“I am planning to make a knife in O1 tool steel but I’m getting curious as to whether it is really a good knife steel…I’m wondering how easy it is work with, how well it holds an edge, resists chipping and breaking, its ease of sharpening, and how it performs in other key areas.”
If that sounds pretty much like your case, this in-depth guide will answer all the questions you have regarding this steel and help you easily decide whether you should use o1 steel for knife making or look for different steel.
What is o1 tool steel?
O1 is an oil hardening tool steel that’s classified under the O group of steels. The letter “O” stands for Oil quenching while “1” means it’s the predecessor of other steels in the family, namely O2, O6, and O7.
A highly popular forging steel, the o1 is commonly used for producing cutting tools and boasts excellent edge retention and good wear resistance. It is also popular among custom knife makers who prefer it for its high machinability.
What is O1 steel composition?
O1 contains high carbon content which improves its overall hardening and hardenability whole giving it higher wear resistance. It also features higher manganese levels which improve its forgeability, hardenability, and dimensional stability.
All the alloying elements in the o1 chemical composition include:
Percentage composition (%)
0.95% O1 steel carbon content increases hardness while improving resistance to corrosion and wear.
0.6% Chromium increases toughness, hardness, and tensile strength. It also increases wear and corrosion resistance.
1.40% Manganese increases tensile strength, wear resistance, and hardenability. Large quantities of Manganese also tend to increase hardness and brittleness in steel.
0.6% Tungsten increases toughness, strength, and corrosion resistance.
0.3% Vanadium increases toughness, strength, and wear resistance. it also improves corrosion resistance.
0.5% Silicon increases the strength of this steel.
0.03% Phosphorous increases hardness, strength, and machinability (makes it easier to work with).
0.03% Sulfur is used in low quantities to improve the steel’s machinability.
What is the hardness of o1 tool steel?
O1 scores a hardness of 57HRC on the Rockwell hardness chart. However, the amount of hardness can vary from sample to sample depending on the heat treatment process used. You can get a sample with lower or higher hardness due to different heat treatment processes.
O1 steel properties
The steel bases its performance based on its alloying elements. Having outlined the key elements that make up this steel, we can now easily discuss what key properties an o1 steel knife will exhibit.
O1 wear resistance
Probably one of the biggest reasons to use o1 tool steel for knife making is its excellent wear resistance—one of the qualifies of good knife steel. It contains a perfect combination of elements like carbon, manganese, and carbon which makes it really hard steel with excellent wear resistance.
O1 steel edge retention
Being a high hardness steel grade, o1 tends to deliver excellent edge retention. This makes O1 blades excellent cutters that will hold a sharp cutting throughout a day of solid cutting work.
O1 steel corrosion resistance
O1 doesn’t offer good anti-corrosion performance due to the low chromium content it carries. It only features 0.6% chromium which means very low corrosion resistance. That said, good care like keeping it oiled can help keep away rusting and corrosion on your O1 steel
O1 steel toughness
O1 is also pretty tough for any alloy steel. While it doesn’t offer the same level of toughness as the high-end steels, this tool steel will hold up well for tough tasks, say bush crafting activates, without breaking or chipping it.
O1 tool steel machinability
Another area where this steel excels is machinability. It has pretty high machinability of up to 90%, according to the manufacturer, making it easy to work with.
O1 tool steel Sharpenability
This steel is incredibly easy to sharpen. It takes a fine edge without much effort and keeps it for a long while. Absolute beginners with limited sharpening skills will love easily this knife sharpens with standard sharpening systems. As we said, it also holds its edge for really long, meaning you won’t be dulling in the middle of a cutting job.
O1 steel equivalent
The equivalent of o1 would be AISI L6 steel due to the two steels displaying almost similar chemical composition and properties. However, they have a major difference in their composition, which is high nickel content in L6, making it a bit tougher than O1.
O1 steel vs other steels compared
So, how does o1 tool steel perform compared to other popular knife steels out there? let’s find out below.
A2 vs O1 steel
O1 tends to easily attain a keener edge and is easier to sharpen than A2 steel. Though A2 is challenging to sharpen, it will keep its sharp edge for longer than o1. A2 also features higher chromium content, making it better at resisting corrosion.
O1 steel vs 1095
O1 steel offers better corrosion resistance because it contains 0,6 chromium while 1095 has none. O1 also offers better toughness and wear resistance than o1. Sharpening o1 will feel easier than 1095 though both steels are easy to sharpen. As for machinability, o1 is a better choice compared to 1095.
O1 steel vs D2
D2 is air-hardened and contains high chromium content which gives it better corrosion resistance than O1. It also delivers higher wear resistance and better edge retention than O1. But O1 is tougher compared to D2.
O1 steel vs S30V
S30V is way better than O1 in terms of high corrosion resistance and edge holding capability. O1, on the other hand, is easy to sharpen compared to s30v. S30v also costs more than o1.
O1 tool steel vs 1084
Both grades of steel are quite versatile and great for knife making. However, O1 offers better wear resistance than 1084 due to its Tungsten content. If you want high hardness, O1 would also be your go-to option. But keep in mind that o1 is higher priced than 1084 steel.
How good is O1 steel for knives?
O1 is a good steel for knives with great qualities like high hardness, excellent wear resistance, high toughness, high polish performance, and great edge retention. Its only weakness is poor corrosion resistance due to low chromium content.
However, keeping an o1 steel knife dry and properly oiled can help keep away rust and corrosion. Custom knife makers love this steel for its high performance.
Oh! Don’t forget that this steel offers you these high-end features at a moderate price compared to other steels that are considered better than o1.
Best O1 steel knives:
1. Spyderco Bushcraft Knife
Spyderco is one of the most respected brands in the knife industry across the US. They designed this bushcraft knife to be your companion when practicing your bushcraft skill. The knife is built using high-quality materials to deliver the ultimate durability and performance.
As you expect of a good quality bushcraft knife, this Spyderco comes with a full-tang design that delivers the extra strength and sturdiness you need to handle your bush crafting with confidence.
The blade is made using O1 steel whose high carbon content enables it to hold a keener edge with continued heavy use. Besides, sharpening it is quite easy compared to other carbon steels.
A polished black G10 handle comes with this knife to offer you a comfortable grip. It’s contoured to give you a more comfortable, natural grip. Inside the package, you’ll discover a black leather sheath that lets you safely and securely carry your knife wherever your outdoor adventure takes you.
2. Cold Steel Trail Master
This is another great bushcrafting/camping/hiking/hunting knife bearing high-performance o1 steel. It features an overall fixed blade of length 9.5 inches. the knife itself has an overall length of 14.5 inches and weighs 16.7 ounces—making it the ideal tool for tasks like batoning, wood, chopping, and so on.
We like that Cold Steel uses O1 steel for this knife’s blade to enable it to withstand bushcraft use. This gives it tough as nails toughness while enabling it to take a fine edge easily. The fact that it comes hair shaving sharp out of the box makes it function-ready. Also, sharpening the blade in the field is pretty easy!
The Trail Master features a black Kraton handle with deep checkering to offer you a more secure grip. Plus, it has a double guard long enough to keep your fingers off the blade while being short enough to prevent entanglement with clothing or equipment when drawing it from the sheath
When you order this knife, you’ll also receive a Secure-Ex sheath that nicely accommodates your knife for secure carry. Your knife will snap into the sheath and the retention strap with snap will offer additional security for your knife.
3. Perkin 7 Inch Hunting Knife
You also can’t go wrong with this 7-inch Perkin knife for hunting or camping. It comes in a beautiful design and has excellent craftsmanship that makes it stand out from most of its competition.
It offers you a 7-inch blade made from o1 steel for excellent edge retention and toughness. This blade is razor sharp out of the box and will do an amazing job when it comes to dressing an elk or deer. And if it gets dull while out in the fields, sharpening it is also easy and fast!
As a full-tang knife, this Perkin model also has the extra strength needed to handle those seemingly tough camping tasks. The buffalo horn handle adds to the overall beauty of this knife while giving you a comfortable grip.
The fixed blade hunting knife comes with a 100% handmade leather sheath to offer you a secure and safe way to bring your knife to your hunting or camping adventures.
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In summary, o1 tool steel is a good choice for making knives because it offers good edge retention, toughness, and offers high wear resistance. It’s also easy to form and sharpen, making it ideal for knife smiths. However, it performs poorly in terms of corrosion resistance, so it needs extra care to keep off rusting. You’ll need to keep this in mind when choosing this steel for making knives.
With this info at hand, we hope it’s now easy for you now have the answer to your question of whether the o1 tool steel is good for knives.