The best carbon steels for knife making is more a matter of opinion than anything else as there are some 40 odd variations in the 10XX series we will not bother with 1030 or below because the carbon content is simply to low for our purpose.The three high carbon steels I present below are in my opinion the best carbon steels for knifemaking.
Although I do have one caveat here, you will find many makers using 1050 and 1060, but these grade’s are generally used in sword making and very large knives,and can only be considered medium carbon steels
Carbon steel is steel that has properties made up mostly of the element carbon, and which relies upon carbon content for its structure. The most perfect carbon structure in the world is a diamond, which is 100% carbon. Carbon is present in all steel and is the principal hardening element, determining the level of hardness or strength attainable by quenching. It raises tensile strength, hardness, resistance to wear and abrasion as the carbon content of steel is increased. It lowers ductility, toughness and machinability.
Cold drawn carbon steel is typically numbered with the prefix “10XX” in the AISI numbering system, followed by two numbers that represent the nominal percentage of carbon in the product (up to 100%). For example, C1018 has 0.18% carbon, while C1045 has 0.45%. Generally carbon adds hardness to the material which improves wearability. For carbon contents above 0.30%, the product may be direct hardened (“through hardened”). Carbon steel beneath this level typically require carburizing when heat treated in which carbon molecules are introduced so that a hardened “skin” is able to be developed on the surface, or “case”. This is where the concept of case hardening is found. Carbon is maximised at under 1.00% of steel because for levels above this percentage material can become brittle. Generally, the higher the carbon content, the more difficult carbon steel is to machine.
1075 High Carbon Steel Is One Of The Best Carbon Steels For Knife Making
is a relatively simple steel and a very good place to start for novice knife makers,as is 1084 and 1095 it’s easy to cut, drill and grind and is very forgiving you can easily produce a scary sharp edge, carbon is present in all steels, it is the most important hardening element. It also increases the strength steel but added in isolation, decreases toughness. We usually want a knife-grade steel to have 0..5% carbon, which makes it a “high carbon steel”. There are a large number of commercial knife makers who use 1075 carbon steel in their budget range of knives including Boker.
Basically the higher the carbon content the higher its final hardness can be attained which in turn means slightly longer times it sharpening but it also means it will hold it’s edge longer. 1075,1084 and 1095 are my favourite go to steels in the 10XX series range. C: 0.70-0.80; Mn: 0.40-0.70; P: 0.030; S: 0.050; Si: ?; Standard: AISI (US)
1084 High Carbon Steel
is another high carbon steel in the 10XX series and has a slightly higher carbon content than 1075 for this reason when hardened correctly a higher rockwell hardness can be achieved,although not a great deal.These 10XX series carbon steels are best suited to large knives like Kukri’s, Bowie’s and Machete’s ,kept clean and dry these knives will remain in excellent condition and stay razor sharp ,
1084 carbon steel is not known for its corrosion resistance nor are the other steels in the 10XX series for that matter, so the trade off is being able to make a really scary sharp knife that’s easy to maintain and these steel’s are much easier to sharpen than the stainless steels and tool steels.If your a novice knife maker stick with the high carbon steels and after you’ve made a few knives try the other steels like Stainless and Tool Steels,you’ll have a much more pleasant knife making experience I assure you. C: 0.800 – 0.930, Mn: 0.60 – 0.90, P: 0.050, S: 0.040
1075,1084 and 1095 are in my opinion The Best Carbon Steels For Knife Making
1095 carbon steel is very popular amongst knife makers and can be considered a high carbon steel, it is for this reason alone that this steel can be easily hardened to the 58-60HRC range. Several knife makers take it all the way up to 64-65HRC, edge holding ability is excellent in this hardness range. Sandvik makes an equivalent of this steel under the Sandvik 20C Shock Absorber name. 1095 carbon steel has very low abrasive wear resistance as do all the 10XX series carbon steels.
When you go in order from 1095-1050, you generally go from more carbon to less, from more wear resistance to less wear resistance, and tough to tougher to toughest. As such, you’ll see 1060 and 1050, used often for swords.
For knives, 1095 is sort of the “standard” carbon steel, not too expensive and performs well. It is reasonably tough and holds an edge well, and is easy to sharpen. It rusts easily.
This is a simple steel, which contains only two alloying elements: .95% carbon and .4% manganese. The various Ka-Bar’s are usually 1095 with a black coating. Many other knife makers have adopted this steel in budget lineups of knives and should be the place novice knife makers start ,there any many steels in the 10XX series but 1075,1084 and 1095 are all an excellent starting point for novice knife makers.