Carbon Steels, 420C, 440C, VG10, RWL34, Damasteel...there are a lot of options... What steels are best for all-round knife making (I.E not for any special applications)?

  • I'm afraid that 'what is your favourite X' -type questions aren't on topic here (see the help centre for more) - can you rephrase this into something more objective such as 'What steels are good for knife making, and why?' or similar? – walrus Jun 12 '18 at 8:37
  • Ok. Best will not do too because there is never a best material since a slight change in the specifications can have heavy consequences. I tried another wording but English is not my native langage. Feel free to make better proposals. – Thib Jun 12 '18 at 11:48
  • Yes, it's a difficult thing to word. Are you wanting to ask about knife making in general, or are you interested in something more specific (say, for a beginner)? – walrus Jun 12 '18 at 12:22
  • I'm making knives so I'm more interested in how other people think about them knife steel. How they choose it and what steels are they considering as the most relevant for them uses. – Thib Jun 12 '18 at 12:39
  • 1
    The great majority are 420 , at least in the US. A small point; the compositions of 420 and 410 have a very small overlap. The 440s are specialty blades like scalpels and industrial blades/shears. Too brittle to make a household knife. Another point ; I am sure there are a hundred proprietary names for basically 420 that are claimed to have unique properties. – blacksmith37 Jun 13 '18 at 3:12

Mine would go to Sandvik 14C28N, Nitrocut NCV60 or similar steels with medium Carbon content and >0,1 Nitrogen. Always taken for a high quality manufacturer because chemical composition is far from making the quality of a steel alone.

  • Relatively stainless in most environments except sea or underwater. Lower maintenance than Carbon Steel and safer for food contact.

  • Easy to sharpen. Gives a fine edge thanks to Nitrogen. Holds quite well an edge.

  • Quite low prices given the quality level.

Of course a powder metallurgy RWL34 and others very high hardness steels will hold and edge longer. But this is a lot of cost for a small performance improvement. It is also harder to resharp.

If I have to work on a boat or going into rivers these steels will not do the job for long. Knife steels rust very fast. I would go to modified versions with >0,2 Nitrogen and >1 Molybdenum. Bohler N680 is a good reference. This type of steel is also a good option for food contact intensive uses like chief knives.

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