EDC Gear is a must for most of us. More often than not, the knife you carry is the centerpeice of your gear. With Awesome options like the customizable Rick Hinderer XM-18, or the one of a kindChuck Gedraitis Sicario, you can get a knife that fits your needs and personality. But when it comes to pocket knives, one of the most significant yet overlooked characteristics is the Steel used in the Blade.
Often newbies get caught up in Damascus Steel because it sounds so exotic. Or maybe your head starts to spin when people start throwing around some of the industry buzz words that, unless you have a PhD in metallurgy, cause you to put on your best Homer Simpson impression.
What it boils down to are 5 characteristics. I remember it by calling them "THE CoW"
T - Toughness
H - Hardness
E - Edge Retention
Co - Corrosion Resistance
W - Wear Resistance
Hardness is the ability to resist damage and deformation when the Steel is subject to stress and applied forces. Hardness in knife steel is often referred to as strength. Hardness is generally measured using the Rockwell C scale referenced as “HRC”.
Toughness is the ability to resist damage like cracks or chips when being used in heavy duty applications. This also defines the steel’s ability to flex without breaking. Usually Hardness and Toughness work against each other. The harder the Steel, the more likely it is to chip. The Tougher the steel, the more like it is to flex or bend.
Wear resistance is the steel’s ability to withstand damage from two types of wear, adhesive and abrasive. Adhesive wear occurs when debris is dislodged from one surface and attaches to the other (think cutting). Abrasive wear comes from softer surfaces coming in contact with rougher ones (think sharpening). Wear resistance is usually relative to a steel’s hardness but is also heavily influenced by the chemistry of the steel. The greater the wear resistance, the longer your blade will stay sharp. The downside of this is that putting and edge back on your blade or repairing a nick either requires specialized tools or your left arm.
Corrosion resistance is the ability to resist corrosion caused by oxidation. The most commonly observed corrosion is rust caused when Steel is exposed to elements like humidity, moisture and salt. As with the relationship between Hardness and Toughness, there is an inverse relationship between Corrosion Resistance and Edge Retention.
Edge Retention represents how long the blade will retain its sharpness when subject to use. This is the most difficult characteristic to quantify. How do you define an edge and how do you measure it? With no defined set of standards to apply, much of the information and data on this topic is subjective. Generally, edge retention is finding that sweet spot between Hardness, Toughness, and Wear Resistance while balancing it with just the right amount of Corrosion Resistance.
Short story is that you need the RIGHT Knife for the Job. The holy grail of "One Knife to Rule Them All" is a panacea that just does not exist. A Surgical knife has an application just as a Tactical Knife does. Define your need, and then find the blade that fits the role.
Hope this info helps. If you have any questions, please visit our Contact page to drop us a line or give us a call, we look forward to hearing from you. TacticalHardware.com