You’ve likely come across Elmax steel at least once when shopping for knives. That’s partly because it has the sort of name that sticks in the head, and mostly since it’s a great stainless steel for knives.
Elmax steel is a premium steel with great corrosion resistance and other properties. In this article, we’re going to dive deep into everything you need to know about Elmax steel. We will cover the making process, the heat treatment, the composition and even the best Elmax steel knives in the market. So if you plan to make your next knife from Elmax steel, it’s worth checking out the different sections in this article, just to be sure it’s the right choice for your requirements.
What is Elmax Stainless Steel?
Elmax Steel is a high-quality, high-end premium powder stainless steel. This Bohler-Uddeholm produced steel has built a name for itself due to its fine-grain structure, and most importantly because the US Navy Seals use it in their standard-issue knives. If it is good enough for Navy Seals, it’s good enough for me!
Made from the powder metallurgy process, this knife is unique. It offers incredible corrosion resistance as a premium stainless steel would and provides the kind of hardness and edge retention that you can expect from a high-carbon alloy.
According to the grinding and heat treatment, Elmax steel provides excellent hardness and toughness as well as wear resistance that make it the perfect knife steel.
Something unique that you get with Elmax Steel is impact resistance. You usually don’t find good impact resistance with other stainless steels (regardless of budget), but Elmax can deliver this thanks to its “Superclean” sintering powder metallurgy process. Overall, an Elmax Steel knife won’t go wrong, is worth the money, and lasts forever.
What is the Heat Treatment of Elmax Steel?
Elmax steel undergoes a few different heat processes for its capabilities to shine through. These are the heat processes as published by Bohler-Uddeholm through their powder metallurgy technique.
The first process that Elmax Steel undergoes is Soft Annealing. There are a few reasons why steel is annealed — it becomes softer and easier to work with, less brittle, and becomes tougher with more internal strength. Soft annealing makes the atoms of the steel migrate all the way to the crystal lattice. This reduces the chance and percentage of dislocation in the steel for higher performance.
Under proper protection, Elmax steel is heated up to 980°C (1800°F), held in that heat for 10 hours, and then cooled down in a controlled setting to about 750°C (1380°F).
After machining, the steel could have developed unwanted internal stressors. Elmax steel is not impervious to this, and the stress-relieving process is a crucial stage of the heat process. This is done by heating up the steel to 650°C (1200°F) and holding it at that heat for about two hours, before reducing the heat and cooling it to 500°C (930°F) and then letting it cool at room temperature.
Both processes of soft annealing and stress-relieving can reduce the hardness of Elmax steel. That is why it’s also essential to go through heat processes specifically meant to increase the steel’s hardness. Whenever you refer to hardening for steel, it’s more often than not the austenitizing process that is being referred to. Elmax steel is no exception and goes through austenitizing for it to get hard enough for any adversary.
Before austenitizing, Elmax steel needs to be preheated at 600–850°C (1110–1560°F) after which the austenitizing happens at a temperature range from 1050–1100°C (1920–
Tempering increases the strength of the steel while reducing brittleness. The entire process involves heating up the steel to a point that is just below the melting point, and then cooling it rapidly. The higher the temperature of tempering, the more that the toughness of the steel will be increased to.
The recommended temperature range for the tempering of Elmax steel is 250°C (480°F) with a holding time of 2 hours. If Elmax steel is tempered at a higher temperature and held for longer than 2 hours (up to 10 hours), then it can be much tougher at the cost of hardness.
Finally, Elmax Steel must undergo quenching. Quenching is the process of heating the steel to aspecificn temperature and then rapidly cooling it in a liquid. Many steels either require water or oil or saline water.
Elmax steel needs to be quenched in saline water. It should be heated up to 200–550°C (390–1020°F), and then cooled down in brine or saline water.
What is the Composition of Elmax Steel?
Thisrivetingg steel has lots of unique capabilities — it’s hard and tough like a high-carbon alloy, while also being very corrosion resistant like a regular stainless steel. You can attribute the best of both the worlds features to the composition of various elements in Elmax Steel.
Understanding the elements that go together to make Elmax steel will help you have a better idea of why it performs the way it does. Let’s get into the composition of Elmax Steel.
- Carbon 1.70 – The moderate amounts of carbon in Elmax Steel steel contribute towards hardness, but not to a great extent. For carbon to be a major contributor of hardness, it would need to be of a higher percentage in Elmax Steel steel. However, it does contribute a lot to the edge retention properties of the Elmax Steel steel. Elmax steel gets most of its hardness due to the other alloys that are present.
- Chromium 18.00% – 18% of Chromium is a very high amount for Elmax Steel to have. That’s why it has such great corrosion resistance — Chromium is primarily responsiblee for corrosion resistance when it comes to stainless steel. A little known fact is that Chromium also contributes significantlyy to the hardness of the steel. Chromium is actually the second hardest metal in the world.
- Molybdenum 1% – Most steels generally havea tinyl fraction of Molybdenum content, but Elmax Steel has a much higher Molybdenum content. The Molybdenum content is significant enough for Elmax Steel to be called a Molybdenum steel. Molybdenum contributes greatly towards the toughness of the steel. Elmax Steel attributes a lot of the inner strength and flexibility to the high Molybdenum quantity.
- Manganese 0.3% – Manganese is a standard alloy that is added to most steels. 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 0.80% – Silicon is another common andvitalt alloying agent. This helps greatly in the deoxidizing of steel during the heat process (particularly the smelting process).
- Vanadium 3% – Vanadium and Molybdenum go hand in hand in most alloys (Remember the MoV line in budget stainless steels?) and that’s because they both contribute to hardness perfectly. Vanadium isa critical addition to Elmax steel, especially in the quantity 3%. The high amount of Vanadium and Molybdenum is gives Elmax steel so much hardness that it mimics a high-carbon steel.
How Hard is Elmax Steel?
Elmax Steel usually has a hardness of 58HRC in the Rockwell Hardness Scale although it can go up to 62 HRC as well. The hardness of Elmax steel depends on the tempering and quenching heat processes. Coupled with great edge retention, solid toughness and Elmax Steel has enough hardness to deal with any object.
Is Elmax Steel Good for Knives?
Elmax steel is one of the best options for knives available in the market, since it can do virtually anything. It’s highly durable, resistant to corrosion, impact and wear, while also having great hardness and toughness to go along with it.
Elmax Steel is a premium steel that only makes the best knives, so if you’re looking to invest in the perfect knife (and never need another knife again!) you need look no further than Elmax Steel.
What are the Properties of Elmax Steel?
Here are all the properties and capabilities of the Elmax Steel, according to its hardness, toughness, edge retention, ease of sharpening and corrosion resistance.
Elmax Steel has decent to great hardness. At 58HRC, Elmax Steel is more than enough for any kitchen applications that you would need. For an outdoor or survival knife, 58 HRC should also be more than enough, considering the level of toughness that you get with Elmax Steel. You can also procure one of the higher hardness Elmax Steels if you so desire. There are Elmax Steels with hardness that goes up to 62 HRC for specific applications.
The toughness of Elmax Steel? We’re so glad you asked. Elmax Steel happens to be one of the toughest steels out there. You quite literally cannot compare the toughness of Elmax steel to any other stainless steel, and is tougher than most other options. That is why Elmax Steel is so strongly recommended for outdoor survival knives and pocket knives. This knife is not going to break or chip off easily, even when it comes in contact with objects like wood (or even hunting).
Elmax Steel has good edge retention as well. With a carbide volume that’s over 20%, Elmax Steel has no problem in holding an edge and does exceptionally well in this category. This means that you rarely, if ever, need to sharpen your Elmax Steel knife.
Ease of Sharpening
This might be the only area where Elmax Steel doesn’t outperform competitor steels. Elmax Steel has decent ease of sharpening, and you would need to spend a little extra time ensuring that the steel has been sharpened evenly and properly. With a high HRC (61-62) the steel is bound to be a little difgficult to sharpen. The good news is that you won’t have to worry about sharpening the steel too often.
This is also another area where Elmax Steel does exceptionally well. With 18% Chromium content, Elmax Steel is great in providing corrosion resistance to the knife it gets made into. That means that you’ll never see rust or corrosion forming on your knife made out of Elmax Steel. However, it’s definitely advised that you keep your knife clean and dry. We don’t think you would need to oil or grease your Elmax steel knife, but you might want to keep some mineral oil hand in case you live in a coastal area with plenty of humidity.
Is Elmax Steel a Stainless Steel?
With 18% of Chromium and incredible corrosion resistance, Elmax Steel is definitely a Stainless Steel. It is a premium stainless steel with really high hardness and toughness that will last you a really long time.
How does Elmax Steel Compare to Other Stainless Steels?
Everything sounds great in isolation, right? We know that Elmax Steel has great hardness, toughness, edge retention and corrosion resistance. Let’s see how Elmax Steel performs in these very same areas when compared to the other popular choices for stainless steels in the market.
Elmax Steel vs. 8cr13mov
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Even though 8cr13mov and Elmax Steel are both stainless steels, they have very different properties. Elmax Steel far outperforms 8cr13mov in terms of edge retention and toughness and corrosion resistance.
Elmax Steel vs. AUS8
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Elmax Steel has much of the advantage over AUS8 in terms of edge retention, as well as hardness and corrosion resistance. AUS8 has the edge over Elmax Steel in ease of sharpening.
Elmax Steel vs. 440c
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The Elmax Steel and 440c are the closest in terms of properties. However, many knife experts believe that Elmax feels higher quality and makes more durable knives. Keep in mind that Elmax Steel is more expensive than 440c.
Best Elmax Steel Steel Knives in the Market
Now that you are convinced that Elmax Steel is the perfect material for knives, it’s time to look at some knife options. Yes, it’sessentialt to focus on the material of the knife you’re going to purchase, especially the properties and composition — it’s also imperative to pay attention to the features of the knife itself.
You should look at the blade geometry, which is the cut and design of the knife. Some knives can have the exact same steel composition but will last longer and perform better due to the clever design.
We’ve rounded up the best Elmax Steel knives in the market for you to take a look at. These knives have been known to perform well over time and do justice to the tremendous stainless steel that Elmax Steel is!
Best Custom Knife: Custom Knife Wanderer Powdered Rock Solid Elmax Steel Micarta
This is truly a knife that does justice to Elmax Steel. A perfect fixed blade knife, the blade geometry is symmetric and balanced with great grounding. The make of the entire blade of Elmax steel, and the handle is made of Micarta.
The knife is also pretty attractive, and we love the design on the handle. With Elmax being the incredible steel that it is, this is a knife that’ll certainly turn heads.
Get it on Amazon here.
Elmax Steel isan excellentt choice for someone looking for a reliable and durable high-end stainless steel knife. It will last you years and is very low on maintenance. Let us know your experience with Elmax Steels in the comments below.