Hand Tools Archive

Subject:
Bring on the Novocaine! A brief missive.

David Barnett
"I thought everyone knew chrome vanadium makes for lousy cutting edges though."

Everyone except for Sal Glesser, founder and president of Spyderco, Tony Marfione of Microtech Small Arms Research, Ernest Emerson, Bill Harsey, Jr., of Gerber and Chris Reeve Knives, Phil Wilson, Paul Bos, Tom Mayo, Jerry Hossom, Phil Wilson, and Bailey Bradshaw, just to name a few.

Take CPM's S90V, for example. This so-called supersteel has a whopping 14.00% chromium and an equally whopping 9.00% vanadium, compared to A2's 5.25% chromium and 0.25% vanadium. What you have is a highly-enhanced corrosion-resistant version of 3V (hence the 'S') -- a luxury tool steel, as Spyderco describes it. Do we need a corrosion-resistant plane blade or chisel? Maybe not, but it isn't a bad thing, is it? Ron Hock's sermon on tool steel begins:

"The three qualities that most effect the selection of a steel for a hand-tool application are edge-holding, sharpenability, and corrosion-resistance. For metallurgical reasons, you can only have two of the three."

Well now, believe it or not, you can have all three. At once. Include a fourth condition, though*: cheap -- and you're back to "pick any three." So while it's true it may cost you half again as much or more than an O1 or A2 blade, the price is steadily, if not slowly, coming down. Does everyone need it? Of course not.

It's cutting-edge (mea culpa), but a handful of forward-thinking craftspersons who stand to realize significant gains by upgrading to 3V and M4 steels (with 10V, 15V, S30V, S60V, and S90V perhaps to follow) are, in fact, making, commissioning and exploring tools made from them. It's inevitable. And mark my words, the ineluctable juggernaut of tool steel evolution will not be much slowed by naysaying nabobs throwing themselves beneath its crushing wheels. Larry, you won't even be a speed bump. :)

For Ellis, who asked "...I'm all for learning some of the subtler joys that we seem to be talking about here. What am I missing?"

A retired fly rod builder who for decades crafted superb bamboo rods for one of the last New England companies to still offer bamboo rods in addition to their broad line of high-end graphite rods. He just had two blades made in 3V for his 60 1/2 and 9 1/2 Lie-Nielsens with the rod builder's grooves. He's used Hock's O1 and later the A2 blades in his vintage planes, then the LN A2 blades that came with those. So far, he's delighted. Does he need them? No way. He just makes a few rods a year now. But curiosity is a strong force and he wanted to know what he might've been missing. And now he knows.

Okay, someone would stop and interrupt me here (if not sooner) with "Whoa, Sparky! You said sharpenability!" Yes, I did. And this is where... (wait for it)... diamond comes in. Diamond makes it entirely doable. Fast, easy, cheap. And remember, you can sharpen any blade with diamond.

Whereas it's been argued here many times that earlier tool steels evolved to fit the sharpening technologies available at the time, it's quite the reverse with hypermodern tool steels. Instead of dumbing down steels to accomodate the Belgian, Turkish, and Arkansas stones nature gave users of ancient through Industrial Age tool steel production in the West, the steels of today have yet to overtake the ability of diamond to expediently sharpen them. No need to hold them back, to hamper or hobble them. Let 3V be 3V, M4 be M4, and so forth. Make and choose the best steel for the tool and the task, and diamond will make it viable.

It might seem logical to argue against these harder steels as being too hard if only Arkansas, India, Japanese natural and man-made stones existed, but as diamond, a fast, easily-acquired, reasonably-priced and provably superior cutting technology does exist, the ground drops out from beneath such feeble and specious arguments.

As Bob has pointed out, knifemakers and bladesmiths ever seek improvements in their materials selections, and while your product is understandably less-appropriately matched to powder technology supersteels, if for no other reason than historical authenticity, others who may choose them for their tools do not, in my opinion, deserve derision. And don't think for a moment that I hold myself innocent of such attitudes and behavior. I've been as intolerant as anyone and more ascerbic than I should've been, and for that, I apologize.

No doubt no LN, LV, Hock, Gramercy or even an OST (née C&W) plane iron is going to decide life and death as might a tactical blade -- still, there's much to be learned from bladesmiths, knife manufacturers and the edge tool industry. But face it, no serious bladesmith is going to equate the newer (and yes, perhaps improved) steels with the old water and oil quenched steels when it comes to sharpness, edge holding, and structural toughness.

The granularity of these new powder steels can be as fine and finer than even the most simple, un-doped steels of yesteryear, and the cutting edge produced has parity with its granularity. I defy anyone to achieve a sharper edge -- something I would not have said or believed even ten years ago. Yes, I too was ignorant of the edges achievable in properly-treated chrome-vanadium tool steels.

Furthermore, the edge-holding ability of these Cr-V steels exceeds the previous testing standard of "ATS 34/154CM at HRC 60/61 or D2 at HRC 61". You're just not going to get that with O1 or cryo-A2. Not going to happen. And with a few quick passes on a 600-grit medium diamond stone, then directly to 14,000 grit diamond on cast iron, you're good to go again, too. And it's surprisingly close, at least in my experience, to that pleasant buttery sharpening experience you get with the older, softer water-quenched HRC 56-58 steels on Arkansas stones.

So, while O1 and other more-traditional steels may be good enough for OST and other plane irons, what's wrong with using A2? Nothing, you say? Okay, then what's the harm in migrating to the newer HS steels, especially the particle-based steels? Not one single thing. Unless you're using the wrong stones, of course. Bloody luxury! C'mon, you high-end toolmakers'd go bust without the tool-craving Bourgeoisie! "Ford and the world Fords with you. Rolls, and you Rolls alone."

Be fair. Who buys an OST coffin smoother just because they need a decent plane to knock the splinters off the pantry shelf? OST planes fill an elite niche, and for good reason. Would you be a living treasure (congratulations, by the way) if they didn't? Choosing an OST plane is arguably no less fetishistic than choosing any other beautifully crafted and elegantly functional tool.

I seem to recall you went through some cycles of trial and error and successive refinement. So why is it "nonsense" when others strive for discovery, innovation and hand tool improvement? Would you really begrudge and pooh-pooh inquiry beyond your own? Surely not. That would be dismissive and churlish. And certainly you wouldn't expect others to stop searching just because you did, would you? So why does it so tweak your nerve?

And do you really believe anyone's interested in "magic-bullet exotic steels" because they (we) lack "basic sharpening skills"? And this: "I believe there is a problem in promoting these steels the way I see it being done." And "I think holding out a difficult to sharpen, magic-bullet steel with 'long lasting edges' as a solution to a lack of basic sharpening skills just leads to failure."

Who exactly is promoting these steels in this way -- for this reason? I haven't seen it. Not once. Never. Can you give an example? As far as I know, hand tools made from these steels aren't widely available -- are not easily-acquired products. This just seems inconceivable to me. Just... odd.

No-one's suggesting the rank tyro, the wide-eyed hand tool newbie run right out and commission a set of M4 chisels before learning basic sharpening skills, and no-one's suggesting that even old hands set their tried-and-true Swan's, Witherby's, Buck Bros., aside for 3V or 10V. I'm not giving up mine. By the way, most of my modern bench plane blades are O1 and I'm not likely to replace them with HSS anytime soon (most of my HSS hand tool use is for materials other than wood). But, like Bob said, it's an option. It's nice to have options.

As for people who enjoy exploring and experimenting with newer materials and technologies, whether or not they have commercial skin in the game, it hardly means they're less serious, less talented, less accomplished, less insightful, less devoted to their craft, or any less deserving of respect than those who do. Sharing insights, ideas, observations, experiences, and yes, even speculations are what Wood Central is all about, as I see it, anyway.

I, for one, welcome novelty, whether crudely conceived or stunningly recherche. And I, for one, eagerly await what Derek discovers through his newest chisels, which I'm pretty sure will make a characteristically well-thought-out, well-written and provocative contribution. But then, I see Derek Cohen, Bill Tindall, Phil Smith, Steve Elliot and others as pioneers -- not iconoclasts assailing the ramparts of orthodoxy. As Bob put it "different worlds, different approaches." Yeah, we all get prickly now and then because we do take it seriously, but it's all fun, right?

What started out as a tenuous apples-and-oranges effort to equate HSS machine tool bit geometries to woodworking blades, Bob, with his highly apt knife riposte (mea culpa), narrowed and sharpened (iterum, mea culpa) to apples-and-apples. Really, I think you'd have to admit that knives and chisels are more akin than plane irons and blocky metal-lathe tool bits. Anyway, it works for me. How'd you like them apples?

_____________________________________________

*Or a fifth: easy heat treat? "Pick any four." And so on.

**For comparisons of tool steels used for hand tool woodworking, these two sites are well worth exploring:

http://www3.telus.net/BrentBeach/Sharpen/bladetest.html
http://bladetest.infillplane.com/index.html

Messages In This Thread

CPM 3V vs. CPM M4 ?
Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Re: Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Re: Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Re:Length of thread
Re:Length of thread
How do you sharpen your nib,Marv? *NM*
Re: How do you sharpen your nib,Marv?
What good would a short answer do? :D *NM*
Yet another new metal (long)
Priceless
Way to go Bill !
(Message Deleted by Poster)
Re: Sticks and stones... sounds like woodworking
(Message Deleted by Poster)
Re: Bravo!
(Message Deleted by Poster)
Re: Bravo!
Christ all mighty...
Finally!
So...
Your moderator, reading this subthread... *NM* *PIC*
But Bee-wee,we wuv you...
Re: But Bee-wee,we wuv you...
"...but I know he does..."
We do what we can
Re: CPM 3V vs. CPM M4 ?
that is the problem
Re: CPM 3V vs. CPM M4 ?
Re: CPM 3V vs. CPM M4 ?
Re: CPM 3V vs. CPM M4 ?
Re: CPM 3V vs. CPM M4 ?
Re: CPM 3V vs. CPM M4 ?
Re: CPM 3V vs. CPM M4 ?
Re: CPM 3V vs. CPM M4 ?
to repeat a chisel dulling discussion
Re: to repeat a chisel dulling discussion
Re: CPM 3V vs. CPM M4 ?
I`m just happy...
Wait...
Metals
Re: Metals
must consider the whole process
Re: Metals
Re: Metals
As my dentist once said...
Bring on the Novocaine! A brief missive.
Cr-V question, then...
Re: Cr-V question, then...
realize significant gains???
View from the peanut gallery
In a nutshell (well, for me, anyway)
hardness, toughness
Re: hardness, toughness
could you explain the numbers?
You bet.
Re: You bet.
Re: You bet.
Re: You bet.
Re: You bet.
Where on earth? What on earth? Huh? Say whuh?
Since when has mass acceptance and ...
Re: Since when has mass acceptance and ...
Those are the numbers! *LINK*
Re: Those are the numbers!
I'm confused, Warren
Re: I'm confused, Warren
Re: Those are the numbers!
I'm impressed!
Re: I'm impressed!
"Sherman, set the Way Back machine for... "
Re: "Sherman, set the Way Back machine for... "
Why diamond wheels aren't used to grind steel
Re: diamond wheels - that's what I was after
Grinding Temperatures
Steve knows stuff.
Diamond wheels? Who brought up diamond wheels?
Re: Diamond wheels? Who brought up diamond wheels?
Your closing line reminds me of Dan O'Neill,
There I went again.
Re: There I went again.
Well, I was thinking about a diamond wheel. :) *NM*
Re: The diamond and HSS thing...
Re: The diamond and HSS thing...
Re: The diamond and HSS thing...
It's not so much a file protection thing as a... *LINK*
Just out of curiosity,
Re: Just out of curiosity,
Re: Just out of curiosity,
Re: "Sherman, set the Way Back machine for... "
Can you expand this thought Warren?
Good catch! *LINK*
Aim Hardness for 3V
Interesting and valuable *LINK*
3V Heat Treatment Schedule
Very helpful, Steve
Cryo
"How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm... "
The good stuff
I like bacon. :@) *NM*
Re: I like bacon. :@)
Gotta agree Warren
Re: The good stuff
Re: The good stuff
Re: "How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm... "
Heat treating -- the simple and not so simple
Re: Heat treating -- the simple and not so simple
Tom's right, Pam -- but wait! There's more! *LINK*
Re: Tom's right, Pam -- but wait! There's more!
Re: Tom's right, Pam -- but wait! There's more!
Re: Tom's right, Pam -- but wait! There's more!
Steps to completion
Thanks, Bob, understood. *NM*
Re: Tom's right, Pam -- but wait! There's more!
Work hardening?
Re: Work hardening?
Re: Tom's right, Pam -- but wait! There's more!
"All your base are belong to us"
Re: realize significant gains???
BTW #2
Re: BTW #2
Suggestions Larry? *NM*
Let he who is without sin...
Re: realize significant gains???
Re: realize significant gains???
Re: realize significant gains???
Re: realize significant gains???
Re: realize significant gains???
Re: realize significant gains???
Re: realize significant gains???
Re: realize significant gains???
Re: realize significant gains???
Re: realize significant gains???
Re: realize significant gains???
A model for decision-making
Re: realize significant gains???
Re: realize significant gains???
Re: realize significant gains???
Re: realize significant gains???
Re: Bring on the Novocaine! A brief missive.
Hi, Andrew! (and a couple things I left out above)
Re: Hi, Andrew! How do they make ...
Here ya go, George. *LINK*
Re:Thanks David, now I know.... *NM*
Different worlds,different approaches
Re: As my dentist once said...
Tow truck? Who needs a tow truck? *LINK*
Re: Tow truck? Who needs a tow truck?
Oh, see? I handed you a straight line back :D *NM*
Re: Metals
Re: Metals
Re: Metals
Re: Metals
Re: CPM 3V vs. CPM M4 ?
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