Ingredients and Types of Steel

Periodic Table with Marked Steel Ingredients


Ingredients of Steel

Steel is made up of a lot of ingredients, in fact, more than you can probably guess. Below we’re going to take a closer look at each of them:


This is a vital ingredient for making steel and it’s used in order to harden the steel. Too much of it though can reduce the hardness of steel. Low carbon levels are within point three percent or less, medium carbon levels are between point four to point seven percent and high carbon levels are between point eight percent and above.


The use of chromium in making steel is for combating corrosion. In general, about twelve percent chromium is used when making steel and that’s because it can greatly increase the strength of a knife. More than 12% chromium though will have the opposite effect on steel.


Makes the blade stronger.


Prevents corrosion.


Makes the blade harder, but too much of it makes the blade brittle.


Allows steel to maintain its strength at higher temperatures.


Adds a lot of toughness to the steel.


Nitrogen is used at times as a Carbon replacement.


Makes the steel stronger.


Improves steel strength, but also removes O2 from the metal when it’s formed.


Reduces toughness, yet improves machinability.


Improves resistance to wear.


Makes the blade harder and improves wear resistance.

Types of steel

Steel Types

There are currently thousands of types of steel out there, but the most popular ones are stainless, tool, alloy and carbon steels. Each of these kinds of steel has a designation system and a specific number. For instance, in the SAE designation system, alloy and carbon steel are designated by a 4 digit number.

The first digit refers to the amount of carbon in the steel (in hundredths of a percent by weight), the 2nd digit refers to the secondary element and the last 2 digits refer to the amount of carbon in the steel. So if you have a knife made with 1095 steel, then it means that point ninety five percent of it contains carbon.

Plain Carbon Steels

1095 is undoubtedly one of the most popular 10XX steel and it’s generally used for making blades for kitchen knives. On the other hand, steel in the 1050 range is generally used for making swords. 1095 steel has point ninety five percent carbon, while 1045 steel has point forty five percent carbon. However, there is less manganese in 1095 steel, while 1045 steel has more manganese in its composition.

So basically, 1095 steel is more resistant to wear, but not that tough. The 1045 steel holds a good edge, 1095 steel holds a great edge and on top of that, you can also sharpen it easily. But if there’s one big con about this steel, that’s the fact it rusts easily. To combat this, blades made of 1095 steel need to have a special coating applied to them.

Alloy Steels

5160 Steel:

This refers to 1060 steel (plain carbon) which was mixed with a bit of chromium. 5160 steel is very tough and generally has between point fifty six and point sixty four percent carbon.

Tool Steels

52100 Steel:

This type of steel contains a lot of carbon (generally between point ninety eight percent to one point ten percent). Not only does it hold an edge well, but it’s also a lot harder than others. So if you want to make sure the knife or sword you got can hold an edge very well, this is the type of steel you’d want it to be made of. The downside of this type of steel though is that it can rust.

A2 Steel:

This steel is very tough, but does have less wear resistance compared to other tool steels. It has a carbon content range of point ninety five percent to one point zero five percent. In order to prevent it from rusting, you need to carefully maintain it and also coat it.

CPM 10V Steel:

This type of steel has a good toughness for a tool steel and it’s one of the most wear resistant tool steels out there. If you’re looking for great wear resistance, this is the type of steel you should consider.

CPM 3V Steel:

This type of steel has a high wear resistance and it’s also very tough.

CPM M4 Steel:

Contains one point forty two percent carbon and has excellent toughness and rsistance.

D2 Steel:

While it does contain a lot of chromium, it’s not as much as to make it stainless steel. D2 steel has great toughness and it also has great rust resistance. It also has a carbon content between one point five to one point six percent, yet it’s hard to sharpen.

L6 Steel:

L6 steel holds and edge well and it’s also quite tough. It’s generally used for cutlery, but it can rust pretty easily and requires consistent maintenance.

M2 Steel:

This type of steel contains point eighty five percent carbon and is extremely resistant to heat. On large knives it can be quite brittle, but it does hold an edge extremely well.

O1 Steel:

Since it’s a hard material, O1 steel has a good edge retention. However, if it’s not properly maintained, it’s going to rust fast. Carbon content ranges between point eighty five percent to one percent.

O6 Steel:

Compared to zero-one, this is a much tougher metal and has one of the best edge retentions out there.

W2 Steel:

W2 steel contains plain carbon steel with extra carbon. It can hold an edge well and is also very hard.

Stainless Steels

The 400 SERIES:

420 Steel:

420 steel has around point thirty eight percent carbon, which means that this steel cannot hold an edge well and it’s also very soft. A lot of cheap knives are made using it since it’s easily procurable and affordable. The good news about it is that it’s extremely resistant to rust.

425M Steel:

Similar to the 400 series, this type of steel has point five percent carbon and is generally used by Buck knives. It is fairly durable and excellent for the purpose it’s being used for.

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Title: Ingredients and Types of Steel
Date Posted: May 26, 2015
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Category: Structural Steel