26C3 steel, also known as spicy white, is high carbon steel with low alloy content manufactured by Uddeholmstrip.  The steel was given the street name spicy white because it is a pure alloy with 1.25% carbon and very low phosphorus and Sulphur,  It is also referred to as UHB 26C3.

26C3 spicy white steel contains very few impurities like sulfur and phosphorous in its alloy; it is highly comparable to Japanese Shirogami #1 / White #1 steel.

What’s more, it is not stainless steel because it does not contain enough chromium to pass the stainless steel mark. It has 0.3% chromium, which improves its strength and hardenability but not corrosion resistance.

Because of the high carbon contents in its composition, Udderholm 26C3 steel is hard steel with high edge retention properties. The steel is used to make razor blades, scalpels, thin blade pocket knives, and fine kitchen knives.

26C3 Steel Composition

  • Carbon C 1.25%: Increases edge retention, hardness, and tensile strength. It also improves steel resistance to wear, abrasion, and corrosion.
  • Chromium Cr 0.30%: Formation of Chromium carbides. Increases the blade’s hardness, tensile strength, and corrosion resistance.
  • Phosphorous P 0.02%: Considered an impurity but may Increases the strength and improves machinability of steel
  • Manganese Mn 0.40%: improves the strength and hardness of steel. When the steel is heat-treated, hardenability is improved with increased manganese.
  • Silicon Si 0.25%: Increases strength and heat resistance.
  • Sulfur S 0.01%: Improves machinability but is regarded as an impurity in high quantities.

Properties of 26C3 steel

26C3 Steel Hardness

The hardness of 26C3 varies between 61-65HRC as per the Rockwell hardness scale, depending on the heat treatment used. This hardness level is very high and gives excellent edge retention and wear resistance properties. However, sharpening the steel will not be a walk in the park.

26C3 Steel Toughness

Many people confuse the hardness and toughness of steel. Although these properties are dependent on each other, they define different characteristics. Toughness defines the ability of steel to withstand impact and force, and it reduces with increased hardness.

26C3 offers decent toughness compared to other low alloy steels. It has the same level of toughness as Vanadis 8 steel and AUS 8, which is associated with its high purity levels.

26C3 Steel Edge retention

Edge retention is the ability of steel to maintain a sharp edge, and it is dependent on the hardness. The higher the hardness, the longer it holds an edge. When highly hardened, 26C3 offers excellent edge retention properties.

Because of this property, it is a good candidate for scalpels and razor making. If you are out in the market looking for a knife that will not stress you with frequent sharpening, look into the varieties of 26C3 knives.

26C3 Steel Wear resistance

Another area of excellence for Udderholm 26C3 steel is in wear resistance. Wear resistance goes hand in hand with hardness. Therefore, being hard steel, blades made from this steel can withstand wear even when used for challenging applications.

26C3 Steel Corrosion Resistance

26C3 contains traces of chromium in its composition; therefore, it is not stainless steel. 26C3 Knives are highly susceptible to rusting.

The good news is, you can fight corrosion by using the knives in low corrosive environments and maintaining proper care and maintenance. For further protection, apply a coat of oil on the blades if you plan to store them for an extended period.

Sharpening 26C3 Steel

Ease of sharpness is another steel property that is determined by hardness. The higher the hardness level, the more challenging it will be to get a sharp edge. With a hardness of 63HRC and above, 26C3 is hard to sharpen.

To get a sharp edge with this steel at a high hardness level, you need high sharpening skills and use a sharpening tool harder than the steel. This, however, does not imply that getting a sharp edge with 26C3 blades is impossible. Still, it is challenging and even harder for newbies.

On the positive though, the blades hold a sharp edge for a very long time. Therefore, you do not have to go through the challenging, sharpening process now and then.

26C3 vs 52100

Both 26C3 steel and 52100 steel are low alloyed steel with high carbon content. You will get close to the same performance with either of these two steel. They are not the best out there for edge retention or wear resistance, but if you have to choose between the two steel, go with 52100 steel.

52100 steel is known to offer among the best toughness out there; its toughness level is comparable to Nitrogen-based LC200N steel and close to that of CPM 3V and Sandvik 14C28N steel. 26C3 spicy white, on the other hand, will offer toughness levels like that of mid-range Japanese AUS 8 and Chinese 8Cr13MoV Steel.

There is not much to write about in terms of corrosion resistance; they contain very little amount of chromium in their alloys and will offer among the worst corrosion or rust resistance which is typical of almost all Carbon low alloy steels.

26C3 vs W2

W2 steel is an improved version of 1095 steel with added vanadium in its alloy to lower hardenability while improving grain size. This, in turn, improves the toughness of W2 steel due to decreased hardness. The increased toughness is about the same level as spicy white 26C3 steel.

W2 and 26C3 will offer almost identical levels of edge retention and wear resistance. It is hard to tear them apart, and the only thing that will make a difference is the Rockwell hardness level achieved.

At 64HRC,  W2 steel will offer considerably reduced toughness but excellent edge retention for thin edge blades, better than 26C3 steel.

They will both offer extremely low corrosion resistance due to the lack of sufficient chromium in their composition. An added feature of these steels is you will get beautiful and dramatic hamons with either W2 or 26C3

26C3 San Mai

26C3 San Mai is close to Damascus steel, the main difference is it encompasses three layers of laminated steel in a combined blade. The primary purpose of the San Mai technique is to increase edge retention. Hard carbon steel (26C3 steel) with excellent edge retention is laminated between two pieces of lower carbon steel.

A 26C3 San Mai blade has excellent edge retention and boosted toughness to withstand impact and lateral stresses. The boosted toughness comes from the two layers of lower carbon steel on the outside with low hardness but outstanding toughness.

The lower carbon steel on the outer edge may be low carbon spring steel.

Is 26C3 good knife steel?

Considering the properties of Udderholm26C3 steel, it is good knife steel for fine blades like razor blades with thin edges. It offers good edge retention, wear resistance, and decent toughness. Its biggest shortcoming is that it is not stainless steel and will be more prone to rusting. Spicy white is a good steel for knife makers as it is easy to work with.

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