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A2 vs 3V for a knife.

Discussion in 'Edged Tools' started by Niflreika, Jun 23, 2011.

  1. Niflreika

    Niflreika Guide

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    What are the pertinent differences between A2 and CPM 3V for use in a knife? Is 3V desirable enough to pay the premium for it? This is for a knife to be used for knife things, not beating it through a log to split it, stabbing it into a tree to stand on it or other such tomfoolery.
     
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  2. unit

    unit Tracker

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    Unfortunately this question will conjure opinions. It is subjective and up for personal preference.

    For ages, many people have been quite content with various carbon steels...and for good reason.

    In recent times there seems to be a new super steel every month or so...and you will never keep up with the releases...or variants that have subtle differences from different producers...then there is the heat treat variable that poses a stumbling block for many.

    I am in the camp of guys that have tried a lot of different steels and have found something that I like VERY much (it is neither of the two you mention BTW), but because we are all different, I hesitate to suggest that it would be "best" for you.

    The only solid advice I feel I can give you is to try and sample both and decide if the difference is worth it to you. And this suggestion is putting the cart in front of the horse isn't it? But honestly, it is hard to say what is better until you have experienced the advantages (and potential downsides i.e. sharpening) first hand, and weigh that info against your preferences and desires.

    Short (and perhaps better) answer, find a maker you really like, get to know him, and (more importantly) get him/her to know you, and together decided how to make the knife and what to make it from.
     
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  3. goosefacer

    goosefacer Guide

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    To be honest, I never saw a difference in A2 v O1 in my knives but have heard 3V is a very good steel but have no first hand experience.
     
  4. Trail Dust

    Trail Dust Scout

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    I have both and both can make fine knife blades with a good geometry and heat treat.

    [​IMG]

    Crucible's website offers some decent information if looking for specifics. http://www.crucible.com/eselector/general/generalpart1.html

    From MatWeb, Material Property Data:

    "CPM 3V is a new tool steel made by the Crucible Particle Metallurgy process, designed to provide maximum resistance to breakage and chipping in a highly wear-resistant steel. CPM 3V offers impact toughness greater than A2, D2, Cru-Wear or CPM M4, approaching the levels of S7 and other shock resistant grades, while providing excellent wear resistance, high hardness and thermal stability for coatings. Intended to be used at HRC 58-60 CPM 3V can replace high alloy tool steels in wear applications where chronic tool breakage and chipping problems are encountered.
    The CPM process produces very homogeneous, high quality steel characterized by superior dimensional stability, grindability, and toughness compared to steels produced by conventional processes.

    Information provided by Crucible Specialty Metals."


    In practical use, I experience little difference between A2 and 3V with all things being equal. I do notice the difference between 01, 1095 (or the ilk) and 3V rather quickly. Some find 3V more difficult to sharpen when using natural stones. Since I like thin blades, I can't tell much of a difference. Certainly a thicker blade is going to reflect the wear resistance contrast more rapidly between the two steels. This might be something to think about for some users that are relatively new to sharpening in the field without all of the gadgets.

    "Worth and value" concepts are terms to be evaluated in the eye of the beholder, IMO. We may have different standards, requirements, economy, etc. :)
     
  5. Valcas1

    Valcas1 Scout

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    I am going to ramble for a little bit. I want to say upfront that this is just my opinion from information gathered over the years. I am not a knife maker, just a user. some of this you might know already some you may not. It is all based on my limited knowledge of the two steels.

    Both are tool steels, stain resistant but not stainless. I believe A2 has been around longer so it has a track record of being used in knives. 3v is a relativly new steel to the knife making game. I have a large A2 chopper that I have beat the tar out of with no ill affects. I also own several 3v scandi grind knives that I have used a decent amount. I believe that on paper 3v is a tougher steel meaning the edge should in theory last longer. Along with that toughness comes a knife that is harder to sharpen for the very same reason. I have seen that the A2 is easier to sharpen, for me!

    The scandi 3v knives that I own come from Dan Koster and are heat treated by Paul Boss. The reason Dan chose 3v is because of the toughness of the steel and being able to go with a zero scandi grind with out being as concerned with edge chiping. Most of the people I have seen have had no problems with chiping. I will tell you that the 3v takes me a long time to sharpen with diamond sharpening stones, but the edge stays that way with simple stropping.

    I am pretty sure that 3v is able to be used at a higher RC rating without concern.

    In a nutshell if you want something that can hold an edge a very long time I would go with 3v.

    If you want mountains of information and debate on this subject I suggest you go to Bladeforums.com and search the subject. be prepared to read a lot of information.

    I hope this helps even a little bit.

    Paul

    One last thing, 3v is going to cost you more. only you can decide if the cost is worth the additional benefit.
     
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  6. unit

    unit Tracker

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    I would add one question to my previous post:

    What steels do you have experience with, and what did you like or not like about them?

    The original question may be really easy to answer if you have used A2 before. i.e. if you used A2 and it held an edge well enough and you never chipped or broke the blade, why pay for increase toughness and wear resistance?

    Using the chart posted above and these descriptions of toughness and wear resistance, perhaps you can better understand what you might hope to gain?


     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2011
  7. Niflreika

    Niflreika Guide

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    Thanks, guys. That Crucible chart helps a lot.

    So, I guess my initial thought that it'll be harder to sharpen with natural stones is right. I like to keep the same sharpening setup I have now, as I'm quite good with it.

    So, despite the fact that according to the numbers, 3V is worth the price increase, I think I'll save myself some money and go with the A2, which I am much more familiar with (being a machinist, A2 is one of my favorite steels to work with). I'm used to stropping my axe often anyway, so doing the same with my knife isn't a big deal (the knife I'm looking at is convex), and I'm used to My Jarvenpass and Helle knives which are not maintenance free super steel by any means.

    Thanks for the info.
     
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  8. kgd

    kgd Dr. Fishguts Bushclass I

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    I honestly think that the steel composition has very little relevance to whether or not I like a knife. I rarely find a perceivable difference between the different steel types I do own. Also find that knives of the same steel differ quite a bit in their behaviour so I tend to think the variation in heat treat across knives can blur the theoretical distinctions between steels as provided in charts like the one above.

    Basically it comes down to the blade profile, edge geometry and handle ergos that trump everything about knife performance for me. A slightly less comfortable handle between two knives of different steels will always be the deciding factor in my choice. I made a similar post elsewhere where somebody recommended somebody go with a 3V barkie over an A2. I suggested for the $30 difference in costs between the same model across steel type might be better invested in a fancier handle material with the A2. You'll get more direct enjoyment out of the handle than you will a little stamp that says 3V on the blade.
    That is of course if the aesthetics or worth it to you. At least its easier to convince others that the pretty knife on your belt is worth something.
     
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  9. unit

    unit Tracker

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    I forgot to mention that that chart is a good source, but keep in mind that it assumes something about heat treat. Generally, these charts consider the performance of the steel at the hardness that is recommended for the applications for which the steel is designed (and the primary design of many of these steels is NOT for bush craft knives;))

    This is what I was trying to get at originally (so many variables that it becomes subjective). As sad as it seems, I see a lot of trends toward using steels that are phenomenal on paper, but the resulting knife resembles a railroad track section with an edge and not surprisingly the knife is less than remarkable for many duties other than prying due to the poor geometry. (but that knife would be GREAT for the tasks mentioned in the last few words of the original post:))

    I would also point out that it may or may not be harder to sharpen than what you are familiar with...again edge geometry and heat treat can play heavily into this. This has been demonstrated numerous times (pick two very different knives in the same steel, and note the differences in sharpening).
     
  10. Skrapmetal

    Skrapmetal Scout

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    3V is significantly tougher than A2, but the biggest perks to me are that it is less prone to staining and has better edge retention.

    It is in all ways, except ease of sharpening, a better steel. But if you don't plan to abuse the knife like you said in the original post... field sharpening shouldn't be an issue with the better edge retention. Strop it on your belt if you need, but otherwise it should stay good to go.
     
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  11. zachgertz

    zachgertz Hobbyist Hobbyist

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    3v i defiantly harder to sharpen and hone. But stays sharper than A2. in my experience im able to get A2 sharper then 3v.
     
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  12. Coryphene

    Coryphene Guide

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    I guess it depends on what you do with your knife. If you are mainly dressing large animals and separating joints in the field rather than carrying out the whole animal after gutting, 3V may be worth it. Bone dulls and chips knives faster than anything I've ever worked with. I just use my Shun boning knife (VG10) and have loads of practice not having the edge rub against bone but for the less experienced, the superior edge toughness will make a difference.

    Just whittling tent stakes and feather sticks? Bring on the cheap steel!

    Why is 3V more expensive? The steel itself costs more for one. The heat treat process is FAR more involved for 2. And the wear on your tools when working it is 3. All these add to the cost from a maker's perspective.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2017
  13. Maurice 7

    Maurice 7 Scout

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    Very good points here.
     
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  14. Bax 40

    Bax 40 Supporter Supporter

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    The maker and blade geometry are much more important than steel in my opinion, we have a highly regarded maker here that uses mostly 1095.
    The 3v is more rust free and harder to sharpen , a2 is great , Bark River is great on both steels, heat treat is very important and they have it down pat, so do many others.
    Salt water often may influence you towards a more stainless steel.

    Larry
     
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  15. Jacob

    Jacob Supporter Supporter

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    there are a couple of great YouTube videos about a2 and 3v that might interest you. I don't know how to post links, sorry.

    One is "steel testing, a carnival of knife destruction" by gough custom.

    The other is "light chopper" by nateAIM

    Even if you don't want to baton through bricks. Both a2 and 3v have enough edge stability that they can be ground REALLY thin, both are also well suited for scandi grinds too. I'd say you can't go wrong either way.
     
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  16. Sunhammer

    Sunhammer Tinder Gatherer

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    I realize this is a huge necro-post. However, since I stumbled upon it via google others will in the future.

    The "What steel" question has been driving me lately, and driving me nuts. Lots of internet experts. Some might know a lot, a few seem to know a lot but then I find a flaw or two in their logic.
    One of the biggest "time sinks" in this whole thing is that questions like "Is s35vn a good steel?" is exactly like "How big is a hole."
    (Remember: say something online and 20 people will say you are lying and 50 people will say they are.)

    Practical example: Schrade has had a few 1095 blades made, some in Taiwan and some in China. Taiwan 1095 is far superior. BUT, Schrade 1095 at it's best isn't as good as Ontario Knife 1095 and then people will rightly say, "Yea, but Ontario 1095 isn't as good as Esee 1095."
    Can I afford to buy one of every 1095 knife, pick the two I like, and sell the rest at a garage sale? HA!
    So, as I write this, s35vn is the "shiz" for outfits like Zero Tolerance. They also do some other metal but the bulk is s35vn.
    aaaannnnddd... Hinderer hardens s35vn to a range? of 55-57, an outfit called Bark River hardens it to 58, and a place called Spartan Blades hardens to 59-60. What the hell does that mean in practical purposes? If I can't afford a bucket o' 1095 I can't even dream of a bucket o' s35vn to find out.
    And that is the problem. And even those internet experts arguing on forums don't even try to keep up with all that. Because they can't afford to burn the cash and time either. They argue data sheets and marketing claims.

    I use 1095 as my baseline. I can make it wicked sharp, regardless of brand, with a ceramic rod in almost no time. I can do it quick enough that the edge retention thing isn't a major factor. It DOES factor though. For me, and remembering ANY stainless will stain, it is the corrosion resistance that makes me look away from 1095. I oil my knives all the time.... but I'd like a knife that doesn't need it. And ignoring data sheets there is no question that s35vn is more durable than 1095. It takes longer but I can still hone it back to sharp.

    I've got a Buck in s30v, two folders and two fixed blades in s35vn. I can't tell the difference between s30v and s35vn. I have two 1095s (I just dumped 4 others.) Got a Gerber mini paraframe in some cheap steel. 8cr13mov - I only have one experience with that and it is Schrade's new machete the schmbs (Priscilla). I'm not trying to break it outright.. but I am having fun with it. And it is taking chopping 8" - 10" logs, plywood, branches, small log splitting. Even the coating is holding up. Would I normally buy anything but a small "office safe" folder in 8cr13mov? No way. This machete thing is just one of those freak exceptions that happen now and then. Schrade will eventually switch makers to save and ruin it.

    Part is your personal philosophy to buying. I got a buddy who swears he is saving cash by buying the $20 costco shoes. And maybe he is. I am saving trips to the store, gas, etc by spending the $70 every 12 - 18 months for some shoes. Will I buy $400 shoes? NEVER. Will I buy a $500 Hinderer? Never. But I've eaten lots of top ramen, walked instead of driving, to buy a solid $200 - $250 knife. Why? I know military people who trust their lives to them.

    I'm at the point that I am pretty sure I have the folders I want. And I have the 5"-6" blade I want, all in profiles that I personally love. I'm trying to figure out if I really need an 7" - 10". I live in bear, cougar, coyote country. I saw the Revenant - I ain't fighting no bears but might have to fend off the smaller beasties and everyone gets butt-rashed if you shoot them. Maybe I am just coming up with an excuse to buy another knife. Hmmm...

    And I cannot find a mid-level compact anywhere with a pocket clip. The Gerber mini has a 1.75" blade perfect around knife-scared office people when something needs cutting... but the metal is just junk. No sub 2" folders in 1095, 440c, 154 that I can find. I got a Buck Hartsook in s30v. It's not exactly what I want but it was $25 and really small. And I don't want an Old Timer or something way down at the bottom of a pocket. Some knife maker please fill this niche, it doesn't have to be some "super steel" but I can't even cut up 2 cardboard boxes without sharpening this Gerber. Just a simple, no frills small knife with a pocket clip. That is all I ask.

    In closing, s35vn is pretty new so I am gambling that it meets my need for a more resistant steel that is tough enough to increase the time before I have to buy another knife. Only 10 or 20 years of service will tell.
     
  17. Muskett

    Muskett Scout

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    I have a knife in both steels, but very different styles. Neither have I managed to break, nor put some huge damage on the edge. 3V holds the edge longer but is slower to sharpen as it takes longer to remove material with the abrasives I use. Both I can get extremely sharp but when sharpening takes longer its more difficult, (I'm not using a jig). Having several different steels makes it more interesting if you are "into" the subject. Civilisation was built with some pretty basic tools.
    My adventures aren't long enough to require a sharpening session in the field before home again, so what steel doesn't matter so long as its pretty good; both these are. Both will require maintenance at some point, the question is how much work they do between sessions. Both are able to do a lot of work first. I have other blades of other steels that need it more often. For all my tools they get maintenance when they need it and non are bad tools if they do.

    All in all it doesn't matter, go for what you fancy. How you like a knife is more to do with fit and feel and your work style. Half way through a job I don't think about the steel, just on getting the job done.
    Failure in a blade, a well made and correctly heat treated blade, is more to do with "the luck built into the blade", and you can't find that out until it runs out of luck. Might take a week or years upon years. Buy from a maker that gives you confidence to start as thats the only thing you can do.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2017
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  18. bluecow

    bluecow Scout

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    back in the information dark ages we bought knife we liked and used it. paying no attention to what it had for steel other than carbon or stainless. what hardness it was tempered to........ as Unit said there is a new super steel every month or so this one being better than the last and most of it amounts to cow pies.
     
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  19. rmorgan736

    rmorgan736 Scout

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    i have some knives in sv30 some in plain old 440 some high carbon i like them all but when you get down to it a knife any knife that gets the job done is a good knife.i have at least a hundres knives i have colected them for over 50 years........i rotate thim a lot i like them all some are ugly some are steange too say the least but i enjoy them all i find maintainig them too be oddly soothing i dont mind oiling ang sharpening and polishing......so i say if you like it it is a good knife.
     
  20. FreudianSlip

    FreudianSlip Guide

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    May have been said before. A2 is less rust resistant and has less edge retention, but easier to sharpen. 3v more edge retention, more rust resistance, harder to sharpen. I think the choice would come down to confidence in sharpening skills. I've taken my a2 bravo 1 from BRKT on kayak trips without any rust issues. Actually it seems to stay sharp pretty well.
     
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  21. Muskett

    Muskett Scout

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    As above. Having said what I did previously then for my everyday knives it doesn't matter much as ongoing maintenance is part of my routine. But, if I'm honest with myself, then the less maintenance needy of 3V is a real plus. Pretty tough stuff too which only adds to the confidence. So for some styles/types of knives then its probably worth going the extra mile for.
     
  22. A Seedy Lot

    A Seedy Lot Scout

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    One more thought. If your cutting chores only involve wood you may not notice much of a difference between steels with different levels of wear resistants. I end up using my EDC knife for a lot of farm projects, pruning roots on plants, harvesting greens, cutting down weeds, and other similar chores that involve blade contact with soil. In these situations the difference in wear resistants quickly becomes obvious.
     
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  23. YukonMusher

    YukonMusher Scout

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    I bought an Aurora by BRKT last year and have been using it a lot, and mostly around water (fishing, canoe trips). I was also looking into various steels and super-steels and wasn't sure about the A2, but then went for it...and I like it a lot. At first I had issues with rust, especially when the sheath was damp (which just happens sometimes on a canoe trip). But then I forced a vinegar patina on it and it's good since. I like how sharp I can get it and how easy it is to sharpen/maintain that razor edge. I like it so much, I just ordered another BRKT in A2 that is more suitable for hunting tasks. I just didn't see the need to spend the extra money for a different and more sexy steel...
     
  24. charlesmc2

    charlesmc2 Tracker

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    I know, I know old thread. But I enjoy pondering this and I appreciate the many perspectives. I even bounce around several perspectives inside my own pea brain.

    1. I like carbon steel. I've got axes, hoes,machetes and loppers that are carbon steel. I use them. Hoes and the like are routinely used in dirt. (By the way, if you haven't tried them Rogue Prohoe makes some of the best hoes and the like I've ever seen. Supposedly use worn disks from farm implements. And good handles. Forestry Supply is one source.

    2. I'm not going to use my 3V knives, S30V and the like in the same manner, barring extreme circumstances.

    3. I live in Texas where it's hot in summer. I try to avoid carrying my 1095 Case pocket knives in summer. Rust is too likely. But I do like the way my carbon knives sharpen and cut.

    4. I like to limit my use of most stainless to small to medium knives. This includes D2. I don't see brittleness being so much a problem with smaller blades.

    5. From what I've read and experienced, 3V seems to bridge the gap pretty well. Resists rust enough for summer use and tough enough for use for large knives. I have not used A2, but it seems to fit same category tho less corrosion resistance(?).

    6. Good makers choose good steel, heat treat and geometry. The user has to pick fit and feel.

    7. One of my favorite sayings is "all generalizations are false, including this one." That said I have a Spyderco Dragonfly in ZDP 189 that I love. No way I'd want that steel for a heavy use tool, though. Going the other way, I like 1095 for all uses except for corrosion issues.
     
  25. PatrickKnight

    PatrickKnight Tracker

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    It depends on the use for me. A2 will take a much finer edge than 3V will based on alloy content alone however 3V will hold its edge longer and be more time consuming to sharpen (I don't think either fall into the hard to sharpen category, try S110V at 63 HRC if you want hard to sharpen). My top three steels of all time are O1, A2, and 52100. Yes I prefer fine grained low alloy tool steels.
     
  26. Ajax13

    Ajax13 Scout

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    The only thing that determines how well a knife cuts is geometry. The quality of the steel determines how long that geometry can be maintained.

    I buy the best knives I can reasonably afford, and I pretty much leave the choice of steel to the maker. If I don't know what's "best", I ask them. My current three favorites happen to be a Malinika puukko in 52100, a Bark River Mountain Man in 3v, and a Bark River Fox River in Elmax.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2017
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  27. outsyder

    outsyder Tracker

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    I like 3V, given an option I would buy 3V versions for resilience but I don't care enough for it to be a deal breaker.

    I have, use and love other knives in A2, 01 and others as well as a few in 3v, but if I'm honest I don't notice significant difference……..I use my knives, I come home and maintain them so I hardly ever have to do any significant sharpening. So in my very humble and limited experience and with no science behind it, I'd stick my neck out and say that unless you were borderline abusing your edges, then using a knife as a cutting tool in normal circumstances and with regular maintenance, most of us barely notice. The only thing is I have had minor rust issues with 01 & A2 that I have yet to see on my 3V models.

    I just bought a Koster WSS in 3V, it is and will be a constant companion, how I get on with this going forwards may change my opinion after 4 seasons of work, some sweat, extreme weathers and some occasional neglect. Being 3V was a reason for buying this as my regular carry, this was the first time I have done that.
     
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