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Your favorite steel for buying or making knives

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  • Your favorite steel for buying or making knives

    We've had bits and pieces of knife steel discussions within other threads but I thought perhaps we should start a thread with the focus on which steels we look for when buying or making knives.

    One of my favorite steels is Sandvik 12C27. It sharpens easily to a razor edge but seems to hold an edge fairly well too. It's a good balance. There are knives out there that might hold an edge a bit longer but once they get dull resharpening is a major chore. 12C27 sharpens with just a few strokes on a fine stone. I own several EKA (Normark) knives made from this steel. Browning also uses 12C27 in some of their lock back hunting knives. Here is some data from the Sandvik site:

    Sandvik 12C27 is our main knife steel for hand-held knives, high-end ice skate blades and ice drills. Continuous improvement over a period of 45 years has evolved Sandvik 12C27 into the high performing steel grade it is today. The composition is tighter, the purity level is much higher and the fine carbide microstructure of today is far from how Sandvik 12C27 knife steel of the sixties looked.

    With a hardness range of 54-61 HRC, high toughness, scary sharpness and good corrosion resistance, Sandvik 12C27 is the recommended grade for hunting knives, pocket knives, camping knives, high-end chef's knives and tactical knives.

    Like most of Sandvik's knife steels this grade is fineblankable enabling efficient production.

    % Chemical Composition
    Carbon Crome Silicon Manganese
    0.60 13.5 - 0.40 0.40
    Datasheet https://www.materials.sandvik/en/mat...sandvik-12c27/
    Last edited by Rockydog; 01-20-2018, 00:08.
    Every once in a while in life we need a policeman, a lawyer, a doctor and a preacher. We need a farmer three times a day, every day.

  • #2
    And here is one of the knives I have from this steel. Not a lock back but a great pocket knife just the same. In fact I have one in storage for each of my three grandsons.

    EKA Eskilstuna Sweden


    EKA - SWEDE 38

    This Swedish classic slip-joint was designed by

    Prince Sigvard Bernadotte of the Swedish Kingdom family.

    Not only known as a prince, but a renowned graphic and

    industrial designer who designed furniture, kitchenware, appliances, posters, etc.

    He designed the Swede 38 as a modest clip point blade combined with a



    sleek Red Dryflex handle to create a great traditional pocket carrier.

    FEATURES:
    - Satin finish
    - Sandvik 12C27 Steel blade
    - Brass liners
    - Flat ground blade
    - Crescent nail mark
    - Sheath not included
    - U.S. Patented Design

    SPECIFICATIONS:
    - Blade Steel: Sandvik 12C27
    - HRC: 57-59
    - Handle Material: Dryflex Red
    - Blade length: 81 mm / 3.19"
    - Total length: 185 mm / 7.28"
    - Closed Length: 4" /101mm
    - Blade thickness: 2.8 mm / 0.11
    - Total weight: 74 gram / 2.61 oz
    Made in Sweden

    Click image for larger version

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    Every once in a while in life we need a policeman, a lawyer, a doctor and a preacher. We need a farmer three times a day, every day.

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    • #3
      I think the intended use of knife, is important for steel selection. The best handmade working knives I've used, were built by old millright. For fillet knives, he used old bandsaw blades. For hunting knives he used old planner blades. For general purpose knives, he used old circular saw blades. For caping and skinning, he use old file. The bandsaw steel gave flexibility, the planner steel gave hardness, while not being brittle, circular steel was tough, but soft enough, to sharpen quickly and take abuse, file steel, took and retained good edge, but because of it's hardness, it was difficult to sharpen and was brittle, not suited for rough work. The blades made from the harder steels (file and planner) got scary sharp, you couldn't "test" blade with your thumb, without cutting yourself, you didn't shave your arm hair, you shaved the top layer of skin off.
      Columbia Falls, MT
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      • #4
        I cannot speak to the technical end of this conversation , sorry R.D. but a friend of mine for several years was really into making knives and his steel of choice was 2" ball bearings that he got from the paper mill when they would tear down a machine to change bearings , I don't know the specs. of that , but the man made beautiful and functional knives, most handles were deer or elk antler and he made a sheath for each knife before sending it out the door.

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        • #5
          S30V. A2. D2. Elmax.
          Homo sapiens, [ˈhōmō ˈsāpēənz] Noun. An advanced primate characterized by a large brain which it seldom uses.

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          • #6
            My favorite all-time knife is a CRKT M16-13 with either aluminum or titanium handles. Not sure of the steel, might be 8Cr13MoV, 58-60 HRC, that is what they are made of now, mine is 10-15 years old. I sharpens easy and retains it's edge very well. It has a chisel edge.

            The other is a Cold Steel Master Hunter, VG-1 San Mai III®. Great knife.
            "The United States Marine Corps is a drug and I am a recovering addict."

            "American by birthright… U.S. MARINE by the Grace of GOD!"

            "And on the 8th day God created Marines and like fish, we came from the sea!"

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            • #7
              Dm, Here's some info on the steel used in your Cold Steel Master Hunter. RD

              San Mai III Stainless Steel


              Manufacturer: Cold Steel(?)

              San Mai III steel is a laminated stainless steel which consists of three layers of steel. The outer two layers are made of a softer, tough steel, sandwiching a harder, high carbon core that forms the actual cutting edge of the knife.

              Earlier variants of San Mai III steel had an AUS-8 steel core, sandwiched by softer, tougher stainless sides possibly made from 420J2. Current San Mai III steel, sometimes called VG-1 San Mai III, uses a VG-1 stainless core which is a slight upgrade from AUS-8. San Mai looks very nice, but given the actual application of the knives in using this steel, the necessity of the San Mai construction is questionable. Cold Steel has a reputation for being all hype and gimmicks, and San Mai III steel is considered by many to be just another gimmick.

              San Mai III is used exclusively by Cold Steel, and is manufactured exclusively for them in Japan. Since VG-1 is a proprietary product of Takefu Special Steel, it is possible that they manufacture the steel for Cold Steel.
              Composition

              Based on the assumption of 420J2 sides, and VG-1 Core.
              C Co Cr Mn Mo Si S Ni V
              VG-1 0.95-1.05 - 13-15 - 0.2-0.4 - - <0.25 -
              420J2 0.32 - 14-16 1 - 1 - - -
              Values are shown in percentages.
              Every once in a while in life we need a policeman, a lawyer, a doctor and a preacher. We need a farmer three times a day, every day.

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              • #8
                I have read other, criticisms/comments about the same about San Mai III. Oh well, it works good for me.
                &quot;The United States Marine Corps is a drug and I am a recovering addict.&quot;

                &quot;American by birthright… U.S. MARINE by the Grace of GOD!&quot;

                &quot;And on the 8th day God created Marines and like fish, we came from the sea!&quot;

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                • #9
                  DM, I certainly didn't mean to disrspect your choice. In fact I find it interesting that the core of this steel is an upgrade of AUS-8 which some people swear is the best steel for knife making, period! I have a lot of respect for Cold Steel Knives and for the company founder. My son is in the service and was tasked, along with some co workers with choosing a knife for members of his team. Lynn Thompson met with them personally, thanked them for their service and showed them the choices he had to offer based upon their needs. Pretty nice when the CEO takes time out to help you choose a knife.

                  Here is a paragraph about the San Mai III. From the Cold Steel site.

                  A simple way to think of San Mai III® blade construction is to imagine a sandwich: The meat center is hard, high carbon steel and the pieces of bread on either side are the lower-carbon, tough side panels. The edge of the blade should be hard to maximize edge holding ability, but if the entire blade was hard it could be damaged during the rigors of battle. For ultimate toughness the body of the blade must be able to withstand impact and lateral stresses. Toughness is generally associated with "softness" and "flexibility" in steel, so that, surprisingly, if a blade is made "tough" the edge won't be hard enough to offer superior edge holding. San Mai III® blades provides a blade with hard (higher carbon) steel in the middle for a keen, long lasting edge and tougher (lower-carbon) steel along the sides for flexibility.
                  Last edited by Rockydog; 01-20-2018, 22:37.
                  Every once in a while in life we need a policeman, a lawyer, a doctor and a preacher. We need a farmer three times a day, every day.

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                  • #10
                    AUS-8 is the best steel for knife-making? Who ARE these people?
                    Homo sapiens, [ˈhōmō ˈsāpēənz] Noun. An advanced primate characterized by a large brain which it seldom uses.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Plainsman View Post
                      AUS-8 is the best steel for knife-making? Who ARE these people?
                      The same people who think that (Name your caliber) is a death ray. I was thinking about making some knives when I retire and spent some time on forums looking at steel specs. Being a novice at it I started by looking at the knives I own and evaluating what they were made of. Then went looking for others. You'd be surprised at the number of times AUS-8 comes up. RD
                      Last edited by Rockydog; 01-20-2018, 23:24.
                      Every once in a while in life we need a policeman, a lawyer, a doctor and a preacher. We need a farmer three times a day, every day.

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                      • #12
                        RD, I probably would be surprised. I have several knives of AUS-8, bought earlier when I didn't know any better for their design or function and not the quality of the steel. I find it hard to sharpen well, and it does not hold an edge. I have never seen an up-scale knife made of it.
                        Homo sapiens, [ˈhōmō ˈsāpēənz] Noun. An advanced primate characterized by a large brain which it seldom uses.

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                        • #13
                          I don't know how, as a layman, you could possibly determine what steel to use. I have a few of what I consider higher end production knives. Some of the lighter duty ones such as fillet knives and capers are 440C. The heavier duty ones are D2 and S30V. My belief is that D2 is just slightly below S30V as it has slightly less Chromiun and not quite the hardness and toughness of S30V and it does not qualify to be labelled stainless. I do know that 440C sharpens the easiest of the three and D2 and S30V hold their edges longer but I sometimes find them difficult to get really sharp.

                          I have to confess that while I am in no sense of the word a collector of knives, I find myself to be an admirer and therefore, often an acquirer. Just like firearms, I have way more than I need and far fewer than I want.
                          If it weren't for double standards, liberals would have no standards at all.

                          "Ammo and really good friends are hard to find in a gunfight so I bring them with me" E. J. Owens

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                          • #14
                            Plainsman and Ozark Ed, Thank you both for your comments. Both are exactly the thing I started this thread for. There are steel blanks out there for sale but it's very confusing for the uninitiated.

                            Until I get some feedback I can only go by what works for me. I have a bunch of Russel Green River knives that my long gone FIL gave me from being a butcher his whole life. They sharpen easily and hold an edge fairly well but when dull a 1/2 dozen passes across a stone and a swipe with the steel and they are sharp again. I have no idea of what steel they are On the Russel website it says Carbon Steel.

                            I also have several Normark/EKA knives that sharpen to extremely sharp with more effort than the Russels but hold that sharpness very well. They are the Sandvik 12C27.

                            I have a couple of Buck knives they hold a very sharp edge well but I find taht take forever to resharpen with a stone. I've read that they use 420HC for their steel but used to use 440C. On their Alaskan Series they use S30V.

                            It all gets a bit confusing. RD
                            Last edited by Rockydog; 01-21-2018, 12:39.
                            Every once in a while in life we need a policeman, a lawyer, a doctor and a preacher. We need a farmer three times a day, every day.

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                            • #15
                              Sorry if I sounded like you had disrespected my choice. It was not my intent. Just that I had read those types of comments before but I like it.
                              On knives I am much like Ozark. Not an expert, maybe not even very "knowledgeabe" but have my likes. I wanted at one time to learn to make knives and I "made" a few. Tried to shape some from blanks, did not go good, so decided it was better that I enjoy knives and leave making to someone else. Just as I like good looking accurate rifles, I like good looking knives and have a few. Have done a lot of research on knives and different steels and came to conclusion that like calibers, there is really no best, just what works the way you want it to work.
                              &quot;The United States Marine Corps is a drug and I am a recovering addict.&quot;

                              &quot;American by birthright… U.S. MARINE by the Grace of GOD!&quot;

                              &quot;And on the 8th day God created Marines and like fish, we came from the sea!&quot;

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