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Blade Steels - Have We Been Fleeced By Marketing?

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by rogatsby, Apr 22, 2019.

  1. rogatsby


    Jun 19, 2018
    Like the majority of people here, I have always tended to avoid the cheaper steels when I could, especially Chinese cheap steels like 8cr13mov.

    Then I bought a Kershaw Atmos which has an 8cr13mov blade, largely because I loved the design and the action. It was cheap, but was really well made for its price, and I bought it despite the blade steel. Well, I have been using it a bit, and the blade steel seems to work fine. Does it hold an edge forever? Of course not, but for a light to medium use EDC knife, I have been quite pleased with it. And I haven't noticed a drastic drop-off in the edge retention compared to something like a Delica with VG-10.

    Then I started hearing about other people who use knives with 8cr, 420HC, AUS8, and other similar steels, who mostly seem pretty happy with the performance.

    Today, I came across this video, in which a guy tests S30V, 1080, and 8cr13mov in real life rope cutting and cardboard cutting tests, and he found no discernible difference in the performance or edge retention.

    So my question - has blade steel emphasis been a marketing ploy to a certain extent? How much real life advantage does a so-called super steel really offer? I have knives with nicer steel, and of course they work fine, but they will all go dull after being used a lot, no matter what the steel is. The cheaper steels will go dull probably faster, but I am not sure how much of that is just due to preconception and bias on my part. They all go dull, but the expensive steels are generally harder to sharpen.

    I will still probably avoid the "lesser" steels, but I think that will be more due to the fact that knives that use the cheap steels are just generally inferior overall in terms of fit, finish, action, etc., rather than due to pure blade performance and edge retention.
  2. DeadboxHero

    DeadboxHero Triple B Handmade, Custom Knives Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Mar 22, 2014
    Here is a better test of S30V

    colin.p likes this.
  3. DeadboxHero

    DeadboxHero Triple B Handmade, Custom Knives Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Mar 22, 2014
    Alex is a good maker, good sharpener and makes great videos but he needs to work on his control when testing.

    Edge Finish is an important consideration to express the harder Carbides in the S30v as well as the abrasive type.

    I would not think of S30V as the beacon of Performance to judge all other higher end steels either.

    You're really missing out if that's the case here.

    Last edited: Apr 22, 2019
    jux t and marcinek like this.
  4. KAEDC

    KAEDC Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 25, 2013
    The the short answer is yes, but that isn't to say there isn't a significant difference in steels, but chemistry is only a part, I'm not gonna try and get technical, @DeadboxHero knows his shit tho (I need to get a 4V EDC from him!).

    For my typical uses, I am well aware that my knives could be made of a nice mild cheese for all performance I need. I get the luxury of being able to choose my knives based entirely on my aesthetics if I so choose. That doesn't stop me from buying nice steel, but is freeing to know.
    Lapedog likes this.
  5. rogatsby


    Jun 19, 2018
    I'm not "missing out." I have knives with S35VN, ZDP-189, S30V, XHP, etc. I just haven't really done any personal testing, because I really don't need to. And I will continue to prefer knives with nicer steels.

    The guy in the video admits his testing is not perfect, but he also makes an important point. If 8cr13mov is as bad as everyone says it is, there should have been a noticeable difference. He sharpened all the knives identically, and made the same cuts on the same materials.
    Thomas Linton likes this.
  6. Shotgun


    Feb 3, 2006
    I use my knife multiple times a day at work. There is a HUGE leap between sak steel and my hap40/m4 spydies. Sharpen every other day or once a month? I’ll take once a month.
  7. rogatsby


    Jun 19, 2018
    Don't take my thread to be a rant along the lines of "premium steels are worthless," or "blade steel doesn't matter!" That is not what I am saying at all, as I pointed out earlier. I will continue to prefer "nicer" steels.

    What I am thinking, however, is that I may be less reluctant to buy certain knives that are otherwise good just because they are made with "lesser" steels. The other thought is that people may be paying an excessive premium for the super steels, since many are reporting that the difference in performance my not be that pronounced.
    Black Oak Bladeworks likes this.
  8. DeadboxHero

    DeadboxHero Triple B Handmade, Custom Knives Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Mar 22, 2014
    Should I make videos with bad control to sway you than? Looks like you do need to do some testing so you don't get "fleeced":D

    Those are production knives anyways, there is more Performance to be had with custom geometry and heat treatment and steels that companies won't touch.

    That's what I meant about missing out.

    No biggie.

    mpm0097 and rogatsby like this.
  9. Rykjeklut

    Rykjeklut Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    May 23, 2018
  10. IIDiode


    Feb 16, 2017
  11. WillB


    Feb 3, 2007
    Not an expert here, but as steels are always a trade off some some sort, it seems if you're priority is edge retention, than you may prefer a specific steel vs another. In a folder, I'd think edge retention and corrosion resistance would be prioritized over say toughness per se. Two, I'd also assume that while X steel better than Y, there's a diminishing return where one is spending more and more and more $, for smaller and smaller improvements in performance, often at the expense of other properties.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2019
    BITEME and Banter 247 like this.
  12. WillB


    Feb 3, 2007
    Never underestimate good D2!

    JupiterPaladin likes this.
  13. GronK

    GronK Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 1, 2001
    Fleeced by marketing? No. Just responding to the wants and needs of the customers.
    Alsharif likes this.
  14. WillB


    Feb 3, 2007
    Good marketing is convincing people they have "wants and needs" they didn't know existed, and often don't... :cool:
  15. Banter 247

    Banter 247

    Feb 22, 2019
    Perspective is almost universally broken with regard to steel performance. We’re promised improved performance if we buy a given steel, and we chase that promise and drink the kool aid deeply, without regard for geometry, heat treatment, hrc (one product of the treatment), application, our technique and habits, etc. We like easy, and we’re quick to settle on what looks like an easy conclusion.

    There is a huge difference between 8cr13mov and S30V, but how big the difference is varies tremendously as a wide variety of other factors contribute to results.

    I think the best way to speak about steels is in terms of “chemical potential”, since it builds in and reinforces the point that so much goes into the end experience.
  16. rogatsby


    Jun 19, 2018
    I've seen his videos. They are great. And Pete also got a surprisingly great result with 8cr13mov. And he also loves the Kershaw Atmos :D Here is the testing he actually did with the Atmos with 8cr.

  17. 115Italian


    Nov 13, 2015
    There’s nothing wrong with wanting something nice. A quality knife with quality steel is a good tool to own. It doesn’t have to be the latest and greatest materials. It doesn’t have to cost above a certain $ amount either.

    USMCPOP Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 6, 2016
    Like my grandfather said of beer, "There's none bad, just some better than others."
  19. rogatsby


    Jun 19, 2018
    I agree. And like I have said multiple times in this thread, I will personally continue to prefer higher end steels. But it's just something to keep in mind. You have to think about whether the prices they are charging just because a knife has a "super steel" are really worth it. Yes, there should be a premium for better quality steel. But the amounts are getting a bit unreasonable in some cases. On the flip side, I think I will be less reluctant to buy a knife with an "inferior" steel from now on if I like the design, it is well made, has good blade geometry, etc.
    115Italian and Eli Chaps like this.
  20. Snipe 1

    Snipe 1

    Apr 21, 2006
    It's mostly good marketing. Let's face it, 99% of even the knife nerds who cruise knife forums had never even heard of these new steels until Sal Glesser of Spyderco mentions them, much less the general public. Suddenly, you see posts like "I've always wanted a knife in that steel". Yeah, the steel you had never heard of until the day before, but you've always wanted it...
    Shrub, JD Bear and phikap like this.

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