The Most Popular Steels Used To Make Knife Blades Today

The Most Popular Steels Used To Make Knife Blades Today

Posted by Drake on Dec 13th 2012

The cornerstone of every knife is dependent on one aspect, its blade. All knives are not created equal and neither are their respective blades but fortunately there are many options out there to choose from. If your like me then you get easily overwhelmed seeing so many metals used in various knives.

Some are more durable and reliable than others and many knife makers have varied opinions but as long as you have a general knowledge of what is being used you can educate yourself as to which knife blade best suits your needs. eKNIVES features knives with a plethora of quality steels so my goal is to familiarize you with the types of steel being used and what is popular for today's knife maker.

Stainless Steel

We have all heard of stainless steel because it is one of the most popular steels in the world but did you know that is is in fact capable of discoloration? It is easy to see the words stainless and assume it is bulletproof but actually that is false. Stainless steels are very much prone to discoloration if left in adverse conditions for an extended period of time.  However it is resistant to corrosion and rust if maintained properly.

For a steel to be considered stainless it must contain between 11% and  14% chromium and less amounts of carbon but also contains molybdenum and vanadium for hardness, strength, corrosion and wear resistance. Stainless is most often used for dive knives, pocket knives and kitchen knives where water is a commonality.

So, what are the most common stainless steel blades used by knife makers today?

  • CPM S30V a very high quality steel and considered one of the best steels used for knives. It was created by Crucible Steel for the cutlery industry and contains high amounts of carbon (1.25%) and vanadium for superior edge holding as well as hardness and wear resistance. 
  • CPM S35VN was the next generation of S30V developed by Crucible in 2009 to add about 20% more toughness and is easier to polish and machine.The S35VN does have resistance to chipping and equal wear resistance making it a very popular steel often used by Spyderco and Bark River Knives.
  • 154CM is an excellent hard cutting steel with very good edge retention and toughness making it very popular.
  • AUS-6  (AUS is japanese stainless steel) contains .65% percent carbon and some vanadium making it tough yet easy to sharpen. Al mar knives is known to use AUS-6 (aka 6A).
  • AUS 8 (japanese stainless steel) contains high (.75%) carbon and low chromium contents for added toughness and wear resistance. This is a very tough steel and was made popular by Cold Steel Knives. This steel displays a happy fusion between edge holding, durability, wear resistance and corrosion resistance.(aka 8A)
  • VG 10 is a high quality stainless with less carbon than S30V but very tough due to its vanadium content.
  • 420J2 is a high chromium low carbon steel used for toughness when custom knife makers need it. It has a great corrosion resistance and is often used in marine operations. It is soft due to it's low carbon content but make great diving knives.
  • 440C  and the rest of the 400 series steels are a high quality good wear resistant steel that is hard and has a high carbon content. It is a very popular steel used in knife blades today but not quite as tough as the AUS steels.
  • Sandvik features a variety of options that include the popular 14C28N which has good corrosion resistance and hardness and is often used by Bark River Knife & Tool.

Carbon Steel

Before stainless steel became the most popular used in knives there was plain carbon steel which consist of carbon, iron and manganese. Carbon steel is one of the sharpest blades around but will rust very easily due to its lack of chromium. It has a gray appearance and thus has to be cared for often.

If you own one of these be sure to store it properly and perhaps coat it to keep it from rusting. It is one of the most popular steels because of how easy it is to get extremely sharp. Very often used for tactical knives, pocket knives and hunting knives.

  • 1095 carbon steel is the most popular used and can be found on such knives as the Gil Hibben IV Machete(Rambo knife)
  • A2 has a great hardness and toughness making it popular for combat or tactical knives. Chris Reeve and Mike Stewart from Bark River Knife & Tool uses A2 steel. A2 sacrifices wear resistance for toughness.
  • W-2 steel is basically a W-1 steel with vanadium (.2%) added to give it added toughness and great edge holding capability.


Titanium blades are extremely durable  and lightweight as you might expect and are very rust resistant however they are a softer steel and thus harder to sharpen and maintain an edge. Some custom knives and dive knives are seen with titanium.


A rust proof non-magnetic material often used in scuba diving as they make great diving knives. They are extremely brittle and hard to sharpen but once sharp it holds for a long time. The drawback is if it is dropped it cracks very easily so they have to be handled with care. As seen above Boker uses ceramics for some of their folding knives.