420HC steel is low-end stainless steel produced by Latrobe, a steel company based in the US. It was made as a modification of 420 steel which is among the oldest steel types out there. The main difference between 420 and 420HC is that the latter contains more carbon, hence the HC in its name, which stands for High Carbon.
Yes, it contains large amounts of carbon in its composition but not the highest on the market. Some steel types have double the amount of carbon contained in 420HC. Nevertheless, it is categorized among the best knife steels.
Also, since it is 420HC steel is low-end steel it’s affordable compared to high-end steel, but this does not mean that knives made from this steel are of poor quality. It is one of those steels which offer you quality at a good price. Therefore, if you are on a budget looking for a quality knife, look into the varieties of 420HC knives.
420 HC is popular in the knife industry and suitable for making fishing knives, swords, EDC knives, machetes, camping knives, hunting knives and hatchets, to mention a few.
420HC steel Chemical composition
- Carbon C 1.10%: Increases the edge retention, hardness and tensile strength. It also improves steel resistance to wear, abrasion and corrosion.
- Chromium Cr 18.00%: Chromium Increases hardness, tensile strength and toughness of the blade.
- Molybdenum Mo 0.75%: It improves machinability and hardening property.
- Manganese Mn 1.00%: Increases Hardness and brittleness.
- Phosphorus P 0.04%: Improves hardness.
- Sulphur S 0.03% : Increases machinability of steel but can reduce toughness in large amounts.
- Silicon Si 1.00% : Improves grain structure for better hardness, however like Manganese it can increase brittleness.
Properties of 420HC steel
420HC Steel Hardness
420HC steel hardness is 56-59HRC as per the Rockwell hardness scale. The hardness differs with the heat treatment used by different knife manufacturers. This hardness level is lower than what is offered by most knife steels out there but is suitable for multiple tasks.
420HC Edge retention
420HC offers decent edge retention, which is due to its low hardness level. But, this is not to say that it provides the worst edge retention, there are poorer steels in edge retention out there than 420HC.
On purchasing knives made from 420HC knife steel, brace yourself for frequent sharpening. However, some knife makers make enhancements to the hardness of 420HC, making it harder and hence improving the edge retention capabilities.
420HC Steel Toughness
As a rule of thumb, the toughness of steel increase with reduced hardness, and this is true with 420HC. The excellent toughness of this steel allows it to withstand tough applications better than harder steels out there. If you are keen on knives with great toughness more than any other property, look into the options of 420HC knives.
420HC Wear resistance
The hardness of steel influences the wear resistance. Since this steel is not very hard; we can expect poor performance in wear resistance. Knives made from this steel will serve you for long, but they are prone to wear and tear.
420HC Corrosion resistance
So does 420HC steel rust? 420HC contains enough chromium to make stainless steel and hence great corrosion resistance features. The ability to resist rust makes this steel very popular among knife makers and users. Knives made from this steel will not rust when used in wet environments, but proper care is paramount. Make sure to clean and dry your knives after use to enhance rust and stain resistance.
Sharpening 420HC Steel
Being soft steel, sharpening 420HC is very easy. Getting a razor-sharp edge on this steel is super easy irrespective of the sharpening tools and level of sharpening skills.
If you are training in knife sharpening, this is good steel to start with.
420HC steel comparison with other steels
420HC vs 440C
Both steel types belong to the 400 series. 420HC offers better toughness and corrosion resistance than 440C steel. On the other hand, 440C shines in edge retention.
420HC vs S30V
420HC beats S30V steel in toughness, and it is easier to sharpen while S30V shines in corrosion resistance and edge retention.
Is 420HC steel good for knives?
420HC is good knife steel in the low-end category. It offers excellent toughness, great corrosion resistance, and it is easy to sharpen. What’s more, it is affordable and therefore provides you with high-performance knives at an affordable price.