Knife Steel Facts

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Knife Steel

By definition, steel is a combination of iron and no more than 2% carbon.

Which Steels For Which Knives?

  • Heat treatment is as crucial a part as the grade of steel.
  • Basically, knife steels are high carbon stainless or non-stainless high carbon.
  • High carbon stainless is rust resistant though harder to sharpen.
  • Non-stainless high carbon rusts easier but is easier to sharpen.
  • With proper heat treatment, 440 should hold an edge slightly better and sharpen a bit easier than the lower 400 series stainless.
  • The lower 400 series stainless are gaining in popularity among the factories because they cause less wear on tooling.
  • ATS-34 and CPM 440V cost more than the other stainless steels, and the CPM 440V costs the most.
  • Blades of most stainless steels used in knives are not rustproof but are rust or stain resistance. So therefore stainless steel blades should still be kept clean and wiped dry after use, especially many of the new high carbon stainless steels like ATS-34, and CMP-T440V. But they do not need as much care as carbon steel knives.

Attributes and Best Applications of Stainless Steels In Knife Manufacturing*

Steel Type Attributes Best Applications
ATS-34 Superior edge-holding & stronger than 440 Pocket knives - hunting knives
420 Strongest but doesn't cut that well Rough use knives - throwing knives
440A 3rd best of 440 types in edge holding General purpose knives
440B** 2nd best of 440 types in edge holding General purpose knives
440C Best of 440 types in edge holding Most all knife types
CPM 440V Best edge holding stainless of all Pocket knives - hunting knives
G2 Similar to 440C; may be stronger Most all knife types
6A Similar to 440A; may be stronger General purpose knives & survival knives
12C27 Similar to 6A General purpose knives

* This assumes the steel is properly heat treated.
** Few factories use 440B steel anymore.

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