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#1 Jeremiah


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Posted 16 October 2009 - 12:04 AM

This topic has the potential to be endless. I like that. :D

I'll start things off. I'd like to read some opinions regarding which type and grade of steel makes the best overall knife blade for various applications. I would also like to get any take on Japanese vs. American steel.

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 10:24 AM

When and if I get in the mood to make a knife, I love the old crosscut saw blades. I painstakingly, and occasionally painfully, cut my blank with a hammer and cold chisel on an anvil. I then shape with a grinder, dipping in water to prevent temper loss. A diamond bit is then used to pierce the finished blade,as a standard drillbit just doesn't seem to have the wherewithall to cut through it to attach the handles. For handle material, I use either walnut or bakelite. Rivets are 1/4" solid brass peened into place. The handle is then shaped and polished to my specs. Dunno the exact makeup of the crosscut steels, but IMO there isn't a better grade available for this purpose.Yes, if it isn't taken care of, it will rust, but the high carbon content and ability to take and hold an edge more than make up for that fact.

#3 Spirithawk


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Posted 16 October 2009 - 01:06 PM

All my life I've believed that old saw blades make the best knives. I know that old crosscut saws and circular saw blades are highly treasured.

#4 woodswalker



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Posted 16 October 2009 - 07:23 PM

That topic has been debated long and hard by many knifemakers and I dont think it will ever come to an end. It depends a lot on what you want. Do you want carbon steel or stainless? easy to sharpen or better edge holding? For myself I like 1084 carbon for smaller blades and 5160 for larger blades. Both with a differential temper. A note on the old saw blades though, some do make good knives but on some blades there are hardened teeth welded onto a med carbon steel body. They arent any good for knives and wont harden.

#5 Leo


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Posted 17 October 2009 - 12:39 PM

I went through a stage where I just viewed stainless steel as a necessary evil for convenience sake. The stainless knives I had at the time just weren't as good.

Stainless steels have come a long way for knife blades. Some of my current favorite knives are stainless. In my experience the following stainless steels make truly excellent knife blades when heat treated correctly. 440C, 154CM and VG-10. I hear a lot of good things about S30-V but I don't own a knife with that blade material.

Keep in mind, in addition to the obvious toughening and hardening aspect of heat treating stainless steel, stainless steel's corrosion resistence is also affected by the quality of the heat treat. In my opinion AUS-8 is one stainless that is frequently mistreated. A loss of corrosion resistance can affect the edge holding ability of a knife.

The point I'm trying to drive home here is you absolutely can make a crummy knife out of good steel. So don't fall into the trap of assuming just because the knife has a good blade steel it automatically will be a good knife.
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#6 Hammerforged



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Posted 18 October 2009 - 05:17 PM

Leo - is absolutely right in that a crummy knife can be made from a great steel. All of the Steels that have been mentioned are great for making any type of tool, providing the design fits the intended application. However good the steel is to begin with, one cannot make a good knife or any other tool without the proper heat-treat for the steel in use. The heat-treat is the heart and soul of the steel. My favorite mix for my Damascus is 1084 and 15n20 or L6. Both the 15n20 and L6 can be had from used circular Saw Mill blades or old Crosscut Saws. OCS (Old Car Spring) is another great source for blade steel provided it is pre 1990 (IMO) after 1990 the steel used in car springs had a recipe change and I have not been happy with any blade I have made from using these springs. they just don't seem to hold up as well. Lawnmower blades make great knives as do old files. In fact I just finished forging a very nice blade from an old Radius file used in the Rotogravure Printing Industry. After I get the Cord Wrap Handle done I will add a picture of it to my Gallery here. the main problem with any "Stainless" steel from a knifemaker's standpoint is that all "Stainless" Steel are Air-Hardening as well as work-hardening. Without an atmosphere controlled furnace for the heat-treat of "Stainless' Steel one cannot get it right. So, I use a heat-treat service for all of my Stainless blades. As far as a single steel forged blade, again I must say that the intended application or end use determines the steel that will be used in making the tool. If one is going to make a tomahawk or hatchet/axe then one cannot (IMO) ask for any better steel than 1095 unless one wants to make one that will be used for chopping materials where there may be foreign items to deal with (nails, screws, etc.) then I would have to say D2 or 52100, with the D2 you have the air-hardening situation to deal with. 1095 is a good choice for a Large Camp Knife although 1050 or 5160 works just as well. As far as Japanese steels versus American steels until a very few years ago there really weren't any "American" steels to choose from. All raw materials were shipped to Japan, the steel was made there and then sold back to the USA. In only the last 20 years or so have the "American" steels been available and only in small batches. That is changing but not fast enough in my opinion.

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