If you’re in the market for a great beginner knife, you’ve almost certainly come across 1084 Steel. Often hailed as the perfect beginner-steel, 1084 offers lots of impressive capabilities at a reasonable budget price.
But 1084 isn’t the only great beginner steel in the market, there are plenty others offering competitive features. In this article we’ll dive deep into everything you need to know about 1084 steel, it’s composition, heat treatment, properties and how it compares to other steels in the market.
What is 1084 Steel?
1084 Steel is a high-carbon steel that’s low in alloys. There aren’t too many elements in this steel, making it simple and straightforward in the properties that it provides. In fact, 1084 steel is a great steel for someone who wants to create their own knife! Yes, you read that right: 1084 has such a simple heat treatment that a knife enthusiast can procure the right materials (including knife molds) and make their knife on their own.
1084 is not a stainless steel, but it does have decent hardness and toughness, making it resilient and long lasting as a beginner knife.
It’s not just beginner knife makers who use 1084 steel, even hardcore knife enthusiasts enjoy making knives from 1084 steel since it’s so fuss free and doesn’t require much time or expensive heating equipment.
1084 is most commonly used for kitchen knives and small pocket knives, due to its decent toughness and hardness balance. Have you ever heard about the Hamon effect? That’s actually one of the unique properties of the 1084 steel, which is why it’s a very popular choice for swords and daggers. Katanas are made from 1084 steel because of this effect as well. The effect occurs when clay is plastered around the steel in order for it to cool down in a more controlled manner. We’ll get into this in more detail later in the Heat Treatment section, but the Hamon effect creates an attractive design on the blade itself.
What is the Heat Treatment of 1084 Steel?
The heat treatment of 1084 steel is relatively straightforward, and is very beginner-friendly for those looking to make their own knife. That’s because you can perform all the stages of annealing, quenching and tempering in a home forge set up. Home furnaces are relatively easy to build and not too expensive either if you’re really keen on knife making.
1084 has to be heated above its magnetic stage (critical temperature), which is usually around 1333° F. It also undergoes an annealing stage which occurs 75 ° above the critical temperature. Both these processes require air cooling without speed.
The heating process for quenching is similar to the temperature requirements for annealing, and is often heated about 125° more than the critical temperature. Once the blade is heated to this temperature, it is then plunged into the quenching liquid.
The quenching liquid of choice for 1084 is generally oil. If you are performing this at home, you can safely use canola oil for this purpose. Be careful to quench your blade into a non-flammable container of the oil (preferably made out of metal).
The quenching process adds a lot of hardness to the 1084 steel, but it is the tempering process that builds on toughness. The higher the tempering temperature of the knife, the lower the hardness will be. For a 1084 steel that has 50 HRC, a tempering temperature of 600° is required.
What is the Composition of 1084 steel?
We’ve mentioned already that 1084 steel is a high-carbon and low-alloy steel, but that’s not enough to understand what all the elements are. Each element contributes unique properties to the 1084 steel. If you’re a budding knife enthusiast, you should really pay attention to the composition and percentages of steels. Soon enough, you’ll know the properties of the steel just by glancing at the ingredients and percentages used.
- Carbon 0.93% – If you’re well-versed with steel, you’ll be aware that the amount of Carbon is directly proportional to the hardness of the steel. 0.93% is a very high amount of carbon and this definitely contributes to hardness as well as edge retention to the steel.
- Manganese 0.9% – Manganese is one of the most common alloying agents. That’s because Manganese immediately improves the hardness of the steel and adds a good dose of brittleness. We tend to think that brittleness is undesirable, but this isn’t the case. Brittleness actually contributes to edge retention, helping the knife stay sharper for a longer time.
- Silicon 0.5% – Silicon is another common and important alloying agent. This helps greatly in the deoxidizing of steel during the heat process (particularly the smelting process).
- Phosphorus 0.3% – While you might think 0.3% is too less for phosphorus to do anything, it actually contributes greatly towards toughness and internal strength of the steel.
- Sulfur 0.5% – Sulfur is a balancing agent in any steel composition. 0.5% is quite a bit of sulfur for a steel, and it actually decreases the hardness of 1084. If not for the sulfur addition, 1084 would be much harder than it is. Then why add Sulfur? Too much hardness can make machinability very difficult (as well as the sharpening process), and this amount of sulfur brings balance to the hardness and boosts the machinability.
There are only five elements in 1084 steel, making it a low-alloy steel.
How Hard is 1084 steel?
1084 steel has decent hardness, and it’s not too hard or too soft. On the Rockwell Hardness Scale, 1084 steel receives a score of 50 HRC. 50 HRC is considered decent hardness, suitable for kitchen knives and outdoor survival knives.
We particularly recommend 1084 steel for kitchen knives as 50 HRC is the perfect amount of hardness. 50 HRC is perfect for daily kitchen needs like slicing, chopping and cutting, and it also won’t damage your cutting boards (particularly if you’re using edge-grain cutting boards).
What are the 1084 Steel Properties?
Now that we’ve looked at the composition of 1084 steel and we know about all the five elements that come together to form 1084 steel (Carbon, Manganese, Silicon, Phosphorus and Sulfur), it’s time to look at what 1084 can offer as a steel in terms of its capabilities.
1084 Steel Hardness
The 1084 steel provides decent hardness that is perfect for most applications. An HRC score of 50 indicates that the steel is hard enough to be used for both kitchen and pocket knife applications. While there are steels that can provide up to 68 HRC, we like the decent hardness of 1084 steel since it is well-balanced out with toughness properties as well.
1084 Steel Toughness
The 1084 steel has pretty good toughness as far as steels go. Of course, toughness is not its shining characteristic, but it is still impressive considering the decent hardness scale as well. That’s why we recommend 1084 steel for outdoor applications, since its tough enough for mild use in the wild. A survival knife needs to be able to cut down wooden branches at times, for making shelter or otherwise. 1084 steel can facilitate this with ease.
However, there is a caveat to the toughness of 1084 steel — it is entirely dependent on the heat treatment. That’s why we recommend that you check out the heat treatment before you purchase 1084 steel, since different manufacturers employ different heat treatment processes, causing a difference in the toughness of the steel.
1084 Edge Retention
1084 steel has much better edge retention than hardness. This is because of the high carbon content present in the 1084 low-alloy steel. While sulfur plays a role in reducing the hardness of the 1084 steel, it doesn’t reduce the edge retention capabilities. Good edge retention means that you won’t have to keep sharpening your knife and that it can stay sharp for a longer time. It retains the edge for a longer period of time.
Of course, edge retention is also dependent on the kind of substances the the steel comes in contact with. The cutting boards that you use in your kitchen (type of wood, plastic or rubber) can have an effect on how long the sharp edge is retained. Similarly for outdoor knives, there will be a big difference between a knife cutting down wood and a knife being used to hunt small prey.
1084 Ease of Sharpening
The 1084 steel has decent hardness and brittleness, making it moderate at ease of sharpening. It’s not an easy task, but it’s not a tough chore either. You might have to take extra care and spend a few minutes with your sharpening tools to ensure that the sharp edge is really obtained over the entire edge of the knife. Most people consider 1084 steel to be very easy for sharpening, but we are giving it a moderate score since we know that there are other beginner steels with more ease of sharpening.
1084 Corrosion Resistance
If you paid attention to the composition of 1084 Steel section, you might have noticed that there’s not just less Chromium, but no Chromium content at all. Yes, Chromium is that magic substance that simultaneously adds hardness to the steel (Chromium is the second strongest metal on earth) and corrosion resistance. Without any chromium content, 1084 is just a steel and not a stainless steel.
This means that any knives made out of 1084 steel might be more prone to rust or corrosion over time. If you’re making a knife out of 1084 steel on your own, then you might want to be extra careful while taking care of the knife. If you live in a humid area, then your knife is at the risk of catching rust very easily.
If you’re planning on buying a knife made from 1084, you have the option of picking a manufacturer that coats the knife in an anti-corrosion finish. This will have a protective layer against corrosion and boost the lifespan of your knife.
Is 1084 steel good for knives?
1084 steel is a great choice as a beginner steel for knives. If you’re just venturing into the world of knives and steels, 1084 is not a tricky one to tango with. It provides a great balance of hardness and toughness, which means that it can be used in almost any application and has good durability. Expert knife owners or knife connoisseurs may find that 1084 is a bit of a generalist and doesn’t cater to specific requirements.
However, the biggest caveat of 1084 steel is that it is not corrosion resistant. If you don’t want the extra chore of taking care of your knife diligently, we recommend that you opt for a 1084 knife coated in anti-corrosion finish.
Is 1084 a Stainless Steel?
No, 1084 Steel is not a stainless steel because it does not contain any chromium content in it. It will catch rust easily if not taken care of properly. If you have purchased or made a stainless steel knife that doesn’t have a coating of anti-corrosion finish, then you take care of it by regularly oiling it. We recommend that you use food-grade mineral oil for the oiling, particularly if you own a 1084 kitchen knife.
How does 1084 Steel Compare to Other Knives in the Market?
Now that we’ve established that 1084 is a great beginner knife, it’s time to look at some of the other beginner steel knives in the market, and how 1084 compares to them.
1084 vs. 1055 Steel
|Ease of Sharpening||7/10||6/10|
1055 steel has an advantage over 1084 steel in terms of hardness and edge retention. However, both steels are quite similar as they are both not corrosion resistant. 1084 provides a better balance of toughness and hardness.
1084 vs. Maxamet Steel
|Ease of Sharpening||7/10||2/10|
Both 1084 and Maxamet steel are high-carbon, low-alloys. Maxamet steel offers much more hardness and edge retention, but cannot compete with 1084 in terms of toughness. Maxamet is much more premium steel, while 1084 is more affordable.
1084 vs. 52100 Steel
|Ease of Sharpening||7/10||1/10|
1084 steel and 52100 steel are very common in the fact that they are both high-carbon low-alloying steels. 52100 is a much better performing knife, with great hardness and toughness. The only way 1084 is better is in ease of sharpening. However 1084 is more affordable as well.
- This knife steel 1084 bar is annealed and heat treated for optimal hardness and toughness balance.
- The measurements of this steel bar are 3/16″ x 1-1/2″ x 12″. It is made in the USA and is especially easy to treat and form.
If you’ve decided to take up the challenge of making your own knife from 1084 steel, congratulations! As long as you own a home forge set up or furnace, you’re good to go and can get started right away.
Get it on Amazon here.
Here’s an incredible home Cast Master Forge Set up that you can get and start making your own customized knives!
1084 isn’t just a great beginner steel for someone looking to buy a knife, it’s also great for those looking to make their own knife! With great alloying metals, a good balance of hardness and toughness, and easy heat treatment: we’re glad 1084 exists!
If you do choose to make your own knife from 1084 steel, send us pictures and your experience with the steel. Good luck!