Is 440c A Good Knife Steel? [Complete Steel Guide]

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Is 440c A Good Knife Steel [Complete Steel Guide]

Here we are going to be taking a closer look at 440c steel. It’s a very common type of steel that is often discussed in the bladesmithing industry, but what is actually and what qualities does it have?

If you want to learn more about 440c steel, then this is the place for you. We are going to be diving into all the details about this type of steel so you can find out if it’s the best one to use for your knives.

So, let’s dive right in!

What Is 440c Steel?

440c steel is a type of mid range stainless steel widely used for a range of different products and equipment beyond just knives.

It is a type of martensitic steel – which means that it is a steel that features added carbon and a special kind of structure known as a body-centered tetragonal crystalline structure.

This type of structure makes it incredibly strong and durable, which is why it can be found on all the steels in the 440 series, although 440c is the toughest.

Plus, it also means that the steel has undergone heat treatment and is sometimes alloyed with chromium. This means that 440c steel can be easily hardened and tempered through further heat treatment.

Beyond knife blades, 440c has many qualities and features that make it a great steel to be used in a range of products including ball bearings, roller bearings, gauge blocks and valve components.

It is also used for making surgical equipment and cutlery.

So, now we understand a bit more about 440c steel, let’s take a closer look at its composition and what elements make up this steel.

440c Steel Composition

440c steel is a mid range steel that has the highest amount of carbon out of all the steels in the 440 series.

While all the other steels in the series have below 1% of carbon in their composition, 440c steel sits comfortably with 1.1% of carbon in its composition.

Is 440c A Good Knife Steel

This makes it the toughest and hardest out of all the steels in the 440c series.

Not only that, but 440c steel is also made of 17% chromium. Chromium is a core component in the composition of any steel, and its high amount available in 440c steel makes it great for a number of different qualities.

Molybdenum is also present in 440c steel’s composition, with an amount that measures as 0.7% of its composition.

There are also other elements in 440c steel’s composition that all add to various properties and qualities that makes the steel so desirable.

These elements include manganese which makes up 0.8% of 440c steel’s composition, silicon which makes up 0.5%, phosphorus which makes up 0.2%, and sulfur which makes up 0.02% of 440c steel’s composition.

All of these components work together to give this steel all of its desirable qualities – but also its downsides too. Let’s take a closer look at how these components affect the steel by checking out the properties of 440c steel.

440c Steel Properties

Although 440c steel is the toughest and hardest steel in the 440 series due to the higher amount of carbon found in its composition, 440c steel does not measure up well compared to other steels.

On the Rockwell scale of hardness, 440c only checks in at 56 HRC. It is just slightly over the cut-off for classification as a soft steel, which means that those seeking a tough, hard knife are out of luck if they want to use 440c steel.

However, 440c steel is still tough enough to cut through most materials, but it is not difficult to find a tougher steel elsewhere.

This lack of toughness does mean that its edge retention is not amazing. If you do use 440c steel for your knife’s blade, then you may want to check the edge after every couple of uses.

Luckily, it’s not difficult to sharpen but some people may prefer a blade that holds its sharpness for longer.

However, there are still plenty of benefits to using a blade made of 440c steel.

440c steel is very resistant to wear and corrosion thanks to the high amount of chromium found in its composition.

Chromium is an excellent component to use in steel to make it impervious to rusting, and 440c steel boasts all the benefits chromium has to offer.

Is 440c Steel Good For Knives?

At a glance, it seems like 440c steel is not a great choice of steel for a knife.

It has fewer desirable properties than some other types of steel due to its lack of hardness, even though it does have some great qualities like its resistance to corrosion and easiness when it comes to sharpening.

However, 440c steel is a very commonly used steel in knives and blades – why?

The biggest reason is affordability.

440c is one of the best mid range steels that is super affordable to make and purchase. For this reason, a lot of knives use 440c to keep the quality as high as possible while keeping costs to a minimum.

So, for those on a budget, 440c steel is the answer.

440c steel is used to make a lot of affordable, commonly used types of knives like kitchen knives or fishing knives.

Its resistance to corrosion means it can handle wet environments and frequent washes with no problem, and it’s still strong enough to cut through most vegetables and strings.

Although you won’t find any boning or hunting knives made from 440c steel, there are still plenty of opportunities to use this steel for many different kinds of knives.

Ultimately, it all comes down to purpose – if you want a knife that can cut through really tough materials, then 440c is not the best option for you.

However, if you are after a set of really affordable but functional kitchen knives, then 440c is a great way to enjoy high quality steel for a low cost.

440c Vs Other Steels

Despite this, 440c is not the best steel for every kind of knife. There are other types of steels more hard and thus, more suitable for different kinds of knives.

If you are looking for a steel similar to 440c but are put off by its lack of ability when it comes to edge retention, then you should check out VG 10 steel.

This steel is very similar in composition to 440c but is a lot better at retaining its edge. So, if you don’t want to sharpen your knives time after time, VG 10 is a great alternative to 440c steel.

Another great alternative is 420HC. It is also similar to 440c when it comes to toughness and corrosion resistance, but does retain its edge a lot better.

For those seeking a tougher, harder steel, then Aus8 is the closest alternative.

However, this toughness does come at a price as Aus8 is less resistant to corrosion than 440c is so this is a sacrifice you will have to think about carefully before you decide on which steel is best for you.


If you’re looking for a knife that will last for years without breaking the bank, then 440c steel is a great choice.

Its durability and resistance to corrosion makes it perfect for everyday tasks such as cutting food and cleaning fish, hence why so many bladesmiths use 440c to make really affordable kitchen and fishing knives.

If you don’t mind spending a little more money, then you could get yourself a better grade of steel that will give you much higher performance.

But, for those who want to keep costs to a minimum, then 440c steel is definitely worth your consideration!

Tom Bower