Is 420 Steel Good For Knives? (Characteristics and More)

Having a good affordable knife that works for you is essential. This is because knives are used frequently for different functions. Knives and other similar tools are made of different metallic elements.

Many of these come with different grades depending on their making. Steel is no exception and has the 420 grade among others.

 So, is this grade of steel suitable for knives? In this article, we examine the 420 steel and all it carries when it comes to knives.

Is 420 Steel Good for Knives?

This type of steel is good for knives in several aspects e.g. it is hard and affordable though it has its own downsides. Using it all depends on your purpose for the knife and how well it suits your preferences.

Without further delay, let us dive into the details of the 420 steel for knives.

What is 420 Steel?

It is a type of high carbon steel forming part of the stainless steel grades. It is used for different functions including making different cutlery, needles and surgical instruments. It is also used for knife blades which we will focus on today.

Chemical Composition of 420 Steel

Steel is an alloy meaning it is made through combining different elements. So, what are these elements and their specific compositions in steel?

  • Carbon
  • Chromium
  • Nickel
  • Copper
  • Silicon
  • Sulfur
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorous

Importance of the 420 Steel Components

 Do these elements have specific functions in the steel?  Let us look at the roles they play in the steel.


Nickel has a 0.6% composition in the 420 steel. It improves the ductility and toughness of the steel.

Ductility is the ability of a material to stretch or deform without damage. With improved ductility, a 420 stainless knife will have reduced breaking or cracking when stressed.


The 420 steel has a manganese composition of 1%. Manganese increases the tensile strength of the steel. It also increases the hardenability of the steel making it more efficient.


This element forms 0.09% of the 420 steel. Copper in the steel prevents oxidation which occurs when metals react with oxygen thus rusting. Rusting discolors knives and makes them weak resulting in reduced durability.


Silicon which is 1% of the steel increases the hardness and strength of the steel. Moreover, it improves soundness in the steel. Soundness is the ability of the steel or any other material to not have defects or damages.


Forms 0.15% of the 420 steel and contributes to the 50 HRC in the steel.  It makes the steel strong therefore it is less likely to break under pressure. It makes it shock resistant too.


This element has a 0.04% in the steel. It strengthens the carbon in the steel. In addition, it contributes to a high level corrosion resistance of the steel.

Chromium increases the corrosion resistance of the steel.

Properties of the 420 Steel

Each metallic element comes with its own properties. For the 420 steel, what factors should you examine when considering it for your knives?

The Steel Sharpness

The 420 steel is easy to sharpen. You can easily sharpen it with any sharpening device or stone.

The Edge Retention

Edge retention refers to the ability of an element or tool to retain its sharpness without getting dull. The 420 steel has low edge retention owing to its softness. However, this is very reversible since it is easy to sharpen enabling you to sharpen it back quickly when you feel the need to.

Toughness of the 420 Steel

Unlike hardness, toughness allows a material to withstand fracturing upon force application. The 420 steel has a higher level of toughness than hardness.

For higher toughness to be achieved, the hardness has to be decreased resulting in a low edge retention. This explains the low edge retention in the 420 steel.

Hardness of 420 Steel

This refers to its ability to resist scratching or tear due to friction. It has a relatively good hardness of 50 HRC (one of the unit of measuring hardness). It is strengthened through the heat treatment process.

Corrosion Resistance

This is the ability of a substance to withstand corrosion which is deterioration caused by chemical reactions. Due to its hardened state it can resist corrosion from fresh water, sterilizing solutions, mild acids, alkalis and other corrosive substances.

The Wear Resistance

It refers to the ability to resist damage. The 420 steel has a significant level to resist damage though it is not the best due to its soft nature.


This refers to how much a material is hardened when heat treated and the 420 steel has a good hardenability.

Benefits of the 420 Steel on Knives

It is easy to sharpen. This is very efficient for the knife user since you can easily use it to cut many things and sharpen it when blunt.

Stain resistance in water. One of the challenges of most knives is rusting since they are frequently exposed to moisture conditions.

The 420 steel will not quickly rust. It is therefore applicable for different people including hunters, cooks, camping people, divers etc. who are exposed the knife to humid conditions.

Affordability: The 420 steel is quite affordable since its cost matches up to its ability.

Ability to resist corrosion: Not only are knives exposed to water but also other atmospheric conditions and substances that can damage them. With a 420 steel knife, you can ease your worries about your knife corroding from time to time.

The Bottom Line

Although it may not be the best, the 420 steel is quite good for knives since its characteristics make a good match for its price. It can be a good suit for you depending on the factors you are considering in your knife checklist. This varies from the price, durability, usage of the knife and other factors.

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