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hunter25's picture
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Location: Colorado western slope
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what's the best knife steel

Not sure if this has been covered before but I have been considering a semi custom or at least a high quality knife and was wondering what is considered the best steel now.

I have seen mention of D2, s30v, and others like that. My current knife is 440c and has given me many years of good service but the blade is getting worn down with very little belly in it any more and was just wondering if some of the newer steel was worth spending the money on.

Thoughts and suggestions?

groovy mike's picture
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well - it depends

Like so much else, deciding what is best depends largely on what you want.

Some guys love stainless steel shiny knives that never rust.  If I were going to bury a knife and come back for it later I'd pick stainless steel so it didn't rust out, otherwise I don't like them.  Just my opinion - buy what YOU like!

I love the look and feel of Damascus steel knives.  If I'm putting over $50 in a knife it will be damascus steel.  I think that much money on something that doesn't make you happy to hold is a waste of good funds.  But nothing seems to get any sharper than something like carbon steel on hundred year old knives.  Those old blades take a wicked edge.  Yes they rust.  Yes you need to oil and clean them, but wow do they ever get sharp!

So what is best depends completely on what you want.  Not too brittle, but not too soft.  Do you want a knife that will flex? Will bend? Do you plan to pry or hammer with it.  Is it ONLY a skinning knife, or an all round camp work tool?

Once you figure that out then you can look at the choices that eliminate the others.....

Bottom line - buy what makes YOU happy.  Chances are good that when you find the right knife - you will know it as soon as you feel it in your hand.  Have fun trying a few out and let us know what you decide.  Post pics too! 

ndemiter's picture
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the D2 steel used in Knives

the D2 steel used in Knives of Alaska is good stuff. i've had a k-bar called the D2 impact and it was a magnificent knife... but i lost it while riding a horse through brush.

i will say that d2 steel can be hard to sharpen, but retains an edge better than anything else i have used.

i only need to carry one knife, the KOA cub caping knife. it's small, light and does every job i need it to.

i would bet that you could find something just as good at your local sports shop.

i would stay away from stainless steel as well. i'm not a fan, it seems like i can never get it as sharp as i want it.

 

groovy mike's picture
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Factory knives

There are a couple options of modern steel knives that I have used and would recommend are the "Knives of Alaska" sets and CUTCO sportsmen's knives.   

Both of them are rugged, reliable, and hold a good edge too. 

expatriate's picture
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what's the best knife steel

My favorite knives are my Cutcos and the Knives of Alaska knives.  The Cutco really seems to hold an edge well.  The Alaska knives aren't as keen in that regard, but they sharpen up well.  I particularly like the Cub Bear caping knife.  It holds a great edge and is amazingly precise for detailed work.  Don't know what Cutcos are made of, but the Cub Bear is 440C.

But the guy with the answer to this question is Romey.  He's probably the most knowledgeable guy on knives I've seen on this forum, and if you search for "best knife steel," you'll find some of his inputs.  If he doesn't pick up on this, you might want to try to PM him.

He also has a website for his knife building business that includes a good discussion of steels.  You can find it here:

http://www.highcountryknives.com/index2.html

hunter25's picture
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Romey had posted a knife on

Romey had posted a knife on here a few months ago that i really liked but the problem is according to his website that he does not take custom orders and upon checking his site as to what is for sale it never really changes and seems it's almost impossible to buy anything from him outright as all his work is spoken for.

I guess I'll send him a pm as I really like his work and want something not quite off the shelf that I can pass on later.

Thanks for the reminder though as I had forgotted the name of his website.

WesternHunter's picture
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Me personaly

It's just my opinion based on my own experience, but "new" doesn't always mean better. S30V has been over hyped and marketed as being the pinnacle of modern cutlery steels.  Personally from what I've experienced with it and from other experiences I hear about, it's not quite all that it's cracked up to be.  It tends to chip on the edge under hard use.  But then again it's all about how the blade is heat-treated. The best steel is worthless if it's not heat-treated and tempered properly.  I've seen lesser midgrade steels result in pretty good blade when heat-treated, tempered, and beveled correctly. The key to selecting steel is figure out the intened purpose of the knife, the grind/bevel angle it will have, and the heat-treatment of the blade. 

For outdoor knives I really like D2. The big drawback is that it's a pricey blade steel. Knives of Alaska uses D2 in many of their line. Interesting fact is that D2 was not originally intended as a cutlery steel. It's a WWII era tool steel intended for use where wear-resistance was needed such as in dies and stamps.  It's the most rust resistant of all the carbon steels.  It began being used in lawn mower blades and garden shear blades about 30 to 40 years ago and quickly made its way into the custom knife industry. Some say that D2 can be more difficult to sharpen if neglected for too long, but I think that's attributed to it being so wear-resistant. Once sharp it keeps an edge for a long time though.

Lately I've been using a plain edge RAT-3 knife made by Ontario Knife Co.  It's blade is made of ordinary, old fashioned 1095 carbon steel with a durable rough black epoxy powercoat finish.  The handle is full tang construction with olive-khaki colored canvas micarta scales. It is one tough little knife, holds a pretty good edge even when used hard.  Probably the last hunting knife I'll own (yeah, right!). So far, for me, it's about as close to an ideal all-purpose outdoor/survival/hunting knife as I think I'm ever going to get. Made in USA and can be had at a fair priced too.

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There really is no one steel

There really is no one steel thats superior then then other BUT ones heat treat and blade geometry can be. I have seen stainless hold a very good edge and same stainless type hold incredibly crappy edge, same for carbon steel. Its all dependant on how well the heat treat has been done. While each steel can and will have pros and cons and angles of edge and seconday edge will com into play no one steel will own perform the other simply be what its name is.

The unfortunite thing about it all from a consumer aspect is youll never know how good the heat treat may or maynot be untill youve already spent the money on it.

jacksora4's picture
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Steeling is frequently

Steeling is frequently encouraged being conducted immediately before or even immediately after using a cutlery and also can be achieved regular. By contrast orignal survival knives are often pointed a lot less often.

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