Tag Archives: 52100 Steel

52100 A guilty pleasure !

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As you know my experience with 52100 has been enhanced with the owning of a great Paramillie 2 Sprint Run. This steel is staining and pitting just by gazing at it hence the forced patina I have done to protect the pivot’s hidden part.

But then ? After almost a year of rotation how 52100 has behaved ?

“52100 will take a very keen edge. What is often called “sticky sharp” or “a hungry edge.” said Sal in March 2018.  He also said he wanted a Millie in 52100 to be used as Mountain knife.
And this is true. Like SuperBlue steel ! Those folding razor steel are flirting with lightsabers and are strong. Of course you don’t use your folders like a fixed blade as the pivot and lock can be weaker than a tang. “Batoning” (if any) with a folder should be made with the blade unlocked to avoid any stress on the locking mechanism. But lateral blade jolting inside the cutting medium is commun. I do that in plastics when It got resistance but it can happen inside a wooden knot too. So lateral strength especially on a thin pointy blade like the Millie/paramillie and Para3 is not a luxury as is also edge stability.

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But the greatest joy and satisfaction in owning a 52100 blade is in its honing. This steel is made for leather stropping. In two passes it already get back to razor. Of course, I had convexed the blade to a very thin edge. In a simple 2 minutes round, after a full day of using, your knife is back to uncanny sharpness. This is so satisfying !!

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The thick bottom of any plastic plastic soda bottle is my favorite test for geometry and bite as it can collapse under the force if not thin enough. The Nilakka is the queen in that game. But my full flat ground blade are all convexed to achieve powerful and controlled cuts. The thinnest of the bunch are my 72100 et CPM M4.

Ghost my CPM M4 millie has been used on various cutting duty involving food and grease as has been my 52100 Paramillie. I don’t do cutting ropes tests or anything which can be numbered, I go with the feeling. Even if I enjoy reading those tests it’s “quantity” over “quality” as a blade is 33% steel 33% heat treatment and 33% blade geometry. Cutting hard wood, looking and touching the wood’s grain and the cut fibers and how the edge behave when twisted inside is my way ad as 52100 is also used in razors: shaving sticks of hard wood is done with ease and control.

For Ed Fowler (grand manitou of forging 52100) when carefully forged and heat treated, this is the most versatile and dependable steel available to the knife industry. He feels that a man who depends on his knife deserves and needs the most reliable knife possible that will not bend easily or break when he needs it the most. A knife that can be sharpened easily and is friendly to his hand.

Ed got a very oldtimer advice for keeping his 52100 blade rust free:
“Any oil will keep rust from the blade, many times I simply apply the oil from the side of my nose or from behind my ear…”
One thing is certain: the more you use your 52100 blade, the more you check it and oil it with your hands.

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Ed is not stranger to folding knives as he has teamed up with Ron Appleton and forged the blade out of 52100 for his “Chub” in 2001. Ron wanted to create a folding knife that would be capable of withstanding the rigorous demands of a straight blade user.

Our friend Ed Schempp is another fan of 52100 here what he was saying about it in 2005
“52100 is a very good steel. Ed Fowler has spent a life time tweaking this steel to improve performance. With multiple thermal cycles, normalizing and interrupted quenches, and low temp forging has accomplished and extremely fine grained steel.
Most of the time a good smith can further refine the grain on production steel. Some of the grain can be smaller then but not of the homogenous size that Crucible attains in their CPM products.
This translates to a finer cutting edge that can be sharper than S30V. This edge will not necessarily last as long as a high Vanadium steel like S30V, but can a higher initial sharpness.
The thermal treatment to bring the best of what 52100 has to offer will be expensive, although a simple heat treatment will still bring forward a good amount of what the steel has to offer. Differentially hardened blades would be very difficult to do commercially.”

So 52100 is still a guilty pleasure, because you know it will stain, it will need maintenance but when it come to using it hard and hone it back to sharp, this steel shows is true colors !

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52100 Fight the rust ! Force Patina !!

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After doing that picture for the Spyderco Forums….
I have noticed those red dots near the pivot on my Paramillie 2 in 52100.

Some “voiding the warranty” time later I noticed that…

Edited the 2nd of November 2017. This is not the case anymore as stated in Spyderco new warranty:
“If a knife has been disassembled and reassembled correctly—so as to maintain its proper mechanical function—this warranty remains in full effect. “

The problem is not the rust or the patina. 52100 is not stainless.
The problem is the fact that the pivot area is hidden under the scales and that rust can easily develop there without to be noticed.

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So the idea is to develop a patina on the whole blade and pivot area, to create a smooth “crust” protecting the surface.

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Of course yesterday I have put some vinegar to create my patina and some drops have been near the pivot… It was fast in rusting in that area without patina.

Let’s clean that first. I will use white compound and some paper towels.

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As you can notice this is not really deep pitting. There is just some patina forming under.
So now it’s time for a great vinegar bath…. It was really three screws to remove and I had access to the blade. No big deal. Warranty voided easily.

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Soaking the blade completely is not the most aggressive way to develop a patina as it needs to form acid and oxygen. It’s better to take the blade out of the bath and envelop it with paper towels. But here I wanted a slow and steady patina. So I let it submerged for one hour.

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On the picture above, you can still see the polished edge….

And after one hour of socking : all his grey and my polished edge is also stained gray now. So everything is cover with patina.

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Time to put some nano oil in the pivot and around.

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Working it an hundred time to smooth it. And cut myself in the process.

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Add some Ballistol for good measure and protect the blade. Stropping the blade on leather… The blade is perfectly centered. No play, smooth like on glass. The tolerance are really high in the construction of that knife.

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Et voilà: fight rust ! Force patina !!

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“52100 Tool Steel
AISI 52100 is a high carbon tool steel containing low quantities of manganese and chromium to improve hardening. Because of the low chromium levels in 52100 steel, it has very low corrosion resistance compared to other higher chromium tool steels.

In applications where corrosion is less of an issue, 52100 tool steel is considered an ideal, affordable option, offering a very fine grain with superior edge retention. It is capable of cutting a wide range of materials because of its combination of toughness, wear-resistance, and hardness.”
According to Carolina Knife Company.

(Thanks Brian for the head up !)