M4 vs. 52100 - Calling all metallurgical experts!

Discuss Spyderco's products and history.

Would you rather have your EDC knife in M4 or 52100 steel?

52100
10
11%
M4
85
89%
 
Total votes: 95

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DrtyHarry
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M4 vs. 52100 - Calling all metallurgical experts!

Postby DrtyHarry » Thu Aug 11, 2016 8:53 pm

I'd like to know more about the differences between M4 and 52100. I know both are "tool" steels...I've seen more knives made in M4 than I have in 52100. Anyone care to list the pros and cons between the two? And what would you think would make for a "better" EDC?

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Re: M4 vs. 52100 - Calling all metallurgical experts!

Postby demoncase » Thu Aug 11, 2016 9:19 pm

I voted M4 because I'm familiar with how it patinates/rusts when carried.....

Personally- I feel the choice is between a Ferrari and a Lamboughini- both are superlative and the relative differences are small....And you won't be disappointed with either, really ;)
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Re: M4 vs. 52100 - Calling all metallurgical experts!

Postby bpahk » Thu Aug 11, 2016 9:22 pm

im far from a metallurgical expert, but i'd go with m4 for edc. admittedly i only have the millie in 52100 and haven't put it to a lot of use, but it stains way easier than my m4 blades (manix, mantra, pm2). in fact i find that the corrosion resistance of m4 is really pretty good relative to 52100 or super blue. seems a little exaggerated how easily it'll patina/stain/rust. i dont really cut anything acidic but also dont bother to oil it and ive never had an issue. got a little tuffglide in the pivot but thats it. gets pretty humid in ny during the summer, especially in my pocket.

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Re: M4 vs. 52100 - Calling all metallurgical experts!

Postby Deadboxhero » Thu Aug 11, 2016 11:28 pm

Not even in the same class.
It's like comparing a muscle car to an Indy car

While they are both technically "tool steels" and have four wheels ;)

52100 ball bearing steel is barely above just being a simple carbon steel
1% carbon bout 1% chromium

No other carbides

M4 is a PM high speed steel with a huge carbide volume tungsten, molybdenum, chromium, vanadium. All the big players, all pushing 3-4%

It has a higher working hardness and has a high red hardness which means it doesn't lose its temper easy.
It was designed for industrial cutting applications and drill bits

52100 is like a 1095 plus
Some say even like a Shirogami #2 depending on the heat treatment.
It's properties are more bland
Hardness, grain size, how much carbon and chromium to put into carbides?
Depends on the skill of the maker and the end use

It takes a true artist to bring out these small quantities
Example
"Ooo that's John doe's 52100"

I can heat treat 52100 on my porch just like anyone can eat spaghetti out of a can. But with the same ingredients in a world famous Italian chefs kitchen, who is an experienced chef

The spaghetti doesn't leave that" can favor "in your mouth XD

But the performance can vary this way.

Depends who is making it

Meanwhile


If M4 was a food,
M4 is like a more exotic disg with a very specific favor without much variation that's easier to ruin
It would require a professional kitchen with specialized equipment and experienced staff to cook

you could try it without such extravagant resources but it will turn out uneditable




Alight simple answer

52100
Should sharpen faster then CPM M4 but doesn't hold a candle to the raw wear resistance CPM M4 brings

The only thing they share is a lack of corrison resistance
and keeness of the edge but the extra carbides of CPM M4 pack a nice bite to the edge that cuts with more aggression at a high sharpenes.

Hope that helps
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Re: M4 vs. 52100 - Calling all metallurgical experts!

Postby Brock O Lee » Fri Aug 12, 2016 2:13 am

I have a few knives in M4 (Military, GB, Manix), and have been using it for years, so I know I like it for EDC. I wanted to try 52100 precisely because it is so rare in folders, and is so much different than M4 and other high carbide stainless steels that Spyderco is famous for. I do not know of any other high carbon low carbide high hardness steel in the Spyderco folder lineup.

I've been using the 52100 Military for EDC the last month, about 22 out of the last 30 days. I convexed it on day 2, and it runs a 15 dps SM fine micro bevel. I haven't touched the edge since then, but I also haven't done heavy work with it, just normal day-to-day stuff: food, packaging, some cardboard etc.

I must say, I really like it. I checked last night, and it is still arm hair shaving sharp, which surprised me... Maybe for my light uses, I do not need the uber wear resistance of M4...

52100 is definitely less corrosion resistant than M4, so you could argue that for that reason alone M4 is better for EDC. But "the best steel" all depends on what you are cutting most of the time, how hard you are using the knife, and the conditions you are working under.
- I will probably not pick a 52100 folder if I go on a hike where I know it will be wet and humid, but I will also not pick a M4 folder because it will rust just the same as 52100 under those conditions. Stainless folder all the way, but maybe a carbon steel FB.
- If I know I'll be cutting lots of rope and cardboard, I'll probably pick M4 with a coarse micro bevel.
- If I know I'll be carving wood, I'll probably pick 52100 with a fine micro bevel.

For a low maintenance EDC folder, I still feel something like M390/204P is a well balanced steel: above average wear resistance, very good corrosion resistance, tough enough for a typical folder, and not too difficult to sharpen.
Last edited by Brock O Lee on Fri Aug 12, 2016 2:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: M4 vs. 52100 - Calling all metallurgical experts!

Postby The Mastiff » Fri Aug 12, 2016 2:26 am

Pretty good dead box hero.

I'll add that 52100 is considered good stuff in applications that need high sharpness like wood work tools, chefs knives and other niche stuff. Of course it does well at more mundane applications. It's considered "high edge stability" which means different things to different people but basically thin edges and fine angles. It may not have the abrasive wear resistance that all those carbides give CPM M4 but it does pretty well in that respect lasting a while with good geometry and high hardness.

CPM M4 is no slouch either and does pretty good in that respect for a high carbide, very abrasive steel. It is tougher than many steel alloys with that much wear resistance and keeps the grain and carbide size finer than many steels with lesser performance like 440C. It has higher abrasive wear than that notable stainless while also having higher edge stability ( 440C has large chrome carbides and can really lose toughness and edge stability because of that.)

Both are premium steels and considered good stuff when put together and heat treated for performance as Spyderco does.

joe

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Re: M4 vs. 52100 - Calling all metallurgical experts!

Postby Surfingringo » Fri Aug 12, 2016 4:58 am

To me, the most notable performance difference is corrosion resistance. I don't worry too much about staining and tarnishing but I find that 52100 is corrosion prone enough that it affects edge retention in my environment/use. I have used the Millie and 52100 mule extensively now both in the kitchen and the fish cleaning table. What I have observed is that once exposed to highly corrosive environments, the edge will tend to lose a bit of its high level sharpness due to microscopic corrosion at the apex. I know this to be the case because numerous times I have given the knife VERY light use working on bloody fish and after the work I have checked the edge and seen no degradation in sharpness. The knife will be immediately washed, dried and put away and the next day there will be a notable drop in sharpness. I have two fish cleaning knives in m4 and have never had this issue with them given the same use and cleaning protocol. In a nutshell, I like the way 52100 steel sharpens and performs and I'm glad I own some for certain edges and uses but it seems to be a bit under the corrosion resistance threshold for what I need in my everyday use and environment. I will stick with m4 and more stainless steels for those uses.

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Re: M4 vs. 52100 - Calling all metallurgical experts!

Postby Cujobob » Fri Aug 12, 2016 7:58 am

52100 is the better steel if one can stand the corrosion resistance being low for those who demand the best sharpness. It can be HT for excellent toughness and/or wear resistance depending on need, can be ground exceptionally thin, and can be sharpened to angles few steels can handle. When you add in the additional components, you gain some attributes and also lose some.

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Re: M4 vs. 52100 - Calling all metallurgical experts!

Postby Deadboxhero » Fri Aug 12, 2016 9:52 am

Thanks Joe

Glad to be here

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Re: M4 vs. 52100 - Calling all metallurgical experts!

Postby DrtyHarry » Fri Aug 12, 2016 10:22 am

Very interesting stuff fellas....thanks for the lesson!



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Re: M4 vs. 52100 - Calling all metallurgical experts!

Postby SpyderNut » Fri Aug 12, 2016 10:52 am

demoncase wrote:...Personally- I feel the choice is between a Ferrari and a Lamboughini- both are superlative and the relative differences are small....And you won't be disappointed with either, really ;)
Agreed. M4 would get my vote over 52100 only because I wouldn't worry as much about corrosion/rust for EDC purposes.
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Re: M4 vs. 52100 - Calling all metallurgical experts!

Postby Evil D » Fri Aug 12, 2016 10:59 am

Judging by what I've read in your previous post, what you seem to favor in a knife, I would say M4 is the steel for you. You seem to place working edge retention above any other aspect of a steel, so of these two M4 is probably the better option for your preferences. It seems to me that until they put REX 121 or K390 etc into a Military, the S110V will be the best steel for you.
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Re: M4 vs. 52100 - Calling all metallurgical experts!

Postby bearfacedkiller » Fri Aug 12, 2016 11:26 am

I would take M4 over 52100 any day in an EDC folder.
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Re: M4 vs. 52100 - Calling all metallurgical experts!

Postby Blerv » Fri Aug 12, 2016 12:00 pm

I guess it depends on the edge angle you are going to run. In normal edges for normal folders I would go M4. If reground to shave a gnat's beard, easily 52100. I also have to think 52100 is tougher in thick bevels compared how Spyderco runs M4 (fairly high HRC) while being easier to sharpen.

Meh, different strokes I guess :). One could have a similar discussion with SuperBlue vs ZDP189 or 1095 vs CPM-S30v. Not the exact same comparison, but close enough to echo similar points.

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Re: M4 vs. 52100 - Calling all metallurgical experts!

Postby wrdwrght » Fri Aug 12, 2016 12:17 pm

No expert here (so I didn't vote) but I love M4. My reasons arise from impressions, not controlled tests with particular bevels.

I am inclined, however, to pocket my 204P PM2 or Cruwear Manix2, rather than my M4 GB1 (and now an M4 PM2) or M4 Manix2, when I know corrosion is likely.

Having spent time both in the tropics and on saltwater, I can well imagine Lance's frustrations (but, then, life in paradise does have its compensations). I'm still kicking myself for letting a pit develop on my M4 Bradley Air in the bottom of my pocket one summer day. If memory serves, Blerv knows my sorrow.

But hearing that 52100 is like "1095 plus" rekindles my interest in it (I have a couple of 1095 ESEE fixed blades). I backed off the 52100 Military (actually bigger than I want in a folder, plus I prefer tip up) to afford both M4 PM2 exclusives.

But put 52100 in a PM2 (or PM3) or a Manix2 and I'm on it...

SQUIRREL!!!

Or put Rex121 or K390 in one of these knives and I'm on it.
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Re: M4 vs. 52100 - Calling all metallurgical experts!

Postby JD Spydo » Fri Aug 12, 2016 12:38 pm

Myself I would pick M-4 over 52100>> OK I've never had a knife of any type made with 52100 but I've had such great luck with tool steels with alloys like D-2 for instance and the times I got to use a couple of folders with M-4 I was so impressed that I now have Spyderco's Mantra model at the top of my "want list". Also it seems to me that steels like M-4 are more versatile for what I use them for. Also I'm just dying to know how good M-4 would be on a Spyderedged blade. I doubt if 52100 with virtually no corrosion resistance would be the ticket for me personally at all.

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Re: M4 vs. 52100 - Calling all metallurgical experts!

Postby Brock O Lee » Fri Aug 12, 2016 1:00 pm

This thread needs some pics! :)

52100 patinas easier than M4...

Few weeks:
Image

Few years:
Image

The jury is still out, but if I had to compare 52100 to another steel in my collection, I would say it behaves somewhat similar to solid Superblue. This is my initial gut feel based on a few weeks of use: similar corrosion resistance as Superblue, in the same ballpark regarding ease of sharpening and edge retention.

It would not surprise me if the 52100 Military develops a cult following similar to the Superblue Caly's in time.
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Re: M4 vs. 52100 - Calling all metallurgical experts!

Postby bdblue » Fri Aug 12, 2016 6:34 pm

52100 isn't doing too well here. I've read about custom makers forging with it, and as I understand it a well known expensive brand that starts with a B___e uses virtually the same steel in some of their models. Their models are optimized for toughness and not edge holding which makes sense considering the different steel compositions involved. I like M4, one of my favorite steels, and much as I think it is tougher than a good stainless steel it still doesn't rate that high in toughness. So I suppose if you wanted toughness, like in a long thin blade such as the Military, it would be a good choice. For EDC I like toughness but I also like edge holding which I suppose is why I pick M4. But if the PM2 comes to fruition in 52100 I would be more than tempted to buy one.

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Re: M4 vs. 52100 - Calling all metallurgical experts!

Postby Woodpuppy » Sun Jul 08, 2018 8:16 pm

I’m dredging this back up to see if there are more opinions two years later. I’m interested in a pm2, and I think my top choices are M4 and 52100. I am happy to accept some corrosion affinity in exchange for low chipping potential, and more ease of sharpening.

What say ye? Is 52100 still less loved (or fanatically loved by fewer spyderheads)?

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Re: M4 vs. 52100 - Calling all metallurgical experts!

Postby Evil D » Sun Jul 08, 2018 8:44 pm

Woodpuppy wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 8:16 pm
I’m dredging this back up to see if there are more opinions two years later. I’m interested in a pm2, and I think my top choices are M4 and 52100. I am happy to accept some corrosion affinity in exchange for low chipping potential, and more ease of sharpening.

What say ye? Is 52100 still less loved (or fanatically loved by fewer spyderheads)?
These are two of my favorite steels and my two favorite versions of the Military but I really can't say one is better than the other because they are really at different ends of a spectrum, they each do something pretty significantly better than the other. I would decide if you want better edge retention at the cost of more difficult sharpening, or if you want an easier to sharpen steel that gets stupid sharp with minimal effort but doesn't have an amazing working edge.

That said, I have carried my 52100 Military a LOT more than the M4 version, but I also haven't really pushed the 52100 so far that edge retention became an issue. I really just love how it responds to sharpening.
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