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Why might top makers hold onto old steels?

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by SS234, Nov 21, 2020.

  1. SS234


    Jul 18, 2020
    I have no clue. I mean like CRK with S35VN which is barely different than the S30V it replaced. Or William Henry with ZDP-189. Some custom makers still use 440C. They can't say not to wear out their belts on a $5,000 knife? Stick with production ones though. I don't understand why the top knives do not move with the times. Not that it really matters to me personally. S35VN is good to me. Still I would think he would be losing sales to Spyderco and Benchmade already. Again, I have no clue.
  2. skyhorse

    skyhorse Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 30, 2010
    New isn't necessarily better .
  3. Ron Sabbagh

    Ron Sabbagh Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Sep 15, 1999
    Maybe because they work and the makers are familiar with the steel and know how best to tweak it.
    insta9ves, Lee D, Smaug and 9 others like this.
  4. Therom


    Nov 13, 2013
    I care less and less about steels
    I like some, don’t really like others... I am fine with 154CM, 12c27n, s30v or anything above
    Sometime even 9cr13mov is fine depending on price

    I really think steel is often an over hyped question
  5. cbach8tw

    cbach8tw Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 9, 2006
    The makers know how to work them and get the best possible performance out of them. The latest steel does not mean that the old stuff is bad or will not perform. I believe Big Chris likes to experiment with different steels too.
    oldmanwilly likes this.
  6. Tx308

    Tx308 Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 30, 2014
    One train of thought on the issue I've heard and that makes sense to me is production cost. Not talking about the materials but the wear and tear on machinery and the cost of sanding belts, etc.
    Working 1095 for example is easier than even 440c, at least that's my understanding, correct me if I'm wrong.

    I would love to see traditional knife makers move up to 20cv or equivalent but the cost would be more than I'd be willing to pay I fear.
  7. eveled

    eveled Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 11, 2016
    You dance with the one that brought you. If it’s not broke don’t fix it.
  8. Wild Willie

    Wild Willie Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 19, 2018
    We all tend to stick with what's familiar... I think it's human nature. Personally I look for non-super steels when I buy a knife, to me geometry and optimal heat treatment are more important. I personally prefer a more easily maintained steel and like the charisma and character of an old fashioned carbon steel... Some makers I'd imagine have a pretty loyal customer base, and rather than re-vamp a product line stick with what they're already good at.
    old hippy, jackknife and Edgeoflife like this.
  9. stabman

    stabman Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 17, 2007
    Some makers that have using the same steel for decades bring you the absolute best that can be got out of that steel. :)

    And sometimes it's because they just like that steel.

    Also, sometimes newer and "better" isn't better for certain applications/people.
    A friend of mine loves Benchmade's 154CM.
    He got a knife in S30V and ended up chipping it a bit with the way he uses it.
    Not big chips--more like micro-chipping--but it's something that didn't happen with 154CM run at a certain hardness. It would more dull or roll rather than chip.
  10. Legendary_Jarl


    Feb 8, 2010
    Plenty of European knife makers use 440A and 420HC equivalents. They just make them work. Why fix what isn't broken?
    jackknife likes this.
  11. SS234


    Jul 18, 2020
    Interesting answers. I do know that Buck in particular has such good heat treat. That their 420J2 often has better edge retention than steels well above it. Depending on whom profiled and heat treated the blade.
    DMG likes this.
  12. Kreyzhorse


    Jan 15, 2013
    Hell, I got sucked into the newer, better, next amazing steel thing and after a bit, I realized that I was pretty happy with 154CM and VG 10. Newer doesn't mean better and if you use a blade, sooner or later you are going to have to sharpen it anyway.
  13. sabre cat

    sabre cat Basic Member Basic Member

    Jul 4, 2014
    I remember chasing new steels a few years ago. Trying to get the latest and greatest.

    I have pretty much stopped. 154cm is fine for how I use a knife. I can get 154cm and S30v knives at a reasonable price.

    Maybe that is why. Knife manufacturers design and build knives to a certain price point.
    Kreyzhorse and Therom like this.
  14. Mitchell Knives

    Mitchell Knives Knifemaker Moderator

    May 21, 2000
    In terms of factory knives, companies choose steels based on performance for the intended use, price, availability, HT treat requirements and machinability. These are all important factors when you are making thousands of knives.

    Custom makers take these factors into account as well, but they have much more leeway considering that they are producing a dramatically lower volume of knives. They can utilize a variety of steels without having to fundamentally change their process.

    I've been using mostly 80CRV2, O1, 1095, A2 and D2 lately because they are versatile and all perform well.

    People have to decide what properties they want in a steel and choose accordingly.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2020
    jbmonkey, matt009au and Rhinoknives1 like this.
  15. bdmicarta

    bdmicarta Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 16, 2012
    Even 440C is good if done well. Newer steels might hold an edge longer, but will be harder to sharpen. The steel composition is only one of the factors in how well a knife performs.

    In my heart I know this but yet for the few folding knives that I carry I continue to chase after the latest and greatest steel. But my sharpest EDC knife was a Benchmade in D2 that I bought used, the previous owner had put a good polished edge on it.

    There is the other possibility- that people who buy custom knives never actually use them so it doesn't matter what the steel is. I've bought a lot of custom hunting knives with no intention of actually using any of them. I do very little hunting these days, I have one or two knives set aside that I would actually use in the unlikely event that I would need one.
  16. Lodd

    Lodd Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 23, 2015
    Because the heat treatment and craftsmanship are more important than the steel type. And because switching steels would require a large investment in learning all its' intricacies. So makers have a hard choice: will they devote time and energy to furthering their understanding of a steel they are already good with, or start the learning curve at the beginning with a new steel?

    A lot of makers seem to prefer sticking with tried and trusted steel, honing their skills with that.
    Steven W. Knight and Danke42 like this.
  17. Danke42


    Feb 10, 2015
    For a custom maker refining their work is like climbing a mountain. When finally reach the peak after many steps and time they can see the other peaks surrounding then but they can't just leap from one peak to another on a whim. They have to walk down and start a new climb.

    Not everyone has the time and extra funds to do that. I think more than a few subscribe to "if it ain't broke".
    sodak and Lodd like this.
  18. kvaughn

    kvaughn Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    I have found that the grind and heat treat are more important to me than the steel.
    I also don't mind sharpening but hate chipping.
  19. afishhunter

    afishhunter Basic Member Basic Member

    Oct 21, 2014
    1) The "Old Steels" like 1095/5160, 440A/440C and 420HC still work just fine.

    2) Not everyone "needs" or wants a 'super steel".

    3) Not everyone has diamond plates or a SiC stone.

    4) A lot of folks place "ease of sharpening in the field" at the top of their "must have's"

    Personally, I don't "need" a knife that will hold a working edge for a week or more, that takes an hour or more to sharpen when (not "if") it gets dull. All knives eventually get dull and need sharpened. A "lower"/"obsolete" steel may only hold its working edge for a couple days, but only takes a couple swipes on the stone, strop, or steel to restore the edge. The "softer" older/"obsolete" steel can also be sharpened with a river rock if afield for an extended period, and you lost or"forgot" a sharpening stone. Rolled edges are a heck of a lot easier and faster to fix than a "harder" chipped blade, too.

    In 60 years, I've never "needed" a blade over 57 to 59 on the Rockwell C scale.
    Do I have harder? Yes. Up to 61 or 62, I believe; D2, CPM154, and S30V by Buck. They don't get as much use as my 1095, 440A, and 420HC knives of the same style/pattern, though.

    5) Believe it or not, Most people (including "knife knuts") don't know, and don't care what the differences are between the various steels used for blades.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2020
  20. knarfeng

    knarfeng senex morosus moderator Staff Member Super Mod Moderator

    Jul 30, 2006
    There are some folks who must have the latest and greatest alloy, else the knife is trash.
    But the total sum of the knife is a lot more than just the blade alloy.
    It's the ergonomics, the balance, the blade shape, the smoothness of the action, the blade geometry, the fit and finish.

    Blade alloys are fun to chase, and I have done my share of it, but the overall knife is what most folks are looking for.

    "Good enough, is the enemy of better".

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