There are several types of steel you might consider for your ideal knife. Some are stainless steel types, while others contain high levels of carbon. Then there are tool steels, including Maxamet steel. In this Maxamet steel knife review, you can decide for yourself if you have just found the blade steel you’re looking for.
Of course, the ideal steel for your blade depends greatly on what you want to use the knife for. It depends on the attributes you’re looking for, and on your budget constraints as well.
If you’re in need of a knife that hardly needs sharpening, then you may find Maxamet steel to your liking.
However, this type of steel doesn’t come cheap. It’s actually considered a super-steel, and there’s a great demand for it.
What is Maxamet Steel?
Maxamet steel is a kind of powder steel from Carpenter Technology Corporation. Makers of powder steel mix powders of the metals which have been very finely ground. They then compress the resulting mix into shape, and bond everything together using heat.
This process is quite modern, and you need a special lab to accomplish this. Ancient blacksmiths have no way of replicating this process, even if they understood it. The resulting mix of all these metals is virtually perfect, or at least as perfect as modern technology allows.
Powder steels are renowned for their amazing hardness, which means the manufacturer can give the blade a truly hard edge with terrific durability. Maxamet steel is a great example of this, as its famous for its fantastic edge retention. Very few steels can match its hardness level and ability to keep its edge sharp.
Of course, there’s a downside or two. One problem with this level of edge retention is that when the time comes that you need to sharpen the blade, you won’t find it easy.
Another problem is that Maxamet steel isn’t a type of stainless steel at all. That means its resistance to corrosion doesn’t quite match even the cheapest stainless-steel knives in your kitchen.
All in all, this is a luxury-level super steel with the fantastic edge retention and fantastic resistance to wear. It’s even tough, which is an issue with other hard steels. Often a hard steel is brittle and prone to chipping, but Maxamet steel doesn’t really have this problem.
A closer look at the metals mixed to create Maxamet should give you a clearer idea of what this steel is all about.
- Chromium, 4.75%
- Carbon, 2.15%
- Tungsten, 13%
- Cobalt, 10%
- Vanadium, 6%
- Sulfur, 0.7%
- Manganese, 0.3%
- Silicon, 0.25%
Chromium, 4.75%: This is first on the list to emphasize the fact that Maxamet steel is not a type of stainless steel. Stainless steel, by definition, contains at least 10% chromium. Some stainless-steel types even contain 15% chromium for terrific corrosion resistance.
Compared to even cheap stainless-steel knives, Maxamet steel rusts much more easily. That means you have to keep the steel clean and dry all the time.
Still, chromium has been added to the mix to help with the edge retention, and also to enhance the tensile strength of the steel.
Carbon, 2.15%: That’s a lot of carbon. Some of the other steels with good edge retention only contain about 1% of carbon or less, due to concerns about sacrificing toughness for hardness. A steel that lacks toughness means that it’s brittle and prone to chipping.
With this amount of carbon, you can expect the steel to be very hard indeed. It helps with wear resistance and overall durability, and the carbon even helps with corrosion resistance.
Tungsten, 13%:The first commercial alloy steel actually came about in 1868 with the addition of tungsten to steel. Tungsten significantly boosts the hardness of the steel, and makes knives a lot more efficient when cutting.
Cobalt, 10%: This makes the steel strong even in high temperatures. It also enhances the steel’s resistance to wear and corrosion.
Vanadium, 6%: — This is also a lot of vanadium in the mix. You only have 0.12% of vanadium in 9Cr18MoV steel, for example. Here you have 50 times that amount of vanadium instead. The vanadium also boosts the hardness of the steel.
Sulfur, 0.7%: To compensate for the hardness of the steel, the sulfur here makes the steel easier to machine.
Manganese, 0.3%: This also boosts the hardness of the steel, and makes it even better able to retain its sharp edge.
Silicon, 0.25%: This is also to help with the strength and toughness of the steel.
Iron: Just a sprinkle of iron is added, really, to boost the strength of the steel as well.
Maxamet Steel Hardness
It’s extremely hard—make that super hard. It’s one of the hardest steels available for commercial knives, which explains its topnotch edge retention and wear resistance. That’s explained by the presence of huge amounts of carbon, tungsten, and vanadium.
In terms of the HRC scale, Maxamet steel is often found with an HRC rating of 67-68 HRC. Some even reach 70 HRC. That’s about the highest rating you can normally get for your knife. In comparison, a “good” EDC knife comes with an HRC rating of about 57-59 HRC.
Properties of Maxamet Steel
Here are some of the more notable features of Maxamet steel you can expect if you buy a knife with a blade made with this material.
Fantastic Wear Resistance
This is one of the practical side effects of steel that’s this hard. Maxamet steel doesn’t degrade all that much due to regular wear and tear. It just shrugs off these issues.
What this means is that you have a knife that basically lasts the rest of your life, if you use it properly and take care of it regularly.
Terrific Edge Retention
This is another benefit of the super-hardness of Maxamet steel. Once you get a sharp blade, it stays that way for a very long time.
This means it’s great for situations where you don’t want to bother with sharpening the blade on a daily basis. It’s useful for military situations, or for outdoor activities like hunting and camping.
Very few steels can match Maxamet steel’s edge retention capacity, and there’s probably no other steel out there is actually better at keeping a sharp edge. If this is your priority, then you’ve found the steel that absolutely meets your need.
The basic truism in the steel industry is that hardness is inversely proportional to toughness. That means the steel may offer excellent wear resistance and edge retention because it’s hard. But that usually ends up with a brittle steel that’s more likely to chip.
Somehow, Maxamet steel doesn’t have this problem. It’s really quite tough, which is surprising for such a hard steel. You can even use your knife for chopping and it’s not likely to chip too easily.
You might also expect that a steel this hard may be somewhat difficult to work with. That’s not true at all. Lots of brands find a way to give you a very sharp edge right out of the box. The addition of the sulfur to the mix does help with this issue.
Issues with Sharpening
One of the problems with super-hard steels is that, eventually, the blades do become dull. When that happens, it’s not quite as easy to sharpen the blade.
The good news is that sharpening the blade isn’t really impossible or even really difficult. With modern sharpening systems, it’s actually simple. It’s just that you may have to spend a few minutes more sharpening the blade than you would spend on softer steel.
Maxamet Steel Equivalent or Alternative
Here’s how Maxamet Steel compares with other steels. If you want the short version, Maxamet Steel is unbeatable when it comes to edge retention.
Maxamet Steel VS S110V Steel
The S110V is often considered the greatest rival of Maxamet steel. This is also ridiculously hard with fantastic wear resistance and good edge retention.
It’s just that it’s quite expensive, and sharpening it can also be a problem. Also, a lot of manufacturers complain that it’s hard to work with (which explains the high prices).
Maxamet steel is also hard with fantastic (and somewhat better) edge retention, but it’s easier to work with. It’s also somewhat tougher.
Maxamet Steel VS M390 Steel
Maxamet beats out M390 when it comes to hardness and edge retention. But M390 is tougher (less brittle), more resistant to corrosion, and somewhat easier to sharpen.
Maxamet Steel vs S30V Steel
This is an extreme difference when it comes to edge retention, as S30V steel pretty much lags at the other end of the edge retention scale. Lots of people complain how quickly the edge of the S30V steel blade can get blunt.
It’s true that S30V steel is somewhat more resistant to corrosion, but it’s only just as tough as Maxamet steel. That gap in edge retention, however, is simply ludicrous.
Maxamet Steel vs M4 Steel
These two steels are equal when it comes to toughness and resistance to chipping. But Maxamet steel is much more able to keep its sharp edge. M4, meanwhile, is more resistant to corrosion.
Does Maxamet Steel Rust?
Yes, it does have chromium and some other elements that help the steel resist corrosion somewhat. But they’re not enough. Maxamet steel is not one of the stainless-steel variants, and it doesn’t compare with the corrosion resistance of those stainless steels.
That’s why corrosion is one of the main problems with Maxamet steel. It’s like the kryptonite to its super abilities. That makes it a serious issue when you use this for marine activities, or even when you live in an area with especially high humidity levels.
This just means, though, that you have to spend time making sure your knife blade remains clean and dry. You can’t just wash it off with water and expect it to last. You have to wipe it down constantly.
Is Maxamet Steel Good for Knives?
Absolutely. When you have one of the hardest steels found in the industry used for your blade, you better believe it’s good for your knife. It’s extremely hard, and won’t wear out for a very long time. There’s also nothing out there that’s better than retaining its sharp edge than Maxamet steel.
You might be worried about your ability to sharpen the blade, but it’s not a serious problem at all. At most, it’s a minor annoyance. You just need to spend more minutes at sharpening the blade than you would with any other knife.
The same goes with its relatively poor corrosion resistance. This just means you need to develop a regular habit of wiping the blade down to keep it dry. It’s actually a good habit to develop if you own a knife in the first place.
What might not be so good is with your budget. Maxamet steel is relatively rare, and it’s considered a luxury-grade super steel. But you might consider it an investment. You get your money’s worth with its edge retention and surprising toughness, and it’ll be a long time before it wears down enough for you to need to replace it.
Pros and Cons of Maxamet Steel
Best Maxamet Steel Knives
Yes, these are all Spyderco knives. It’s the most famous user of Maxamet steel, and their knives are certainly top of the line.
#1: Spyderco Native 5 Signature Folder Knife
- Blade Length: 2.95″
- Overall Length: 6.95″
- Cutting Edge: 2.42″
- Blade Thickness: 0.125″
- Blade Material: Maxamet
- Made in: USA
The Native line of knives has long been a popular option from the Spyderco lineup, with its great combination of terrific quality and reasonable price. This is among the latest models, and it remains firmly made in the US.
This gives you a 2.95-inch blade with a full flat grind, with an overall length of 6. 95 inches. The blade has a non-reflective DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) coating, along with a choil for your index finger for better control.
It’s a folding knife that you can open with one hand even if you’re left-handed, and it features that characteristic half-inch hole at the base of the blade. The reliable back lock mechanism locks the blade in place to prevent accidental closing.
This also comes with a handle made with liner-less injection-molded FRN (fiberglass reinforced nylon). It features the uniquely deep Bi-Directional Texturing pattern for an especially secure grip.
#2: Spyderco Para Military 2 Signature Maxamet Folding Knife
- Blade Length: 3.42″
- Overall Length: 8.24″
- Handle: G-10
- Made In: USA
The blade here is 3.42 inches long, with an overall length of 8.24 inches. It’s patterned after the classic military model, with the full flat grind.
This blade combines with a reliable G10 handle, along with the special patented Compression Lock to firmly lock the blade in the open position. The blade is easy enough to open, with the 0.57-inch hole at the base of the blade.
It also comes with a 4-position clip, which you can set for either your left or right hand, or with the tup up or down.
#3: Spyderco Manix 2 Lightweight Signature Folding Knife
- Overall Length: 8.03″ (204mm)
- Blade Length: 3.37″ (86mm)
- Closed Length: 4.66″ (118mm)
- Edge Length: 2.88″ (73mm)
- Weight: 3oz (85g)
- Blade Thickness: 0.125″ (3.2mm)
- Handle: FRCP
- Origin: United States
This is another full-sized folding knife, with a 3.37-inch blade and 8.03-inch overall length. Yet it’s lightweight, as it weighs in at just 3 ounces. The blade comes with the expected full flat grind and the 0.55-inch round hole.
Spyderco used Fiberglass Reinforced Co-polymer for the handle, which helps reduce the weight. Also, this material is tough enough to match the blade, as it’s even resistant to heat and chemicals. The handle also features the Bi-Directional Texture pattern that gives you a secure grip even with wet hands.
This uses the strong ball-bearing lock, set inside a precision-machined steel insert in the handle to set the blade in place in the open position. This also offers a détente for better control over the knife.
How to Sharpen Maxamet Steel Knives
Maxamet steel is super-hard, and it offers insane levels of edge retention and wear resistance. With good maintenance (to avoid rusting) and proper use (to avoid chipping), this can last you for years. Try out any of the knives on our list, and you might even miss using your sharpening system.
Rusting and chipping are among the issues you need to keep in mind. So, don’t use it for prying open tin cans, and wipe it down constantly.
Sharpening may not be needed for a while with its excellent edge retention. But you do have to sharpen this blade eventually. Invest in a diamond sharpening system, and set some time when the need for sharpening arrives. With Maxamet steel, once you get it sharp, it’ll remain sharp for a long time.