Your steel sweet spot

guy g

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Oct 22, 2000
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I stick with the basic stuff for edc.. 420hc of course, 12c27, a few in carbon steel and my upper end is S35vn .
 

afishhunter

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Oct 21, 2014
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I've always gone for the simple steels that are easy to sharpen with nothing but a smooth river rock, and a leather belt or boot for stropping if/when needed, and I don't have access to my sharpening stone and strop for whatever reason, on any extended trip in the sticks and the more remote boonies.

Provided they have a good heat treat, 1095, 440A, 420HC, whatever it is Mora and Opinel carbon steels are, and whatever it is Victorinox uses, have always held an edge long enough to do whatever the task at hand was, and were easy enough to touch up when needed.

From what I've read about the more modern steels like D2, CPM154, and S30V (the three that I have) having a tendency to chip or break, I'm not so sure I want to take one of them along for an extended stay in the field. At least not as my only or primary knives.
They may hold an edge longer, but if they are as fragile or brittle as it sounds ... I'll leave them home. A rare rolled edge is quick and easy to fix with just a strop or butcher's steel. A chipped or broken blade? Not so much.
 
Joined
May 1, 2004
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1,204
Spyderco H1
Leatherman 420HC
Buck 154CM
Artisan Cutlery D2

All steels I've found to be exceptional wrt ease of sharpening/edge retention ratio. I have and have used Maxamet/ZDP189/S30V/etc but nowadays my knife sharpening often revolves around restoring the edge from minor or moderate damage. Thus, easy sharpening is a priority moreso than brute retention.

Sometimes all I have to sharpen with is a file and I definitely don't want to be looking at a super steel if that's the case.
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David Mary

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Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
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Jul 23, 2015
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nowadays my knife sharpening often revolves around restoring the edge from minor or moderate damage. Thus, easy sharpening is a priority moreso than brute retention.

Wow, you must use your knives awfully hard!
 

Sonnydaze

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Jul 6, 2009
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I've come to appreciate tool steels like 3V and M4; they seem to have the best combination of powder steels (toughness and high carbide content), are reasonably rust resistant like stainless grades and easy to sharpen like high carbon steels.
I have knives in both of these steels and like them...I also am a fan of Vanadis 4E SuperClean...it gets really sticky-sharp...
 
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Aug 23, 2020
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Steel is not as important as the geometry of the blade or the heat treat. From my point of view the heat treat is the most important attribute of a blade, since I can't HT myself, so it should be done right by the manufacturer.

The geometry OTOH, I can change with some effort. I reprofiled a few blades and the results are always worth it. Knives in S35VN, D2, Rex45 that were annoying and frustrating to use were transformed overnight into amazing cutting machines that are a joy to use. I can do it without ever touching the apex. It is a little challenge to myself.

Geometry cuts, and a high HRC, well heat treated steels will maintain that geometry for longer than lesser steels.

Most factory blades are too thick behind the edge and I like to knock off the 'shoulders' of the bevels aiming for a microconvex geometry on all my PE knives (like on a Sebenza).

My most used fixed knives are all full convex or almost full convex with the stock on the thinner side. They have different steels (3V, Cruwear, Elmax, CPM 154) and I am very happy with all of them, I didn't had to do anything to them. So again - even though I have a variety of steels they all perform nearly the same because their geometry is nearly the same.

But my real workhorses are one handed folders. I cut a lot of natural fibers (yardwork, gardening) and food processing (animal feed, harvesting) with my knives on top of the usual EDC tasks. A well sharpened PM2 Maxamet can last three or four weeks, M4 and Rex45 will last a week less than Maxamet. Serrated LC200N will last two weeks, A SE Tasman Salt in H1 also cuts for a long time. Looks like my new S110V also stays sharp long enough (no surprise there).

Ease of sharpening is not a significant aspect. Diamond plates are equalizers, I find it no more difficult to sharpen Maxamet than to sharpen anything else, although I didn't sharpen S110V yet.

I am not crazy about carbon steels like 1075, 1095, SK5, or softer steels in general but I like them in full tang beaters and machetes.

I EDC a full tang 14C28N in my backpack for its toughness, not for its edge holding, so I also keep a small Doublestuff with it.

So.... at this point I think Maxamet suits my overall needs the best.
 
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upnorth

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Nov 25, 2006
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Great replies, thanks all. I'll have to take more time and go through them all again. It's an education. :thumbsup:
 

Hal

Joined
Feb 26, 1999
Messages
551
14C28N - if it's for use anywhere around moisture &/or food.

Carbon steel for everything else. The actual type of carbon steel isn't really important - but - if push came to shove & I wanted a custom knife made by one of the "heat & beat" makers, I'd go for O1.
O1 has been doing the job for 116 years & I take issue with labeling it "low end". That's just wrong IMHO.
 

Chronovore

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Aug 29, 2019
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I strongly prefer stainless for EDC. Summers are very humid where I live and I tend to sweat. Even with regular maintenance, I've gotten the occasional summer spot on D2. So I just don't do it anymore.

I mostly carry budget knives. I'm pretty happy with 14C28N or N690. I've spent plenty of time using 12C27 and VG-10. I've actually carried a lot of 9Cr18Mov over the last few years. It's already an underrated budget steel but with Civivi's heat treatment, it's a solid performer.
 
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I strongly prefer stainless for EDC. Summers are very humid where I live and I tend to sweat. Even with regular maintenance, I've gotten the occasional summer spot on D2. So I just don't do it anymore.

I mostly carry budget knives. I'm pretty happy with 14C28N or N690. I've spent plenty of time using 12C27 and VG-10. I've actually carried a lot of 9Cr18Mov over the last few years. It's already an underrated budget steel but with Civivi's heat treatment, it's a solid performer.


How would you compare D2 and 9Cr18Mov?
 

ShannonSteelLabs

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Sep 9, 2015
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For me my overall favorite is Zwear for tool steel. I've used it the most. Super tough. Excellent edge holding for its class. 63HRC is awesome. 4V also fits in here. Same reasons just more edge holding.

Another favorite is K390/CPM 10V class steels. High hardness thin edges are amazing. The edge holding is spectacular while being as tough or slightly tougher than D2. They sharpen up well and the burr is easy to break off.

For stainless.
LC200N/Zfinit- highly stainless. Good edge holding and super tough. Very easy to sharpen. Makes a great kitchen knife and a great chopper.

Vanax- essentially stain proof. Great edge holding. Also very tough with improved edge stability. Basically a LC200N with 3x the nitrogen and added vanadium. Can go thinner than LC200N BTE.
 

Dergyll

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Feb 24, 2021
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3V for fixed blade, and LC200N has been a recent favorite of mine...the caribbean is my go-to Maine knife and requires almost no maintenance. Also easy to sharpen.

I've had some not-so-good cheaper steels; recently got one if those dessert warriors and for the life of me CANNOT GET IT SHARP GAHH maybe I just suck. Also a counter puppy from spyderco in 8cr...it gets dull pretty quick.

I just noticed the majority of my knives are M4? Not sure why...
 

Bigfattyt

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Jun 23, 2007
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I've only used moderate "super steels" like CPM3v, INFI, CPM154.

I love AEBL for its toughness combined with super easy sharpening. Just such a joy to touch up. Decent edge retention at 61-62 RC. Better than 1095 and even 52100 which I love.

Opinel's Sandvik 12C27 is a joy to use as well.

 
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Jun 7, 2020
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For me my overall favorite is Zwear for tool steel. I've used it the most. Super tough. Excellent edge holding for its class. 63HRC is awesome. 4V also fits in here. Same reasons just more edge holding.

Another favorite is K390/CPM 10V class steels. High hardness thin edges are amazing. The edge holding is spectacular while being as tough or slightly tougher than D2. They sharpen up well and the burr is easy to break off.

For stainless.
LC200N/Zfinit- highly stainless. Good edge holding and super tough. Very easy to sharpen. Makes a great kitchen knife and a great chopper.

Vanax- essentially stain proof. Great edge holding. Also very tough with improved edge stability. Basically a LC200N with 3x the nitrogen and added vanadium. Can go thinner than LC200N BTE.

As a knifemaker who has presumably worked with vanax, how hard is vanax to sharpen compared to z-finit?
 
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Mar 16, 2007
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Interesting comments here. Back in the day, I snagged a Final Judgement by Fehrman. That knife has kept on ticking through just about everything I can think of. I just use an inexpensive crock stick to clean up the edge and she is ready to roll again. Between that knife and my trusty Basic 9, I frankly don't know why I'd ever need (aside from the elation of collecting) another camp style blade. I do wish I had availed myself of some other Fehrman styles while Eric was still in business. He certainly made some top notch blades.

Looking back on all the collecting, I must say that it isn't so much which steel you select but rather who performs the heat treat. Makes all the difference in the world and then some!
 
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Feb 25, 2021
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Very big fan of AEB-L when it's done right. Also 52100.

I prefer 154cm to the CPM version, at least the samples I tried. Took a wicked nice edge and held it well enough for my purposes.

Would love to try some LC200N, Vanax or 14c28N.
 
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Dec 31, 2004
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I've been a fan of M390 lately especially how Hinderer is doing their heat treating. Seems to hold a working edge for a long time and easy to touch-up.
 
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