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)?
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.