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You Can Win Great Prizes!
BladeOps has an ongoing non-fiction writing contest. The writer of the top three contributed article in the next 45 days will receive prize packages valued at more than $500.00.
To be eligible, your submission must be an original piece of work. Detail is encouraged. You can write on any knife topic or subject that would be of interest to readers of the BladeOps blog. Please proofread your entry. Every entry must be completely original and upon submission the copyright becomes the property of BladeOps, LLC.
Once you have submitted your article on the BladeOps Blog, you may not submit it anywhere else. Along those same lines, do not submit articles that you have submitted to other places already. Every entry must be completely original. Upon submission, the copyright belongs to BladeOps, LLC. We reserve the right to edit articles for spelling, punctuation, grammar, and length as well as for any other reason we deem necessary.
Plagarism is completely unacceptable. This must be your own original work. It may include brief quotes that are properly enclosed in quotation marks and where full attribution is given to the original author of the quote material. Any instance of plagiarism will result in immediate disqualification from this contest.
Winners must have a legal US address. Contest not valid where prohibited by law. You must be at least 18 years old to enter and you must be eligible to legally own the prizes.
Submit as many articles as you would like. Pictures are encouraged, please include them if possible.
Contest ends December 27th, 2014. Winners will be announced by December 31st, 2014.
Thanks and good luck.
Post your contest entry below.
The following entries have won.
First Place: That Old KaBar
Second Place: Picking the Perfect Knife
Third Place: The Pennsylvania Knife
Congratulations to our winners. I will contact you via email on Monday to arrange shipment of your prize.
Also, since this contest was so hotly contested, we have decided to start the November contest right away. The same rules apply, with a final entry date of November 30th, 2014. Contest prizes for the November contest will be announced next week–and watch closely because they are going to be even better than ever. Get writing and feel free to submit as soon as you like.
So, it was the 1970’s. I was living in Denver, Colorodo at the time, so it was only a 13-15 hr. drive (nothing for me…LOVE DRIVING) to…would you believe it, Las Vegas. I went out right after I got off from work that Sunday morning. This trip out is what ended up giving me the brilliant idea (which wasn’t typical for me) to hit up Vegas and spend my entire weeks vacation there. You see, the week before I had made a nice amount of money by putting in a lot of overtime, and I guess I was in a hurry to lose all that money huh.
I was just browsing around a few stores…looking to burn just a LITTLE BIT of my hard earned money. That’s where I saw it, in some display case…the Victorinox Classic (would you believe it) this was going to be the first ever folding knife I would ever buy. Good thing too, cause this knife would later on SAVE MY LIFE!!! After pondering the decision for a sec I said “what the heck.” While the sweet little girl behind the register was boxing and bagging this knife up I saw (sitting on the counter) this little pamplet for some Vegas attraction. That’s when the decision was pretty much made for me…”Vegas,” I said, “here I come.”
So there I was, leaving Denver heading for Vegas (with Victorinox in pocket…my new pocket rocket). The drive to Vegas went great, scenery was beautiful, temp was great, and my nerves were shot by the time I reached Vegas. Why, because, well, lets just say that back then (my 20’s) I was a MUCH bigger risk taker…more so than I care to remember. I want go into too much detail about that (my risks), but lets just say I never went anywhere without my herbs…nuff said?
Had a blast in Vegas though. And this is where my story really starts to pick up. I was up about $1,400.00, yeah, the craps table was definitely on my side (along with fate) the first night I was in Vegas. I had just got done with my turn on the craps table and the man next to me had just picked up the dice…with a smug look on his face too. This guy was on fire, even more so than I was, which was amazing because winning $1,400.00 at the craps table back then was no easy task. The cheering for this man (who seemed to be a dice magnet) was relentless. That’s when I noticed it, a hangnail on my thumb (something I could not stand…still can’t). So I whipped out my new Victorinox, popped out the file, and thanks to my gracefulness, dropped it on the floor. “Oh well” I said, bent down to grab my knife, glanced up, and to my utter amazement noticed that this supposed ‘dice machine’ was nothing more than a cheat. The guy had a second pair of weighted dice in his hand. Even though I just barely caught a glimpse of these dice it was enough for me to go to the pit boss, report this cheating douche-bag and get him arrested.
The casino owner was so grateful for my help that he comped my entire weeks stay there…can you say “SWEET!” That’s when I turned to the owner and explained how it was all thanks to this little Swiss Army Knife (and my clumsiness) that his casino was prevented from being robbed…he couldn’t believe it.
Well, at this point I bet you can believe that I was on cloud 9. I was up $1,400.00, saved a casino from being stolen from, was kind of a hero (at least in my own mind) and apparently had a new good luck charm in pocket (my Victorinox Classic). The rest of my weeks stay in Vegas went great. Except for that last night, I guess my new knife’s luck (or mine) had finally run out. That’s right, lost about $600.00 on the craps table that night, right before leaving Vegas to head back to Denver too. Can you believe that (like an hour before leaving…my timing SUCKED). Oh well, at least I was still up $800.00 and had my whole hotel bill comped (could’ve been worse).
Anyway, so on the way back to Denver…that’s when things got hairy. About 5 hours into the drive back (it was around 3:00 a.m.) my 1972 Ford Pinto started fading out one me. With my head lights getting dimmer, engine clanking out one me and car slowing down I thought to myself…”you’ve got to be kidding me.” Pulling off to the side of the road I said “what a way to end this fabulous week huh, with getting stuck out here in the middle of nowhere!” Nowhere was right too, I had broken down right between Green River, UT & Grand Junction, CO…there’s nothing for over 110 miles.
Getting out of the car heading for the hood I was like “great.” I mean, I’m by far from a mechanic, but what did I have to lose right. Opening the hood with a little extra force (from my great mood) I noticed that there was a wire or two that looked like they had come loose from somewhere. It didn’t take me long to realize where these wires went…you’d be amazed at how far common sense will get you. Whipping out my new Victorinox Classic I thought to myself “man, who would’ve thought that this baby would’ve come in handy so much on this trip.”
Unfortunately, I shouldn’t of counted my blessings quite yet. While I was attempting to reattach all the wires I happen to glance up…and what did I see, that’s right, here came Mr. Police Officer. Of course the officer had to pull over (thinking back now, I guess it was nice of him), but when this all was going down I was sweating bullets. Think about it, I had a car with stashes of my (lets just say) “herbs” all over it, and a nice amount right in my shirts front pocket too. Can you all say “jail time.” “This is it” I thought as the officer pulled off the road, got out of his patrol car and was approaching.
Luckily I had almost reattached all the wires by this point (correctly I hoped). As the officer reached my side he could probably see the sweat pouring down my face. “Can I help you” the officer said. “NOPE” I yelled back, a little too loudly now that I think about it. I wanted to get back on the road (and away from this officer) as soon as possible…so that’s when I thought of a plan to do just that. “Excuse me officer” I said, continuing on with “can you please stay right here next to the hood while I try starting the car up, just in case I need something adjusted?” “Sure” he said. As I got back into the car all I could think about was getting the stuff that was in my pocket front out, and stashing it away somewhere.
The only problem was that I wasn’t in reach of any of my stash spots. With only seconds to decide I slid out (discreetly) my Victorinox Classic and slit a small hole into the drivers seat right between my legs. Luckily my front pocket stash fit perfectly into this hole I made. It even matched a few other holes around the inner upholstery…so it didn’t stand out. I then proceeded to take a deep breath, slid the key into the ignition and to my great delight…the car (lights and all) started right up. “Phew” I thought, bullet dodged…literally.
After closing the hood, stepping to the side and saying “goodbye” the police officer proceeded to get back into his patrol car. And as we both pulled away (driving off in opposite directions) I thought to myself, “what a week this was.”
Well that was it. the rest of the drive back to Denver (on the I-70, and even over the Continental Divide) went off without a hitch. As I pulled up to my apartment around 8:00 a.m., walked up to the door, slid my key in the lock I said to myself “who would’ve thought that this whole weeks adventure started with the purchase a single SWISS ARMY KNIFE.”
When my friend introduced me to BladeOps.com, I never imagined that one of the first knives I saw would become my grail knife. My friend told me about the cheap out-the-front knife that was used in the Dark Knight movie and encouraged me to get one for myself. After making the purchase, I started browsing through the other various wares of BladeOps.com and that is when I discovered the Microtech Ultratech. I didn’t really know what it was, but the tanto edge was so slick and clean. I fell in love with the design immediately and thought, “I have to have this!” That was when I discovered the price. While some might consider the lower $200 range to be cheap for a knife, I had never spent over $50 at this time. I knew I would need to save up for a while. What I didn’t realize is that the knives sell out relatively quickly and there are long waits between productions. After nearly 3 years of saving, waiting, and watching, I finally managed to score my grail knife. It is more amazing than I even imagined and I am extremely satisfied. The engineering is perfect and I am very pleased with the fit and finish. I know this blade will satisfy me for quite some time. I wonder what my new grail will become.
My first partner ever was tenacious. Black on black like a ninja. He was born in Asia but he was trained in America. No job was to small or big for him. He always got his mark. He did jobs that even the best can’t handle. From gutting a bass to chopping birch. Now he is recruiting members into his team. He heard of a special someone who has a lot of talent. His name is Tumult.
In an actual survival situation, what blade would you prefer to have on your person in order to help you survive? Think about that perfect blade, now forget about it. Survival situations do not happen on your schedule, and unless you EDC that perfect survival blade on you every day of your life, it is not going to help when the situation calls for it. Natural disasters or the inopportune flat tire in the middle of no where arejust a couple examples of when an emergency survival blade could be employed.
An emergency survival blade is any blade you happen to have on you when chaos strikes, for most individuals this would usually be a folding knife of some sort. There are pocket survival kits that are available which are normally housed in an Altoids tin and have just enough room for a small knife or razor blade, along with a way to start a fire, etc. However, considering one of your most important tools in a survival situation is a cutting device, a tiny knife or a razor blade can only be used to a certain point. A much more beneficial option is the folding knife you carry every day.
On a regular basis, your EDC may only be used for light tasks such as opening letters, cutting boxes, etc. Although this may be the image you think of, your EDC is capable of so much more. Nearly any folding knife can be put into the role of an emergency survival knife, because honestly, at the time you have no choice. You would have to use what you have available.
The edge itself is the most important aspect of the knife, which is why we use knives in the first place. But once the user knows the physical limitations of the knife, the strengths of the model’s design, and efficient techniques in using the knife for which ever type of task, the capability of the knife is increased one hundred fold. The basis for this knowledge and ability comes down to personal experience with the particular knife, skills, and knowledge of edged weapons.
Manual folders, spring assisted, old design styles, automatics, and well made OTF knives are all capable of filling the role as an emergency survival blade. This is not to say that the user should simply buy which ever knife is the cheapest, though it can be compared to the old firearm saying, “a .22 in the hand is better than a .45 at home.”
Which ever knife you choose to carry will fill multiple roles in its lifetime, from every day utility tasks to self defense. Look at your EDC and ask yourself, “If I had to, could I use this in an survival situation?” Do you have the experience to use the blade to it’s full potential? If not, what do you have to learn to make it so? A knife is limited only by the skill of the user.
AUS 8 Steel
The single most important component of a good knife is the steel used to make it. A tough, versatile, damage-resistant steel can make or break a knife’s performance, as well as give them their high-quality standards. Stainless steel is a popular alloy type because of its unparalleled resistance to rust, as well as its convenient and stress-free ease of maintenance. The high chromium, Japanese-made AUS 8 stainless steel is an extremely hard, rust-resistant metal capable of acquiring a razor-sharp edge to satisfy any knife-maker or lover. The exceptional balance of qualities offered by the steel sets AUS 8 aside from many other high-grade steels in its class, giving it countless reasons why you should look for it in a knife.
What is AUS 8 steel?
The Japanese-made AUS 8 steel is often considered an upper-range steel, comparable if not better than steels such as 440C, CM-154, and D2 steels. Given a proper heat treatment and hardened to the right level, which is usually around 58 to 59 HRC, it will perform satisfyingly and meet the standards of a true quality stainless steel. A well-rounded composition allows for this steel grade to reach high levels of hardness, toughness, wear (the sideways shifting of the metal from its original position) and corrosion (the gradual destruction of metals) resistance, as well as edge retention (the ability to retain its sharp edge).
This is a carefully balanced composition to ensure not just a great hardness, toughness, and harden-ability, but also the critically important qualities of wear, abrasion, and corrosion resistance that are vital in any good knife steel. Each of the above listed components in AUS 8 steel serve different and equally important purposes which, together, make it a quality steel superior to so many of the other steels in its class.
Carbon content in a steel will give it the hard-to-achieve quality of an increased edge retention, which cannot be attained through the use of other popular elements in stainless steels. Edge retention in a blade is so critical because it helps give the steel the attribute of keeping its edge for long periods of time, ensuring any blade made with it to be a dependable, steadfast knife that will not let you down.
In order to be classified as a stainless steel, a metal must have a chromium content of at least 10.5 percent- AUS 8 steel has a 14.5 percent chromium content. The benefits of the use of chromium include a significantly increased hardness and toughness, as well as a strong tensile strength (the ability to withstand maximum stress), wear, abrasion, rust and corrosion resistance. Chromium is one of the most beneficial components of a stainless steel due to these reasons, which add to its dependability as well as its ability to attain a razor sharp edge and last for very long periods of time.
In addition to adding to a steel’s tensile strength and corrosion resistance, manganese also contributes to AUS 8’s commendable grind-ability and harden-ability. Steels that are easy for welders to fashion make for better blades, and make them easier to sharpen when they get dull.
When added to steel and cast irons, molybdenum contributes to the steel’s weld-ability and corrosion and wear resistance. By increasing the steel’s lattice strain, the energy required to ruin the blade is augmented, making the steel significantly stronger and less susceptible to such damages. This ingredient is not commonly found in stainless steels, but is becoming more commonly used due to its low density and more cost-effective price, and has begun to replace the now less common ingredient of tungsten.
Another unique component of AUS 8 is nickel. When nickel is added to a stainless steel, the austenite structure of the iron is steadied. Although manganese does similar things to nickel, and nickel is generally more expensive, sufficient nickel content will weaken a steel’s corrosion resistance no matter how much manganese it has. Nickel also contributes to AUS 8’s laudable weld-ability, another reason why knife makers like it so much and prefer it over other high-grade steels.
Silicon is commonly found in stainless steels, offering an increased tensile strength to give those steels a greater maximum stress resistance. Consequently, knives using the silicon-rich AUS 8 will be rugged and dependable- able to go anywhere with you.
Vanadium, a new and innovative additive to quality stainless steels, not only dramatically increases AUS 8’s tensile strength, but enhances what few other elements can offer by adding to the steel’s impact strength, a key component in ensuring a knife’s ruggedness and adding a pure dependability that will give you an unquestionable confidence in the steel’s ability to take abuse and come out unscathed. Such imperviousness to damages makes AUS 8 steel such a great candidate for use in even the most rugged survival/bushcraft knives. Vanadium is also reported to make steels easier to sharpen.
Despite the quality of AUS 8 steel, it should not be thought to be a premium grade steel, such as S35VN, ELMAX, and M390 steels. AUS 8 is a high-grade metal that is in the ranks of steels such as 440C and 8Cr13MoV grade steels. Therefore, knives with AUS 8 steel will typically be more in the 30 to 150 dollar range depending on other factors included with the knife such as mechanisms and handle materials as well as overall workmanship, whereas knives with premium grade steels will fall more typically in the 150 to 500 range. These types of knives are ideal for outdoorsmen, hunters, and other knife-users who are looking for a quality blade in an affordable price range that will be dependable and serve its purposes well.
Why is AUS 8 steel so popular, who uses it, and for what purposes is it used?
Because of its superior composition, which allows for it to be so versatile and strong, AUS 8 has become popular among knife makers and knife companies, who use it to make many different types of blades.
Among the many knife companies which use AUS 8 steel in their knives, SOG uses the steel for many of their specialty knives, creating easy-to-handle knives which will be able to withstand significant abuse and perform satisfyingly. Ontario is another company that utilizes AUS 8 steel in its knives, having realized the metal’s potential for a worthy service to a knife. Cold Steel, a company that produces a wide variety of blades including, knives, machetes, and swords, is known to have often utilized AUS 8 steel in their tools and weapons in order to obtain the quality features that AUS 8 has been known to offer.
These knife makers and many more prefer this steel to others in its class for the reason that it can be “stamped,” as opposed to “forged.” Stamped knives are made from large sheets of stainless steel, able to be mass produced by a machine that stamps out the metal in the shape of a knife. Afterwards, the handle is added and the knife is sharpened and polished. This process makes knife-producing significantly more convenient and inexpensive than “forged” knives, which are created in a process where the raw metal is melted and shaped to the right size, then sharpened and polished- a longer and more expensive process.
AUS 8 steel is also very popular for use in machetes, with its tough and dependable qualities matching to what is looked for in a good machete. Ontario and United Cutlery are two companies which utilize AUS 8 steel in the blades of their machetes.
How does it score?
There are a myriad of tests done to determine the success of various steels; these tests measure everything from toughness to corrosion resistance to tensile strength. AUS 8’s results on such tests are probably a reason why the steel is so popular. When it comes to knives using the high-grade alloy, it did not take long for knife critics to realize the quality of AUS 8 steel, leading to many awards won by knives made of the high-grade metal.
Awards won by AUS 8 knives
o This award was won by SOG’s tactical “Seal Pup Elite” model, a serious tactical knife which claims to be supplied to many of the world’s elite military forces. Outdoor Life gave it an A+ in performance and design as well as an A in price and value. The thick, well balanced blade had an ergonomic, easy-to-grip handle that makes for a simple knife with all of the high-tech aspects found in modern knives, they said. The success of the knife “lies in its usefulness,” they claimed, and with AUS 8 steel used to make its blade, the knife is sure to perform to the rigorous standards set by Outdoor Life’s award.
o This award was won as well by SOG’s “Seal Pup Elite,” and was given a 3.85 out of 5 overall score by the National Tactical Officers Association in a review that was published in the Tactical Edge journal. The tester said that “the blade is very sharp,” and was impressed at how it “retained its sharpness after abuse,” and even after jabbing the knife repeatedly into a dead tree, the point held up “without any damage or dulling.” Reportedly, the spine rasp cut through wood like a saw.
o This award was also won by SOG’s “Trident” model, which scored a 4.51 out of 5 as an overall score in a review that was also published in the Tactical Edge. The tester was incredibly positive in his review, making statements such as “this knife is flat-out awesome,” and said that he would recommend the knife to anyone as it is “one of the best I have seen.” With the Trident, he said, cutting was a breeze- with AUS 8 steel in its blade, it’s not very hard to see why!
o This prestigious award was given to SOG’s “Flashback” model, a tactical knife claiming to be the “fastest assisted-opening blade available,” with the excellent edge retention, rust resistance, and sharpen-ability that can be found in many AUS 8 knives.
o The AUS 8 knife to win this award is called the “Kiku,” manufactured by none other than SOG, and is an official production collaboration between SOG and the Japanese knife company “Kiku Matsuda,” which is fitting because AUS 8 is a Japanese steel. Rugged and easy to handle, the Kiku is a true quality knife thanks to AUS 8.
How AUS 8 steel scored on tests
On an edge-testing test done by cliffstamp.com, AUS 8 steel scored very positively when tested for sharpen-ability. Spyderco’s AUS 8 Calypso Jr. model needed ten hard strikes into a butcher’s steel and five strikes on a ceramic rod to be fully sharpened, faster than the high-end VG-10 steel, and on par with another high-end steel that was tested- D2 steel.
On another edge-retention test, at a hardness of 58 HRC, AUS 8 was reported to have easily outperformed steels such as 400C, 154-CM, and VG-10 steels when they were at HRC’s of 58 and 59.
How does it compare with the other steels in its class?
In the class of mid-higher grade steels, AUS 8 is definitely up there with the best; the question is, how good is it really, and can it compare with some of the other steels accompanying it in its class.
This steel is made by the same company which manufactures AUS 8 and definitely shares many of its characteristics. A couple of differences, however, set AUS 8 aside from its counterpart. To begin, AUS 4 is much lower than 8 in its carbon content, therefore losing out on much of the edge retention offered by the critical ingredient. AUS 4 lacks the element of molybdenum, which is a key component to most of AUS 8’s features including its hardness, harden-ability, toughness, tensile strength, and resistance to wear, corrosion, and abrasion. The lack of this element significantly detriments AUS 4 and its ability to perform to the standards necessary in order to be on par with other high grade steels. Vanadium, as well, is found in AUS 8, but not in 4- vanadium being one of the few ways to truly increase the impact strength of a stainless steel. These ingredients give AUS 8 a certain ruggedness and dependability which simply cannot be found in its counterpart.
8Cr13MoV (of the MoV series)
This Chinese steel is often said to be very similar to AUS 8. It has a great value and is used by respectable knife manufacturers such as Spyderco and Kershaw, who have mastered the complicated heat treatment process to bring the steel to its full potential. When compared to AUS 8, it puts up a similar carbon content, at .8 percent vs. the AUS 8’s .75 percent. In regard to chromium and manganese, two important elements in stainless steel, both steels have similar contents, with AUS 8 pulling ahead ever-so slightly with 14.5 and .5 percent vs 8Cr13MoV’s 13 and .4 percent. The Chinese steel also contains slightly less silicon and vanadium than AUS 8, components which significantly contribute to a steel’s tensile and impact strength. Although these differences individually seem trivial, together they form a more distinct differentiation between the two steels.
Top AUS 8 folding knives
Although AUS 8 is used in many types of blades, survival/bushcraft knives are probably its main use. Below are two notable AUS 8 knives that will prove the quality of the high-grade metal alloy with their award-winning features and superior qualities.
SOG AE-04 Aegis
The name “Aegis” is a Greek word meaning shield, and with the features offered by the knife, it certainly lives up to its name. The blade itself is half-serrated at 3.5 inches of AUS 8 steel with a black “TiNi” finish to offer improved durability. When opened, the knife is 8.25 inches. Thanks to SOG’s unique cryogenic heat treatment, combined with AUS 8 steel, the knife has an incredible toughness and wear resistance, and is capable of taking a razor sharp edge. The blade’s handle is made of glass-reinforced nylon with a black finish, and is made to fit with ergonomic precision in your hand.
SOG’s “Assisted Technology” allows for fast and easy opening, offering a convenience that is only added to by a blade lock, anti-slip inserts, and SOG’s trademarked bayonet clip, which allows for the knife to rest securely in your pocket when not in use. The knife is 58 dollars, sitting in the middle of the pack price-wise for AUS 8 knives, making the knife both great quality-wise and cost-effective for avid outdoorsmen looking to get a great knife for a decent price.
SOG TF-7 Trident
The award-winning “Trident,” which scored a commendable 4.51 out of 5 on NTOA’s Member Tested and Recommended test, has a great design and the quality features that one would expect to find in a blade made of AUS 8 steel. The straight, 3.75 inch blade has a “tanto” shape with a hardcase black “TiNi” finish, and has the superior strength, wear, corrosion, and abrasion resistance that is so commonly found in knives with AUS 8 steel- the very reason that SOG so proudly uses it in so many of their knife models. The knife’s cutting groove will cut through anything from seat-belts to para-cord without having to open the blade.
Similarly to the Aegis, convenience was taken into account during the design phase of this knife, giving it features such as a reliable locking system, finger grips, a lanyard hole, a safety latch, and the knife’s unparalleled “Assisted Technology” opening system, which practically opens the knife for you once you begin the motion. The remarkable safety features offered by the Trident will balance eliminating the fear of unexpected opening with the ability for split-second, quick deployment that will give you confidence to bring this knife anywhere with you, and can be yours for just 60 dollars.
So for knife lovers and avid outdoorsmen, campers, and pretty much everyone else from military figures to fishermen- if you are looking for a rugged, quality knife at an affordable price, AUS 8 is the way to go. With all of the superior and convenient features that are offered by the metal, you can confidently buy your next AUS 8 knife with the absolute confidence that it will meet your every expectation and perform to the standards which can be expected of a true, high-quality stainless steel.
Location: Camp Victory – Baghdad, Iraq
Year : AUG 2005
I remember it as being hot and dusty, but that’s pretty much the definition of an understatement for Baghdad in the summer. Using an old school, wet bulb thermometer, we had recently registered a stunning 132 degrees so it was more than just hot. You know when you’re baking something in the oven and you open the door to check on it. Like a dummy you bend over to get a peek and that first wave of heated air makes you squint your eyes and pinch your face? Yeah, it was that kind of hot, only all day long.
We were assigned as firefighter/paramedics to protect the US military personnel assigned to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Looking back on it now, I think it was the most significant thing that I’ve done in my life. We had a motto that summed it up. Protecting Those Who Protect Peace. It was truly an honor to be the First Responder for those brave men and women as they rested on base in between combat missions.
But with that being said, it was also boring as hell. There’s an old saying in our industry that our days are made up of 99% boredom and 1% pure terror/adrenaline. That pretty much sums up the Iraq experience. From a firefighter’s perspective, our customer (the military) made for pretty good residents so we really didn’t have a lot of structure fires or cats in trees. In 2005 we had a lot of indirect fire coming at us from over the wire, but for the most part, we spent our days trying to keep busy and maintaining our training levels.
The one escape from the boredom, outside of calls to home, was mail-call.
A package or a letter from home was not only a break in the monotony, it was a reminder of why we were doing what we were doing, and why protecting our way of life is so important.
So there I was on that hot and dusty day in August of 2005, sitting in our Heavy Rescue unit outside of the US Army postal center at Camp Victory (adjacent to the Baghdad International Airport / BIAP).
I had small cardboard box in my lap and I was contemplating the irony of the fact that I needed a knife to open my box that contained a knife. I’d searched around on-line and found a really bad-ass OTF knife made by Microtech. I’d been eagerly awaiting its arrival for nearly three weeks and the time had finally come. Using the edge of a fireman’s axe, I sliced the tape from the box and unwrapped my new toy. The knife was everything I’d hoped it to be. Sleek, well made and with a hefty OTF spring that made a satisfying; “CLICK” when it sprang into action. For the next several days I abused that spring religiously. In and Out, In and Out. “Hey wanna see my new knife?” In and Out, In and Out.
As obnoxious as it was, it’s hard to resist the fun of playing around with good OTF knife. Even if it involves multiple band-aids from the self -inflicted “training” along the way.
When I think of good knives that I’ve had in my life, I think of that one and I see it in my head, with the sandy, dust filled light of a Baghdad sunrise in the background.
CPM S35VN Steel Review
When Crucible Industries introduced its CPM S30V steel, blade-smiths and knife-lovers alike fell in love with it; the quality wear resistance, toughness, and machinability offered by the steel was equal to none other. People were calling it, “the best knife steel available,” and indeed, it might have been. Until Crucible Industries announced that they were coming out with a newer, improved version of their premium grade knife steel- CPM S35VN, which would have an increased toughness and ease of sharpening over its predecessor. Soon it became clear that S35VN steel was a top-grade steel to rival the best in its class.
What is S35VN steel and how does it differ from S30V?
CPM S35VN is a quality stainless steel that is part of Crucible Industries’ “SxxV series”. “CPM” identifies the steel as having been made through Crucible Industries’ CPM process, offering an improved outcome over that of conventional melting practices. The letters “S,” “V,” and “N” refer to the terms “stainless,” vanadium,” and “niobium,” respectively. The number thirty-five has no significance other than to differentiate between S30V steel.
S35VN steel is composed of 1.4 percent carbon, 14 percent chromium, 3 percent vanadium, 2 percent molybdenum, and .5 percent niobium. Carbon is the most essential element in the hardness of steel; the higher the carbon content, the harder the knife is. When combined with other alloys including chromium and vanadium, carbides are formed which are harder than just the carbon alone. This carbon content is very similar to that of the S30V type, which contains 1.45 percent carbon.
With the newer steel, however, a small bit of a carbide called niobium was introduced in the place of some of the steel’s vanadium content, an innovative and critically altering change that sets S35VN steel apart from its predecessor and many other steels. The niobium, combined with the carbon, makes this steel 15 to 20 percent tougher than S30V.
Despite the high level of toughness in this steel, which usually diminishes a steel’s wear resistance, this steel does not lose out on a superior resistance to wear and chipping. Combined with carbon, the niobium carbides make the steel more effective in providing resistance to wear and edge chipping than if it were more dependent on chromium, which is the case with many other steels. The resulting edge holding ability of this steel is remarkable, ensuring S35VN steel to be a long lasting one.
Vanadium, as well, is essential to balance S35VN’s toughness with its wear resistance. Not only does it increase strength and toughness, but it also promotes fine grain structure and forms hard carbides that dramatically intensify edge holding. Molybdenum is yet another key component of this steel’s wear resistance, as the harder the steel is, the stiffer it becomes. Molybdenum combines with carbon to make hard carbides that take that problem out of the equation. For these reasons, S35VN steel offers a superior edge retention over conventional high chromium steels such as 440C and D2 steels.
Despite being less reliant on chromium, the carbide is still crucial for the high quality performance of the steel. Chromium is a critical ingredient to increase a steel’s stain resistance, and despite not being on par with niobium and vanadium in terms of wear resistance, chromium still helps add to a steel’s wear resistance, and is still every bit as important as S35VN’s other ingredients.
This composition allows for S35VN steel to be an incredibly hard, high quality steel offering superior dimensional stability, grindability, and toughness that together make this a top grade steel at the top of its class.
What is the CPM process?
Crucible Industries’ famous CPM process is one that is used to make various types of high quality steel, with its users claiming its methods to be far superior to those of conventional melting practices. The CPM process creates a steel powder using a process called gas atomization, where molten steel is atomized (separated into atoms) by inert gas jets, and then cools down to perfectly spherical shaped powder particles with a high cleanliness level. The powder is then combined through the HIP process into 100 percent dense compacts. These compacts are then processed into bars through a mill.
The properties received by steels that are produced through this process are said to be far greater than those of conventionally melted steels, offering improved wear and corrosion resistance, toughness, and machinability. In addition, this method allows for the manufacturing of alloys with unique or enhanced properties that cannot be made with traditional steelmaking methods.
Knives made with S35VN steel can be used for various purposes. Thanks to its high grade toughness and ability to become razor sharp, it is ideal for use in hunting and bushcraft knives, where toughness and wear-resistance are key. Knives using this steel will surely perform even under the often less-than-ideal conditions found outdoors. For avid woodsmen, campers, and hunters, you will want a knife that provides an impressive, quality knife experience but also will not let you down where knives with other steels might. If you are frequently found outdoors in rainy, muddy, and otherwise dangerous conditions, than so will your knife. The rugged dependability offered by S35VN steel in less-than-ideal conditions makes it quite obvious why one would want it in their knives.
Moreover, this type of steel can be found in cutlery and chef’s knives, for even in the kitchen, where despite situations being less dangerous, quality in a knife is certainly never a bad thing, and as far as kitchen knives are concerned, S35VN is the steel to use.
How did it score?
The Charpy V-Notch test measures the foot-pounds required to break samples of specific steels at given temperatures and predetermined hardness. At a Rockwell RC hardness level of 58, it took 32 foot pounds of force to break the S35VN sample, higher than all of the other steels tested, including CPM S30V (at 58 HRC), S60V (at 56 HRC), S90V (at 58HRC), and 154 (at 60HRC), 420HC (at 58 HRC), and M390 (at 60 HRC) steels. This test measured each steel’s longitudinal toughness.
In regard to transversetoughness, a Charpy C-Notch Test study revealed both CPM steels- S35VN and S30V- to be far superior to the other knife steels tested. S35VN holds a transversal resistance of up to an impact energy of 12 pounds, with S30V two pounds down at 10 pounds. The other steels tested, 145CM and 440C grade steels, scored almost 5 times lower than S35VN, both at just 2.5 pounds of resistance. These results indicate that the CPM steels are much more resistant to chipping and breaking when used for jobs which require side loading. This makes these steels especially good for use in bigger blades.
The results of a CATRA (Cutlery Allied Trades Research Association) edge retention test put this steel at Rockwell RC hardness levels on par with top grade steels such as Bohler’s M390 and N690, Uddenholm’s ELMAX, and Peachey’s A2 steel. On CATRA’s TCC (total cut cards) test, where the number of impregnated silicon cards cut by blades with each steel type are measured, S35VN scored a 707, higher than many steels including N690, A2, and 3V, while lower than others including ELMAX and M390.
In addition to tests, S35VN steel used in various knives has won those knives numerous awards. Chris Reeves’s Galvin and Hawk designed TI-LOCK knife won the “Overall Knife of the Year” award in 2010, using none other than S35VN steel.
Blade Magazine’s 2012 “American Made Knife of the Year” award went to Microtech’s Socom Delta, a superb, quality knife made of S35VN steel.
The test results and awards won by S35VN and knives using it confirm, or at least give a certain amount of validity to, the claims praising S35VN to be the “the best blade steel available,” and “the ultimate cutlery steel.” Before all of the comparisons and the questions of “which is better”, the facts clearly show that S35VN steel is truly a top-tier, high-quality knife steel offering superior toughness, wear resistance, edge retention, and machinability to please and impress both knife lovers and knife makers. Whether used for hunting, camping, or cooking, this steel will ensure not only performance to the highest standards of toughness and durability, but also a pleasing knife experience offered by only the best steels around.
How does it compare with other high-grade knife steels?
Questions like these are frequently asked regarding every type of steel: “which one is the best?” “Is steel A better than steel B?” “Should I choose this knife over the other because of its steel content?” Similarly, with S35VN, questions have been raised regarding how it stacks up against the other steels in its class.
CPM 154 Steel
CPM 154 steel is a high chromium stainless steel knife, boasting a hardness, corrosion resistance, and edge retention superior to that of other steels such as 440C and D2 steels. When made with the Crucible Industries’ CPM process, it offers an even more improved toughness, machinability, and tool performance. However, when pitted against S35VN steel, its results are less impressive. S35VN is a more advanced steel, with vanadium and niobium carbides to improve its toughness and wear resistance. The simpler 154 steel is composed of only carbon, molybdenum, and chromium, and therefore cannot offer an equal extent of the toughness and wear resistance provided by these innovative carbides. For these reasons, knives using CPM 154 or 154 CM steel will not be as expensive as those with S35VN steel.
There has been a lot of hype recently about ELMAX steel. The claims stating it to be a superior “super-steel,” are more than true, as ELMAX steel continues to impress all who use it. Many of those who use it will say that it is far superior to S35VN steel. ELMAX steel has a sophisticated composition, containing carbon, chromium, manganese, molybdenum, silicon, and vanadium. This composition allows for it to have an incredibly high wear and corrosion resistance, as well as hardness and a remarkable dimensional stability.
ELMAX does not contain niobium, a key ingredient to S35VN, but displays a superior dependability at a high HRC than S35VN, with a better high corrosion resistance all while retaining its toughness. ELMAX is produced using a particle-metallurgy process, similar to CPM, but many will argue that CPM yields better results, giving its steels the edge of an improved wear-resistance and grindability. Powder-metallurgy and other conventional steel making processes are prone to segregation, where non-uniform clusters of a steel’s carbides persevere as remnants of the as-cast microstructure. This segregation of alloys can negatively affect the steel’s production and performance. The CPM process, however, creates a uniform distribution of carbide clusters, and completely removes the threat of segregation.
Knives containing both of these steels are far from inexpensive, with folding knives in the price range of 130-200 and over.
Bohler’s M390 is not very different from ELMAX; it is extremely anti-corrosive, very finely grained, and very pure. Like ELMAX, it is just as tough as, if not tougher than, S35VN, and can hold an extremely strong and sharp edge. ON CATRA’s TCC test, M390 scored higher than S35VN, at 959, whereas S35Vn scored a 707. Yet on Charpy’s C-Notch test, S35VN resisted up to an impressive 32 foot pounds, with M390 falling significantly shorter at just 22 foot pounds. In addition, welders may note that M390 is considerably harder to temper than S35VN, which can affect its machinability. In addition, the latter steel can offer a superior damage resistance, a very desirable trait in a knife.
M390 steel is also slightly more expensive than S35VN, with the price for an average folding knife hovering around the 200 dollar range, whereas one can find a good S35VN folding knife for as low as 130 dollars, although its price can go up to 200 dollars or more.
Notable knives with the S35VN
S35VN steel has been used in myriads of different knives serving numerous different purposes. As far as the common folding knife is concerned, we have chosen a few notable knives containing this high-grade stainless steel.
Zero Tolerance ZT 0550
This US made, Kershaw Zero Tolerance folding knife is popular for many reasons, one of which being the use of S35VN steel for its blade. This folding knife, designed by Rick Hinderer, is 8.125 inches when fully extended, with a closed length of 4.63 inches and a blade length of 3.5 inches. Its handle is an ergonomic one of textured G-10 material and there is a convenient loop for carrying convenience. It is slightly heavy for its size, at 5.8 ounces, but will serve its purpose well, with the quality features offered by its steel, features which speak for themselves. The knife is on the medium to more expensive side at 172 dollars, but if you are looking for the quality offered by the knife, and it is in your price range, then this knife is ideal for you. Simple but powerful in an elegant way, this knife will serve its purposes to the highest degree, and will please you with its quality results.
Spyderco’s limited edition S35VN Paramilitary model is convenient as well as it is tough, with an ergonomic, G-10 handle, a lanyard hole, and a 4-way, reversible pocket clip to sit comfortably in your pocket. The entire knife is 8.28 inches, with a blade length of 3.44 inches and a closed length of 4.81 inches. In addition, the blade is very light, at a mere 3.75 ounces. At a price of 180 dollars, you are definitely paying for the superior quality and features that come with any knife of S35VN.
Many high end knife makers use CPM-S35VN. The list includes luminaries such as Benchmade, Chris Reeve Knives, Spyderco, ProTech Knives, and Boker to name a few. Whether you are looking to buy a knife with S35VN steel or looking to make one, it is quite obvious that this high-end grade steel will perform to the highest quality in regard to toughness, wear-resistance, and machinability, providing a pleasant and outstanding experience for both knife makers and knife users.
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