Difficult question Sal, to narrow it down to three out of all the fine steels you and the Spydiecrew have given us.
At the moment I’d have to say -
This is probably my all time favourite steel so far. Great sharpenability, takes a superb fine edge and keeps it very well. Tough enough for heavy work. I like the patina it takes, yet it’s still not anywhere near as rust prone in the crevice areas as the low alloy carbons, given a modicum of care. I’ve had all the K390 folders (Edgematters Pingo, Police, Urban) and they’re all among the best knives in their size class.
This steel represents an outstanding balance of qualities among the tool steels. It’s about as stainless as I need a general EDC knife to be, and has excellent toughness and strength in thinly reground edges for my usage. It takes a wicked sharp edge with minimal effort and has decent edge retention.
I love this steel as run with Spyderco’s heat treat. In the same way that K390 takes the qualities I love in HAP40 and CPM M4 and just improves on them that little bit; AEB-L takes all the qualities I enjoy in Super Blue, 52100 and O1 and gives the added benefit of stainlessness.
It takes an astonishingly fine edge and will reward both novice and experienced sharpeners. I was on the verge of choosing LC200N here, but I think I prefer the higher hardness/strength of the AEB-L Urban slightly more than LC200N at around 59 HRC. The AEB-L Urban seems like it keeps wanting to go thinner behind the edge. Larrin mentioned it’s the toughest knife steel he’s tested. Now I know it’s not the most wear resistant steel, but a few passes on the UF rods and it’s back to scary scalpel sharp. Edge stability is outstanding. I’d love to see it tried in SE, say in a UKPK drop point run at the same hardness as the Urban.
I’ve liked all Spyderco’s steels I’ve tried, but these three are the ones that consistently give me the most pleasure in sharpening and use.
Honourable mentions: LC200N, HAP40, CPM M4 and ZDP189.
OK, now that we’re all putting our favourites on the table, Sal, we’re not going to let you off that easy.
What are some of your favourites?
Thanks for doing what you do.