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The material options for custom knives are practically endless.  Steels, handle material and hardware can be configured to the intended use of the knife and personal taste.  This is one of the many benefits of a custom knife.  You can specify exactly what you want so you do not have to settle for what is available in a catalog or sporting goods store. 


There are scores of good cutlery grade steels available today.  Please feel free to call or e-mail with any questions on steel selection.

High carbon/tool steel:  High carbon steel by definition has >0.5% Carbon and <13% Chromium.  Due to the low Chromium content, high carbon steel is susceptible to staining and rust.  This is the primary downside of high carbon steel and is a major reason why many production knives made today use stainless steel.  However, high carbon steel is a very popular choice for custom knives.  High carbon steel knives take a similar amount of care to a fine firearm.  If you dry and oil it after use you will not have a problem.  Advantages of high carbon steel are its toughness and ease of sharpening.  My preferred high carbon steels 26C3 and O1 Tool Steel.  

Stainless steel: Stainless steel has >=13%Cr and is therefore stain and rust resistant.  This is particularly important when knives are used in harsh environments such as marine or high humidity/wet conditions. Stainless steel generally has better wear resistance compared to carbon steel, therefore it can go longer between sharpening. However it is more difficult to sharpen when that time comes. My preferred stainless steels are CPM154 and AEBL.     


Damascus (pattern welded) and San Mai: Damascus steel is made by forge welding different steel alloys together and then folding, twisting and forming the billet to form layers and patterns in the steel.  Using steels with different alloys creates contrast and bold patterns in the finished knife.  When proper alloys are used together Damascus steel is a very functional steel capable of performing all knife tasks in addition to its stunning looks.  San Mai is a laminated steel typically with a high carbon core and mild cladding.  Finished blades are acid etched to show the contract in layers.  

                Handles and Hardware


The handle material selection is an opportunity to optimize functionality and add that personal touch.  There are both synthetic and natural material options.  Synthetic options such as G-10, carbon fiber and Micarta are good for hard use and harsh environments as they are very tough and stable materials.  Natural materials offer unmatched beauty and uniqueness but are not as stable or tough as the synthetics.  Exotic and figured hardwoods are my personal favorite materials to work with. Some hardwoods are very dense and/oily which makes them a very stable and durable handle material.  Some examples are desert ironwood,  African blackwood and cocobola.  Other hardwoods that are less dense/oily benefit from stabilization.  Stabilized woods are impregnated with clear polymers to improve the stability and toughness of the wood without compromising the figure or color. Some examples of unique/exotic hardwoods that benefit from stabilization are bocote, zircote, zebrawood, curly maple and burl wood of all species.  Other natural material options include antler (stag), horn, bone and ivory.  


All knives have hardware (pins, tubes, bolsters, guards, etc) of some type as a part of their design and construction.  Common materials for these include stainless steel, nickel silver, brass, copper, carbon fiber and micarta.   

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