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H1 steel, what's the catch?

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by NetshadeX, Jul 27, 2014.

  1. NetshadeX


    Oct 17, 2013
    So let me just sum this up here:

    - truly 100% resistant to staining.
    - work hardens all the way up to 68 HRC (serrated edge apparantly hovers around 63-64 out of the box)
    - and supposedly DOESN'T get brittle at higher HRCs, in theory placing it above exotic supersteels like ZDP-189, which does get somewhat brittle.

    I read an article where they measured the hardness of a Spyderco H1 Salt where the spine was at 58 HRC and the edge around 65, which is pretty much ideal, combining good edge retention with a tough spine behind it.

    Now with all that said, there HAS to be a catch right? Surely if H1 was that epic we'd see more knives made of the stuff right? Can anyone educate me on the downsides to H1?

  2. jobasha11


    Oct 9, 2013
    It gets scratched up pretty easily... thats about it:)
  3. Kershaws


    Aug 3, 2013
    Edge retention in my experience holds similar to 8Cr13MoV/AUS8. Sometimes it does better, it varies with me. If you look on the forums, most people complain about its inferior edge retention as well. But besides from that, it takes an edge easily. So I guess that's the catch you're looking for. Also a tip, I find that H1 is best with serrations/toothy edges, I have tried putting a fine edge but it just does not want to cooperate, no big deal
    sliceofaloha likes this.
  4. Kershaws


    Aug 3, 2013
    I second that. Expect your knife to look like it's been through a wreck with only light use. If you have it in a pocket with keys, yeah..good luck with that one
  5. NetshadeX


    Oct 17, 2013
    That's good to know, thanks for that. About your comment on edge retention. I read somewhere that H1 plain edges apparantly start out with questionable edge retention but supposedly get better at it over time with the "steel" becoming increasingly harder after use. The factory grinding on the serrated edges apparantly "pre-work hardens" the edge giving it better retention than it's plain edge siblings.

    Just theory though, I lack real world experience with it. I just got mine yesterday. Time will tell if this is true.
  6. Lycosa


    Aug 24, 2007
    All I know is that every knut needs one Spyderco Salt knife. Serrations for me.
  7. craytab

    craytab Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 26, 2012
    You seem to already know a lot about this steel. All I know is I consider it soft. It will lose an edge quickly but sharpens up fast and takes a great edge. As a lite edc, at the end of the day, all that is needed for me to keep the razor edge is a couple passes on a ceramic rod. I got a little ding in the edge and all that was needed to get it out was 10 or so passes on the rod per side.

    As for rust resistance, it does what spyderco says it will. For the last 2 months mine has spent about 6-10 hours a week completely submerged in fresh water. No rust whatsoever. And yes, everyone should have at least one!
  8. fzla226


    Jun 2, 2013
    Grinding is difficult for it to the point where spyderco only does hollow grinds on it. As they can do both sides at one time while the alloy work hardens. It would be impractical to put a flat grind at any time because you'd be grinding a hardened piece when you grind the other side.
  9. newdebate


    May 10, 2014
    How does grinding "work harden" the edge of a knife?
  10. fzla226


    Jun 2, 2013
    Not the edge. The blade itself. You can only grind one side at a time with a flat grind. You grind one side, the blade hardens, then then you're grinding a nearly fully hardened side. Hard on equipment.
  11. James Y

    James Y

    Feb 18, 1999
    Those who say that H1 loses its edges quickly have GOT to be talking about plain edge versions. Because although SE H1(like any knife edges) does need resharpening occasionally if it's used hard often, I find it doesn't need it as often as many "super-steels" in PE or SE.

  12. mars5l


    Mar 18, 2014
    Why is spyderco appear to be the only maker to use this steel? I wish i could see a video on how exactly it is made with nitrogen
  13. Gator97

    Gator97 Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 10, 2000
    63-64HRC hardness of H1 should do better than AUS8 which is typically 56-58HRC. Can't comment on Spyderco, I have only used BM 100H2O, which is also H1, and speced at 58-60HRC.
    Even make very low wear resistance alloys do quite well with thin, polished edges at 63-64HRC, at least noticeably better than AUS8.
    I haven't had a chance to use that Benchmade for a long time, but from what I see posted online, it is rather unlikely the edge will harden up during normal knife use.
  14. John_0917

    John_0917 Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 15, 2014
    The only downsides are possibly the mediocre edge retention in plain edge versions and the vulnerability to scratches. My circa 2 month old Tasman Salt SE has quite a few scratches on it from general use. I don't mind, it is just something to note though.

    I should add, however, that my S30V Blur sustained fairly significant scratches recently from cutting up a few cardboard electronics boxes so even the vaunted standard bearer of the PM steels has it's weak points.
  15. Big Mike

    Big Mike

    Aug 30, 2006

    And I would love to see steel being atomized in the CPM process,

    ...but I imagine it's not a very camera friendly environment.

    I believe the nitrogen is injected into the molten alloy mixture.

    Big Mike
  16. michaelm466


    Mar 5, 2009
    Thats the catch, it only good edge retention in serrated edge where the edge is up in the higher 60s, in plain edge I've seen it measured around 55-56, which is why it performs like 8cr13, though it is very easy to sharpen. You can get custom makers to flat grind a Salt blade for you though if you wish, its just time consuming and difficult, too much so to be feasible for a production company, also I remember reading in order for the PE version to work harden you would have to sharpen it a belt grinder and it would slowly harden over time from the repeated sharpenings, maybe if you used it hard enough that the blade actually heated up during use like lots and lots of cardboard cut quickly. I had a plain edge Salt 1 that I ended up selling, but now have a SE Pacific Salt that I really like, I also have a SE hawkbill Ladybug, they're the only 2 SE knives I have in my collection.
  17. me2


    Oct 11, 2003
    H1 is not a powder metallurgy product (CPM or otherwise).

    The nitrogen is added in the melt or during the ladle transfer.

    Work hardening does not mean it hardens while you use it for work.

    My Salt 1's do not "rust" in the sense they don't patina or get that orange/red rust we are used to seeing. The blades will oxidize around the laser etchings and turn blue. They will also darken slightly if left with a coarse finish on the edge. This was after leaving it clipped in my swim trunks in the neighbor's salt water pool.

    My serrated H1 folder lost the high sharpness of the individual scallops fairly quickly. No real advantage found over the plain edge one in that regard.

    The Salt series is hollow ground on both sides at once because flat grinding at the speeds they use in the factory causes the blades to warp to the point that they can't be finished. Flat grinding one side will not "work harden" the whole blade. Heat does not cause work hardening, it undoes it. Grinding generally will leave a very thin work hardened layer just under the layer that was removed. It does this to basically all steels, not just H1. I don't see any way for this to translate into the knives edge holding, unless you consider a case hardened knife to have good edge holding.

    When doing edge retention tests, I found it to be very similar to some knives I have in 420HC. This was after repeated tests and sharpenings. The 420HC blades were ahead, then the Salt 1, then the 420HC took the lead again. The edge retention did get better during the later tests, but that was due to a pretty rough edge from the factory, not work hardening. It stabilized in the third test, and all the original factory grind marks had been removed.

    It does sharpen easily, scratch easily, won't rust, will stain a little (but it wipes off easily). Any claims of actual rusting should be viewed with healthy skepticism, as contamination is a concern. Using stones that were previously used on carbon steel can contaminate stainless in general, and H1 is no different.
    marrenmiller and kreole like this.
  18. thescoutsurvivor


    Mar 14, 2014
    In my experience it is an amazing steel. but it scratches very easily and in my opinion is should have better edge retention for its price.
  19. actionyak


    Feb 13, 2011
    I've never used a serrated edge Salt, but I love my plain edge Salt. As others have mentioned, the only downside I've found in the PE salt is lack of edge retention. It does take a crazy sharp edge very easily, though. As my dedicated saltwater fishing knife, that is a tradeoff I will make every time not to have to even begin to worry about rust.
  20. NetshadeX


    Oct 17, 2013
    Thanks a lot guys, I'm learning a lot here. :thumbup:

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