I have narrowed down my carbon steels to 3 choices ,
52100 has been my go to steel for a while and recently I have changed my heat treatment to give more hardness compared to the early knives I have made. With pretty much same sharpenability to my test and according to user feedback . I like the edge that properly forged and heat treated 52100 can take and the ease of maintenance of it . Especially when hand sanded to higher grits it is very stable and that's what I have been using at work for no reactivity issues . I leave them at 62-63 hrc, have done it in San mai however it is a very easy to maintain for monosteel .
It is the by far hardest the forge out of this bunch , doesn't move much under the hammer compared to the other clad or monosteels.
Second steel ( actually 2 steels that are almost same ) Is takefu 's vtoku and hitachi's blue .
Their chemical composition is almost same and they produce great blades ( with right heat treatment of course )
A quick grind to check the core steel of stainless clad takefu vtoku after tempering
I am in talks with takefu to import this steel in bulk ( along with sg2 San mai ) fingers crossed
Compared to 52100 they tend be more abrasion resistant , slightly better edge retention but where 52100 comes back to life with strop times after times vtoku and blue doesn't respond to strop as well . I use 6k at work to bring them back to life , few strokes seem to be enough for back in action .
a blue2 core paring knife I made in warikomi construction
My vtoku and hitachi blue 2 San mai are heat treated to around 63-64hrc
As for monosteels I heat treat my blue honyaki to 64-65 hrc , even at that hardness it deburrs easy and the edge flexes when pushed with nails rather than chipping . Of course I don't recommend honyaki to any body , they require more attention and can't take abuse like a San mai can
It doesn't produce the same hamon that simple carbon steels produce but I do love the edge it can take and keep
Here is a blue 2 honyaki yanagiba I made , I decided to keep this since I wasn't happy with its polish and got it Rockwell tested
Last steel I have been using is W2 , only for my honyakis, simple carbon steels like w2 and hitachi's white give the best hamons possible . They are around 64hrc , bit less abrasion resistant than blue however takes a super fine edge .
And those hamons are addictive
I will be working on my Damascus mix pretty soon , in the mean time let me know if you have any questions