Steel prior to becoming a knife.

Steel prior to becoming a knife.

Some Thoughts about Steel

 

The big question is high carbon steel vs. stainless steel? Remember the great PC vs. Apple debate? It’s a lot like that. Each has its pros and cons, it can be fun or tiresome depending on your point of view, but in the end both are good and it’s simply a matter of personal preference (although the consensus seems to be that the “pros” prefer high carbon).

The high carbon steels require a bit more TLC, especially at the outset. They will develop a protective patina with time and will take on the look of a well-used tool, every cut leaving a bit of history in its wake. But this patina will (excepting abuse like leaving it in the sink overnight – see “Vulcan” note in “Knife Care”) form a rust preventive layer. Think of those old pliers and wrenches out in the garage – probably bought by your grandparents and handed down through generations. They have a lovely grey finish on them but are not rusted. I once found a hammer in the crawl space of my home; it may have been there since the house was built in 1922. It had a few minor spots of rust that were easily wiped off but otherwise was in great condition.

You are probably more familiar with stainless steel. The obvious advantage is that you can be ever so slightly more careless in your maintenance although with sufficient abuse they too will rust. The trade-off is that awful feeling the first time you scratch that nicely polished surface.

I use classic and time-tested cutlery steel – carbon and stainless. I have found that the high carbon steels are a bit easier to sharpen and the edge can be easily brought back with a few swipes of a ceramic honing rod. The stainless steels can be a bit more difficult to sharpen. The difference is negligible unless you are a professional chef using your knife all day every day and are extremely sensitive to the subtleties of knife performance.

There is no wrong decision here.

 

 Similar knives, carbon steel and stainless steel.

Similar knives, carbon steel and stainless steel.