In the past 20 years or, 440c steel has seen a huge rise in popularity and use in knives.
This could be attributed to the very popular Buck 110 knife, which is largely considered to be one of the best knives released in the past couple of decades and uses this particular alloy.
But does it still hold up to today’s standards?
In this 440c steel review, we’ll be taking a very close look at the properties and composition of this material to see if it would make a good knife still.
Read on to learn more.
What Is 440c Steel?
440c steel is considered the mid-range recipe in the 440 series that includes 440A and 440B.
It is fairly high in carbon and in fact, has the highest carbon content in the entire 440 series.
Because of its composition, it offers great wear and corrosion resistance.
1. Carbon – 1.1%
440C has a fair amount of carbon in it.
When used in an alloy, carbon can greatly increase hardness and wear resistance.
However, if you have too much of it, that can cause the material to turn brittle and reduce its toughness.
2. Manganese – 0.8.%
Manganese is another element that can greatly improve hardness.
But it’s important not to use too much as steel that is too hard can be brittle and weak.
3. Chromium – 17%
Chromium can enhance tensile strength, edge resistance, wear resistance, and corrosion resistance.
One of the main requirements for an alloy to be considered stainless steel is at least 10.5% of chromium.
And since 440C has 17% of it, this is a stainless alloy that offers great corrosion resistance.
4. Silicon – 0.5%
Silicon can improve the strength of an alloy greatly.
5. Sulfur – 0.02%
Sulfur is an element that can aid in the machinability of steel.
This particular recipe doesn’t have too much sulfur, which means this isn’t the most machinable material out there.
6. Phosphorous – 0.20%
Phosphorous increases the strength of the steel.
7. Molybdenum – 0.7%
Lastly, molybdenum is present in this mix as it makes the alloy more machinable while also adding a fair amount of strength to the mixture.
1. Edge Retention
As mentioned earlier, one of the most important qualities of 440c is its edge retention.
This is mainly because of the high amounts of carbon and chromium in the mix.
This makes 440c a great choice for knife steel as it will ensure that the blade will stay sharp for a very long time.
When measuring hardness, the most common metric used is the Rockwell Hardness Rating or HRC.
This alloy has a maximum HRC of 57, which is very good and tough.
There are some materials out there that are harder than this, but you wouldn’t want your material to be too hard since that can cause it to become brittle and weak.
3. Wear And Corrosion Resistance
Since this material has a fine grain and has a lot of carbon and chromium, it is a very hard alloy.
This means that it will not wear easily and can hold its own against some of the most durable knife steels used today.
And since it’s stainless, it also has great corrosion resistance, mainly because of the high chromium content of 17%.
This makes 440c a great and affordable choice as a blade material.
Sadly, this material can be pretty hard to machine because of the low sulfur content.
However, after heat treating, this material can have the same hardness, corrosion resistance, and wear resistance as just about any premium alloy out there, which makes it well worth the effort to machine.
And if you make sure it is annealed properly before machining, you’ll find that you’ll have a much easier time doing the job.
5. Heat Treating
This recipe is annealed at a temperature of around 831 C – 871 C, which is around 1550-1600F.
For hardening, it’s recommended to use a temperature of around 760 C or 1400 F.
This temperature can be increased to 1010 C (1850 F) if it is followed by cooling in air and oil.
For tempering, the ideal soaking temperature for 440C is 148 C, which is roughly 300F.
So, Is It Good?
Yes, 440C can actually be a great choice for knives.
This is because it’s affordable, has great edge retention, and can resist wear and corrosion very well.
It isn’t the best knife material available on the market today, but it is a great mid-range option for anyone out there.
It’s a suitable material for kitchen knives, general-purpose knives, and would be an ideal material for hunting and fishing knives because of its ability to resist corrosion.
So if you’ve been on the hunt for the right alloy for your mid-range knife, it might be a good idea to give 440C steel a good look.