Hand Tools

Subject:
Steels and their places
Response To:
Yuck ()

Patrick Chase
I still think Steels With Carbides (tm) have their place in modern toolmaking and even hand-tool making.

HCS is very homogeneous, and that makes it very chip-resistant when hardened as for Western tools. That in turn enables use of low edge angles as in a straight razor and provides fairly "graceful" failure characteristics in general (provided it doesn't fold).

Adding some harder carbides adds abrasion resistance, though with the caveat that that resistance only really "kicks in" once the surrounding matrix has eroded to the point where the carbides are slightly exposed. How sharp an edge you can hold therefore depends on the grain structure of the steel, and the effect is much worse at lower edge angles. I'm personally not a huge A2 user (nor have I ever been) because I think that its abrasion resistance advantages mostly manifest themselves when/if you allow the blade to dull excessively. When I do use A2 I always hone to at least 35 deg, to minimize that penalty. I think that the newer PM steels largely avoid that trap by having much finer microstructure, though.

I acknowledge your point that abrasion resistance needs to be balanced against ease/quickness of honing (a tool that lasts 2X as long between sharpenings adds no value if it takes >2X longer to sharpen) but I still think that steels like PM-V11 are very workable.

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