cart SHOPPING CART You have 0 items
SELECT CURRENCY

Discussion Forums

Search forums
Forum Index > Equipment > Some new steels for knife makers

Some new steels for knife makers

23 Jun 2018
@ 12:31 pm (GMT)

Warrick Edmonds

Talking steels, there's been some serious movement on that front in the last while. Some very tough steels that were previously held in commercial lock by large knife making companies are now available to the general custom makers such as myself. I've just started experimenting with some of these over the last few months and the results are impressive. Early days for me but here's the little bit I've done;

Just some terms. Hardness is the measure of how much force it takes to drive a point into the steel. Toughness is a mix of wear resistance and ability to absorb abuse, and is reflected in edge retention.

CPMREX121. This is supposedly the toughest steel out there, getting up to an unbelievable hardness of RC=mid 70's. To put that in perspective, most knives are RC= 59 to 61 and it's a log scale. It would be impossible to sharpen without the right tools. However I've seen cutting tests where it just blows the opposition away in number of cuts before blunting, by something like three times. I've made one knife out of this but haven't tested it yet. I did try to stonewash the blade but couldn't, it was too tough.

CPMS110V. I won't be using this again. I made a hunter for my son and it's such a hard steel to work,...it saps all the joy out of life. I hope the edge retention is worth it. We're going goat hunting tomorrow for a couple days so we'll see how it performs. I also made a leather cutting knife from it for my own bench, = sheath making. It outperforms all my other tools by a long way, so it's the one I reach for all the time.

Bohler M390. This is my choice so far. It's ok to work though demands much more effort than 'normal' steels. It's a full stainless that can get hard, in the mid 60's, without losing toughness. That is, without getting brittle. But toughness and edge holding are high compared to the hardness. I've made a hunter out of this which is now with it's new owner but before I posted it away I tested the edge by cutting rope and 3.5mm thick leather to the point of blisters on my hands. 640 cuts of rope and 200 cuts of leather before it wouldn't easily cut A4 paper, though it would still shave my arm. It's an impressively good steel and I'll be using it more in the future. I put a photo of the pile of rope cut and leather strips on my website, new things page.

So, anyway, there's a few names for 'next gen' steels, sometimes called '3rd gen martensitic' or '3rd gen particle formed' that you can look into when you're considering your knife purchase from your favourite suppliers. There are plenty of production made knives out there using these steels or you could ask your knife maker to look into them. Just beware that REX 121 is a carbon steel while the other two are stainless. They are top shelf so, yes, that means there is a price premium, the only sad part of this story.

cheers
Warrick Edmonds
Riflebirdknives.com

Replies

23 Jun 2018
@ 10:42 pm (GMT)

Andrew Murray

Re: Some new steels for knife makers
Cheers for the updates Warrick.

Glad to know these products are out and about to a wider market. I hope that future tests help you to narrow down the results and effort vs reward in their creation.
30 Jun 2018
@ 07:43 am (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Some new steels for knife makers
Thanks for these updates Warrick. Yes, it can be quite a thing to get used to a new steel, getting used to sharpening it, time taken etc. This last knife you made for me is very hard but tough. I have not seen any brittle steel along the edge, no chipping.

I butchered a trailer load of dog tucker goats a few days ago, edge held fine but also, the handle design is working extremely well thanks, no slipping in this wet weather.
30 Jun 2018
@ 02:33 pm (GMT)

Warrick Edmonds

Re: Some new steels for knife makers
Cheers Nathan, good to hear it's doing the business, thanks for the update.

One thing about these steels that I should have mentioned. They're not for everyone. For example a butcher likes a softer blade that he can regularly sharpen with a few licks on a steel. And so do many blokes using knives in the field. There's nothing worse than dulling a knife that you can't touch up when on the job.

Knives made from the steels I mention above are very hard to sharpen. You need diamond stones or at a minimum good quality water stones or some other gizmo driven sharpening device. So, by implication you sharpen these knives at home or at the hunting base. The upside and pay-off is that they then hold that edge for way longer than 'normal' steels. I'm talking seriously long.

So, you need to know what sort of knife user you are, 'normal' steels that you can touch up and need to touch up throughout a butchery job or 'flash Harry' steels that carry their edge from home base right through. BTW, neither is right, they're just different.
11 Jul 2018
@ 04:24 pm (GMT)

Shawn Bevins

Re: Some new steels for knife makers
Warrick, Thanks for the update. I have a knife made out of the same steel as Nathan's new knife. Like it.. loved the "Painless Stainless"

I visited a knife forum a while ago and saw someone mention Nitro V steel as a newer steel. Do various steel go by new trade names to make old stuff new again? I was looking through chemical compositions and noted Sandvik's 14c28n cutlery steel, it is just about identical to Aldo's Nitro V.

Thanks in advance
Shawn
12 Jul 2018
@ 12:25 pm (GMT)

Warrick Edmonds

Re: Some new steels for knife makers
Shawn

It's not so much that steels get re-invented, it's more that different companies make similar steels under different names. You'll find very few of the designations used in, for example, the USA are used in Europe eg, Bohler make N695 which is the equivalent of the perennial, American 440C. The end result is in fact a dense nightmare of complications when it comes to naming that loses me most of the time.

If you come across an unusual and particular steel, I suggest you got to Blade Forums USA and search on it. It's a forum so there will be conflicting and muddled advice but there'll be a trend you can get the gist of.

Further to my comments at the top of the page, I've now done a rope cut test using a skinning knife made from CPMS110V and got 780 cuts, which is just nuts. To put that in perspective, 52100 carbon steel gave me 300-ish cuts.

As for your specific question, I haven't used Nitro V so can't say much about it. I have used AEB-L, which was it's precursor and found it underwhelming. AEB-L was particularly annoying from a makers point of view cause it would not remain straight during heat treating, even warping in the tang of the knife. Life's too short to fart around with things that make it a misery, so no more AEB-L for me. I think one of the characteristics that makes it popular is the low price point compared to other select steels. But yeah, as far as I can tell Nirto V and 14c28n are close, just a smidge different in chrome which isn't here or there.
12 Jul 2018
@ 09:16 pm (GMT)

Cor Nepgen

Re: Some new steels for knife makers
Hi Warrick,

Thank you for posting your findings and this thread, I have become very interested in different steels and enjoy comparing them as an interest. I must stay, you are quite brave making a knife from S110v.

My daily carry is a spyderco Manix 2 in S110V for the last two years or so. My experience with different steels is obviously much more limited than you, so far I have 8CR13MOV, VG10, 52100 and S110V.

My experience is pretty much as you describe above. It will cut and keep on cutting for a very long time, however it does take a great deal of time to reprofile. Because of that, I am diligent in maintaining the edge and regularly strop and touch up. (I use the spider sharp maker).

If I remember correctly, its the amount of Vanadium present in the steel that forms carbides. Practically what I found with this, is that the steel excels with a slightly coarser finish to the edge.

VG 10 as well as 52100 I maintain shaving sharp (push cuts) and it is very easy to keep there. S110V on the other hand does not get that "sticky sharp" feeling, but when you start using the steel using pulling cuts, it just outperforms all the rest by a large degree.

I think you are right in mentioning different steels for different uses and people. The newer "super steels" I think is more suited for people interested in the steel and comparing it to others. Most of my friends would hate it and not get an edge on it, just because of the time commitment it takes to sharpen it. Note that I do not (yet) have the diamond rods.. So it takes some time and doing haha.

Te downside I have found it what you gain for in hardness you slightly loose in toughness compared to 52100. So more prone to chipping, and then it is a chore to reprofile to remove the chip.

That said, I love the steel and choose it ahead of most of my knives. Also because I love the Blurple Manix. The ergonomix and grip of the G10 suits me very well. Think its a little big knife
13 Jul 2018
@ 12:12 pm (GMT)

Warrick Edmonds

Re: Some new steels for knife makers
Cor

Further to your comments about toughness, I'm currently making a large chopper/camp knife for a client out of CPM3V. This and another steel called M4 are worth exploring if you're interested in impact resistance and general toughness. M4 is the favoured steel by competition cutters in the Blade Sports games.

You're right, these are specialty steels, each to some degree, though I'm currently thinking M390 might be the best generalist I've come across so far. (I took delivery of four more bars of M390 yesterday). But Nathan's forum and website are all about finessing and getting the most out of kit, so if you've got the time and interest to enjoy tweaking then here's another field to play around in.
13 Jul 2018
@ 09:34 pm (GMT)

Cor Nepgen

Re: Some new steels for knife makers
Hi Warrick,

Thanks for the advice and steel suggestions. I have quite a list of steels I am curious about, M4 is quite high on the list although M390 I know very little about. Now I think I will read up some and see if I can fins something in the foreseeable future.

I have quite a soft spot for the high carbon tool steels and simple steels. I really want a woking knife in 1560 still, practically how the performance will vary to 52100 I am not sure. Probably depends more on individual heat treat than much else.

I like to support blacksmiths/ knife makers with their steel of choice, then one of the reasons I like spyderco is because of the cheer variety they produce. I think they do quite well in providing a wide variety of steel and folder designs to the general public. Fixed blades I support small makers though.

I would love to get a knife from Neels van den Berg still, though I doubt I will be able to afford one any time soon haha. Kevin and Heather Harvey are quite iconic ABS master smiths in South Africa, so they are also on the wish list haha. Again doubt I will be able to afford one of their knees soon.

In no specific order, the steels on my to-do list includes
Maxamet, Hap 40, Superblue, D2, S30V, S35VN and CTS XHP.

For daily carry I prefer a folder with a stainless blade because I do use it for anything and often can only clean again in the evening. The high carbon steels I like larger knives and think I also fall more or less into the drop point bowie camp.

I think you are absolutely correct that most folk on this forum will enjoy playing around and experimenting with different steel choices and the nuances between them.

One day I may just be lucky enough to order a knife from you too!

Take care,
Cor
14 Jul 2018
@ 12:21 am (GMT)

Warrick Edmonds

Re: Some new steels for knife makers
Cor

I have used some of the steels on your wish list so can chuck a few anecdotes into the mix.

I made two of my personal, full sized chefs knives from Hitachi Superblue 2. It's a fine steel for making a razor edge but requires a strop or steel before every use if you want that surgeons cut. Also, it goes very dark with stains and within a short period of time takes on 'ye olde worlde' look. I'm ok with that but you need to match the blade look with the right handle material to carry it off nicely. (if you're a knife maker that is)

I think D2 is awful, a dinosaur at best. But others like it.

My personal hunting/skinning knives are made from S35VN and I find it a good steel, one that you can sharpen and care for in the field. It will hold enough edge to do a whole goat or a goodly portion of a red deer, by that I mean skin and butcher, but then requires a swipe on the steel. It might require a quick touch up during as well, depending on how finicky you are. I also have a knife in 52100 but the S35VN outperforms it.

Don't Kevin and Heather offer makers courses, maybe you should make your own !!
16 Jul 2018
@ 08:48 pm (GMT)

Cor Nepgen

Re: Some new steels for knife makers
Hi Warrick,

Thank for the advice, think I'll save myself the experimenting with D2 haha. I must be honest, I like the way a patina builds up on steel but have never considered how this will influence the handle materials from an aesthetic perspective.. Food for thought..

I think you are on to something with the Chef knives in superblue, that just sounds like an amazing application for that steel. Sharpening knives are half the fun for me, between freehand stones and the sharpmaker I tend to have the odd bit of success.

Yes you are correct, Heavin forge offers knives making courses tat looks very good. Kevin has a video where he talks about knife sharpening that I found very useful. Discussing similar issues to the papery posted in the other thread. I'll post the video there. Neels van den Berg (black dragon forge) also does knife making and axe making courses. Don't think you can go wrong with either one but I would prefer Kevin Harvey I think. Until you mentioned it, I didn't really think about doing one of the courses but it has tickled me now.

My future plans are a bit unclear but will definitely keep in the back of mind.

Thank you for the comparison between S35VN and 52100. Knowing the S35VN outperforms the 52100 makes it quite exciting for me. On a recent hunt, my 52100 hunting bowie was able to go through two Kudu breasts and skin, process one through. Very easy to bring back to razor sharp afterwards, so that knife is fast becoming one of my favorites.

Thanks again for the advice and knowledge sharing.
Cor
16 Jul 2018
@ 11:37 pm (GMT)

Bob Mavin

Re: Some new steels for knife makers
I have a couple of Svord knifes I really like, a boner & a general purpose , the steel is 15N20. I cant fault them.
07 Sep 2018
@ 12:19 pm (GMT)

Warrick Edmonds

Re: Some new steels for knife makers
I came across this summary of 'good' knife steels that might be of interest to some, follow the link. It's someone else's opinion to share.

http://knifeinformer.com/discovering-the-best-knife-steel/
15 Dec 2018
@ 09:59 am (GMT)

John Smith

Re: Some new steels for knife makers
I just bought a Norwegian Helle Fire knife. Can you tell me the
advantages or d;isadvantages of Helle's laminated steel blades?
17 Dec 2018
@ 10:39 am (GMT)

Warrick Edmonds

Re: Some new steels for knife makers
John

re the Helle knives, the short answer is no I can't. I went to their site and couldn't find anywhere they mention what type of steel they use. All their comments are motherhood statements such as 'high alloy' or 'tripple laminated stainless'. There's nothing specific that I can get a handle on.

From what little information they provide it's a high carbon core and stainless cladding.

In general and vague terms, talking historically, laminated steels gained favour because they offset the cost of making the entire blade out of more expensive high-end steel or because good steel was hard to get. That is, clad a thin slice of good steel with cheaper or easier to get steel. Or, it was a way of adding mechanical toughness to what would otherwise be a hard brittle steel, ie Japanese swords. That is, surround the hard brittle core with softer material with a bit of give so that flexing the blade doesn't snap it. The layers are welded together under serious pressure and heat so it's rare they de-laminate unless we're talking junk kit.

Nowadays it's more about looks. Modern steels are so good the necessity has evaporated so laminating is really about pizzaz. Sure, some really high quality, high cost cooks knives use a thin, hard core but the jury is out on real-world benefits re keeping a cutting edge longer than solid steel knives would.
17 Dec 2018
@ 04:32 pm (GMT)

John Smith

Re: Some new steels for knife makers
Thank you Warrick. And Merry Christmas to you and your family.
09 Aug 2019
@ 09:24 am (GMT)

bryan long

Re: Some new steels for knife makers
Hi Warrick,

any updates on steels? Is M390 still leading the field?

Thanks, Bryan
09 Aug 2019
@ 11:58 am (GMT)

Warrick Edmonds

Re: Some new steels for knife makers
Bryan

re M390, it depends a lot on your sharpening kit. If you have the right kit and a bit of technique it's one of the best steels. If you don't have diamond stones or some top notch ceramics then sharpening will eventually lead to you drooling from both corners of your mouth while the nurse spoons in your dinner of mush. I've made a number of knives from M390 this year and the owners love them, one bloke immediately ordered a second. But, as above, I ensure they understand what's needed to keep them sharp.

On the other hand RWL34, made by Damasteel in Sweden is a great all rounder, a large selection of my personal knives are from this steel. Very stainless, gets hard and takes a sticky edge. It's easy to strop when you're about to use it and polishes like no other steel I know. CPMS35VN is as good in these respects but won't polish.

I'm quite interested in Elmax and will try to buy some this year. I haven't used it yet but have heard enough good things to make me want to.

There is a selection of high nitrogen steels out now that are making waves but they require some very specialised heat treating to bring out their best, I just don't have that kit, so haven't gone down that path.

As for carbon steel, it's 52100 or if you want to gun blue it, 5160. I will consider 01 if you insist.
10 Aug 2019
@ 08:53 pm (GMT)

bryan long

Re: Some new steels for knife makers
I presume these would need to be self tempered to get the desired hardness?
https://brisa.fi/knife-steel/elmax.html
12 Aug 2019
@ 11:49 am (GMT)

Warrick Edmonds

Re: Some new steels for knife makers
Bryan

Correct. From what I've read, it benefits from at least three to four hours of cryo at minus 95 degrees, though liquid N2 is preferable, followed by at least two rounds of tempering.

All steels require tempering after heat treating to lessen brittleness, gives them toughness in the engineering sense of the word. The time and temperature for tempering varies greatly but usually falls into two categories, either at roast chicken cooking temperature or cherry red from the furnace, depends on the steel.

As per my previous post though, I haven't used it yet, I just thought it looked worth trying out. If anyone has a knife made from Elmax, what are your thoughts?
 

ABOUT US

We are a small, family run business, based out of Taranaki, New Zealand, who specialize in cartridge research and testing, and rifle accurizing.

store