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What is the Strongest Knife Steel?

There is a lot that goes into making the strongest steel, and a lot of factors at play when determining the strongest knife steel.

From alloy composition, to method of forging and even country of origin, we demystify the often confusing tasks of finding the strongest knife steel for your next purchase.

TIP: The strongest steel isn’t always the ‘best’ for the job.

What Does ‘Strong’ Mean When it Comes to Knife Steel?

Turns out, there’s more to steel strength than just toughness. When we talk about the “Strength” of steel we are measuring several factors. Let’s take a closer look at what those are below.

Hardness

Hardness refers to steel’s ability to maintain its integrity and form under the stress of applied force. When it comes to knife steel, hardness is typically measured using what is known as the “Rockwell C Scale” or “HRC”.

Top Performing Steel Rated for Hardness:

  • Maxamet
  • ZDP-189
  • CPM M4
  • CPM S110V
  • Elmax

Toughness

Toughness refers to the ability of the steel to resist damage such as chipping or cracking when faced with a sudden impact, or the shock of an acute load. When it comes to knife blades, ‘toughness’ ratings are less standardized than are hardness. However, as a good rule of thumb, the harder the steel, the LESS tough it is going to be.

We know that sounds counter-intuitive, but a hard blade is more prone to chipping and cracking under sudden impact than is a blade that has some flexibility to it. In other words, a hard blade is more brittle.

Top Performing Steel Rated by Toughness:

  • CPM 3V
  • 1095
  • CruWear
  • 420
  • AUS-6

Resistance to Corrosion

The steel’s ability to washstand exposure to salt, humidity and moisture. Interestingly, a high resistance to corrosion comes at a price; namely edge performance.

Top Performing Steel for Corrosion Resistance:

  • H1
  • N680
  • CPM S110V
  • M390 / CPM 20CV
  • 14C28N

Edge Retention

Refers to the duration of time that a blade will retain it’s sharpened bevel even against the toughest tasks, or when in storage. Again, no set standard is in place to measure this aspect.

Top Performing Steel for Edge Retention:

  • CPM S110V
  • Maxamet
  • CPM S90V
  • M390 / CPM 20CV
  • CPM M4

Resistance to Wear

This refers to the ability of steel to hold up to adhesive and abrasive wear. Adhesive wear is that which is caused when debris is dislodged from one surface to another. Abrasive wear occurs from the friction of rough or harder particles over a softer surface. Resistance to wear is largely attributed to the chemical makeup of the alloy composition of the steel.

 

So, What is the Strongest Knife Steel?

As you can see, this metric is somewhat subjective. With “hardness’ having the only true universally recognized standard of measurement, the rest is up to science, testing and personal preference.

Strongest can mean different things to different chefs, and which one best fits that definition can vary greatly.

For example, are you a chef who works in a high moisture environment exposing your blades to constant wet environments and foods? If so, corrosion resistance might be a leading priority.

Do you regularly work with hard food items that require a lot of ‘oomph’ to cut and slice through? Hardness might be the biggest concern here.

Are your blades subject to a lot of impact (perhaps when traveling) or just due to a rowdy bunch of chefs who tend to drop and bang things around? If so, toughness is the ideal thing to watch out for here.

Are All Blades Made From the Same Steel Alike?

Not to toss a proverbial wrench in the mix here, but the steel the blade is made from is only ONE way to ascertain its strength. Although the alloy composition of the knife steel is a paramount feature to consider, so is the manufacturer and HOW it was forged.

The process used to create and craft the blade is JUST as if not more important than what it’s made from. Master forgers spend lifetimes perfecting their craft, capable of forging blades that are superior in every category, from strength and durability, to balance and precision.

Damascus Steel from Vertoku

Ranking among the most highly sought out steel is Damascus steel. Damascus steel, rather than being a type of steel itself, refers to the process of forging a blade. In this way, it is more so a style than a type of alloy.

Damascus steel forged blades offer a superior blend of breathtaking aesthetics and high performance. In other words, the best of both worlds. Inspired by traditional Japanese styled blades, Vertoku knives are durable, strong and highly capable of tackling virtually any kitchen task tossed its way.


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