Testing Your Metal: The Metal in Knives

american-made-knivesThere are so many different possibilities when it comes to the metal in knives that it can be hard to keep it all straight. You’ve got steel alloys, carbon steel, tool steel, and stainless steel–the most common types. Then you have less common metals like titanium and cobalt. Even if you have that down, there are many different specific types of metal within those types of metal!

Rattling off an endless list of numbers and letters for types of steel that you don’t know won’t necessarily help you pick out a knife. We’re just going to break down the basics.

  • Carbon – All steel is going to have carbon in it. The amount of carbon will vary depending on the type of steel, but the higher the carbon content, the better the knife will keep an edge. A lot of knife companies making survival knives will use 1095 carbon steel, which has a steel content of .95%. The idea here is that if you’re in a survival situation you won’t necessarily be able to sharpen your knife frequently so you want it to hold the best edge possible. The main drawback of 1095 steel is that it rusts easily.
  • Chromium – A knife with chromium in the blade will be more resistant to corrosion. Stainless steel has a high chromium content, usually at least 12%. If you don’t want to worry about maintaining your knife, look for one with a high chromium content.
  • Tool steel – This may be one of the most popular options for knife blades. Knives that use tool steel are typically going to have a high carbon content. The carbon in this steel increases the toughness, which is one reason it’s so popular. In addition to the carbon content, many tool steels have chromium added to them to resist rust and corrosion. D2 steel has a very high chromium content, just shy of stainless steel, but it’s not as tough as other tool steels. A2 however has very little chromium so it’s more prone to rust, but it’s incredibly tough.
  • 400 – ThisĀ  steel will vary greatly depending on the numbers that follow. Basically the thing to know is that the lower the number the lower the carbon content and the softer the steel. 420 steel has under .40% carbon and require lots and lots of sharpening. 440C has usually 1% or over carbon content and holds an edge well. It also has a high chromium content making it a stainless steel.
  • AUS – This is a Japanese steel that is pretty common in knives. It’s a step up from 400 type steel because vanadium is added. This adds resistance and toughness and makes it easier to get an edge while sharpening. The same principle applies in that the higher the number the higher the carbon content.

There are many other types of steel that are used, but the above are some of the most common. We have a great knife selection here at Uncle Sam’s Safari Outfitters in Fayetteville Arkansas. Stop by and take a look!

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