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More on Knife Blade Banks

The most important part of your knife is the blade; therefore, you want to be very careful about what sort of knife blank you purchase. Materials for knife blanks vary from the basic stainless steel to venerable Damascus steel to the newest alloys, and all of them have advantages and disadvantages. You also have to consider your knife's eventual size so you'll know how big a knife blank to purchase. Before purchasing a knife blank, know what you're getting.

Types of metal for knife blanks

Stainless steel is the most basic knife blank you can get, and it's good for general purpose knives. Knife blanks made of stainless steel won't hold as good a blade as many of the other alloys, but they look nice and are good for general purpose use. Stainless steel knife blanks are the least expensive available that actually make decent knife blades.

Talonite knife blanks are made of a cobalt-chromium alloy that forms carbides, so it tests soft by most hardness tests even though it's very hard and wears extremely well. If you try to cut a Talonite knife blank with a band saw, you will wreck the saw, so you'll need an abrasive cut off wheel instead. Ceramic belts do an excellent job of grinding Talonite knive blanks, but other types of belts don't do so well. Carbide drill bits will be necessary for drilling holes into a Talonite knife blank.

Knife Blanks: Types of Steels

This isn't ALL of the steels used for knives but the most commonly used for production and custom knives. The elemental composition a blade steel has is key in determining performance of a knife. Here is a brief summary of steel elements and their purpose within the mix:

CARBON - a mineral that is responsible for transforming iron into steel. Carbon adds hardness to a steel. The higher the carbon content, the better the steel is able to hold an edge.
MANGANESE - enhances toughness and hardenability.
CHROMIUM - boosts steel's resistance to corrosion and staining.
VANADIUM - yields a fine grain in the steel during the heat treatment process.
MOLYBDENUM - used to increase toughness in tool steels such as D2 and A2.
TUNGSTEN - aids in producing a fine yet dense steel grain structure.

For more on types of blade steels and common grades, click here.

Closely related to Talonite is Stellite. Knife blanks made of stellite resist corrosion and wear. Stellite knife blanks don't oxidize easily in any condition, and resist heat well. Both Talonite and stellite knife blanks are more difficult to work with than stainless steel, so are better for an experienced knife maker. Before buying a knife blank made of either material, consider the equipment you have to work with. Though stellite and Talonite knife blanks are of temptingly good quality, if you break your drill and band saw while working with them, it's not really worth it.

Titanium knife blanks are very good for knife making; in fact, the highest grade of titanium is called knife-grade titanium. Knife grade Titanium is an alloy of the element titanium with iron, oxygen, carbon, and various other materials; knife blanks of titanium benefit from the strength of the material, but it is a little brittle compared to other materials. Your titanium knife blank takes a good blade as well as a good surface finish.

Damascus steel knife blanks aren't the Damascus steel of the Crusades, but rather a modern reproduction. When you look at a knife blank of Damascus steel, you'll see patterning on the metal; this is the carbides in the knife blank, which precipitate out during forging and strengthen the edge far beyond the capability of iron alone. Damascus steel blanks today are generally pattern welded steel, which is made of layers of steel and iron which are welded together; Japanese katana are made this way. If you get a knife blank made of Damascus steel, don't expect it to be just like the old blades.

A nifty new twist on Damascus steel is Timascus, which is a titanium Damascus; knife blanks of Timascus are limited in availability, and should be treated the same way as titanium. These knife blanks will closely resemble steel Damascus, and vary widely in color due to the particular alloy used. Knife blanks of this material will hold a highly polished finish, which will be brightly colored; or you can give these knife blanks a pearly finish, which will show off the ripples in the metal nicely.

You may find other materials in knife blanks, but these are the basics. Before purchasing your knife blank, do some research on the materials; there are different grades of each, especially stainless steel, and while some grades make excellent knife blanks, others make excellent butterknives.

Consider the size of your knife blank

Before buying a knife blank, make sure you have your knife planned, and have considered the size of the resultant knife while you're looking at knife blanks. You can't glue extra metal onto a knife blank, nor can you be certain of cutting of metal if it's too large. It is probably best, in fact, to know the size of your handle before buying your knife blank.

Good planning, careful consideration, and a mind for the artistry of your eventual blade will all help you choose the proper knife blank for your purposes. The knife blank is the most important component of your knife; if the knife blank is bad it doesn't matter how good the rest looks. Consider your options carefully before purchasing your knife blank.

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