Best Steels for Making Knives

Whether it's in the kitchen, the shop, outdoors, or in the field, knives are one of the most important and commonly used tools that involve metal manufacturing. And while most every knife blade is made of steel, it might surprise you to learn just how many types of steel you’ll find in these tools.

Let’s take a closer look at why steel is the material of choice for knife blades, as well as the best steel for knife making. (Hint: There's more than one.) Knowing the best steels for making knives can help your company deliver a better all-around product -- even by tweaking the formula just a bit.

Best Steel for Knife Making

Steel, a combination of iron and carbon plus other materials, has long been the general metal of choice for making knife blades. Benefits of using steel for knife making include:

  • Hardness
  • Strength
  • Ductility
  • Sharpness
  • Edge retention
  • Corrosion (rust) resistance
  • Wear resistance
  • Ease of manufacturing

From here, certain alloys can be added to steel to improve on one or more of the above attributes. These alloys include chromium, nickel and magnesium, among others.

When different types of steel are made, steel makers follow a specific recipe to ensure they have the appropriate attributes. These recipes then get a vaguely unhelpful number. So, for your convenience, we’ve collected some of the best for reference.

Here are some of the steel grades we recommend as a knife manufacturer:

440C Steel

This type of steel is also commonly referred to as "carpenter's steel," namely because it's the type of steel that makes up many saws and saw blades. It's also commonly used to create smaller tools, such as pocket knives. One of the reasons for this is because it’s a stainless steel.

It's also very tough and durable, allowing it to easily slice through materials for years (with proper TLC).

RELATED: Stainless Steel Grades Chart PDF

S30V Steel

S30V is a durable, high-quality steel. It offers ideal toughness, edge-holding ability, and corrosion resistance, making it a favorite material among outdoors enthusiasts, adventurers, and hunters.

Why? It can stand up to the elements. This type of steel will basically never rust and is best for premium knives designed for use in rugged places. However, because it's such a high-quality steel, it's worth noting that knives with S30V often come with a premium price. You’ll have to decide whether your customer base is OK with taking on that cost burden.

S35VN Steel

Think of this as a better version of the S30V type of steel, as that's what it was specifically designed for. It does this with up to 20% more toughness, without sacrificing wear resistance.

It's like the S30V on steroids, and it's also easy to machine and finish.

CPM-T440V Steel

This steel is nicknamed "super steel" for a reason. It's one of the highest-quality steels on the market today, and is often found in custom or high-end knives.

There is one notable drawback to this type of steel, however -- it's hard to sharpen. However, it's because of how high-quality this steel is, you won't have to resharpen it very often.

4116 Krupp Steel

This steel is ideal for medical and pharmaceutical applications, as well as fine cutlery. Specifically, it blends ideal amounts of carbon and chromium, which help to give it superb strength, edge holding, and corrosion resistance.

This type of steel is very fine grained, which allows for a sharp and very precise cut.

154CM Steel

This is one of the best types of steel for knife making currently available, namely because it's corrosion-resistant and very strong.

However, it can be one of the more challenging steels to make and work with. You’ll want to partner with a metal manufacturer who’s credible and experienced with knife manufacturing.

1055 Carbon Steel

This steel has a fairly high carbon amount. Magnesium is the only other ingredient.. Because of its high carbon and magnesium content, it's known as one of the hardest steels around.

If you're looking for a knife with high strength and ideal impact resistance, this is the right steel to use in the blade.

Related: Carbon Steel Grades Chart in Easy PDF Form

VG-1 Steel

This is one of the best all-around steels made today, as it accomplishes a lot (i.e., good edge retention, blade strength, etc.) while also allowing for good cutting performance.

Different Knives for Different Lives

Are you using the best steels for making knives, based on their specific application? Obviously, different knife applications call for different types of steels. Brushing up on your steel options and becoming an expert can only help you deliver better products to customers -- knives that are easy to maintain and keep a great edge.

If you’re still struggling to decide on a knife steel, your knife manufacturer should be able to help.  There’s no such thing as “too many cooks” in this case -- early collaboration is usually a recipe for a successful end product.

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