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So About Those Carbon Steels...

Discussion in 'Traditional Folders and Fixed Blades' started by Eli Chaps, Jan 10, 2019.

  1. abbydaddy

    abbydaddy Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 14, 2014
    I really don't like carbon steels. My main practical use for my traditional folders is cutting fruit for my kids, and I really dislike the flavor/smell that carbon steel imparts (lots of people really don't perceive the smell/taste, so YMMV. Also, apparently patina reduces the strength of the reaction). I also don't like the look of patina. There really is nothing that I like more about carbon steel than stainless.

    The only reason that I own any carbon steel blades is because of the annual forum knives and the fact that GEC doesn't like using steels that I like. Other than forum knives, my only carbon blades are a KABar, a Mora, and my GEC Whaler. The Mora is a knife I use for wood working. The GEC Whaler I have because, frankly, no one makes a better whaler than GEC (it is a stunning piece of cutler's art) and GEC won't make one in stainless. If GEC made a stainless whaler I would hop on it right away.
    Pomsbz, Jak3, jmarston and 4 others like this.
  2. Camillus

    Camillus Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 3, 2015
    Your post is about carbon steels not just 1095. Its not easy being so generic as there are lots of them.

    I personally would swap all of the carbon steel knives in my collection to stainless in a heartbeat.

    I have read on traditional tools forums that some people’s sweat causes more rust than others. I believe this may be true as I seem to have enormous trouble with carbon knives rusting if I put them away after handling without a very thorough and careful wipe down and oiling.
    Shurke, Will Power and abbydaddy like this.
  3. Will Power

    Will Power

    Jan 18, 2007
    Just a minor thing, most Custom makers use mainly stainless although many will offer carbons to order. A lot of people talk about patina and its beauty, it certainly can be the case, they also point out that stainless by definition is incapable of this. With stainless blades I ALWAYS prefer brushed, matte,as ground etc to high polish 'crocus' effects.On polished stainless, etches, scratches, sharpening errors all show up rather ugly-which is why I like the brushed effect. Last year's Forum Knife in 154 has very nice matte blades and if all my traditionals were magicked to this overnight I don't think I'd be despairing:D One problem I have with carbon and patina is the weird darkening and fouling you get on the tang by the pivot, you often get this ugly 'arc' mark that is difficult to clean off.

    But like I say, minor ;)
  4. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps

    Apr 20, 2018
    I have to agree. I've always avoided carbon steels. Even steels like BD1, BD1N, or even well done 8Cr are pretty inexpensive, widely available and make for fine EDC blades.
  5. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps

    Apr 20, 2018
    Understood. I tried to keep the overall post generic, but I mentioned 1095 specifically because I believe that is the variety GEC uses.
  6. r redden

    r redden Gold Member Gold Member

    May 23, 2015
    Dude you have your hands full with all those little guys. :thumbsup::thumbsup:
    Prester John and ddavis like this.
  7. JohnDF

    JohnDF Gold Member Gold Member

    May 14, 2018
    Living in the perfect climate, the foothills of Northern California, carbon steels works well for me.
    I hardly ever have to fight rust, unless I wash the knife and don't dry it well enough. I like both carbon and stainless.
  8. Jsega51

    Jsega51 Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 11, 2015
    I have an old sock that is now pretty well coated in mineral oil from wiping down knives. When I’ve used a knife or it’s gotten wet, it takes all of 3 seconds to wipe it down quick after taking it out of my pocket at night.
    Lhpanther, Bloefield and Eli Chaps like this.
  9. Old Hunter

    Old Hunter

    Jul 12, 2012
    I like stainless steel blades but I like carbon steel blades too. Just pick a knife you like and buy it; then use it and keep it sharp, wipe it off every now and then (especially if it gets wet or bloody) oil and keep using it. Eventually it will have patina, spiderwebs, pepper spots, etc. Just part of the charm. Like a blue steel rifle or shotgun - if you use it eventually it gets some wear - that's just part of it. OH
    Bloefield, Prester John and Eli Chaps like this.
  10. Dean51

    Dean51 Basic Member Basic Member

    Aug 30, 2014
    That's very true.

    I hate oxidation or what people call patina, to me it is one step away from rust and it makes a knife look neglected. Yet some people deliberately stick a perfectly good knife in warm cider or leave fruit residue on it. Then they call it beautiful. It's a concept I can not wrap my mind around. My preference is different than their preference, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    The discussion really gets muddied when someone says, it was good enough for my grandfather and father, therefore it is good enough for me and should be good enough for you PERIOD.

    Eli Chaps Use what you want and ignore what others say. You won't know if you will like carbon until you use it. You're right "GEC has some gorgeous offerings but I've been reluctant based on the 1095." Watch GEC find one you like and give it a try, If you like it that's great. If not, GEC's will sell quickly on here or the bay.
    Eli Chaps and r redden like this.
  11. Pàdruig

    Pàdruig Live and Let Die Platinum Member

    Dec 1, 2016
    We are on a knife forum so it is safe to assume that those of us here who frequent said forum are going to be rather opinionated when it comes to steel choices. I do not find anything wrong with that, I find it rather interesting to see what the varying preferences are.

    I've been involved with muzzle loaders for many years (traditional ones). Good old fashioned black powder is incredibly corrosive and will rust a barrel up in short order if one can't be bothered to maintain it. I simply apply the same principles to my knives. Some like a worry free steel and I totally get that. For me though, the maintenance (small as it might be) has become second nature. I do not have rust problems, I do not mind patina (it is the natural course a high carbon blade takes), I appreciate the ease of sharpening (particularly in the field), and I enjoy a properly heat treated steel that takes a keen edge in short order.

    I also do not judge others for their preferences when they differ from mine. As has been said more than a few times already, get what appeals to you, if it doesn't work out, consider it a lesson learned and try something different. I can't expect my philosophies and practices to be the same as everyone else nor should anyone expect theirs to be mine.

    Live and let live. While you are at it, enjoy it! :D
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019
    untytled, lex2006, PaulS. and 6 others like this.
  12. r redden

    r redden Gold Member Gold Member

    May 23, 2015
    Since we are talking carbon and SS and I know we all like pictures I grabbed my kitchen knives they are a good example. I know they aren't normal kitchen knives but they have one thing in common they all went into service pretty much unused a year ago. When I moved into my apartment I just grabbed some knives from my collection to use daily in the kitchen. I wash these knives in dawn as soon as I am finished using them then dry them and put them up. The carbon gets a very light swipe of mineral oil. This is what they look like now with a years worth of kitchen duty.
    The knives are a Buck 119 420 HC Stainless, an Enzo necker with 12C27 Stainless Mora some kind of Carbon and two GEC H20"s 1095 Carbon.

    Cambertree, jwb01, abbydaddy and 5 others like this.
  13. PaulS.

    PaulS. Basic Member Basic Member

    Jul 16, 2018
    I just received a Lansky turn box sharpener today. It has medium and fine ceramic rods that fit into slots drilled at either 25 or 20 degrees. It's essentially a very low budget sharp maker (I paid about $12 USD). I immediately put it to the test on two of my Case knives, my CV peanut and my stainless teardrop. It blew me away. I got literal shaving sharp edges on both after about 20 passes on each side with the fine rods at 20 degrees. I can tell no difference between the steels. I've been a proponent of CV steel being easier to sharpen, but in this case, there is no discernible difference.

    So, I recommend picking a knife pattern you like regardless of whether it's carbon or stainless.
  14. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps

    Apr 20, 2018
    @PaulS. I like to sharpen and stainless blades can be brought up to extreme edges and the low alloy stuff like Tru Sharp are very easy to get there. So I agree.

    And thanks for your service. I was a USAF Law Enforcement/Air Base Defense troop from '88-99. :)
    Chief, PaulS. and r redden like this.
  15. PaulS.

    PaulS. Basic Member Basic Member

    Jul 16, 2018
    :thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup: Thank you for your service too! I enlisted with no guaranteed job, so I ended up as a Security Specialist for my first 3.5 years. I didn't like walking around planes in Nebraska for 8 hours a day regardless of the weather, so I cross trained into Imagery Analysis as soon as I could. I had a varied and interesting career after that, retiring after about 20.5 years. I worked another 10 years as a defense contractor before retiring for good.
  16. SIG96

    SIG96 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 8, 2018
    I use both, however one of my favorite traditional knife lets off a bit of a metallic smell when I cut fruit. I don’t think it would bother most people however, I have a sensitive sense of smell thus it can get a bit annoying for me.
    abbydaddy and Eli Chaps like this.
  17. traumkommode

    traumkommode Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 3, 2015
    Honestly, it takes a little work to get some red rust on a blade if you're paying attention. Wiping the blade on the pants does a good job of allowing patina to form while keeping "kosher". I've cut up an apple, wiped the blade on my jeans, folded the knife, and then not rinsed it until the next day, and it was a little darkened but otherwise fine.

    There are some stainless steels that act a lot like carbon steels when it comes to sharpening. Carbon and tool steels will pick up corrosion, but unless you just leave it wet, it's probably not going to suffer any egregious corrosive damage. If it does, it's fairly easy to refinish a blade.

    I used to have ideas about how I wanted most of my knives to be stainless, and that, because I live in a super humid rainforest, that I'd be plagued by an upkeep regimen that would somehow get out of my control. Wrong. There's a homeostasis that the corrosion finds. Beyond that, I can Flitz (polish the blade with a polishing compound that removes the patina) every so often if I like. After a blade has patina-ed, it usually corrodes quicker than it did initially, however it finds the same homeostasis, unless I intentionally subject the blade to more extensive corrosion.

    Good on'ya for asking these questions, too. There are a lot of ideas that echo around out there only because people continue to speak them, and not because they describe what transpires on the material plane.
    PaulS., Eli Chaps and JohnDF like this.
  18. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps

    Apr 20, 2018
    When you have a wealth of knowledge like this and people who kindly offer their insight, it would be crazy not to ask questions!

    Thank you all for answering. :)
    Will Power and traumkommode like this.
  19. JohnDF

    JohnDF Gold Member Gold Member

    May 14, 2018
    Here is an example of a 1095 Carbon Steel knife that gets used pretty regularly. It has a lot of pocket time and has performed a lot of cutting duties. Granted, I don't cut food with it outside of the occasional block of cheese, and I live in an area with a favorable climate. You can see the scratches and abuse, but the blades haven't turned black and there is no rust. There are a few little pepper spots that I could probably Flitz off if I cared.


    Here is another 1095 blade that has also seen a lot of pocket time, but hasn't been used very hard. It still looks almost new despite being made almost six years ago.

    Last edited: Jan 13, 2019
    Travman, PaulS., Old Hunter and 4 others like this.
  20. Phil in Alabama

    Phil in Alabama

    Oct 31, 2005
    My preference is stainless, but if I see a knife that I like and it is not I won't let that put me off. I only rarely use any pocketknife on food, and if there's going to be blood and innards I'll most likely use a fixed blade. Having both stainless and non-stainless knives I can choose whichever I feel happens to be more appropriate for a situation. Any vegetable cutting we do will be with kitchen knives; some of those are plain cheap carbon steel, but they get used too
    JB in SC and Eli Chaps like this.

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