Types of Steel

When considering a knife to purchase, one of the biggest determining factors what knife to get boils down to what blade steel the knife utilizes. There are an unlimited amount of uses for a knife, but different steels specialize in different areas of work. Occasionally there are some outliers that are very different. However, the assortment of blade steel can basically be categorized into three separate groups: Stainless steel, Carbon steel, and Tool steel.


Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a steel alloy that contains a minimum of 10.5% to 13% chromium. Be aware that the term “stainless” isn’t fully accurate. Any steel alloy will show some corrosion over long exposure to the elements, especially in corrosive environments including saline environments; such as coastal areas where regular exposure to sea salt is common and areas where de-icing salts are common during winter. Of the different types of steel, stainless steel requires the least amount of care. Though it still needs regular maintenance, it isn’t as intense as carbon steel or even tool steel.

Some of the best uses for a stainless steel are for everyday carry situations, and for those situations where the knife will be exposed to the elements. It can handle events such as hunting and fishing, deep sea diving, and cooking.

Listed here are several common stainless steels that are ranked in overall quality from least to greatest: 8Cr13MoV, AUS-8, 154CM, CPM 154, CPM S30V, CPM S35VN, and Elmax.


Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is a popular choice for rough use knives. Carbon steel tends to be much tougher and much more durable, and easier to sharpen than stainless steel. They lack the chromium content of stainless steel, making them susceptible to corrosion. The carbon content of carbon steel is in the range of 0.12–2.0%. It does well in rough-handling situations that call for a tough, durable blade. Its lack of chromium makes it more susceptible to rust unless it’s oiled or coated.

One of the best uses for a carbon steel blade is for survival situations because of its rough use and ability to be sharpened easily.

The most popular carbon knife steel is 1095 High Carbon Steel.


Tool Steel

Tool steel incorporates tungsten, molybdenum, and other elements for hard-working, durable tools. Typically semi-stainless, tool steels contains anywhere between 10% and 13% chromium and 0.5% to 1.5% carbon. It is a good combination between the two other steels. Tool steels are used for cutting, pressing, extruding, and coining of metals and other materials. Their use is essential due to their resistance to abrasion.

Tool steel is best used, as the name suggests, as a tool. Garden and yard work, industrial use, and other heavy duty projects would all benefit from the use of a tool steel bladed knife.

D2 is one of the well-known steels that handles quite well as a blade steel.


Top Items

Here are some popular knives that feature the different blade steels above.

Knives to Consider
Steel Type Product Overall Length Blade Length Handle Length Weight
Stainless Steel
Aus-8 Boker Kalashnikov 74 7.50″ 4.25″ 3.25″ 3.60 oz.
S30V Spyderco Para-Military 2 8.30″ 4.82″ 3.43″ 3.75 oz.
Elmax Microtech Ultratech 8.30″ 4.84″ 3.46″ 3.30 oz.
1095 Carbon TOPS Knives

Wild Pig Hunter

13.00″ 7.56″ 5.44″ 14.20 oz.
D2 Benchmade Infidel 8.96″ 5.00″ 3.96″ 5.00 oz.


There are literally hundreds of other knives available to choose from that have these different steel types. Dig around to see what you find. If you like it, get it. Many people say that a knife is much more than the blade and its steel. This is true, but if you have a poor steel that will not fit your needs, then what is the point of having the knife? Use this simple guide to help pick out your next knife.

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