Best steel for sharp edges

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El Gato
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Re: Best steel for sharp edges

Postby El Gato » Sat Sep 23, 2017 4:02 pm

Tucson Tom wrote:
El Gato wrote: I am pretty much "odd man out" here I believe. I have no need for corrosion resistance, and as for my blades, I much prefer a good non-stainless steel like PMA11, K-390, and Maxamet, those being my current favorites. I fully appreciate that others have their own preferences and reasons for them, and that is as it should be.
Dave
Thanks for giving your thoughts. They are interesting because you are moving in the direction I was/am moving in when I first started this thread. I have been impressed with M4 and my mule in PMA11 and those blades are making me rethink my views on knife steels.

From what I have read on K390, it is the European (Bohler?) take on PMA11 (and maybe 10V is another equivalent). Apart from the PMA11 mule, the only Spyderco using one of these steels that I know about is the new Police. This is a knife that I haven't felt an urge to have. The military seems plenty big enough, but this could wander into another topic. Hopefully we will see more blades with K390 or PMA11 in the lineup, or maybe Spyderco feels that Maxamet fills that niche (but if so, why the Police in K390 -- maybe it is better for such a big blade?).

We are both in southern Arizona, so that perhaps is part of why we don't feel a need for corrosion resistance. And like you, there is something about a skill like sharpening that challenges and interests me, so I am willing to fuss with my knives, and all the more so as my skills improve. However, M4 and PMA11 seem to do really well at holding an edge, so there is no crying need to fuss with these edges on a regular basis. I'll be trying Maxamet one of these days.
K-294 is the Bohler equivalent of PMA11 and CPM 10V and is an outstanding steel in my opinion. A while back I submitted a letter to Sal and Eric specifically asking for K-294 in a Mule. They were way ahead of me and already had the PMA11 Mule in production but not yet released.
(I should have known!!)

I'm glad you like your PMA11 Mule. I sure like mine, but then my Mules are my usual edc knives most days.

Be careful about getting a Maxamet blade. That steel could spoil you ..... :)

Just for fun here's a link to Bohler K-294. Click on the Data Sheet link on the website for more info.
http://www.bucorp.com/k294_microclean_c.htm

Dave

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Surfingringo
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Re: Best steel for sharp edges

Postby Surfingringo » Sat Sep 23, 2017 4:51 pm

Whew, I have a LOT of thoughts on this but I'll try to keep it brief. We'll see how it goes. :rolleyes:

I will occasionally hear folks (most of them quite knowledgeable) say that all steels can be taken to the same level of sharpness. While I don't fundamentally disagree with that idea, it is a broad statement that overlooks other factors like how they respond respectively to various levels of refinement.

So first of all, for the sake of this little rant lets define "sharpness" as the width of the edge at the apex. The best way I have found to measure this is by touching a knife edge to the hair on my head or beard. Once the apex width is small enough the knife will grab the hair on contact. There are degrees to this too though. Like a well sharpened knife with a 325 diamond finish will grab the hair but not "firmly. Take that same edge to a higher level of refinement and it will start locking into the hair on contact almost like its magnetically attracted. So we see that even though an edge can be made extremely "sharp" on a low grit stone we can still decrease the width of the apex through higher refinement. The problem with using refinement to achieve sharpness though is that the more refined an edge becomes, the more it loses its "bite" and aggressive cutting ability. So a "sharper" edge often doesn't function as well cutting many materials as one that is less refined.

Ok, so here's where all that relates to steel preference. All steels may be able to achieve the same level of sharpness but they will require different levels of refinement to get there. Microbevel hap40 and s110v on the SM medium rods and you will notice a difference in how aggressively they grab the hair of your head or beard on contact. If you're unconvinced, here's another good way to test this for yourself. Take a knife in hap40 or superblue (or one of the many other steels with great sharpening response) and create a very clean 30 degree bevel. Now set up the medium rods on the sharpmaker at 40 degrees and start adding a microbevel with very carful and light strokes. Do your job right and those steels will whittle free hanging hairs off the medium SM stones. Now try the exact same technique with s90v or s110v. I will wager that almost no one will be able to get those steels to whittle hair off the medium stones. Now take them through the fine stones. Many still won't be able to achieve the hair whittling edge that you got out of hap40 off the medium stones. Personally I have had to take s110v all the way through the UF stones to achieve the same width at apex that I can achieve off the medium stones on some other steels. Why is this important? It's important because I want that high level of sharpness on my edges but I don't want to sacrifice the functionality of lower grit coarse edges to achieve it.

The differences don't end there though. Even with the same finish, not all steels achieve the same "type" of edge. As noted above, different steels will achieve a different levels of sharpness given the same sharpening technique at the same grit but they will also vary in their aggression. Compare Cruwear to zdp189 for example. If you microbevel those two steels on a 1200 grit DMT stone they will both reach a similar level of sharpness (they will both firmly grab the hair on your head) but the Cruwear will have a much more aggressive edge. You won't notice this cutting paper but a trained thumb will tell you. Another very good test for aggression on a very sharp edge is to touch the edge to your beard. Once the edge bites into the hair, move it about 1 millimeter in a draw as if you are trying to slice through the hairs. It is very easy to feel the difference. You will feel the coarser edge "sawing" through the hair as you move it where the more refined edge will smoothly slide across it. Start doing some of these tests and what you will discover is that not only do different steels reach slightly different levels of sharpness when finished at the same grit but they will actually achieve different levels of refinement.

As I said earlier, this is important to me because I like using relatively coarse edges but not at the expense of sharpness. Because of that, I will typically gravitate towards steels like cruwear, m4, hap40. Some others that I have found to respond well and give a good combination of "tooth" and sharpness are lc200n, cpm154, and to a lesser degree maxamet. There are plenty of others but those are just a few that I use regularly and like.
Last edited by Surfingringo on Sat Sep 23, 2017 8:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Surfingringo
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Re: Best steel for sharp edges

Postby Surfingringo » Sat Sep 23, 2017 4:52 pm

So much for keeping it brief. :rolleyes: :p

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Re: Best steel for sharp edges

Postby fanglekai » Sat Sep 23, 2017 4:59 pm

The thinnest cross section at the highest refinement (under 0.1 micron, etc.) is going to be the sharpest. For an edge to last it needs to be thick enough to withstand the forces applied to it so that the wear is by blunting and not by fracture or crumpling. The more carbides you have in the matrix the harder it is to reach extremely high levels of refinement due to the carbides needing to be worn away. If they tear out, you aren't left with a stable apex and it certainly won't be refined. The term we're looking at is "apex stability". In general the high wear resistance steels aren't going to offer this at extremely thin geometry and with extreme edge refinement. Basically you want the most finely grained and uniform microstructure possible with the geometry only as thick as necessary to support the apex and not have it crumple. The thinner the geometry, the better it will cut. Steels like AEB-L are a good place to look if you're wanting to mess with extreme edges.

However, it all depends on what you plan on cutting. Certain materials will be easier to cut with a different type of edge. If you're doing heavy cutting requiring a lot of force, you aren't going to want a 6 dps, sub-0.1 micron finish, 0.001" behind the edge laser.

Most likely you're experiencing different levels of sharpness due to different edge geometry. Thin the blades a little and you'll see them cut better. If they aren't stable, increase the angle until they are. If they're stable, you can decrease the angle until they aren't stable, and then increase the angle until they're stable. For most people this is way too much work. In general, 14 dps is probably a good place to start for most any steel. It's typically a little lower than the factory angle for most knives.

There is plenty of engineering and materials science information for you to dive into. For me it's not worth the hassle to do any of it. I work in an office now and I don't cut much anymore, so I end up carrying a slipjoint and maybe a Sage 2, although even that is overkill. 15 dps cuts what I need to cut. For those who have more specific cutting needs, it's probably worth looking into more specialized geometry and the alloys that can support extremely thin edges/apexes. You might also look into Japanese steels used in sushi/sashimi knives. Often those are taken down to very thin geometry for precise cutting.

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Jumpin'Spyder
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Re: Best steel for sharp edges

Postby Jumpin'Spyder » Sat Sep 23, 2017 5:01 pm

Tucson Tom wrote:
From what I have read on K390, it is the European (Bohler?) take on PMA11 (and maybe 10V is another equivalent). Apart from the PMA11 mule, the only Spyderco using one of these steels that I know about is the new Police. This is a knife that I haven't felt an urge to have. The military seems plenty big enough, but this could wander into another topic. Hopefully we will see more blades with K390 or PMA11 in the lineup, or maybe Spyderco feels that Maxamet fills that niche (but if so, why the Police in K390 -- maybe it is better for such a big blade?).
The Urban Sprint Run is K390: a great steel for a greater knife. Always in my pocket from day 1 :spyder:

BTW...great thread, a lot to learn, as always. Thanks all

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Re: Best steel for sharp edges

Postby ZrowsN1s » Sat Sep 23, 2017 7:44 pm

Surfingringo wrote:So much for keeping it brief. :rolleyes: :p
Yeah, but it was really well said :D


I don't think I have much to add beyond what others have said. When I used to tell people what I wanted in a steel, I would say, "I want the steel that can get the sharpest". I realize now that wasn't exactly what I meant (for the all reasons others have mentioned), but I think I understand what you are looking for. Two of my favorites are Hap 40 and ZDP-189. (Hap 40 is easier to sharpen IMHO)

On a related note I had a thread a while back where Darby posted some great info on the similarities between Hap40 and M4. If you like M4 check it out viewtopic.php?f=2&t=75870
I ❤ The POLICE :spyder:

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Ryno
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Re: Best steel for sharp edges

Postby Ryno » Sat Sep 23, 2017 8:13 pm

El Gato wrote:
SGJarrod wrote:
Tucson Tom wrote:So my take on this is that the Sharpmaker is about a $50 system that is probably the best bang for the buck at that price range by a long shot. But if you up the ante to $200 or so you can decide if you want the KME or Edge Pro or who knows what else and up your game. And if you are a real edge junky, maybe it is worth it. Hmmm.
Yes, u got exactly what I was meaning. I went Kme cuz it's a clamp system and all the stones are diamond. They will cut all steel no matter the vanadium content. With being a clamp system it takes my lack of current skill level out of it. If I was skilled I would go the Michael Christi route. But..... I want results now. I work to much to practice free hand like I should. The edge pro is a good system but the stock stones are not near as effective at cutting super steels as diamonds.

Also, BearFacedKiller's comments were spot on imo. He is a true wordsmith and explains things so well. I do not have that gift.

U can get s110v as sharp as M4. U either need the skill/equipment or just the really expensive equipment.
I totally agree about the diamond stones being the way to go for some of the harder "super steels".
Which is why I use the Edge Pro diamond stones for re-profiling my new blades. They have always worked well for me.

Dave
I, too, use the edge pro with diamond to reprofile. I haven't found a faster sharpener that is hand-powered. I get it sharp with that and touch up with a Sharpmaker. I can get any blade ridiculously sharp that way.

As far as steels go, VG10 has been a bit of a disappointment. Like the OP said, M4 is awesome, but like it and other high carbide steels such as S110V, it loses that razor sharpness pretty quickly even though it stays pretty sharp forever...and like other carbon steels, it loses that razor sharpness after sitting in my pocket for too long. For me, the ultimate steel is ZDP 189. I've gotten it sharper than any other steel, it holds that sharpness forever because it doesn't suffer from carbide tear out, and it doesn't corrode easily and lose that wicked edge sitting in my pocket.

My $.02, but I've spent far more than $.02 to come to that conclusion so my mind is pretty well made up now.
Ryan

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Re: Best steel for sharp edges

Postby Bill1170 » Sat Sep 23, 2017 8:48 pm

Surfingringo wrote:So much for keeping it brief. :rolleyes: :p
That’s okay. Your post was excellent and very clearly written. Not every concept fits into a short post.

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Re: Best steel for sharp edges

Postby Bill1170 » Sat Sep 23, 2017 8:56 pm

ZDP-189 is my favorite steel for highly refined thin edges. It has high hardness and high enough corrosion resistance for my uses. I find it holds high sharpness longer than others I’ve tried. I haven’t tried A11 or Maxamet.

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standy99
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Re: Best steel for sharp edges

Postby standy99 » Sun Sep 24, 2017 1:21 am

To make it easy

Cutting meat high carbon content (was a butcher for 20+ years)
Cutting wood less carbon more Tool steel qualities.

M4 is my favourite but I use a flat f-dick butchers steel a lot which is just a habit from being a butcher for years.
Take my hat of to all the edge junkies here but I steel a knife about 6 to 10 times each side a lot ( I really mean a lot ) did I say a lot...and spent 2 minutes each side of a 40 year old two grade flat stone once a fortnight.
Im a vegetarian as technically cows are made of grass and water.

vivi
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Re: Best steel for sharp edges

Postby vivi » Sun Sep 24, 2017 11:54 am

bearfacedkiller wrote:All steels can get as sharp as each other
My experience has led me to the same conclusion.

I've been free hand sharpening knives since before I knew about Spyderco. Maybe two decades or so now.

Here is a list of steels off the top of my head that I have sharpened myself to hair whittling sharpness:

8Cr13MoV
VG10
VG10 serrated
S30V
S60V
S90V
D2
CPMD2
S7
INFI
1095
H1
H1 serrated
CTS204P
Victorinox
12C27
440C
AUS8
CTSBD1
GIN1
ZDP189
52100
N690


Notice a pattern?

Me neither ;)

Certain steels achieve peak sharpness for me more easily than others, but I can get them all sharp if they have a decent heat treatment. In my experience S30V from Spyderco takes a consistently sharp edge, easily popping arm hairs right off the sharpmaker browns or whites, contrary to your experience so far OP. The quickest for me to sharpen are H1, 1095 and Victorinox steel. I rarely use or sharpen carbon steels because I live in a warm, humid climate, which gives me a preferences for high corrosion resistance. I mostly carry H1 and DLC coated S30V.

While the more wear resistant steels take more strokes to sharpen, I find they also have less bur formation, which makes achieving the upper ends of sharpness easier in a certain respect. My Swiss Army Knives might take fewer strokes to touch up, but I might find myself spending more effort to eliminate the bur than on my S30V Manix.

I've also noticed different steels respond to different sharpening mediums in unique ways sometimes. Softer, simpler steels respond very well to my sharpmaker rods, while harder, more wear resistant, high carbide stainless steels I prefer the results I get from diamond abrasives. The simpler steels respond better to my leather CrO loaded strop, compared to say my CTS204P Military which doesn't see much difference from it.

I really enjoy sharpening. I also enjoy reprofiling my factory edges to thinner angles to achieve optimal edge performance. I tend to touch up my knives frequently. If a knife doesn't cleanly shave it doesn't go in my pocket...I grab another from my collection or I touch it up before I leave the house. So for me edge retention isn't usually a high priority since I'll touch up a knife when it's at 80-90% sharpness rather than when its truly dull. That being said, lately CTS204P has been impressing me with its edge longevity.

I'll probably add more to this thread later, fun subject to talk about.
Last edited by vivi on Sun Sep 24, 2017 1:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Military DLC | Police 4 K390 / Pakkawood | Manix XL M4 DLC / Micarta

JD Spydo
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Re: Best steel for sharp edges

Postby JD Spydo » Sun Sep 24, 2017 12:40 pm

This has been a very interesting thread and just about every post has made me think a great deal about blade steels in general. Actually there aren't many of the posts that I even slightly disagree with. For you guys who like ZDP-189 I still have two of my ZDP Spyders that I've had for years and don't plan on giving them up>> but sad to say it's not a good steel for Spyderedges unfortunately. But like I said in my earlier post I've found that steels that make good Spyderedges rarely make good blade steel for plain edges as well. Two that come to mind that are exceptions are VG-10 and to some degree ATS-55.

There are some of the new steels I've yet to give them a hard test drive so for right now I still say that M390 and 110V lead my lists for Supersteels. But I'm doubtful if they would make good blade steels for Spyderedges. I've kind of gotten a feel for what steels make good serrated edge blades and it seems like a lot of the steels that make excellent plain edges have distinct properties that don't match up to some of my favorite SE blade steels.

For some reason deep in my gut I still feel that XHP might just make a good Spyderedged blade steel. But so far I haven't gotten the opportunity to try XHP in Spyderedge. I'm keeping my fingers crossed hoping they they might make an SE NATIVE or SE Military in XHP.

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Re: Best steel for sharp edges

Postby SGJarrod » Sun Sep 24, 2017 2:13 pm

Ryno

I, too, use the edge pro with diamond to reprofile. I haven't found a faster sharpener that is hand-powered. I get it sharp with that and touch up with a Sharpmaker. I can get any blade ridiculously sharp that way.

As far as steels go, VG10 has been a bit of a disappointment. Like the OP said, M4 is awesome, but like it and other high carbide steels such as S110V, it loses that razor sharpness pretty quickly even though it stays pretty sharp forever...and like other carbon steels, it loses that razor sharpness after sitting in my pocket for too long. For me, the ultimate steel is ZDP 189. I've gotten it sharper than any other steel, it holds that sharpness forever because it doesn't suffer from carbide tear out, and it doesn't corrode easily and lose that wicked edge sitting in my pocket.

My $.02, but I've spent far more than $.02 to come to that conclusion so my mind is pretty well made up now.
I urge u to try a full diamond sharpening on S110v. Since I moved to this apoach I have not experienced carbide tear out and the razor sharpness lasts much longer. I can get it as sharp as anything else. It also requires diamond compound strops though. It really comes to life after .1 micron, at .025 micron it's a pleasure.

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Johnnie1801
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Re: Best steel for sharp edges

Postby Johnnie1801 » Sun Sep 24, 2017 2:50 pm

All steel is good just some are better than others :)
Currently enjoying Spyderco's in - S30V, VG10, Super Blue, Cruwear x4, CTS XHP, S110V x2, M4 x3, S35VN, CTS 204P x2, S90V, HAP 40, K390, RWL34, MAXAMET, ZDP 189, REX 45


Jon

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Wanimator
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Re: Best steel for sharp edges

Postby Wanimator » Sun Sep 24, 2017 3:09 pm

I'm leaning towards middle hardness steel... In particular I'm looking into VG-10 and CTS-BD1 after having CPM-S30v microchip pretty solidly... Given it was some pretty good usage (Chunking 7-10lbs of thawed-semi frozen chicken with my Para 2 on a wood fiber reinforced cutting board) however after honing it on the Sharpmaker in that part just for OCD'S sake and more usage it was solidly cutting cardboard today. Definitely USABLE, the micro chipping left a usable cutting edge wheareas rolling woild be flat and incapable of finer tasks as exhibited by lower alloys put though half the usage earlier.

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Re: Best steel for sharp edges

Postby elena86 » Sun Sep 24, 2017 4:32 pm

Surfingringo wrote:So much for keeping it brief. :rolleyes: :p
Superblue :p

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Re: Best steel for sharp edges

Postby ZrowsN1s » Sun Sep 24, 2017 4:59 pm

elena86 wrote:
Surfingringo wrote:So much for keeping it brief. :rolleyes: :p
Superblue :p
I would have added superblue to my recommendation but it's hard to come by. But yeah, if you can find some, it's very nice :D
I ❤ The POLICE :spyder:

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Re: Best steel for sharp edges

Postby illacky » Sun Sep 24, 2017 5:31 pm

I agree with the sentiment laid out by Darby and surfingringo.
Different steels will respond differently to different materials in stones. Achieving the proper bevel comes down to technique. Your technique can be developed quickly from an easy to use system, like the edge pro, or can be developed more slowly; i.e. freehand technique.

With the properly refined technique the time it takes to get a steel to hair splitting sharp will depend on the material of the stones you use. In my experience harder steels cut better with diamond and ceramic stones. Softer steels can be cut with diamond and ceramic as well, but will also cut fine with alumina based stones, such as the stock edge pro stones.

There is also a whole discussion on strops, which I have recently started experimenting with. Michael Christy's YouTube channel motivated me to start using diamond paste on wood to start refining my edges, and although it adds extra time, has made my edges sharper than they have ever been, and beyond what I can achieve with stones. Michael's videos have some excellent commentary on different steels that Spyderco uses, and what it takes to get each one hair splitting sharp, definitely recommended for anyone interested sharpening.
-Ivan

me2
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Re: Best steel for sharp edges

Postby me2 » Sun Sep 24, 2017 7:07 pm

For those taking the position that all steels can get equally sharp, how are you measuring sharpness?

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Tucson Tom
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Re: Best steel for sharp edges

Postby Tucson Tom » Sun Sep 24, 2017 8:39 pm

Surfingringo wrote:So much for keeping it brief. :rolleyes: :p
Yeah, but you certainly don't hear me complaining. I have learned a tremendous amount from this thread and your comments merit several rereadings.

Thanks to you, and to all.

One terrible thing is that an Edge Pro (or similar setup) is moving onto the top of my list of things to spend money on. Maybe when the calendar rolls over to October and a new paycheck arrives I will decide whether to dive in.


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