When a steel grade is already very popular and commonly used, you can either just trust it from the get-go or try to get to know it better if it will suit your needs well. This can be the case for the 1095 steel as this classic metal is used in a lot of cutlery and knife products today.
If you wish to be more thorough in your next purchase but don’t want to veer away from a common material, read on. This guide should help you learn the most vital details about the 1095 steel for knife products.
What is 1095 steel?
The 1095 steel is a high-carbon steel that is often used in knives and swords. It’s not stainless steel but it’s noted for how sharp it can get and how well it can retain its edge. It’s also commonly referred to as “Cutlery Spring Steel”.
Often described as ‘simple’ and ‘old’, it’s often hinted that this steel grade is quite established. While it’s hard to find information on when it was created, it can be assumed that it’s quite old as it doesn’t have the characteristic long list of components as the more modern varieties. Its simple makeup suggests that it’s one of the earlier makes as it doesn’t have to tweak its composition to avoid patent issues and disputes.
In any case, this steel grade established itself as a reliable option for making cutlery. It’s hard enough to make it able to withstand regular use but is also easy to sharpen. However, since it’s not stainless steel, it can experience corrosion if not treated or maintained properly.
Common Uses of 1095 Steel
The 1095 steel may be widely used for knives as its nickname suggests, it’s also used for other applications such are the following:
- For manufacturing of commercial saw blades
- For making car springs
- For manufacturing railroad spikes
- For the creation of other hand tools
- For making decorative swords and katanas
- For the creation of various cutting tools
The 1095 steel is also usually added to 15N20 steel to create Damascus steel. Different manufacturers have various techniques, however, so they do not offer the exact same features and have the same appearance.
1095 Steel Chemical Composition
As mentioned above, the 1095 has a pretty simple and straightforward composition which makes it a basic and popular pick for a lot of manufacturers. Its primary components include :
- Carbon, 0.90-1.03%
- Manganese, 0.30-0.50%
- Sulfur, 0.05%
- Phosphorus, 0.04%
Unlike today’s super steels, the 1095 has a very short and specific composition. It doesn’t even contain chromium which is why it can be prone to rusting and corrosion. Despite its simplicity, the high carbon levels and additional manganese content make it very hard and resistant to regular wear and tear.
1095 Steel Hardness
There are varying accounts as to the hardness of the 1095 steel as its manufacturing and carbon content can slightly vary. This tends to affect its hardness level so some are rated at 55-58 HRC while others can go as high as 64-65 HRC.
Properties of 1095 Steel
The 1095 steel has a rather interesting set of properties. It’s definitely not a super steel but it can tick all of the boxes in what a lot of people look for in a good blade.
Some might argue against this claim but well heat treated 1095 blades perform well as choppers without breaking or chipping. It’s not as tough, of course, as super steels, but for the purposes the 1095 steel is often used for, it can already be strong and durable enough.
This is why it’s also crucial to pay attention to the kind of heat treatment manufacturers use on their 1095 blades. The best brands often note such details on their websites or press releases so it shouldn’t be that hard to find. Specific 1095 steel knife reviews also discuss such details on some occasions. Some treatments are better than others, so it’s crucial to pay attention to such details.
One of the main strengths of the 1095 steel is its sharpness. This steel grade can get very sharp quite easily since it’s not a very hard steel to work with. And even the ones treated and coated to increase the steel’s hardness still proves to be manageable when it comes to sharpening.
Aside from getting very sharp, the 1095 can also hold its sharpness quite well. However, since it’s not a hard steel, it doesn’t promise to retain its edge for a very long time. This is an important detail if you’re considering getting a 1095 for your everyday carry. It will lose its sharpness after a while with regular use.
However, as mentioned above, this steel is easy to sharpen since it’s not very hard. If you’re the kind of hobbyist who likes to find the maintenance process soothing and enjoyable, this blade might be a good match for you since it will require quite a bit of upkeep to keep it razor sharp.
As a high-carbon steel, it can be expected that the 1095 is resistant to wear and abrasion. Its hardness contributes to this feature as well so it might not necessarily be the best. However, it can still provide satisfactory performance, especially if you choose a well heat-treated piece.
1095 Equivalent Steels or Alternative
Being one of the more basic steel grades available, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the 1095 has quite a number of equivalents or alternatives. Since it’s used as a standard for certain purposes, manufacturers fashioned quite a few other steel grades after it to work as substitutes. Other, newer varieties, pose as upgrades, so they can also be interesting to look into.
Some of the most popular alternatives and equivalent steel grades to the 1095 are the following:
1095 Steel vs 5160 Steel
The 5160 and 1095 steels are two very similar metals, especially since they are often used for spring applications. The 5160, however, is categorized as a high carbon and chromium spring steel since it also contains a small amount of chromium.
This makes it slightly more corrosion resistant than the 1095 but not significantly so. Since it’s still not stainless or even semi-stainless, it can still get rusty if not cared for properly. This helps make it a bit tougher than the 1095 but 1095 has better edge retention, thanks to being a bit harder.
1095 Steel vs SK5 Steel
The Japanese SK5 steel is another high-carbon metal that is very similar to the 1095 and is widely used for various purposes. It contains very little chromium, so like the 1095, it’s also non-stainless. However, it’s very hard with a Rockwell hardness rating of 65 HRc so it promises great wear resistance and superior edge retention.
1095 Steel vs O1 Tool Steel
The O1 is an oil-hardening cold-work steel that is of the general purpose variety. It’s a lot like the 1095 in regards to toughness but the O1 is more wear resistant and can retain its edge a bit longer. Some knifemakers just tend to prefer the 1095 for its ability to get a hamon as the O1 can’t offer such an effect.
1095 Steel vs 1075 Steel
Coming from the same family, the 1075 and 1095 are also often compared with each other since they have very similar components. While the 1095 has more carbon, the 1075 has more manganese, balancing each other out in terms of hardness and tensile strength. However, this can also explain why the 1075 is softer and has a higher machinability.
1095 Steel vs D2 Steel
When it comes to flexibility, the D2 comes up as a solid option for a lot of knifemakers. This is possibly the reason why it’s often pitted against 1095 as both can be good options as blade materials. However, the D2 is a semi-stainless steel so it has an edge in terms of maintenance.
On the flip side, the D2 is very hard so it’s also hard to sharpen and more brittle than the 1095. But since it holds its edge quite well, there’s no need to sharpen it very often.
1095 Steel vs 1055 Carbon Steel
The 1055 is a medium carbon steel so it’s a bit softer than the 1095, making its suitable applications a bit different from the latter. It can take more of a beating as it is tougher but in terms of edge retention, the 1095 comes out as the victor.
Is 1095 steel good for knives?
With the nickname “Cutlery Spring Steel”, it can be assumed that the 1095 steel is a pretty good choice for knives. It can get very sharp quite easily as it’s not too hard to sharpen. It can also hold its edge quite well so it’s quite reliable.
While it’s not stainless, it’s still a good choice for those who don’t mind taking steps in maintaining their knives. It can develop a nice patina which lots of knife fans and enthusiasts like as it gives off a well-worn charm to their tools.
Pros & Cons of 1095 Steel
- Tough and will be able to take quite a lot of beating (thanks to its carbon and manganese content)
- Good machinability (it has a good balance of hardness and softness that makes it easy to work with)
- Suitable for edged tools (this makes it ideal for knives and other cutting implements)
- Affordable (being a simple and common steel grade, it’s quite inexpensive)
- Can get very sharp (and easy to sharpen, too)
- Versatile (can be used for a wide range of knife products)
- Lots of great knives are made with this material (some iconic ones as well)
- Tends to be more brittle than other lower carbon steels from the 10XX range
- Needs to be coated or properly maintained to prevent rusting
- Rated with medium edge retention so it will require regular sharpening
Best 1095 Steel Knives
To better understand what the 1095 steel can do, here’s a quick roundup of the best 1095 steel knives reviews that you might find useful in your search for the right tool for your needs.
#1: KA-BAR Full Size US Marine Corps Fighting Knife
- Weight: 0.68 lbs
- Blade length: 7″
- Overall length: 11-7/8″
- Handle Material: Leather
- HRC: 56-58
- Edge Angle: 20 Degrees
- Steel: 1095 Carbon
- Sheath: Leather
What better product to start this 1095 steel knife review roundup than with the iconic KA-BAR 1217 Full Size US Marine Corps Fighting Knife. Once used by the USMC as a general issue knife during WWII, it gained a lot of popularity not just to those who are in that branch of the US Armed Forces but among regular folks as well.
Featuring an epoxy powder coating, leather handle, and a 7” blade, this is a fixed blade combat knife. While the blade material is relatively soft, it’s strong and durable and can take a lot of beating. It won’t chip, crack, or shatter when faced with great impact.
- An iconic knife product that has gained quite a following over the decades
- Comes razor sharp straight out of the box
- Very strong and durable
- Proven and tested performance and quality
- Can last very long with proper upkeep
- Counterfeits are available and you might end up getting one if you’re not careful
- Requires regular sharpening and maintenance
#2: KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion Fixed Blade Knife
- Overall Length: 10.75″
- Blade Length: 5.25″
- Blade Thickness: 0.25″
- Blade Material: 1095 Cro-Van
- Hardness: 56-58 RC
- Blade Style: Drop Point
- Blade Grind: Flat
- Finish: Black
- Edge Type: Plain
For those looking for a reliable outdoor-use knife, the KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion Fixed Blade Knife might be a better option. With its full tang handle, it’s designed to handle all sorts of camping chores and duties.
Featuring a 1095 Cro-van steel blade with black finish and a zytel handle, this knife looks and feels tough. It can handle a wide range of tasks without breaking, chipping, or cracking so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s a top pick amongst adventurers that like to be well-equipped when they’re in the wild.
- Made in the US
- Comes with a hard plastic sheath
- Versatile and can handle all sorts of tasks
- Designed for comfortable handling
- Durable construction and materials from the blade to the handle and coating
- Quite heavy for its size
- Sheath is quite bulky
#3: ESEE Knives 6P Fixed Blade Knife
- Overall Length: 11.75″
- Cutting Edge Length: 5.75″
- Overall Blade Length: 6.50″
- Thickness: .188″
- Finish: Textured Powder Coat
- Blade Width: 1.56″
- Weight (Knife Only): 12 Ounces
- Handles: Linen Micarta
- Made in the: U.S.A.
Completing the list is the Esee Knives 6P Fixed Blade Knife, a survival knife that is meant for all-around use. It’s touted to be the best-balanced knife from the brand’s range, promising great handling and a lot of versatility so it can be used for various tasks.
This item features a textured powder coat to keep the steel from rusting right away but maintenance is still required for the exposed parts like the edge and around the laser engraving. This is why it will still need some oiling and regular cleaning to keep corrosion at bay.
Another notable thing about this Esee product is its unlimited lifetime warranty. If a unit breaks, the brand will replace or repair it no matter what point it may be in the knife’s life or wherever it may be. However, the manufacturer is very adamant about proper anti-rust maintenance so it’s best to keep that in mind as well.
- Comes with an unconditional lifetime warranty
- Meant to be very strong and durable
- An attractive and durable carbon fiber sheath is included
- Available in different colors
- Came razor sharp straight out of the box
- Quite pricey
- A bit heavy
This 1095 steel review may not have been able to thoroughly detail all of the technical things about the said steel grade but hopefully, it was able to highlight the key details that the metal can offer. With its durability, sharpness, and easy availability, it makes sense that it’s a popular choice of material for knives and other cutting tools.
For a great 1095 steel pick, the KA-BAR 1217 knife can be a nice addition to any knife fan’s collection. Aside from being a legendary product, it has proven itself to be a reliable personal knife so it might also suit your requirements.