Carbon vs Stainless Steel?

Barney

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Which on do you prefer? I know most people will automatically go to carbon since its tougher but many people live in wet areas where stainless will demonstrate its strong points.
 

wvbreamfisherman

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Carbon steel overall. If I was around salt water, I'd probably lean more toward stainless, but carbon steel will do fine if you take good care of it.
 

ghostdog

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I like both if they have a good heat treat. The modern stainless steels are not the same poor examples as they were in the 1950s.

One of my favorite folding knives is a large Stockman pattern with D2 steel. It is somewhere in between. It will corrode but less so than other carbon steels but the steel stays pearlescent as you use it with food and will not darken. It is a very aggressive cutting steel with large carbides and the edge lasts a long time. It is one of my favorite steels.

Some stainless is actually tougher than some carbon steels and is still easier to sharpen. Carbon can take harder heat treats in some cases which cuts down on wear but they are more prone to micro chipping too at the higher hardness. Take Mora steel. The carbon is good and is slightly harder but the Sandvik stainless 12c27 which has a very fine carbide pattern, is a very clean steel and will not micro-chip like the carbon blades do. It holds an edge at least as long but it more prone to rolling. It is far easier to hone out rolls than chips. The cutting action is at least as good as their carbon.

I have not liked all the designer modern steels that so many custom makers use now. In my experience heat treat and edge geometry are more important than the ultimate steel. Some carbon steels and some stainless are so close in performance with the right heat treat and edge geometry that it really does not matter to me. I just don’t want to spend a lot of time touching up an edge after a little work. A few stropping swipes should really do it. If not, its not a good steel.

Good Finland carbon steel for an acute Scandinavian edge that will slice like crazy;



D2, somewhere in between and one of my favorites;



My Weinmuller single bladded trapper in stainless RWL 34, a premium powder metallurgy cutlery steel manufactured by Damasteel. It is manufactured from rapidly solidified powders, the microstructure of the steel is very uniform. This gives the steel much higher strength and resistance to cracking. Hans gets a perfect heat treat on his amazing creation and it cuts like a maniac and holds an edge for a long time. It is relatively easy to sharpen but then he does give his blades a very thin edge geometry. It holds up to heavy cutting well.

 

ppine

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This is an old idea. Stainless cutlery sits on the counter for everyone to use, but if I want to cut something I go to a drawer full of carbon steel knives. I especially like old carbon knives for jobs like gutting game animals. Many people don't know what they are missing because they have spent their whole lives with Buck knives and modern stuff made in Germany.
 
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Dura Mater

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I can cut things with either steel, but my heart belongs to carbon. Such good performance and so easy to sharpen.
 

ChadTower

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These days the metals are all so good, and I am no metallurgist, so I tend to put my faith in certain manufacturers. I don't need to know the exact alloy of my knife if the SOG logo is on the handle. If it's good enough for Navy Seals it's good enough for me.
 

oldsarge

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These days the metals are all so good, and I am no metallurgist, so I tend to put my faith in certain manufacturers. I don't need to know the exact alloy of my knife if the SOG logo is on the handle. If it's good enough for Navy Seals it's good enough for me.

So true. A good knife is all what you make of it. Everyone has their own ways of using and caring for them. If someone gives me a knife, I'm not going to turn it away because it's not what I prefer.
 

Barney

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I like both if they have a good heat treat. The modern stainless steels are not the same poor examples as they were in the 1950s.

One of my favorite folding knives is a large Stockman pattern with D2 steel. It is somewhere in between. It will corrode but less so than other carbon steels but the steel stays pearlescent as you use it with food and will not darken. It is a very aggressive cutting steel with large carbides and the edge lasts a long time. It is one of my favorite steels.

Some stainless is actually tougher than some carbon steels and is still easier to sharpen. Carbon can take harder heat treats in some cases which cuts down on wear but they are more prone to micro chipping too at the higher hardness. Take Mora steel. The carbon is good and is slightly harder but the Sandvik stainless 12c27 which has a very fine carbide pattern, is a very clean steel and will not micro-chip like the carbon blades do. It holds an edge at least as long but it more prone to rolling. It is far easier to hone out rolls than chips. The cutting action is at least as good as their carbon.

I have not liked all the designer modern steels that so many custom makers use now. In my experience heat treat and edge geometry are more important than the ultimate steel. Some carbon steels and some stainless are so close in performance with the right heat treat and edge geometry that it really does not matter to me. I just don’t want to spend a lot of time touching up an edge after a little work. A few stropping swipes should really do it. If not, its not a good steel.

Good Finland carbon steel for an acute Scandinavian edge that will slice like crazy;



D2, somewhere in between and one of my favorites;



My Weinmuller single bladded trapper in stainless RWL 34, a premium powder metallurgy cutlery steel manufactured by Damasteel. It is manufactured from rapidly solidified powders, the microstructure of the steel is very uniform. This gives the steel much higher strength and resistance to cracking. Hans gets a perfect heat treat on his amazing creation and it cuts like a maniac and holds an edge for a long time. It is relatively easy to sharpen but then he does give his blades a very thin edge geometry. It holds up to heavy cutting well.

What an excellent post and there is hardly anything that I wouldn't agree with. I would just like to expand on one thought though. Some designer, especially carbon, steels can really nail all the parameters. For example, 3V steel in Bark River Gunny knife can hold for 10 deer dressings straight, which is backed up by experience, not estimation. Admittedly, it will chip sometimes but it is not as hard to restore as some other super carbon steels.
 

Gondor

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I like this discussion. I personally don't have a preference. Before I was all for carbon knives but some stainless options just won't give up their edge in use so I'm currently thinking hard about my preferences.
 

onlightgear

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These days the metals are all so good, and I am no metallurgist, so I tend to put my faith in certain manufacturers. I don't need to know the exact alloy of my knife if the SOG logo is on the handle. If it's good enough for Navy Seals it's good enough for me.
Totally agree. Saves time. Leave the job to the specialists.
 

IHeartDirt

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Guess I never really thought about carbon versus steel. I've only had to use my knives for cleaning fish and cutting through ropes or twine. In retrospect, it looks like my default has been stainless.
 
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Newanderthal

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Which on do you prefer? I know most people will automatically go to carbon since its tougher but many people live in wet areas where stainless will demonstrate its strong points.
Even in Louisiana where rain is frequent and humidity is always high, my carbon steel never rusted. I've never found a use for stainless except as forks and spoons.
 
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