Stainless Steel and Carbon Blades: What's the Difference?By Isabella Woods
There are many reasons why you need good quality knives, whether it be in your kitchen, workplace or for a crafting hobby. The array of different blade types out there can be completely overwhelming and it can be hard to work out which type is best and which will suit your needs most appropriately. The two most common and popular types of blade are stainless steel and carbon blades, but what’s the difference? Which one should you choose?
The physical difference between the blades
Before analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of each type of blade, it’s important to know exactly what a stainless steel blade is and what a carbon blade is. Both stainless steel and carbon blades are in fact composed of steel and other metals but their makeup is slightly different. Carbon blades tend to be made mainly of steel solely composed of iron and carbon whereas stainless steel blades are made of steel which is composed of iron and chromium, along with a very small quantity of carbon. This is the basic difference between the two types of blades but this doesn’t tell you which one may be best for your requirements. There are a few other differences between the two types of blade that we can discuss in more detail.
Stainless steel blades
Let’s look at stainless steel blades. The main feature and 'pro' of choosing stainless steel blades is the ease of maintenance. Obviously, all steel can rust but stainless steel is much less likely to when kept in normal conditions and maintained well. Equally, because stainless steel blades are less likely to rust they have increased longevity in any environment! You may find that good quality stainless steel blades will cost more than carbon blades of the same quality.
The big downfall with stainless steel blades is their hard, rigid nature which can make them difficult to sharpen effectively. Some of the more exclusive and famous brands of chef’s knife use stainless steel blades for all of their products as they claim they remain extremely sharp with fantastic edge retention and in most instances, outperform carbon blades. There are many cheap, low quality stainless steels on the market which are no good for anything so try to avoid this at all costs.
Now, let’s look at carbon blades. There are many great features to carbon blades which make them a popular choice for rough usage and instances where more durable blade is required. As well as being more durable and tougher than stainless steel, carbon blades are also easier to sharpen. The use of carbon blades is recommended due to their ability to achieve and maintain a good sharp edge over a long period of time. Carbon blades, however, contain no chromium which makes them extremely susceptible to corrosion and general rust.
Many of the manufacturers are aware of this and so apply a range of different coatings and sealants to their blades before selling them; however this is something you should be aware of. For ideal maintenance of a carbon blade, you need to keep them dry, away from all sources of moisture and oiled to combat any chance of rust. A carbon blade is ideal for a wide range of purposes, whether you need to cut some materials to construct a leather sofa bed or simply need to have a reliable knife on hand when required.
So which of these two blades is the one for you?
There you have it: a thorough outline of the differences between carbon and stainless steel blades. If you’re looking for a blade to do rough work, wood carving or hobbies which require a strong, durable blade, choose carbon. If you’re looking for a blade which is easy to use and easy to keep in top condition, choose stainless steel. With developments in the market you can also get a range of different blade types and preferred at the moment as high carbon stainless steel blades which combine the best bits of both of the different types. There's a whole world of blade options out there, so make sure you take a look at all of the possibilities before settling on your final choice of blade.