Best knife steel for prying and toughness/hardness?

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WittyUsername

Tenderfoot
Oct 21, 2020
98
32
35
Kent
Hi,
I’ve got a few knives in Elmax now and I hear that they have the potential to be a little chippy. If I wanted a larger knife for prying, heavy batoning, etc, which blade steels should I look at?

Any help would be much appreciated.
 

Billy-o

Native
Apr 19, 2018
1,655
730
Canada
52100 is one for toughness and there is lots of 1095 out there.

For prying, take an old screwdriver :) or a tacklifter
 

WittyUsername

Tenderfoot
Oct 21, 2020
98
32
35
Kent
52100 is one for toughness and there is lots of 1095 out there.

For prying, take an old screwdriver :) or a tacklifter

Yeah, if I needed to pry anything at home I have crowbars and stuff. I just meant that I’m looking for a knife whose strengths are where Elmax is weak.

1095 is a good shout. I’ve never heard of 52100 so I’ll have a look. Cheers.
 
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C_Claycomb

Mod
Mod
Oct 6, 2003
6,368
1,341
Bedfordshire
5160 is tougher than 52100. 52100 is bearing steel. 5160 is spring steel.

Ben Orford uses 80Crv2 and AEBL stainless for his parang, which sees chopping and impact.

The real question though is, where are you looking to get this knife? You see, some steels are used by people who forge, some are used by people who do stock removal, some are popular with certain manufacturers and some with others.

Then there is 6" heavy duty knife tough, and 18" parang tough. How large a knife are you thinking of?

There are LOTS of tough blades out there. Not only does steel play a part, but so does the heat treatment. Some sources put Elmax at similar toughness to 1095, I remember reading though that to do so they gave a rather soft heat treatment.

CPM3V is tough stuff, but not so many places offer it.


 

WittyUsername

Tenderfoot
Oct 21, 2020
98
32
35
Kent
5160 is tougher than 52100. 52100 is bearing steel. 5160 is spring steel.

Ben Orford uses 80Crv2 and AEBL stainless for his parang, which sees chopping and impact.

The real question though is, where are you looking to get this knife? You see, some steels are used by people who forge, some are used by people who do stock removal, some are popular with certain manufacturers and some with others.

Then there is 6" heavy duty knife tough, and 18" parang tough. How large a knife are you thinking of?

There are LOTS of tough blades out there. Not only does steel play a part, but so does the heat treatment. Some sources put Elmax at similar toughness to 1095, I remember reading though that to do so they gave a rather soft heat treatment.

CPM3V is tough stuff, but not so many places offer it.



Thanks mate. I was massively impressed by the CPM 3V in this video...


I don’t want a huge knife, certainly not a parang. Anything between 10-14” would do fine. I love the look of Wander Tactical knives, I think they’re D2 steel.
 

TLM

Native
Nov 16, 2019
1,599
700
Vantaa, Finland
Fairly impossible to answer, hardness/toughness is always a compromise, if edge keeping is taken into account some of the strong aerospace steels are extremely strong and tough but the don't cut very well. It is not always even a question of steel but what facilities are available for heat treating, there are some odd steel/HT combinations.

Then there is blade geometry, thickness affects bending strength to the second power, twice the thickness four times the strength.
 

WittyUsername

Tenderfoot
Oct 21, 2020
98
32
35
Kent
Fairly impossible to answer, hardness/toughness is always a compromise, if edge keeping is taken into account some of the strong aerospace steels are extremely strong and tough but the don't cut very well. It is not always even a question of steel but what facilities are available for heat treating, there are some odd steel/HT combinations.

Then there is blade geometry, thickness affects bending strength to the second power, twice the thickness four times the strength.

What should I look for? Or at least, try and avoid?
 

Murat_Cyp

Member
Sep 16, 2020
45
18
38
East Midlands
I think the knife you are looking for is usually classified as survival knife which happens to be described as a prybar with a cutting ability by some users.

Depending on budget there are few steel options for such knives. I am not a maker or user of those knives, so the info I am giving is based on some credible/semi credible metallurgy research that I read from the net.

The most expensive and tough steel you can buy is Z-tuff. I do not know any UK makers working with it, there are few in the US. But it is soooo expensive! Then there is 3V. Less tough than Z-tuff, but still much tougher than the rest of similar steels, excluding the spring steels. The spring steels might have a similar toughness. BROC knives of UK makes a nice looking survival knife from this steel with a good price. You may like it. Then there are 80Crv2 and A8mod which are as tough as 3V without the price tag. I saw Guy Sainthorpe working with A8mod, he also works with most of the other steels I mentioned. Then there are 52100 and cru (z) wear. Of course, the strength of the knife will also depend on the geometry as much as if not more than the steel itself. O1 is not the toughest steel but with a thick spine, and grind or grind type (i.e. convex), it will be a suitable survival knife (check origin knives, a UK maker making some good looking "tough" knives from O1 steel.)

All above mentioned steels are non/semi stainless steels. If you want to go to the stainless route, your options would be much less. Any PM steel like elmax or similar will not be tough enough, of course you can make them thick and grind thick, but what is the point of getting a knife then, right? They are expensive as well. However, simpler steels (with finer grain and less carbide volumes) tend to be tougher. The best examples are AEBL, 14C28N, 12C27 and Z-finit (LC 200N). From those steels I have only used Z-finit (which supposed to be a bit less tough than 3V) and it is as tough as nail with an added advantage of being rustproof, notice that I did not say rust resistant. It is completely rust proof. However, it is very expensive and only UK maker that work with it as far I have seen is Guy Sainthorpe. Then there is AEBL probably toughest of the stainless world (it has toughness similar to 3V), I recently ordered a machete made from this steel from a UK maker as I belive that it is suitable steel for this purpose. The rest of the stainless steels I mentioned above (i.e. 14C28N and 12C27) have a similar properties in terms of toughness.

As you can see there are lots of variables. But it is not impossible to find a good solution in terms what steel, thickness, grind and hardness you want in that knife. The more difficult part would be finding a maker who will do it. There are few, but it will not be cheap :)
 

WittyUsername

Tenderfoot
Oct 21, 2020
98
32
35
Kent
I think the knife you are looking for is usually classified as survival knife which happens to be described as a prybar with a cutting ability by some users.

Depending on budget there are few steel options for such knives. I am not a maker or user of those knives, so the info I am giving is based on some credible/semi credible metallurgy research that I read from the net.

The most expensive and tough steel you can buy is Z-tuff. I do not know any UK makers working with it, there are few in the US. But it is soooo expensive! Then there is 3V. Less tough than Z-tuff, but still much tougher than the rest of similar steels, excluding the spring steels. The spring steels might have a similar toughness. BROC knives of UK makes a nice looking survival knife from this steel with a good price. You may like it. Then there are 80Crv2 and A8mod which are as tough as 3V without the price tag. I saw Guy Sainthorpe working with A8mod, he also works with most of the other steels I mentioned. Then there are 52100 and cru (z) wear. Of course, the strength of the knife will also depend on the geometry as much as if not more than the steel itself. O1 is not the toughest steel but with a thick spine, and grind or grind type (i.e. convex), it will be a suitable survival knife (check origin knives, a UK maker making some good looking "tough" knives from O1 steel.)

All above mentioned steels are non/semi stainless steels. If you want to go to the stainless route, your options would be much less. Any PM steel like elmax or similar will not be tough enough, of course you can make them thick and grind thick, but what is the point of getting a knife then, right? They are expensive as well. However, simpler steels (with finer grain and less carbide volumes) tend to be tougher. The best examples are AEBL, 14C28N, 12C27 and Z-finit (LC 200N). From those steels I have only used Z-finit (which supposed to be a bit less tough than 3V) and it is as tough as nail with an added advantage of being rustproof, notice that I did not say rust resistant. It is completely rust proof. However, it is very expensive and only UK maker that work with it as far I have seen is Guy Sainthorpe. Then there is AEBL probably toughest of the stainless world (it has toughness similar to 3V), I recently ordered a machete made from this steel from a UK maker as I belive that it is suitable steel for this purpose. The rest of the stainless steels I mentioned above (i.e. 14C28N and 12C27) have a similar properties in terms of toughness.

As you can see there are lots of variables. But it is not impossible to find a good solution in terms what steel, thickness, grind and hardness you want in that knife. The more difficult part would be finding a maker who will do it. There are few, but it will not be cheap :)

AEBL sounds great. I knew it had a good corrosion resistance but I didn’t know it was anywhere near 3V in terms of toughness.

How bad is 3V for rusting? Most of the Bark Rivers are 3V, so there would be plenty of size and style choices if I took that route too.
 
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Murat_Cyp

Member
Sep 16, 2020
45
18
38
East Midlands
3V is semi-stainless (although it is not classified as that) similar to D2. Never used either, but it should not be too difficult to maintain. I am using 52100 in the kitchen which one of the most rust prone steels and with a little care (washing, wiping and oiling after every use) it does not even develop a patina. If you get your knife in a kydex sheath and carry one or two rags with you (one clean and one with oil), you should not have a problem with carbon steels. I would still wipe AEBL, it is just a good habit to develop. Also, AEBL is a border line stainless, meaning it is not as stainless as others, especially not as stainless as ELMAX if that is what you get used to.
 

pieinthesky

Forager
Jun 29, 2014
118
23
Northants
I have really abused a number of O1 knives and never had a failure yet. I do not pry with them but have battoned through knots that caused the blade to bend significantly.

This is hardened to about 61Rc, you could go 59 or 60 for even more toughness.

I am not saying O1 is the toughest steel out there, but it is tougher than most people need and is cheap and readily available.
 
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Billy-o

Native
Apr 19, 2018
1,655
730
Canada
You might contact Stuart Ackerman - Zackerty here. A bigfan of AEBL, also the author of the Serrata and Sustain/Slither.

I bought one of these O1 things from him a while ago. An unspeakably accomplished knife that I recommend to anyone who is looking for a recommendation. He may still have some.


Random camp knife sized things in tough steels to drool over:

Brian Goode O1
2-Brian-Goode-QB-possibly.png


Stuart Ackerman O1 (The tiddler is in 1095)
Ackerman-Stone-Cutter-with-GEC-H20.jpg


Mike Presnell 52100
Presnell.jpg


Also the Bark River Bravo 1.5 (top) in 3V is OK. Bit weight-forward and broomhandle-y for me
Ackerman-Stone-Cutter-with-BRKT-and-Fallkniven.jpg



Aberg 1075
Stefan-Aberg.jpg
 
Last edited:

WittyUsername

Tenderfoot
Oct 21, 2020
98
32
35
Kent
I have really abused a number of O1 knives and never had a failure yet. I do not pry with them but have battoned through knots that caused the blade to bend significantly.

This is hardened to about 61Rc, you could go 59 or 60 for even more toughness.

I am not saying O1 is the toughest steel out there, but it is tougher than most people need and is cheap and readily available.

Thanks, I’ll have a look at some 01 blades.
 

WittyUsername

Tenderfoot
Oct 21, 2020
98
32
35
Kent
You might contact Stuart Ackerman - Zackerty here. A bigfan of AEBL, also the author of the Serrata and Sustain/Slither.

I bought one of these O1 things from him a while ago. An unspeakably accomplished knife that I recommend to anyone who is looking for a recommendation. He may still have some.


Random camp knife sized things in tough steels to drool over:

Brian Goode O1
2-Brian-Goode-QB-possibly.png


Stuart Ackerman O1 (The tiddler is in 1095)
Ackerman-Stone-Cutter-with-GEC-H20.jpg


Mike Presnell 52100
Presnell.jpg


Also the Bark River Bravo 1.5 (top) in 3V is OK. Bit weight-forward and broomhandle-y for me
Ackerman-Stone-Cutter-with-BRKT-and-Fallkniven.jpg



Aberg 1075
Stefan-Aberg.jpg

The first few are similar to what I had in mind. What’s an A1 like in lam cos? I like the Bark River shape but they are quite plain.
 

WittyUsername

Tenderfoot
Oct 21, 2020
98
32
35
Kent
3V is semi-stainless (although it is not classified as that) similar to D2. Never used either, but it should not be too difficult to maintain. I am using 52100 in the kitchen which one of the most rust prone steels and with a little care (washing, wiping and oiling after every use) it does not even develop a patina. If you get your knife in a kydex sheath and carry one or two rags with you (one clean and one with oil), you should not have a problem with carbon steels. I would still wipe AEBL, it is just a good habit to develop. Also, AEBL is a border line stainless, meaning it is not as stainless as others, especially not as stainless as ELMAX if that is what you get used to.

Those Wander Tactical knives are D2. The things look prehistoric...

 

TLM

Native
Nov 16, 2019
1,599
700
Vantaa, Finland
Playing with the idea of special SanMai construction I once hypotezised with the idea of outer layers of maraging steels and mid layer of very high carbide steel. Ultimate bending stregth with very high cutting ability! The down sides are it would be slightly pricy, the layers might have to be explosively joined and the heat treatment might be more than slightly tricky, it could be be a great knife though.
 

TLM

Native
Nov 16, 2019
1,599
700
Vantaa, Finland
Actually the laminated construction would be your best bet even with more ordinary steels. No steels combine the required cutting ability and high breaking strain, the solution: use two different steels.
 
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