Know Your Knife September 16 2014

The mission drives the gear and it’s time to get ready - you need a new blade.  With so many custom blade smiths and options on the market it can be as difficult a decision as choosing Sunday Dinner.  That is, unless you are familiar with the chef, ingredients used, and grade of the restaurant.  Some people are okay with fast food; others demand nothing but the finest ingredients.

Steel is the heart of every blade and all are certainly not created equal.  You need to consider strength, wear/rust resistance, durability and how it holds an edge. Before you buy your next safe queen, mission companion, hunting blade, or everyday carry ... you need to consider the steel type and composition.

For most of us, our first knife was a gift from our fathers, a hand me down from our grandfathers or a great deal at a flea market.  Soon, the everyday beater gets beat.  While overuse and blade maintenance is important, it can be less important when buying a quality blade.  Entry level steels are often made in Asia and offer good value but can be flawed.  These blades tend to be softer and require more frequent sharpening. Such steels are 420, 440A, and 440c. 

If you need the best of the best for hard use, deployment, EDC or just enjoy great craftsmanship, you have come to the right place. The best stainless steels come with a cost premium due to their high chromium content.  Additional elements, such as vanadium (see table A), can be added to the steel which can ensure a superior edge and sharpness.  A better edge can also enhance rust resistance.  These high quality steels are ideal for more demanding uses and generally made in the USA.  A few examples are CPM 154, S30V, S35VN, VG-10, cpm3v, 154 CM, 5160, 52-100, and 80CRV2.

Over the next few weeks, we're going to examine each steel, explain their unique characteristics, and show you why they are worth paying a little extra.