• What steels do you like to work with and use? Why?
• General Heat Treat info?
• Why do you like putting chisel grinds on your knives?
• Titanium knives with carbidized edge: What are they, why are you making them, and how are they made?
• Do you make custom knives?
Q. What steel do you like to work with and use? Why?
A. In no particular order:
Carbon: CPM-3V, CPM-M4, A2, D2, 10V
Stainless: AEB-L, M390, CPM-154, CPM-S35VN, Elmax
I also like Titanium (6Al-4V) knives with a carbide edge (further discussion below)
Generally, I like A2 and M4 for working knives that’ll see field time. I like A2 for its toughness, ease of field touching-up, and decent wear resistance. CPM-M4 is a “high speed tool steel” and is some good stuff. It takes a fine edge, holds it like a pitbull, while remaining relatively tough. At higher RCs (63-64) it holds an edge for a looooong time. If it were more stainless, it would be my new favorite steel.
In the kitchen, I’m a big fan of AEB-L or Titanium knives with carbide edges. AEB-L is very corrosion resistant, sharpens up easily, and holds a great edge for typical kitchen work. It’s actually designed as a razor blade steel. Its super fine grain structure allows it to take ultra sharp high polished edges that are ideal for push cuts. As for the titanium, I think the rust-proof nature combined with the decent working edge provided by the tungsten-carbide edge makes for an excellent every-day, negligible maintenance, kitchen user. Of course, new steels are always popping up, so I’m always experimenting with new stuff. While these are what I favor now, that might change down the line.
Q. General Heat Treat info?
A. Heat treatment can vary with each knife, depending on steel used and the knife’s intended application. I generally heat treat my knives to around 59-61RC. Sometimes I’ll go higher if the steel performs better when harder while giving up some toughness like CPM-M4 heat treated to 63-64RC for slicers, skinners, etc...
Q. Why do you like putting chisel grinds on your knives?
A. I like chisel grinds on defensive blades because it allows me to get some very acute edge geometry. It also gives the appearance of nice and deep pronounced grind lines. With really thin stuff it is almost impossible to do flat grinds without significantly weakening the blade. Some argue that the chisel grind is easier to grind. Maybe…Maybe not… I don’t really care. I prefer it for the above reason.
Q. Titanium knives with carbidized edge: What are they, why are you making them, and how are they made?
A. Most people think of Titanium knives as novelty items that hold very little practical value unless you are a diver (recreational, professional/commercial, EOD, etc). For the most part it is true. Titanium is soft, relative to steel, and it won’t hold an edge like a good heat-treated steel blade will. However, to the average civilian user, titanium offers a high strength-to-weight ratio, superior corrosion resistance, and a tough and ductile edge (so chipping shouldn’t be an issue).
Now, add some tungsten carbide to the mix and things start to look even more favorable for the titanium blade. Tungsten carbide is extremely hard; it’s a 9 in the Moh scale. A measurement of hardness on the Moh scale does not readily convert to the Rockwell C measurement most of us are familiar with, but I think it would be roughly in the mid 80′s. If we apply a tungsten carbide edge to a titanium blade, we end up with a very low maintenance (effectively rustproof) piece of cutlery that can hold an edge just as well if not better than most quality steel edges. When a titanium blade is given a decent edge geometry, the carbide allows the titanium to hold a good edge and cut well.
The carbidized edge is a toothy hair scraping sharp vs a higher polished hair splitting sharp of a steel edge. I’ve been able to slice slivers of paper easily with a polished carbidized titanium blade. While it could no longer easily and cleanly slice paper after about 25-30 cuts through cardboard, I know it could have kept cutting cardboard for much longer without a problem. I have had a few guys put their carbidized Ti knives through the ringer, and all of them are amazed at how well the edges hold up and how easy they are to maintain. One guy used his knife to cut and lay up a yard full of sod. Needless to say the knife was dull afterwards from all the sand and various other grits in the soil, but it required minimal work to bring the edge back to working order. People have reported their Ti knives functioning well in a variety of tasks, including food prep, dressing game, working with wood, and taking apart abrasive packaging materials (e.g. cardboard).
I, and others, have noticed that the carbidized edge will still cut very well even when it feels dull. In fact, the carbide edge can almost be considered self-sharpening: since the carbides are only applied to one side of the titanium blade edge, more carbide is exposed as the titanium wears away on the other side. This is similar to the self-sharpening phenomenon observed with the teeth of beavers. Actual sharpening of a carbidized titanium edge is very simple. See the sharpening and maintenance questions further along in this FAQ for more detail.
So why carbidized Ti knives? I think these knives should work well in the kitchen, where they would be cutting relatively soft, non-abrasive, material (veggies, fruit, meat) in a wet and corrosive environment. Titanium’s superior corrosion resistance, coupled with the easily maintained carbide edge, makes these knives perfect for every day kitchen duty. I also suspect that carbidized Ti knives will catch on with the ultralight hiking/backpacking crowd. A strong, lightweight, and very low maintenance knife sounds ideal for the ultralight backpacker – someone who typically isn’t out there doing heavy duty work or doing things that require a fine edge.
Titanium also works great for smaller defensive blades. The lighter weight and low maintenance is a huge plus. The carbidized titanium edge is plenty sharp for defensive purposes.
How do I get the tungsten carbide onto the titanium? I currently use a Carbidizer very similar to the Rocklinizer. This tungsten carbide applicator electronically embeds the carbides into the titanium substrate. You can sort of think of it as a micro-weld.
Q. Do you make custom knives?
A. Yes, I do on occasion make knives to a customers personal specifications.
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