Austenitizing, Cryo, Hardness, Heat Treating and Processing, Nitrogen-alloyed, Tempering

Heat Treating Vanax – How Hard Does it Get?

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Vanax is an interesting steel because of its good combination of toughness, wear resistance, and corrosion resistance. I wrote about Vanax along with other nitrogen-alloyed steels in this article, to describe how the steel is designed. While the datasheet shows it being capable of 59-61 Rc, I was curious about how hard the steel can go. The steel may be good for kitchen knives, for example, where very thin edges and high hardness is common. And kitchen knife users may appreciate the excellent corrosion resistance of Vanax in the presence of water, salt, and acidic foods. read more

Austenitizing, Magnetism

Can You Trust Your Magnet During Heat Treating?

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How a Magnet Helps in Heat Treating

It is somewhat common for knifemakers to heat treat low alloy steels in a forge or with a torch, two methods where tight temperature control is not possible, and the temperature is frequently not even known. A magnet is often used to check the temperature of the steel because the point at which the steel becomes nonmagnetic is near the temperature at which the steel should be quenched to achieve high hardness. How does steel magnetism work? How reliable is checking the steel with a magnet? read more

Cold Forging, Heat Treating and Processing

Cold Forging of Steel

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Cold Forging

Cold forging is a lot like hot forging except it is at or near room temperature. The lower temperature means that the steel is much stronger and it is much more difficult to forge. That also means the steel is more brittle and therefore more likely to crack during forging or rolling. The shape of the grains in the steel are changed through forging. You can read about what grains are in this article. Steel is made up of planes of iron atoms, and if the steel was made up of only one grain these planes of atoms would all be parallel to each other: read more

History - Articles - Books, Steel and Knife Properties, Steels

All About AEB-L

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History of AEB-L and 13C26

Tracking down the history of AEB-L was surprisingly difficult. The Uddeholm website claims that AEB-L was patented in 1928 [1]; however, that is not entirely truthful. Uddeholm did patent a stainless steel in 1928 [2], which was named AEB, and later AEB-H to differentiate it from AEB-L. This was a very early stainless steel, so its development and patent needs to be viewed in that historical context. You can read about the development of stainless steels in this article. The AEB patent was for 0.7-1.1% carbon, 10-16% chromium, and 0.75-2.0% manganese. The original Brearley and Haynes stainless steel patents were still in effect; they got around them by using a higher carbon content than the Brearley patent (had a 0.7% max), and by claiming that high Mn led to improved corrosion resistance (it actually doesn’t). The nominal composition of AEB became 1% carbon and 13.5% chromium, which gave it a relatively large carbide structure compared to AEB-L, but it did see some use as a razor blade steel. read more

Hardenability, Quenching

How Fast Do You Have to Quench? Hardenability of Steel

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How fast one must quench steel is controlled by its hardenability. Hardenability is not a measure of how hard a steel can get. Instead it is a measure of how fast you have to quench to achieve max hardness for a given composition. Therefore a steel with 0.2% carbon can have high hardenability without being able to reach a particularly high hardness; the steel can be allowed to cool in air and achieve more or less the same hardness as when it is quenched in water. On the other hand, a steel with very high carbon content that can reach very high hardness can have low hardenability, requiring a water quench to achieve its potential hardness. read more

Edge Retention, Steel and Knife Properties

Can CATRA predict Rope Cutting Performance?

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CATRA Edge Retention Testing

I previously wrote articles about CATRA testing of edges. The CATRA test uses 5% silica-impregnated cardstock which it slices with a fixed stroke length and force. The first article primarily looked at the effect of edge angle on edge retention; specifically, that edge angle greatly controls edge retention: read more


Book Review – Damascus Steel Swords: Solving the Mystery of How to Make Them

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In July 2018 a new book was released on the research of wootz Damascus steel by Dr. John Verhoeven. Dr. Verhoeven is well known for his contributions to research on knife steels and damascus, along with frequent collaborator Al Pendray. Dr. Verhoeven has often been cited on this website, including his articles on CATRA testing of different knife steels [1], and also a series of experiments on sharpening of knives [2]. He also wrote a book on the metallurgy of knife steels, which is now published as Steel Metallurgy for the Non-Metallurgist; I reviewed it in this article on book recommendations. Dr. Verhoeven had a particularly strong impact on my interest in steel and metallurgy. I was introduced to him through his knife steel metallurgy book which I read several times in my teen years. And when I was looking for the best steel University to attend, he was the first person I emailed for advice. I asked him for an interview to be published on this website, and he asked if I would be willing to review his new book instead – Damascus Steel Swords: Solving the Mystery of How to Make Them. read more

Corrosion Resistance, Edge Retention, Sharpness

Does Acidic Food Affect Edge Retention?

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I was interviewed on the Knife Junkie Podcast, so make sure you check that out.

Acidic Food

Carbon steel knives are frequently used in kitchens, probably the majority of them made by Japanese bladesmiths and knife companies. Kitchen knives cut a variety of foods, and some of them are corrosive. There has been some debate about whether any of these potentially-corrosive foods can actually affect sharpness or edge retention of kitchen knives. Sharpness is controlled by the radius/width of the edge. You can read more in the article on sharpness vs cutting ability. read more