Ok, onto the second (and in my opinion, more interesting) part of my observations on LC200n vs. H1…corrosion resistance. It’s fun to talk about edge and steel performance in the nitrogen steels but without the corrosion resistance, those results are much less meaningful. What I mean is, some of these steels are not necessarily extraordinary performers except in the context of their rust proof nature. Vanax SC for example is a great steel, showing “Elmax like” performance. The truth is though that lots of steels show that kind of performance…but this one is rust proof. It’s the extreme corrosion resistance that makes these steels special. LC200n performs well but if it didn’t show exceptional corrosion resistance then there wouldn’t be anything remarkable about its performance. So what is the verdict on Corrosion Resistance?
First, let me describe my “testing”. My saltwater knives live on my saltwater fishing kayak. This means that they are in a sheath and go out on the water with me everyday where they are dipped, splashed and soaked in saltwater. They are used for cutting bait and filleting fish and when they are bloody they get nothing more than a splash in the ocean and then back in their sheath. When I come in, I rinse all my gear…except for my knives. I intentionally leave them salty in their sheaths (in the name of science, haha). Those sheaths sit on the kayak 24/7 in the hot tropical air where humidity and evaporation add to the corrosive elements.
I have kept H1 knives in this environment for over a year without a drop of fresh water and have never seen a spot of rust. Not one single spot. How has LC200n compared? Well, LC200n by itself has shown the exact same results as H1. I have various knives and pieces of LC200n that have undergone the same exposure without ever showing a single spot. Nothing. I have seen enough to label LC200n (left uncontaminated by other metals) a fully rust proof steel.
Now, here’s where the comparison gets interesting. Once you introduce exposure to other metals, then the results will change a bit. Before I get into that though, I want to lay some facts out for comparative context. First of all, any knife with stainless hardware will rust. It may take MASSIVE amounts of exposure and abuse, but you CAN make the hardware rust. Here is an example. I spend about 25-30 hours a week on the ocean fishing. During that time I carry Salt folders that are saturated with salt the entire time. When I come in from my fishing, I throw the salty folder on the counter without so much as a fresh water rinse where it awaits its next assignment. Even under that level of exposure the hardware will show virtually zero corrosion. If, however, I leave that folder outside on the kayak 24/7 it will, after several months, eventually show some corrosive bleeding around the hardware points. These examples are so far into the realm of extreme abuse that they don’t really have much meaning to the average user, but at least they provide a benchmark of what it actually takes to make the hardware react in any way…it takes a lot.
When I mount and leave a rust proof fixed blade on the kayak, stainless hardware will always show rust eventually. It usually takes about 2 months to start showing. The point is that if I have two knives with screw on g10 handles (one in H1 and one in lc200n) and after 3 months on the kayak I remove both handles, the tang of both knives will look exactly the same…and they will both be a mess. All of the residue from the corrosion of the hardware will have collected under then handle and it will appear that the steel is rusting under there. So, what’s really going on? Well, that is important and the answer highlights the only real difference between these two steels when it comes to corrosion resistance.
If you remove the handle scales from the H1 fixed blade that swirled rust residue can be wiped away in about a minute with a rag. Upon examining the tang with a loupe you will find no corrosive damage to the H1 steel itself. Pretty amazing. If, on the other hand, you remove the handles from the lc200n knife it will take a few more minutes to wipe the same corrosive swirls away and there will be a few spots that are more stubborn. If you examine those spots with a loupe then you will see some very tiny black spots that appear to be signs of light pitting on the lc200n itself. The belief is that this is a result of some type of galvanic corrosion. I am not a chemist or a physicist so I can only describe what I observe and that is that lc200n appears to be completely rust proof until it comes into contact with another metal. Once that metal begins to corrode then it causes some type of reaction in the lc200n that causes a small amount of corrosion to occur. After two full years of testing, that is the only difference I have observed in the corrosion resistance of these two steels. And it seems that the only thing required to keep this from occurring is to prevent prolonged contact with other metals.
I would consider every knife in the Salt line worthy of a rust proof designation, the same way I would consider a dive watch that was waterproof to 500 meters to be waterproof. Sure, you could drop it to the bottom of the Mariana Trench and make it leak but the constraints of reality dictate that virtually no one is going to encounter a scenario where that watch leaks. Just like no normal person is going to make ANY of the Salt knives rust. But if every knife in the Salt line is virtually rust proof then there are three that I would rate as ACTUALLY and COMPLETELY rust proof. Those would be the Aqua Salt, the Fish Hunter, and the Waterway. And yes, it is their complete lack of any type of hardware that could corrode that makes them completely immune to corrosion. I have carried all of these knives on the kayak for months and months and have never seen even the slightest hint of reaction in any of them. This is why I say that if you take the hardware out of the equation (as Spyderco did with the Waterway) then there is no discernible difference in corrosion resistance between these two steels. I guess the fact that H1 wouldn’t react if I left it in a bucket of rusty fish hooks for a year would still have me rating H1 as the MORE rust proof of the two but that is a difference that is meaningless to me in real world use (and I suspect almost everyone else) and I am happy to accept that nuance in exchange for the vast improvement in edge performance.
Ok guys, I hope that it is a clear description of some of my observations. I sometimes read these days how LC200n is “not as corrosion resistant” as H1. Though that is technically true due to the phenomenon I described above, I think it might be repeated offhand too often without an full understanding of the actual differences. I would challenge anyone holding that opinion to buy a Waterway and an Aqua Salt and try as hard as you can to make them both rust. Get back to me in 50 years with your results.
**One additional note. I own a mule with halpern scales that showed the typical corrosion beneath the handle. The funny thing is that there was one tiny spot that also showed up on the blade. Apparently, something similar happened to another user with a mule on Bladeforums. My guess is that this is either a result of a heat treat anomaly or it is the steel reacting to the hardware but in a place other than the contact point. It is an interesting phenomenon, but not something I have ever observed on any of my other lc200n knives, especially those with no hardware. I will readily stand by my assessment that barring contact with foreign metals, LC200n is a fully rust proof steel, just like H1.