1050 Steel Guide

Peter Stec
January 28, 2021
steel

Steel has been used in many different ways on a daily basis. It may be hard to imagine life without it. Steel is made up of carbon and iron. The amount of carbon content, additional alloy elements, and the level of impurities determine the properties of a steel grade. Steel is produced in various types according to the required properties of its application. 

Several grading systems are used to identify steels according to their properties. Their chemical compositions are categorized into four main groups: carbon steels, alloy steel, stainless steels, and tool steels.

1050 Steel is part of the overall “10xx” group, which includes 1050, 1055, 1060, 1075, 1080, 1095, etc.  The 10xx series of carbon steels are fairly plain steels with only Carbon and Manganese added to the Iron.

Let’s take a closer look at the chemical composition of 1050 steel.

1050 steel chemical composition

Chemical
Iron, Fe98.46-98.92
Carbon, C0.470-0.55
Manganese, Mn0.60-0.90
Phosphorous, P<0.040
Sulfur, S<0.050

1050 steel properties

Hardness

The 1050  steel grade has a Rockwell hardness that ranges between 54-60HRC, depending on the heat treatment, quenching method used, etc. This score is considered to be on the slightly lower end of the scale, which means that this blade is not the hardest of all knives.

Such steel is suitable for kitchen use and occasional outdoor use for meal preps, but it would also require higher protection from corrosion in the outside environment. 

Edge retention 

The edge retention is the knife’s ability to hold its sharpness while in use. Whether it is cutting up nylon ropes, cutting fresh meat, sharpening wood, or cutting up cardboard boxes, no one wants to deal with a dull knife. The performance you can observe during cut tests is quite remarkable when comparing high-end steels to lower-end ones.

Edge retention and hardness typically go hand in hand. Since we have noted that the 1050 steel does not have a significant amount of hardness, it is fair to deduce that it also does not have excellent edge retention. It will lose its sharp edge quite fast and needs to be sharpened regularly. 

But on the bright side, since it is a slightly softer steel, it is much easier to sharpen than most hard, higher-end steel.

Toughness

A tough steel blade resists chipping and complete breakdown when subjected to impact, beating, twisting, and torsion. Tough blades are perfect for camping and outdoor use in the wild. Where a normal steel blade might chip or even break down, tougher steel blades are able to withstand that and much more such as batoning sessions, steel strapping, and much more!

A key thumb rule to remember is that if a steel grade is extremely hard, it would lack toughness and vice-versa. Since 1050 steel is relatively soft steel, it has a decent amount of toughness and can withstand shock and lateral forces to quite an extent without falling apart.

Corrosion resistance

Are you someone who tends to venture out into the wild, salty, wet, and humid environments? Do you often use your knife for prepping meals with acidic ingredients such as tomatoes or lemon? 

Certain steels are pretty good at resisting rust and corrosion and can be left uncleaned for hours without any complications or ill effects. Carbon steel knives will easily pit and rust in wet, humid environments if not looked after properly. Usually, knives with a low corrosion resistance can be protected with a thin layer of mineral oil.

The 1050 steel has a decent amount of corrosion resistance properties and is ideal for kitchen use and meal preparation, but due to its lack of hardness, it cannot be used very well outdoors. 

It will prevent corrosion for a certain period of time but will start rusting after usage and being left uncleaned.

Ease of sharpening

Usually, the most overlooked aspect of blade steel is its sharpenability and sharpness. Touching up or sharpening certain steels with a sharpening stone can be quite a simple, easy, and relaxing process. In contrast, harder steels can make the process much more demanding, tedious, and not so relaxing. 

Achieving the right amount of sharpness can be a life-or-death matter when you are out in the wild, as it determines your ability to cut up and cook food as well as other tasks. It is crucial to keep in mind that an easy to sharpen knife usually indicates low edge retention.

When we speak about the ease of sharpening of 1050 steel, it is essential to keep in mind that it is relatively soft steel with a rating of 54-60HRC. Due to its hardness rating, it is a steel that you  can sharpen with ease. You would not have to break your back over this steel grade and will be done sharpening it in no time.

However, you would need to keep sharpening it regularly to ensure that it has a sharp edge.

Heat treatment of 1050 steel

Step 1 – Full annealing

Full annealing of 1050 steel is carried out at temperatures ranging from 790-870 C. This is followed by furnace cooling at 28 C per hour, to 650 C soaking and air cooling.

Step 2 – Hardening

Hardening of the 1050 steel grade is performed from an austenitizing temperature that ranges between 820-870 C and followed by oil or air quenching.

Flame hardening can be carried out by heating the steel quickly to the required case depth and quenching in oil or water. This needs to be followed by a tempering temperature that ranges between 150-200 C to reduce stresses without hindering the hardness.

Step 3 – Tempering

Tempering for the 1050 steel after hardening and oil or water quenching is carried out at temperatures ranging between 400-680 C to give the desired mechanical properties as determined by practical experiments.

1050 steel vs. other steels

1050 vs.1095

1050 vs.1095 steel comparison chart
Properties10501095
Edge retention3/105/10
Toughness6/103/10
Corrosion resistance1/100/10
Ease of sharpening7/105/10

From the above table, it is fair to deduce that 1050 steel offers improved toughness, corrosion resistance, and ease of sharpening whereas 1095 offers improved edge retention.

1050 vs. 1060

1050 vs. 1060 steel comparison chart
Properties10501060
Edge retention3/103/10
Toughness6/106/10
Corrosion resistance1/100/10
Ease of sharpening7/106/10

From the above table, it is fair to deduce that 1050 steel offers the same type of edge retention and toughness as 1060. 1050 steel offers improved corrosion resistance and ease of sharpening.

1050 vs.1075

1050 vs.1075 steel comparison chart
Properties10501075
Edge retention3/104/10
Toughness6/104/10
Corrosion resistance1/100/10
Ease of sharpening7/105/10

From the above table, it is fair to deduce that the 1050 steel offers improved toughness, corrosion resistance, and ease of sharpening. The 1075 steel offers slightly improved edge retention.

HOW 1050 STEEL FITS COMPARED TO OTHER STEELS

1050 STEEL IS USED IN AUTOMOBILE ENGINES.

Among other steel varieties, 1050 steel surpasses other materials in terms of cost, adaptability, and durability. It is widely selected due to its hygienic qualities, customizable shapes, and resistant traits. 

Also, it is used to describe a certain group of iron alloys, which have one common denominator, malleability. It is melted down and goes through a molding process to create various items.

1050 STEEL IN AUTOMOBILES

1050 Steel can be fabricated into a wide variety of forms such as plates, sheets, coils, and tubes, which are used to hold, transfer, and exchange liquids within an automotive engine. 

These items protect the liquid inside the engine and keep it untainted under extreme heat and cold conditions. In this regard, steel helps achieve and fulfill this need. Unlike any other materials, 1050 steel-made car parts remain intact even under harsh weather conditions.

Still, the 10xx series of steels are not the absolute best for resistance to corrosion and rusting.  Care should be taken when possible (especially with your knife).

OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY USES 1050 STEEL

1050 Steel meets the demands of certain dimensions for drilling vessels, which are used to safeguard proper operations in the oil and gas industry. This equipment requires a durable material with precise measurements to ensure safety. The steel material can hold up after being submerged in the water and can still perform effectively.

1050 STEEL FOR FOOD PROCESSING

The 1050 steel that is used for the equipment and surface areas in food processing industries helps keep the food clean and safe from contamination. It’s a long-lasting investment as the 1050 steel-made devices are very durable, reducing maintenance, upkeep, and downtime costs. 

Moreover, materials that are made of steel are easy to clean and do not require toxic chemicals to keep it clean, allowing food business owners to consistently deliver safe food products to their customers.

BEST KNIFE WITH 1050 STEEL

The CRKT Sting is a multi-purpose utility knife. The Sting is a tough knife, made from hot forged 1050 steel that is then precision ground and coated with a black non-reflective powder coat finish to resist corrosion even more. The spear point blade features two razor-sharp cutting edges while the handle is contoured and provides heft and balance, with thumb detents for grip. A big lanyard hole is provided, allowing the use of a wrist lanyard, or carry as a neck knife. The Sting comes complete with a custom Cordura/Zytel sheath and straps.

Columbia River Knife and Tool 2020 AG Russell Sting Razor Sharp Edge Knife

The CRKT Sting is a multi-purpose utility knife. The Sting is a tough knife, made from hot forged 1050 steel that is then precision ground and coated with a black non-reflective powder coat finish to resist corrosion even more.
The spear point blade features two razor-sharp cutting edges while the handle is contoured and provides heft and balance, with thumb detents for grip.

Conclusion

One of the most useful commodities of all time is the knife. There are different kinds of knives for different kinds of uses. What gives a certain knife an edge over another is the quality of its blade. In this regard, the type of material it is made with plays an important part. 

Most knife blades are made of steel, which comes in different varieties. Not all kinds of steel are suitable for the same function. See how low-grade steel sucks when used to make butterfly knives. What is important to every user is the quality of the steel, how easy it is to sharpen, and how long it will stay that sharp. 

Among all kinds of steel that are being used for knife blades, it is the 1050 steel that gives the best of everything, with its durability and ability to hold its edge plus its resistance to stain and rust.  Still, as mentioned earlier, the 10xx series of steel can still be prone to rust and corrosion if treated harshly.  

In fact, any metal (even 420 or H1 which have high corrosion resistance) will rust over time.  Care should be taken especially with knives if they are made with 1050 steel.  A bit of oil and a wipe after significant use will keep it looking new!

All around, the balance between all these qualities (holding an edge, durability, etc.) gives any knife made of 1050 steel carry the two most sought-after qualities in any knife; it has maximum performance qualities, and it looks awesome!  Let’s face it, we all know aesthetics play a fairly big role in any knife buying decision. 

In fact, 1050 steel is preferred by Airborne soldiers. I’d say if it’s good enough for elite “knife-users”, it’s good enough for me!  (Check out our guide to machetes.)

About The Author
Hey Knife Up gang! I'm Pete, and I'm just another man like you in a small rural town who loves the outdoors as much as the other million internet users that cruise sites like KnifeUp.com every day. The difference is that I like to share what I know and research what I don't totally know so that YOU can have all the info you need to feel confident and prepared for all things outdoors-related! And, for those who care, I have 42 years of wilderness canoeing and bushcraft experience in Northern Ontario and spend most of my Summers covered in mosquitos and fish slime, but hey, it's a lifestyle choice, eh?

One comment on “1050 Steel Guide”

  1. I am looking at axes. One is made of 1050 carbon steel, the other 1095 carbon steel. Which is the better axe based on the steel type

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