Price of blade steel vs performance

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by Justin Schmidt, May 13, 2020.

  1. Justin Schmidt

    Justin Schmidt Schmidt Forge

    Feb 18, 2016
    So AEBL is about 5 bucks a foot. CPM 154 is in the 30s for 18in same with s35vn s30v etc.
    Are those steels 3.5 times better than aebl in the grand scheme of things? I'm talking for folders and small fixed blades. I know s35vn and s30v are going to be more wear resistant but overall are they THAT much better?
  2. gammarad


    Jun 15, 2015
    If I was playing along on the question, I would say no, the difference is not that much.

    But the reality is that when I add up all the expenses (time being the biggest), steel ends up being a very small part of the overall cost. Even if I don't consider the time, I frequently end up spending more in abrasives than in steel.
  3. Stang Bladeworks

    Stang Bladeworks

    Feb 19, 2018
    I would put aebl in the same league as cpm154 personally.
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  4. Dillon.s


    Mar 29, 2017
    I agree with gammarad. And I just went threw this with myself recently and came to the conclusion, that for the 10-15$ different between steels for a knife. I might as well pay the extra and go for the added benefits, and especially because I am selling my knives and if 15$ makes a customer happier then the cheaper steel that’s good enough for me. But if your new to the game and only making for yourself and friends, until you hone your skills. then I would go with cheaper as it keeps costs down haha just my thoughts one it.
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  5. Willie71

    Willie71 Warren J. Krywko. Part Time Knifemaker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 23, 2013
    Depends on how you measure things, or which properties you value. Are your customers paying a premium for being a steel snob? I don’t mean that in a degrading way. Some people pay a lot more for exotic steels.

    AEB-l is way tougher than most other stainless steels, but it gives up a bit in edge retention. Not as much as you would think though. AEB-l has better edge retention than any of the simple forging steels. I will personally be using a lot more AEB-l going forward. It’s economical, performs very well, and can support the finest edge imaginable.
  6. fishface5

    fishface5 Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 3, 2001
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  7. Natlek


    Jun 9, 2015
    Yes they are some way :) 500$ mammoth scales on AEBL blade ..........i don t think so :D 5 bucks steel blade don t go with titanium , mokume gane...hagane gane ......and hundreds of working hours on folder :p
    You know , I know that 150$ fishing reel from Daiwa will done job.....BUT Daiwa Saltiga is so exotic reel 1000$ fly from my pocket .....many times :D
  8. Ken H>

    Ken H>

    Dec 31, 2011
    The question from OP was are the other steels "that much better" than AEB-L, and I take that is for actual use. No, they are NOT "better" for actual use. Take an 8" chef knife, one is AEB-L, other with S35vn (or other) and in the kitchen most folks will never know the difference. While the AEB-L might need sharpening a bit more often than S35vn, you'll never know that since the knife will normally be swiped across a steel every few times it's used.

    OTOH, if you're talking about sales, that's another matter. If you're making a "high dollar" knife with $100 to $300 in handle material, fancy stuff to drive up price, then the extra $15 or so is well spent. They person in the market for that type of knife is going to be more of a "steel snob" and will gladly pay an extra $50 or more for the "exotic" steel.

    All depends on the market.
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  9. Larrin

    Larrin Gold Member Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Gold Member

    Jan 17, 2004
    There are steels that have different combinations of properties, including different prices. But usually one steel is not “better” than another.
  10. Justin Schmidt

    Justin Schmidt Schmidt Forge

    Feb 18, 2016
    Yeah this article is what really got the wheels turning in my head.
    As larrin has proven hardness is more of a factor when determining wear resistance than chemistry. With AEBL being as tough as it is I wonder how it would perform at 64rc
  11. Willie71

    Willie71 Warren J. Krywko. Part Time Knifemaker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 23, 2013
    I have had that conversation with a few other smiths off of the forum. AEB-l at Rc64 should hold up to most realistic knife tasks.

    Carbide volume is the biggest predictor of wear resistance, but is typically inversely related to toughness.
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  12. ace

    ace Gold Member Gold Member

    May 3, 2000
    Hmmm. Where in this article you see this? If anything the opposite is true. AEB-L works really well at 64 HRC at least for kitchen knives.
  13. Willie71

    Willie71 Warren J. Krywko. Part Time Knifemaker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 23, 2013
    I think the whole package has to be taken into account, to sum up my experiences with this. I would struggle to use my nicest piece of Koa with an 8670 belt finished knife. Nothing wrong with 8670, but few people will want a $400.00 or higher knife in 8670. In kitchen knives, AEB-l, 52100, W2 and 1095 are all considered fine steels, but you won’t sell them for more than $400.00 unless you have great name recognition. On the other hand, I won’t sell a z-wear kitchen knife for less than $400.00 as it costs so much to grind out.

    I would really struggle to put the time into a folder in a basic steel, performance aside, with the negative impact of steel snobbery on pricing. Consider the whole package when picking steel.
  14. scott kozub

    scott kozub Basic Member Basic Member

    Jan 1, 2018
    Keep in mind that much of the savings of AEB-L over something like a cm154 is the economy of scale to produce steel for all those razor blades. Dedicated knife steels simply don't have those economies of scale.
  15. Justin Schmidt

    Justin Schmidt Schmidt Forge

    Feb 18, 2016
    That's true too. But guys like gavko knives frequently use aebl and nitro-v in their folders with timascus and what not.
    Until I get folders down to repeatable quality I'm happy with I'll probably stick with AEBL.
    It was just a thought I was having and wanted to pick others guys brains
  16. DeadboxHero

    DeadboxHero Triple B Handmade, Custom Knives Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Mar 22, 2014
    I like to sharpen when I want to not because I have to. The more expensive, higher wear steel at higher hardness gives a customer/user that option. It's nice to be able to finish what you're cutting without the edge wearing and blunting down smooth in the middle of strenuous cutting
    It is a luxury feature.

    Nothing wrong with pulling out a pocket stone and going crazy but it's nice when you don't have to.

    I've always liked the example Phil Wilson uses of taking down game in adverse weather conditions and it's nice when you know you don't have to stop and touch up the blade in miserable conditions. Just get it down.
  17. kdnolin

    kdnolin Basic Member Basic Member

    Jan 16, 2017
    If your customers are used to Chinese folders, they will think AEBL is a super steel. As Warren said it should hold up at Rc 63/64, giving it some pretty impressive edge retention.

    When starting out, doing the precision work in folders I could see the scrap pile growing, so using S35vn could get expensive.

    I do mostly kitchen knives, so the volume of steel is higher. I’m also in Canada so shipping is higher and I hate ordering half weight so I get a few bars of M4 then fill with AEBL and carbon steel. AEBL is also a joy to grind compared to M4.
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  18. ace

    ace Gold Member Gold Member

    May 3, 2000
    As a customer and user I fully agree with Shawn.

    For me, the shorter the blade the more wear resistance I want. Three reasons; less edge means more blunting, long blades you can get away with less wear resistance because there is just more edge to go around. Smaller blades can get away with less toughness, due to use I usually put them to. Shorter edges take less to sharpen.
  19. DeadboxHero

    DeadboxHero Triple B Handmade, Custom Knives Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Mar 22, 2014
    I think you got that twisted Justin.

    The chemistry is what decides the carbide type and carbide volume ranges.

    It is the carbide type and volume that plays one of the biggest role in controlled edge wear.

    On Larrin's graph, you can see that there are lots of softer steels than AEB-L at ~64rc that still cut more even though they are softer HRC they still cut more mm of card stock (S90v, Vanadis 8, etc for example)

    The higher volume of harder carbides in a sufficiently hard matrix resisted being worn better than a steel that had a even harder matrix with less carbides and softer carbides.

    Also, there were some steels that had more carbide volume and higher matrix hardness but the carbide types were softer so also those did not cut as long such as 10v at 17% volume vs ZDP at 30% plus. Yet, softer 10v at lower carbide volume cut longer because of the Carbide type.

    So chemistry is very important for wear resistance potential.

    Larrin's article is always worth another read lots of good stuff in there to dig into.

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  20. Justin Schmidt

    Justin Schmidt Schmidt Forge

    Feb 18, 2016

    That makes alot of sense. I'm by no means trying to skimp on materials. Was just wondering from more of a business perspective

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