The Making & Shaping of Steel
Steel is essentially a combination of iron and carbon. All steels contain certain other elements in small controlled amounts, like Manganese, Sulfur, Silicon, and Phosphorus. If nothing else is present, the steel is referred to as plain carbon steel. Steels used for knife blades are enhanced with additional elements and are called alloy steels. It is these additions that give different types of steel their special properties. Alloy steels that have additions to make them corrosion-resistant are labeled stainless steels, and these are the steels most frequently used in making knife blades.
The making of stainless steel begins by melting steel in a furnace. Alloying elements are added to the melt, and the molten steel is poured into molds called ingots. Once the ingots have solidified, they are processed in a mill to make usable shapes and sizes (plates, coils, etc.). Buck Knives uses plates and coils, depending on the type of steel and its thickness. Plates are turned into knife components by laser cutting and coils are shaped into components using a fine blanking press.
Properties of Steel
The selection of steel for specific applications is based on the properties of the steel and other factors like manufacturability—if the steel is difficult to fabricate, then it is not practical for use in a manufacturing environment. These properties are established by the alloys added to steel and by the methods used in its manufacture. Some of the important properties of blade steel are:
* Hardness : A measure of the steel’s ability to resist permanent deformation (measured on a Rockwell Scale)
* Hardenability : The ability of a steel to be hardened (through the heat-treating process)
* Strength : The steel’s ability to resist applied forces
* Ductility : The steel’s ability to flex or bend without fracturing
* Toughness : The steel’s ability to absorb energy prior to fracturing
* Initial Sharpness : The sharpness of the blade “out of the box”
* Edge Retention : The ability of the steel blade to hold an edge without frequent resharpening
* Corrosion Resistance: The ability of the steel to resist deterioration as a result of reaction with its environment
* Wear Resistance: The ability to resist wear and abrasion during use
* Manufacturability : The ease with which steel can be machined, blanked, ground, and heat-treated (made into a blade)