Which steel is ideal for bushcraft knives? - 7 popular types of steel introduced

How to find the right steel for your Bushcraft knife - A practical guide that takes your Bushcraft skills to the next level.

from Martin Gebhardt | Gear | reading time 6 Min
Updated on 11 September 2023 7.504 views 100% found this guide helpful
Which steel is ideal for bushcraft knives? - 7 popular types of steel introduced

Martin Gebhardt

From Martin Gebhardt. Check out my “About me” page.


👉 The key facts from this guide

  • Generally: Learn which steel is best for your bushcraft knife.
  • 1095 carbon steel: Hard and tough, but susceptible to rust.
  • 12C27 Swedish steel: Good for outdoor, but not as hard.
  • D2 tool steel: Very hard, but not completely rust-proof.
  • 440C stainless steel: Rust-resistant, but less hard.
  • O-1 tool steel: Hard and tough, but susceptible to rust.
  • CPM-S30V: Top in hardness and rust resistance.

When it comes to Bushcrafting, a knife is an essential tool.

It is not only used for cutting and carving, but also for making fire, setting up tents, and many other tasks.

When choosing a bushcraft knife, there are several factors to consider, but one of the most important is the steel from which the blade is made.

In this article, we will delve into the question: Which steel is best suited for bushcraft knives?

Which steel for bushcraft knives?

The choice of the right steel for a bushcraft knife is crucial, as the blade does the majority of the work.

There are different types of steel to select from, but some are better suited for bushcraft knives than others.

Next, I will talk about HRC. HRC stands for Rockwell scale.

The Rockwell scale determines the hardness of metals and alloys by measuring the depth of penetration of a diamond cone. The lower the penetration depth, the higher the hardness indicated in HRC.

If you want to read more about the hardness of knives, then follow this link: What hardness should a knife have? - HRC explained simply

Here is a brief overview of the most popular steels for bushcraft knives:

Steel Type Hardness (HRC) Advantages Disadvantages Special Features Rust Resistance (Scale 1-5) Edge Retention (Scale 1-5) Sharpenability (Scale 1-5)
1095 Carbon Steel 57-59 High hardness and toughness Prone to rust Easy to sharpen 1 4 5
12C27 Swedish Stainless Steel 54-56 Good edge retention, corrosion resistance Not as hard Also known as Sandvik 12C27 or Sweden Steel 4 3 4
D2 Tool Steel 58-61 High hardness and wear resistance Not stainless Excellent edge retention 2 5 3
440C Stainless Steel 58-60 Resistant to wear and rust Not as hard as others Also known as X105CrMoV17, 1.4125, or Böhler N695 4 3 3
O-1 Tool Steel 57-61 High hardness and toughness Not stainless Easy to sharpen 1 4 5
AUS-8 Stainless Steel 57-59 Good corrosion resistance and edge retention - Also known as 7Cr17MoV 4 3 4
CPM-S30V 59-61 Excellent edge retention and corrosion resistance - Popular in the bushcraft community 5 5 2

Hardness (HRC): Rockwell hardness of the steel.

Rust resistance (scale 1-5): 1 is the least rust resistant, 5 is the most.

Edge retention (scale 1-5): 1 is the least edge-retaining, 5 is the most.

Resharpenability (scale 1-5): 1 is the hardest to resharpen, 5 is the easiest.


Check out the graphic below. It shows how the different steel grades perform in four categories.

  • Blue: rust resistance. The higher the bar, the better.
  • Green: edge retention. A high bar means the knife stays sharp longer.
  • Purple: Resharpenability. A high bar means the knife is easy to sharpen.
  • Red dots: Hardness in HRC. A high point means more hardness.
welcher stahl fuer bushcraft messer die top 7 im vergleich infografik en

Now let's move on to the most popular types of steel for bushcraft knives:

1. 1095 Carbon Steel

1095 carbon steel is a popular steel for bushcraft knives due to its high hardness (57-59 HRC) and toughness.

He is susceptible to rust, but with the right care and regular oiling, this can be minimized.

Knives made of 1095 carbon steel are easy to sharpen and retain their sharpness well.

Example knife:

Esee Unisex – Erwachsene, Outdoormesser | Klingenlänge: 11, 43 cm, Griff: Micarta, Model 4 Carbon Steel Plain, Mehrfarbig, normal
4,8 (419)

Daten aktualisiert vor 12 Stunden

Esee Unisex – Erwachsene, Outdoormesser | Klingenlänge: 11, 43 cm, Griff: Micarta, Model 4 Carbon Steel Plain, Mehrfarbig, normal

  • Gesamtlänge: 22,86 cm
  • Klingenlänge: 11,43 cm schwarzes Pulver 1095HC Stahl-Klinge
  • Schwarz Micartagriff
  • Voll Erweiteter tang - Lanyard Loch
  • Schwarz geformte Kunststoffhülle mit Clip Plattenbefestigung.

187,90 €

View Product

2. 12C27 Swedish Steel (Sandvik)

The stainless 12C27 steel is ideal for outdoor and hunting knives. Its composition ensures good edge retention and corrosion resistance.

With proper heat treatment, it reaches 54-56 HRC. 12C27 does not tend to chip or break during sharpening and is also easy to sharpen for beginners. Diamond or ceramic stones are recommended.

12C27 is also known as Sandvic 12C27 or Swedish steel. Its properties vary depending on the hardening process. It is used by many knife manufacturers such as Morakniv, EKA, or for Laguiole knives.

The advantages are suitability for outdoor knives, easy sharpenability, and good corrosion resistance with sufficient hardness.

Example knife:

Morakniv,M11827,Companion AA8Messer mitEdelstahlklinge, abrutschfestem Griffin Olive-schwarz und Messerholster mitGürtelclip, Grün
4,8 (750)

Daten aktualisiert vor 12 Stunden

Morakniv,M11827,Companion AA8Messer mitEdelstahlklinge, abrutschfestem Griffin Olive-schwarz und Messerholster mitGürtelclip, Grün

  • rostfreier 12C27 Sandvikstahl aus Schweden
  • gehärtete Klinge mit 58 HRC
  • Messer wiegt nur 83 Gramm
  • abrutschfester Griff aus TPE
  • olivfarbenes Holster mit Gürtelclip

19,25 €

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3. D2 Tool Steel

D2 tool steel is a high-quality steel known for its high hardness (58-61 HRC) and wear resistance.

He is ideal for use with robust bushcraft knives as he offers excellent edge retention.

D2 steel, however, is not stainless, so a knife made from this steel requires regular maintenance to prevent rust formation.

Example knife:

NedFoss WILD-BOAR Survival Messer, 10cm Jagdmesser feststehende klinge mit Feuerstahl, Legale mitführbares Bushcraft Messer mit Holster,Full Tang Outdoor Messer, Fahrtenmesser für Camping, Angeln

Daten aktualisiert vor 12 Stunden

NedFoss WILD-BOAR Survival Messer, 10cm Jagdmesser feststehende klinge mit Feuerstahl, Legale mitführbares Bushcraft Messer mit Holster,Full Tang Outdoor Messer, Fahrtenmesser für Camping, Angeln

  • FULL TANG - KONSTRUKTION: : Die Klinge dieses Survival Messers besteht aus D2-Stahl, seine Härte beträgt 62 HRC, und ist von der Spitze bis zum Ende des Griffs aus einem einzigen, 22cm langem Stück gefertigt, Somit ist die Robustheit quasi von Hause aus garantiert.
  • RUTSCHFESTER GRIFF: Nedfoss Outdoor Messer liegt durch die angenehme Grifflänge gut in der Hand und der überrutschschutz sorgt für eine sichere Handhabung. Der Griff besteht aus hochtemperatur- und korrosionsbeständigem G10-Material
  • FEUERSTAHL - Enthalten ist ein Feuerstahl für das endgültige Abenteuer. Zusammen mit der Einkerbung auf dem Klingenrücken, etwas Watte und kleinen, trockenen Holzstückchen, kannst Du Dein eigenes Lagerfeuer entzünden.
  • MIT LEDERSCHEIDE: Das Gürtelmesser kommt in einem Holster aus hochwertigstem Leder, Die Scheide kann komfortabel an den Gürtel gehängt werden. Immer sicher und griffbereit, wenn du das Gürtelmesser brauchst.
  • EIN PERFEKTES GESCHENK: Das Messer unterstützt dich in vielen Lebensbereichen. Ob beim Schnur kürzen, Stöcke schnitzen, Angeln, Pilzesammeln oder einfach beim Pakete öffnen zu Hause, und ist das perfekte Geschenk für einen Vater, Freund, Entdecker oder Sammler!

54,97 €

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4. 440C Stainless Steel

This steel is very resistant to wear and rust and retains its sharpness well. However, it is not as hard as other steel.

The material 440C is a great steel for knives. It is very strong and can withstand a lot. It is also known as X105CrMoV17, 1.4125 or Böhler N695.

This steel can become very hard, from 58 to 60 HRC. It does not rust quickly and can be polished well. This cold work steel is often used for knives because it has such good properties.

Example knife:

Walther Messer TFK II, schwarz, M

Daten aktualisiert vor 12 Stunden

Walther Messer TFK II, schwarz, M

  • Walther TraditionalFolding aus Stahl 440 c
  • Griffmaterial Polymer mit Gummierung, Klingenform Droppoint
  • Arretierung Back Lock
  • Klingenlänge 68mm, Gesamtlänge 162mm
  • Gewicht 94g

29,95 €

View Product

Matching this, I have a guide: What is better? D2 steel or 440C steel? - a detailed comparison

5. O-1 Tool Steel

O-1 tool steel is a versatile steel known for its high hardness and toughness. It is easy to sharpen and retains its sharpness well (57-61 HRC).

O1 steel, however, is not stainless, so a knife made from this steel requires regular maintenance to prevent rust formation.

6. AUS-8 Stainless Steel

AUS-8 stainless steel is an affordable steel known for its good corrosion resistance and edge retention. It is also known as 7Cr17MoV and has a hardness of 57-59 HRC.

He is easy to sharpen and retains his sharpness well. AUS-8 steel is a popular choice for affordable bushcraft knives.

7. CPM-S30V

CPM-S30V is a high-quality stainless steel known for its excellent edge retention and corrosion resistance. Its corrosion resistance is equal to or better than that of 440C.

He is very popular in the bushcraft community with a hardness of 59 to 61 HRC, as he offers a good balance between hardness and toughness. Knives made of CPM-S30V steel retain their sharpness even with intense use for a long time.

Example knife:

Spyderco Unisex – Erwachsene, schwarz, Taschenmesser, Manix 2 Ball Bearing Lock, Klinge: 8.6 cm, G10, Klappmesser, Taschenclip, 12 cm, C101GP2

Daten aktualisiert vor 12 Stunden

Spyderco Unisex – Erwachsene, schwarz, Taschenmesser, Manix 2 Ball Bearing Lock, Klinge: 8.6 cm, G10, Klappmesser, Taschenclip, 12 cm, C101GP2

  • Geschlossen Länge: 11.8cm
  • Klinge: 8,6 cm CPM S30V rostfreie Klinge
  • Schwarzer G10-Griff
  • Daumenzug
  • Taschen-Clip. Lanyard-Loch

222,47 €

View Product

Which steel is the best?

The question of the best steel for bushcraft knives cannot be answered in a general way, as it depends on the individual needs and preferences of the user.

Overall, the choice of the ideal steel for a bushcraft knife depends on various factors such as the intended use, budget, and personal preferences.

Every steel has its advantages and disadvantages that must be considered.

Some users prefer stainless steel for lower maintenance, while others prefer the high sharpness and toughness of carbon steel.

It is also important to note that the blade is only one part of the entire knife. The steel of the blade should harmonize well with the handle material and construction of the knife to ensure an optimal user experience.

stahlbarren 1

Also read

What are the common knife grinds for outdoor knives? (How to choose the right outdoor knife) – Learn everything about the most important knife grinds for your outdoor knife. This way, you will find the optimal grind for each activity such as carving.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which steel is rust-free?

CPM-S30V and AUS-8 are your friends if you don't like rust. These steels are great for bushcraft knives. They are strong and stay clean for a long time.

Which steel is the hardest?

D2 tool steel is like the Superman of steels. It is hard and can withstand a lot. If you want a knife that will truly last, this is your choice.

Which steel is the easiest to sharpen?

1095 carbon steel and O1 tool steel are easy to sharpen. You don't need much time to get them sharp again. That's great if you're often in the woods and want to quickly get your knife back in shape.

Which steel retains its sharpness the best?

CPM-S30V and D2 tool steel stay sharp for a long time. You can cut a lot, and they will still stay sharp. This is great if you don't always have time to sharpen them.

Which steel is best suited for beginners?

AUS-8 stainless steel is great for beginners. It is not expensive and still good. It does not rust quickly and stays sharp for a while. Ideal if you are just starting out.

How to care for a carbon steel knife to prevent rust formation?

Your carbon steel knife needs oil and dryness. Oil it often and keep it dry. After using it, clean it and dry it well. This way it will stay beautiful and won't rust for a long time.

messer stahl klinge

The Art of Steel Selection

When choosing a bushcraft knife, the blade steel is an important factor that must be considered.

There are different types of steel to decide from, ranging from stainless steel to carbon steel.

Every steel has its advantages and disadvantages, so it is essential to consider individual needs and preferences.

CPM-S30V, 1095 carbon steel, D2 tool steel, O1 tool steel, and AUS-8 stainless steel are just a few of the most popular steels for bushcraft knives.

Each of them offers unique characteristics and benefits. Therefore, it is advisable to try out different steels and find out which one best suits your needs.

Regardless of the chosen steel, it is important to regularly maintain the knife to preserve its performance and lifespan.

The fact is: With the right care and maintenance, a bushcraft knife made from any steel can be a loyal companion in the wilderness.

And if you're still looking for a good knife, take a look at my guides: The best bushcraft knife - your ultimate buying guide or The 8 best bushcraft knives with fire steel.

Take care, Martin
Martin Gebhardt

Author of the guide


Martin Gebhardt

Hey, I'm Martin. On my blog, you will learn the basics and numerous details about living in the wild. I think survival, bushcraft and the good life in nature are the keys to happiness. Find me here on Instagram or on YouTube. You can find more about my mission on the About Me page.

Since this is a gear guide, here ...


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