While many top knifemakers steer clear of stainless steel to its inability to hold a decent edge, there are still some quality stainless steels out there that are good for some basic knives or those that may be new to the world of knifemaking. 420HC steel is one such metal.
While it is always better to opt for a high carbon steel for knifemaking, most people should have absolöutely no issues working with 420HC when going about their knifemaking. However, you will probably need to remember that it will need to be sharpened a lot more frequently. Although, you also have the benefit of it not rusting under most circumstances.
What is 420HC Steel?
420HC steel is one of the most popular stainless steels used in the production of commercial knives. Both Gerber and Buck use 420HC steel in the production of a couple of knives in their range. This should give you a decent idea of just how could it could possibly be as a knife blade.
Outside of the knife market, it is not uncommon to see 420HC steel being used in the production of cutlery and surgical instruments. Honestly, it is a pretty versatile steel. It is especially good in the creation of surgical instruments due to how easy this steel is to machine in comparison to many other stainless steels.
420HC Steel Composition?
This is the composition of 420HC steel. This composition is exclusive of the iron. So, you can assume that the majority will be iron, paired with these elements:
- 13% Chromium
- 0.46% Carbon
- 0.4% Silicon
- 0.3% Vanadium
- 0.4% Manganese
These figures will vary ever so slightly dependent on the manufacturing process for the 420HC steel. However, the variance will be so small that it should not have any impact on the actual steel’s properties.
What is 420HC Steel Properties?
When I talk about the 420HC steel properties here, I do want to point out that I am mostly going to be talking about them in relation to the creation of knives. There may be other properties, but these will not really impact you if you are solely involved in knifemaking or swordmaking.
Obviously, since this is a stainless steel blade, it can help to keep corrosion at bay. Now, contrary to popular belief, stainless steel will not combat corrosion if you are not treating the knife well. However, the fact that there is 13% chromium content here does mean that it is more corrosion-resistant than some other stainless steel blades.
This is a softer metal. This doesn’t mean that it will break. It means that it does require sharpening far more often. You would think that the sharpening would be easy due to it being a soft metal, but that isn’t the case. This is because stainless steel is tough to hone on traditional sharpening instrument.s YOu would probably need to be using a diamond sharpener for it.
420HC steel is going to be incredibly easy to machine, though. This is why 420HC steel is often recommended for those that are brand new to knifemaking. It should be dead simple to get the shape that you want from the steel once you understand the basics. So, if you do want a stainless steel knife blade, then you will probably want to pick up 420HC steel for making your knives.
Finally, this is a tough metal. It is based upon the original 420 steel. The HC stands for ‘high carbon’. As with all knife steels, the extra carbon content will help to add a bit more toughness to the blade. It helps to ensure that the blade is nice and stiff and can be put under a decent amount of pressure when you are cutting.
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420HC steel has a hardness rating of around 57Hrc to 60Hrc. This is about where you want it to be when it comes to making a knife blade.
Will 420HC Steel Rust?
Since 420HC steel is a stainless steel, it is not likely to rust in most situations. However, I do want to point out that stainless steel can rust if that protective layer is lost. This can sometimes happen in high humidity environments or if the blade is being used around seawater. However, wiping the blade down every so often can prevent this.
How Strong is 420HC Steel?
Stainless steel isn’t ever really that tough as a metal. Now, 420HC steel is not going to break on you. It is a tough material that is going to last you years. So, you do not have to worry about the blade just snapping. It doesn’t really form weak points like that.
When I am talking about the weakness of 420HC stainless steel, I am talking about the fact that it dulls easily. This means that small bits of metal will ‘chip’ off a little bit when you are using the knife. However, you should probably bear in mind that this is something that is going to be applicable to almost all stainless steels. If you want something that isn’t going to be blunting easily then you will probably want to be picking up a high carbon steel blade.
Is It Easy to Sharpen 420HC Blades?
Due to 420HC steel being stainless, it is not going to be as easy to sharpen as a straight carbon steel blade. 420HC steel doesn’t maintain an edge that well either. This means that not only will you spend a lot more effort sharpening it, you will be sharpening it a lot more often than many other metals.
If you are looking for a stainless steel for your knifemaking, then I absolutely recommend 420HC steel. There is a reason why some of the biggest knife manufacturers in the world use this steel to make their knives. It is something that just works. This is a brilliant metal to be using if you are a beginner to this hobby too due to how easy it is to work.