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Thread: Stainless steel vs Carbon steel

  1. #1
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    Default Stainless steel vs Carbon steel

    This has probably been asked before but here goes.
    What's better, stainless or carbon steel for a blade? I should imagine that you can get a better edge on a carbon steel than stainless?
    The advantage of stainless is that it shouldn't rust or discolour to same degree that ordinary steel will.
    When it comes to using a Firesteel does stainless work as well as carbon steel?
    Git orf moi land!

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by happybonzo View Post
    This has probably been asked before but here goes.
    What's better, stainless or carbon steel for a blade? I should imagine that you can get a better edge on a carbon steel than stainless?
    The advantage of stainless is that it shouldn't rust or discolour to same degree that ordinary steel will.
    When it comes to using a Firesteel does stainless work as well as carbon steel?
    With ferro rods, stainless and carbon both work fine. The deciding factor is the hardness of the blade, because its only job is to scrape bits off the rod and create enough friction to make them sparks. With flint, on the other hand, the sparks come from the metal, so I don't think stainless does work, though I've never tried.

    I find edge retention to be much better on Carbon, and I also find it to be much easier to sharpen.

    Stainless, of course, is often better if in really wet conditions, particularly seawater. My dad doesn't like using a carbon kitchen knife I made on onions, because it discolours them.

    I have a couple Moras in stainless and several more in carbon - the stainless is good, certainly better than any other stainless blade I've seen in that price region, but I still prefer the carbon. It also develops more character with age, which I like

    At the end of the day it's down to preference, really. I'm willing to put in the work required to stop my carbon blades rusting, and I like the patina they get. Some people will consider the lower sharpenability worth it, for the corrosion resistance.

    Hope this helps!
    Pete
    All will rise again for a better day; earth, green, with waterfalls where eagles hunt their prey

  3. #3
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    *IMHO* If you live near the sea stainless is the only way to go unless you vinegar your blade. *IMHO*

    My stainless knife goes with me sea fishing and anytime that I'm going to be working around the shore.

    If I'm away for any length of time though its the mora carbon steel that usually gets packed.
    Not all who wander are lost

  4. #4
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    carbon steel all the way, holds a better edge and easier to sharpen. the less time sharpening the better imo
    if blackening or rust realy bothers you just rub it down with fine abrasive paper

    pete

  5. #5

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    good modern stainless steels are every bit as good as a carbon steel, you can't say a carbon blade is easier to sharpen than a stainless as it entirely depends on the type of steel and it's RC..if you like carbon stay with it, if you like stainless use that..personally I use both depending on the situation.

  6. #6
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    it is entirely subjective- for example, i find my stainless mora to be an excellent knife- it is easy to sharpen , holds and edge well and will throw good sparks off of a firesteel, i also like my carbon opinels and case knives, they are eeasy to sharpen and take on a nice patina, they are easy to sharpen.

    then again i have a couple of carbon knives which are extremely hard to sharpen due to their high hardness, they are a real pain to use and the edges chip, yet i have a mini grip and sebenza that i find it relatively easy to sharpen maintain and their edges are fine.


    it's totally dependent on the knife, the steel and the intended purpose
    In life we should be like the farmer- putting into the soil that which we take out

  7. Default

    carbon steel is usually better in any knife. In a cheep knife carbon has to be used to get a half way decent knife. Cold steel makes tons of cheepo carbon steel knives. Alot of them are better than Chris Reeves IMO total garbage S30V. Good stainless knives cost alot and arent any better than carbon steel. Alot of high carbon stainless knives rust fairly easy too.

  8. #8
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    Stainless = soul-less IMHO
    You can bet that any named blade in any fantasy is carbon not SS!;D

    SS is only for wet work ie canoe rescue knives IMHO

    I love the patina on my carbon blades and actively encourage its development
    Love makes the World go round......Lust makes it all go pear-shaped...

  9. #9
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    in terms of quality as pointed out, it depends on the individual steel and the heat treat applied. Same for the sharpenability; good blades will always be sharper and harder blades will always take longer to get an edge.

    I prefer carbon because it isn't sterile and souless. Also a shiny balde flashes in teh light and blinds me when I don't want to be out of focus (ie sharp knife in hand!).

    Stainless for the lazy
    Carbon for everyone else
    Man up Princess! dave budd handmade toolsTools, knives, blacksmithing Also, courses in all of the above

  10. #10
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    Oh, I don't know if all stainless knives are soulless and shiny.
    There are some very nice ones out there with, IMHO, lots of soul and not being shiny.
    This for instance (steel 12C27):


    I use both carbon steel and stainless.
    As already said, it's down to the manufacturing of the steel itself, the heat treatment and then, of course, the geometry of the blade.
    In my eyes, both are good, and one doesn't exclude the other.

    / Karl

  11. #11

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    Carbon steel for me it just has a better "feel" to me, Thats not to say that stainless does not have its place. I just like carbon better
    I,ve cut this twice and its still too short!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by happybonzo View Post
    This has probably been asked before but here goes.
    What's better, stainless or carbon steel for a blade? I should imagine that you can get a better edge on a carbon steel than stainless?
    The advantage of stainless is that it shouldn't rust or discolour to same degree that ordinary steel will.
    When it comes to using a Firesteel does stainless work as well as carbon steel?
    You can get as good a blade in stainless as you can in carbon. Better in fact. Also, stainless holds a better razor edge over time in damp conditions.

    However, for a given cost of steel and heat treatment, you can get a better deal with carbon than stainless. It's easier to make bad stainless blades than bad carbon. This all diminishes in bulk economics of industrial manufacturing.

    Therefore, if you want a mid-priced custom knife from an artisan, then you should be prepared to consider carbon steel. For the same price and above from a production knife, expect stainless.

    These are words from a man who has spent a great deal of money buying knives, a great deal of time researching it in the media and technical journals, speaking to makers and who makes carbon blades exclusively himself.

  13. #13

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    I'm just about to order a Skookum Bush Tool, which will spend a great deal of time packrafting, when not being used for camp duty.

    I have a PFD knife and spare, so the Skookum will not be used as a rescue knife due to the pointed blade design, and the fact that my packrafts and PFD's are inflatable's (it'll be in a Peli case or dry bag).

    Advice on blade material selection would be appreciated. The knife will be used with a firesteel.

    Thanks in advance! (o:

  14. #14

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    Sort of a related subject: I have some stainless steel knives that I can get shaving-sharp, and I have three (ranging from very cheap Chinese to very expensive US) that I simply can't get a good edge on. I have no idea what the problem is.

  15. #15
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    RWL-34 is the perfect steel for Bushcraft. Easy to sharpen, superior edge retention and stainless to boot. It requires no attention and rarely needs wiping or oiling.

    Problem is though, I like paying my bushy blade some TLC. I love that 01 discoloures and obtains a patina with use, I like that it rusts and needs care, its seems less clinical and more at home with nature. It has personality. RWL-34 always looks new and shiny, great if you like that kind of thing.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by helixpteron View Post
    I'm just about to order a Skookum Bush Tool, which will spend a great deal of time packrafting, when not being used for camp duty.

    I have a PFD knife and spare, so the Skookum will not be used as a rescue knife due to the pointed blade design, and the fact that my packrafts and PFD's are inflatable's (it'll be in a Peli case or dry bag).

    Advice on blade material selection would be appreciated. The knife will be used with a firesteel.

    Thanks in advance! (o:
    Really I don't think you can go wrong on any of the steels that Rod offers. I have 3 Skookums, all A2 and love em. I know others who have gone for the S30V and love them too, but for me I really like the carbon character I am getting on my blades. So if I was ordering a knife not for use in constant wet, I would do A2.


  17. #17
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    Having seen how well Stuart's Skookum faired in the jungle of Borneo in A2, I would go with that too. I think that a single bevel scandi in S30V would be just a little too hard to sharpen to be fun, while the A2 was lovely to sharpen. O-1 is nice, but A2 will resist the damp just a bit better.
    Chris

    Being lost is a state of mind, not a state of place.

  18. #18

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    Try some 154CM you will like it.
    Deep in the hart of Texas. Where Men are Men
    and the Women are glad of it

  19. #19

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    Cheap carbon steel is usually better than cheap stainless steel in terms of ease of sharpening and edge holding. For more expensive knives and steels there doesn't seem to be as much difference in this respect.
    Personally, I prefer the patina and traditional characterful look of carbon steel.
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  20. #20
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    I think it is time to retire the concept of stainless steel as there are infact NO steel that is totally protected from rust. We should use the term corrosion resistant, and maybe describe to what extent the steel is corrosion resistant.

    A2 for instance, can rust, given enough time, heat and corrosive atmosphere (although I have only seen it in uddeholm chipper/ böhler K329, which is a modified version of A2).

    As always, steels are a case of 'you get what you pay for'. Bad stainless is not good, bad carbon isn't either. You can get wonderful blades in most steels. Most modern tool steels keep an excellent edge, no matter what grade of corrosion resistance they have.

    A thought I've had for a while, it would be interesting to see any of the knife-gurus who talk about specific steels be subjected to a blind test. Three knives, same grind, same shape, and different steels, to see if they walk the walk, or if it's just talk...

    I prefer air hardening steels, so much easier...
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by big_swede View Post
    Bad stainless is not good, bad carbon isn't either.
    Bad stainless would not be good by definition eh. I suspect the same is true for bad carbon.
    Hoodoo

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  22. #22
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    Karl5: Your knife is beautiful. Also, the scabbard. Was it custom made or can it be purchased on the market? I am intrigued by the way the leather strap hooks to the pommel of the knife. I probably lead a sheltered life out here on the prairie of Kansas, but I have never seen this before. It looks really clever and useful. Having said that, I think the stainless vs carbon argument will never end. I argue with myself about it. I have some stainless knives that I really like, and some carbon knives that I like as well. My experience has been that stainless are GENERALLY harder to sharpen and therefore one would assume that they would hold an edge better. However my experience has been that they do not hold an edge better. Draven mentioned his dad didn't like him using the carbon knife that he made in the kitchen because it discolors onions. I would suggest using some gun blue on the blade. I have done this on an old carbon kitchen knife that has been in my family for several generations and it seemed to work just fine. Note: all gun bluing is not created equal, ask around and find out what is good and what is not so good.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chinkapin View Post
    Karl5: Your knife is beautiful. Also, the scabbard. Was it custom made or can it be purchased on the market? I am intrigued by the way the leather strap hooks to the pommel of the knife. I probably lead a sheltered life out here on the prairie of Kansas, but I have never seen this before. It looks really clever and useful.
    Thanks Chinkapin!
    No custom, it's a standard knife, a Brusletto Troll.
    You can find it on the Brusletto homepage.
    On the other side of the puddle, you can find/get it at Ragweedforge.
    If you find it a bit on the expensive side, have a look at the "Profileringskniv". That too you'll find at Ragweedforge.
    The Troll is very much along the lines of traditional knives in Scandinavia in general and of Norway in particular.
    Compare it to a classic Mora #1 (the one with a red wooden handle), and you'll easily see they've got the same heritage, altough I find the Troll to certainly be easier on the eye.

    / Karl

  24. #24
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    Karl5: Thanks for the excellent tip about Ragweedforge. Looks like a great site. I'm still wheezing over the price, but its certainly not over priced for the quality knife that your getting. I have never used a Mora type knife and are not familiar with them, but it looks like they are real popular on this web site. A few days ago I placed an order for a 2-pk of Swedish Army Moras with a green rubber handle and a green kydex sheath (24 dollars U.S.) That is REALLY cheap. It is so cheap that i would have been scared off except for the favorable comments here. I hope they are as good as everyone says!

  25. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Chinkapin View Post
    Karl5: Thanks for the excellent tip about Ragweedforge. Looks like a great site. I'm still wheezing over the price, but its certainly not over priced for the quality knife that your getting. I have never used a Mora type knife and are not familiar with them, but it looks like they are real popular on this web site. A few days ago I placed an order for a 2-pk of Swedish Army Moras with a green rubber handle and a green kydex sheath (24 dollars U.S.) That is REALLY cheap. It is so cheap that i would have been scared off except for the favorable comments here. I hope they are as good as everyone says!
    $89 dollars is high?

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Emerson View Post
    $89 dollars is high?
    All depends on your budget, preferences and what you feel things are worth, I suppose.
    It's certainly a lot more money than the $10.50 you'd have to pay for a standard Mora #1.

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