Stainless Steel Properties . . .
Important Information When Making a Custom Knife!

Stainless steel properties . . . Stainless Steel Alloys . . .

Are you a Custom Knifemaker?

Are you just a "Carbon" copy of the bladesmiths and knifemakers that cringe at the word "stainless"?

Stainless Steel Properties By definition, stainless steel properties must include chromium at a greater than 13% content. Having said that, the ASM Metals Handbook says that it only must be greater than 10%. There are also different numbers thrown around. This difference though, is probably due to the amount of free chromium available. It is the chromium that is not tied up in carbides that form the stain resistant chromium oxide on the surface of the steel.

Keep in mind that all steel is subject to rust, but stainless is more resistant to oxidation.

Properties of Stainless Stainless steel properties make knives easy to clean, but are often made from less expensive stainless steel alloys which are soft and don’t hold an edge well, necessitating regular sharpening which can lessen the life of a blade. Stainless steels bad reputation for knifemaking established prior to 196O is no longer entirely justified.

There are many stainless steel alloys with varying corrosion-resistant stainless steel properties that make it a good material for knife blades.

  • 420 and 420HC
  • It is not the stainless steel properties of 420 that make it extremely soft steel. 420 has less than .5% carbon content. Remember, carbon is the most important hardening element. Because of the low carbon content, it will not hold an edge well. It is, however, very stain resistant, and is often used for less expensive knives. It is also often used to make diving knives. 420 HC is tailored to be more like 440 A by including more carbon.

  • 440A, 440B, and 440C
  • This series of steels increases in carbon content from A - .75%, to B - .9%, to C - 1.2%. 440C steel, if hardened appropriately, is an excellent knife steel. It is very tough, and has good edge holding qualities. It does not hold an edge as good as ATS-34, but is more stain resistant. This complete series is very rust resistant. 440A is most rust resistant, and 440C the least.

  • AUS-6, AUS-8, and AUS-10
  • Stainless Steel Alloys

    This is a Japanese series of steels that roughly compare with the above 440 Series. The carbon content increasing from AUS-6 - .65%, to AUS-8 - .75%, to AUS-10 - 1.1%. AUS-6 would more closely compare to the cheaper low-end 420. AUS-8 is a middle level steel like GIN-1 or ATS-55. AUS-10 competes with higher end steels, and generally compares well with 440C. It has slightly less chromium than 440C, but all three steels of this series have vanadium added. Vanadium improves the wear resistance and the grain, which gives these steels the ability to be sharpened to a very fine edge. Vanadium also improves wear resistance. These steels are often referred to as 6A, 8A, and 10A.

  • GIN-1
  • GIN-1, also referred to as G-2 compares generally to AUS-8, and ATS-55. It has less carbon, and much less molybdenum than ATS-34. It is a little higher in chromium, and typically is used for the less expensive knives.

  • ATS-34
  • Stainless Steel Alloys

    ATS-34 steel is universally recognized for its edge holding and taking capabilities. It is a japanese steel that favorably compares to the U.S version, 154 CM, which is not nearly as popular. ATS-34 is definitely stronger than 440 steel so breaking the tip on this steel will be less likely, but it is not as rust resistant. ATS-34, is typically, either hot or cold rolled depending on its thickness, but both are likely annealed (heat treated).

  • ATS-55
  • ATS-55 is a level behind ATS-34, because it does not have molybdenum. Without the molybdenum, it does not hold an edge as well, and is not as resistant to rust, and has less wear resistance. It compares favorably with G-1, and AUS-8

  • BG-42
  • BG-42 is becoming more popular. It is also more expensive than ATS-34, which may limit its popularity. Because of the addition of vanadium, and twice as much manganese as ATS-34, it will hold a significantly better edge, and will also have better toughness than ATS-34.

  • S30V, S60V and S90V
  • This series of steels is packed with a greater amount of alloys because of the particle metallurgy process that is very different from conventional steel manufacturing methods. These are high vanadium knives, and compare favorably with BG-42. They are probably more wear resistant than any other stainless steel. However, they are even more expensive than BG-42, and even more difficult to work. It is not necessarily the stainless steel properties of this steel that relegates it primarily to the experienced custom knifemaker sphere, but rather the high vanadium content. S60V is often referred to as CPM T440V, and S90V as CPM T420V.

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