Knife Steel Care – Basics of the steel in your knife

Ok so you got your new knife and you read the paperwork and it has some crazy number and description about a steel type. The problem is you’ve got no clue what that means, how it affects your knife, or how to care for your knife steel. I’m not going to get overly complex with the different types of steel and their properties, just the basics.

Below are some of the common steels that knives are made of. This is not a comprehensive list by all means. It is just some of the more common steels. If you have a Damascus blade then it will be a combination of different metals but treat it like a High Carbon Steel knife.

You should know the steel type of your knife. It should be listed somewhere in the description of your knife.

High Carbon Knife Steels

  • 1084
  • 1095
  • 15N20
  • 5160
  • 80CRV2

Stainless Knife Steels

  • 440c
  • AEB-L
  • 154CM
  • CPM and CPMS – There are many in this category with different “flavors”
  • Nitro-V
  • Double Clad

Tool Knife Steels

  • A2
  • D2
  • O1
  • W2

So What Does All This Mean?

So why should you be concerned if your knife blade is made from high carbon steel versus a stainless steel? Different knife steels require different levels of care. If you don’t care for a blade properly it will rust, stain, or have some other issue. You don’t have to be a steel expert, only know what your blade is made of and how to care for it.

Stainless Steels
Stainless steels are more rust and “stain” resistant than other types. That means if it gets wet or some other type of goo on it, a stainless blade is less likely to rust or have a mark on it. Now, having said that let me also say that Stainless Steel CAN RUST! Keep it clean and dry and it won’t be a problem. The downside to stainless steels is they have less carbon so they are not as “hard” of a steel. They won’t hold an edge like a High Carbon steel blade will.

High Carbon or Tool Steels
These types of steel have more carbon in them than a stainless steel knife. Because of that they hold an edge better than a stainless blade. High carbon steel rusts and stains much easier than a stainless steel will. Over time, your high carbon steel blade steel will develop what is called a “patina”. This is where the metal starts to get a dull gray appearance. It is normal and will not affect the blade.

Rust and Stain PreventionSee My Knife Care section

  • Keep your knife clean and dry
  • Use Renaissance Wax to prevent rust. In a pinch oil will do, but it attracts dust and dirt so not recommended for long term usage.
  • Don’t store your knife in a sheath, see knife care section for an explanation of why.

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