The average kitchen knife is made from stainless steel, but not all stainless steels are built equal. There are actually several varieties of stainless steel, all of which may be used for different things.
304 Stainless Steel is not good for knives because it is too soft, would lose its sharpness quickly and would not be ideal for cutting through any sort of material.
What is 304 Stainless Steel?
304 stainless steel is one of the most widely used stainless steels. It is most frequently used in kitchen equipment – both in the average household and in industrial settings.
304 stainless steel is highly heat-resistant and has a good resistance to the most common corrosion agents.
It is highly weldable which makes it the most common choice for many appliances.
Because of these properties, it is one of the most expensive of the typically used grades of stainless steel. If you have any stainless steel appliances in your home, or in your industrial kitchen, changes are at least some components of each appliance are made from 304 stainless steel.
These are some of the most common uses of 304 stainless steel:
- Heat exchanges
- Food processing equipment
- Kitchen appliances like refrigerators or dishwashers
- Auto mouldings and trim
- Wheel covers
- Sinks and sink parts
- Pots and pans
- Fishing hardware
- Storage tanks
304 Stainless Steel Composition:
One of the reasons that 304 stainless steel is expensive is because it contains quite a high nickel content (usually about 8-12% of the total composition is nickel). It also contains about 18-20% chromium. Other major components are manganese, carbon and silicon. The rest of the composition is iron.
Properties of 304 Stainless Steel:
304 stainless steel is highly resistant to corrosion which is why it is so highly used in kitchen materials. Many household cleaners are corrosive, but this grade of stainless steel will not be harmed by most substances.
It is highly heat resistant which is why it is so readily used in kitchen appliances.
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304 stainless steel is has a Rockwell B hardness rating of 70. The Rockwell B hardness scale measures the hardness and toughness of different materials, and the higher the rating, the harder the material.
Copper is considered to be a soft metal and has a rating of 51. 304 stainless steel is not as hard as many other stainless steels, which makes it a poor choice for knife making.
In comparison to 440 stainless steel which is frequently used to make knife blades, 304 steel is a lot softer.
Will 304 stainless steel rust?:
This type of steel is very resistant to rust, and all types of corrosion. Because it is so durable and resistant to rust, it is very easy to sanitize. As mentioned previously, these properties make it a key component of so many kitchen and food production appliances because it is so easy to clean and sanitize without risking the rust.
It is worth noting that 304 stainless steel is susceptible to corrosion from chloride solutions and can easily become rusted in saline environments. Chloride substances can cause “pitting” in the steel which can make your appliance or sink look unattractive.
This pitting can spread below the surface and compromise the integrity of the structure of the steel.
How strong is 304 stainless steel?
304 stainless steel is definitely strong, since it is used for a variety of applications such as appliances, wheel covers, sinks, pots and pans etc. All of these things have to be strong enough to stand up to daily use and wear and tear.
But is 304 stainless steel a strong enough material to use for a knife blade? 304 is definitely a strong steel for many applications, but not suitable for knives. It will not stay sharp, and because it contains such a high level of nickel, it deforms at relatively low pressure – think of your stainless steel sink becoming dented if you drop something heavy in it.
To make a knife blade, you need a stainless steel that is lower in nickel, so that the blade will be a lot harder and will not deform under pressure. The pressure of pressing the knife through substances that you are trying to cut could deform it, and it definitely would not stay sharp.
Is it easy to sharpen 304 stainless steel blades?
In theory, it would be easy to sharpen these blades since they would be soft and somewhat easy to manipulate. However, we know that this type of steel does not make for an adequate blade, so you wouldn’t have to encounter sharpening it!
So, is 304 stainless steel good for making knives? The short answer is no. We have learned through this post that 304 stainless steel contains too much nickel to make a blade that would be hard enough to stand up as a knife. That being said, it is definitely not a worthless substance or one that has no use.
The majority of things in your kitchen probably contain 304 stainless steel – especially a stainless steel sink, pots and pans and your appliances.
The great news is that 304 stainless steel is highly resistant to corrosion and rust, so your appliances and other kitchen items will stay looking fresh and radiant for a long while.
The corrosion resistance of the steel makes it easy to clean with a variety of cleaners and you really don’t have to worry too much about harming it.
Every type of stainless steel has its own range of applications that make sense, based on its hardness and resistance to corrosion.
Most of these factors are based off of the amount of each component in the steel – and we know that the 304 type is high in nickel which is not a soft metal but causes the steel to stay in the soft crystal structure when being manipulated with heat.
This does not allow for the blade to become hard enough to use in practical applications.