Will Woods has brought us The Truth About Blade Steels, but his article focuses more on what goes into various steels from a metallurgical and production point of view. I personally use the Zvisoft Knife Steel Database on my phone, but I am more likely than most to look up a specific example of the “alphabet soup” on a regular basis. I can’t recommend that app highly enough though if you are serious about steel.
For those of you who just want an easy reference for the most common steel types, my friend sent me this guide from BestPocketKnifeToday. It categorizes the various steels that are most likely to end up in a knife. Worth bookmarking if you want a quick reference.
I had little experience with different steels prior to coming to work for TTAK. I had to learn in a hurry. I have also learned that different people have different favorite steels, and those they dislike.
Nathan has waxed eloquently on the virtues of VG10. I don’t know David’s favorite, but I do know he hates D-2. Personally, I have been very impressed with D-2 and don’t find it as much of a pain to sharpen as David does. Will Woods seems to enjoy working with CPM3v.
If pressed, I would probably list S30V as my favorite steel for EDC knives. I have long carried a Spyderco Native and have reviewed the Benchmade Steep Country in this steel. It wan’t that long ago that S30V was considered premium steel, but with the steel arms-race continuing, it has become more of a mid-range offering. What that means for the consumer is many companies have a wide selection of knives in an affordable price point without going steel-crazy. The law of diminishing returns kicks in rapidly as you climb the scale. I think that S30V hits that sweet spot in price and performance.
I have been really impressed with Elmax in the First Edge 5050 I have been testing, but a huge portion of the knife’s overall price is tied up in one large slab of premium steel.
What is your favorite steel? Do you have any you dislike?