View Full Version : most desired steels

08-16-2010, 06:53 AM
I was just wondering what the most desired steels are now. When I was making years ago it was 440c but it seems that is not the case anymore. What steels do people look for now?

08-16-2010, 07:19 AM
I've watched thing change over the years....there are so many different steel "factions" now a days that it's sometimes hard to keep up with. You have those who buy/collect forged cutlery...these folks are not as picky about the steel type as they are the maker who produces it. You have the stainless crowd, where CPM steels tend to be favored (CPM 154, CPM S30V, etc). In recent years there is another segment of buyers that I call "The steel of the month crowd".....whatever is new and exotic grabs their attention. And the more hype surrounding it, the better. Some examples of what I consider "Steel of the month" were Liquid Metal and Talonite.

If your forging, the tried and true steel such as W1, W2, 1080, 5160, 1095, and 52100 will always be good sellers. With stainless CPM 154 seems to lead the pack, but most of the "old" stainless steels like D2, 440, etc are still very viable choices for most.
I always encourage makers to decide on 3-4 steel types, learn all there is to know about them, and stick with them. I always kinda chuckle when I visit a knifemaker's site, and see 10-20 steels types listed...while they think they are giving the customer what they want, in reality they are really telling everyone (customers are much more educated today than they ever have been) that they are a jack of all trades....and a master of none.

08-16-2010, 09:13 AM
Thanks I have alsways worked with 440c, cpm 154 and 1095. I like 440 c just because I have to worry about rust a lot less( less maintenace)

James Terrio
08-16-2010, 11:27 AM
Once again, Ed nailed it. I feel about the same way about "flavor of the month" trends. I'm fairly conservative about steel, and as a new maker I try to learn about alloys that have been around awhile and proven to work really well.

On the other hand, I may be a bit of a black sheep in that I love "plain" high-carbon steels, tool steels, and "stainless" steels. I feel each type has its own attributes and see no reason to restrict myself to one or the other. I used to be a complete snob about high-carbon simple alloys, but research and some personal testing has taught me to open my mind a bit.

I've used several different steels but I'm now focusing on O1, D2/CPM-D2 and CPM154, and phasing out the other stuff I have on hand. I know they can all make excellent blades in their own way and I hope to get a good grip on understanding those three.

If you like 440C, you'll love CPM154. It was designed specifically as an improvement on 440C. It has somewhat better corrosion resistance, edge-retention and toughness. It polishes up really nice. I've ground both and can't really tell the difference that way, both are reasonably easy to grind and drill. Go for it!

Another kind of unpleasant reality is, as you mentioned, 440C (while it's still a good alloy) is often seen as being "outdated" and that may affect sales. Part of this might be because so many mediocre or worse knives have been made of cheaper 440A or 440B, which really don't compare to high-carbon 440C.

P.S. D2 isn't a stainless steel, it's a tool steel. It doesn't have quite enough chromium to be called stainless. (sorry, Ed, I couldn't resist being a smarty-pants ;) )

08-16-2010, 03:41 PM
Your 100% right James! D2 isn't "stainless", but it's just enough of a pain in the rear to work with, that I always lump it in with that other "godless/soul-less steel". (after saying that I'll bet the lynch mob will be out looking for me!) :) IT WAS A JOKE FELLAS! :)

George Tichbourne
08-17-2010, 07:54 PM
I have to agree with Ed about limiting your choice of steels to improve your understanding of that steel's charateristics. Another reason to limit the variety of steels in your shop is the risk of losing track of which is which and getting the wrong heat treating recipe.

I use 440C, stellite and damasteel.


Cliff Fendley
08-20-2010, 05:27 AM
It's really hard to go wrong with a good 440C. As James said many see it as outdated and to read some of the hype on newer steels they make you want to think 440C all of a sudden turned to mush when other steels came along. In all reality 440C and ATS34/154CM are very similiar and depending on the source the 440C can actually have a higher carbon content. If you notice on charts the carbon content has a wide range for 440C and I can tell you from experience it's not all the same.

08-20-2010, 07:22 PM
this is great thread.

James Terrio
08-20-2010, 07:46 PM
(after saying that I'll bet the lynch mob will be out looking for me!) :) IT WAS A JOKE FELLAS! :)

Rope is for testing edge-retention, not for lynching people. I understand the joke, no offense taken here. ;)

08-20-2010, 08:32 PM
How did yall go about deciding / what critera did you put for deciding what steel would be in your selected few. I can understand how this would be a good idea. At this point I have only made 3 knives and they were all made from different types of steel. however my next 5 will all be out of D2.

Doug Lester
08-20-2010, 09:08 PM
I got the idea from posts on various knife making boards and articles that I read in "Blade". I wanted a hypoeutectoid steel and considered 5160 and 9260. Some makers said that they had had some problems with the quality of 5160 so I went with the 9260 even though it is only available in two sizes and from one distributer. Ed Fowler stated that he felt that 52100 was about the best knife steel going so I chose it for a hypereutectoid steel. I also chose it because it was available in round bar which is also something that I wanted to try.

Definitions: hypoeutectoid steel contains less than the maximum amount of carbon that can be disolved in iron.
hypereutectoid steel contains more carbon than can be disolved in iron, the rest forms cementite and other carbides.

Doug Lester

09-12-2010, 07:59 AM
I started using 1095 for my first blades because it was easy to get, and was cheap, and if it turned out good, I had a good knife. Then I wanted to try O1 for a little better edge retention, and wanted a stainless steel, so 440C seemed a good choice, and it has done well on the knives that I have made with it. My next steel was to try D2, and A2 to make two knives just alike and test them, this deer season will complete the test, but so far D2 is my favorite for edge holding. I am done with trying new steels and have settled on O1, D2, A2, still use some 1095, and for my stainless it is 440C.

09-14-2010, 05:49 PM
I primarily use two steels 1095 and ATS34 and see the need for both stainless and carbon blades. They bring there own special characteristics to a blade. I settled on these out of shear usage and availability. I used 440C and really like it but the guys are right, people who know steel think it is outdated (super steel of the 1960's) and those who don't only see the 440 designation which a lot of crap is imported as. The reason I moved to ATS34 in the 1990's was it was easier to tell potential customer at gun shows about ATS34 than it was to try and educate them on the many variations of 440 and why China makes it so cheap. In the beginning I used every steel I could and still occasionally use sometime different but I've learned to handle and heat treat these and feel confident I'm getting the most out of the steel.