Tag Archives: blade steel

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…..


A few of my favorite things

While I was rummaging around in some drawers last week I realized I had a lot of knives that don’t get used a lot.  And I found a handful of knives that have truly become a few of my favorite things.  After going through the ‘discards’ and the knives that have stayed in rotation over the years, it made me understand that I think I’ve become somewhat of a steel ‘snob’.

This wasn’t a sudden transition but a gradual move to better steels in patterns that I really liked and some I didn’t.  In a couple of cases, the steel caught my attention before the pattern.

Favorite Fixed Blades
Favorite Fixed Blades

Starting on the left, the Bark River Northstar with A2 steel was my first exposure to something other then the more common carbon steels such as 1095.  I’ve always been fond of the Loveless drop point and the A2 was truly a step up from some of my other fixed blades. Tough stuff and relatively easy to sharpen

Front and center is a Trestle Pine Buddy with 1095.  I settled on this pattern/steel because of the ease of maintaining the edge around camp.  Smaller then any of the others pictured, it fills the slot between a fixed blade and a folder.

The Cold Steel SRK lying behind the other knives was an Ebay purchase and the old Carbon V steel was another interesting blade that held an edge and held up well. It was one of my early hard use, all around camp knives.

The the Fallkniven A1 (extreme right) really got my attention.  The laminated VG10 took an edge like a razor and held it incredibly well through some really rough usage.  This was probably the first premium steel blade that really got me interested in the higher end steels.  I’ve used it for everything from splitting wood to slicing tomatoes for supper all on the same day.

The Spyderco ‘Mule’ (middle center) with a 4V blade was a gift and the blade steel is incredible.  I’ve never been a huge fan of the Spyderco blade profiles, but this one has grown on me reeeal fast.  It takes a razor edge and I’ve never (so far) seen a steel take such a fine edge….and hold it with no chipping or rollover.  It hasn’t seen near the field use of the others, but it’s cut a mountain of cardboard, wire cutting as well as doing some notching in hardwood on a couple of maintenance projects.

But these are the gems that get used on a daily basis.  There are others I like, but these are the main EDC’s I prefer.

Favorite Folders
Favorite Folders

On the right is one of the Queen Copperheads with a D2 blade.  Truly some tough carbon steel that will hold an edge like there’s no tomorrow.   Actually, one of my favorite D2’s was a Queen 48 Whittler that I gave away.

Next to it is the Fallkniven U2 with a Laminated SGPS (powdered steel) blade.  It’s light, takes a superfine edge and will cut, and cut and cut and…

To the left of the U2 is a Fallkniven Gentleman’s knife with a laminated Cobalt Steel blade.  Probably the largest pocket knife I carry with any frequency, the steel performance is outstanding.

On the extreme left is a Trestle Pine Superior and center front is a Trestle Pine Portage.  Both have 154CM blades.  The 154 Series of steels are top notch blade steels and perform incredibly well.  So many of the current production knives are stuck in the 1095 mold, it was time to break away from the pack and I’m glad I did.  In fact the next Trestle Pine knife called the Grand Portage, takes it up another notch and will have a CPM154 blade.

While I still respect and like 1095 on some knives, the advantages of the ‘newer’ steels and powder steels in particular can’t be overstated.  I know a lot of guys that actually use their knives are afraid of D2 due to it’s reputation of being hard to sharpen.  Maybe it’s the sharpener, but I use the EdgePro and don’t find D2 all that much harder to sharpen then a good quality hardened 440C.  Personally, I think the 154CM is relatively easy to sharpen considering the edge retention.  Harder to sharpen then 1095?  Yup.  Worth the effort?  Absolutely.

So I don’t know, maybe I have gotten preoccupied with blade steels but it’s been an innocent transition.  My eyes tend to glaze over and my mind starts to wander listening to the wonders of blade centering and the disgrace of spun pins.  But talk to me about your latest experience with CowryX or 4V and you’ve got my attention.  Tell me about shredding a thousand cardboard boxes, cutting a mile of fiber tape and then using the blade to shave with…. I hear ya!!!