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FREE Learning - AEB-L The toughest Stainless Steel for Knifemaking?

Updated: Nov 19, 2022

AEB-L and Flaming Box Elder petite chefs knife
AEB-L and Flaming Box Elder

Keith Nix Knives FREE Learning!! Stainless steel chefs knives have gained a reputation through the years, particularly perhaps the 50's and 60's, as not being very tough, or hard, or great at holding an edge. This probably has to do with a flood of factory knives made from 420 series stainless. With .3% carbon it was never going to get hard enough for a quality knife. But it blanked well(making knife blanks with a press and dies), machined well, it was very stain resistant, and polished well. So there was that. About 100 years ago Uddeholm in Sweden began tinkering with a stainless steel for razor blades. This new steel had to attain high hardness(62 HRc or above), fine blanking ability(see above), and a carbide structure fine enough to be suitable for razor blades. AEB was the first iteration, but the chromium carbides were too large, creating a toothy edge not suitable for razors. AEB-L came into being some time later, and was a perfect balance of all the attributes necessary, Such as fine blanking, edge retention, hardness, ultra fine carbides, and stain resistance. From Devin Thomas at :

"Few know what AEB-L steel is, and those that do, only have heard that it is similar to 440B or 440A. The only similarities between AEB-L and 440B or 440A is the amount of carbon. The fact that AEB-L has only 12.8% chromium by weight compared to the 16-17% in 440A and 440B makes the steels quite different. AEB-L is more similar to a stainless 52100 than 440A. A copy of AEB-L called 13C26 is made by Sandvik.

AEB-L naturally forms what is called the K2 carbide, the harder of the two chromium carbides, compared to the K1 carbide, which is formed in steels such as 440C. The K2 carbide is about 79 on the Rockwell C scale, compared to 72 for the K1 carbide. Through proper heat treatment, AEB-L has fine, evenly distributed K2 carbides. AEB-L lies almost perfectly on what is called the "Carbon Saturation Line", which means that all of the carbides formed are precipitated carbides, not primary carbides like are formed in 440C, and there is more carbon and a similar amount chromium in solution as compared to 440C primary carbides are very large. So, through a balanced composition, AEB-L has excellent toughness, edge retention, workability, ease of sharpening, and ease of polishing." -Devin Thomas

A bonus benefit of the tiny carbide structure in AEB-L is a huge bump in toughness. This stainless steel is tougher than familiar knife steels like A2, 1095, D2, O1, 440C, 154 CM and CPM154. You can see in this graph from Knife Steel Nerds how AEB-L compares to other stainless steels in the

toughness category, measured by a standard subsize Charpy impact tester.:

Relative toughness of stainless steels, courtesy Knife Steel Nerds
Chart courtesy of Knife Steel Nerds

With good stain resistance, great toughness, and good edge retention at higher hardnesses, I recommend AEB-L for Chef's Knives and all kitchen or outdoor knives where the user wants stainless steel. Get your Handmade Bespoke Kitchen Knives at Keith Nix Knives ONLINE SHOP! MORE FREE Learning:

The Great Steel Debate

Properties of Steel

Heat Treating Steels


Thanks for reading,


Keith Nix Knives

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