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Old 04-17-2018, 01:33 AM
Billy02 Billy02 is offline
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Posts: 6
Carbon Steel Knife VS Stainless Steel Knife

What advantage does carbon steel knife have over stainless-steel knife?
Which one would you prefer and why?
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Old 04-17-2018, 06:43 AM
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Crex Crex is offline
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None - the "best" working knife has the proper edge geometry and heat treatment to do the job for which it is designed.
Stainless is much easier to maintain, which a lot of people like, especially in corrosive environments ie.=salt water and wetter conditions.
The better SS's are very fine blade material if processed correctly (above), but can be just knife shaped junk if not - same with hi-carb steels.
I prefer hi-carb because I enjoy forging my blades and these steels are better suited for smithing. SS can be forged but is highly problematic when it comes to the multiple thermal cycling that forging entails.
Everyone has their preference which makes knifemaking so much fun.

Carl Rechsteiner, Bladesmith
Georgia Custom Knifemakers Guild, Charter Member
Knifemakers Guild, voting member
Registered Master Artist - GA Council for the Arts
C Rex Custom Knives

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Old 04-17-2018, 07:01 AM
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Ed Caffrey Ed Caffrey is offline
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In my opinion, carbon steels are far more versatile. If I choose to do so, I can create blades either via forging or stock removal. Carbon steel also offers more options when it comes to heat treating and hardness levels.....I can use various methods, and achieve a wider range of hardness levels, and not have to worry about a specific "target hardness" (the vast majority of stainless steels have a "target hardness" that if you miss during heat treat, the steel's performance is greatly hindered). Simple carbon steels are very easy to heat treat versus stainless steels..... basically with carbon steels all you need is some type of oil, a heat source, and a typical kitchen type oven to heat treat. With stainless, a programmable heat treat oven is pretty much a necessity.

I also find finishing easier with carbon steel, and it also offers the ability to apply a wider array of finishes.

Finally, when compared to stainless, carbon blades are much simpler/easier to sharpen and maintain, not only for the knifemaker, but also for the clients.

On the stainless side, the obvious advantage is the "stainless" qualities. Where as carbon steels will tarnish, rust, etc., stainless steels offer the end user very low maintenance requirements.

Beyond the "stainless" properties, I personally don't see any advantages with least from the perspective of being a Knifemaker. Although I use some stainless steels, I use them for clients who demand that "stainless" quality... and frankly those clients are ones who's knowledge of knives overall, is somewhat limited.

All that being said, this is simply my opinion from 30+ years of Knifemaking/Bladesmithing. Whether a Knifemaker uses carbon or stainless steels will depend on a huge number of factors. What matters is that whatever the Maker chooses, they make the best product they are capable of making, and offer the highest level product to their clients.

"Nobody cares what you know.....until they know you care."
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Old 04-17-2018, 02:52 PM
KevBooth KevBooth is offline
Join Date: Apr 2017
Location: Northern Utah
Posts: 75
For me the choice to use stainless, is simply because of familiarity. In my professional career I was a maintenance tech, then transitioned into fabrication, then into medical device manufacturing, all revolved around stainless. Admittedly, 99.9% of my work was not with suitable steels for knife making, but I learned to grind, shape, and "read", the steels over that time, and then when I transitioned into medical devices, I added heat treatment of stainless steels and their accompanying metallurgy (extremely limited as it were). So when I got interested in knife making, I naturally gravitated toward stainless, specifically 440C, because it was the most comfortable option.
But, as Ed had already stated, there is a large investment to be made in time and equipment to properly process those steels. They do not lend themselves well to beginners, for that reason. And as Ed already stated there is not much if anything in the way of advantage to stainless steels, over carbon steels where knives are concerned.
Just my simple, humble and uneducated opinion.
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Old 04-18-2018, 02:07 AM
jimmontg jimmontg is offline
Join Date: Jan 2016
Location: Now live in Las Cruces NM.
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I have to add a few things here for any newbies.

When I started making knives I used O1 tool steel I heat treated in a forge. Then I found out about Hinderliter Heat treating company nearby and they did the HT on my knives for like $110 for 10 lbs. Also they were very helpful and taught me a thing or two. So stainless, alloy tool steel or high carbon blades they helped me immensely.
It's nice to forge a knife, but to get the optimal performance a professional company like Peters or Hinderliter I believe still does knives in OKC, are hard to beat. If you can't afford a HT oven they are out there to give you what you need for optimal steel. Plus there are some makers that may be willing to teach you. Check out where you live and there are a few HT companies too you can find online.
I really like O1, D2 and S30V. They are all good steels. It comes down to where you're at and your money.

Last edited by jimmontg; 04-18-2018 at 02:15 AM. Reason: addition
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Old 04-18-2018, 03:42 AM
Billy02 Billy02 is offline
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Posts: 6
Thank you all for sharing information, i myself was thinking about stainless steel, my reasons were others, or maybe i have not used carbon steel yet, so its like stainless steel is embedded in my brain.
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Old 04-18-2018, 08:26 AM
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Ray Rogers Ray Rogers is offline
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I use both, but mostly stainless. Ed summed it up best I think. You get more flexibility in the HT with carbon and with stainless you get low maintenance. That may over simplify but that's the core of it. I use stainless because I like low maintenance and I have the equipment to do it right. But, carbon cuts differently and I like the patina as it ages and the toughness characteristics. Bottom line: don't limit yourself, if you have the means use whichever suits your current project the best....


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