More About Making Steel – Alloys

For budding knife makers, one part of knife crafting is forging steel blades. Early ironworkers created steel by heating iron and charcoal (a source of carbon) in clay boxes for several days. Historically, mixing the molten materials creates steel. Adding different elements changes the property of the finished steel. Here’s a quick list of what those elements add.


Common Alloy Elements and What They Do

Carbon (C)                  Hardness, edge retention and wear resistance

Chromium (Cr)           Hardness, toughness and corrosion resistance

Cobalt (Co)                 Hardness

Copper (Cu)                Corrosion resistance

Manganese (Mn)         Hardness and wear resistance

Molybdenum (Mo)      Hardness, toughness and corrosion resistance

Nickel (Ni)                  Hardness and toughness

Niobium (Nb)              Toughness, wear resistance and corrosion resistance

Phosphorus (P)            Hardness and corrosion resistance

Silicon (Si)                  Hardness and strength

Vanadium (V)             Toughness and wear resistance

Tungsten (W)              Toughness and wear resistance


From an article by Carolyn Koh

For more information on knife steel and other aspects of knife making, check out our Knives 101 series online and in our Knives Illustrated magazine!