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Selecting Steel for Knife Making - Simple and easy!

One of the most confusing things a new knifemaker runs into is the riddle of the steel. And I don't mean the Quote from Arnold in the movie Conan.

Nowadays there are so many different types of steel that it can be a daunting task. But.... I have laid out some simple guidelines for you. This will help you in your quest to make a knife!

 

 

Ok, I am going to make an assumption here. My assumption is that you are not an experienced knifemaker. You haven't yet made a knife, or you have only made a few of them. You are the person that this guide is for. The experienced knife maker probably already knows this stuff!

Let me give you a recommendation for steel right away:

If you are making a knife through the stock removal method: (USE 01 steel)

First OFF - I can give you a bit of advice right now if you don't want to read through this whole page. Start out with O1 steel. Pretty much as simple as that. It has wonderful characteristics for the beginning knife maker. It is strong, holds an edge and most importantly it is pretty easy to work with and to harden/temper. And it is easy to harden/temper all the way through. It is not a tempermental steel. So.... That's the brunt of this tutorial. Go with the O1 (pronounced Oh-one). I use it all the time.

If you are making a knife through forging: (use 1095 steel)

Go with a plain carbon steel. Select 1095. That is a wonderful place to start. It is easy to find and easy to work with and handle. But you can go with anything between 1070 and 1095 steel.

A quick explanation of the "1095".

With plain carbon steels there is a nomenclature for how much carbon they have in them. The nomenclature let's you know how much carbon is in the steel. For example:

1050 steel has .5 percent carbon in it.

1055 steel has .55 percent carbon in it.

1060 steel has .60 percent carbon in it.

1095 steel has .95 percent carbon in it.

Notice the decimal point. the .95 has almost 1 percent carbon in it.

Pretty much as simple as that!

Some notes on other types of steel:

  • If you can't get a hold of any O1 steel and you can get 440 that is quite good too for stock removal.
  • 5160 is a popular steel amongst professional knifemakers but it is not for beginners, great but difficult
  • A2 and D2 steel- these are good steels for knifemaking but..... they are darn expensive because they are precision ground. skip them.
  • W1 and O1 - The letters refer to the quench. W1 steel is quenched in water and O1 steel is quenched it Oil.

 

Let's get them on amazon.com:

 

To make thicker and sturdier Knives:

Tool Steel O1 (Oil Hardening) Flat Stock, Ground, ASTM-A681-94, 3/16" Thick, 2" Width, 18" Length

 

Great for typical knives:

Tool Steel O1 (Oil Hardening) Flat Stock, Ground, ASTM-A681-94, 1/8" Thick, 2" Width, 18" Length

 

Whoa! I found this Damascus knife blank on amazon.com - If you always wanted to make a damascus knife but didn't want to make the Damascus steel yourself this is the perfect opportunity. Damascus Knife Making Knives Blank Blade Billet Bar Steel Blanks Layers Ladder

 

The Wonder of Knifemaking

Master smith Wayne Goddard is an icon in the field of knife making. As a full-time maker, teacher and writer, Goddard works as hard to teach knife making skills as he does to acquire them. His affiliation with BLADE Magazine has brought new and interesting information, tips and tricks to thousands of would-be knife makers. Other popular titles from Goddard include The Wonder of Knifemaking (2000) and $50 Knife Shop (2001 and 2006).

Basic Knife Making: From Raw Steel to a Finished Stub Tang Knife

Learn the craft of knifemaking. 205 color images and step-by-step instructions provide for all stages of construction, from selection of the steel, to forging the blade, assembling the handle, and constructing a holder.

 


 

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