Blade Steels - Have We Been Fleeced By Marketing?

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

  1. Danke42


    Feb 10, 2015
    I"ll take @Surfingringo as the local authority on what makes a good saltwater blade. I think he even has YouTube vids for anyone who's into that.
  2. Comeuppance

    Comeuppance Fixed Blade EDC Emisssary

    Jan 12, 2013
    I think the real failure of perception here lies with consumers assuming that the existence of premium steels somehow makes 8Cr13MoV some kind of garbage steel for plebs. It still cuts things, and is significantly better than mystery stainless.

    After years of working retail, I found the real gulfs in performance were between:
    1. ??? steel and entry-level named steels (8Cr, AUS8)
    2. Entry-level named steels and well-treated midrange steels (D2, S30V, S35VN)
    3. Well-treated midrange steels and well-treated tool steels (M4, ZDP-189, Maxamet)

    The difference between those steels is noticeable in practice. My Tuff Lite needed to be stropped daily after a typical retail shift, my Lionspy needed to be stropped about once every 3 shifts, and my Gayle Bradley needed to be stropped after about 5 shifts.

    I think we're only being "fleeced" if the company is using a substandard heat treatment or outright misinforming the consumer about the steel being used.
  3. Danke42


    Feb 10, 2015
    I think the real foolishness here is folks turning their noses up at ex-Super Steels like VG-10 for not being super enough now.
    Shrub, LowKey, scottyj and 3 others like this.
  4. cbrstar

    cbrstar Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 7, 2015
    I can't help think that the rise of super steel popularity directly corresponds to the invention of easy to use sharpening systems.

    For example D2 has been around since WW2. I remember as a kid in the late 80's telling my Dad how I wanted to buy a bayonet from the flea market for camping. He told me it wouldn't make for a good knife because the steel was too hard for me to sharpen properly. And honestly if I had to take a stone and free hand it he would be right. But now with a decent sharpening system even someone as inept as me can put a decent useable edge on it.

    People buying the cheap gas station knives are doing so because they don't know how to sharpen. In their mind its cheaper and better just to buy another cheap knife when thiers gets dull.
  5. Danke42


    Feb 10, 2015
    I think you're confusing hard with hard.

    Bayonets by their nature are "Tough" steels that are soft so they don't take an edge well regardless of the sharpening system.
  6. cbrstar

    cbrstar Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 7, 2015
    I still don't have a bayonet so i'm a bit ignorant about them. I like to think I could get enough of a bevel on one to do some basic camping tasks. But as you have pointed out there must be a reason no one uses them.
  7. Danke42


    Feb 10, 2015
    Because it's stuck on the end of a rifle barrel you don't want it to hard (brittle) or even too strong; if it goes into something and you bend your rifle barrel you're gonna have a bad day.
    buckfynn likes this.
  8. Mecha

    Mecha Titanium Bladesmith Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 27, 2013
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  9. Surfingringo

    Surfingringo Gold Member Gold Member

    May 25, 2013
    It is an interesting topic and one to which I have given much consideration...and not just regarding the "rust proof" steels. Personally, I never fully bought into the super steel craze. Kind of like you Snipe, it wasn't because I didn't believe that there were measurable differences between the wear resistance of vg10 and s110v, but rather because the differences didn't do me much good given my sharpening and usage protocols.

    I tend to keep my knives on the higher end of sharp so I sharpen early and often. Steels like s110v don't really offer much (if any) advantage if you are touching up your knives when they stop shaving arm hair. So to me there is little if any advantage and there can even be a disadvantage if I have to spend more time bringing them back to peak sharpness. I have to remember though that not everyone has the same needs and usage as I do. A guy working in a factory that has to cut acres of cardboard a day and doesn't have the means to resharpen might feel that a steel like s110v is the bee's knees. Even a guy that likes to use his knife for weeks or months into the lower levels of "sharp" before breaking out the jig and reprofiling might feel that s110v is a huge upgrade. Horses for courses.

    So it is with the rust proof steels I think. Some folks, even fishing folks...even saltwater fishermen, can get away with regular stainless steels with proper maintenance. In my use on the kayak, it was a nightmare trying to use those "non-salt" steels and knives. Unlike boat fishing, you are already drenched in saltwater as soon as you launch the kayak and everything will stay covered in salt for the duration of the trip. I spent years working with steels like s30v and though I found that I could keep the steel from showing surface corrosion, I was always fighting corrosion at the apex. I remember having to sharpen s30v (like heavy sharpening) after every session or two, sometimes when I had not even used the knife. The apex, because of it's thinness, is the first place that succumbs to the effects of a corrosive environment. I could live with a knife that showed some surface rust if I could get it to stay sharp, but that's the problem. It won't. Not in that environment. Steels like H1 and lc200n I can mount permanently on the kayak and not only do they survive the fishing sessions, they can sit there for months without so much as a rinse and still maintain the same hair popping edge with zero corrosive degradation. That is a steel characteristic that is very useful to me. Sure, most folks may not benefit from that level of corrosion resistance as much as I do but everyone benefits from it to one degree or another.

    I guess my point is that we all have different requirements but the specialized steels tend to excel most for the people who are doing chores that are most demanding of their particular attributes. So if I'm using a steel like H1/lc200n in brutal environments and getting these amazing results and talking about them then a lot of folks are intrigued by that and want a steel that will perform at that level. Even if, strictly speaking, they could live with a lesser steel. The same goes for me. I see a guy cut a mile of cardboard and baton through 10 penny nails with his XYZ tool steel and guess what? I want some of that XYZ. I may or may not ever need that level of performance but I like the idea of having a knife that is that capable.

    One other thing worth considering. Lc200n isn't really any more expensive than something like vg10, so why not?
  10. PWatkins


    Oct 20, 2017
    I'll take 3!!!!!:)
    Mecha likes this.
  11. gadgetgeek


    May 19, 2007
    I try to keep the rest of my fishing gear as salt resistant as possible, because no matter the maintenance, it will eventually get destroyed. I'm also beach fishing with a 4x4, so everything is covered in sand and salt, pivots get gunky and rusty, its just what happens. So do I need a corrosion proof steel for my fishing knives? no I don't need it. Does it take one more thing off the nightly maintenance list when I'd rather be having fun, you bet. Does it do the job it claims? Arguably the most important part, considering the topic, yes, it does work as advertised. But to be clear, I could and do use other knives, its just nice to have one less thing to worry about.
    craytab likes this.
  12. DocJD


    Jan 29, 2016
    Exactly this !

    I do feel ripped off if I pay extra for a "super steel" but receive no benefit due to a poor HT . :confused:
  13. justjed


    Oct 23, 2010
    And therein lies the rub. We have no idea what heat-treat protocol was used, and unless we want to subject our personal knife to a Rockwell hardness test, we can only guess how close it is to factory specs. Until we file or cut a piece off and send it out for spectroscopic analysis, we have no idea if the steel we are paying for is really the steel that we are getting, and then we have to break the piece in order to examine the grain structure and carbide formation. Until you have used it and sharpened it(properly) several times, you really have no idea if you have an actual quantifiable improvement in performance that couldn't be explained by better edge geometry or blade design. For the collector, there is no practical difference between 420-J2 and M390, except price. Collectors will pay extra for anything, it's about bragging rights just as much as personal satisfaction. And in my opinion, knives that will never cut anything have no place in this conversation.

    Saying the rest of us are getting fleeced is a little harsh(but not too harsh!). We pay extra for better steel, but don't necessarily get the best heat treatment. And each new 'super" steel IS a step up in some area or other, and in some conditions, just not always as big a step as we'd like, or have been led to believe. This keeps us buying knives, in the quest for better performance. Knife companies know this. And they also know that 98% of people will never use any knife anywhere near its true limits. (knives are for cutting stuff, not pounding into a tree and using it for a step) And since it's all about the bottom line, selling more knives, it's not in their best interest to just hand us a light-saber.
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2019
  14. SuburbanBarbarian


    Aug 12, 2018
  15. The Mastiff

    The Mastiff Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 21, 2006
    The super steel thing was bound to happen when most people were able to go home and log onto a computer and go onto forums like this one. Us customers were the ones asking for more, bigger and better steels. The knife companies only responded to what their customers asked and even demanded from them. I was one of those people too. You can go back to 2005-6 and see me asking Sal for Cruwear, 20CV, Super Blue, BG 42, and on and on.

    We had endless discussions about the attributes of this compared to that steel and argued the reasons why D2 and 440C and then even ATS 34/154cm were not as good as XYZ steels. Sal fed the flames when he brought out 440V/S60 and ZDP 189. Waiting in line for those releases only contributed to my desire, or demand for higher performing steels.

    There were a lot of us around that were studying and reading everything we could about different steels and researching every known knife maker to see who was using what and how it worked. There were guys that were out there doing stuff nobody else did like Farid Mehr who was using D3, T1 and other things no one else did. The murmurings for steel became louder and more urgent on the forums. I don't know exactly who coined the term "steel junky" but it was fairly accurate and it stuck.

    Sal G. himself was obviously always up for trying some new steel to see if it could improve performance and many firsts came directly or indirectly from him and his influence on the industry. The Mule Team program he started was never intended to be a large money maker for Spyderco. In fact Spyderco could have made more money using that production time and effort to make more of his best selling knives which always seemed to be in short supply which influenced a generation of new flippers to try and help pay for their knife habit.

    Taken advantage of by the knife manufacturers? Yeah, sure! :)

  16. bobe01


    Oct 27, 2012
    Super steel are fine for enthusiasts, but for average users I think average steels are better suited. My M390 and S30v knives are not used at all, they are dull and stay in a box as I don't have appropriate stones or skills to get them sharp, or have a patience to spend one hour for sharpening a knife.
    So, I believe that an average user, even advanced one doesn't NEED a supersteel knife as every quality knife can do all the tasks. And I do think that design, blade geometry/profile and heat treatment are far more important than a type of steel itself. Some "high end super steel knives" I owned or had chance to use, IMO were useless piece of ****.
  17. leghog


    Aug 10, 2013
    Yes, but, then again, that's the purpose of marketing.

    USMCPOP Basic Member Basic Member

    Jan 6, 2016
    Super steel - old Land Rover or Japanese Izuzu truck springs if you can get them. Good stuff.

    willc and DocJD like this.
  19. David Richardson

    David Richardson Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 30, 2018
    If you have the skill to sharpen 8Cr you have the skill to sharpen S30V. Get better stones. Unless you use them all the time they'll last you a lifetime.

    Most days an 8Cr pocket knife would suit me just fine. Some days I do more cutting and like more edge retention. For kitchen knives I absolutely appreciate more edge retention assuming the blade geometry is good. Good blade geometry first. Then good steel. I prefer both.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2019
  20. David Richardson

    David Richardson Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 30, 2018
    Oh boy... a lot of problems with the tests he's doing. "I did 40 cuts in cardboard with both and they were both dull. Therefore they're equal." Yeah... no. I think he does have a point. But his testing isn't really showing what he thinks it's showing.

    The way he's testing his paper cutting is also an issue. He's holding the paper so it's stiff. And he's doing multiple short cuts. The point is, he's not really checking for a known level of sharpness. At ~4:00 in the video both blades are clearly dull and he's forcing them through the paper. Of course there's no difference. I could probably get a dull lawn mower blade to cut paper doing it that way.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2019
    Mo2 likes this.

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