Which Is The Best Steel For Kitchen Knives?

What is steel?

Hardness, in general, is a good thing. The harder the blade the better it will hold an edge and be able to cut through tough materials with ease- typically ranging from 55 – 60 on commercial kitchen knives which have been sharpened so they can slice up food easily. People who make their own tools prefer having softer blades because this gives them more control when working but there’s not always room for error if you’re trying really hard materials like steel or ceramic stones that might leave marks behind while cutting things up precisely lines.

What are the Properties of Steel?

Instability: The ability to resist force.

Strength: Resistance to permanent deformation.

Hardness: Resistance to fracture (also resistance to cracks and chips in heavy-duty applications). Steel is less tough as it becomes harder.

Abrasion Resistance: The ability to resist wear and abrasion.

Deficiency of corrosion: Resistance to corrosion caused by external elements.

Retention of an edge: Ability to hold an edge without resharpening

Instability: The ability of a steel to be hardened by heat treatment

Steel is not perfect. Steel is the best material for the job.

Steel performance depends on many factors and its properties are inversely proportional to each other. With that said, when an element is added to the recipe- because we want a specific property – we inevitably sacrifice another one of its characteristics for increased popularity among consumers who demand lighter weight or bigger blades without sacrificing edge retention and toughness.

As a knifemaker, the bet can be tricky because there has always been this balance between hardness/edge retention versus the amount of charge transfer particles (aka ability) in the blade. It is very important to choose which steels you would like to use based primarily on how they will perform optimally in terms of the tasks that will be carried out.

Elements Made of Steel

  • Carbon: Increases strength and hardness. A high-carbon alloy contains more than 0.5% carbon.
  • Nitrogen: Substitute for carbon. To increase hardness, nitrogen is used in place of carbon.
  • Chromium: Increases hardenability, corrosion resistance, and wear resistance, but decreases toughness in high quantities. 12% of steel is stainless.
  • Molybdenum: Enhances hardness, tensile strength, and corrosion resistance. Strengthening hardness and resisting corrosion.
  • Niobium: forms hard carbides that are wear-resistant. Reduces grain size and refined the structure.
  • Vanadium: Promotes fine grain structure and hardenability.
  • Tungsten: Increases wear resistance and are the second strongest carbide* former after vanadium.
  • Carbide: Compound containing carbon and another element.

Heat Treatment

Steel is a material that can be both versatile and durable, but it takes on different properties depending on how the metal has been heated. In order to change its structure from austenite (a low- temperature form) into martensite mode with higher strengths for particular tasks such as cutting tools or razor blades. Steel needs to go through quench cooling procedures which will specify just what type of tempered finish we want. 

Factors Affecting Knife Performance

A knife’s performance is determined by factors such as steel, heat treatment, and blade geometry. The type of edge also plays an important role in how well it will cut things while the weight or shape can affect handling characteristics like pocket presence when carrying around your everyday gear for work purposes.


Steel is an essential material for many things we use every day, but not all steels have equal properties. The type you choose depends on what your needs are: whether they’re edge retention and sharpening ability or just fine detail work with easy maintenance times; there’s perfect steel out there that will suit any need.

Heat Treatment

Heat treatment changes the properties of steel in many ways, not all can be analyzed with just a few words. Heat affects stain resistance and wears rates among other things which mean that it’s impossible to compare steels without acknowledging their differing levels or types (high alloy vs low).


Knives come in all shapes and sizes, but the most popular type is likely that which has an edge. The blade can be either convex or hollow ground to provide better performance depending on how you want your knife used- whether for cutting soft food like vegetables with minimal pressure behind it (like slicing tomatoes).


It is interesting to think about how the hardness of a blade can be so important in our lives. Something as simple as the kitchen knife we use every day can be made better with a little bit of research and understanding of what makes it cut well. Hopefully, this blog post has helped you understand more about how blades are rated for hardness and why that matters when it comes to your everyday cutting tasks. Do you have any questions about blade hardness or sharpening? Let us know in the comments.

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