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Old 10-03-2019, 09:10 PM   #1
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Drinking the Super Steel Kool-Aid

One of the great things about living in the 21st Century is all the newfangled materials we have. Our guns can be made of Tupperware and they last forever. Our McLaren's are made of carbon fiber and we can survive a crash into a brick wall at 250 mph. Our internet wires are made of invisible air and transmit porn at 10,000x the speed that our great-grandfathers had.

And then there are knives. Gone are the days of boring old carbon steel or plain jane stainless. Steel manufacturers are creating space-age... or information-age... recipes that result in materials that exhibit phenomenal edge retention, wear resistance, toughness, and corrosion resistance.

One of these new Wonder Steels is some stuff called Maxamet. It was developed for use in the rollers in steel mills. It's resistant to wear and holds an edge nearly forever. A few knifemakers tried it, but found it too difficult to work with. Spyderco somehow solved the problem, and uses Maximet in some of their knives.

Today I bagged a Spyderco Manix 2 lightweight with a Maximet blade. Generally, the first thing I do when I get a new knife is whip out the stones, strops, papers, and pastes so I can make the knife "my own." This time around, I decided to try a different tack and use the knife exactly as the manufacturer intended it to be. After all, the new Spyderco is pretty nice right out of the box. I know that before long I'll succumb to the temptation to rub on the blade with some diamonds, but I'll resist as long as possible.

I photographed the edge before using the knife for the first time so I'll have a benchmark to refer to in the future in case I ever decide I need a benchmark to refer to in the future. There's nothing surprising in the photographs. The tiny chip is not representative of the whole edge. There are only a couple visible at 125x along the whole length. I photographed it to remind myself that a couple microscopic chips in an edge are not the end of the world and a reason to rush to the sharpening bench.

In initial use, the blade is fine. It will cut hair off my arm, but I wouldn't shave with it. In my opinion, "shaving sharp" is an overused cliché that is thrown around far too loosely. The blade slices through thin newsprint well enough, and it made quick work out of the Amazon box that showed up at the door this afternoon.

I got this particular knife because I've been intrigued my Maxamet, but also because I think the Manix 2 is the greatest thing since sliced bread. And yes, I HAVE used it to slice bread. It fits my hand perfectly, and I think the ball lock is exceptional. My existing Manix 2 is in S110V and it was intended to be my "work knife." I have other knives that are supposed to be my "weekend knives" or "going out to dinner knives," but somehow the Manix 2 LW S110V pushed the others aside and became my "everything all the time" knife. The S110V is perfectly good material, but the Maxamet always left me wondering if the grass is greener. Soon I'll find out.
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Old 10-04-2019, 06:57 AM   #2
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Interesting post Rob, any idea of what the RC is of that steel and do you think it's going to take more to sharpen it because of it's hardness?
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Old 10-04-2019, 08:11 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Chuck43 View Post
Interesting post Rob, any idea of what the RC is of that steel and do you think it's going to take more to sharpen it because of it's hardness?
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Old 10-04-2019, 09:02 AM   #4
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Hardness is 67-68 RC. And yes, it takes a LOT to sharpen, but not really because of the hardness. Maxamet uses a lot of vanadium, cobalt, and tungsten, among other elements. The result is a lot of small, evenly dispersed carbides in the steel.

Think of the chunk of steel as a cookie. You can nibble away at it with your teeth, just as you'd nibble away at a knife blade with a regular sharpening stone.

Now imagine we left the cookies in the oven too long and overcooked them. They come out really hard and tough, not unlike a steel blade that's been properly heat treated.

So now lets throw some chocolate chips into the cookie dough. They're evenly dispersed throughout the cookie, you can see them on the surface, and they're downright delicious. Throwing a lot of vanadium into the mix increases the formation of carbides. Carbides in your steel are like the chocolate chips in your cookie, except they're insanely hard. Now think of your cookie with rock chips instead of chocolate chips. With just a couple rock chips, you might be able to eat the cookie. With low carbides in the steel, you can sharpen it with regular stones. But some steels, the density of the carbides is so great that a regular stone will not cut through the material quite right.

So for Maxamet, the use of diamond stones is best. Stropping should include some diamonds, as well. Using regular stones on this material will result in a disappointing edge.
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Old 10-04-2019, 09:27 AM   #5
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Thanks for the update Rob.

Strange, I suddenly I have a strong craving for chocolate chip cookies.
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Old 10-04-2019, 09:46 AM   #6
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May your chocolate chip cookies be moist, delicious, with a minimum of rocks.
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Old 10-06-2019, 10:44 PM   #7
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Sorry kids. I lied.
Diamond plates suck on Maxamet. They cut well enough, but leave a chewed up edge in their wake. I thought I'd polish out the chipped edge with come conventional stones, and ended up at 2k. It wasn't doing it for me, so I went back to 400, made it sharp, then stropped at 40μ. It's not perfect, but impressive nevertheless. Next time will be better.
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Old 10-07-2019, 02:53 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Chuck43 View Post
Strange, I suddenly I have a strong craving for chocolate chip cookies.
Strange, I usually crave chocolate chip cookies in these sorts of topics, but you craving cookies suddenly got me thinking about sending my Barge back to Chico for a clean up.
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Old 10-18-2019, 06:30 AM   #9
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I'm glad I resurrected this thread. I read the entire treatise, and I must admit, I had never heard of this alloy.

Now, some years back my wife bought a Boa, and the original Rc was 69. She had some conchoidal fracture on the Bevel, and the polishing took some time.

Kershaw came out with a 'version 2,' same knife but an Rc of around 60. I don't think even that worked, because I have not seen the same knife for sale.

Great post! Very informative.
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Old 10-24-2019, 10:49 PM   #10
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More Learning...

Still playing with the Maxamet. Ken Schwartz is putting together two stones that he tells me will cut through high-vandadium steel. It takes a while to get them shipped to me. So in the meantime...

I sharpened the knife again with my standard payload of stones, strops, and sharp juice. The resulting edge was fine, but not awe inspiring. I could tell that my stones don't cut the Maxamet well, and I think they were just pushing around the metal, and not cutting it.

So tonight I gave it another shot. This time I just touched up the edge with some cheap 1000 grit diamond plates from Chefknivestogo. They're very crude, from what I've been told. Their performance supports that. The finished edge was moderately sharp, but looked VERY rugged under magnification. That's consistent with my first experiments.

I looked at another blade that I finished with 40μ diamond paste on kangaroo leather. Now 40μ is pretty darned big, I think around 300 grit. But the finish that the 40μ paste leaves is much smaller, more consistent, and far prettier than the finish left by the 1000 grit stones. Why is that? I don't know.

So I stropped the edge with the 40μ diamonds, and the resulting edge was both sharp and pretty. So if that works, how about hitting it with some 1μ and 0.25μ CBN emulsion? Why not? It seemed like a good idea.

So I did just that, and edge turned out VERY nice. In fact, I got it to whittle a couple hairs. That's when you rub a hair against the edge and shave off a section lengthwise. I've never done that before.

So what's the takeaway?
1. Maxamet can be taken to a polished edge.
2. Some steels don't respond to normal stones. Diamond or CBN is needed.
3. You can make a big jump to finer diamonds or CBN and get good results.

Now that I know how to get a good edge on the blade, I can focus on how well the edge holds up after prolonged use.
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