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Life is a compromise and so is blade steel. Choosing a knife means choosing a steel!

Choosing the steel for your knife is a compromise between 4 basic qualities: strength, toughness, corrosion resistance and ease of sharpening.
It should be simple but when you get into it there is no perfect solution otherwise all knives would be made with 1 steel type.
Of course the use of the knife is relevant.  You might want H-1 steel for a diving knife or a fisherman's knife but H-1 with excellent corrosion resistance does not have excellent edge retention and is not as easy to sharpen as other steels.  Your choice will always be a compromise based on the usage for the blade.

  • Edge Retention - Strength - Ability to hold sharpness
  • Toughness - Resistance to damage and failure whilst cutting, twisting or torsion
  • Corrosion Resistance - Rusting, pitting, salt water?
  • Ease of sharpening - A balance between edge retention and ease of sharpening. Harder steel is harder to sharpen. An easy to sharpen knife will not hold its edge.

Unfortunately the above 4 properties help you choose the right steel but once you have your steel there are further considerations.

Blade thickness or blade geometry.

Cutting ability increases as the blade thickness, behind the edge, decreases. A thinner overall blade has less resistance and will slice well but a thicker blade stock increases toughness.  A razor blade slices well but breaks if it comes into contact with metal.

Sharpening the edge.
The narrower the sharpening angle the better the cut, a thicker angle increases stability and durability of the blade.  Blade steel is also relevant. A tough steel or steel with 60-62 HRC (hardness Rockwell C) is preferable.

Knife Usage

At the end of the day your proposed use of the knife is the starting point in your search for the perfect knife. What is clear is the perfect steel, like the perfect knife is a compromise.

 

 

In reality, there is no perfect blade steel in the same way that there is no perfect knife. Compare your use cases to choose the perfect knife for you.