As its name suggests, carbon steel contains a lot of carbon. This produces a steel that is extremely hard and has exceptional sharpness and edge retention. Knives made of carbon steel tend to be tougher, sharper, retain their edge for longer, and be easier to resharpen. Given how easy it will be to maintain their effectiveness and outstanding edge retention, they are perfect for lengthy use in the wild. However, due to the hardness of carbon steel, these knives won’t maintain their edge for as long.
Compared to blades made of lower carbon steel, high-carbon steel will be significantly stronger. However, there are certain drawbacks to carbon steel, including the fact that it is more brittle (and hence more likely to chip and break), does not maintain an edge for as long, and has a low level of corrosion resistance (like rust). Naturally, proper knife handling can reduce these drawbacks.
What To Consider When Choosing The Best Carbon Steel Blade
While all carbon steel blades will hold up just fine in a knife, not every model is made equally. The following section looks at several key factors that can affect performance and durability.
Carbon steel has long been considered one of the strongest materials around, but it’s actually not as robust as you might think. It requires regular maintenance with a good quality oil, such as vegetable or mineral based, to keep running smoothly. However, if neglected, it can quickly rust and become brittle. This is why high-quality stainless steel blades are now preferred over their carbon counterparts. Stainless steel blades don’t rust, they’re easier to clean, and they maintain their strength better than carbon steel.
The handles on your knives should be comfortable while also being able to withstand heavy use. Most manufacturers use either plastic or rubber grips designed to reduce hand fatigue and improve grip security.
- Plastic handles tend to feel less smooth than those made from rubber, though they do offer a more affordable option.
- On the other side, rubber handles are cozier to hold onto and have a little more power behind them. Users are less likely to inadvertently cut themselves when using this material, yet they might wear out more quickly than plastic.
This refers to how long your blade stays sharp in-between sharpening. If an edge starts to lose its razor-sharpness too soon after purchase, then it’s called “edge retention.” You want at least 30 minutes of full runtime per each time you sharpen your blade.
Some blades stay sharper for longer because they’re constructed with multiple layers of metal rather than just one layer of steel. These multi-layered blades require a little more effort to sharpen since you need to remove the topmost layer before you can get to the bottom layer; however, once you do, you’ll see an increase in both the number of teeth and the length of the serrated portion of the blade.
A shorter blade means a smaller cutting area, which could make it difficult to complete larger tasks. However, a short blade does mean a quicker response time when faced with a threat. Shorter blades tend to be sturdier than longer ones, so they’re often used by professionals in situations where toughness and stability matter most. On average, chef’s knives range between 3 and 4 inches in total. A small paring knife is typically about 2 inches long, while a large cleaver style knife can reach 5 inches. There are plenty of middle ground options as well, including a few that fall under 3 inches.
Weight and Balance
When it comes to weight and balance, there are two sides to the coin. On one hand, a lighter knife tends to be easier to wield, particularly during a fight. But, on the other hand, a heavier knife usually indicates greater heft and stability, making it harder to move or react quickly. For many people, the ideal weight lies somewhere in between these extremes. These knives tend to weigh around 1 or 2 pounds, which is generally enough weight to ensure solid handling without causing fatigue.
One benefit of choosing a set of carbon steel kitchen knives is that they’re very versatile. Unlike some specialty steels, they work great for a variety of different uses, ranging from peeling vegetables to gutting fish to undertaking detailed decorative tasks.
In addition to their intended purpose, these knives can perform well as general-purpose tools for DIY projects or even scraping paint off walls. Just remember that care must be taken when working with any type of steel, whether it’s aluminum, stainless, carbon, etc., since these metals differ in hardness.
Types Of Carbon Steel Blades
There are three main types of carbon steel blades, each with its own unique set of features and benefits.
Plain carbon steel
This is the most common type of blade found in hobby shops and online retailers. It’s inexpensive, easy to work with, and very versatile. This kind of steel can be used for a variety of purposes, from cutting through paper or cardboard to carving various kinds of wood. However, it doesn’t hold up well against more rigorous use; over time, these blades tend to break apart easily and rust. To combat this issue, always store your knife sharpener at least partially filled with sand when not in use.
Dress/utility carbon steel
These two grades of carbon steel are designed specifically for heavy-duty use. They’re much tougher than plain carbon steel and won’t break apart as easily under pressure. However, they cost more and take significantly longer to forge than plain carbon steel. If you plan on using this kind of steel, make sure you have enough money to spare to pay someone else to do all the hard work.
Workbench carbon steel
The best kind of carbon steel is one that was made for a specific purpose. Workbench steel is tough enough for working with tools like saws and drills but soft enough to prevent breaking when struck. This makes it ideal for safely performing maintenance tasks around your home. You’ll also be able to spend more time enjoying your new blade without worrying about damaging it. This kind of steel costs more than dress and utility grades because it has to meet higher quality standards. Don’t worry though, because even though it’s priced at a premium, it’s an investment rather than a whim.
How We Chose Our Top Picks
We started by searching for the best-rated and most popular options on Amazon, professional publications, and other online retailers. We limited our search to knives that fit in a pocket or purse without taking up too much space.
From there, we narrowed our focus to knives that were either fixed blade or folding knives with decent overall quality control (QC) reports from independent third parties. Finally, we excluded any knives with partial tangs or thin rat-tail tangs because they don’t offer as much value.
Frequently Asked Questions About Carbon Steel Blades
How much does a carbon steel knife cost?
Carbon steel knives can range anywhere between $30 and $200, with most costing in the mid-range. That said, there are some excellent budget options out there that won’t break the bank.
What is the best type of steel for a folding knife?
The answer to this question depends entirely on what you intend to use it for. If you’re looking for high-quality steels like 8Cr13MoV or AUS-8, then keep it plain old traditional; if you want something exotic, then go with ELMAX or DQS42VN. Make sure to get your desired grade before you order though, as different grades have different properties and benefits.
Are stainless steels good for pocket knives?
Stainless steels are generally not recommended for pocket knives because they tend to be either too soft (under 1000HRC) or too hard (over 11000HRC). However, they’re great for larger, more powerful fixed blade knives, as well as some smaller pocket knives designed for heavy-duty usage.
Can a blade made of carbon steel be sharpened?
Yes, carbon steel maintains its edge longer than stainless steel. Stainless steel is much harder than carbon steel, but carbon steel is much easier to sharpen. This is important since, in my experience, blades that are often used don’t keep their sharpness for very long.
What are the drawbacks of blades made of carbon steel?
Due to its elevated carbon levels and low chromium content, many of these steels do not have good resistance to corrosion, making them significantly more prone to rust and darkening. When working in damp conditions or exposing the knife to foods that contain acids, such as tomatoes, this becomes very clear.
How should carbon steel be maintained?
Hand-wash your carbon steel cookware in warm water after use. You can make use of a little soap. Use a non scratch pad, scrub brush, or pan scraper if necessary. Simmer some water for three to five minutes to loosen stuck-on food, utilize the scraper once the pan has dried.
How do you remove rust from carbon steel?
On the area of rust, apply some cooking oil (such as vegetable oil) and coarse salt. Utilizing a hand towel or clean cloth and a tiny circular motion, brush the salt and lubricant into the corrosion until it has been eliminated.