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Preferred steel for kitchen knives?

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Daniel Fairly

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I am a knife maker who is new to making kitchen knives. I know of some great steels for kitchen knives but I'd like to know what is preferred for high end kitchen knives.

What do you think? Thanks for the help!
 

MadMel

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52100 and White 1/2 are pretty well received for carbon, though I like my Blue Super for it's edge retention.
Maybe AEB-L from DT for stainless? Not too comments about stainless about...
 

jmforge

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How is W2 working out? It seems that it is fairly new to the custom kitchen knife game, but some of us have been using Don Hanson's General Motors body stamping tool W2 for a few years and Aldo is having it made in Germany now.
 

echerub

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I'm partial to white steel and blue super, one for its ease of sharpening and the other for toughness & good retention, but admittedly I have yet to get to know 52100 and O-1. That ought to change shortly. Love what Devin Thomas has done with AEB-L steel, but other than that I'm not really interested in stainless steel.
 

obtuse

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For carbon we like O1, W2, 1095, 52100... For stainless 13c26, 19c27, cpm154. Stuff that's hard, but not to hard to sharpen. I haven't seen any kitchen knives in A2, don't know why. Some people like D2 while others hate it.
 

RRLOVER

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I am fond of AS,01,52100.I have used most of anything that has been made into a chef knife.As for W2 it has not been used enough in kitchen blade as far as I can see,I guess someone here can change that.
 

goodchef1

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I would love to see kitchen cutlery made of these:
CTS-XHP
CPM-M4
CPM-S110V, S125V
CPM-10V
ZDP-189
ELMAX
VANAX-75
CPM-154

Just to name a few. The ZDP is an excellent performer and I don't see why any of these others would not perform also. Please contact me if you plan on using any of these, exception zdp/cpm154 (tried it)
 

l r harner

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i have used all but 3 of them so tima will tell
I would love to see kitchen cutlery made of these:
CTS-XHP
CPM-M4
CPM-S110V, S125V
CPM-10V
ZDP-189
ELMAX
VANAX-75
CPM-154

Just to name a few. The ZDP is an excellent performer and I don't see why any of these others would not perform also. Please contact me if you plan on using any of these, exception zdp/cpm154 (tried it)
 

jm2hill

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I'm partial to white steel and blue super, one for its ease of sharpening and the other for toughness & good retention, but admittedly I have yet to get to know 52100 and O-1. That ought to change shortly. Love what Devin Thomas has done with AEB-L steel, but other than that I'm not really interested in stainless steel.
wow how can I say this any better.

I love my White (3 knives) and Blue (2 knives) and come september will hopefully be ordering a Dave and Del in O-1 and will find someone to make me something in 52100. Gotta try it all right.

Gotta try it all right.
 

jmforge

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W2 was a steel that was on its way out the door. Some have expressed concerns recently that O1 may be on the outs too. In many tool applications, W2 had been replaced either by W1, O1 or one of the nominal air hardening tool steels like A2 and D2.. IIRC, the stuff that Don Hanson, Jason Knight and others found a few years back had been "out of circulation' for ten years and was leftover stock from a GM order. What has made it popular with us metal pounders is the quality of the stuff that we have, its combination of toughness and wear resistance and the fact that that it's shallow hardening makes it ideal for getting a wicked looking hamon. it also has a reputation of being a little less tempermental than O1 as far as red shortness and air hardening and 52100 in that you don't have to nail the quench right the first time. You can do it over again. The only real downside is that is can be so shallow hardening that in thicker cross sections, you can often get an "accidental hamon" where it doesn't harden through. I suspect that is not a problem in sections as thin as kitchen knives, but I will differ to my brethren who have used it in that application because I haven't made any W2 knives less than about 3/16 thick at the ricasso. Bill Moran used a lot of W2 when it was readily available and he said that it was almost as tough as 5160, had the potential to take a better edge and hold it longer. The good news is that Aldo Bruno had a batch cooked up in Germany that appears to be very similar to the round bar stock that Don Hanson has been selling and it is available in flat stock as thin as .103.
I am fond of AS,01,52100.I have used most of anything that has been made into a chef knife.As for W2 it has not been used enough in kitchen blade as far as I can see,I guess someone here can change that.
 

mdoublestack

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Ma favorite steel I've used is, unequivocally, Murray Carter's White #1. I also like 52100, blue#2, and White #2, um, a lot ... as of late, I am far less a fan of stainless... though, I am very interested in stainless clad carbon kitchen knives - I dont think there are enough out there.
 

AnxiousCowboy

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Ma favorite steel I've used is, unequivocally, Murray Carter's White #1. I also like 52100, blue#2, and White #2, um, a lot ... as of late, I am far less a fan of stainless... though, I am very interested in stainless clad carbon kitchen knives - I dont think there are enough out there.
i wish i had an oppritunity to compare white #1 and #2
 

Daniel Fairly

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Great information here! Here are my rambling thoughts...

I have been researching the blue and white steels and I'm not too sure what to think they are, I guess they are a very high carbon (1.5%?) simple steel? I wonder where I buy the stuff. Hitachi might have it but I haven't researched much yet.

The 52100 seems very popular, it is good stuff. I have been looking in to ordering some 3/32-5/32 for kitchen knives.

I have been working with O1, S7, 5160, 1084fg and Titanium for my knives at the moment. (mainly 5160 for choppers and O1 for everything else) I'm leaning towards buying more air hardening steels because they are so stable during heat treat, I even have a plate quench setup on the way. A2 is on the list. Water hardening steels are cool for the hamon but I really don't like them for my knives. My 5160 and S7 seem like overkill for kitchen use, they would be good heavy duty chopper steels but maybe not the best for everyday slicing.

I have some .070 Ti coming in for some wild carbidized edge chef's knives!
 

JBroida

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stephan fowler does a killer HT with W2... very impressive for a kitchen knife
likewise, there are many makers out there who do great things with 01 (and just as many if not more that have no clue what they are doing)

To be honest, i think its a lot less about the steel (as long as you pick a generally good one) and more about what you bring to the table with the HT and grind

you could make a killer knife out of 1095 (which isnt popular at all), but if you had an awesome HT and grind, i'm sure people would buy it (especially if they have a chance to see if or other examples of similar work)
 

jmforge

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If you aren't set up to give O1 a nice, long controlled soak, you should probably be using something else like 1080 or 1084. The same it true to a slightly lesser extent with W2. No reason to leave some performance potential on the table.
stephan fowler does a killer HT with W2... very impressive for a kitchen knife
likewise, there are many makers out there who do great things with 01 (and just as many if not more that have no clue what they are doing)

To be honest, i think its a lot less about the steel (as long as you pick a generally good one) and more about what you bring to the table with the HT and grind

you could make a killer knife out of 1095 (which isnt popular at all), but if you had an awesome HT and grind, i'm sure people would buy it (especially if they have a chance to see if or other examples of similar work)
 

SpikeC

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Actually, O1 doesn't need a long soak, at least according to the Devins.
 

jmforge

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I'm going by what I recall Kevin Cashen saying about O1. Long soak may have been the wrong term. Not hours, but 5-20 minutes, which you would really have trouble doing in a regular forge. A Fogg style drum forge or something like a black iron baffle pipe with a thermocouple in a forge on LOW temp is about as primitive as i would want to go. Cashen does his in salt and does a little demonstration where he takes an untempered O1 blade right out of the low temp salt quench and drops it point first onto the concrete floor with no ill effect.
Actually, O1 doesn't need a long soak, at least according to the Devins.
 

Daniel Fairly

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Thanks again everyone for the help, it is always good to hear what the people want! I was expecting to see more stainless steels mentioned but it looks like lower Chromium content wins again!

On the O1 I use it a lot and it requires a 10 minute soak time from what I understand. It takes a while for everything to get in to solution with O1, it will harden fine with a short soak or just taking past critical but it will be nowhere near is's potential.
 

jmforge

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You hit the nail on the head, Daniel. You can make a very serviceable blade from O1 using something like the torch and goop method and probably get to 90% of the steel's potential if you are careful, but that is not what people on here expect. By contrast, I think that you can get quite a bit closer to the full potential of steel like 5160, 52100 or most of the 10xx steels using fairly rudimentary heat treating methods.
Thanks again everyone for the help, it is always good to hear what the people want! I was expecting to see more stainless steels mentioned but it looks like lower Chromium content wins again!

On the O1 I use it a lot and it requires a 10 minute soak time from what I understand. It takes a while for everything to get in to solution with O1, it will harden fine with a short soak or just taking past critical but it will be nowhere near is's potential.
 

Mike Davis

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To be honest, i think its a lot less about the steel (as long as you pick a generally good one) and more about what you bring to the table with the HT and grind

you could make a killer knife out of 1095 (which isnt popular at all), but if you had an awesome HT and grind, i'm sure people would buy it (especially if they have a chance to see if or other examples of similar work)
Why is 1095 not a popular steel? When compared to white #1 and 2, there isn't much of a difference at all...a few points of carbon in #1. I like the hamon ability of 1095 and i just do not understand.
 

JBroida

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in all honesty its just not popular beause its not popular... it doesnt have any real hype and isnt any kind of crazy supersteel... that being said, it can be an awesome steel for kitchen knives with the right HT
 

jmforge

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Mike, A lot of 1095 developed a reputation over the past few years of being rather spotty in the quality and cleanliness department. Some people I know describe W1 as "clean 1095" and use it instead. Apparently, stuff sold as "water hardening tool steel" as opposed to "spring steel" is less likely to have boogers buried in the bar. Some folks have found the same problem with "generic" 5160 if you are not careful where you get it. That's why the super clean John Deere load shaft spec 5160 is kind of the Holy Grail to some guys who use that steel.
Why is 1095 not a popular steel? When compared to white #1 and 2, there isn't much of a difference at all...a few points of carbon in #1. I like the hamon ability of 1095 and i just do not understand.
 

ajhuff

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Why is 1095 not a popular steel? When compared to white #1 and 2, there isn't much of a difference at all...a few points of carbon in #1. I like the hamon ability of 1095 and i just do not understand.
Marketing.

-AJ
 

jmforge

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The Hitachi stuff is no doubt some very clean and well made steel. However, I wonder how much of its reputation revolves around the natural hype and hoodoo of anything having to do with Japanese cutlery? The old "quenched in the blood of virgins during the full moon while facing magnetic north chanting Shinto scripture and tested on the bodies of prisoners" thingie.:lol2:
 

Marko Tsourkan

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I think those simple carbon steels are easily available and suitable for forging methods like san mai and heat treatment in charcoal furnace or gas oven. They are also shallow hardening steels, so you can create hamon on each of them. In terms of edge retention, there are steels that outperform those, yet very seldom used cutlery in Japan.
 

jmforge

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Marko, I was thinking about the heat treat of traditional Japanese knives. Yes the steel that they start with is very good, but they are lucky that most of it is fairly simple stuff because heating the blade in the charcoal forge and dunking it in the slop bucket ain't exactly high tech heat treatment, ESPECIALLY when you are talking about the blue steel which appears to have a fair amount of tungsten to act as a carbide former. I know that they leave their "hard steel" at very high levels of hardness, but I have never really been able to figure out how they temper stuff like tahamagane or the modern steels for that matter, if at all.
I think those simple carbon steels are easily available and suitable for forging methods like san mai and heat treatment in charcoal furnace or gas oven. They are also shallow hardening steels, so you can create hamon on each of them. In terms of edge retention, there are steels that outperform those, yet very seldom used cutlery in Japan.
 

Mike Davis

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W1 is certified 1095. I understand the "dirty steel" thing, but with the quality of steel as is being produced right now i would think there would be less to worry about. I personally enjoy seeing a nice hamon in a knife, as it gives a clue to a proper HT. It is not a guarantee that it is treated properly, but does offer some insight. I am a fan of simple carbon steels, as i cannot forge stainless steel. Getting White#1 or 2 in the us requires a ridiculous amount of money, and i think the W1, W2 and 1095 are good alternatives for these, none have a forgiving HT process though.
I am pretty new to this yet, this is just my thoughts....

Mike
 

jmforge

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Mike, from what I have been told, those steels are actually slightly more forgiving in the heat treat that say 52100 because you can do them over. The trick with W1, W2 or 1095 is having a quenchant that is fast enough to harden the steel properly without getting the dreaded "ping" and that generally means something like Parks #50 or the Houghton equivalent. As for the quality of some of the carbon simple steels being produced, you are safe if you buy steel from knife guys like Aldo Bruno, Kelly Cupples, Don Hanson, Ray Kirk or Scott Devanna, but beyond that, I think there is still some junk out there. I would be hesitant to buy any plain carbon steel from say Admiral.
W1 is certified 1095. I understand the "dirty steel" thing, but with the quality of steel as is being produced right now i would think there would be less to worry about. I personally enjoy seeing a nice hamon in a knife, as it gives a clue to a proper HT. It is not a guarantee that it is treated properly, but does offer some insight. I am a fan of simple carbon steels, as i cannot forge stainless steel. Getting White#1 or 2 in the us requires a ridiculous amount of money, and i think the W1, W2 and 1095 are good alternatives for these, none have a forgiving HT process though.
I am pretty new to this yet, this is just my thoughts....

Mike
 
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