Knife-Steel Question

Thanks for all the great replies. I wish I could get this much input, this quickly, about a paddling question :). Hmmm. Maybe my next question should be about handguns…

My impression of 420 stainless

– Last Updated: Nov-18-08 12:14 PM EST –

I'm so glad to hear someone else say that for a change. I really believe that the only reason stainless is so popular is because most folks can't tolerate looking at a knife that turns 12 different shades of gray and black if they don't lavish it with love. Color change like that matters not one wit to me.

I find that 420 CAN'T be honed to as fine an edge as even the cheapest carbon steel, because if you do, it flexes against the stone, greating a useless razor-thin, flexible feather of an edge. You've got to use a more blunt honing angle with 420 to create an edge of any quality. My cheap old Boy Scout knife is made from much better stuff, which should tell anyone that I have nothing against "mass produced crap". I don't need a work of art or trophy knife. I just won't make the adjustment to ANYTHING stainless after using carbon steel all my life. Anyone who thinks 420 stainless makes a good knife has never used anything different and is no position to know better.

Yup… Bladeforums…
if you want to add knowledge and fuel a possible collecting addiction.

Ontario Knives manaufactures some high carbon blades (1095 carbon steel), most military oriented though…

Becker Knives used to produce high carbon knives for military and hunting but I think they folded and is folded into some bigger company now.

These days, you mostly have to go to a custom maker for high carbon blades.


Bob Dozier
was one of the more known and early proponents of D2. Have a couple of his custom field knives. Not that much more than the Alaskan (who makes it?) knives.


420 Stainless Crap… NM

frost’s mora
from sportsman’s

A couple of thoughts

I like high carbon better too. I scanned the whole thread only very quickly so some of this may have been mentioned.

Ontario Knife makes a number of blades in 1095 steel – good old simple to get a shaving edge with high carbon. Check out the Rat 3 if you like a slightly tactical look. RAT Cutlery makes the same knife RC-3 with a little more quality for a few bucks more.

Check out Ragweed Forge. Ragnar stock lots of Scandanavian made knives from the incredible value Moras from Sweden to the fancier blades from Norway and Finland. You should find something there in your price range and in anything from classic birch and reindeer antler handles to modern plastics. He does a good job of describing the steels and knives.

My favorite stainless knives are the Helle knives from Norway.

Yup lots o choices an then again not 1=800-883-0300 has a gang o all kinds, makes ,models,an such. A fun catalouge to just look thru , cheap an bad to not so cheap an good .They also have blanks an all the stuff to make yer own . Another area ya may wanna look into is the kitchen knife makers.But plain carbon steel is rare these days , they all use stainless an high carbon .

Mundail from Brasil makes a nice blade an it’s a lil softer than a Henckle . Henckle is top o line in food service an holds an edge long , just takes longer to hone by hand .Course ya kin always use the back edge of another blade to “steel” the edge back, or a clam shell . Also alot o lil pocket sharpeners around , Chefs choice makes a decent diamond edge sharpener , but ya still gotta have an edge o sorts to bring it back.

I’ve carried a 4" parer from Mundial fer yrs. Skin a doe, fillet any fish , chop , dice whatever , no need for them RAMBO type blades.

Sunscreen or any cookin oil will keep the carbon blades from oxidizing .I always gotta warn folks that my blades are sharp , unlike what they use at home or on trip . Otherwise I’m patchin em up .

Thrift shops have ole carbon blades sometimes .

You could even go the ole colonial way an make yer own outta an old file . I gotta get a digital camera!

The history channel probably has a good bit o info on knife history .

The pres. of the flint knappers assoc. made the scalpals for his open heart surgery from flint-way sharper than surgical steel-just not as strong - same deal w/ceramic.

I’ve just touched the EDGE o the subject , but I spose ya get the POINT .


Thanks for the info on Ragweed Forge
…neat site!


– Last Updated: Nov-18-08 1:27 PM EST –

Randall Knives, hand made, excellent, expensive.
Five year waiting list for product, maybe best to find one used on internet.

Beautiful knives, and story of how company started.

ragweed forge
i’ll add another plug for ragnar. super knives at a great price. i have several of the ericson mora’s in carbon steel and am very pleased with the quality in such an inexpensive offering. i also have a lapin puukko (stainless) and it sharpens easily and holds its edge well. the scandanavian grind is almost foolproof to sharpen. ragnar is very easy to deal with and is prompt in filling orders.


as fun as skeg v rudder v nothing

– Last Updated: Nov-18-08 9:15 PM EST –

Notice that steel is only one of the three main ingredients to a good blade, shape and heat-treat are also important. e.g. great steel with a crap heat treat or shape is still a crap blade.

I agree that a good carbon steel blade is a joy, if you can keep it from rusting. I prefer BOYE DENDRITIC COBALT or good stainless for my every-day knives 'cuz my HCS blades always find a way to rust when I'm not looking. All my marking knives in my woodshop are HCS (O1, Hitachi white or blue) because they do not see the elements.

I disagree with "high-carbon" taking longer to sharpen and holding an edge longer than "stainless." Actually, the reverse is usually (but not always) true. Wood carvers and wood workers like me, prefer O1 (HCS) for fine work (carving, finish planing) because it sharpens easily and forms a really wonderful edge, at the cost of more frequent sharpening! For more demanding work, like rough planing and mortise chisels, I'll move to A2. It takes longer to sharpen, forms not quite as fine an edge, but does last longer between sharpenings. Good stainless like 440C, ATS-34, 154-CM is a PITA to sharpen, but on my pocket knife I only go to about 1000 grit, because I'm looking for some microserrations here and not a mirror polish like my plane blades.

Plane blade and knife-maker Ron Hock has some nice, simple explanations of the tool steels he uses here:

So, which do you prefer skeg, rudder, or nothing?

Solingen carbon steel is nice and these are reasonably priced.

Becker probably made the ‘best bang for the buck’ carbon steel, fixed blade knives. Simple, tough, cheap. eBay may be a route.

Great knives…No longer in business
some inventory still available

I do like high carbon for a knife that will get used a lot, and will be taken care of.

But for an emergency knife to go in PFD pocket and be forgotten unless needed, I like titanium. Stainless knives will certainly rust if submerged in seawater and left in a PFD pocket.

Hand guns go to B and B.

Info On Steels, Alloys And Sharpening >>

Bob Engnanth was a recognized authority on knife making, materials and collecting.


Knife Shows
Hey Eric, You might want to keep an eye out for a local knife show. I know they have them down in Janesville every so often. I have never had the opportunity to go to one as I always seem to have to work when they are in town, but people I talk to say you can find anything at them. Good way to spend a winter morning anyway. If I hear of one coming I will let you know.

BTW, gun sales are what I do for a living. Any questions??


There are literally . . .
. . . hundreds of steels that are superior in every way to old fashioned carbon steels. Many of the are “stainless”. Some stainless steels are more rust resistant than others. D2 is not a true stainless. Many good knives are made with ATS 134. Depending on how it is heat tread it can make a very good knife.

There is no need for a good knife on a kayak. Get something that is cheap and expendable.