Best steel for a pocket knife for a beginner ??

C Craft

Well-Known Member
So the tittle says it all, what is the best steel for a pocket knife. Up till now I have worked with the series 1075 - up to 1095. However I had a request for a pocket knife and I am not sure where to go with this.

I feel I need something that can be HTed without specialized equipment, (pretty much using what I have now) I mostly quench in Parks #50!! I have used Canola oil for some needs!

I want to use something that has virtually no chance to rust! So I am scared that none of the 1075 - 1095 are going to meet that standard! I have had them take a rust on the bench. The humidity here in Florida is a mean taskmaster to deal with sometimes!! Originally I was gonna with 1095 and do a bluing process on it. that would last for some time on the body but the blade will not have or even for that matter keep, the bluing and then letting in rust!!

However an experience I a while back trying to sharpen a pocket knife for my son. It was made by Spyderco, the steel was marked as CPMS30V! I had a devil of a time getting it too come up with a good edge. You can reference this thread!!
Lets face it there is a good portion of the people who carry a pocket knife really do not know how to actually sharpen it. And if it is a steel such as the CPMS30V is used, it makes it that much harder!! So no rust, yet easy to put and edge on it. Personally I would rather stop and hit a knife a few strokes on a good stone and have it back to razors edge, than to have a steel that is hard to get that edge on! So I want something that won't rust, yet something that will take an edge easily.

I feel that a true pocket knife would be best from a thinner steel! While this one the guy wants is to be a lock back knife and I feel it would benefit from thicker steel!

1. So guys I am looking for some recommendations on steel that may hit the parameters I just spoke of!

2. I also would like recommendations on width and thickness of such steel. For a true pocket knife and a lock back knife!

So I told the guy this would be my first folder, (other than some friction folders) and when I got done. Then I will decide on whether I would sell it too him or give it too him!! LOL
Either way I want the experience, of building a folder. This is not the first request for a folder! It is however the first time I got serious about making one, other than the experience of the friction folders!!
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Active Member
With a steel that meets your 1st condition of no chance of rusting, you're talking about a stainless steel, which is still subject to corrosion to some extent. The heat treating of stainless steels is not easily accomplished by less than temperature controlled ovens and usually a cryo treatment to get the most out of the complex chemistry of the chosen steel. Heat treating the modern "Super Steels" is often more work than making the knife.

If you're going to have to send the blade and spring out for HT, your only considerations in your choice of steel is 1) workability and 2) price of the steel, both of which can vary greatly. A couple of inexpensive steels to consider for a folder are PG O-1, which is a favorite among a lot of knifemakers for their folders because of the edge that's attainable and ease of sharpening, and AEB-L as a more stainless choice for the same 2 reasons. The great thing about making folders is you aren't using nearly as much steel on each knife as you do with a fixed blade hunter, so mistakes cost you more in time than money in steel.

Hope this helps and good luck.

C Craft

Well-Known Member
The main reason I don't want it to rust is this pocket knives are for pockets or small cases that go on your side, IMHO!! Mostly what I would consider a EDC!
I remember a bad experience as a very young kid. Back in the day business use to give out calendars at the end of the year or a pen or something with the logo on so you would remember them the next time you bought something. One vendor gave out a pocket knife that looked like a coin with their logo on one side and phone numbers on the other side. The knife looked like a lady bug with its wings up/ when both blades were open.
I remember I used it to cut up an apple and thought I had cleaned it! However two days later when I went to open it both blades were rusted shut. Even though back then I didn't realize it was a piece of junk. I don't ever want someone to say that about one of my folders!!

OK, so PG 0-1. I am not familiar with the designation and when I do a search . It comes 01 is tool steel. That much I pretty much knew 01 was tool steel. What does the PG , proceeding the 01 stand for!!

AEB-L is supposed to be a good middle of the road steel for folder from what little I do know about it!

How involved are the HT of each of these steels!! Are they both cryo treatment steels??


Well-Known Member
By far the "best" steel for a folder (or anything) is AEB-L. Cheapest way to HT would be ship to Peters or somebody like that to have it done. The most "fun" way to HT would be to ride over here and we'll spend the day doing the HT here.

Now, what type of folder are you planning - wait, you did say "lock back". Those can be tricky getting the lock part of the blade to fit just right.

Yes, there are plenty other good steels out there, I like S35V also. S35V is much like S30V, but easier to sharpen. AEB-L is still what many (myself included) feel is about the best "bang for the buck" steel available these days.

Ken H>

C Craft

Well-Known Member
Ken, I appreciate the offer and I may take you up on that at a later date. This folder is going to be many firsts, so still in the planning stage at this point!!

I will have to look at AEB-L and see all the pertinent info!!
O1 is easy to HT and does not need a cryo. It will rust but not if kept oiled. I notice on the o1 I have used that if polished nice it really takes a while to rust. You can let it patina and it will hold up real well. A2 Is also a tool steel...air hardening but can be oil quenched...and DOES benefit from a cold treatment but is fine without if your HT is good...does not rust as easy as O-1...also the better the polish...the less it wants to rust. I think AEB-L is pretty high temp need a furnace or send it out. It will be the next steel i play with...still liking my A2 though!


Well-Known Member
Anytime Cliff - just holler. Oh, you asked about thickness for folder...... again it depends on type of folder. Something along the tactical side? I've used .140" thick stuff for blade on a heavy liner lock Ken Onion design I made a blade for. For slipjoints it seems something on the order of .098" range is popular.

C Craft

Well-Known Member
Ken, what do you use for liners. I have some thin 15N20 but, since I am looking to not have rust, that may not be the best selection for liners!!

Questions are beginning to raise in my mind. On a lock back the spring would need to be HT as well I am assuming! So I am also assuming it could be cut from the same AEB-L . That means the blade would need to be thinner or dressed down to a lighter thickness.

Oh, Lord what am I getting into here I may be having night mares before I turn out this first one!!

C Craft

Well-Known Member
OK so my brain is beginning to kick up into overdrive, at this point!!

I remember seeing for lack of the proper term, an assembly board for a slip joint and it had a gauge to measure resistance as the blade swings. I think!!!
Can anyone tell me the proper terminology for such a board and gauge. I thought I remembered seeing such on USA Knifemaker's site. but I am not calling it by the right name and can't seem to pull it up!!!

Also since I am winging this first one where might I go to read up some more on folder construcion!! The more I get into this the more I begin to wonder, what am I getting into here!

The idea starts simple, till you get to thinking it over a bit more, and I am seeing some new stuff to head in the folder direction!!

EDIT: OK I think I found what I was referring to!! 1528141860075.png Here is the one from USA Knifemakers.

Now I just got to figure out if all this knowledge about slip joint folders and lock backs will fit into my head!! o_O :D
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C Craft

Well-Known Member
Thanks Dennis I finally figured it out again when I came across the pic while searching. Thank you for the heads up anyway!

I ran across a build along with Don Robinson today while searching from another forum I knew Don from.

So I got to sit down and do a lot of serious reading. I must have bookmarked at least a dozen sites so there is a lot of info to go thru there!! If I seem excited I am. This is new territory for me and while I have been wanting to do a folder all along. I already have three or four designs I was kind of working on. Now I got to figure out if they will work before I spend hours making something that ain't right!!

Question, is the rise and fall indicator used with any type of folder or just with a slip joint!!

EDIT: Well shoot, the pictures are still there with Don's build along but I can't get any of them to open the just sit and buffer! That stinks, I can't see them as they are they are too small!!!! Oh well maybe I can glean some info from just reading and not doing the visual as well!
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C Craft

Well-Known Member
Steve, I am thinking I want to learn all there is about folders, I mean they all have a lot of things in common!

So here is the next thing to pop in my mind. Can you make folders without a mill?????


Well-Known Member
Question, is the rise and fall indicator used with any type of folder or just with a slip joint!!
You can build any folder without a rise 'n fall indicator but it sure does help with slipjoints, and handy with a back lock folder also. After all, you want the backspring to be flush when closed as well as open.


You can substitute a block of wood for the rise and fall indicator. It works with slip joints and lock backs, no need for one with liner locks. You can make them with out a mill. You can use washers instead of milling a relief but you will need to thin the blade so it and the washers equal the thickness of the spring.

Drew Riley

Well-Known Member
S30V can be a bear to sharpen. It's a little on the gummy side and it's hard to break the burr off sometimes.


If I were you, I'd make a few folders out of 10xx, or whatever steel you're comfortable heat treating yourself, until you get the basics down.
Slipjoints have their quirks, and while they're not terribly complicated, they are easy to make "less than ideal". Once you get the build process down and nail down a pattern, then I'd get some AEB-L and send out for HT.

Can you make folders without a mill? Absolutely. Can you make slipjoints without a mill? Sure. Mills and surface grinders do make things a bit easier, but they're not completely necessary. There are 3 main things everything has to be: Square, parallel, and flat. That's the different between a knife that opens and closes smooth or hard, a blade that's centered or not, and a knife that will stay together or work itself apart.

The main thing a mill is used for in making a slip joint is milling liner reliefs to prevent rubbing on the tang, or maybe milling integral bolsters. (I also use one to mill the back of the tang where the back spring fits in, but this can be done easily with files as well.) I suppose you could mill relief with a stout drill press if you take multiple light passes with a sharp end mill. You really only need about .010" depth.

An alternative would be to polish the tang and use soft liners like brass. You'll still get rub marks, but they won't be as bad.

I've got a series walking through a Lanny's clip build on my youtube channel, along with a link to a pattern in the video description, if you want to try that. It's not the best series out there, but I've gotten some decent feedback.

Don't forget, if/when you do heat treat the stainless, the backspring will need to be tempered to a spring temper, differently than the blade, or it will break.

As for slipjoint thickness, I like something between .060 and .100, depending on the size of the knife. I've even gone a little thicker on larger folders, but .070 to .090 isn't a bad place to start.

Precision is your friend. Holes should be reamed to final size, and remamber: SPF: Square, Flat, Parallel.

C Craft

Well-Known Member
Guys you don't know how much I appreciate all the feedback!!! I have made a couple of primitive style friction folders. But have been toying with the idea of a slip joint and a lock back folder. I have folks ask about them quite often and till this time I never really seriously gave it a lot of thought!

I mean I feel I am still learning to begin with and the idea of jumping into another field of knife making has been a little intimidating! However I have went as far as to make a couple of prototypes on a wood board. More to see if what I thought would work, will work!!

So I may just do what you are speaking of Andrew and make a couple out of 1080- 1095 and get a feel for it, so to speak!!

I already lay down at night and ask the good Lord, if I should die before I wake,...…………. please don't let my wife sell my tools for what she thinks I have in them!!! :D


Well-Known Member
please don't let my wife sell my tools for what she thinks I have in them!!! :D
Lord Cliff - that's a prayer many of us folks have!!! Well, to be honest the wife never really says anything about my tools. At Blade this week I was drooling over a horizontal grinder...... "buy it" she says....... of course, she didn't know it cost $4500 at the time either {g}
Fortunately i get to write off ALL my knife making purchases on taxes....I'm gonna need a leather splitter and sewing machine this year because of a big job I landed....still riles me how much taxes I pay...while neighbors that work full time AND collect welfare and medicaid and go on big vacations every year....I better stop...I'm grateful for the shop i have even if I don't do vacations....(Though I AM thinking about Blade West...write off...)