Marc Weinstock

The Beauty of High Carbon Steel Blades

There are numerous blade steels
available and each have their own individual pros and cons. Since you can't have it all when it come to blade steel, tradeoffs are the result for specifically desired properties like hardness, toughness, corrosion resistance, strength, edge retention and so on. There isn't catchall steel for every style of blade and in fact it's a bit of a balancing act depending on the intended application. That said, one of my all-time favorite blade steels is High Carbon Steel (HCS)
From a functional standpoint, I like HCS because it can be hardened to an extremely high state and because of this particular attribute the steel can be honed to a razor-like sharpness that will hold its edge for a long time. It has been the traditional blade steel for razors and many other blades like kitchen and hunting knives where you want your knife to keep its sharp edge and hone easily when needed.  
A tradeoff for this extreme hardening capability is that HCS has very little corrosion resistance and can oxidize pretty fast if not cared for properly.  A natural patina that is grey/blue in color will develop on the blade over time and once established acts as a protective coating against further corrosion. Similar in purpose to the Seasoning application applied an iron skillet. 
I find this particular characteristic of High Carbon Steel to be quite visually interesting. I'm a big fan of the way the steel over time, if allowed through use and wear, will continuously produce unique patina patterns overlaid onto the steel. What makes this attribute even more compelling to me is that when you infuse this oxidational mashup with the individual owner, blade usage and environmental conditions, the result is a one of a kind visual record of use and events that I think is equally as beautiful as the knife itself.
Caring for your High Carbon Steel blade is pretty simple: 
  • Clean your knife or razor with warm water and soap after you use it. Don’t put your custom blade in the dish washer. It’s much too harsh of an environment for your knife. 
  • Dry it off when it gets wet. If you let water sit on your blade for a period of time the steel will begin to oxidize and eventually rust. Be especially diligent with your razors and be sure to rinse and dry it off after each use and do your best keep water away from the pivot area.
  • Apply a coat of mineral oil when storing a blade for a long period of time. Remember to store it out of its sheath as the leather can absorb moisture out of the air which in turn will rust the blade.
High Carbon Steel is a classic blade and razor material and I value both its functional and aesthetic attributes. If cared for properly, you'll have a blade that will perform the way it was intended and become even more beautiful with time and use. 

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