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Thread: Questions About H1 Steel

  1. #1
    Spyderco Forum Registered User
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    Questions About H1 Steel

    I've been reading for a while now about H1 steel. I have heard it holds an edge like everything from 420HC to better than almost everything. Based on my reading and other research, I have formed some opinions on it, but I figure it's better to get it straight from the source. Below are some questions and opinions hopefully someone in the know (Sal or others) can answer.

    It sounds like H1 is a precipitation hardening alloy that is solution treated, work hardened (cold rolled), then shipped to the customer from the mill. Spyderco, or others, shape and grind the blades, then give them the final precipitation aging heat treatment. Is this how it works, and if not, can anyone go over the procedure, if it's not proprietary?

    I've heard it does not contain carbon, but the chart on the main Spyderco site says it does. I'm assuming the chart is right, but can anyone confirm this?

    I have read that it work hardens during sharpening and use. I do not think this is the case, unless work hardening means something different from what I've read.

    I have heard many references to some testing done on an H1 serrated blade that show the serrations "work harden" during grinding. Is this testing available on Spyderco's website or here on the forums?

    I have read that H1 is rust proof, but also read reports of pitting, generally a more severe form of corrosion than just rusting. Does H1 pit or otherwise corrode, but without the characteristic orange rust of regular steel? How does the corrosion resistance of H1 compare to something like 316 or 430 stainless steels?

  2. #2
    Spyderco Forum Registered User Pockets's Avatar
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    I can only answer some of your questions, but here goes:
    H1 in SE out cuts everything in Spyderco's testing. In PE, it is said to be like AUS-8.
    H1 is not heat treated like normal steel, it is work hardened by grinding.
    I always thought it had no carbon. It has nitrogen instead.
    There is some dispute as to whether it work hardens in use. It may perform better after you sharpen it, as the steel at the very edge could be damaged (maybe?) or there is a burr on the factory edge.
    The serrations are harder than the plain edges because they are work hardened more as they are ground.
    The only thing on H1 that can rust is tiny bits of metal left on it from the factory. If you leave it in very strong acid, or chlorine, or something like that, it may corrode, but long after you took your hand out from the pain
    I hope that helps.

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    Is that in CATRA testing, or do they use a different test for serrated edges? Is the testing available for viewing here?

    How does grinding work harden it? For work hardening to happen, there has to be plastic deformation. The material that is deformed is removed, though I understand there is a thin layer of work hardened material that may be left after grinding or machining, but that seems like it would be similar to case hardening a knife, which we knife nuts know isn't going to make a very good knife.

    Like above, I've heard both, but will continue to assume the chart is correct in it's 0.15 wt% carbon. It does also list 0.10 wt% Nitrogen, though I don't think that's ever been in question.

    Again, for work hardening to occur, there must be plastic deformation. Has anyone steeled the bejeezus out of some H1 to see what happens? That's the only way I can see work hardening happening from sharpening, since a hand stone is about metal cutting/abrasion.

    I don't have any issues with H1 not forming "rust", but if it can pit through knife use, that's a problem. Contamination by other metals is surprisingly easy to do, and it wouldn't be the first time a very good stainless was contaminated and caused issues.

  4. #4
    Spyderco Forum Registered User Pockets's Avatar
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    I believe it is CATRA. I do not believe it will pit unless you apply some seriously hazardous chemicals.
    I don't really know anything about work hardening. Yet....

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    Yea, I can't remember what the conditions were that caused pitting. Something about bleach soaking maybe?

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    Spyderco Forum Registered User xceptnl's Avatar
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    My Spyderhawk and Dragonfly Salt have been swimming, fishing and surfing in the Atlantic for the last 2 years with no signs of anything resembling pitting, oxidation, or even surface rust.
    My 's:
    Native, Manix 2 (BD1,154CM,S30V,M4,XHP,S110V,Cruwear), Delica 4 (White,Red,Brown,Blue,BRG,G-10), Spyderhawk, D'fly (H1,G-10,SB), Police3, Volpe, Military (S30V,XHP,D2,M390,BG42,440V,Cruwear), Superleafs, Forager, D2 Para, Kopas, Kiwis, Caly (JR's,3,3.5), Para2 (XHP,204P), Stretch (SS,FRN's,CF), Rescues, Dyad Jr, Pingos, Southard, AIR, Jess Horns, Forum N5, Lil Matriarch, Barong, Superhawk, Chinook II, ATR, SPY-DK, Captain, Ti UKPK, Mules

    *Landon*

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    Does anyone know what the microstructure is when it's put into the box for sale? Is it martinsitic, or highly deformed austenitic with precipitates? Based on the chemistry, I'm guessing its austenitic after solution treatment, then probably converts to martinsite during the cold rolling/work hardening, and then hardens even more after precipitation hardening. If I'm right and the as recieved structure is martinsitic, it could cause issues for shaping/grinding as recieved. Then again, Spyderco may grind all their blades after heat treatment, in which case it would be like buttah compared to something like hardened ZDP 189 or S90V.

    I've heard hardness of 58ish on plain edges, but nothing reliable for serrated edges. If the edge holding and toughness are that good for serrated edges, would it be reasonable to think that H1 will be replacing Spycerco's other steels for serrated blades in all or most of their models?

  8. #8
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    Hi Me2,

    H1 is an Austenitic steel. I would suggest that you buy one and check it out. If you think it's not what we say it is, I'll buy it back from you.

    sal

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    Could'nt ask better than that . After all, talking is just talking, but walking is walking.
    O.

  10. #10
    Spyderco Forum Registered User mikerestivo's Avatar
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    I carried a Matriarch for about 2 months on my bike while I trained over the summer, in the back pocket of my cycling jersey. I did try to occasionally clean it and did coat it with Tuf Glide. I did get pitting and rust on the VG-10 blade after less than one month, and it got steadily worse. I have since switched to carrying an H-1 Spyderhawk, and have been carrying this for 6 months, coated with sweat (after riding in 100+ degree heat at times), and have had no issues. I have not rinsed it often and have not coated it with anything. I just grab it and go, and when I get home, I put it away as-is. It's the perfect steel for my needs in this case.

  11. #11
    Spyderco Forum Registered User jackknifeh's Avatar
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    Some people swear by work hardening. I don't believe a steel gets harder through use or sharpening. But, my disbelief may be due to a huge lack of knowledge on the subject. It just seems hard to believe that a steel will get "harder" enough to matter. If so, is H1 more prone to this phemnomenumum () than other steels?

    The only thing I do believe is that H1 is a great revolution in knife steel for those who need massive resistance to corrosion on a daily basis. I lived where there were shrimp and scallop boats and those guys are constantly aggrevated by corrosion. In fact, cars rust unbelieveable fast along any coast where the waves are big (over 3 feet). Salt spray gets all over the car and does it's worst. So even knives would suffer the same way even if not in a salt water job. The edge retention isn't as long as some steels but it is definately a good steel when used in a wet environment. The edge retention is nothing to complain about just because something else is better. H1 is good IMO.

    I read an article in Blade Magazine a few months ago about a steel that doesn't rust at all other than H1. Don't remember the details except one knife made by the maker would sell for around $3000.00. You better get two of them in case you want to loan one to strangers.

    My EDC for a while. Stretch with carbon fiber handle, Chaparral 2, Dragonfly 2 with kirinite MOP handle, Manbug with bolster/red bone handle. Super blue/420J1 blades on all three (except Chaparral).

  12. #12
    Spyderco Forum Registered User Donut's Avatar
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    I think under normal use, H1 will do very well as far as corrosion resistance, rust, and pitting.

    I believe the Pitting issue you're talking about has stemmed from Tony's experiment where he soaked H1 in bleach:

    http://www.spyderco.com/forums/showt...ment-gone-awry

    There's a video on youtube where some guy took an H1 knife, put it in a humid fishtank or something for an entire month, and there wasn't any rust on it at the end.

    I believe in the work hardening. I wanted to test out the edge holding with my Dragonfly salt. When I first got it, I could feel it dulling while cutting paper. I reprofiled to 30 degrees, cut up a bunch of cardboard and it dulled after a couple boxes. The next cardboard cutting test, I cut a medium sized box into 1/4" wide strips against the grain of the cardboard and it made it the whole way through the box, it got difficult near the end.

    Unfortunately, that's the extent of my testing. It would be interesting to see Ankerson do some tests on H1 to see if he can see the progress in work hardening and see if there's a limit to it.
    -Brian
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    Thanks for the reply Sal. When I replace my Delica, I'm leaning toward the equivalent Salt model. I'm mainly trying to separate reality from the internet myths, especially with regard to the strengthening mechanism, since it is so different from the usual knife steels.

    Based on the reply above, it looks like there is no deformation driven martinsite conversion from the austenite? So are my guesses correct in the strengthening of the austenitic structure through precipitation, or is it just through cold working?

  14. #14
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    Oh, and generally speaking, the quenched and tempered stainless steels are inferior to other types in terms of corrosion resistance. I have no doubt it is better than nearly everything in that regard.

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    Spyderco Forum Registered User Evil D's Avatar
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    On the work hardening debate, here's what i still don't understand. If grinding serrations creates a harder edge and therefor better edge retention, why can't there be some kind of edge grinding process done to the plain edge version to create an equal amount of hardness? If i were to buy a plain edge Salt, and send it off to have it reground into an FFG or higher hollow grind, would that translate into the same work hardening that the serrations get? If this work hardening thing is true then it seems to me there's a lot more potential being left on the table with this steel.

    SHARPEN IT LIKE YOU LOVE IT, USE IT LIKE YOU HATE IT
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donut View Post

    I believe in the work hardening. I wanted to test out the edge holding with my Dragonfly salt. When I first got it, I could feel it dulling while cutting paper. I reprofiled to 30 degrees, cut up a bunch of cardboard and it dulled after a couple boxes. The next cardboard cutting test, I cut a medium sized box into 1/4" wide strips against the grain of the cardboard and it made it the whole way through the box, it got difficult near the end.
    Cardboard isn't in general very consistent, you can easily get a 10:1 difference in a one shot comparison on cardboard, then you have variation from initial sharpness, cutting speed/force, etc. . Initial edges are also prone to be damaged from heat from grinding and thus the first sharpening of any steel tends to often produce a very large difference in edge holding.

    I have done repeated cardboard trials with a Pacific Salt, there is no general increase in edge retention noted, just normal random scatter. There is a huge amount of reports of people "seeing" this happen, but it is just placebo/bias, none of the trials are every done with single/double blind and without that it is expected that the dominant conclusion will just be user expectation.

  17. #17
    Spyderco Forum Registered User Blerv's Avatar
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    I'm not quite sure. I guess if you could raise the temperature high enough you could increase the HT; it would require power tools though and low abrasives. My only thought on serrations is you are putting so much more intensity deeper into the alloy than superficially grinding a secondary bevel.

    @ME2: Are you in all honestly looking for information or attempting to debunk something that seems too good to be true? If you are trying to nix the myth of the "it gets harder as I sharpen it!" many here would agree that's hardly realistic. H1 isn't perfect hence why VG10 and ZDP-189 still exist for many applications; they stopped making the Amphicar despite it on paper being better than almost any other modern means of transportation.
    Blake

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  18. #18
    Spyderco Forum Registered User Donut's Avatar
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    That's very possible on all of it.

    Cliff, have you done any edge holding tests on a Serrated model to see if that is true? Though it is probably difficult to test because of the nature of serrations.
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  19. #19
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    Both. I'm mainly interested in the strengthening mechanisms since they are so different from the usual ones, as I stated above. As I said in the original post, I'm sceptical of work hardening providing increased hardness from sharpening and use. I'm also skeptical of work hardening through grinding leading to more than a case hardened layer on the serrated blades. That doesnt mean there isnt hardening, I just don't see a mechanism for it through grinding induced work hardening. For what its worth, there is an element of too good to be true with respect to serrated H1 out cutting all the other steels tested. If thats the case it would be very interesting to hear the explanation/theory as to why, as once thats understood, the same principles could be used to increase the performance of other steels in the same applications.

  20. #20
    Spyderco Forum Registered User Blerv's Avatar
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    I guess you could always buy one and have it RC'ed.

    This is an old post...

    Quote Originally Posted by TazKristi View Post
    H1 is a precipitation-hardened alloy. And yes, it is also work-hardened. Meaning that anything that you do that causes heat through friction will harden the steel further; it’s also important to note that tests have shown that it does not become brittle. The work-hardened properties of H1 have been proven by analysis independently performed by Crucible Specialty Metals. It is this that explains why an H1 blade with a SpyderEdge has better edge retention than it's PlainEdge counterpart. In the end, the analysis from Crucible found the Rc at the spine was 58, however at the edge it had increased in both the PlainEdge (to 65 Rc) and the SpyderEdge (to 68 Rc).

    The Salt Series knives are being made and promoted to a market where corrosion resistance is important.

    So, is H1 possibly just another flavor-of-the-month? Possibly, but hype can only go so far.

    Kristi
    http://www.spyderco.com/forums/showt...077#post210077
    Blake

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