Category Archives for "Steels"

Carbon Steels

The world of carbon steels can be challenging to wrap your head around. There are many different options to choose from, and each type of steel has different benefits. The main differentiating factor is the amount of carbon that is mixed with iron during production. Other materials, mainly metals, can be added to change the physical properties. Notably, chromium is added to form stainless steel, while other additives can change tensile strength, ductility, or toughness. When looking at the big picture, there are three distinctions between carbon steels: low, medium, and high*.

Carbon steel classificationCarbon Steel Classification Table from Learn Easy

Low carbon steel

Low carbon steels such as 302, 304 or 316 grades of stainless are typically used in applications which require high degrees of corrosion resistance but do not require a hardened surface. The carbon content of these steels typically range between 0.03-0.08%, and consumers typically use these grades of stainless (often without thinking about it) in kitchen equipment, silverware or almost any grade of un-plated steel used in food preparation. It’s great because it can survive the dishwasher without rusting, but it cannot be case hardened due to the very low carbon content.

While it can be used to make linear shafting, it isn’t suitable for loaded ball contact. So if a linear ball bushing were to be used on a soft 304 stainless steel shaft, for example, the balls in the bearing would quickly impact the shaft surface, resulting in visible ball tracking on its surface and a drastic reduction in both bearing and shaft life. It can, however, be used in conjunction with polymer, plain-style bearings which provide great options for both corrosion resistance and self-lubrication. For the right applications, a 300 series stainless steel linear shaft presents a great option for withstanding tough environmental conditions! 

Medium carbon steel

Medium carbon steels include grades with carbon contents ranging from 0.25% to 0.60% of the steel mass. Medium carbon grades are typically employed in conjunction with alloys such as chromium, nickel and molybdenum to produce high strength, wear resistance and toughness. Products using medium grades of carbon steel include gears, axles, studs and other machine components that require optimal combinations of strength and toughness.

Medium carbon steels have good machining characteristics, and one of the more popular grades used in machined steel product is AISI 1045.   AISI 1045 can also be hardened by heating the material too approximately 820-850C (1508 -1562 F) and held until the material reaches a uniform temperature. It should be soaked for one hour per 25 mm section of material and subsequently cooled in still air. 

High carbon steel

High carbon steels are those with carbon contents between 0.60% and 1.4% of the overall weight. The alloys in this particular category constitute the strongest and hardest within the three groups, but they are also the least ductile. These steels are used in a range of different mechanical, cutting and bearing applications as it can be hardened through heat treating and tempering. Additional alloys can be added to this steel category in order to generate different characteristics. Chromium and Manganese, for example, are used in the composition of 52100 steel and aid in the hardening process while enhancing the steel’s resistance to corrosion. Since 52100 is one of the steel grades frequently used to manufacture linear shafting, precise control of the case depth can be critical to generate a shaft with both a hardened surface (for loaded ball contact) and an un-hardened inner core which prevents the shaft from becoming brittle.

Steel alloys are given designators by organizations such as the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) for easier classification and identification. AISI typically follows a four digit system, where the first two digits indicate the alloy, and the second two digits denote the carbon content. ASTM uses an “A” to denote ferrous materials, followed by an arbitrarily assigned number for each alloy.

Regardless of the system used, this standardization allows cross talk between designers, engineers, and builders to ensure the proper material is being selected and used in engineering projects. It also makes looking up physical properties of alloys very easy, as a simple search with the identification number produces the correct information.

As with any selection, there are always advantages and disadvantages to keep in mind when choosing a carbon steel. The main things to consider when choosing carbon steel include final use, required physical properties, and cost.

ATS 34 Stainless Steel

ATS 34 is available in stock sizes useful for blade makers. Originally, blade makers used very similar steel developed for aerospace engines. When engine makers turned to titanium, the steel supply dried up. Frustrated blade makers took the formula overseas to find a manufacturer who would put out a chemically identical metal. Targeted to the quality blade making market, it experienced some quality problems in years past due to low volume. Those issues have long since been resolved, leaving quality steel available for custom blade making and other applications requiring hard, long wearing steel. It is abrasion resistant, sufficiently hard and corrosion resistant for knife making.

LIMITATIONS OF ATS 34
ATS 34, although stainless, is not as corrosion resistant as some other alloys. It is not an ideal selection for applications where long exposure to wet or salty atmospheres can be anticipated. On the upside, it makes superb custom blades. The alloying elements require that it be heat treated at higher temperatures than other blade steels. But if the heat treating process is carried out correctly the steel will take an excellent, long wearing edge.

440 Stainless Steels – 440A, 440B and 440C

440B is almost identical to 440A, but has a higher carbon content range compared to 440A 440C is considered a high-end stainless steel. It is very resistant to corrosion and is one of the most common stainless alloys used for knife making. … 440C has highest carbon content in 440 group.

I’ve seen these designations as a source of confusion in the knifemaking field for decades, and it’s time to set some things straight. First, there is no “440” stainless steel. Without the letter designation, it’s like claiming your car is a 20th century version (not identifying the year or the model)! Yes, I drive a 1900’s car; it’s a great car; it was built in the 1900s. How ridiculous is that? Yet I’ve seen this again and again in not only individual knife maker’s sites, but in knife manufacturer’s advertisements as well. The numbers 440 without the A, B, or C designation after them are essentially meaningless. Just Google the term 440 steel and see the endless list of makers and manufacturers that are proud to spew their ignorance about this type of steel, calling it surgical stainless, dive stainless, or other terms that demonstrate their lack of knowledge about the term they are attempting to define.

440A: this is a hardenable stainless steel alloy, hardenable to a higher hardness than 420 series stainless steels (which are only hardenable to 52 HRC). 440A has good corrosion resistance, and is used in less expensive bearings and in harder surgical tools (rare). It has 0.6 to 0.75 percent carbon, about the same carbon content as most steel springs. Its advantage is that is cheaper than 440B and slightly more corrosion resistant.

440B: this is a hardenable stainless steel alloy, hardenable to a higher hardness than 440A. It has good corrosion resistance and is used in cutlery (economy), valves, and instrument bearings, where high wear is less important than high corrosion resistance. It has 0.75 to 0.95 percent carbon.

440C: this is also a hardenable stainless steel alloy, hardenable to a higher hardness than 440B. It has good corrosion resistance, and is used in ball bearing balls and races, high pressure nozzles, valve seats and high wear components. It has 0.95 to 1.20 percent carbon. As detailed in the Machinery’s Handbook: “This steel has the greatest quenched hardness and wear resistance upon heat treatment of any corrosion-resistant or heat-resistant steel.”

All three of these steels have the same amount of chromium, from 16 to 18 percent. They are all high chromium martensitic standard stainless steels. All of their other alloy elements are about the same, including manganese, silicon, phosphorus, sulfur, and molybdenum. Clearly, the difference in these three is the carbon content, which is substantial. The higher carbon content in 440C yields a much more wear resistant knife blade. More about carbon on my “Heat Treating and Cryogenic Processing of Knife Blade Steels” page.

Composition :

  • Carbon: 1.00-1.25% This increases hardenability and wear resistance, but decreases toughness in higher amounts.
  • Manganese: .45% This is added to reduce brittleness and improve forgeability, hardenability, and reducing deformation.
  • Silicon: .30% This is a deoxidizer and improves hot-forming properties.
  • Chromium: 17.00-18.00% Added in high amounts only to high alloy tool steels: this improves hardenability, high wear resistance, toughness, and corrosion resistance.
  • Molybdenum: .50% Improves deep hardening and toughness, along with wear resistance.

VG-1 Stainless Steel

VG-1 (also known as V Gold 1 steel) is a high Carbon (C) Molybdenum (Mo) stainless steel manufactured by Takefu Special Steel Co.,Ltd.[1] It is not the same steel as VG-10.

VG-1 has a Carbon (C) content between 0.95-1.05 %, Chromium (Cr) content between 13.0-15.0 %, Molybdenum (Mo) content between 0.2-0.4 % and contains less than 0.25 % of Nickel (Ni).[2] During forging, Mo and Cr form hard double carbide bonds, which help improve the abrasion and corrosion resistance of the steel.[3] It is usually heat treated to reach hardness of 58-61[4]

Knife retailer Cold Steel markets a variety of knives that use VG-1.[5] Cold Steel claims that VG-1 has better sharpness, edge retention, point strength, shock and strength characteristics than 440C, VG-10, or ATS 34 stainless steels, though any of those alloys may be better than VG-1 in individual categories.[6] There have been reports that VG-1 might be more chipping prone than other comparable stainless steels, but these reports have been disputed.[7]

VG-1 is also used in hairdresser’s scissors, kitchen knives and blades for food-processing machines.

Damascus Steel

The word “Damascus” goes back to medieval western cultures and refers to an earlier style of craftsmanship that first emerged in India around 300 B.C. This craftsmanship was prolific at the time, and was likely named for the region that made it famous.

Around that time, Arab culture introduced Wootz steel to the Syrian city of Damascus where the material led to a thriving industry in weaponry. Damascus imported Wootz steel from Persia and Sri Lanka for the production and utility of hybrid steel blades known for their toughness. Apparently, the minds behind this technological development understood how combining various metals would create weapons of increased strength over those made of pure steel.

First, let’s do a little freshening up on what exactly “Damascus steel” is. Damascus, Wootz, and patternweld are all names given to different types of steels and blades. Basically, the idea is that two or more steel alloys are forged/cast together through various methods to give the wavy artistic pattern that comes from such a layering process. Unfortunately, the technique for making both Damascus and Wootz steel has been lost to the centuries. Anyone claiming to be making authentic Wootz/Damascus these days is delusional. Or lying . . .

wootz dagger

Traditional dagger cut from wootz ingot

99.9999% of the layered and forged steel these days is either San-mai or pattern welded (mokume and mosaic are a different thing all together.) San-mai steel is very common in Japanese knives, and it’s literally just a sandwich of 3 sheets of steel. Two outer stainless steels and a harder stainless or carbon steel core make up the cross section of a San-mai blade. No folding is done on a San-mai blade because the goal is to have a hard, protected edge that’s fused to the stainless steel but not mixed with it.

The other type of pattern-welded steel is the so called “Damascus steel”. Originally used in middle eastern sword making, the method has been lost since about the 16th century. The art form has resurfaced, though, and in 1973 bladesmith William F. Moran unveiled his “Damascus knives” at the Knifemakers’ Guild Show. Ever since then modern pattern-welded steel blades have been called “Damascus knives”.

You asked what they are used for. Well…the process of choosing steel for a Damascus blade is important. Many makers choose 2-5 alloys that play nicely together and make for a beautiful pattern. Once the knife is forged or ground to shape, the waves of steel alloy will meet at the edge and you can change the cutting performance of the blade by tweaking the alloy and its heat treat process.

For instance Devin Thomas is a master Damascus steel maker. He forges every billet himself and has the process down to a science. Devin makes all-stainless Damascus steel, high contrast, double high carbon, and many, many exotic patterns. When he uses AEB-L and 304 together, it’s obvious that some of the stronger qualities of AEB-L will be watered down by the softer 304. But remember — forged together in a blade, differing alloys present at the blade’s edge can make for a micro-serration surface, aiding in sawing or slicing actions.

When it comes down to it, most of today’s super exotic alloys will outperform any pattern-welded steel. Owning and using a Damascus steel blade is about personal style and respect for the time and process of developing such a blade. A well-made Damascus blade will stay sharp for longer than most production quality knives, but if you’re looking for the ends-of-the-earth best performing blade steel, look elsewhere.

As with any knife-related subject, quality is largely determined by how much it costs. True “name brand” Damascus steel is of the highest quality. Knives made from these steels will make fantastic knives. The rule of thumb is, if the price is too good to be true, it is.

VG-10 Stainless Steel

VG10 steel is a designation used for a very particular type of stainless steel often used in knife blades. The G stands for “gold”, which refers to the “gold standard” that this level of stainless steel is considered to have met. This steel is produced in Japan, and it is the Japanese cutlery market that has traditionally made the most use of this particular type of steel in its knives.

VG10 is the most popular kitchen steel
Because of how well VG10 holds an edge and its ability to withstand rust, VG10 has become the most popular steel for professional chefs and cooking enthusiasts. VG10 also has an amazing ability to have designs created into the blade during tempering.

VG10 allows you to create crazy designs on really sharp knives.

VG10 Allows manufacturers to add intricate designs to very sharp and durable knives.

COMPONENTS OF VG10
VG 10 stainless steel is also a high carbon steel, even though carbon only makes up a relatively small amount of the total material of the blade. VG 10 stainless steel is a mixture that contains roughly 1% carbon, 1% molybdenum, 15% chromium, .2% vanadium and 1.5% cobalt. All of these relatively small amounts of other metals give the VG 10 steel its unusual properties, such as its ability to hold an edge, and the sheer durability of the steel in question. It is one reason why the VG 10 label has been so highly prized among so many people, ranging from chefs to knife collectors.

VG10 VS VG1
VG 10 stainless steel shouldn’t be confused with VG 1 stainless steel, either. Though both of these varieties of steel are used by manufacturers in Japan and elsewhere, VG 10 is considered a higher quality metal. It’s for that reason that finding VG 10 knives for the kitchen and for work tools is fairly common. VG 1 steel on the other hand is much more commonly found in knives from a variety of different dealers and merchants. It’s because of the relative proliferation though that the confusion can be easily made between the two types of steel. Not good, especially if a customer is paying the VG 10 steel price for a VG 1 steel blade.

CONCLUSION ON VG10 STEEL
If you are looking for a good knife, consider buying one with VG10. It would be expensive compared to lower end metals like 440 steel but it is well worth it. With VG10 you get the hardness of a carbon steel but the corrosion resistance of stainless. This makes it great for cooking knives. VG10 is never used in cleavers.

WARNING : A ‘Damascus steel’ pattern is often applied to these knives – It is NOT Damascus steel which is a multi-layer steel.

Overview of Knife Blade Steels

Choosing the best knife for yourself and your task at hand can feel overwhelming when looking at all of the options that there are. You have to decide between steel types, blade shapes, and what the knife’s purpose is. To make this process easier for everyone, I have decided to do a beginner’s series. To start off with, I am going to define the different terms used in ranking knife steels and then go into the different popular types of steels and dig deep into their details to help you figure out which knife is your perfect option. 

Basic Terms

For starters, there are a few different terms that I should define. First off, the Rockwell Hardness Scale, this is a scale that determines the hardness of a material by a series of tests. The lower the number of Rockwell Hardness, the softer the steel. The higher the number, the harder the steel. Often times, these numbers are paired with either “HRC” or “RC”. These terms just say that the number is on the Rockwell Hardness scale, just two different ways of saying that. With steel, the hardness is often described as the strength of the steel.

Another important aspect is toughness. Often times, hardness and toughness are used as synonyms, however there is a difference.  The toughness of a knife is referring to how much force the blade can endure before chipping, cracking, or breaking during heavy use. The thing about toughness and hardness is that the harder a knife is, the less tough it will be and vice versa.

The third main factor in steel is corrosion resistance. Corrosion resistance is how well the knife holds up to rust and other discolorations of the steel.

While hardness, toughness, and corrosion resistance are the three main factors in steel, there is another factor in choosing which steel to purchase. The edge retention of a knife’s steel. This is used when describing how long the blade will stay sharp after a period of usage.

Before we dive in, let’s go over the most common elements present in steel and the properties they give it.

  • Iron is the main ingredient in steel.
  • Carbon is one of the most important factors, as it functions as a hardening element and makes the iron stronger. Every type of steel will have some amount of carbon, and oftentimes the amount can be telling of the quality of a blade. Low carbon means there is 0.3 percent or less carbon in the alloy, medium carbon is typically between 0.4-0.7 percent, and high is generally considered 0.8 percent and above.
  • Chromium is what makes stainless steel stainless. Technically all steel can rust, but types with more chromium (usually around 12-13 percent) are much less prone to it.
  • Cobalt adds strength to the blade.
  • Manganese hardens the blade, but also makes it brittle if added in high quantities.
  • Nickel adds toughness to the blade.
  • Molybdenum helps a steel maintain strength at high temperatures.
  • Tungsten increases wear resistance.
  • Vanadium increases wear resistance and makes the blade harder.

Different Types of Steel

Now that we all understand the basic terms used to describe the steels, let’s focus on the individual types of steel that can make up a knife blade.

AUS 8

Another popular steel used in knives is AUS 8 steel. This steel is also referred to as 8A steel.  The Rockwell Hardness level is 57-58. One of the biggest pros about AUS 8 steel is how well it can hold an edge. It is also extremely easy to sharpen. This type of steel has .75% carbon, so this means that it is a relatively hard knife. This is a cheaper knife and for the price, it has great corrosion resistance capacities. Overall, this type of steel has a good balance of toughness, strength, edge holding, and resistance to corrosion, especially for the price. Because of its lower price, it won’t hold up forever, but is great if you are looking for a cheaper option.

VG-10

VG-10 steel was originally used for kitchen cutlery, because it is one of the highest levels of stainless steels. This is also because this steel holds a great edge and has a fantastic anti-rust property. The carbon content in this steel is around 1%. This steel is one of the hardest steels and because of this, it can get brittle and chip. VG-10 steel contains vanadium which is what gives it the extra toughness. Because of the high quality of its stainless properties and its strength, VG-10 is sometimes known as a super steel. This steel is very similar to ATS-34 and 154CM steel. The Rockwell Hardness is 60. VG-10 steel originated in Japan and was first introduced in America by Spyderco. While the cost might seem steep when first looking at it, you get what you pay for and it is well worth the extra money.

Damascus

While Damascus steel is a popular steel, it is very different than any of the other steels that we’ve been discussing. This steel is made out of two or more layers of different types of steel and “folding” them together. Folding, is just a specific type of welding, where the different layers of steel are fused together. After these layers are fused together, the steel is etched with acid. Because the acid reacts differently to the two different types of steel, it reveals a striped pattern out. Knives with Damascus steel has a high toughness, but the process is long and the cost of production is high. This means that Damascus blades are usually just used for the aesthetic in decorative blades. Damascus is actually considered a precious metal. These knives are usually collector’s knives. The Rockwell Hardness level of Damascus steel is a little bit trickier because there are different types of steels in it, but they usually range from a 53 to 62.

VG-1

VG-1 is also known as V Gold 1 steel and is a high Carbon (C) Molybdenum (Mo) stainless steel manufactured by Takefu Special Steel Co.,Ltd.[1] It is not the same steel as VG-10.

VG-1 has a Carbon (C) content between 0.95-1.05 %, Chromium (Cr) content between 13.0-15.0 %, Molybdenum (Mo) content between 0.2-0.4 % and contains less than 0.25 % of Nickel (Ni).[2] During forging, Mo and Cr form hard double carbide bonds, which help improve the abrasion and corrosion resistance of the steel.[3] It is usually heat treated to reach hardness of 58-61[4]

Claims are made that VG-1 has better sharpness, edge retention, point strength, shock and strength characteristics than 440C, VG-10, or ATS 34 stainless steels, though any of those alloys may be better than VG-1 in individual categories.

VG-1 is also used in hairdresser’s scissors, kitchen knives and blades for food-processing machines.

440A, 440B and 440C Stainless Steels

Grade 440C stainless steel is a high carbon martensitic stainless steel. … Grade 440C is capable of attaining, after heat treatment, the highest strength, hardness and wear resistance of all the stainless alloys.

Cromova
Cromova is the name Global use for their stainless steel. It is steel with 0.8 % carbon and added chrome, molybdenum and vanadium. Cromova steel has a fine grain structure and can be sharpened very sharp. It combines good cutting characteristics with good rust resistance.

Hyper Molybdenum Vanadium

This is a stain resistant steel blades that is bacteria resistant. This steel gives the blade incredible strength, toughness, and corrosion resistance. Korin Masamoto are the main manufacturer using this steel for kitchen knives. HRc: 58-59.

154 CM Steel: This is high quality steel — arguably one of the best available for knives. It has a carbon content of 1.05 percent, it holds an edge well, and has  pretty good toughness for how hard the steel It is tougher than 440C and is often compared to ATS 34 because the two are so similar.

M390 Steel: M390 as 1.9 percent carbon, is very stain-resistant, and has excellent wear resistance. It has vanadium as an additive, and consequently is a popular hard steel. This is also the type of steel used most often for surgical applications.

N680 Steel: Last but not least, N680 has .54 percent carbon. This is another very hard steel that is highly stain resistant, making it good for saltwater applications.

Carbon Steel

General features of carbon steel make it perfect for Japanese blacksmiths as this steel is often used for Traditional Japanese knives. The only downside is that it’s not rustproof so a higher maintenance skills are needed.

The Japanese company Hitachi Metals makes special cutting steels which represent the highest global standard and are used for almost all the knives we offer. These Yasugi Special Steels , named after their place of origin, are produced from iron sand, the same material that was used to make the legendary Samurai swords. They have a highly pure structure and thus offer the best achievable sharpness for cutting.

Blue Paper Steel (Aogami)
High carbon steel is specifically developed for tools and knives. This one has highest wear resistance and lowest toughness. Very good steel and a very popular choice for high end Japanese kitchen knives. A lot of Japanese custom makers use it. Easy to sharpen, even high hardness. Edge holding is just outstanding. Original Japanese knives made from these materials are treated with non-corrosive, food-safe oils (e.g. camellia oil) to prevent oxidation.

White Paper Steel (Shirogami)
Identical to Blue Paper Steel (Aogami) , except for the absence of Cr and W. It’s very pure carbon steel. Very popular knife steel for high end Japanese cutlery and especially with Honyaki type blades.

Very good edge holding, very high working hardness. This means you can grind it to exceptional sharpness, which retains it for a long time. These blades are particularly suitable for the gentle preparation of foods – but they are prone to oxidation, which means your knife will rust if not taken care of.

Yellow Paper Steel (Kigami)
Better steel compared to SK series, but worse than both, Aogami and Shirogami. Used in high end tools and low/mid class kitchen knives.

SK Steel series
Solid performer as a cutlery steel. Low grade steel, mainly due to impurities. Used mainly in hand tools like axes, hammers and cheap kitchen knives.

Japanese Steel (Nihonko, Hagane, Virgin Carbon Steel)
Important steel that has been used to produce knives in Japan since ancient times, providing better sharpness than common stainless steel. The Japanese steel is a premium grade of steel that boasts extremely high carbon content. It is manufactured in limited quantities in Japan. The steel is harder than German steel and has a greater sharpening potential. It also maintains an edge longer than other lower-carbon steel formulae. These features make Japanese steel the ideal material for manufacturing high performance cutlery.

Ceramic

Although very sharp and durable, they are brittle and do not stand sideways pressure. NOT suitable.

AUS-8 Stainless Steel

The single most important component of a good knife is the steel used to make it. A tough, versatile, damage-resistant steel can make or break a knife’s performance, as well as give them their high-quality standards. Stainless steel is a popular alloy type because of its unparalleled resistance to rust, as well as its convenient and stress-free ease of maintenance. The high chromium, Japanese-made AUS 8 stainless steel is an extremely hard, rust-resistant metal capable of acquiring a razor-sharp edge to satisfy any knife-user or lover. The exceptional balance of qualities offered by the steel sets AUS 8 aside from many other high-grade steels in its class, giving it countless reasons why you should look for it in a knife.

What is AUS 8 steel?

The Japanese-made AUS 8 steel is often considered an upper-range steel, comparable if not better than steels such as 440C, CM-154, and D2 steels. Given a proper heat treatment and hardened to the right level, which is usually around 58 to 59 HRC, it will perform satisfyingly and meet the standards of a true quality stainless steel. A well-rounded composition allows for this steel grade to reach high levels of hardness, toughness, wear and corrosion resistance, as well as edge retention.

Composition

Material %
Carbon .75
Chromium
  1. 5
Manganese .5
Molybdenum .3
Nickel .49
Silicon 1
Vanadium .26

This is a carefully balanced composition to ensure not just a great hardness, toughness, and harden-ability, but also the critically important qualities of wear, abrasion, and corrosion resistance that are vital in any good knife steel. Each of the above listed components in AUS 8 steel serve different and equally important purposes which, together, make it a quality steel superior to so many of the other steels in its class.

Carbon content in a steel will give it the hard-to-achieve quality of an increased edge retention, which cannot be attained through the use of other popular elements in stainless steels. Edge retention in a blade is so critical because it helps give the steel the attribute of keeping its edge for long periods of time.

In order to be classified as a stainless steel, a metal must have a chromium content of at least 10.5 percent- AUS 8 steel has a 14.5 percent chromium content. The benefits of the use of chromium include a significantly increased hardness and toughness, as well as a strong tensile strength (the ability to withstand maximum stress), wear, abrasion, rust and corrosion resistance. Chromium is one of the most beneficial components of a stainless steel due to these reasons, which add to its dependability as well as its ability to attain a razor sharp edge and last for very long periods of time.

In addition to adding to a steel’s tensile strength and corrosion resistance, manganese also contributes to AUS 8’s commendable grind-ability and harden-ability. Steels that are easy for welders to fashion make for better blades, and make them easier to sharpen when they get dull.

When added to steel and cast irons, molybdenum contributes to the steel’s weld-ability and corrosion and wear resistance. By increasing the steel’s lattice strain, the energy required to ruin the blade is augmented, making the steel significantly stronger and less susceptible to such damages. This ingredient is not commonly found in stainless steels, but is becoming more commonly used due to its low density and more cost-effective price, and has begun to replace the now less common ingredient of tungsten.

Another unique component of AUS 8 is nickel. When nickel is added to a stainless steel, the austenite structure of the iron is steadied. Although manganese does similar things to nickel, and nickel is generally more expensive, sufficient nickel content will weaken a steel’s corrosion resistance no matter how much manganese it has. Nickel also contributes to AUS 8’s laudable weld-ability, another reason why knife makers like it so much and prefer it over other high-grade steels.

Silicon is commonly found in stainless steels, offering an increased tensile strength to give those steels a greater maximum stress resistance.

Vanadium, a new and innovative additive to quality stainless steels, not only dramatically increases AUS 8’s tensile strength, but enhances what few other elements can offer by adding to the steel’s impact strength, a key component in ensuring a knife’s ruggedness and adding a pure dependability that will give you an unquestionable confidence in the steel’s ability to take abuse and come out unscathed. Such imperviousness to damages makes AUS 8 steel such a great candidate for use in even the most rugged survival/bushcraft knives. Vanadium is also reported to make steels easier to sharpen.

Despite the quality of AUS 8 steel, it should not be thought to be a premium grade steel, such as S35VN, ELMAX, and M390 steels. AUS 8 is a high-grade metal that is in the ranks of steels such as 440C and 8Cr13MoV grade steels. Therefore, knives with AUS 8 steel will typically be more in the 30 to 150 dollar range depending on factors included with the knife such as handle materials as well as overall workmanship, whereas knives with premium grade steels will fall more typically in the 150 to 500 range.

Why is AUS 8 steel so popular, who uses it, and for what purposes is it used?

Because of its superior composition, which allows for it to be so versatile and strong, AUS 8 has become popular among knife makers and knife companies, who use it to make many different types of blades.

Knife makers prefer this steel to others in its class for the reason that it can be “stamped,” as opposed to “forged.” Stamped knives are made from large sheets of stainless steel, able to be mass produced by a machine that stamps out the metal in the shape of a knife. Afterwards, the handle is added and the knife is sharpened and polished. This process makes knife-producing significantly more convenient and inexpensive than “forged” knives, which are created in a process where the raw metal is melted and shaped to the right size, then sharpened and polished- a longer and more expensive process.

The biggest improvement of the AUS series over the 400 Series is the addition of vanadium, which improves wear resistance and provides great toughness. This also reportedly makes the steel easier to sharpen.

AUS-6 Steel: AUS-6 Steel has .65 percent carbon and is generally considered a low-quality steel. It’s comparable to 420, but with better edge retention and less corrosion resistance.

AUS-8 Steel: This fairly popular steel has .75 percent carbon, which makes it fairly tough. It also has more vanadium than AUS-6, so it holds an edge better.

AUS-10 Steel: This has 1.1% carbon and is roughly comparable to 440C. It has more vanadium and less chromium than 440C, which makes it slightly tougher in comparison, but also a little less rust resistant.

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