Steels and their properties
High Carbon Steels
High Carbon steels have been used for centuries for knives and tools before the invention of stainless steel in the 20th Century. Knives made from high quality high carbon steels like the ones listed below will take and keep a keen edge and easier to sharpen.
- 52100 is a popular steel with knife users who want a high performance knife that is tough and can take and keep a keen edge. 52100 is the most common steel used in ball bearings. Its toughness and hardness makes hard wearing bearings and also hard wearing knives. Its fine grain means it can take a very fine edge.
- O1 steel is a tough steel with good hardness. It is used by knife makers because it make a very good knife that takes a good edge and easy to sharpen.
- 1.2419 steel has added tungsten for improved hardness and edge holding.
- D2 is an exceptional steel. It has been made since the 1920s and used to make tools that have to resist deformation and wear in corrosive environments such as moulding dies for brick making. These properties translate well for knives. D2 makes a knife that will keep an edge for a long time and resist corrosion although it will stain and pit if left in very corrosive conditions.
Knives from from the right kind of stainless steel like the ones below can take and keep a keen edge.
- Niolox+ is a stainless steel alloyed with the element Niobium to make a very fine grained steel. A fine grain means the knife edgecan be made very keen. Niolox+ is also hard and tough to keep that very keen edge.
- N690 is a very hard steel containing vanadium, cobalt and molybdenum.
- CPM 154 is the powdered version of old favourite 154 CM. Its finer grain size makes it tougher, take a finer edge and easier to polish
- CPM S30V contains a lot of vanadium carbides that gives it superior edge holding but makes polishing difficult.
Caring for your handmade knives
With proper care, your handmade knives will give you many years of service. Never put your handmade knives in the dishwasher.
High Carbon steel
High carbon steel will stain and rust if left wet for more than an hour. A dark patina will develop on high carbon steel blades from normal use. Any rust that may develop should be cleaned with fine steel wool with a little oil. High carbon steel knives should be washed in warm water and detergent and dried immediately after each use. For long term storage, the knife should be cleaned and dried and coated with a thin layer of food safe mineral oil. Do not wrap your knife in newspaper.
Stainless steel won’t stain or rust in normal conditions but can be made to do so in corrosive conditions such as after cutting acidic fruits and vegetables and leaving the juice on the blade for a prolonged period. Stainless steel knives should be cleaned with warm water and detergent after use.
Stabilised wood handles
Although natural wood handles have been stabilised by impregnating with resin in a vacuum, it does not make them immune to water. Stabilised wood handles can still absorb water and if left soaking in water for a prolonged period, can warp and loosen. Wood handled knives should be washed with warm water and detergent after use. Occasional application of beeswax furniture polish will keep your handmade knife handle in good condition.