A knife is only as strong as its steel. While steel, in general, is an alloy of iron and carbon, it can take many different forms depending on what else the iron and carbon is combined with — along with how the steel is forged and what type of deoxidization process is employed. At the basic level, steel that is used for forging knives falls into three main categories: high carbon steel, stainless steel, and semi-stainless steel. Below you will learn more about how each is classified, and what benefits as well as drawbacks each might have.
High Carbon Steel:
High carbon steel is defined as steel that has 0.6% to 1.7% carbon by weight (totalmateria.com). Increasing the carbon content of a knife improves the strength of the steel as well as the hardness (totalmateria.com). The hardness of the steel allows for a sharper cutting edge and better edge retention. However, while having a higher carbon content can enhance the strength of a knife, it can have adverse affects on the corrosion resistance and overall durability of the metal (wordstainless.org).
Types of High Carbon Steel Used to Forge Knives:
- • White, High-Carbon Steel
- • Blue, High-Carbon Steel
- • Super Blue, High-Carbon Steel
Stainless steel is defined as steel that contains more than 12% chromium. Chromium is the element that helps to create a protective layer over the steel’s surface. This means that knives made with higher chromium levels are more resistant to corrosion and acidity. They are also easier to care for and to clean. Stainless steel knives are sometimes also referred to as inox steel knives, which has a French etymology (wordstainless.org).
Types of Stainless Steel Used to Forge Knives:
- • VG-10 Steel (Or V Gold 10 Steel)
- • Inox Steel
- • Daisu Powered Steel
Semi-stainless steel is defined as steel that contains chromium levels anywhere between 3% and 12%. This steel can also be referred to as "stain resistant," "rust free," rust-resistant," "semi-stainless," and "stain free" (cheftalk.com). Though semi-stainless steel does not contain as much of the protective element, chromium, it does allow for higher carbon content, and therefor a sharper edge that has better corrosion resistance.
Types of Semi-Stainless Steel Used to Forge Knives:
- • Ginsanko
- • ZDP-189