Blade Steel Types

There is a saying: The heart of a knife is its steel. While steel certainly is very important, it is not the only factor in determining the performance of a knife (other considerations being heat treatment and blade shape/profile). The level of steel quality varies greatly from knife to knife. Most modern knives, however, are made using stainless steel (a steel alloy with a minimum of 11% chromium content by mass). By varying the amount of chromium and carbon in the makeup of the steel, different properties are achieved.

Some basic information on steel grades and characteristics:

  • good

    These entry-level, rust-resistant stainless steels are typically made in Asia and offer good value. Compared to higher grades, they tend to be softer and require more frequent sharpening to maintain the best performance, but do adequately hold an edge.

    Examples: 420, 440A, 7Cr13MoV

  • better

    Better grade stainless steels contain higher chromium content, making them more expensive. With greater edge holding ability, these steels require less maintenance than entry-level grades of steel. Sharpening is also relatively easy and can be performed using appropriate techniques. A great combination of value and performance, knives made of these steels are perfect for everyday use.

    Examples: AUS6, AUS8, 440C, 8Cr13MoV

  • best

    Typically made in the USA and Japan, the best stainless steels come with a cost premium, due to their high chromium content. Additional elements, such as vanadium, are often added to provide superior edge sharpness and retention, as well as enhanced rust resistance. These steels are ideal for more demanding uses.

    Examples: CPM 154, S30V, VG-10