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Common Types of Blade Steel: All You Need to Know

While searching for a high quality pocket knife to buy, it is crucial that you pay attention to the kind of knife steel that your knife uses. While the geometry and the design of the blade is important, the type of steel it is made from also contributes a lot to performance.

Blade steel
is essentially a mixture of carbon and iron that also has some other metals mixed in by the manufacturer to boost certain characteristics (corrosion resistance, toughness, hardness …) Picking a type of steel that fits your usage and need will go a long way in ensuring that you’re satisfied with your best folding knife.

This article will tell you all you need to know about blade steel.

The Five Important Properties of Blade Steel

  • Toughness

Toughness refers to the blade’s ability to resist against chips and cracks as a result of impact or sudden force (i.e when you use the blade to slash or chop tough objects like tree branches). A chipped blade is incredibly difficult to fix, so naturally high toughness is preferred in the best quality pocket knives.

  • Hardness

The harder the blade, the more resistant it will be against deforms (bents and dents) when the blade is stressed and abused.

Generally, the harder the blade, the less tough it’d be. As a result, balancing toughness and hardness is crucial to picking a good blade.

  • Wear Resistance

As you use your knife, the blade will eventually become worn out and dull. A blade with great wear resistance capability can delay this process by having a chemical composition with more carbides (tungsten, chromium vanadium, molybdenum ...), which are wear resistant. However, carbides are brittle and prone to cracking, so while it takes longer to wear out, you can crack and chip the blade much more easily.

  • Corrosion Resistance

A good pocket knife with corrosion resistance ability can protect itself against rust caused by humid and moist environments. Such a knife will be excellent for fishers and hunters who typically have to work in damp places near the water.

  • Edge Retention

Edge retention is the ability of the knife to hold an edge. Even after heavy, continuous use for a long period of time, these blades should still be able to maintain sharp edges without needing you to hone and sharpen them up.

Unfortunately, the better your blade’s edge retention ability is, the weaker its corrosion resistance capability becomes. You will have to pick one or another.

Common Types of Blade Steel

  • Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a combination of ordinary steel and around 13% Chromium, which gives it better corrosion resistance than other kinds of blade steels (hence, the name “Stainless”.) It has inferior toughness and edge retention ability than others, however.

Sandvik, AUS, 400, 154CM are some of the more popular kinds of stainless steel there are.

  • Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is usually found in high quality pocket knives in the survival and tactical department. They are extremely tough and hard, able to hold an edge for an incredibly long time and easy to sharpen to boot. Nonetheless, since it has very low Chromium content, carbon steel blades are far more susceptible to corrosion.

Popular carbon steel knives are cast from 10-series carbon steel like 1095.

  • Tool Steel

Tool steel is commonly used to make tools (saws, machine parts …). The most popular type of tool steel used to make cutting tools like good quality pocket knives is high-speed steel. They have extremely high hardness as well as corrosion resistance, but it’s at the cost of high toughness. Tool steel knives aren’t very ductile, so it’s quite easy to chip them if you’re not careful.

D2 tool steel is quite popular, as well as O1.

۞۞۞ See Also: the best pocket knife - Top rated pocket knife


Blade steel is important, but it doesn’t decide everything. Like we mentioned before, the design of the knife, the geometry are also important. Also remember to take into account your budget and other personal preferences in order to find a top rated pocket knife that would fit your fancy.