Working with various grades of steel-101!!!


New Member
I have just started on with the knife making business. I have pretty good employees who do a hell of a job in making a knife. Because of this, we have already got many contracts including one overseas contract. We currently forge most kinds of a knife, including forged iron, steel, stainless steel. We are getting a lot of contracts in making knives forged of stainless steel including high-temperature alloys. But we are never able to achieve 100% perfection in that. Could you guys please suggest any ways to improve, like the forge you use, or the kind of heat treatment you use? Has anyone worked with INCONEL varieties, and AM455? Could you spare a few minutes to suggest things to look out for while working with them? Thank you.


"The Montana Bladesmith"
Knifemaking Business?? Are we talking a commercial operation?? Don't be offended, but from your post, it's obvious that you need to learn/understand what material/steel types are suitable for forging.... and which ones should not be forge, but used for stock removal instead.

In general, steels appropriate for forging are plain carbon steels (10XX series), and some specific tool/alloy steel types. "Iron", and for the most part, stainless steels are NOT suitable for forging into knife blades. "Iron" (anything with less then a .45 carbon content is generally not used for knife blades due to the low hardenability.) Forging stainless steels, usually causes far more harm then good... due to the alloy content, particularly Cr., Mo, V, and/or W. All of those alloys create a condition known as "red hard", and create VERY narrow forging range temps for those steels. IF the forging range temps for the given alloy are not maintained, the steel will crack/crumble during forging....destroying the steel.

Most of us here are sole proprietors, which means we either produce our knives one at a time, or in relatively small batches. Usually, for an entity that produces large numbers of blades/knives..... it is generally a "stock removal" type operation. Blades are stamped/punched from the given steel, and the steels are chosen because they meet the capabilities of the equipment a particular factory has...... namely air hardening steel. They facilities also utilize automation in their grinding, finishing, and heat treating.

Personally, I use propane forges, and everything is heat treat ONE AT A TIME. When I do make "batches" of knives, it's NEVER more then 8-10 at a time, and those are usually smaller, simple designs.

Just so you know I'm not throwing BS at you..... I am an ABS Mastersmith, with over 30 years of Bladesmithing experience.

I followed the link you posted.... From what I can tell, from the size of your company, you'd be interested in larger contracts. I would think that in order to properly produce blade/knives, you would need to do a LOT of retooling, and likely have to purchase specific heat treating equipment to meet your demands.

The steel types that I saw listed on your website, and I would consider "forgeable" are the carbon steels, 1055 through 1095. In the Tool Steels area, W1 and 52100. There are no other steel types listed that I would forge, or recommend for forging. NOW, that being said, SOME of the other steel may be usable for knives, but would be far better blades if create via stock removal, versus forging. When it comes to forging, you want to steer clear of steels that contain more then 5% Cr......and contain VERY small amount of any of the following: Mo, V, or W. By "small amounts"....usually less then 1%.

Forging knives/blades is a VERY specialized practice. It requires specific knowledge, which is often only learned from extended time/practice. Jumping into knife production, with little or no experience is asking for trouble, in the way of unhappy customers, revoked contract, etc.
IF your company/shop is setup to forge blades/knives, you can always forge other things.....but if you are setup as just a general forging operation, you will likely need to make some MAJOR purchases in equipment/tools to create decent blades/knives.


New Member looks like you are an expert in this field and are doing well. Those pictures look good. Thank you for taking the time to answer my query. I really need to understand the various types of steel and its properties, and which are suitable for forging.
As I said, I only did start out, and there is a LOT to learn!! This is really informative and useful. I guess, 30 years of experience do really make you a master.


Well-Known Member
What steels do you forge. It would be easier to make a comparison if we understood what you're familiar with.