There are many other parts and aspects that contribute to the quality of a knife, and without a question, the blade plays a bigger role of getting the job done or not.
Below, we have compiled the information you need to know about knife blades, from material, shapes, types, to features.
The first thing to consider is the blade material or “steel selection,” as a commonly used expression among advanced knife users.
The most common material used for EDC blades is stainless steel, which is an alloy of iron and carbon.
However, there are many types of stainless steel, which vary on the exact alloying elements and their portion.
Alloying Elements Closeup
In the process of creating the ideal stainless steel, particular elements are added to the iron (typically between 50 – 70 %) and carbon (less than 1%) mix to make the final stainless steel alloy.
Here we take a closer look at the majority of those alloying elements and their characteristics.
- Chromium – is an essential part of stainless steel as it is the one mainly responsible for the corrosion resistance properties. It typically represents around 14% of the alloy.
- Cobalt – high-end steel typically includes cobalt as it adds strength to a blade.
- Copper – since it has great anti-corrosive properties, it can be added to increase durability.
- Nickel – very similar to copper, it increases corrosion resistance and overall durability
- Manganese – you may know that this metal increases brittleness, however, since it boosts overall hardness it is a common add-on element.
- Molybdenum – it is less common, yet still a go-to element in small quantities. Like manganese, it increases hardness at the expense of brittleness and decreased durability.
- Niobium – it increases toughness and strength.
- Tungsten – can be added to increase durability and scratch resistance. It is commonly used in military applications.
- Vanadium – this extremely expensive alloying element increases durability and hardness.
- Silicon – adds strength
- Phosphorus – this non-metal can be added to increase strength, which comes at the expense of increased brittleness.
- Sulfur – another non-metal that can be used to make machining steel simpler. It comes with a toughness reduction as a trade-off.
Common Knife Steel Types
Since there are many alloy elements in stainless steel, we may not cover all of them here. But it is important to take a closer look at some of the most commonly used for EDC knife blades.
- 400-Series – this is a bare-bone material used in bargain EDC knives. There are many steel types within the 400-series; one of the most common being 440HC, which offers great hardness and solid corrosion resistance.
- AUS-series – this is essentially the Japanese version of the 400-series owned by Aichu Steel
- 10-Series – this type of series is almost as common as the 400-series. The 10-series steel incorporates a higher percentage of carbon (known as high-carbon blades). This gives it an excellent chip and wear resistance at the expense of poorer corrosion resistance.
- Cr/MoV – This is another common Japanese steel type owned by a company named Ahonest. They tend to offer greater strength (higher carbon content) than AUS-series but lower corrosion resistance.
- 1.4110 – a standard stainless steel type used by Swiss Army Knives (Victorinox). This type of steel is very affordable and offers an extremely high level of corrosion resistance. The major downside is that it doesn’t hold an edge well (luckily, it is easy to sharpen).
- Sandvik – made by Swedish company Sandvik, offers several types, most common being 12C27, 13C26, and 14C28N (with nitrogen for better corrosion resistance).
- 154CM – this stainless steel is common for higher-end knives. It offers a great balance of toughness, hardness, and corrosion resistance.
- S30V/S30VN – this is the most popular and commonly used CPM steel. It is relatively affordable, extremely durable, and tough. The S30VN variation is known to be less prone to chipping.
- VG-10 – this Japanese steel is commonly used by Spyderco. It offers great corrosion resistance, toughness, and is able to hold a very sharp edge. However, it tends to be prone to disfiguration.
- D2 – due to its lower amounts of chromium, it is often excluded from stainless steels. However, it offers great toughness and hardness, which makes it one of the best knife steels.
- CPM (Crucible Powder Metallurgy) – this type of steel is known to be extremely tough and able to survive even the most intense uses. Though, note that CPM steel is not truly stainless and can be discolored and corroded if not well taken care of. Even with that drawback, CMP family steel (varieties: S30V, S35VN, M4, CPM3V, S90V) is one of the most sought after worldwide..
- Other more rare types of steel:
Looking at the steel types above, you can see that there is no such thing as the best EDC knife steel. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages and you need to select the one that best suits your needs.
The metals presented above are the base of the blade, however, an EDC knife also comes with a blade finish to offer additional protection mainly against corrosion.
In addition, blade finishes tend to add a certain level of appeal.
The most common blade finishes include:
- Stonewash – essentially tumbling a blade in an abrasive material in order to “scuff the metal.” This creates a lightly worn pattern on the surface.
- Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) – this blade finish looks very similar to color, yet is much more durable and very hard to remove. It offers protection against rust and scratches.
- Blackwash – using water/colorant mixture to rinse the blade and present a dark finish.
- Protective Paint – a layer of protective special kind of paint is applied on the blade. However, it tends to wear off with use.
- Etching – dipping the blade into a weak acid mixture for an extended period of time, which creates patterns.
Sharpness & Edge Retention
The ease of sharpening the edge and the knife’s ability to hold the sharpness depends on the steel type.
Note that each knife has its pros and cons, meaning to get the most out of your EDC knife and make it last for years, some level of care will need to be applied.
Common Edge Grind Types:
- Full Flat Grind (FFG)
- V(flat) Ground
- Hollow Ground
- Asymmetrical Semi Convex
- Asymmetrical V(flat)
- Compound (Double) Bevel
- Chisel With Backbevel
- Chisel With Urasuki
The edge grind highlighted above are used most oftenly. Each of the edge grind types offers some benefits and some disadvantages.
For instance, FFG provides ease in sharpening and cutting as the blade has less surface area (lower traction). V grind offers additional strength but comes with increased weight. Hollow grinds offer great cutting performance but are slightly more fragile and not as easy to sharpen.
Additional Features Of The Blade
Steel selection, blade finish, sharpness, and edge retention are the key aspects of any blade. However, there are some additional features that cannot be overlooked, especially once you begin to look at an EDC knife as a whole.
There are many blade shapes for EDC knives. The most common options include the following:
- Spear Point
- Drop Point
- Clip Point
- Trailing Point
- Reverse Tanto
(Image credit: BladeHQ)
The length of the handle dictates the pace. One of the main advantages of folding knives is their practical, pocket-friendly size.
Despite the obvious size limitations, there is still a wide range of blade lengths available on the market. An EDC knife’s blade length can range from as little as 2 inches to an impressive 5 inches.
Again, your personal preferences will help you determine the length you need.
Blade retention tells you how well a knife handle and mechanism keep the blade down when in a closed position. It is an important safety aspect to consider before purchasing an EDC knife.
Many knives have complex grinds. This can offer additional use options and a more appealing design, with a focus on the latter.
This is an inward curve very close to the base of the blade. This feature offers a more aggressive cutting and can come in handy when cutting cloth, rope, or food.
Serrations can be extremely practical when dealing with an extra smooth surface, where starting a cut is more difficult.
Jimping is set in place to offer additional protection holding the blade. It normally comes in the form of a series of perpendicular cuts in the metal. This forms ridges where you place your thumb.
Choil provides a forward grip at the bottom of the blade. This partially round cut gives you more control.
As the name suggests, this is a part of the blade’s spine where you may apply additional force using your thumb.
A swedge may be created to thin the spine of a knife in profile to make the knife lighter without sacrificing strength.