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Cutlery Steel Overview

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Steel is one of the key components of the knife. Basically that's what a knife is, a piece of metal with a handle on it. Obviously good steel is required to make a good knife. However, just the steel won't do it. Cutlery steel in general is a real complicated subject and there are numerous aspects affecting the steelís performance. Still, the choice of the blade material will define knife performance and properties to great extent. On the other hand it's not only the steel that makes a good knife, heat treatment and the right blade geometry are equally as important. Just the great steel won't make a good knife and vice versa, even the best heat treatment and geometry won't make a great knife from a poor steel. Although, probably the latter would still make a decent knife, albeit frequent sharpening would be required. Anyway, let's assume the makers do it all right with the steel (heat treatment) and blade geometry is also correct. Then we have a wide variety of steels to choose from.
    Knife steel as usual is one of the main promotion points of a given knife or an entire production line. I am sure, all of us have seen more than enough commercials promoting knives made out of the next super wonder steel. Actually, if you know a little about the steel, you can still get some useful info out of all that hype.
    There is another extreme to that, when the makers won't reveal the steel used in the product. Although that could have different reasons. E.g. if the maker is not revealing the steel name/composition, that can be a clear indication of a cheap one most of the time, by the way. Alternatively, that mystery steel is a good proprietary steel. I still don't understand what's the point in concealing a steelís chemical composition, though. Today's science can deduce what the star billions of light years away is composed of, and if some think a lab can't tell what's in the piece of metal right in front of them, they're badly mistaken.

Alloys are grouped by their general stain resistance, simply put: Stainless or not. Let's mention again, the term stainless doesn't really apply to knives, steels are resistant to corrosion, to various degrees, that's all. There is no reason to group the alloys by countries, since in today's world alloys from any country are used in cutlery from many different countries, e.g. Swedish steels are very popular in Japan, other Euro steels are used in the US and after all, even if the steel is produced in one country, that doesn't mean an identical alloy is not produced in another country, under different name.

Note

 - For more on steel in general, terminology and elements in the steel and how they affect alloy properties please refer to Knife Steel FAQ. The goal of this section is to review steels from the perspective of kitchen knife performance. Detailed information on steels including makers, country, technology and other information can be found in the interactive knife steel chart.

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Last updated - 05/27/14