Guide to Types of Steel – Everything You Didn't Know

1055 Steel – falls between a medium and hard high carbon steel, it is very tough, but not as brittle as higher carbon

1065- 1095 High Carbon Steel – superior sharpening ability, good edge retention and great shock absorbsion, appropriate for larger knives and swords

420 and 420HC Stainless Steel - good all-purpose stainless steel which is less expensive and softer to work making it ideal when cost, workability and ease of maintenance are issues. Superior sharpenability, fair edge retention, fair corrosion resistance.  Common for less expensive knives and swords where function is not a priority

440A, B, C Steel – a high carbon stainless steel, somewhat stronger than 420.  Excellent sharpenability, good edge retention, good corrosion resistance.  One of the best all-around knife steels.

8Cr13MoV Stainless -  superior corrosion resistance and edge retention with good sharpening ability

ABS - acrylonitrile butadiene styrene is a plastic used for rigid molded products, it is not affected by temperature or humidity and is very resistant to solubles

ATS-34 Stainless - high carbon, chromium based stainless steel with  superior hardness and edge retention as well as good corrosion resistance

AUS-6 Stainless - superior sharpening ability, good edge retention, good corrosion resistance, a step up from 420

AUS-8A – a high carbon low/chromium stainless steel similar to 440 but slightly harder, it is tough, strong and superior in holding an edge and resisting corrosion

Anodized – a semi-durable treatment that is used to color titanium and aluminum using electrical current

Assisted Opening - Assisted open knives have started to dominate the folder market in that they deploy fast, but do not encounter the restrictions that are associated with automatic knives. In assisted knives a small spring is placed in the blade that helps swing the blade into the fully open position. However, this mechanism only engages after the blade has been opened a sufficient amount. To help facilitate this deployment, many assisted knives have a small "flipper" that protrudes from the closed blade to help ease the opening along.
Automatic Opening - The most popular and often romanticized method of deploy is found in automatic knives. These knives have a spring that fully deploys the knife at the push of a button. Incredibly efficient and easy to use, these knives have unfortunately been the subject of many rules and regulations.
Butt Plate – also called pommel – the material, sometimes metal, applied to the end of the handle for counter balance and can sometimes be used as a tool for hammering or other uses depending on shape and material

Ceramic - not an alloy, but worth mentioning as it is extremely hard with superior edge retention and corrosion resistance, extremely difficult to re-sharpen

D-2 Steel
- superior hardness and edge retention but is difficult to re-sharpen, this is often used in impact tools like hammers

Damascus - superior sharpening ability with fair edge retention - today made with a mix of alloys or high carbon & low carbon steels folded together for an attractive pattern.

DymondWood – a highly engineered wood/plastic composite with all the physical properties of hardwood

Epoxy Powder Coating – a coating process that protects blades from corrosion and makes them non–reflective

Finger Grips – grooves cut into the handle making it more comfortable in your hand

Frame Lock – A frame lock simply utilizes a portion of the frame to lock the blade into position after the blade is opened.  The frame material usually slides into place by tension and can be pushed back into place to release the lock.

Full Tang – A full tang has all or a substantial amount of the steel from the blade run the entire length of the handle; this is the strongest type of fixed blade construction.  Not to be confused with a “rat tail” tang in which a small rod is welded to the blade.  That method is commonly found on inexpensive fixed blade knives and swords.

Full Profile Tang- the tang runs the entire length of the handle and is wide enough to be seen between the grip scales; a very strong method of construction

Glass Filled Nylon – nylon reinforced with glass particles and other materials; used for sheaths to provide strength and durability as well as flexibility

Guard – Also called cross guard or bolster– the cross member that separates the handle and the blade, this keeps the hand from slipping on the blade when cutting

H1 Stainless
- superior edge retention and salt water corrosion resistance

Hilt- the components that make up the handle, usually includes a cross guard, grip and pommel

Hollow Grind – the grind of the blade where the side of the blade is “hollowed out”; it produces a superior cut, but is not as strong as it is thinner in profile

Liner Lock – a liner lock locks the blade into position after the blade is opened.  You release the lock by pushing the spring or tension loaded lock sideways back into place allowing the blade to fold back into the handle

Lockback – a folding knife that has a lock release on the back of the handle; a very sturdy design

Nail Mark - This is the oldest trick in the knife deploy book. The nail mark is the small divot located on the blade near the spine. This miniscule indentation offered just enough purchase for users to pinch and open the blade. This method is a step forward from just grabbing the blade and simple enough to add to any folder, but has been overshadowed by improved techniques.

Pakkawood – a tough resin impregnated wood used for scales

Pins – Also called Rivets – the hardware that joins the scale handles to the tang

Pocket Clip – allows you to carry the knife inside your pocket or on a belt or boot with easy accessibility
Pocket Deploy / Snag System - The snag system involves having a small protrusion of metal on folding knives, that when properly caught by the pocket seam will fully open a knife blade while the knife is being pulled out. While this method can be very quick and has little risk of activating accidentally, it does take some practice to be able to consistently use. 

Ricasso – the flat area of the blade before the guard, sometimes called the “shoulder” of the blade

Rockwell Hardness - An industry scale used for measuring the hardness of tool steel. The higher the number, the harder the steel.  Lower numbers indicate a soft metal which may not hold an edge well and may bend easily.  Higher numbers indicate a hard metal which may be brittle and difficult to re-sharpen.

Sandvik 12C27 Stainless - very pure Swedish steel with excellent all around properties

Scales – Also called Slab – the handle material of the knife that is used to sandwich a full tang.

Speedsafe®- is the patented, assisted-opening system built into many of Kershaw''s knives; it assists the user to smoothly open the knife with a manual push on the blade''s thumb stud or Index-Open system. (Index-Open uses a protruding portion of the blade''s finger guard to give the user an alternative to the thumb stud.)

Temper- the process of heat treating a blade that provides the characteristic of flexibility and shock absorbsion
Thumb stud or thumb hole - The thumb stud has been the next in line in the evolution of knife opening. A small, usually rounded, metal stud located on the blade closest to the pivot. This addition gave the thumb something to push against making blade deployment much easier. It also removed the need to use two hands to hold the knife while trying to open, unlike the nail mark. Closely related is the thumb hole. Being a full cutout of the blade this also allowed for the thumb to bush against the steel but also added the benefit of being effective in either hand.  

VG-10 Stainless - one of the best all-around stainless steels. with very good hardness, edge retention, sharpenability and corrosion resistance


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