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Friday, July 8, 2011

You think you are tough? Try on some high carbon knife steel and let's see...

High carbon steels have a higher carbon content than stainless steels as implied by the name and according to the American Iron and Steel Institute, must contain more than 0.3% carbon to be classified as high carbon.  There are many varieties of high carbon steels, each with differing characteristics.  This blog will focus on one of the more popular high carbon steels - 1095.

The "10" in 1095 is a numerical designation assigned to carbon steels and the last two number refer to the amount of carbon, in this case 0.95%.  The numerical designation may lead you to believe that 1095 is going to carry 0.95% carbon, no more and no less, but that is not the case.  1095 can carry anywhere from 0.9% to 1.03% carbon depending on the manufacturer's or maker's requirements.

1095 can be "zone" heat treated, in other words, the edge of the knife blade can be hardened to a different Rockwell Hardness than the spine of the blade which will offer the end user a knife with great edge retention, keeping the blade sharper for a longer period of time and offer the end user a tough knife when the spine is left a bit less hard than the edge.

1095 may sound like it will make the "perfect" knife and for some, this is true, but for others that don't like maintaining their tools, 1095 steel and well as any other non stainless steel won't be ideal.  1095 is prone to rust so maintenance is mandatory and relatively simple.  Simply apply a thin coat of oil to the metal and reapply again whenever needed.  The type of oil you use to prevent rusting will depend on what you will use the knife for.  If food is a possibility, then using a motor oil, gun oil, 3 in 1 oil, etc, isn't the best idea and you should consider using a vegetable type oil or a  food grade mineral oil, which you should be able to find in your local drug store or a kitchen supply store (used for wood butcher blocks).  Some oils perform better than others and a bit of trial and error will lead to the best oil for your needs.

TOPS Knives uses 1095 high carbon steel in most of their lineup, like the Tom Brown Tracker (shown above).  The steel is hardened to Rockwell (HRc) 58.  TOPS Knives offers free lifetime sharpening for the original owner.  You can learn more about TOPS products at their website.


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