The Steels, Stainless, Carbon, and Tool Steels
High Carbon, Stainless, Tool Steel, CPM Steels


Hint: They're not all the same!

The steel a knife is made from imparts its "personality" on the finished blade. Some sharpen easier, some are tougher, some hold an edge better. All the steels in my shop are chosen for their high potential hardness, ease of sharpening, good toughness, and availability at affordable prices. The heat treatment, profile, bevel grind and final sharpening will matter deeply in how your knife performs in your hand, but the steel must have the right properties for the desired geometry of the blade.

Having said that, some steels excel at certain properties such as toughness, strength, edge retention, stain resistance,or sharpenability. No steel exists that excels in every category.
This list may grow with time, but SLOWLY.
Learn Heat Treating Terms HERE!


A2 tool steel is an older composition alloy air hardening Tool Steel with a good balance of toughness, hardness, and edge retention, capable of 62-63HRc working hardness and very fine edges. With only about 5% chromium, A2 is NOT a stainless steel, and so needs to be cared for to prevent corrosion. A2 benefits greatly from cryogenic treatment, and works well for outdoor knives when stain resistance isn't a factor.


AEB-L Stainless Steel alloy was developed for the razor blade industry, and is a stainless steel capable of high working hardness and extremely keen edges. An air hardening steel, it is one of the toughest stainless steels available. Cryogenic treatment adds to strength and hardness.
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."

Learn more about AEB-L at Knife Steel Nerds.


D2 tool steel is an air hardening tool or die steel used to make various cold work stamping dies for metal work. It offers very good hardness, great abrasion resistance, very good edge retention, and SOME stain resistance, Best sharpened with diamond stones due to high abrasion resistance. Cryo treatment benefits D2 with higher hardness and slightly better edge retention and abrasion resistance. Not high on toughness, D2 works best in smaller more robust blades. 

Learn more about D2 Steel at Knife Steel Nerds.


52100 steel is a high carbon water/oil hardening steel developed for ball bearings and bearing races, capable of  high hardness and excellent toughness. 52100 takes an extremely keen edge due to its extremely fine grain and carbide structure. It is my choice of the low alloy non stainless carbon steels for its fine balance of edge stability, excellent toughness, strength, and ease of sharpening.
Learn more about 52100 steel at Knife Steel Nerds.


26C3 steel is a high carbon steel, low allow knife and razor steel very similar to Hitachi Paper White #1, a Japanese blade steel favored by many chefs and line cooks for its extremely fine edge. It is capable of high working hardnesses while maintaining reasonable toughness, and is a great choice for professional cooks and connoisseurs who favor custom carbon steel chef's knives. I've decided to offer this steel for these reasons.

Learn more about 26C3 at "Knife Steel Nerds".


CPM MagnaCut

CPM MagnaCut is a newer composition developed by Knife Steel Nerd Author Dr Larrin Thomas. MagnaCut is a high hardness, high toughness stainless steel with excellent stain and wear resistance. While it's quite expensive, it offers a fantastic balance of properties not found in any other steel composition.

Learn more about CPM MagnaCut at Knife Steel Nerds HERE!

Learn about CPM technology here!


CPM M4 is a high hardness high speed tool steel with good toughness and great edge retention. Its composition includes 4% chromium, 4% Vanadium, 5.25% Molybdenum, and 5.5% Tungsten. The high carbon improves steel hardness and provides enough carbon to create carbides from the Chromium, Vanadium, Molybdenum, and Tungsten. 4% Chromium improves steel hardenability, tensile strength and edge retention. 4%  Vanadium increases wear resistance and edge retention. The high 5.25% of molybdenum increases strength and machinability. The Tungsten improves wear and corrosion resistance. CPM technology is used to make the fine grain and carbides needed to give this steel its excellent toughness. This is a SUPER steel where stain resistance is not a concern.
Learn more about CPM M4 HERE!




What is Cryogenic Treatment?

And What Does It DO??

Simply put, Cryogenic Treatment is a continuation of the "quench", down to -320F. That is, when the knife comes out of the oven at its austenitizing temperature, it is quenched to room temperature according to the standards and protocols for that particular steel. Cryo treatment EXTENDS the quench to -320F. This aids the steel in converting the retained softer phase Austenite to the harder and stronger Martensite. Thus we finish the quench with liquid nitrogen, for an hour to overnight. Afterwards, the tempering cycles are performed as usual. Your custom knives deserve the very best heat treat I can give them, and cryogenic treatment improves knife steels in easily measurable ways.

Dr Larrin Thomas wrote a three part article on his blog "Knife Steel Nerds" about cryogenic temperatures and the effect on knife steels. If you're a knife steel nerd like me, click on the link!
Dr Larrin Thomas explains cryo treatment of knife steels

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