Understanding Steel Materials for Tool Making | MachineMFG

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Understanding Steel Materials for Tool Making


1. 440c has outstanding corrosion resistance, strength, and toughness. It contains 17% chromium, which exceeds 15% and requires deep cooling treatment. It is not very wear-resistant but is great for daily use.

2. 420j2 has low carbon content and low hardness. However, it has strong corrosion resistance, making it suitable for making diving knives.

3. 420HC is a high-value steel with a hardness of up to 58HRC and contains vanadium, which provides good edge retention. It is the best choice for low-end steel.

4. N690 is similar to 440C but has added about 0.1% vanadium, making it more wear-resistant.

5. S30V has excellent rust and wear resistance with strong edge retention. However, it lacks toughness, as seen in the example of the Green Beret survival knife. The steel used has now been changed to CPM S35VN.

6. AUS8 has excellent overall performance and strong toughness, making it a great choice for daily use. It contains vanadium which refines the crystal structure and allows for a sharp edge.

7. VG10 is an excellent all-around steel with balanced performance. The steel produced by Spyderco is fantastic, containing vanadium which allows for an extremely sharp edge.

8. ATS34 is a high-end Japanese steel that is highly resistant to corrosion and has strong toughness. However, it is not as sharp as other options.

9. ZDP189 is a high-hardness powder steel that can reach 65-67HRC. However, it lacks toughness and is hard and brittle.

10. 154CM is on par with ATS34 in terms of overall performance but has controversial reviews.

11. 12C27 is similar to domestic 425M and has average performance.

12. D2 is a high-quality tool steel with high hardness and wear resistance, as well as strong toughness and edge retention. However, its rust resistance is only average.

13. CPM3V is considered by famous knifemaker JERRY HOSSOM to be the best steel for making knives currently available. It has the best microstructure, which gives it extremely strong toughness and the best edge retention.

14. Infi is a non-stainless steel and is on par with CPM3V in terms of performance, with each having its own strengths.

15. M390 is a powder stainless steel with good rust and wear resistance, and exceptional edge retention (about four times that of 440C). This information comes from the bladeforums forum.

16. CPM M4HC is a high vanadium high-speed tool steel with high hardness (up to 67HRC) and strong toughness. It is extremely wear-resistant and has excellent edge retention (like M390).

Overall, for mid-to-high-end steel, AUS8 and VG10 are both great options with balanced performance. Both contain around 0.2% vanadium, which refines the crystal structure and enhances wear resistance, allowing for a sharp edge. AUS8 also contains 0.49% nickel, which provides better strength and toughness.

VG10 contains 1.4% cobalt and slightly higher carbon content, resulting in slightly higher hardness. Both have similar edge retention, with VG10 possibly being slightly better.

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