck knives are under rated imo. I like them, and always had a Buck 119 knife in my truck for anything and everything. The older ones from the 60's and 70's were duller out of the box and harder to sharpen. The newer ones are profiled better at the edge making in easier to sharpen a dull knife.

    I picked up one in D 2 steel but haven't used it much. So I am still waiting to see if there is a big difference.
    I do have two China made bait knives for the fishing boat. Cheap and easy to sharpen, they work .

    One more thing, the "black " handle knives are made in the USA !!!
  12. singularity35


    Mar 1, 2010
    Yes, but I'm asking how the 440C would fare in comparison to 420HC, with the same edge geometry in use today. I'm guessing nobody knows...which will probably result in people posting that they don't care... :p
  13. dalefuller

    dalefuller Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 2, 2005
    Well... we've come a ways in sharpening technology since the days of Buck's 440C. It's just a guess on my part, but I think the average user is more capable of handling higher grade steels now. If Buck were doing 440C today, I'm sure they'd do a good job on the HT like they do with their other steels. The 440C should have increased edge keeping and still provide plenty of toughness and corrosion resistance. Add in their newer edge geometry and I think you'd have pretty fair performer. The modern 440C from Benchmade that I've used recently has been very decent in comparison to the higher end blade steels that I use for the same jobs.

    But in the end, I suspect you're right.. nobody really knows for sure. ;)
  14. singularity35


    Mar 1, 2010
    That does sound about right. If you're not spot on, I suspect you're pretty close. :)

    BTW, I wonder if anybody knows what steel those old schrade 110 K/O's used. I have one of those that I beat up on back in the early 90's(I think). Never let me down back then too.
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2015
  15. Ankerson

    Ankerson Knife and Computer Geek Gold Member

    Nov 2, 2002
    They are catering to the lower end market for the most part with the bulk of their products as they have for as long as I can remember.

    They do offer some higher end products and the custom shop is also available.
  16. pinnah


    Jul 28, 2011
    As I have Bucks from both eras, I'll comment...

    Most important thing to note here is that Buck did not replace 440C with 420HC. The replaced it with a choice between 420HC (for people who prefer fine carbide steel) and S30V (for people who prefer carbide rich steel).

    The edge geometry issue with some of the older Bucks is that they used what some people refer to as a "semi-hollow" grind. It's hard to describe but possible to feel with your finger if you hold one in you hand. It's as if they pulled the blade away from the rounded grinder belt as they got close to the edge. The result is that there is a slight swell in thickness as you move down the blade from the spine to the edge. That is, the edge is actually thicker behind the edge and then gets thinner just above.

    You might be able to see it in the shading of this older 2 dot 110. Look for change in shading just above the edge, particularly back along the edge near the tang.
    [​IMG]Buck 110 and Opinel #10 by Pinnah, on Flickr

    One of the results of this slightly thicker edge (not blade, but edge) geometries is that the older Bucks make wood shavings better (for me) for the same reason that a Mora does. The thicker geometry behind the edge allows for more control of the edge angle and less "diving" into the wood. Conversely, the older Bucks are less good at slicing and cutting, both of which favor a thinner edge profile.

    This extra thickness behind the edge is one reason people had troubles keeping the old Bucks sharp, again, for same reason people have troubles sharping on convex or Scandi ground blade. You need to commit to aggressive use of a back bevel to maintain the edge profile, otherwise, the 'V' edge gets thicker and thicker as you wear away steel. This, of course, is one reason people like hollow grinds... The blade itself is thinner and doesn't demand as much back beveling.

    Buck did a great job with the 440C and does a great job with 420HC. We know how both steels behave and they are very different steels. 440C has carbides and is much better for jobs that demand a toothy edge. If I'm cutting down a large amount of cardboard or cutting carpet - stuff that's super abrasive - I'll reach for this old Buck 500, which has the 440C steel.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Pinnah, on Flickr

    For general EDC use or for working with wood, I prefer 420HC. It takes a keener edge, handles lateral stress well and is easily touched up quickly.

    The replacement for a carbide rich steel in Buck's line is S30V, not 420HC.

    Schrade USA (as opposed to today's Taylor-made Schrade) used 440A up until the late 80s early 90s and then switched to 420HC. Their heat treat was very good on both.
    Matt Bernier likes this.
  17. gadgetgeek


    May 19, 2007
    So the old geometry was similar to what would be called a double hollow on a straight razor. Interesting. As far as sharpening goes, diamonds as a fairly cheap sharpening method is pretty new, and I would guess a lot of the stones that are really great on 1095 didn't fare so well for the stainless. So that makes sense to me.
    Matt Bernier likes this.
  18. bodog

    bodog Banned BANNED

    Dec 15, 2013
    Back when I was a kid buck and old timer knives were considered almost a necessity by the generations before me. They were what you bought, not if, but when it came time to buying a pocket knife.

    I look back and I don't really know if they were any better then than they are now regardless of the steel used. They made their bones back in the day and stuck with it. They never really evolved with the times. I would carry a buck or old timer now if I was forced into it, but if I had a choice, I'd carry a SAK or opinel first knowing what I know now. Well, that's if they were the only choices. If I had to choose from anything on, say, Knifecenter, buck would be close to the last one I'd choose. I really don't understand why people keep buying bucks if they know there's more on the market. I can only assume that people who advocate for Buck either 1) don't know there's anything better[and there's a lot] or 2) they're buying based on memories and nostalgia.

    I like Ford model A's for what they are and what they did for the automobile industry but I'd be a fool if I said they could stand up in any category to a 2016 Aston Martin. Or the latest ford Fiesta, for that matter, regarding actual real world performance.
  19. Duane Sanders

    Duane Sanders Banned BANNED

    Sep 13, 2015

    Low end is Tac Force. Buck makes no BS hard working durable and affordable knives. Most knife buyers see little value in knives that cost so much they never use them. Doesn't mean they do not use them. It's just that if someone is buying a knife and they know in 3-5 years it will need to be replaced because it is worn out, and you're just not bored of it then they lean towards knives like buck. Solid construction great value hard working knives. That's more of who they cater to. There is nothing low end about their knives. Maybe to a collector but not everyone collects. Buck knows that, it's how they stay in business.
  20. Ankerson

    Ankerson Knife and Computer Geek Gold Member

    Nov 2, 2002
    I obviously have a different definition of what low end is than you. ;)

    I checked today at the local Wally World and 110's are just shy of $28 a pop.

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