Knife Blade Materials Facts
Knives are useful tools that most of us use on a daily basis. Although kitchen knives are the most common type of knife, you might also need pocket knives, camping knives, or hunting knives. If you are looking to buy a knife for any reason and you want to make sure that you get a quality product that serves you well and lasts a long time, it’s important to learn a bit about knife materials. There are a number of different materials used for making knives and they all have their own pros and cons. If you are a complete beginner and you don’t know anything about knife materials, this article will teach you everything that you need to know.
Important Terms You Should Know
Before we look at the different materials that are used to make knives, there are a few key terms that you need to know first. These will help you to understand the attributes of different knives and the materials that they are made from. The following terms are used to find properties commonly found in knife materials, particularly steel.
- Hardness – Hardness is one of the most common terms and it simply refers to the strength of the knife. The hardness is measured using the Rockwell C scale and the harder a knife is, the more resistant it is to bending and deforming. Most blades fall somewhere between 56 and 60, but there is some variation. Although you may assume that harder is always better, that isn’t actually the case because a harder knife is more difficult to sharpen.
- Toughness – Hardness and toughness sound like similar attributes but when it comes to knife materials, they are actually the complete opposite to one another. Toughness measures how resistant a knife blade is to chips and cracks, and the harder a blade is, the more brittle it is. That means that harder blades are less tough.
- Wear Resistance – Wear resistance measures the resistance to abrasion and tends to be closely linked to hardness. Harder materials will generally stand up to more wear and tear but there are some exceptions where alloy materials are concerned.
- Corrosion Resistance – Corrosion resistance is very important when buying hunting knives or camping knives that get a lot of use outside because it measures resistance to rust. This is one of the most important qualities because it has a big impact on the overall effectiveness of the knife and the blade itself.
- Edge Retention – The edge retention measures how well the blade will retain sharpness when used on a regular basis. This will be determined by all of the other factors mentioned above and it is important that you think about how the knife will be used when considering edge retention.
These basic terms will help you to compare the different knife materials and understand the benefits and drawbacks of each.
Different Types Of Steel
Most knives are made from steel of some kind, but there are a few different types that can be used.
- Stainless Steel – Stainless steel is one of the most common types of steel used for knife blades. The chromium that is added helps to prevent corrosion, so the blades last longer. However, they are more difficult to sharpen than other types of steel and the edge is not as sharp. Stainless steel is good for pocket knives and EDC knives (everyday carry knives) but not always as effective for specialist knives.
- Tool Steel –As the name suggests, tool steel is a material that is used to make a lot of common tools, like wrenches. It is also used to make knife blades and the alloying elements used make it a very hard material that is resistant to wear.
- Carbon Steel – This variety of steel is incredibly hard wearing as a result of the carbon, so it is often used for any blades that need to be particularly tough, like machetes or hunting knives. Carbon steel holds an edge very well and it is easy to sharpen, so it is a good material for all kinds of knives. However, it does require a lot more maintenance than other materials if you want to keep it in good condition, and it is less resistant to corrosion.
Alternative Knife Materials
Although the majority of knives are made from steel, there are some alternative materials that work well for certain types of knife.
- Ceramic Blades – Ceramic blades are made from zirconium dioxide, which is powdered, fired and pressed. Ceramic knives outperform steel in a lot of categories; their edge retention is superior and they will not rust or corrode at all, but they are very brittle so they can chip and break very easily. Ceramic blades can be very effective boot knives, for example, but they’re not always a good choice for camping knives or hunting knives because they are easily broken.
- Titanium Blades – Titanium blades are one of the most expensive options, but they are very strong and they do not corrode very much. They’re also incredibly light, so they are often used for diving or hiking. The big downside to using titanium blades is that they cannot be sharpened in the usual way and they need to be retooled instead.
- Damascus Steel – Damascus steel or patterned steel is made using a combination of steel and iron strips, which are hammered and reforged to create intricate patterns. Although the combination of different materials used in these blades can sometimes have an impact on utility, they are usually used for display purposes only.
Which Material Is Best?
There is no clear answer to this question because it all depends on your own personal needs when buying a knife. If you are looking for EDC knives or pocket knives that you will use or basic tasks, corrosion resistance and hardness are not too important, but toughness is and you also want something that you can easily sharpen. If you are looking for camping knives or hunting knives that get a lot of use outside, hardness and corrosion resistance are a lot more important.
It’s also important to remember that knife manufacturers manipulate the material in different ways so two knives made from the same steel can be wildly different. When you buy a knife, you will be able to see a list of the qualities from the manufacturer and this is usually your best guide.
Hopefully, this has given you all of the information that you need and you are now ready to make an informed decision about which knife material is best for you.