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Is 1084 Steel Good for Knives? Unveiling the Truth

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If you’re interested in knives or making knives, especially custom knives, you’ve probably heard of AISI 1084 steel. And if you’re researching the best steels for knife making, you likely want to know – is 1084 steel good for knives?

As someone who researched this exact question when I first got into knife making, I can tell you I also wondered if 1084 would make a good knife steel. Well, after compiling information on 1084 carbon steel, I can share what makes it a popular choice among many knifemakers.

What is AISI 1084 steel?

AISI 1084 is a high-carbon steel that is ideal for knife makers. The steel belongs to the 10xx series of steels, which are a popular carbon steel grade for making knives and katanas. Other steels in this family include 1055, 1060, 1070, 1080, 1084 and 1095 steel. It is often recommended to beginners because the heat treatment process to temper it is comparatively short and simple, in other words, straightforward. 1084 is therefore an ideal steel for those who would like to make their first knife at home with DIY tools.

However, 1084 has low wear resistance, but good impact resistance. So if you are planning to make a knife out of it – please don’t forget: you have to take care of it (i.e. clean and oil it after use).

Is 1084 steel good for knives
Is 1084 steel good for knives

Chemical composition of 1084 steel

As a simple carbon steel, 1084 steel has a comparatively simple mixture of elements that include carbon, manganese, phosphorus, sulfur and silicon. The following table provides an overview of the complete chemical composition of AISI 1084 steel:

ElementPortionEffect
Carbon0.93%Increasing hardness and tensile strength. In larger quantities, increase in brittleness and reduction in forgeability and weldability.
Manganese0.9%Improves hardness and tensile strength.
Phosphorus0.3%Increases tensile strength, hardness and corrosion resistance but also brittleness.
Sulfur0.5%Increases machinability but also brittleness.
Silicon0.5%Improves strength.
1084 steel composition

You must have noticed there is no chromium in this alloy, which automatically reduces wear resistance, as there is also no molybdenum or nickel for toughness.

What is the hardness (HRC) of 1084 steel?

AISI 1084’s hardness is remarkably dependent on heat treatment. While tempering can deliberately decrease hardness to improve toughness, 1084 can achieve hardness levels of approximately 60 HRC with proper thermal processing.

This puts the AISI 1084 steel in the same league as much more expensive knives (steels), at least in terms of hardness. Some tips regarding hardening 1084 can be found here.

1084 Steel Rockwell Hardness
1084 Steel Rockwell Hardness

AISI 1084 steel properties

According to the chemical composition and hardness of AISI 1084, it offers:

Edge retention

With a hardness of 60 HRC, 1084 is a hard steel, with excellent edge strength. This is another property obtained with such an amount of carbon. The hardness of the steel allows the blade to stay sharp longer, which is crucial for camping and hunting knives. When camping, a softer knife can dull faster, and it’s just annoying to have to resharpen knives too often in the great outdoors. Put simply, a 1084 steel knife can be used all weekend for camping without having to resharpen it in between.

Corrosion resistance

As we have already seen in the chemical composition, there is no chromium in the alloy, which means low corrosion resistance.

This steel is not rustproof and will rust very easily if you are not careful. A 1084 steel knife should be cleaned after each use and then oiled to prevent (flash) rust at the onset.

Wear resistance

1084 is a hard steel, it can handle force well and has a high wear resistance. This means that it will not wear out too quickly, even with regular use, and that the original appearance will be maintained for a long time.

Sharpness

Since 1084 is a hard steel, it tends to be more difficult to sharpen. Note: the harder the steel, the more difficult it is to sharpen.

However, once the blade has become dull enough (which will happen eventually), it is not too difficult to get the blade sharp again. No special equipment is needed for this.

Machinability

I am only a layman in this field, but according to my research, AISI 1084 steel is very well suited for machining with metal-cutting machines. If there are any experts in the field of machining who have experience with 1084 steel, please feel free to share them in the comments.

Toughness

According to the law of hardness and toughness, the harder the steel, the lower its toughness and the higher its brittleness. In other words, properly heat-treated AISI 1084 steel has decent toughness that can produce large blades tough enough to hack through branches and twigs.

Hamon Aesthetics

This “Hamon effect” – occurring martensite structures at the hardness zone – occurs when used with Damascus steel. The resulting variations in the hardness line give the knife an artistic feel.

1084 steel meat cleaver
1084 steel meat cleaver

Is AISI 1084 a good knife steel?

Yes, very much so. Not only is it because it’s so easy for knife manufacturers to handle, it also results in lower prices for the customer. That is always a good thing.

It’s also because its hardness leads to high wear resistance and edge retention. Still, it can be quite tough, especially with the right heat treatment. That’s why you’ll find it in many camping knives, especially those made by smaller cutlers.

It should be noted, however, that it is not stainless steel, so corrosion can be an issue. Proper maintenance requires cleaning and oiling after each use.

Advantages and disadvantages of 1084 steel

AdvantagesDisadvantages
Great material for knife makers, especially for beginnersSusceptible to corrosion
Good abrasion resistanceRequires (careful) care
Good edge retention 
Decent toughness 
Comparatively easy to sharpen 
1084 steel pros and cons

AISI 1084 steel equivalents and alternatives

Virtually all “plain” carbon steels (i.e., without chromium addition) will fit as equivalents to AISI 1084.

However, a better picture of how 1084 performs can be obtained by comparing it directly to other steels with similar properties. Depending on what type of knife you are looking for, one or more of these alternatives may be a better choice.

1084 vs similar steels

1084 vs 1080 steel

As many have already noted, there really isn’t much difference between these two steels. 1084 steel contains perhaps a bit more carbon, which means it has slightly better scores in terms of abrasion resistance and edge retention.

1084 vs 154CM steel

154CM steel is a high-end steel, which makes it more expensive than the lower mid-range 1084 steel. 154CM steel also offers good edge retention and toughness. However, it also offers excellent corrosion resistance.

AISI 1084, however, may be slightly more resistant to chipping. It is also much easier to sharpen.

1084 vs O1 tool steel

O1 tool steel typically has a hardness of 60 HRC. It doesn’t offer much wear resistance, but it does offer high toughness. O1 is generally a general-purpose steel.

AISI 1084 steel offers higher wear resistance while remaining tough, which makes it more suitable for survival and bushcraft knives.

Final words: How good is 1084 steel

AISI 1084 steel is especially popular with custom knifemakers because it is easy to work with, allowing them to make good knives that are well received by their customers. Many of these knifemakers make great camping and outdoor knives with this material. For anyone making their own knives for the first time, 1084 is a great steel to work with and gain experience.

As an end user who just wants to buy a mass-production knife, you won’t often find this steel in knives. It is not very common to date and is almost only available from small cutlers who make custom knives.

But one thing is for sure: it is an excellent steel for those who want to take their first steps into the world of custom knife making. For this, it is almost perfect: it is easy to handle and requires less time in the heat treatment process. In addition, AISI 1084 offers the possibility of owning a knife with high hardness for those who cannot afford or do not want a knife from the M390 league. In terms of hardness only, 1084 steel is the budget version.

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