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Photos: What Steels Do Custom Knifemakers Use?

What Steels Do Custom Knifemakers Use?

Custom knifemakers can use any steels they like. However, some steels continue to see use year after year. Here are a few great examples.

CPM 154

CPM 154 stainless is the blade steel Kurt Swearingen selected for his deep-bellied semi-skinner with a tapered tang and single guard. The handle is amber elk. Overall length: 8.25 inches.

1084 & 15n20

A pattern weld of 1084 and 15n20 comprises the 6 7/8-inch clip-point blade of the 385 Damascus Bowie by Larry Cox. The handle is giraffe bone and the guard is 416 stainless steel.


Tried-and-true 5160 carbon steel is the blade material for Bill Kirkes’ small bowie with a long swedge and oval double guard. The handle is ironwood. Overall length: 12 inches.


W2 tool steel comprises the clip-point blade of Chris Montgomery’s tapered-tang utility hunter. The handle is the Bob Loveless favorite—green Micarta®. Overall length: 8.25 inches.


A 3.25-inch blade of 154CM stainless—another Bob Loveless staple—anchors James Glisson’s drop-point skinner in mammoth ivory. The scrim is by Kurtz Miller and the engraving by Pierre Le Blanc.


D2 tool steel is the material for the 7-inch hollow-ground blade of Harvey King’s fighter. The handle is stag with a brass double guard and buttcap. The spacer is amber.


Bill Duff no doubt has used 440C stainless scores of times in his many years of knifemaking—and he does so here again on his large dagger with a black and maroon Micarta® handle. Overall length: 12.75 inches.

See More Photos of Custom Knives

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