Is 5160 Steel Good For Knives? (Or Is It Better For Swords)

5160 steel is a low-alloy high-strength steel that is high in Carbon and Chromium. It is exceptionally tough, flexible, and fatigue resistant.

The name 5160 shows its main components. The ‘5’ is used to show the number of steel alloys that use Chromium as the main alloying component.

The ‘1’ shows the amount of Chromium which is 1%. The last two numbers represent the amount of Carbon in the steel.

So the ’60’ is for the 0.60% found in 5160 steel. This means that it is a medium-high carbon steel.

To learn more about the steel’s properties, composition, why it’s called spring steel, and how to maintain it, read along.

Is 5160 steel good for knives?

5160 steel is good for knives. It is hard and tough while offering good edge retention and even better wear resistance. The knife is affordable and can take hard use. However, it does not resist corrosion and can rust very fast especially if used in humid environments. Also, it is hard to machine which makes production costly for knife makers. This is why it’s not very common in knife making but more popular in the making of swords and some survival knives.

Spring steels

5160 is a very tough durable steel that is categorized as spring steel. Spring steels are a variety of steels applied in the making of springs and other parts for use in automotive and industries.

These steels are defined as low-alloy manganese, medium-carbon steel, or high-carbon steel with very high yield strength. This means that tools made with this steel can return to their normal shape even after twisting or deflection.

Composition of 5160 steel

5160 steel is composed of the following components:

Carbon at 0.60% – Carbon enhances hardness and corrosion resistance, but too much of it lowers strength.

Chromium at 1% – Chromium increases tensile strength, hardness, corrosion resistance, wear resistance, and makes sharpness last longer.

Manganese at 1% – Manganese adds strength, corrosion resistance, grind-ability, and hardness. Too much makes steel brittle.

Silicon at 0.3% – Silicon increases the strength which boosts resistance.

Phosphorus at 0.035% – Phosphorus enhances strength.

Sulfur at 0.04% – Sulfur increases machinability but decreases toughness.

5160 steel hardness

5160 steel has a hardness of 58 HRC which is hard.

Properties of 5160 steel

The properties of steel are determined by the amounts of its components. For 5160 steel, the properties are as follows:

Edge Retention

5160 steel is quite hard which gives it decent edge retention that is not too great.

Corrosion Resistance

The steel has very low corrosion resistance. This is due to low amounts of Chromium. High Chromium levels give steel great corrosion resistance by making it stainless steel.

Wear Resistance

A good balance of its component amounts gives the steel great wear resistance.


Although it is hard, the steel can sharpen with ease and a stone would do the trick for you in a very short while.


The steel can be difficult to machine but it’s easier to work with when annealed.


5160 is very tough steel.

5160 steel comparison

5160 steel is mostly compared to 1095 steel.

Both steels have the same low corrosion resistance. 5160 though is easier to sharpen and tougher than 1095.

Maintaining 5160 steel

Steel will rust at some point unless it’s stainless which makes it resistant to rust. 5160 is not stainless and it’s very vulnerable to rust.

You should take proper care of the steel to avoid ending up with a rusty blade. A couple of minutes every week should be enough to keep it in good condition.

First, you should always remember to clean the knife after every use. Make sure it’s dry before storage.

Then regularly apply some oil or Vaseline on the blade. This will protect the steel from elements that promote rust.


5160 is good steel with great wear resistance and toughness.

The steel is highly durable, flexible, and easy to sharpen making it efficient for survival situations as it can be easily sharpened on a rock.

The knife is not the best to use in wet conditions like in fishing, diving, and kitchen use. It’s very prone to rust and you will be better off with a more resistant knife.

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