Why might top makers hold onto old steels?

Joined
Jul 18, 2020
Messages
166
I have no clue. I mean like CRK with S35VN which is barely different than the S30V it replaced. Or William Henry with ZDP-189. Some custom makers still use 440C. They can't say not to wear out their belts on a $5,000 knife? Stick with production ones though. I don't understand why the top knives do not move with the times. Not that it really matters to me personally. S35VN is good to me. Still I would think he would be losing sales to Spyderco and Benchmade already. Again, I have no clue.
 
Joined
Nov 13, 2013
Messages
2,190
I care less and less about steels
I like some, don’t really like others... I am fine with 154CM, 12c27n, s30v or anything above
Sometime even 9cr13mov is fine depending on price

I really think steel is often an over hyped question
 

cbach8tw

Gold Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2006
Messages
7,946
The makers know how to work them and get the best possible performance out of them. The latest steel does not mean that the old stuff is bad or will not perform. I believe Big Chris likes to experiment with different steels too.
 

Tx308

Gold Member
Joined
Dec 30, 2014
Messages
250
One train of thought on the issue I've heard and that makes sense to me is production cost. Not talking about the materials but the wear and tear on machinery and the cost of sanding belts, etc.
Working 1095 for example is easier than even 440c, at least that's my understanding, correct me if I'm wrong.

I would love to see traditional knife makers move up to 20cv or equivalent but the cost would be more than I'd be willing to pay I fear.
 

Wild Willie

Gold Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2018
Messages
1,263
We all tend to stick with what's familiar... I think it's human nature. Personally I look for non-super steels when I buy a knife, to me geometry and optimal heat treatment are more important. I personally prefer a more easily maintained steel and like the charisma and character of an old fashioned carbon steel... Some makers I'd imagine have a pretty loyal customer base, and rather than re-vamp a product line stick with what they're already good at.
 

stabman

Gold Member
Joined
Sep 17, 2007
Messages
20,391
Maybe because they work and the makers are familiar with the steel and know how best to tweak it.

Indeed.
Some makers that have using the same steel for decades bring you the absolute best that can be got out of that steel. :)

And sometimes it's because they just like that steel.

Also, sometimes newer and "better" isn't better for certain applications/people.
A friend of mine loves Benchmade's 154CM.
He got a knife in S30V and ended up chipping it a bit with the way he uses it.
Not big chips--more like micro-chipping--but it's something that didn't happen with 154CM run at a certain hardness. It would more dull or roll rather than chip.
 
Joined
Jul 18, 2020
Messages
166
Interesting answers. I do know that Buck in particular has such good heat treat. That their 420J2 often has better edge retention than steels well above it. Depending on whom profiled and heat treated the blade.
 
  • Like
Reactions: DMG

sabre cat

Basic Member
Joined
Jul 4, 2014
Messages
5,953
I remember chasing new steels a few years ago. Trying to get the latest and greatest.

I have pretty much stopped. 154cm is fine for how I use a knife. I can get 154cm and S30v knives at a reasonable price.

Maybe that is why. Knife manufacturers design and build knives to a certain price point.
 

Mitchell Knives

Knifemaker
Moderator
Joined
May 21, 2000
Messages
6,037
In terms of factory knives, companies choose steels based on performance for the intended use, price, availability, HT treat requirements and machinability. These are all important factors when you are making thousands of knives.

Custom makers take these factors into account as well, but they have much more leeway considering that they are producing a dramatically lower volume of knives. They can utilize a variety of steels without having to fundamentally change their process.

I've been using mostly 80CRV2, O1, 1095, A2 and D2 lately because they are versatile and all perform well.

People have to decide what properties they want in a steel and choose accordingly.
 
Last edited:

bdmicarta

Gold Member
Joined
Feb 16, 2012
Messages
5,561
I have no clue. I mean like CRK with S35VN which is barely different than the S30V it replaced. Or William Henry with ZDP-189. Some custom makers still use 440C. They can't say not to wear out their belts on a $5,000 knife? Stick with production ones though. I don't understand why the top knives do not move with the times. Not that it really matters to me personally. S35VN is good to me. Still I would think he would be losing sales to Spyderco and Benchmade already. Again, I have no clue.

Even 440C is good if done well. Newer steels might hold an edge longer, but will be harder to sharpen. The steel composition is only one of the factors in how well a knife performs.

In my heart I know this but yet for the few folding knives that I carry I continue to chase after the latest and greatest steel. But my sharpest EDC knife was a Benchmade in D2 that I bought used, the previous owner had put a good polished edge on it.

There is the other possibility- that people who buy custom knives never actually use them so it doesn't matter what the steel is. I've bought a lot of custom hunting knives with no intention of actually using any of them. I do very little hunting these days, I have one or two knives set aside that I would actually use in the unlikely event that I would need one.
 

Lodd

Gold Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2015
Messages
591
Because the heat treatment and craftsmanship are more important than the steel type. And because switching steels would require a large investment in learning all its' intricacies. So makers have a hard choice: will they devote time and energy to furthering their understanding of a steel they are already good with, or start the learning curve at the beginning with a new steel?

A lot of makers seem to prefer sticking with tried and trusted steel, honing their skills with that.
 
Joined
Feb 10, 2015
Messages
20,242
For a custom maker refining their work is like climbing a mountain. When finally reach the peak after many steps and time they can see the other peaks surrounding then but they can't just leap from one peak to another on a whim. They have to walk down and start a new climb.

Not everyone has the time and extra funds to do that. I think more than a few subscribe to "if it ain't broke".
 

afishhunter

Basic Member
Joined
Oct 21, 2014
Messages
8,653
1) The "Old Steels" like 1095/5160, 440A/440C and 420HC still work just fine.

2) Not everyone "needs" or wants a 'super steel".

3) Not everyone has diamond plates or a SiC stone.

4) A lot of folks place "ease of sharpening in the field" at the top of their "must have's"

Personally, I don't "need" a knife that will hold a working edge for a week or more, that takes an hour or more to sharpen when (not "if") it gets dull. All knives eventually get dull and need sharpened. A "lower"/"obsolete" steel may only hold its working edge for a couple days, but only takes a couple swipes on the stone, strop, or steel to restore the edge. The "softer" older/"obsolete" steel can also be sharpened with a river rock if afield for an extended period, and you lost or"forgot" a sharpening stone. Rolled edges are a heck of a lot easier and faster to fix than a "harder" chipped blade, too.

In 60 years, I've never "needed" a blade over 57 to 59 on the Rockwell C scale.
Do I have harder? Yes. Up to 61 or 62, I believe; D2, CPM154, and S30V by Buck. They don't get as much use as my 1095, 440A, and 420HC knives of the same style/pattern, though.

5) Believe it or not, Most people (including "knife knuts") don't know, and don't care what the differences are between the various steels used for blades.
 
Last edited:

knarfeng

senex morosus moderator
Staff member
Super Mod
Moderator
Joined
Jul 30, 2006
Messages
34,093
I have no clue. I mean like CRK with S35VN which is barely different than the S30V it replaced. Or William Henry with ZDP-189. Some custom makers still use 440C. They can't say not to wear out their belts on a $5,000 knife? Stick with production ones though. I don't understand why the top knives do not move with the times. Not that it really matters to me personally. S35VN is good to me. Still I would think he would be losing sales to Spyderco and Benchmade already. Again, I have no clue.

There are some folks who must have the latest and greatest alloy, else the knife is trash.
But the total sum of the knife is a lot more than just the blade alloy.
It's the ergonomics, the balance, the blade shape, the smoothness of the action, the blade geometry, the fit and finish.

Blade alloys are fun to chase, and I have done my share of it, but the overall knife is what most folks are looking for.

"Good enough, is the enemy of better".
 
Top