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Blade Steels

How Blade Steel is Made

Blade steels are a combination of iron, carbon and a small amount of other elements to give the blade different properties.  Stainless steels are a type of alloyed steels that elements such as chrome and nickel to give them corrosion resistant properties.  The iron is melted in a furnace and the alloying elements are added to the molten iron.  This molten steel is then poured into molds that are called ingots. Once these ingots cool, the steel solidifies and the steel is analyzed to make sure the right amounts of elements were added.  Once this passes the quality control of the steel manufacturer, it moves on to being processed into coils, plates, sheets, etc.  I buy my steel in sheet form that is cut into strips.

What are Blade Steel Alloying Elements and What They Do


This is not technically an alloying element since it is present in all carbon steels.  This is one of the most important elements because it usually has the biggest impact on hardenability.


Chromium is very hard, when added to steel it helps to improve hardenability, corrosion resistance, and wear resistance.


This element helps to improve hardenability, tensile strength, and corrosion resistance.


 This is a major element in steels that need extreme corrosion resistance.  Steels with a lot of nickel are usually made into knives for diving in salt water.


This element improves toughness, hardenability, and promotes fine grain growth.  The grain growth is very important in how the steel will perform.  The manufacturers of the steel do many different tests on the steel to find the best balance of all properties.

What are the Properties of Blade Steels

Some of the properties that are looked at in blade steels are.


This is the steels ability to resist terminate deformation.  This is usually measured with a Hardness Tester.  Most blade steels are measured on the Rockwell C scale.


This is the steels ability to become hard through a heat treating process.  Most manufacturers spend lots of time and money to develop the best heat treating procedure.


This is the steels ability to resist forces applied to it.  The stronger the blade is, the less likely it is to break when bent.


This is the steels ability to absorb shock before breaking.  This is really important for knives that are used for batoning wood.

Wear Resistance

This is the steels ability to resist to wear and abrasion.  When cutting abrasive materials like wood, the knife needs to be able to stay sharp.

Edge Retention

This is similar to wear resistance but, is usually analyzed on thin sections.  This is also the a measure of the edges ability to resist chipping.

Corrosion Resistance

This is the steels ability to resist corrosion from things like salt water and high acid foods such as lemons.

What is Stainless Steel

Stainless steels are less prone to corrosion than regular carbon steels.  As the name states, the steels “stain less” than carbon steels.  Stainless steel knives if not properly maintained can rust and stain.

154CM Stainless Steel Information

This is my favorite stainless steel to use for kitchen knives.  154CM is a very high carbon stainless steel.  This steel is a improved version of 440c which is one of the most widely used steel in the cutlery industry.  This steel has very good edge holding ability, can be heat treated 59-61 HRC.  It has good toughness and pretty good corrosion resistance.

  • Carbon: 1.05%

  • Silicon: 0.3%

  • Chromium: 14.0%

  • Manganese: 0.5%

  • Molybdenum: 4.0%

Blog article going more into depth about 154CM

D2 Tool Steel Information

D2 is very wear resistant but not as tough as lower alloyed steels.  This steels mechanical properties is greatly dependent on the heat treatment of the steel.  This steel is frequently used in industrial applications such as shears, cutting tools, and planer blades.  With a proper heat treatment it is common to see hardness values between 60-62 HRC.  Even though this is not a “Stainless” steel its high chromium content gives it good corrosion resistance. This is one of my favorite materials for bush crafting knives.

  • Carbon: 1.5%

  • Silicon: 0.3%

  • Chromium: 12.0%

  • Manganese: 0.3%

  • Molybdenum: 0.75%