Buying a knife with blade steel you know nothing about is just the same as picking a knife blindfolded. You don’t know what your hand lands on and whether it will satisfy your personal standards and expectations.
Before you buy that 420 stainless steel knife, be sure to read through our in-depth 420 steel review to gain discover important details about this blade steel. We have combed through knife steel experts’ opinions, blade forums, and collected plenty of information regarding this steel.
Below, we’ll answer ALL the questions you have about 420 steel like: How good is 420 steel? Does 420 stainless steel rust? Does it hold an edge well? How about ease of sharpening? Is it easy to work with? And so much more.
Let’s dive in…
What is 420 stainless steel?
420 steel is an AISI martensitic stainless steel that’s popular with budget-friendly knives. This steels comes from the 400 series of steels, which is popular among knife makers due to high corrosion resistance and easy sharpening.
This series of steels are also magnetic in both the annealed and hardest states.
It’s worth noting that 420 stainless steel features higher carbon content compared to 410 and 416 steels, which are earlier versions in the 400 steels family.
The most common applications for 420 stainless steel include diving knives, razor blades, needle valves, surgical scalpels, and cutlery.
420 stainless steel chemical composition
The 420 series of steels usually feature carbon content ranging from 0.15% t0 0.40%. As for the 420 steel, it features 0.15 steel. Other elements in the 420 steel composition are outlined below…
Percentage composition (%)
0.15% Carbon increases the hardness of the steel. It also improves corrosion and wear resistance.
13% Chromium increases tensile strength, hardness, and corrosion resistance. Since it surpasses the 12% mark, it also makes this steel stainless.
1% Manganese increases hardenability and wear resistance.
0.04% Phosphorous improves strength and machinability.
0.03% Sulfur also increases steel machinability when used in low quantities.
1% Silicon increases strength and corrosion resistance.
What is the hardness of 420 stainless steel?
The steel has a minimum hardness of 51 HRC, but with a suitable heat treatment, 420 steel hardness can go as high as 57 HRC. A hardness of between 51 and 57 HRC simply means 420 is soft steel. And such steels are usually associated with low wear resistance and below-average edge retention.
420 steel properties
Although we have stated that 420 is low-end steel popular with budget knives, it still performs great in several areas as we’ll discuss below.
420 steel wear resistance
Lower hardness equals lower wear resistance. The 420 being soft steel contributes to its low wear resistance levels. However, it’s not the worst steel in terms of wear resistance and will still offer good resistance to normal tear and wear.
420 stainless steel edge retention
The steel doesn’t offer the best edge retention as with the high-end steels. This is well expected since the steel lies on the softer end of the steel scale. But it has more than capable edge holding capabilities and will not lose its keen edge instantly or in the middle of a job.
420 stainless steel toughness
420 steel has great toughness. In the steel world, the softer the steel the tougher it gets. Though 420 this steel doesn’t deliver premium levels of toughness, it has great toughness that enables a 420 steel knife to resist chipping, cracking, or breaking when subject to some hard use.
420 stainless steel corrosion resistance
420 steel is stainless. yes, it contains more chromium than the 12% needed to make any steel stainless. This means it offers great corrosion resistance and explains why it’s common in diving knives and other applications like cutlery and surgical tools where rust vulnerability is quite high.
420 steel sharpenability
Being less hard steel with lower toughness, 420 stainless steel sharpening is a breeze for you. The steel is so easy to sharpen that even the old-fashioned abrasives can do the trick. And it sharpens easily even when you’re out in the fields.
What is 420 steel equivalent?
The 420 ss steel equivalent is the Chinese 3cr13. Study the two steel grades chemical compositions closely and you’ll notice they’re pretty similar. The 420 steel contains 0.15% carbon and 13% chromium while 3cr13 0.13 carbon and 13% chromium.
These two steels also offer the same features including high corrosion resistance, easy sharpening, good toughness. They’re also found in the low-end steels realm and are popular with budget knives.
420 stainless steel vs other steels:
420 steel vs 1095 steel
1095 is a plain ugh carbon steel and will hold an edge better than 420 steel. It will also offer better wear resistance. But sharpening it challenging and it rusts easily compared to 420 steel. Knives made using 1095 are generally higher priced.
420 steel vs 440
440 steel contains higher carbon content than 420 steel, making it a harder steel alloy that offers better edge retention and higher wear resistance properties. 420, being a softer steel, will prove easier to sharpen and will also deliver higher toughness than 440 steel. Though both steel grades offer great corrosion resistance, 440 stainless steel has greater resistance to corrosion due to higher chromium content (up to 17%).
420 steel vs Aus 8
AUS 8 is high-end steel in the knife industry and has better performance than our 420 steel. Unlike 420 steel, it contains high carbon content in addition to Vanadium which gives it better wear resistance, edge retention, and toughness than 420 steel. AUS 8 is also easy to sharpen but 420 is easier to sharpen. Both steels will offer the same corrosion resistance performance.
Is 420 steel good for knives?
420 stainless steel is good for knives because it offers great corrosion resistance, is incredibly easy to sharpen, and comes at a budget-friendly cost.
Because it is soft steel, it won’t hold an edge really well and will require routine sharpening. In other words, a 420 steel knife will require sharpening every week and will not make a good survival knife. But for a diving knife, 420 steel is a good choice due to its excellent stain and rust resistance, even when fully submerged in water.
Since 420 stainless steel is budget-friendly, we recommend it to anyone looking for a decent quality knife on a budget, or beginner knife collector.
Best 420 stainless steel knives
1. Rescue Tactical Pocket Knife
This rescue knife is one of the most popular knives with 420 stainless steel blades. To be more precise, it features a 3 5/8-inch blade with a Tanto point shape for exceptional piercing power. The blade is coated with black oxide which adds to corrosion resistance while minimizing light reflection.
The rescue knife offers multiple functions which makes it a great investment for emergency situations. It features a razor sharp seat belt cutter, a car window breaker point, and even a partially serrated blade—all of which ensure you’re well prepared to handle any emergency situation.
Because the knife is armed with a pocket clip, you’ll have no problems carrying it with you to any place. You simply hook the clip to your pocket or belt and you’ve got a convenient and comfortable way to carry the knife to any place.
Oh! The fact that this knife comes with engraving reading “Word’s Best Dad” not only makes it look nice but also makes it the perfect gift for any father figure in your circle. Whether it’s your spouse, dad, father in law, or grandpa.
2. Troika TASCHENMESSER KNF80/BK Pocket Knife
Troika Toucan is stylish looking and a great pocket knife for everyday carry. At only 0.07lbs, this knife is incredibly lightweight and easy to carry around. And with a closed length of 3.25 inches, this knife is also compact enough to comfortably carry in your pocket.
The knife comes with a 2.25-inch 420 stainless steel blade with excellent corrosion resistance and good toughness to allow you to handle a wide range of everyday cutting tasks, including peeling fruits, cutting, paper, opening letters, and so on.
Since this blade is self-locking, you won’t have to worry about it closing in on your fingers and leaving you with serious injuries.
You’ll also notice that this knife comes with a lanyard—a sturdy nylon strap—which makes it easy to find and fish out of your pocket. Also, you can use this strap to attach your knife to various attachment points like loops, backpacks, bags, and so on.
Keep in mind that this knife comes packed in a high-quality box and will make an ideal gift for your partner, best friend, dad, mom, sister, grandfather, or any other knife enthusiast in your life.
3. Prince of Scots Bartender's Knife
If you’re a bartender and want a budget-friendly multi-purpose knife that serves your everyday needs, consider this Price of Scots knife. Featuring a strong and versatile design, this knife is not only beautiful but also highly functional.
Straight out of the box, this knife comes with a razor sharp 420 stainless steel blade that will easily peel, cut, and slice citrus. In addition to that, it features a toothed tool that works as a foil cutter or open bottle caps.
Above all, this knife has a spear tip that lets you effortlessly add cocktail cherries, olives, and pick more cocktail ingredients.
The bartender knife is equipped with an extra-large 5-inch quad-tang Pakkawood handle which offers you a comfortable grip. This handle is also exceptionally weighted and balanced, further improving its ergonomics.
This knife also comes packed in a beautiful gift box, making it gift-ready for that bartender you cherish.
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Now that we have walked you through everything you need to know about 420 stainless steel, we believe that you’re in a better state to decide if it is desirable blade steel for your knife. Just a quick reminder, 420 steel offers great corrosion resistance, decent edge retention, and low wear resistance. The alloy is considered softer steel due to its low hardness. If you’re looking for a premium knife with premium features, this steel isn’t a viable option for you. But if you’re looking for a decent quality knife at a pocket-friendly price, 420 stainless steel is a good option.