Why might top makers hold onto old steels?

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by SS234, Nov 21, 2020.

  1. dano


    Oct 3, 1998
    The Steel-of-the-Week mentality is one to sell additional knives. I've always wondered about the mindset of Performance. Man has been cutting things for thousands of years. The Steel-of-the-week really only came about in the late 1990's, when Benchmade and to some extent Spyderco began using steel type as the main selling point. Thousands of years of cutting, surviving, killing/war...without a super steel in hand, yet we speak of performance while opening an envelope, or batoning a sappling in the backyard, or a blade material that takes a high-tech super stone to sharpen. At times, it all seems just illogical...
    afishhunter, Pomsbz and jackknife like this.
  2. DangerZone98


    Dec 7, 2019
    Indeed. There’s even a term for it, “neomania,” the irrational obsession with the new. Don’t get me wrong, I love innovation and new steels. But I also love the tried and tested just the same.
  3. stabman

    stabman Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 17, 2007
    There can be better steels...for certain applications.
    Look at CPM 3V.
    Edge holding around what S30V does with huge toughness.
    It will rust though if you neglect it...

    For some folks it would be better than other choices, but for a pocket knife plenty of folks would dislike the lack of being stainless.

    For some people, something with insane levels of vanadium and other carbides would be super for edge retention cutting certain types of materials, but the guy that like to occasionally scrape a steel gasket area in his engine compartment will get it chipped (and don't try telling him it's the wrong tool for the job :D ).

    There is no best steel for everything, but there is such a thing as the best steel for certain applications.
  4. Ourorboros


    Jan 23, 2017
    A smith of any sort will tell you the importance of knowing how a steel will act. Many will specialize in one or two steels - that's certainly the way in Japan.
    The way it moves when hot, exactly how hot you need a steel to be for your work, how brittle it gets, and of course dialing in the heat treatment.

    For manufacturers, a lot is learned about heat treatment & the geometries a steel can handle too. The S30V blades we have now are (mostly) better than those of a few years ago. More time gives people an opportunity to play around.

    For me, I've never been into the latest and greatest steel - as touched upon there are a lot of things that go into making a good knife. I realized a while ago I want something I can sharpen without diamonds or a huge amount of time.
    I'll eventually pick up a blade in a new steel to see what it's like, but I haven't seen anything that made me want to switch. I have a ZDP-189, one HAP 40, one m390.
    DangerZone98 likes this.
  5. jideta

    jideta Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 8, 2020
    I think for makers, everybody eventually ends up with a preferred material.
    Mitchell Knives likes this.
  6. KenHash


    Sep 11, 2014
    Buck uses 420HC which is not the same as 420j2. The latter is generally considered a low carbon highly stainless steel and used almost exclusively in Japan for cladding in laminates and divers knives. 420HC has much more carbon.
    afishhunter likes this.
  7. skyhorse

    skyhorse Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 30, 2010
    Many of the new steels specialize into one attribute at the exspense of others. Some I like and for my use others aren't worth the trade off.
    DangerZone98 likes this.
  8. Velitrius

    Velitrius Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 3, 2000
    Well crap... it seems illogical now that you brought it up and ruined it for me. What a terrible epiphany that just was.

    You just set me back to the stone age of 1095 you Bastid. :D:eek:
    comis and stevekolt like this.
  9. comis

    comis Gold Member Gold Member

    May 17, 2013
    I think larger and more successful you are, less likely you are willing or have the need to change to new steel and experiment.

    The perfect example will be Victorinox, for years, so many enthusiasts have suggested so many different steels for them to 'try' and 'bring out', but they stick to what they use and stay true to their form. One could argue they are stubborn or not experimental enough, but let's not forget they have been the number 1 maker for decades, and have the track record to show they know their business better than everyone.
    afishhunter and Pomsbz like this.
  10. spoonrobot


    May 1, 2004
    S35VN? ZDP-189? Those are old steels? I thought this was going to be about true old steels like D2 or 1095 :D

    Anyway, I think most makers use the steel they use because many buyers buy on features, looks, and price. Like there's a steel floor they won't go past. For me personally I'll buy a knife - balancing price and features with the steel - in almost any named steel. AUS4, 440A, real low end stuff. But I lose interest right away when is 8cr13mov or any of the other composition named steels from China.

    There's also the point that a maker who has institutional knowledge of an "older steel" is going to be able to make a better blade than a maker who goes from new steel to new steel all the time. S30V now is generally much better than it was when it was first released - companies learned how to work with it better.

    I've often wondered how good some of the steels are in the many Spyderco sprints and exclusives. I mean, I'm sure they're good but if there's a maker that's been using Rex45 for years and years, do they have knowledge that allows them to make a better blade than Spyderco who is relatively new at using the steel - but with decades of experience with other steels?
  11. Larrin

    Larrin Gold Member Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Gold Member

    Jan 17, 2004
    S35VN and S30V aren’t old. What new steel are you saying they should move to?
  12. shqxk


    Mar 26, 2012
    Old steel smell better just like old whisky.
    Hal likes this.
  13. SS234


    Jul 18, 2020
    Honestly I try to get as much good stainless Damascus. At best it can maybe match 154CM. That does not matter to me. I am opening envelopes. These blades and usually the knife they are attached to are art. That is what I am into these day's. I was just wondering about my original question. It has been explained very well :)
  14. FRNFanboy

    FRNFanboy Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 2, 2020
    Remember, the reason for creating S35VN wasn’t to make a “better” steel from the end user’s perspective. It was to make a steel similar to S30v that was easier to work, better from the manufacturer’s perspective. It also created a steel that was tougher at the expense of a little bit of edge retention.
    afishhunter likes this.
  15. unwisefool

    unwisefool Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 22, 2007
    I have some M390 and 20cv blades, but the two knives I use the most are S30V and D2. I just like the design of them.
  16. dano


    Oct 3, 1998
    Nothing wrong with a little flint....o_O
    Velitrius likes this.
  17. braillediver

    braillediver Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 6, 2007
    I buy the knife based on the Maker and his reputation not the steel he works with. Some of the best edges I got from a maker were from Bob Dozer and his D2.
  18. DangerZone98


    Dec 7, 2019
    Personally, I’m biased towards tough steels with decent edge holding. 3V, 5160. Hell yeah.
  19. evilgreg

    evilgreg Why so serious? Gold Member

    Dec 25, 2012
    Because for the vast majority of use cases the difference between common, good knife steels and "super" knife steels doesn't matter. As long as you're using the right sort of standard steels for the use case (e.g. tough steels for chopping tools, corrosion resistant steels around wet environments, etc.) your life wouldn't be appreciably better with a super steel.

    INB4 some rocket surgeon blurts out their super specific uncommon use case that requires S125V or better, like "I trim kevlar sheets for custom bullet proofing all day long and S30V wouldn't last eight seconds". First, every scientific test I've seen puts the difference in edge retention between decent and "super" steels at about double, maybe triple, so eight seconds would only be twenty in that case. Second, for every super specific edge case there is a purpose built tool that is superior to using your favorite knife.

    Makers don't need to use better steels outside of the marketing edge to having a whizzbang useless feature to sell products, and makers that already have high demand don't need any marketing boost so what's the point? Randall sells every knife they can make, go look what steel they use and then tell me I'm wrong.
    afishhunter and sabre cat like this.
  20. plumberroy

    plumberroy Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jan 27, 2007
    I know this may ruffle some feathers. It has been my experience that the people who don't want to learn how to sharpen ,are more likely to gravitate towards super steels . Same with serrated blades. While people who can sharpen a knife are usually happy with what has worked for the last 50 years
    afishhunter and evilgreg like this.

Share This Page