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Know Your Knife - Choose Right Steel
2016-07-04 16:16:11

Know Your Knife  - Choose Right Steel

-By Alta Special Steel


The knife counter at your favorite outdoor retailer is a beautiful place where a spectrum of blades awaits your admiring gaze. But when it is time to shell out some hard-earned cash for your primary tool in the outdoors, one that just may be handed down to your grandchildren, the multitude of styles, prices and designs can make the process of choosing the right knife downright daunting.

Alta Special Steel will help you to learn how to pick the right knife every time. Read on to learn what the experts look for when buying an outdoor knife.

Steel – There are many steel types used in knife-making and you should choose a blade steel based on how you plan to use your knife. Steels differ in regard to hardness and fall within different areas on the Rockwell hardness scale.

Steels also differ in edge retention, “sharpen-ability,” and corrosion resistance. A few common blade steels are 420 and 420HC, 440A, AUS 8, D2, 154CM and S30V. The hardness affects how easy they are to sharpen and how long they will hold an edge. (Alta Special Steel is good at producing AISI D2 / DIN 1.2379, AISI A2, AISI O1 / DIN 1.2510, AISI 420, AISI 420HC, AISI 440A)

The business end of a knife is made of one of many steels

420 is one of the most common metals for knife blades. It makes for a hard, strong blade with good corrosion resistance. It is only OK at holding an edge, but it is pretty easy to sharpen.


420HC is a high-carbon version of 420 with better edge retention. This is Buck’s standard blade material. It approaches the wear resistance of high carbon alloys while delivering the corrosion resistance of chromium stainless steels. Hardened steel blades made of 420HC are also relatively easy to sharpen.


AUS 8 is a Japanese stainless steel. It’s tough, holds an edge, and has good corrosion resistance. It is also relatively inexpensive.


S30V contains carbon as well as high amounts of Chromium, Molybdenum and Vanadium. This steel combines fantastic edge retention and high ductility with corrosion resistance and is often found on high-end blades. It is commonly considered a superior all-around knife steel. All Cabela’s Alaskan Guide Knives made by BUCK use S30V.


D2 contains 12% chromium and has incredible edge-retention. The trade off is only OK corrosion resistance and difficult sharpening.


154CM makes for a blade with good toughness, edge-holding and corrosion resistance. It was first designed for jet engine blades!


440A is found in many production knives for its balance of edge retention, easy sharpening and corrosion resistance. It is an affordable option.

The Buck Lux Pro has a blade made from S30V for edge retention and corrosion resistance

“The steel used in the knife will have an impact on the price of a knife as well,” Witt said. “That is why it is important to have an idea of how you plan to use the knife the most.”

If you are looking at a hunting knife, you want a good balance of edge retention and sharpenability in case you do have to sharpen it in the field.

Alta Special Steel is good at supplying D2, A2, O1, 420, 420HC, 440A etc tool steels. Just contact us to get the BEST raw materials! - sales@altaspecialsteel.com.

OR recommend our steels to your makers.

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