What is ApexUltra Steel?

apexultra steel knife

What is ApexUltra steel?

ApexUltra steel is new low alloy steel developed by  Dr. Larrin Thomas, Marco Guldimann, and Tobias Hangler. It is a forging steel with good edge retention, toughness and has a very fine microstructure that makes it easy to sharpen and finish. 

ApexUltra stands out for its excellent toughness, associated with its balanced alloy composition and purity. The steel is suitable for manufacturing culinary knives, carving knives, camping knives, and knives with thin edges.

ApexUltra 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 1.50%: The formation of Chromium carbide Increases the hardness, tensile strength, and corrosion resistance of the blade.
  • Manganese Mn 0.30%: improves the strength and hardness of steel. When the steel is heat-treated, hardenability is improved with increased manganese.
  • Tungsten W 2.60%: used as an alloying ingredient due to its high melting point, hence improving the performance of steel in high heat.
  • Molybdenum Mo 1.30%: It improves machinability and hardness.
  • Vanadium V 0.40%: Increase wear resistance and toughness, it also improves corrosion resistance.
  • Silicon Si 0.35%: Increases strength and heat resistance.

ApexUltra Datasheet PDF

Properties of ApexUltra steel

ApexUltra Steel Hardness

ApexUltra has a Rockwell hardness of 66 HRC. This is high hardness for a forging steel and is associated with the blend of Carbon, Vanadium, Chromium, and Tungsten in its composition. Moreover, Tungsten improves the hardness of steel even at very high temperatures.

ApexUltra Steel Toughness

ApexUltra is low alloy steel with high purity and has a balanced composition which gives it very high toughness at 65 HRC. Experts find that ApexUltra steel offers the highest level of toughness among other steels with Rockwell hardness of 66 and above.

With excellent toughness, ApexUltra blades can withstand tough applications without breaking or chipping. ApexUltra steel toughness is better than most knife steels including 1095, Blue Super, and O1 steel.

ApexUltra Steel Edge Retention

The edge retention of steel measures its ability to maintain a sharp edge with continuous use and is mostly determined by the Rockwell hardness of steel. With a high hardness of 66 HRC, ApexUltra offers excellent edge retention for a forging steel.

The good edge retention is due to its alloy composition that contains a variety of carbides including vanadium carbides, chromium-enriched iron carbides, and tungsten carbides.

ApexUltra knife steel edge retention is better than most low alloy steels currently used in forging. Its edge retention is highly similar to M2 knife steel and better than 52100 steel which has an almost similar alloy composition.

ApexUltra Steel Wear resistance

ApexUltra steel also offers excellent wear resistance, thanks to its high hardness. Knives from this steel do not wear and tear faster, even with everyday use. In addition to the hardness, the high amounts of Vanadium and Tungsten in its composition improve its wear resistance.

Knives made from ApexUltra steel are expected to be very durable. The Vanadium carbides and Tungsten carbides greatly boosts its wear resistance. Vanadium carbides are the same carbides found in other highly wear resistant steels like M390 steel and Blue super that contain tungsten carbides.

ApexUltra Steel Corrosion Resistance

ApexUltra is not stainless steel; hence it is highly susceptible to corrosion. It contains 1.5% chromium which is way less than the 13% required to make stainless steel.ApexUltra steel corrosion resistance is similar to that of 52100 steel, 5160 steel, and other low alloy tool steels. 

To enjoy the edge retention, toughness, and wear resistance of ApexUltra steel without stressing about corrosion, ensure to wash and dry the blades immediately after use. Also, apply a coat of oil for long-term storage to prevent oxidation.

Ease of sharpening ApexUltra

Because of its high Rockwell hardness, it is expected that ApexUltra is very difficult to sharpen, but this is not the case. ApexUltra has a very fine microstructure, you can achieve a razor-sharp edge using simple sharpening tools like sharpening stones. You do not require hard abrasives like diamonds to get a sharp edge.

ApexUltra Steel ease of sharpening comes from its good grindability characteristic was a key consideration for the developers. This steel is intended to be a bladesmith forging steel hence you will not experience trouble grinding it to your desired shapes.

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ApexUltra Steel Comparison

ApexUltra Steel vs 52100 Steel

ApexUltra offers better wear resistance and edge retention than 52100 steel because of its high hardness and a higher variety of carbides including tungsten carbide. On the other hand, 52100 is better than ApexUltra in toughness and is suitable for high-toughness applications. Both blade steels offer the same level of corrosion resistance.

ApexUltra Steel vs Maxamet

Maxamet is high-end steel with a hardness of 70 HRC higher than 66 HRC of ApexUltra. Both knife steels offer excellent edge retention and wear resistance because of their high hardness. Also, they are not stainless steel hence offering poor corrosion resistance. 

ApexUltra offers excellent toughness and is easier to sharpen than Maxamet. However Maxamet has incredibly good edge retention, it offers more than twice the edge retention of ApexUltra and can only be matched by a few steels like Rex 121 steel.

Is ApexUltra good knife steel?

ApexUltra steel is a good forging knife steel, it offers high Rockwell hardness, great edge retention, outstanding wear resistance, and is easy to sharpen.

ApexUltra toughness is not as good as 52100 but it makes up for this in wear resistance.  The only downside is that it is not stainless steel and is prone to rust which is expected for forging steel.

You can read more details on how this steel was developed and its advancement in Dr. Larrin Thomas article Laboratory Development of ApexUltra Forging Knife Steel. The official website ApexUltra also offers detailed information on milestones, testing and where to buy the steel.

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