So what’s it made of? Which blade steel is best? Just a couple of questions we are asked when people see our knives, and the answers come down to this—Benchmade uses a variety of modern materials specially selected for their superior performance characteristics.
We strongly believe that if you’re going to put this much effort into designing a custom quality cutting tool, then it only makes sense to build it of the materials which complement its form and enhance its function. And in some instances it’s more than just selecting a certain material, it’s what we do to it to bring out the extra edge which sets us apart from everyone else. Bottom line, we would much rather overbuild a knife than risk the alternative—we thought you would like that too.
Blade finishes refers to the surface treatment of the blade, which can be anything from the way in which the steel is processed, to a multitude of blade coatings which are applied to the blade itself. We use a variety of finish methods to "dress" our blades.
SATIN FINISH: creates a low-luster sheen to the blade steel surface. Several common forms of satin finish include:
•Stonewash: the blade surface is refined using abrasive tumbling media or "stones" that leave a pronounced random "scratch pattern" on the blade. This finish tends to mask any scratches that may occur with use. Examples- Model 805, 813
•Scotchbrite: this finish softly blends the grinding lines on the blade leaving a pleasant "grained" or "brushed" look. Typically the graining pattern goes from spine to edge. Examples- Model 190, 4530
•Tumbled or Vibed: similar to a stonewash finish: this finish leaves the blades bright and smooth with a faint random scratch pattern. Examples- Griptilians, Bali-Songs
•Burnished: usually applied using non-abrasive media, whether by hand or in vibratory equipment. This finish refines the blade surface without much of a discernable graining or scratch pattern. Examples- Model 770, 941
•Hand rubbed: a finish typically done only by custom knife makers, it is similar to a scotchbrite finish with the main exception being that the graining goes from tang to tip.
POLISHED FINISH: can be defined as any highly-reflective or glossy finish that refines and smoothes the metal surface. This finish aids in corrosion resistance as microscopic peaks and valleys of the blade surface are smoothed out leaving less surface area exposed.
BEAD BLAST FINISH: can be defined as any non-reflective finish applied to the metal surface by bead blasting or sand blasting the blade with any of a variety of media. The intent is to roughen the surface for anti-glare. The trade off is it tends to be more susceptible to corrosion due to the increased surface area exposed. This finish is also commonly referred to as a "military finish".
When it comes to blade steels, Benchmade not only selects premium grades for their natural qualities, but we also have perfected our own proprietary custom heat treat process which maximizes each steel's edge toughness and cutting performance.
Bohler M390: A high performance blade steel with superior cutting ability and wear resistance due to its high concentration of vanadium and chromium carbides. Its unique powder metallurgical process also promotes a uniform carbide distribution and clean steel properties, making M390 a popular steel used in surgical cutting instruments and in applications requiring a high finish. As a blade material it offers excellent corrosion resistance due to its high concentration of Chromium.
More info: www.bohler-edelstahl.com/files/M390DE.pdf
Bohler N680: A chromium-molybdenum conventionally produced stainless steel with the addition of vanadium and nitrogen. Excellent corrosion resistance properties, especially in salt water. Good hardenability and high obtainable hardness. High wear resistance and ability to preserve keenness.
N690: An Austrian made stainless steel, which is comparable to 440C in performance and value. Keen edge qualities with great corrosion resistance.
CPM-M4: Special purpose, high-speed steel with a combination of high Carbon, Moly, Vanadium and Tungsten for excellent wear resistance and toughness; A powder-metal, non stainless steel.
154CM: An American made premium grade stainless steel originally developed for tough industrial applications. Known for its best all-around qualities, it offers great corrosion resistance with good toughness and edge quality.
S30V: An American made and developed premium grade stainless steel created especially for knives. It is a powder made steel with a uniform carbide distribution and clean steel properties. As a blade material it offers excellent corrosion resistance and superb edge qualities.
D2: An air-hardened tool steel, which offers good corrosion resistance and excellent mileage in wear resistance. A good choice for hard use applications.
440C: A high-chromium stainless steel with a terrific balance of good hardness and corrosion resistance. 440C takes a nice edge and is fairly easy to resharpen. An excellent value priced steel for its performance.
X15: This French steel was developed for the aircraft industry for jet ball bearings, as well as the medical industry for scalpels. It has the ability to resist rust in the worst of conditions while maintaining ample edge retention. The capability behind this steel is in the way it is manufactured, resulting in the finest steel for use in harsh environments such as salt water. The edge on an X15 T.N blade is easier to maintain.
AUS-8: A Japanese made medium-carbon, high chromium stainless steel, which offers a good balance of toughness, edge sharpness and corrosion resistance.
9Cr13CoMoV: A Chinese made high-carbon stainless steel with increased levels of cobalt added for greater edge retention. Offers a higher level of corrosion resistance at a great value.
8Cr14MoV: A Chinese steel with similar performance characteristics to AUS-8. An excellent value priced steel for its performance.
DAMASCUS: A specially forged, layered steel made up of a variety of steels, It offers remarkable toughness and edge quality. For finishing, the surface layers or lines are exposed through an acid etch, which creates a very unique visual effect. Used in special applications due to its inherent high cost and artistic nature.
BK1 ® COATING: BK1 coating is a matte black coating that provides excellent corrosion protection, which exceeds the ASTM-117 spec for saltwater while possessing higher scratch resistance.
BT2 ® COATING: A proprietary blade coating that is Xylan ® based to provide excellent corrosion resistance which exceeds the ASTM-117 spec for saltwater and increases overall surface lubricity.
BP1 COATING: Black Pearl (BP) is a PVD (physical vapor deposition) coating made up of Titanium Carbo-Nitride (TiCN for short). It is a darker, near black, scratch resistant coating with nice decorative qualities.
TANTO: Most tantos seen on the American cutlery market are Americanized formats. Like the Japanese tanto, the Americanized tanto has a high point in-line with the pivot. A flat grind is applied to the point, leaving it very thick and extraordinarily strong. This thick area helps absorb the impact from piercing, as the tanto was originally designed for armor piercing. The front edge meets the bottom edge at an obtuse angle rather than curving to meet it as seen in the Japanese tanto. The only negative aspect of the tanto blade shape is the cutting surface area is sacrificed to gain tip strength.
DROP-POINT: A slow convex-curved drop in the point characterizes a drop-point blade. The drop-point format lowers the point for control but adds strength to the tip. Usually coupled with plenty of belly for slicing, this format is often used for hunting knives. It is also a fantastic all-around blade format. This blade shape can be found on a wide array of knives.
SHEEPSFOOT: This blade shape has no point on the tip, very little to no belly and the spine of the blade curves down to meet the edge. It is used in applications where slicing is the main requirement, and a point is either not needed or would actively get in the way. Emergency rescue blades are usually of this design. The lack of a point prevents the rescuer from inadvertently injuring a victim who is being cut free from something restrictive.
Over the years we have developed a "special recipe" for heat-treating our blade steels. This process maximizes the steels' molecular structure for a custom toughness and Benchmade superior performance. All steels may be created equally, but that is where it stops when it comes to making a Benchmade.