The magic of carbon

Kitchen Knife Forums

Help Support Kitchen Knife Forums:

bennyprofane

Senior Member
Joined
May 22, 2016
Messages
585
Reaction score
11
A lot of people prefer carbon knives and you can witness that there is much more passion for carbon steel going around.
I too love carbon, it seems that cutting with it is just more rewarding, and I'm wondering what it is.

Good stainless steel like PM or AEB-L probably gets just as sharp, the Takamura R2 out of the box was one of the sharpest knives I've ever had,
splitting hanging hair etc but I still feel that I prefer carbon.

Is there a scientific explanation why carbon is superior compared to stainless (I'm not talking about sharpenability but the cutting experience) or is it just a subjective feeling?
 

malexthekid

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 29, 2014
Messages
1,896
Reaction score
2
A lot of people prefer carbon knives and you can witness that there is much more passion for carbon steel going around.
I too love carbon, it seems that cutting with it is just more rewarding, and I'm wondering what it is.

Good stainless steel like PM or AEB-L probably gets just as sharp, the Takamura R2 out of the box was one of the sharpest knives I've ever had,
splitting hanging hair etc but I still feel that I prefer carbon.

Is there a scientific explanation why carbon is superior compared to stainless (I'm not talking about sharpenability but the cutting experience) or is it just a subjective feeling?
I am going to suggest it is like a confirmation bias thing... because for all physical purposes you should be able to get stainless etc to feel exactly the same when cutting.

But that is just my thoughts.
 

Matus

Staff member
Global Moderators
Hobbyist Craftsman
Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 18, 2013
Messages
7,530
Reaction score
1,260
Location
Germany
I think one reason could be that it simply is (looks, feels, smells) less sterile than stainless steel. Carbon steel feels different to touch than stainless - in particular with kasumi finish. It smells a bit (and different knives seem to have different smell), it changes with use. That gives it properties that make it feel a bit 'alive' to us and we naturally connect to that. Well, just a thought.

Maybe it is some meta-physical mumbo-jumbo, who knows :)
 

Jacob_x

Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2016
Messages
483
Reaction score
46
In addition to what has been said above, I think that the simplicity of its composition is such a draw, as many of us who covet knives consider ourselves 'purists' in some conception. Steel at its most pure, it's most basic, just iron and carbon (for white steels, not a lot else otherwise), along with all the slight idiosyncrasies that it brings through the elements it lacks, is such an alluring proposition...
 

LifeByA1000Cuts

Senior Member
Joined
May 22, 2016
Messages
2,780
Reaction score
5
In practice, some carbon steel knives i've handled came springy, ringing thin behind the edge, most stainless i've seen didn't - even the Takamura is the stiff kind of thin, not the Herder parer kind of thin :) Must be something that makes knifemakers feel OK with elastic edges on carbon but not on most stainless, though I guess AEB-L is meant just for that kind of purpose?

Also, I guess the more alloying elements you put in, ESPECIALLY in small percentages, the thicker a sheet of that material has to be to be statistically "evenly mixed", as in you get your fair share of everything in every spot :)

Maybe this is why 420A/B of all seem to do better in thin stainless blades than 1.4116?

Also, my suspicion is that the wear-vs-sharpness curve is just different ... from my subjective impressions: White steel, medium long plateau of scary sharp, medium long plateau of sharp, then edge failure*... Blue, shorter scary sharp plateau then a looong sharp plateau that fades out softly, but eventually ends in edge failure with AS (not standard blue)... Normal stainless, medium short scary, short sharp, edge failure.... VG10, short scary, long sharp, edge failure...

*my definition: Can't be made to slice into a sponge with any non-abrasive measures.
 

supersayan3

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 18, 2014
Messages
624
Reaction score
1
I prefer Carbons all the way, with my favorite being the whites.
The most basic.
Don't ask me why.
I enjoy cutting juicy tomatoes with white, till it no longer cuts nothing, sharpen it razor sharp in no time, and here we go again...
If only they didn't discolor some foods...
That's why is good to have one R2 around
 

LifeByA1000Cuts

Senior Member
Joined
May 22, 2016
Messages
2,780
Reaction score
5
@supersayan my theory is that the common recommendation "white for the enthusiast home cook, blue for the pro" is really not a hierarchy thing but more a "one wants to enjoy cooking, can afford edge failure; the other needs to cook, and has to rely on the knife" thing...
 

milkbaby

Well-Known Doofus
Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2016
Messages
2,170
Reaction score
583
Location
Sunny Florida
I think one reason could be that it simply is (looks, feels, smells) less sterile than stainless steel. Carbon steel feels different to touch than stainless - in particular with kasumi finish. It smells a bit (and different knives seem to have different smell), it changes with use. That gives it properties that make it feel a bit 'alive' to us and we naturally connect to that. Well, just a thought.

Maybe it is some meta-physical mumbo-jumbo, who knows :)
I only have one good stainless knife, and what Matus wrote above, mumbo-jumbo or not, seems to apply to me. I especially notice the smell of carbon and the patina after use. Would actually like to have more stainless knives for those times I'm feeling lazy.
 

Benuser

Supporting Member
Joined
May 3, 2011
Messages
6,264
Reaction score
701
Smaller grain, easier sharpening. Some highly charged stainless remain unstable at the edge. And basic carbons can be redressed by a few strokes on newspaper, denim, leather, whatever you have.
 

DanHumphrey

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 26, 2016
Messages
676
Reaction score
1
How can y'all smell a knife? Seriously, I've never been able to smell any of my knives.
 

aboynamedsuita

Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2015
Messages
3,834
Reaction score
346
Location
YWG
If you cut certain things with certain carbon they can smell, I also like high maintenance things which may explain my predisposition to carbons
 

Deadboxhero

Member
Joined
Jul 27, 2016
Messages
21
Reaction score
8
the carbon steel has more potential for a finer micro structure then the stainless but both can be sharpened just as sharp, not sure if I actually feel the difference when cutting in a blind test.
 

panda

O.G.
Supporting Member
Joined
Dec 3, 2012
Messages
7,724
Reaction score
1,806
Location
south florida
It's probably as simple as chromium having negative affect on feel.
The only stainless I like is ginsanko. I haven't tried niolox yet which is said to be less stainless feeling.
 

Matus

Staff member
Global Moderators
Hobbyist Craftsman
Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 18, 2013
Messages
7,530
Reaction score
1,260
Location
Germany
How can y'all smell a knife? Seriously, I've never been able to smell any of my knives.
Well, you do not really smell a clean dry blade. But once you made a first cut with a freshly finished blade you will smell it and the small will depend not only on what you cut, but oin the composition of the steel (cladding mostly). I can say that I would be able to recognise damascus clad knife from Andy Billipp just by its smell - it was very particular. Once the patina starts to set it the smell gets weaker.
 

Cashn

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 14, 2015
Messages
451
Reaction score
16
I have one ginsanko and one r2 knife I use, the majority are stainless clad carbon gyuto's and a few full carbon non gyutos. All are excellent knives and I don't want to get rid of them but using even the stainless clad carbon feels like riding a horse compared to a train going the same speed. Both have their place and if I could care for full carbon at work I would have more.
 

LifeByA1000Cuts

Senior Member
Joined
May 22, 2016
Messages
2,780
Reaction score
5
@Benuser you seem to come from similar observations and to similar conclusions as me :) Thin, stable edges :)
 

supersayan3

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 18, 2014
Messages
624
Reaction score
1
@supersayan my theory is that the common recommendation "white for the enthusiast home cook, blue for the pro" is really not a hierarchy thing but more a "one wants to enjoy cooking, can afford edge failure; the other needs to cook, and has to rely on the knife" thing...
I agree.
But then again.., that's why we have many knives [emoji4]
The one gets dull, you have no time, you grab the other [emoji111]️️
Also, white is supposed to have , something like 5 years of life, according to the Japanese standards of use and sharpening frequency,
Blue 10, Honyaki 15.
I don't remember where I read that, from a Japanese knife maker

Yes, carbons smell.
First out of the box, they are coated,
And after use, being washed and dried,
Bring a stainless close to your nose, bring a carbon, your sense will tell

Java, which maker uses Niolox?
First time I hear of it
 

LifeByA1000Cuts

Senior Member
Joined
May 22, 2016
Messages
2,780
Reaction score
5
"Bring a stainless close to your nose"

Could be a missing line in Nirvana's "swap meet" ;)

....

Without googling, I think I've seen that life cycle table either on the Mizuno or Sakai Takayuki site....

Niolox = SB1, Schanz and other german boutique makers love it.
 

bennyprofane

Senior Member
Joined
May 22, 2016
Messages
585
Reaction score
11
Xerxes also uses Niolox but I would rather get a 1.2442 or SC125 from him.
 

Matus

Staff member
Global Moderators
Hobbyist Craftsman
Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 18, 2013
Messages
7,530
Reaction score
1,260
Location
Germany
Java, which maker uses Niolox?
First time I hear of it
I am working on a 180 gyuto in Niolox right now and hope to have it ready in about 2 weeks :) This steel is available in DE in dimensions that is very well suitable for stock removal. A lot of makers use Niolox in DE, but few of them make kitchen knives and probably none is to be found on KKF.

I am also working on 2 identical 210 gyutos in Niolox and D2 as I am curios how these will compare. I may add a 3rd one in AEB-L. But those will take longer as I have started only recently. If all goes well I will use Niolox as my main stainless steel.
 

Nemo

Staff member
Global Moderators
Joined
Oct 16, 2016
Messages
4,826
Reaction score
906
Location
Southern NSW (Aus)
I'm waiting on a Niolox 260 mm gyuto from an Australian custom maker. I'm interested in what you think about the Niolox. It's meant to be fine grained like aebl but much more abrasion resistant.
 

Matus

Staff member
Global Moderators
Hobbyist Craftsman
Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 18, 2013
Messages
7,530
Reaction score
1,260
Location
Germany
I see that I will have to make that AEB-L gyuto too ... :)
 

Tobes

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2015
Messages
97
Reaction score
0
Niolox = SB1: Jürgen Schanz.
might not have the sexiness factor like a japanese or other custom blade...but man is that edge tough! ...easy to sharpen, stays sharp a loooong time , takes abuse like a pro...no worries handing it to the lady or cooking guests
 

Iggy

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 18, 2016
Messages
432
Reaction score
137
Own, owned and tested several knives in SB1 Niolox (most of them from Juergen Schanz). Great stainless steel. Really corrosion resistant and tough with good edge retention. Sharpenability is just ok IMHO. AEBL for example performes better in that aspect. But overall a great steel!

I'd say my favorite stainless besides AEBL and Suisins 19C27. :thumbsup:
 

CB1968

Senior Member
Joined
May 24, 2013
Messages
690
Reaction score
236
I have owned several knives for Tilman Leder and his Niolox is a great steel, I am in total agreeance with Iggy, properly HT AEBL-L gets much sharper.
 

Matus

Staff member
Global Moderators
Hobbyist Craftsman
Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 18, 2013
Messages
7,530
Reaction score
1,260
Location
Germany
I think we may have went off-topic with the Niolox discussion (for what I apologize)
 
2
Top