Why SM-100 Blade Steel Is All The Rage For Custom Knifemakers

Why SM-100 Blade Steel Is All The Rage For Custom Knifemakers

Posted by Clayton on Mar 10th 2015

These knives feature SM-100 blades and are currently for sale!

SM-100 is a very rare commodity that has only been around for about four years. Produced by Summit Material Company, it is a titanium nickel alloy able to be hardened but with an extreme elasticity. SM-100 originates in the 1960s in Los Alamos, but was not able to be produced until a couple of years ago.

SM-100 was originally manufactured as a ball bearing and tested by NASA in a machine specifically designed to test material deformation, by crushing ball bearings. Nasa concluded that SM-100 had an "undetermined potential for elasticity".


According to Summit:

SM-100 has properties historically viewed as being mutually exclusive, SM-100™ is immune to corrosion while maintaining impressive wear and erosion properties, all while being ultra elastic, non-magnetic, and 18% lighter than steel.  You can call on it when you’ve run out of options and can’t afford a failure.  It is routinely used in situations where there is a combination of corrosion and wear issues.

SM-100 has a host of advantages over the traditional steel, even super steels like Elmax and M390. It contains zero carbon and iron which makes it 100% corrosion resistant and non-magnetic. It has a lower coefficient of friction than steel so no matter the finish, this blade will slice better if the edge is honed right. Since SM-100 is a Nickel Titanium Alloy with a tremendous elasticity, it translates to less edge chip and a much greater edge retention than others.  SM-100 is 18% lighter than steel and through use it becomes more durable.

SM-100 History

SM-100 is a nickel-titanium alloy previously only used in one off custom knives by makers and thus hard to get your hands on. Corrosion-proof, flexible at high hardness (60-61 HRC), and so tough NASA could not crush a ball bearing made of SM-100 in the machine they built specifically to crush ball bearings during material testing... why not make knives out it?

There is very impressive test data for this material, but those are just numbers until you actually make it into a knife and perform some knife-related activities. Let's call it performance testing. Being the second person in the world to make knives with this metal, and being crazy enough to do tests on them, I have to say this metal does not sacrifice any durability, edge retention, wear resistance or impact resistance. In fact, as more standard knife testing is done on this metal I think we will see that is out performs all the common blade steels and many of the new powdered metallurgy steel alloys like the CPM, and CTS series steels that are sweeping the knife world.

Cant even compare it to Stellite, Talonite or even Carbidized Titanium. SM-100 is hardened through the entire blade, not just the surface. Edge retention superb and it is virtually unbreakable.

From Knifecenter.com

I've been carrying and using the SM-100 folder for several months now so I could get some first-hand, real-world performance experience with it. I have to say, it more than meets my expectations and I usually carry Elmax or M390 so that is what I am comparing it too. I am finding the edge retention to be very similar to Elmax, which means in my usage and definition of sharp that it only needs a touch up every two weeks.

Many custom Knifemakers have started using SM-100 but it is very expensive and hard to get. So you can expect to see a knife with this steel in the $1000 plus range. 15" x 1.5" x .15" slab is $300 plus. Several custom Knifemakers like Anthony Marfione of Microtech Knives are using SM-100. Ferrum Forge Knifeworks have released a limited run of SM-100 flipper knives called the "Stinger" and they have some elaborate designs in their blades.

Darrel Ralph of DDR Custom Knives also has been producing his infamous Dominator flipper with SM-100 and it looks spectacular. They are just 2 of many custom knife makers who are testing the waters with SM-100. The want level is high for many consumers so if you are in the market for one, I suggest you jump quick as these are very limited.