What steel do you prefer for hunting knives?

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by Justin Schmidt, Jun 18, 2020.

  1. Justin Schmidt

    Justin Schmidt Schmidt Forge

    Feb 18, 2016
    I've been working on folders for what seems like forever and am starting to get really burned out with them. So wanted to get back to basics and make some hunting knives. What steel does everyone prefer and where are you getting it? I have the ability to HT anything so that's not a concern. I was thinking about 4v or m4. Thanks in advance

    ETA I've used AEBL quite a bit but it's just such a PITA to mess with all the warping so I'd like to stand clear of it. Heres my drawing of said hunter
  2. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    52100 for carbon steel, S35VN for stainless. Elmax is also good ( but I don't work in it).
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  3. Taqtaq


    Jun 10, 2018
    440c is very under-rated. It works extremely well with a toothy edge (220 grit). I get that it’s not new and “super” but for all uses except fine slicing it is makes for a really good knife.
    Cpm 154 is another good option.

    S35 or S45 would top the list.
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  4. Willie71

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

    Feb 23, 2013
    I use either z-wear (similar to 4v or M4), or z-tuff for guys who want indestructible. For simple steels 52100, or W2, or 8670 or 15n20 for those who want indestructible.
  5. Justin Schmidt

    Justin Schmidt Schmidt Forge

    Feb 18, 2016
    Where are you getting your z-wear? Aks doesnt have a very strong selection. Thought about trying m4 or 4v
  6. Willie71

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

    Feb 23, 2013
    the 0.96” stock is perfect for hunters. The other two steels work well too.
  7. kdnolin

    kdnolin Basic Member Basic Member

    Jan 16, 2017
    I made a hunter for myself out of s35vn only hardened to RC60, works great, i just touch up the edge once a year. Last year i deboned an entire moose with a 3.5" AEB-L skinner (RC 62) and I was impressed. The edge held up very well with no chips or rolls. I also have one in M4, but havent used it on game yet. My wife uses an M4 Santoku (RC 65) in the kitchen and absolutely loves it. its nearly 2 years old, touched up the edge once and it is always ready to slice a ripe tomato or fresh bread. Her previous go to knife was 1084.
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  8. Seedy Lot

    Seedy Lot

    Apr 15, 2019
    I have personally used 4v, M4, and Cruwear. They all work well and i like them to be in the 62rc range so edge is less likely to roll with bone contact. I made a friend a couple boning knives out of M2 at 64-65rc and he has used them for butchering his farm hogs and he still swears it is the best steel he has ever used.
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  9. Mobius1


    Feb 15, 2016
    After owning some Mora's I quickly learned how excessive my knives had been, thickness wise! I haven't gone back to thick blades ever since.

    There's a Japanese hunter I follow on Youtube named Wako (Virtuovice), who swears by 3V for hunting knives (If I'm not mistaken, you can shoot limitless stags there, or something crazy, so this guy puts his knives to USE!!). That's what I used to make most of mine out of, but have also switched to Z-Wear these last couple years.
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  10. Justin Schmidt

    Justin Schmidt Schmidt Forge

    Feb 18, 2016
    @Willie71 isnt .096 too thin? For skinning I'm sure its fantastic but when you're coming In contact with bone and what not i figured it wouldnt be robust enough. I was thinking .125 would be the perfect thickness
  11. Justin Schmidt

    Justin Schmidt Schmidt Forge

    Feb 18, 2016
    M2 is another one I've thought about using
  12. Mobius1


    Feb 15, 2016
    What, are you going to be chopping the femur or prying out ribs or something? :D

    I have a .040 thick knife for when I go backpacking. and I go to town with that thing, even batoning with ease.
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  13. Willie71

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

    Feb 23, 2013
    I don’t make them that thick anymore. I do up to 5.5” knives in 0.098” z-wear or z-tuff. I’ve had ZERO returned for even a chip in the edge.
  14. Bigfattyt

    Bigfattyt Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 23, 2007
    Ive watched more than a few of his videos. If I remember correctly, they need population co trol, and it is very difficult to get your hunting license and to own even hunting firearms. If i remember correctly, he often only takes the back straps!

    To OP's question, I'm not supper steel snobbish. I have a few "hunter" style blades, that honestly don't get a lot of "hunting work". I've only ever shot one deer. I jave helped burcher an elk, and have done an entire cow, caped out and quartered on its own hide. Then helped butcher it. I did not use any of my "high end" knives, except a Busse CABS (choilless anorexic Boss Street) that I used to get in around the hip socket. I used two other Busse to help with the elk. INFI is not a top edge retention steel, but is very tough wirh decent edge retention.

    Mostly just used a pile of Old Hickory knives and a few others. I did use a modified Hudson Bay pattern Comdor that I stripped and thinned out to do much of then skinning on the cow. That one is 1075 I believe.
    I have two old Old Hickory butcher knives from my grandfathsr that are very old, and the designs work great for that.

    I have and used higher hardness 52100 and enjoy it a lot. I have a 440c or possibly ats34 custom hunter, an AEBL hunter from Phillip Patton, and a hand forgred differentially heat treated custom. But don't know the steel.

    I have two edcs in CPM3V that I've been pretty impressed with. But I've not used it on flesh.

    AEBL has been very enjoyable for me from an ease of sharpening standpoint. I almost giggle when I sharpen it. Very much reminds me of the ease of 1095, or Bucks 420HC, or even Opinel Inox or carbon steels. Really is that easy..it gives up a little in edge retention to 440c, D2, Or Ats34, or my CPM154. But not excessivly so. But is suler tough stuff.

    I have not tried any of the newer super steels suoer high edge retention stuff (though I am always eyeballing the stuff in Spyderco sprint runs).

    As I've gotten older, I have moved away from. Thicker knives for actual use. Thinner/lighter with better cutting geometry is the way I am moving lately. For flesh, I don't need an uber tough knife.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2020
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  15. MolokaiRider

    MolokaiRider Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 13, 2017
    I have had great experiences using CPM-3V in a CS Master Hunter. A pretty thin distal taper full flat with a sweeping belly.

    I can get through three deer before needing to strop.

    I have used Buck 420, Kabar 1095 cro-van, D2 in a Maxpedition fish belly, 1075 Condor, 1095 Old Hickory, 425? Buck, S30v Buck, 14c28n Mora, 1095 Mora, S30v Spyderco, VG10 Spyderco, plus a smattering of kitchen knives.

    The CS MH has a very noticeable increase in performance.
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  16. tim37a


    May 18, 2010
    I only make Stainless so I'm like Stacy, S35VN is my go too steel. Plan to try Elmax this year.
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  17. Scaniaman


    Jun 15, 2012
    Anything above 0.1" is just wrong for a hunter in my opinion, especially if you are going to skin and butcher your game with it. No pro knives from Victorinox, Swibo, Mora/Frosts, Dick etc have "thick" blades. Go figure..
    Though I make my own blades now, my go to hunting knife is still a Mora/Frosts sheep skinner that I put a handle on and made a sheath for some years ago.
    It is 12c27 at 56-57 Hrc :D, and has a 0.079" thickness.
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  18. Scaniaman


    Jun 15, 2012
    As for carbon steel, I don't think it belongs in hunting or fishing knives. For practical reasons.
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  19. J-T-K


    May 11, 2020
    Around here people use 2 to 2.5mm stainless steel with a handle that's hard to lose in the undergrowth or darkness and doesn't slip in the hand when wet and gory. Very practical stuff.
  20. Willie71

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

    Feb 23, 2013

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