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Blade Steel, where does it end?

A good share of the non-productive part of my life has  been spent thinking about imponderables.  Searching for the answers to those questions that just deny what should be simple answers.  Like how high is “up”?  Or what happens to all the rubber that wears off from tires.  That one no doubt has an answer but when we have millions of tires wearing out every year on the highways, why don’t we see mountains of ‘rubber’ lying along the road and in the ditches?

This past week I spent a little time reassessing some of the knives I’ve got lying about and why and how did I got hooked on premium blade steel.  More importantly, I started asking myself how much better can these steels get?

In the last 50+ years I’ve gone from the basic 420 Stainless’ and 1095 to A2 Tool Steels, D2, AUS6, 8, the laminated wonder steels from Fallkniven, the CPM Powdered Steels, Maxamet and on and on.  It just doesn’t seem to end.  Every time I seem to find the ultimate blade steel, someone like Dave asks me if I’ve tried out the newest release from (fill in the blank).  And it starts over.  I would have to say the Spyderco Mule Team Project has been my greatest downfall.  If you’re not familiar with their releases, check them out.  They’ve put out some fantastic blades at reasonable prices if you want to try some new steels out.

The main lure for me has been finding that ultimate blade that will take a razor edge with a reasonable amount of effort and hold it without chipping or rolling over….forever.  I know that’s unreasonable but it seems like they’re coming close.  What makes it difficult is every steel has its individual weak points and strengths.

A blade may take a surgical edge but have a tendency to chip under hard use.  Or it may hold an edge like nobodies business but require a trip to a machine shop to restore that edge when it finally gives up.  And I just assume if a blade is too easy to sharpen, that’s a good thing because I’m probably going to have to sharpen it frequently!

All of this ‘pondering’ made me think about the progress that’s been made over the centuries in blade steels.  Think about those first blades made from stone or Obsidian.  And then the development of bronze, iron and finally steel.  Those first knives made from bronze had to be a  major break through but can you imagine having to use one today?  And all of us have come across some really crappy carbon steels but for the guy that traded in his iron sword for a steel one had to be thrilled.  You would have had to search out a blade smith as  the quality would have been incredibly inconsistent since everyone had their own secret for hardening those early iron blades.  There wasn’t a central facility that specialized in hardening steels.  For that matter, there wasn’t even a steel mill putting out consistent product.

So looking at today’s offerings I realize we have some incredibly good products on the market but there’s an ongoing quest for that ‘perfect’ blade steel.  But like that 13th Century BC gladiator thought, what can be better then this when he got his first steel sword.  That’s where I’m at.  What could be better than what I’ve got?

I have a number of the higher end powdered steel blades in my kit and for the life of me can’t think what more I could expect in performance.  The wonderful thing is, I know there’s going to be something in the future even better then what’s currently available.  Will it be an even higher tech steel or maybe some sort of pocket laser?  I’m hoping for another new higher tech steel.  At any rate, it’ll be interesting to see and I know I’m gonna want one!  Now, back to that rubber tire thing…..


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