View Full Version : Whatever happened to Stellite 6K?

11-03-2003, 11:38 AM
I don't see many blades made out of it, but I've heared that it's one of the best 'steels' available.:confused:

Don Cowles
11-03-2003, 12:59 PM
Talonite, which is pretty much the same thing, sort of took over the limelight for a while, but, in truth, you can't beat a good alloy steel for a knife blade.

J.Arthur Loose
11-03-2003, 03:57 PM
Good old steel.

Everything else is a flash-in-the-pan bit of marketing, if you ask me.

11-03-2003, 04:43 PM
Pardon my ignorance, but what makes alloy steel better?

Jerry Hossom
11-03-2003, 05:17 PM
Originally posted by J.Loose
Good old steel.

Everything else is a flash-in-the-pan bit of marketing, if you ask me.

You serious? :rolleyes:

That's more than a little bit offensive...

Alloying is usually used to increase the carbide content to make a steel more wear resistant, or to refine the grain structure to make it tougher, or to add chromium to make it corrosion resistant, or to make it more heat resistant, or some combination of all of those. Stellite/Talonite provides high carbide content in a heat tolerant cobalt matrix that won't rust.

J.Arthur Loose
11-03-2003, 07:40 PM
I didn't mean to offend.

A. I'm stuck in the Dark Ages. It's just my personal take on the gains to be had by new materials.

B. It isn't the materials that are to blame. It is the marketing that accompanies the materials. And I'm definitely not singling you out, Jerry... you don't really do the kind of marketing that bugs me, which, again, is just a personal thing.

C. I'm personally more interested in the beauty of materials than small gains in performance by various materials. That doesn't make my knives or knives that I like objectively 'better,' just as a knife made with newer alloys is or isn't 'better'. A good knife is a good knife, until you have specific needs. Corrosion / heat resistance for a knife being used in those environments is a good thing.

D. So to answer the question of what makes the good old simple alloy steels better... it's just a personal thing. A Ju-Ju thing. Don't mind me. :)

11-03-2003, 09:04 PM
I think that price and availability really became a problem. I have a few stellite 6k and talonite blades and they're very good, especially in corrosive environments. But i do like my knives a little harder and I'm wary of the edge rolling under high impacts. That might be a factor too.

Jerry Hossom
11-03-2003, 09:10 PM
NOBODY has greater contempt for some of the mystical BS some people ascribe to their miracle steels than I do. I won't name names; it's probably not necessary. The best of steels can fail and the worst of steels can do the job if they're used properly. The difference is not in the alloy, but how it's used, how it's processed and fashioned, and for what it's used.

Because a steel rusts doesn't make it better. Because someone heats it and beats it doesn't necessarily make it better. Because it comes out of a highly sophistocated process using a largish number of alloying elements certainly doesn't make it less. A few highly respected knifemakers panned CPM-3V when it first came out, and none (I'm aware of) bothered to later admit their heat treating process failed to harden it properly. I'm aware of a very highly regarded Mastersmith whose personal blade chipped out while attempting a cut that had already been made several times by an S30V blade from a competent stock removal knifemaker. Success or failure wasn't defined by the steel, but how it was used and the purpose for which it was made.

There are a goodly number of smiths who seem to think that because their steel is forged it is necessarily better, ignoring those unfortunate instances where it simply breaks when it's quenched, as though the flaw that caused that somehow disappears when the steel is tempered, or that an edge hardened blade does little to keep that hard edge from chipping. That's as much BS as the luney high alloy guys who claim their mystery steel is superior simply because they say it is or because it outperformed someone else's factory blade, or because it has more vanadium or more of anything else for that matter.

This is the high performance knife forum. It about knives that perform the task for which they're designed better than others. It doesn't matter what the steel, or non-steel, or how it looks, or who made it. It only matters that it performs, whether that is cutting rope and slicing cigarette paper or opening ammo cans and digging through mud walls or quartering and skinning out a moose. Personal preferences don't matter. This isn't a beauty contest; it's about p-e-r-f-o-m-a-n-c-e, and all the ways in which that word is reflected in a knife blade, nothing else matters...

Back to the point of this thread. Stellite/Talonite makes some very useful small blades, but it isn't generally tough enough to handle heavy chopping, prying, etc. That's primarily due to the fairly soft cobalt matrix, somewhere in the high '40s Rc. I've carried a Talonite blade for three years, using it most everyday for whatever was needed. I've sharpened it once, though I admit it's a bit overdue for a touchup. Some nice things about it: It can't rust - no iron, it's non magnetic which is very handy sometimes, and it holds a serviceable edge for a very long time, longer even than some of those mystical steels. :D

J.Arthur Loose
11-03-2003, 09:23 PM

I didn't certainly mean that new alloys don't actually have performance advantages... they do; I was just being flippant about marketing claims that some things are better than the last thing, when in fact, as you point out, different materials are better for different purposes.

Does obsidian still hold the record on sharpness? I know it's close... ( Serious question... I read an article about surgeons using it... but I do think it funny that our most ancient knives just might have been our sharpest.)

And in deference to your position in this forum, if I had noticed that it was the performance forum when I first posted I would have spoken less tritely. I knew I was kinda being a smartass... sorry 'bout that. :)

Jerry Hossom
11-03-2003, 09:51 PM
No problema. I get in trouble with one liners myself often enough. :)

You're right about obsidian and similar blades. They used in medicine for slicing tissue specimens where the cutting edge needs to be fine enough to slice through a single cell without distorting it. That's FINE!

On the other hand a fellow named Cortez pretty clearly established that obsidian sucked for sword blades... :D

Don Robinson
11-04-2003, 08:08 AM
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Jerry Hossom
[ The best of steels can fail and the worst of steels can do the job if they're used properly. The difference is not in the alloy, but how it's used, how it's processed and fashioned, and for what it's used.

Because a steel rusts doesn't make it better. Because someone heats it and beats it doesn't necessarily make it better. Because it comes out of a highly sophistocated process using a largish number of alloying elements certainly doesn't make it less. ]

I'm with you, Jerry. I'm a true custom knifemaker. I select the steel type with the buyer's primary usage in mind. The way the knife will be used determines the steel type, thickness, size, length, etc., then the heat treat and hardness must be varied to suit the use.

Proper heat treating and metallurgy, along with edge geometry are the most important factors, not the latest fad.

In my opinion, a knifemaker who uses his favorite steel for everything isn't keeping his customer's best interests in mind.

I admit, though, that I'm highly partial to air hardening steels. ;)

For me, function and performance come first. Looks and pretty thingies are last. If it won't function as intended, it's just a knife-shaped object, and it may be a beautiful work of art, but it ain't no knife. ;)

J.Arthur Loose
11-04-2003, 12:01 PM
For me, function and performance come first. Looks and pretty thingies are last. If it won't function as intended, it's just a knife-shaped object, and it may be a beautiful work of art, but it ain't no knife.

I know we're getting sidetracked in the Performance Forum... but I don't think this has to be an either-or issue. I think the Japanese attitude toward swords is a good example.

I think it is possible for looks & pretties to have the same emphasis as performance; which is to say that I make a blade that will most definitely fulfill its functional requirements... but at what point is a knife over-engineered for its intended purpose? I think in some ways the creation of the "ultimate blade," is just as much of an esoteric statement as the creation of the most "beautiful blade".

Jerry Hossom
11-04-2003, 12:20 PM
There's always a balance between form and function, but I've found that form usually follows function anyway, so if you make the knife with a careful eye to performance it usually looks fairly appealing.

"Over-engineered" sort of depends on its purpose. Some certainly are, and some are just heavy chucks of steel that do little more than an axe. They're not over-engineered; they're really under-engineered for the purpose. Some blades are too pretty to justify hard use, simply because doing so would mar the art.

Sometimes the quest for beauty loses its purpose. A drop dead beautiful hamon might well leave the edge too hard and/or the spine too soft to make the resulting blade useful in a practical sense. And sometimes the search for performance loses its purpose because the maker focusses on values that apply to other knives than the one he's building, like a blade-heavy fighter or a chopper with too fine an edge, even though it pops hair like the maker wanted.

In the end, the perfect knife is the one the person who uses it decides is perfect based on his individual wants and needs, which may in fact have less to do with performance than it does his ego. As I recall, we tried this exercise on here, asking what were the measures of performance that people sought. I think ease of sharpening ranked number one.

Don Robinson
11-04-2003, 12:21 PM
I don't want to seem argumentative, that's not my intent. To each his own.

I admire embellishments and beauty as much as anyone, but first, for me, the mechanical requirements are of primary importance.

If the mechanical functions are provided, and the knife will perform in the best way for the application as intended, for the knifemaker and the buyer, then any embellishments that are added increase the value in my eyes.

I'd love to be able to sculpt and engrave like others on the forums.

I'd also like to be a better photographer. :)

J.Arthur Loose
11-04-2003, 02:21 PM
I'm not looking for arguments. :)

I'm just in a wierd, introspective, art, beauty, form, function, craft, excellence, performance, design, purpose-in-life questioning place.

I've been asking lots of difficult questions of myself and of others. I'm trying to figure something out but I'm not sure what it is yet.

It's all tied in though.

Thanks for the thoughts and thanks for putting up with me! ;)

Jerry Hossom
11-04-2003, 02:35 PM
My approach to knifemaking has always been to focus on the purpose and let the design define itself from that perspective. Sure I've made some pretty useless things and have certainly been influenced by status quo, everyone is I guess. Still, I think you have to try a whole lot of things to finally define where you are and where you want to go. It's pretty easy to let knifemaking push you into a corner by following the course of least resistance, making what's easiest for you or what you know will work. It's a little tougher to throw a dozen hours at something that might not work, just to see if it can. Then trash that because the journey showed you another new path to follow and you're off on yet another voyage of discovery in that direction.

I'm not talented enough to make pretty things, but I can get ugly to work pretty well most of the time. Most of that has come from breaking the rules, and doing what made sense to me... :)

Don Robinson
11-04-2003, 03:05 PM
I'm also trying to figure out what it is that I'm trying to figure out. :D

Sometimes this keeps me awake at night. :confused:

Terry Primos
11-04-2003, 04:03 PM
originally posted by Jerry Hossom
"I'm not talented enough to make pretty things, but I can get ugly to work pretty well most of the time ..."
You're really selling yourself short there Jerry, but I suspect that's just gentlemanly humility, which is certainly a trait that is appreciated and to be desired. It's something I would expect from you.

This weekend at the Hammer-in at Old Washington, Arkansas I got to play around with one you recently did for my buddy Jeff Jenness. I was quite impressed with it. While it is completely different from the type of thing I do, different style, different materials, different grind, construction method, etc., etc., I certainly found it to be beautiful. The weight and balance were very nice indeed. The ergonomic handle had a great feel to it. I also like your combination of a hollow ground blade with a convex edge. I know you have a name for the grind but this poor dumb country boy can't remember what it is -- something like a "parabolic flamadiddle" or something. :D Anyway, all the neat curves and flowing lines make it anything but plain old utilitarian. It's pretty.


originally posted by Don Robinson
"In my opinion, a knifemaker who uses his favorite steel for everything isn't keeping his customer's best interests in mind ..."
The reason you see most bladesmiths leaning toward one or possibly two steels exclusively is that most of us do our own heat treating.

This is not a slur on folks who send there blades out for professional heat treating. I am not one of those who subscribes to the idea that if you send your modern high alloy steel to Paul Bos that you didn't completely make the knife.

Anyway, when a fellow is heat treating his own blades, it IS in the best interest of the customer for the blade to be of a steel that the maker has an intimate understanding and control of. In my case, I do have the customers best interest in mind. So how do I handle a situation where the materials the customer needs differs from the ones I use? The same thing I do when the design does not fall within the parameters of what I do. I offer to help them find the right maker for their needs.

Sometimes it will be another bladesmith. Other times it will a stock removal maker who deals in high alloy steels or even non-steels. This does two things for me. The customer now understands that he can trust me to help him get what's right for his specific needs. These customers almost always come back at a later date and order something from me that IS in alignment with what I do. The second benefit is that maker I have recommeded will often later send a customer my way. So in essence, by not making a sale just for the sake of a sale, I often end up with two new customers down the road, and a good relationship with the recommended maker.

For example, I have recommended Jonathan Loose in one case where I felt he was the man for the job. I have also recommended guys like Ed Caffrey, Ray Kirk, and Jason Howell for specific needs and price ranges. In one case where an existing satisfied customer had needs that obviously (to me) required one of the non-steel blade materials, I recommended that he get in touch with Tom Mayo. This is the short list, but you get the idea.

Don Robinson
11-04-2003, 05:15 PM
Yes, Terry, I understand. However, some of us don't need to send anything out for heat treat. There are a few of us who are fortunate enough to have the skills, knowledge, and equipment to be capable of professionally heat treating any knife or tool steel we need to use that suits the application for ourselves.

I do all the work on my knives myself. I guess that's the reason they're not pretty. ;)

But I always know the process and hardness suit the application.

Wowzie, this has turned into an in-depth discussion, huh??:cool:

Jerry Hossom
11-04-2003, 05:36 PM
I THOUGHT I had the equipment, skill and knowledge needed to heat treat well, but learned I didn't. It was impossible for me to reproduce in my $800 oven what Paul Bos does in his $100,000+ precision and atmospherically controlled ovens. Heck, his hardness tester costs almost as much as my whole shop, and he tests every blade 2-3 times in every cycle.

Thanks Terry. Jeff designed that handle as well as much of the blade on that knife. I'll only make two of those handles though. That angled palm swell was a bear to do, and I cussed Jeff mightily while doing it. I call that a reflex grind, since it transitions from hollow to convex about 1/2 - 3/4" up from the edge. When you grind upside down like I do, you can do crazy stuff like that. :)

I well understand focussing on the choice of steels when forging blades. Ed Fowler's made quite a science out of 52100 and others have mastered 1084 and the like. Getting it as good as it can be is what really matters. That's why a lot of us high alloy guys use Paul; he just does it better.

11-05-2003, 07:23 AM
Say, this is fun!
I just ask a simple question and stand back!
Keep on going though!
My feelings on kife art-
Go ahead and adorn your creation with scrimshaw and etching and engaving and filework and pearl handles and gold inlays, but if it makes the knife less useful, uncomfortable to hold, to difficult to clean, or just to expensive and "nice" to use, either forget it or "it should le labled 'for experimental purposes only."

Jerry Hossom
11-05-2003, 07:54 AM
Sorry, but that's kind of nonsense. The knife is an artform as well as a tool. Some of the best are both, and not all are used for field dressing deer. Regardless of your motivation to make knives, unless you're independently wealthy and I personally don't know any knifemakers who are, you have to make knives to sell, and that's a performance test in its own right. Most of the knives left on tables at the end of every knife show are drop point hunters, even some great drop point hunters that anyone would be proud to own and carry.

There's another element of knifemaking that hopefully will never be lost and that's the history of the craft and of the blade. Some of the most beautiful pieces I've ever seen were recreations of historical knives. Buster Warenski's King Tut dagger was an amazing piece of work. That's an important part of our heritage.

Knifemaking comes in all sizes, shapes, purposes and levels of appeal, and all are important to the craft. I think when anyone who makes knives digs down into their soul and asks themselves why they make knives they way they do, they all pretty much get the same answer: because that's the only way I really know how to make knives. We're all given a skill set, some are granted lots more than others, and we use what we have as fully as we know how to make the best knives we can, according to the individual passion that drive us to do so. I have complete respect for anyone who uses their entire range of skills to make the best knife they can; in return I demand that same measure of respect from others. In the end, the market decides who's doing it right or best.

If I could make pretty knives, I would #### sure do so... :)

11-05-2003, 08:05 AM
Your knives look real pretty to me, Jerry :)

11-05-2003, 12:59 PM
'for experimental purposes only."

I meant "ornamental"
Sorry about that.
I apologize if I offended anybody and for any confusion that arose, I simply feel that some knives are to fancy to be used. I didn't mean that they shouldn't be made or appreciated. Second, I absolutely do like pretty knives. A 'using' knife, in my opinion, should be made as nice looking as the owner's budget allows. An example of this would be Mr. Hossom's use of mosaic pins and migh-quality woods. They add a lot to the knife and do not significantly affect functionality, if at all.
to difficult to clean
Say a certain knife has deep etching and filework on the spine. If a fellow wants a field dressing knife, this knife might be to hard to clean. If another fellow wants a knife for opening packages, whittling, and other non-sticky jobs, the knife will work fine.
I learned this when I feild dressed a deer with my new hunting knife. It worked great for field dressing, but blood collected under the handle scales, making disassembly necesary for cleaning. This knife would have been, and perhaps still is, a good knife, but the cleaning factor is kind of discouraging, and could have been delt with before Buck knives began selling it.
The same goes for
to expensive and "nice" to use
Bill Gates' veiw of "to nice to use" will be different than most of ours. The same applies to everything else I said.
I hope this clears up any confusion.
The irony is, I completely agree with what Mr. Hossom said, and I feel his knive are very functional and not over done at all!

J.Arthur Loose
11-05-2003, 01:05 PM
See... I've been stirring up trouble wherever I go lately... :)

Knives encompass so much that it is unproductive to say that one kind is useful or better and another not... again it gets back to the intended purpose. The kind of blade that really excites me is the kind that would have been commissioned by a king during the Dark Ages. Adorned? You bet. Decorated? Quite so. Functional? A good Norse king fought *in front* of his warriors. Too expensive to use? Well... not for a king anyway... :) The intended purpose of a sword like this extends beyond physical function... it has to project power & stateliness too.

Which, I know, is tangential here... ;)

I do like the point that Terry brought up concerning heat-treating, steels, experience and understanding. Personally I like to really focus on a given alloy/ combination because metallurgy is dang complex and as a sole author, I have many many things to do... I work in 1084 ( 1070, really, ) and 15N20 because they make a good visual contrast, they are very compatible pattern welding materials and they are very responsive to heat-treating. I built digitally controlled high temp salt & oil quenching tanks after realizing I was unsatisfied with a thermocouple in the forge ( after I was unsatisfied with the 'magnet test,' etc... ) The point is that I want to master my medium, but I keep it simple since I do everything.

That is in no way to detract from those who ship out for heat-treating. Like Jerry said, a $100,00.00 shop will get that extra percentage of performance, and there's nothing 'philosphically,' wrong with a blade made that way with that intent. It does its job and it does it well, and that is a valued place in the knifemaking world, just as the 'art-knife,' holds a valued place.

O.K., back to finishing up for NYCKS!

Jerry Hossom
11-05-2003, 01:44 PM

Now back to the thread. Everyone should try a Stellite/Talonite blade sometime just to see what factors other than those pertaining just to steel can mean. Talonite has a measure of "lubricity" which adds something to its cutting performance. Add a nice smooth convex edge and it cuts through softer to medium hardness materials like nothing else. And, if in your rush to get back to camp to show off that 12pt buck you just nailed and "forget" to even wipe off your blade (gasp!), it's as good as new days/weeks later when you finally stop bragging and get around to cleaning your gear. Try that with O1 sometime! Neat stuff!

Back off topic again, because I just got this email from a cusomer. Here's one I'll bet old King Olaf couldn't pull off with his fancy jeweled sword... :D

" I took it to chop the 1" hemp and after I did it once to get the feel, began chopping 1" pieces off the end in quick succession ...about 4 times. The hanging rope did not sway, but pieces were flying everywhere."

This was a CPM-3V blade (the very one Terry referred to above) that Paul's heat treating allows to retain its remarkably fine grain structure at exactly Rc61 everytime, giving it the edge it needs to do this, even though this same blade will chop through hardwood and finishing nails all day without a ding. The knife did have mosaic pins though... :)

11-11-2003, 06:12 PM
To back up Jerry on his comment, I made the above statement. Jerry did a fantastic job of grinding this and all with a bum wrist! This is THE lightest camp knife I've held. I have been able to bury it into a 2x4 over 1/2" without sticking. Ploughed through knots without losing it's razor edge. I was also impressed with the rope cutting. All in all, this is a one-of-a-kind knife and it is NOT for sale! :D

Here is a picture of the Arkansas Chainsaw, so dubbed by Jerry. (Originally I called it the Buffalo River Camp Knife, but I think Jerry caught the real spirit of this knife!)

And the handle is my design and yes, I'm the one Jerry's been a cussin'! Oh! Notice the mosaic pins. ;)


C L Wilkins
11-12-2003, 06:24 PM
Although that is a good picture of that particular knife, until you put it in your hand you just can't appreciate it. I had the pleasure of pal'ing around with JeffJ the weekend of the hammer in up in Old Washington and every so often I would ask him, "Would you let me see that knife again?" It is truly a work of art. By that, I mean function, balance, the whole package. Simple, yet complex. I am thoroughly impressed. Now I can see where grinding "upside down" would have its advantages. It would almost be a requirement on a knife like this.

Jerry may just have a new customer...


Chris Daigle
11-12-2003, 06:35 PM
Jerry, what thickness of steel do you use for that Chainsaw??? :D
Awesome looking by the way...


Jerry Hossom
11-12-2003, 06:41 PM

I think that was about 0.185" at the spine, but with the tapered tang, there isn't much of it that's still that thick.