420hc Knife Steel Review

A Comprehensive 420HC Steel Review For All You Should Know

420HC steel review has recently gained much attention thanks to the popularity of 420HC buck knives. Unluckily, there is a serious lack of knowledge of most knife users and home cooks of this kind of stainless steel. The article below gives you useful information to learn more about 420HC and its application in knife production.

What Is 420HC Steel?

420HC steel is the upgrade of older steel, the 420 one. The HC here stands for “high carbon,” meaning that it can get hardened during the heat treat and reach a higher level of hardness than 420.

In addition to the carbon base, the 420HC steel also has 13% chromium for good corrosion resistance.

It is low-end steel used for shear blades, cutlery, surgical tools, needle valves, scissors, and more. It is also used in knife production. Some of the big stars in the industry are Gerber Knives and Buck Knives, which are famous for sturdy, versatile, yet budget-friendly knives.

Chemical Composition

Like other types of alloy, the 420HC steel contains various chemical elements, including:

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0.46% Carbon to improve corrosion resistance and hardness. It is among the essential qualities of 420HC steel. However, the more carbon it consists of, the less strength it has. 

13% Chromium to enhance tensile strength and edge retention. It is also one of the most important elements in this chemical composition, as it improves the material’s resistance to tear and wear.

0.4% Manganese to augment the hardness. But a large amount of this mineral might make the steel brittle.

0.3% Vanadium to enhance the hardenability. The mineral also helps the material undergo the tear and wear that a standard knife must withstand every day.

0.5% Silicon to advance strength. This last element makes 420HC steel perfect for knife manufacturing.

420HC Properties

Here is the list of some outstanding properties of 420HC steel.

1. Edge Retention

There are numerous factors to determine whether or not a blade remains sharp after long use. Harder steel tends to retain its edge sharpness longer than a softer one. However, the former with great brittleness cannot also withstand edge retention. That is why a combination of different elements for both brittleness and hardness is necessary.

And 420HC steel is a perfect solution. It is soft steel which might not hold the edge quite well. But the retention is good enough, even better than the earlier steels in the 400 series.

Image credit: @kenaveryknives.com

2. Hardness

As 420HC steel includes a higher carbon level than the earlier 400 series, the steel is more hardenable or can reach greater hardness during the heat treatment.

The Rockwell hardness of 420HC can be raised to 56 and 58 HRC, although its standard rating is only around 55 HRC.

Image credit: @kenaveryknives.com

3. Toughness

In general, the high hardness of steel usually results in its less toughness. For 420HC, while Vanadium and Carbon contribute to its hardness, other elements such as Manganese, Nickel, phosphorus, and sulfur do the opposite. Therefore, the balanced combination of these elements is essential to create an alloy with great chemical properties.

Soft steel like 420HC can withstand more abuse, including tear and wear, than the harder counterparts like the 440 series. That is why people have used 420HC in the knife industry for years.

Although its edge retention might not be as good as modern hard steel, it is tough enough to survive everyday use with even a little abuse. 

Image credit: @kenaveryknives.com

4. Corrosion Resistance

A great amount of Chromium protects the steel from corrosive factors such as moisture and humidity. As it exceeds the minimum Chromium rating to become stainless steel (around 11% and 12%), 420HC steel, with 13% of Chromium, is highly corrosion-resistant.

5. Sharpening

420HC, regarded as one of the soft steels, is relatively easy to sharpen. It takes you almost no time and effort to sharpen the edge with old-fashioned sharpeners or advanced sharpening tools.

It is another great advantage of 420HC. Though it might not have good edge retention as other steels, it is simple for green home cooks to get it back to razor-sharp condition.

Is 420HC Steel Good For Knives?

Well, absolutely. The hardness properties and corrosion resistance in 420HC are what make it an excellent steel for blades. It is commonly used in the blades of almost all diving, hunting, and fishing knives, thanks to its rust resistance in those activities.

As it is bargain-basement stainless steel, you cannot expect that it has wonderful edge retention as other high-end products. But believe us, for knife users, nothing is better than its ease of sharpening.

Overall, the 420HC is worth appreciation, especially by beginners looking for an inexpensive knife that goes along with a moderate-grade steel blade.

Related: Is VG-10 Steel Good For Knives?

Frequently Asked Questions

We do not think we can solve all your questions right away, but hopefully, this section will help you understand more about 420HC steel.

1. Is 420HC Steel Stainless?

That is true. It is because the 420HC includes at least 12% of Chromium inside it.

2. Is 420HC Easy To Sharpen?

Yes. As we mentioned above, one of its standout benefits is easy to sharpen. You can use any sharpener to have the edge sharpened easily, whether it is an old-fashioned or advanced one.

3. Is S30V Better Than 420HC?

We are afraid so. Compared to the 420HC steel, despite having the equivalent corrosion resistance and toughness, S30V has greater edge retention. 

4. Is 420HC Better Than 440C?

It is a close match as they both belong to the 400 series, explaining their similar performance. 

5. Is 420HC Better Than 1095?

Compared to 1095, 420HC is better at corrosion resistance. But that is not the case with other terms such as edge retention or toughness.

6. Is 154CM Better Than 420HC?

420HC is tougher and easier to sharpen, while 154CM is more excellent than its opponent in edge retention.

The Bottom Line

To sum up, 420HC steel is superior to other steels in price, toughness, hardness, edge retention, and sharpening. Many knife manufacturers have spent years proving to customers that 420HC is excellent knife steel. And hopefully, with this 420HC steel review, now you understand their reasons and intentions of using it.

Further Reading:

What Is D2 Steel?

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