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Is Maxmet Steel Good for Knives?

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If you’ve ever wanted to buy or own a knife with excellent edge retention, you’ve probably heard Maxamet recommended as a knife steel. I’m pretty sure they have. Do you know what is Maxmet steel?

I felt the same way, so I did some research on this steel and prepared my Maxmet knife steel review. In this article, I will try to answer the usual questions about its properties and its suitability as a knife steel.

What is Maxamet steel?

Micro-Melt Maxamet from Philadelphia-based Carpenter/Cartech is a high-alloy, super-hard, high-speed powder tool steel. It exhibits properties intermediate between conventional high-speed tool steels and carbide. The high room temperature and hot hardness of this steel allows it to be used for applications where conventional tool steels do not hold up, such as dry machining.

The alloying constituents also provide a high carbide volume, which offers excellent wear resistance while maintaining good toughness at high hardness.

What is Maxmet steel
What is Maxmet steel and how good is it for knives

Chemical composition of Maxmet steel

ElementPortionEffect
Chromium4.75%Improves wear resistance, heat resistance and scale resistance. It increases tensile strength because it acts as a carbide former. Use of rust-free or stainless steel, as it increases corrosion resistance from a mass proportion of 12.2%. Reduction in weldability.
Cobalt10.0%Improve hot hardness, corrosion and wear resistance. Increase in tensile strength and yield strength, but at the expense of toughness. carbide former.
Carbon2.15%Increasing hardness and tensile strength. In larger quantities, increase in brittleness and reduction in forgeability and weldability.
Manganese0.3%Improves hardness and tensile strength.
Sulfur0.07%Increases machinability but also brittleness.
Silicon0.25%Improves strength.
Vanadium6.0%Increasing hardness, increasing wear resistance and improving tempering resistance.
Tungsten13.0%Increase in heat strength, tempering resistance and wear resistance at high temperatures up to red heat.
Maxmet steel composition

As you can see, this steel contains high levels of vanadium and tungsten, which results in a tough alloy with excellent wear resistance.

Is Maxamet rustproof or a stainless steel?

Maxamet is neither rustproof nor a stainless steel. To be considered rust-free, it would require a chromium content of at least 10.5 – 13% dissolved in the austenite or ferrite, depending on the definition. However, it is not a stainless steel because its sulfur and/or phosphorus content (so-called iron companion) exceeds 0.025% (see here).

What is the hardness (HRC) of Maxamet steel?

According to Cartech, Maxamet can reach a hardness of up to 70 HRC.

Maxmet Steel Rockwell Hardness
Maxmet Steel Rockwell Hardness

Maxmet steel properties

Maxamet steel is a high-performance powdered metallurgy tool steel known for its exceptional wear resistance and toughness. Here are a few key properties of Maxamet steel:

  • Edge retention: With a hardness of over 65HRC due to the high tungsten, vanadium and carbon content, a knife blade made from this steel has excellent edge retention.
  • Corrosion resistance: This can always be seen in direct relation to the chromium content. The chromium content of this steel (just under 5% compared to 10.5%+ for stainless steels), which does not make the steel exceptionally resistant to corrosion.
  • Wear resistance: This is also excellent due to the high tungsten, vanadium and carbon content.
  • Sharpness: Sharpening Maxamet steel is a demanding task precisely because of the properties mentioned above. A very hard steel stays sharp for a very long time, but is not easy to sharpen. Grinding won’t be fun either.
  • Machinability: Maxamet is easy to machine thanks to its sulfur content. Carpenter probably also offers a Maxamet variant specifically for machining applications with an increased sulfur content of 0.23%.
  • Toughness: Due to its high hardness, it has low toughness. As a general rule, the harder the steel, the easier it breaks. Maxamet is a very hard steel, so it tends to break quickly, but on the other hand it is tough enough to be able to take a lot of things.

I can say, Maxamet steel is a top choice for applications where extreme wear resistance and toughness are required. It is commonly used in high-end knives and cutting tools, as well as in some industrial applications.

Maxamet equivalents

Maxamet is often considered a “super steel,” meaning it is a high-end steel with an unusual chemical composition, but it is not alone in this. In terms of properties and composition, it is closest to CPM S110V. Even though this is both stainless and a stainless steel compared to Maxamet, S110V is a great comparison except for corrosion resistance in its properties such as edge retention, hardness, wear resistance and price range.

Related: How good is VG10 steel for knives?

Maxamet vs. other similar steels

Here I have compared some steels similar to Maxmet steel:

Maxmet vs CPM S110V steel

CriteriaMaxametCPM S110V
Edge retention10/108/10
Simplicity of sharpening2/105/10
Corrosion resistance3/107/10
toughness2/102/10
S110V vs Maxmet steel

As you can see, S110V is more balanced compared to Maxamet. Maxamet offers extreme edge retention at the expense of other properties.

Bohler M390 steel vs Maxmet

CriteriaMaxametBohler M390
Edge retention10/108/10
Simplicity of sharpening2/105/10
Corrosion resistance3/108/10
toughness2/106/10
Maxmet vs M390 steel

M390 offers better toughness and corrosion resistance and is much easier to sharpen, but in terms of edge retention Maxamet can’t be topped!

Maxamet Steel Knife
Maxamet Steel Knife

My Opinion: Is Maxmet steel good for knives?

YES, it’s pretty good for knives, especially for anyone looking for a knife with excellent Edge retention and very high wear resistance. Maxamet is a “super steel” for knives. But it is not stainless steel. Maxmet steel with a chromium content of just under 5% can rust if you don’t take good care of the blade.

If you intend to use your knife in a damp and/or corrosive environment, you should take good care of your Maxamet knife or choose a steel with a 10%+ chromium content that is more suitable for the environment. Aside from that, it would be a great steel for an EDC knife, for people who aren’t afraid of sharpening extremely hard steel.

Pros and Cons of Maxmet steel

Finally, in my Maxmet steel review, I would love to show you the pros and cons of the steel for making knives:

Pros:

  • High hardness and wear resistance: Maxmet boasts impressive hardness, leading to excellent edge retention. This means your knives will stay sharp for longer, requiring less frequent sharpening.
  • Excellent corrosion resistance: Maxmet’s unique composition makes it highly resistant to rust and staining, even in harsh environments. This is particularly beneficial for kitchen knives or those used near saltwater.
  • Good toughness: While primarily known for its hardness, Maxmet also offers decent toughness, meaning it can withstand some impact without chipping or breaking. This makes it a versatile option for various cutting tasks.

Cons:

  • More difficult to sharpen: Due to its extreme hardness, Maxmet can be challenging to sharpen compared to softer steels. This might require specialized tools or techniques.
  • Expensive: Maxmet is a premium steel, and knives made from it will come with a higher price tag.
  • Brittle compared to some other high-end steels: While tougher than some, Maxmet still has a slight tendency to brittleness compared to other high-end knife steels like S30V or ZDP-189. This means it might not be ideal for tasks involving heavy chopping or prying.

Ultimately, the “goodness” of Maxmet for knives depends on your individual needs and preferences. If you prioritize edge retention and corrosion resistance and are comfortable with occasional sharpening and a higher price point, Maxmet could be a great choice.

Conclusion: Is Maxmet a good knife steel?

For those considering Maxamet for their next knife, it makes an excellent choice if extreme edge retention is your foremost priority. You will be hard-pressed to find a steel that holds an edge as long.

However, most users will be better served by S110V, which offers nearly as impressive edge retention along with better all-around attributes. The added corrosion resistance and versatility of S110V make it a superior pick for EDC, hunting, fishing, and any application where the knife will see significant exposure to moisture. And you get these well-rounded characteristics while saving a bit of money with S110V.

So unless you have a specific need for Maxamet’s singular talent of edge holding, S110V makes for the optimal blend of performance and value for a general-use knife steel.

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