The basic components in steel are iron
and carbon. Any other element added: nickel, chromium, vanadium, molybdenum,
manganese or even nitrogen, enable so-called "alloy" steels to be
obtained, that have different properties.
In cutlery, the steels mostly
used are those called "stainless" and "carbon" steels.
steels were the first to be used because they are the easiest to make,
containing simply iron and carbon.
steels used for cutlery belong to the martensitic steel family. They
contain mostly carbon and chromium. However, other alloy elements may be included
such as molybdenum and vanadium.
possesses such useful properties as hardness, resilience and corrosion
For stainless steel, the properties depend on the elements included
in its composition. Chromium mostly
contributes to corrosion resistance. Molybdenum
also improves corrosion resistance, but in oxidizing situations. In
addition it improves mechanical resistance in hot conditions.
Vanadium is used in small quantities in martensitic chromium
to render them indifferent to overheating. It too increases mechanical
resistance in hot conditions.
The main characteristics that
are required in cutlery are:
• Hardness: essential
for the cutting quality, reduced wear and less frequent sharpening.
this is the degree to which a knife can endure deformation without
breaking. A steel with no resilience may be very strong but will break
with only a little deformation (it is then termed fragile). On the
contrary, a very resilient steel will break only after very considerable
• Rust resistance:
this is the ability of the steel not to rust.
Carbon steel and martensitic steel have very different characteristics:
Carbon steel knives are reputed
to cut better than stainless steel knives. It is true that, for an
equivalent degree of hardness, carbon steel is easier to sharpen than
On the other hand, a stainless steel knife will retain its cutting
edge longer than the carbon steel knife that will thus need its edge
renewing more often.
Stainless steel is far easier
to look after and far more hygienic than carbon steel. It is true that
it does not rust. The blade of a stainless steel knife does not need
to be oiled to avoid rust and stains appearing (under normal conditions
for use of a knife).
Carbon steel, however, requires very meticulous care. A carbon steel
knife is capable of rusting in just a few hours. This can be explained
by the lack of chromium, molybdenum and nickel that are the main element
that combat corrosion. The only way to prevent a carbon steel rusting
is to care for it very meticulously, avoiding all prolonged contact
between the blade and water. The blade must also be lubricated regularly.
Grades of steel:
The main grades of steel used
in cutlery can be classified according to three main types:
carbon steels of the XC75 (1.1248) and XC100 (1.1274) type,
martensitic steels such as X20Cr13 (1.4021) or X46Cr13 (1.4034).
The latter has replaced X39Cr13, generally called Z40C13, which is
no longer marketed. It can also be found under the commercial name
alloy content martensitic steels such as X17CrNi16-2 (1.4057),
X90CrMoV18 (1.4112), X38CrMo16 (1.2316), X38CrMoV15 (1.4117) or X50CrMoV15
(1.4116). The latter is often used for the manufacture of forged knives,
and this is indeed the case for SABATIER
Diamant knives. It is very hard after tempering, but without
being too hard (it must be possible to sharpen the knife by hand).
It presents good corrosion resistance and is well-adapted to the forging
process, and also to milling operations.