High Carbon Blade?

This is a discussion on High Carbon Blade? within the Defensive Knives & Other Weapons forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; Ok, Correct me if I'm wrong but I've been taught that a high carbon blade is hard, hard to sharpen but keeps it's edge pretty ...

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Thread: High Carbon Blade?

  1. #1
    Distinguished Member Array ArmyCop's Avatar
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    High Carbon Blade?

    Ok, Correct me if I'm wrong but I've been taught that a high carbon blade is hard, hard to sharpen but keeps it's edge pretty good as opposed to say a stainless steel blade.
    I've been taught that a stainless steel blade is soft, easy to sharpen but loses it's edge quicker than a high carbon.

    One of you that knows their stuff please enlighten me on this subject.

    Thanks...
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  3. #2
    Ex Member Array jahwarrior72's Avatar
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    stainless steel is made 'stainless' by having a higher chromium content, and lower carbon. the chromium imparts more rust resistance. a side effect is that the steel is softer, but hard to sharpen. the more chromium, the more difficult sharpening is, and what edge it has is lost fairly quickly. just think about all those cheap kitchen knives everyone has, and how dull they are. high carbon steel rusts more readily, so more maintenence is needed, but the steel is harder, which makes it easier to sharpen, and helps keep its edge longer. there are lots of different steels these days that offer a good balance rust resistance and edge holding, like VG-10 and CPM S30V.

  4. #3
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    That depends on the heat treat of the steel in the blade. High Carbon steel can be readily heat treated and made so hard that the blade becomes very brittle. There is a trade off with hardness and that is increased brittleness. The trick is to find a happy balance so that a knife can have a hard wearing edge, yet resilient enough to not snap off.

    Most stainless, due to that absence of carbon in the metal, cant be made very hard. The lack of carbon is also one of the reasons that it becomes "stainless". The more carbon that stainless has in it, the more heat treatable it becomes but it also becomes less rust resistant. There are a multitude of different stainless steels and category's. For instance, 300 series stainless is the most rust resistant but it is also the softest and can't be treated.This is used for kitchen utensils and food items. 400 series can be heat treated to a point, but when it becomes hard enough for a workable knife edge It starts becoming brittle and also begins to rust. 500 series is so rust prone that it is difficult to tell it from carbon. Some severe service valve stems and pump parts are made from them.

    You'll see many knives made out of 440 Stainless. This is a good compromise due to resistance to rust and edge holding ability and ease of sharpening but its still a compromise. For a pocketknife that gets used little it'll be OK for most folks.

    For a edge holding ability you'll want some more of the exotic stuff, but there again you'll lose rust resistance.

    Naturally, the harder the steel, the more difficult it will be to sharpen it. High Carbon steel is used to make hardened tools and things like drill bits and cutting tools.

    The "perfect steel "for knives quest has been going on since we figured out that adding carbon to iron made steel a few centuries ago.

    There is always a trade off. Want rust resistance ? You'll have a softer blade that wont hold an edge very well. Want a tough edge that can see hard use and still maintain an edge ? You'll have to wipe it down alot and it will be a chore to sharpen. Want a hard edge ? It'll be prone to chipping out.

    To make a long story short, you need to figure out how and what you are going to use the knife for and then match that up to the steel that is best suited for it. Trust me, it ain't as easy as it sounds.
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    Suggestion

    A set of Diamond hone stones make all blades easy to sharpen since Diamond is so incredibly much harder than even the hardest blade steel.
    So truthfully these days there is no such thing as a blade that is hard to sharpen.
    Neat thought.
    There are Tungsten Carbide sharpeners that will sharpen the hardest steel blades - but a Diamond sharpener will easily sharpen any blade made of Tungsten Carbide.

    The only thing you need to watch with Diamond stones is learning to use a light enough touch.
    Never heavy pressure - from coarse all the way to Super Fine...Only Three Hairs And Some Air....until it's razor sharp.
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    VIP Member Array packinnova's Avatar
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    I don't know about knowing my stuff...but my Kukri takes a good bit to sharpen, but once done it holds a really good edge and it is NOT stainless. I have to keep up with it regularly. I clean it after most major uses and then put a light wax/oil coating on it to keep it from rusting.
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    Senior Member Array Scot Van's Avatar
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    ...as relates to kitchen knives...

    High carbon steel is a fantastic thing to have in the kitchen, but maintenance is key, wherever you're using it.

    I've noted that somebody mentioned that a diamond dusted steen can sharpen any knife, but that isn't quite true. I've never even HEARD of a Diamond stone, but if that is a brand name of a true sharpening stone, then nevermind. If it was a reference to one of those metal wands you find in your butcher block (Henkle and Wustof both make steels that are embued with diamond dust) you're wasting your time. It will hone and edge that is there, but it will NOT bring back an edge to a dull knife.

    When a knife loses it's edge, the ONLY way to sharpen it is a true stone that reforms the edge. My preferred way of doing this is with a Norton Triple Stone. These are 18" long and make sharpening lots easier. You can find them on ebay for about 100 bucks sometimes, or at a kitchen supply store for more. I use the triple stone on my katz, gerber and cold steel blades and it is possible to maintain a razor edge with.
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  8. #7
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    I use the Lansky Deluxe Sharpening Diamond System

    You remake the edge to the same angle with the Extra Coarse Diamond and work down to the super fine keeping the same angle along the entire length of the edge with the jig guide.
    Then I "finish strop" a couple of times on leather impregnated with jewelers rouge to polish the edge but, it's really not necessary after finishing with the extra fine.





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    Senior Member Array cockedlocked01's Avatar
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    I have a system similar to that made by Smiths. Are either of those comparable to Spydercos "Sharp Maker"?
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    VIP Member Array Rob72's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cockedlocked01 View Post
    I have a system similar to that made by Smiths. Are either of those comparable to Spydercos "Sharp Maker"?
    NO. The Sharp Maker is freehand. Lansky and the comparable "guided" systems are great for blades of set, specific, grind angles. Problem is, many field/hunting knives have dual angles, convex grinds, etc., and the pre-set sharpeners can quickly ruin your knife, if you aren't careful/aware.

    The SharpMaker can be had with diamod rods. Great if you're comfortable with freehand. Some folks aren't...

    Carbon (of the 1095 or similar) variety, is actually easier to sharpen on a rock, in the field- witness the KaBar. Stainless blades are generally too soft, or too hard, for this to be possible.

  11. #10
    Senior Member Array glock21guy's Avatar
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    From Cabela's site I have found this useful/informative.
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  12. #11
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    That's an interesting chart.
    I really like the AUS-8 steel which seems to be right in the middle of the road according to that chart.
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  13. #12
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    Knife steels are all a compromise. There is abrasion resistance (makes it keep an edge longer but harder to sharpen), toughness (resistance to shock and breakage), corrosion resistance, hardness among some other points. They all influence each other and gains in one area will change the others, often negatively.

    Then you throw in the effects of heat treating and tempering. I, personally like D-2 in my working blades. A little brittle (Don't pry with it) and a little harder to sharpen but will maintain a wonderful edge and has just enough chromium to resist rust.

    When I was learning knife making one of the old timers who had made a lot of military specialty knives had settled on O-1. A "simple" carbon tool steel for his field blades. His attitude was "let it stain and rust, so what!"' The advantage was a tough flexible blade that was very hard to break, when properly heat treated, but that could take a razor edge very easily with a small hand stone or smooth rock. An advantage in the boonies. With some of the simple tool steels you can compound temper the steel. This leaves a softer, tougher spine with a nice hard edge. You can't do that with stainless or "complex" tool steels.

    It's really only in the last few decades that everyone is worried about their knife steels staying nice and shiny. All the old blades I've handled have a nice brown patina but take wicked edges with basic tools.

    The trick is to match the desires of the owner and job at hand to the steel. The real problem is usually to get the owners' expectations into the world of reality!

    Oh, and for the ultimate edge take your newly sharpened blade to a buffing wheel and some green chrome rouge! OOOHHHHH YEAH! I did some Scagel style blades once. The blade runs a flat taper from spine to edge, no sharpening bevel really. Mirror polished and absolutely phenominal cutters.
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  14. #13
    Member Array blgoode's Avatar
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    you have it backwards my friend. Stainless is way harder to sharpen than non stainless blades. I mainly use 0-1 tool steel and it holds an edge a long time and it sharpens to hair popping sharp in under a min with just a simple stone. Cant to that with High Carbon Stainless.
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